How Counselling Can Help


What is counselling/therapy?

Therapy is a very skilled form of counselling that takes years of training to practice effectively. Only professionals who have received at least Master's level training in psychology plus a minimum of a few years of supervised training in psychology have the basic skills required for therapy. Often the terms counselling, psychotherapy and therapy are used interchangeably by the general public.

Therapy is not easily described in general statements. The shape and form therapy takes varies depending on the personality of the client, the particular difficulty he or she is facing and the skills and therapy approach of the psychologist. Despite the fact that there are many different methods therapists may use to deal with the concern that the client hopes to address, underlying all the methods is a basic and common feature. This feature is to help the client address the concern at hand so that she/he is better able to cope with and function in everyday life.

Therapy can have benefits and risks. Because therapy often involves discussing unpleasant aspects of a person's life, one may experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, loneliness and helplessness. On the other hand, the benefits of therapy include:

  • A significant decrease in feelings of distress
  • Resolution of specific difficulties
  • Improvement in interpersonal relationships
  • Improvement in academic or work performance
  • Improvement in self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Increased ability to understand oneself
  • Increased ability to recognize, achieve and embrace what it is one wants
  • Increased ability to deal with future stresses
The above are all possibilities in therapy, however, there is no guarantee that one will experience any or all of the above listed benefits and risks.


What is child therapy?

Like therapy for other ages, child (0 to 19 years) therapy also has the ultimate goal of alleviating a specific emotional, behavioural, or relational difficulty and making way for effective functioning in his or her environment. Children's vocabulary or life experiences may limit their ability to verbally express themselves effectively. A therapist with extensive training in child therapy would be able to understand and assist a child through play, art, and drama therapy or other nonverbal methods to help children function more effectively at home, school, and in other environments.


When should one seek help?

Typically, a good indicator that help may be beneficial is when one notices that:

  • A difficulty one is experiencing is impacting one's family, work, social, and/or academic life,
  • One is not functioning as effectively as one would like in some or all aspects of life,
  • One would like to see some changes in one's life, relationships, career, or general functioning but is having difficulty in knowing what the necessary change is, how to achieve it, and feels stuck or that there are some internal obstacles or challenges that hinder one from achieving the desired change.


How do I select a therapist?

Besides the therapist having the appropriate qualifications and training to perform her duties, a good fit between therapist and client is essential in therapy.

Firstly, the therapist needs to have a minimum of a Master's degree in psychology or a related field, plus at least 2 years of supervised clinical training.

Secondly, the only way to assess whether you can work with a therapist is to meet with her. If your initial visits leave you feeling uneasy, it would be appropriate to keep looking until you find the right therapist. In this process of finding the right therapist, one needs to trust his gut feeling with regards to whether he feels comfortable with the therapist. One needs to also keep in mind that therapy can sometimes be difficult and uncomfortable, however, in general, one should generally feel comfortable with his therapist and have a sense of confidence that he can be honest with her.

If after your initial visits with the therapist, your answers to the following questions are positive, then you have found the right therapist for you:

  • Did you feel like the therapist was interested in you and understood why you are seeking therapy services?
  • Did you feel comfortable in the presence of the therapist?
  • Did the therapist seem trustworthy?
  • Was the therapist able and willing to explain his/her approach to therapy?
You should keep looking for a therapist if you:
  • Did not feel comfortable
  • Did not feel heard or understood
  • Felt the therapist set goals for therapy that were different from the ones which you were interested in achieving

For further information on finding the right service provider for you, you may refer to the question "Who qualifies to practice psychology?" in the Frequently Asked Questions section.


What should never happen in therapy?

The following are some things that should never happen in therapy:

  • You should not be berated, belittled, and/or threatened in therapy.
  • You should not feel forced to do things that you do not want to or are ready to do in therapy.
  • You should not feel afraid for your safety in therapy.
  • A therapist should not make sexual advances toward you in therapy.
  • Sex should never be a part of therapy.
  • You should not be verbally, physically and/or sexually abused in therapy.


©, 2006.