What is Counselling?

Most counselling clients are perfectly ordinary people who in general are managing their lives in a satisfactory manner. But sometimes they may be faced by life situations that seem difficult and perplexing, and for which their usual coping strategies are inadequate.  Consider, for example ...

Arnold’s the 32-year-old creative director of an advertising agency. You’d think he had it made, but he’s tormented by doubts about his wife’s faithfulness. She denies it, of course - but then she would, wouldn’t she? At home Arnold is moody, scared, angry and suspicious: just the kind of “paranoid” behaviour that would drive his wife into another man’s arms at the best of times! And he’s losing it at work too: last week, without provocation, he bit off his PA’s head and drove her to tears.  

Bernice is also in her early thirties. She manages the cosmetics section of a large department store. What she specially enjoys about it is visiting trade fairs, meeting sales reps, and training up her junior staff. But something’s missing. Although she’s full of imaginative and creative ideas for her section, she’s too lacking in self-confidence to run them past her superiors. She fears they’ll find her ideas stupid and decide she isn’t really the person they need for the job. As a result, she feels she’s not making full use of her potential, and she’s very stuck and unfulfilled in her workplace.

Four years ago Carole succeeded in divorcing a husband who used to beat her up. She got custody of their son Roger, now aged 7, but since she has to hold down two jobs to make ends meet, Roger currently lives with Carole’s parents. Carole would love to fall in love with another man and settle down with him, but she thinks Roger’s existence will be a real turn-off for a prospective partner. It’s safer therefore to keep silent about him, and only date “unsuitable” men who’ll move on after she reveals her “secret”. But meanwhile, she feels used, and terribly lonely ... and she’s nowhere near getting what she really wants.  
David has a responsible management position with a big multi-national company, and he’s being groomed for higher things. His bosses want him to spend two years in Singapore getting a feel for the firm’s Far East operations, then another two years in their New York headquarters. After that, he’ll be ready to take control of the European division. The prospect is incredibly exciting. Problem is, David’s wife Becca refuses to uproot the children from their schools, their friends, their ailing grandparents and their familiar environment. She’s issued an ultimatum: if David goes, he can’t expect the family to be there when he gets back. He’s torn between his ambition and the family he loves very dearly.

Emily is 66, and she’s a pillar of the community. Strongly involved with her church, she’s one of a team who visit frailer parishioners and provides them with meals on wheels. What’s more, she loves being with children, so she even teaches a Sunday school class. The trouble is, it’s all starting to feel very false. Emily has stopped believing in God, and it’s hard to keep up the pretence of being a dedicated Christian. It’s the last thing she could talk about to her vicar and her church friends, and yet she really does need to sort out a mess of confused and contradictory feelings. She thinks maybe a counsellor might help.