Counselling is most effective when clients think through and experiment with new ideas in between their sessions, rather than leaving all the work for their counselling hour.
Counselling is not about making judgements or taking sides. In couple and family sessions it is important that each person feels heard and has the opportunity to see things from other family member’s perspectives.
While the counsellor is responsible for conducting a session and keeping a relevant focus, it is important for the client to think about what their priorities are for each appointment and to give the counsellor this feedback.
Focus on making changes for self rather than on trying to change another person.
One of the first steps to change is to shift the way we think about the problem and to back this up with a change in behaviour.
Changing behaviour and thoughts is in the realm of choice in a way that feelings are not. To make changes takes courage, ownership of choices and a sense of hope that there is a way forward.
Remember that change is rarely easy or comfortable. People around you are likely (consciously and unconsciously) to want you to return to your familiar, predictable role. Stay alert to “change back” invitations from those close to you.
It is helpful to use the word “I” to describe concerns and feelings rather than “you”. For example, “I feel like I am being ignored.” is more open to resolution than “You always ignore me.” “I” messages express your experience of things rather than sounding like an unchangeable statement of fact.
As soon as you begin to defend your position or attack another for theirs it is a warning sign that you have lost your “I” position and will find it hard to be objective.
Be aware of relationship triangles where problems get detoured to a third party rather than being worked out in the relationship where they belong. It is most productive to communicate person to person about differences in a relationship.
Use strong emotions such as anger and hurt as signals that important issues are opening up.
Beware of seeing villains, victims or saints in your family or relationship system. If anyone seems always right or wrong, you are probably not seeing them clearly.
Don’t be discouraged when you or your relationship seems to backslide. It is normal for setbacks to occur. Under enough stress we all revert to old patterns but are hopefully more able to recognise and address them.