As competent, experienced counsellors, we fully understand what it means to be a psychotherapist. But do all people really have a true understanding of what counselling or indeed what therapy is all about – especially if they or their closest family members have never had any dealings with therapy or, more specifically, if their culture shies away from it?

So the question is; how to explain counselling to people who don’t know about therapy?

To us who work within therapy, we understand therapy to be about helping people who are experiencing distress of whatever kind (from mild to severe), or who have been affected adversely by life’s stresses, issues, traumas or experiences.

It is also true that therapy can help people who are currently living a trauma or a nightmarish situation and need to find the space where they are able to make sense of it all. Therapy sessions (whatever approach) are usually but not always carried out weekly by the same therapist, in order to help the client feel at ease and at peace within themselves.

Therapists usually, but again not always as it depends on the approach used, may be involved in exploring the person’s past as well as identifying tools and techniques for the client to be able to practise and use when they encounter difficulties in their present or future life outside of therapy.

In other words, a therapist might help a client deal with a bereavement or a loss, for example their grief at losing their child, their parent, a partner, a pet, their identity, their job, etc.

Alternatively, a therapist might help a client deal with their depression or anxiety, their suicidal or self-harming thoughts, and in the process help them make sense of what is going on in their mind. A therapist might help with discussing and exploring sleeping techniques and strategies in order to help people with sleep issues or insomnia. Therapists might also help clients with anger issues, teaching them coping strategies and anger management techniques to use.

It’s therefore paramount and essential that when someone is looking for a therapist that they check the professional body website and / or Counselling Directory to be sure that whoever they decide to choose is someone who has the appropriate qualifications and up to date training that ensures that they are ethical and have the right tools for the job.