What is Person-Centred Counselling

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In today’s blog, one of our therapists, Maria, talks about person-centred counselling and what means exactly. 

Person-centred counselling is one of the many different approaches to counselling and therapy. We are all unique individuals with different experiences so need different things from counselling.

Finding an approach that works for you, and a counsellor that you gel with, can make a big difference to how much you get out of counselling. However if you don’t know what the different approaches are then it can be very difficult to figure out what might work for you.

My first experience of counselling wasn’t very helpful which put me off trying it again for a long time because I assumed that all counselling would be the same. However, my second experience of counselling was vastly better and had a very positive impact on my life.

I had found a counsellor who I really connected with, and a style of counselling that worked for me.
With this in mind I thought it would be helpful to briefly explain what the person-centred approach to counselling is and how it influences the way I work as a counsellor.

So what is person-centred counselling…

Person-centred counselling is about providing a safe space for you to talk through your thoughts, feelings and experiences with someone who will really listen to you. The time is yours to talk about whatever feels important to you. It is based on the idea that we all have the resources within us to heal, grow and move forwards in our lives.

Many things happen in the course of our lives that can make this feel very difficult and we can sometimes feel stuck. The aim of person-centred counselling is to create an environment that enables healing, self-acceptance and growth, by providing understanding and acceptance without judgement.

The Counselling Relationship

A really important part of person-centred counselling is the relationship between the client and their counsellor.

As a counsellor I aim to build a relationship in which my clients feel safe to talk openly about their experiences and how they feel. I will listen attentively to what they say and try to see the world through their eyes. I will always try to be my genuine self. This means that I will be honest about how

I experience a client and I will share with them my understanding of what they have talked about and how they are feeling.

You are the expert

Another important aspect of the person-centred approach is the belief that you are the expert on your own feelings, experiences, and the direction you want to take in your life.
I believe that you are in the best place to decide what feels right for you, and that coming to your own decisions is usually far more helpful and empowering than having someone else tell you what to do.

Therefore a person-centred counsellor will work with you to help you gain a greater awareness and understanding of yourself and what you want without telling you what to do.

Acceptance and change
Sometimes what makes the biggest difference is being able to talk to someone who really listens to you without judging; someone who will accept all the parts that make up who you are, including the parts that you find difficult or uncomfortable or that you may not like about yourself.
Feeling understood and accepted by another person can be really powerful because it helps us learn to accept ourselves more fully.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I am able to change.”
Carl Rogers
Often people come to counselling because they want to make a change in their lives or within themselves. Developing awareness, understanding and self-acceptance in a safe environment is a really good place to start and often enables that change to take place.

At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre we offer a supportive environment for both children and adults who may be suffering bereavement.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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Common Questions or Anxieties About Bereavement

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In today’s blog, one of our therapists, Dawn, writes about her experience of grief, both personally and as a therapist working with clients who have suffered a bereavement.
Grief and the grieving process – removing the ‘Shoulds’ ‘Musts’ and other expectations
I am really passionate about this work and the need to support those individuals, it is the reason I became a therapist.
Eleven years ago at the age of 27, I lost two friends (both in their 20’s) and my own father within the space of six months. All three deaths were completed unexpected, complicated by the fact I was on the other side of the world at the time when both of my friends died.
Through the support of counselling I was able to process my feelings. I was able to arrive at a state of acceptance of the losses and find ways to live with the loss.
Why clichés are unhelpful
Often within my work and my own personal experience I found clichés such as ‘Getting Over it’ and ‘Time Heals’ are often used by others towards the person who is grieving.
They often come from a place of misplaced good intentions.  However, many clients find this attitude unhelpful, unempathic and in some cases, depending on the source, offensive.
I would like to stress that if these clichés were possible then the person you are grieving for would not have been that significant or important in the first place!
Common questions or anxieties about bereavement

