Blog post written by Lynn Crilly, author of the Hope with Mental Health series, available here.
Counselling and therapy have a number of benefits for those suffering from mental ill health. Firstly, it allows them to feel valued; it also provides a forum for them to explore their feelings and, by its very nature, is tailored to the individual.
There is no set format for counsellors, which means that they must, to some extent, treat everyone’s case individually. As such, it is crucial in counselling, perhaps more so than in any other type of therapy, to find the right ‘fit’ in terms of a practitioner. A good counsellor should make their client feel safe, secure and valued at all times. They should establish a bond of trust with their clients and make it easy for them to discuss potentially painful or difficult issues.
As a mental health counsellor myself, I ensure I have met with a sufferer’s parents or carers before I commence working with them, if they are under 18. Many people are surprised that I insist on this. I have always been of the opinion, however, that rehabilitating any mental illness is a group effort and one which will involve constant channels of communication between the client and the people who are most influential in their life. If a client is over 18 and they have approached me independently, I will usually bring carers into the process a little further into therapy. Under the Data Protection Act, I of course have to gain the client’s permission to share information with the carers. Once I have explained the paramount importance of trust and communication, this permission is normally granted. I like the families of my clients to understand my methods and the work I will undertake with their loved ones, so, they can be as helpful and supportive as possible throughout the recovery process. Recovery can sometimes be a long process, with the sufferer’s mind-set changing at each stage, sometimes on a day-by-day basis.
It is important that carers are aware of the changes to help them to gain a real insight into how their loved one is thinking and feeling at each juncture within the process. This is why I prefer to keep them in the loop so they can give the support, non-judgmental communication and empathy that I give in my sessions, at home.