Life can be tough, and there’s not always a friend or family member available to lean on when you need them. Whether you’re suffering from a medical or mental health condition, going through a stressful time at work, dealing with personal tragedy, or something else entirely, counselling can be a much-needed outlet.
As a talking therapy, counselling exists to provide you with a safe space in which you can talk through your problems without fear of judgement. A counsellor won’t fix things for you or offer specific advice, but the process of discussing what’s wrong means that you can take steps towards self-improvement and finding solutions to your issues.
There’s plenty of research that backs this up. In fact, counselling has been shown to have a statistically significant impact on people with a variety of mental, behavioural, and emotional issues.
If you’re contemplating finding a counsellor near you for support with whatever it is you’re going through, but you’re not sure how counselling can help you, read on. We’re here to provide you with an overview of ten of the key potential benefits of counselling.
First up, attending counselling sessions can help you to see your problems in a new light. It’s easy, when you’re fixated on something, to miss all of the facets of the situation or be unable to view the issue from an external perspective. But talking through the situation out loud with a counsellor in a one-on-one setting can help you to see things that you’d previously missed or approach the problem from a new direction. And that’s sometimes all it takes to find a resolution that makes things feel better or gets your life back on track.
Talking with a counsellor can help you to develop your communication skills in two important ways. The first is that you get to practice talking about difficult, sensitive, or emotionally-charged issues in a confidential and judgement-free environment. This can be a huge benefit as the skills you learn follow you out of the counselling session and into everyday life. You’ll also likely improve your capacity to consider other points of view when you’re in conversation, making it easier to relate to other people, find common-ground, and achieve a positive outcome.
Dissecting and analysing your own thoughts and behaviours, as you often do in counselling sessions, is a critical first step in being able to change negative habits. Whether it’s a physical habit, like smoking or comfort eating, or an emotional habit, like lashing out in anger or being too much of a people-pleaser, counselling can help you to understand the thought patterns that take you there. In fact, some forms of talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, are specifically geared around helping you to recognise and neutralise negative thought patterns, potentially resulting in much more control over what you do.
Insecurity affects almost everybody at some point or another. Especially if you have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, self-doubt about your appearance, skills, or personality can be a vicious cycle that it’s hard to break out of. But counselling can often address your self-esteem, either directly or indirectly, helping you to better understand yourself and accept your flaws or imperfections. And with self-acceptance comes confidence!
Emotional regulation can be challenging when you’re struggling with life, particularly for people with a persistent mental health condition or neurodevelopmental disorder, whether that’s depression, anxiety, chronic stress, ADHD, autism, or something else. Counselling sessions can help to improve your ability to recognise triggers that precede emotional dysregulation, develop effective coping mechanisms, and prevent your emotions from escalating. And, with better control over your emotions you’re more able to solve other problems, whether they’re yours or someone else’s.
When life gets stressful, everything can feel like it’s falling apart. This, in itself, makes it harder to make improvements without outside intervention like counselling. There are a range of techniques that can be used by counsellors to help you reduce your stress levels, but a particularly relevant one is called Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction (IBSR). Studies indicate that this mindfulness-based approach, when integrated in regular counselling sessions, can promote self-awareness, self-compassion, and greater cognitive flexibility.
The practice of attending counselling and the lessons you can learn during sessions can both contribute towards improved decision-making abilities. The approach that a counsellor uses, which is typically methodical, logical, and compassionate, can provide you with a template for making decisions in the future, making it easier for you to slow down and consider your options. And the improved understanding, of both your own emotions and behaviours and those of other people, that you amass during the course of counselling can give you greater insight into what a good decision for you even is.
Counselling is also a great way to both improve your own conflict resolution skills and resolve conflicts you’re currently experiencing in a positive manner. The first benefit is a by-product of some of the other benefits on this list, such as better communication skills, improved emotional regulation, and lower stress levels. The second benefit can come about when you attend joint counselling, either with your partner, family, or friends. This is such an important part of counselling that plenty of professional focus specifically on conflict resolution, specialising as couples counsellors, marriage counsellors, or family counsellors.
Mental health improvements
The impact that talking therapies, and particularly CBT, can have on mental health conditions like depression and anxiety have been studied at length. And while results are never truly conclusive in the realm of mental health, popular studies seem to indicate that therapy can have a tangible positive outcome in treating people with mental health conditions. It’s indicated that CBT, for instance, is effective as part of a treatment plan for people with anxiety and depression.
Reduced suicidal ideation
And, finally, counselling is also thought to have the possibility of enacting positive outcomes when applied to people experiencing suicidal ideation. Studies centring around psychotherapy approaches such as CBT and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) show that they can be effective at reducing both suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts themselves.