 1. Do the 5 stages of grief exist as I don’t seem to be experiencing the stages I have read/been told about?  
Yes and no. I have met clients who appear to go through that linear process but I believe that it is not always linear.  You can dip in and out of the experience (depending on personal circumstances) or experience some stages and not others.
I think this theory is a useful tool to help frame and identify what you are feeling but it can also have a negative effect. For example, you may feel you are not grieving in the 'right way.  This feeling often comes from external opinions on how people should grieve (often based loosely on this linear process). This can lead to feelings such as self-doubt, guilt and concerns over mental stability.
I often explore with clients another more recent theory on grief known as the 'Dual Process Model'.  This theory recognises that both expressing and controlling feelings can be important due to circumstances in an individual’s life. It sees grief as a dynamic process oscillating between feelings of loss and feelings of restoration (avoiding the loss).
You may recognise this pattern in yourself as 'dipping in and out' of the grief can be a way of coping with the everyday life around you. 
2.    Do you think anyone can truly be ready/prepare for the loss? (In situations of terminal illness)
This is a difficult one to answer as people’s reactions can vary and I have often found that it depends on the individual situation. For example, the nature of the relationship with the deceased which may be negative, positive, close or estranged.
Often, if the relationship is close or significant, (i.e a parent/child) then the grief is compounded by the loss of that person’s role in their life.
Negative/estranged relationships with the deceased can often lead to complicated grief as often there are unresolved grievances that contribute to feelings such as guilt and anger.
These additional feelings exacerbate and intensify the grieving process after the death therefore negating any 'preparation' that occurred.
A huge impact on experience is the age of the person involved, often when it involves a child (no matter what age).  Clients have vocalised how they thought they were prepared because of a terminal diagnosis but are then left with a sense of ‘wrong person having died’.  There can be a huge sense that no parent should expect to outlive their child.
What often comes up is the memories left behind of seeing a person suffer or deteriorate.
Often clients feel that all their happy memories have been wiped out by memories of that loved one during their illness.
Although you may feel prepared in the lead up to it, nobody can predict what you will feel in the aftermath.  There may be more acceptance of the circumstances (compared to death by accident or crime) but it does not negate the loss felt.
3. Can there ever really be a ‘formula’ for grief?
Grieving is an individual process.
Some people may experience it as a process of stages, others will not.  It depends on the individual, the relationship to the person they have lost, type of death (sudden unexpected or expected, death by suicide) personal circumstances such as external support network and lifestyle.
I have seen an individual who cleared out her mother’s belongings a day after the death but also a widow who had a candlelit shrine in her home six years after her husband died. 
Human beings are complex; whilst a formula can help us to frame things (as explained above) it is important to focus on the individual in front of us.
 4. Do people of different ages have a particular way of reacting when they lose someone? 

Grief is such an individual thing whatever the age of the person who is grieving.
However, very young children often find it hard to express their grief and appear to dip in and out of the focus on their loss.  One day the child will act 'normal', the next they will be withdrawn.  Work with this group tends to be non-directive and supportive of how they are in that given moment, often facilitating expression through creative work/story telling.
Many teenagers tend to withdraw and this can manifest itself in 'acting out' rebellious behaviours (especially within a school setting) or refusal to participate socially.
With adult clients there can often be a displacement of feelings and a focus on another issue, such as problems with a partner or work.  In contrast, I often found with the elderly the loss is compounded by a sense of being alone with little distraction so they tend to focus on the loss rather than displace their feelings onto another issue.
I encourage people to express their feelings.  I also feel it’s important to make clear that their grief is individual and to ignore those who may tell them what they should/should not be feeling or doing.
Also very important is self-care. Be kind to yourself and do not put yourself under any unnecessary stress or expectations.
I don't believe in the cliche 'time heals' but I do believe with time comes acceptance and ability to manage living with the loss.
I like to offer clients that the person they have lost will always be a part of their life in a different way, for example by focusing on the things they had in common with that person or the experiences they shared together - they can always carry that with them.

In Part 2 to follow, I will be writing specially about how to support your bereaved child
At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre we offer a supportive environment for both children and adults who may be suffering bereavement.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.
Additional organisations that can offer advice/support to the bereaved.
Bereavement UK,
Young Minds,
Together for Short Lives,
Winstons Wish
Support after Suicide

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