On Counselling

If you are reading this, it is because you are a friend.

A friend whom I cherish, whose company I enjoy and want to continue enjoying.  If you are reading this it is because we have enjoyed many discussions about various things in the past.  We have things in common and we are happy in each other’s company.

If you are reading this, it means I sent you this link.  I probably sent you this link because of some comments you have made about counselling.  It could have been an outright ‘I don’t believe in counselling’ comment.  Or possibly a link to some blog or magazine, and you sent it to me with the idea of asking me to read it and to later have a discussion about it with you.  Or I may have referred you for counselling, and you may have wanted to go into it deeper with me.  Or I could have recently told you about being a counselling student, and you then wanted me to teach you all about what it is, how it works, all the ins and outs of the modality I’m studying and how it applies to life.

None of the above is my job.

I am a busy woman.  I work a full time job.  I am a full time student.  That means that I am theoretically spending 72 hours a week working or studying.  I also have hobbies and a family.  When I make the time to go out with you, whether it is for a coffee or a meal or to the cinema, I am making an effort to stay in touch with you because I cherish and like your friendship.  For the evening, I am putting you above my precious books and microscopes.  I am putting you above my partners and my hobbies and my essays and assignments.  I am human.  When I go for coffee or dinner with you, I am giving you companionship and friendship and support, and I expect the same in return.

Explaining, or discussing, or debating counselling with you is not fun, it is not relaxing.  If you are asking me to summarise everything I have learnt about counselling and to convince you of its efficacy in 500 words – that is an essay, that is work, that is not coffeetime with a friend.  If you are asking me to spend my limited time reading something you found on the internet, and then to discuss it with you, you are asking for more of my time to do something for you.  If I have referred you for counselling as a friend, it is your right to say no… and I will accept that of course.  But if you want to come back to me and ask for the pros and cons and discuss how it works, that again is not a relaxing coffee break.

I believe in counselling.  This may be more hippy-dippy-fairy-unicorn shit than you are used to from me.  I understand that.  I am/was a scientist.  For me to do a BA in Counselling is quite a radical change in direction for me.  But if you have been close friends with me, you know how objective and how rational I normally am.  You have probably also felt my empathy and compassion.  These things are not enemies – they can work together.  If you were my friend and believed I was a good person, how does my faith in counselling change your views of me?  Am I not still the kind, empathic, rational & objective friend you once knew?  Is it necessary to bring it up every time we meet from hereon out?

I did not go into this to convince anyone of its efficacy.  I have been suicidal.  I have anxiety.  I have PTSD.  I went for counselling and discovered for myself that it does help with all of those problems.  I was unhappy in science because of the competitiveness and ruthlessness of the field.  This is my way out.  I did not go into this to convince anyone that this is right.  I went into this because this was right for me.

I didn’t go into this to ‘convert’ anyone, much less you.  It isn’t my job to convince you, or anyone else, that it is right for you.  I went into this to help people, but you have to want to be helped.  And I cannot help you as a counsellor if you are a friend.  It doesn’t work very well that way, you need to find your own counsellor.  If you want to know whether counselling works – try it.  And go into it with an open mind, an open heart, and a long term commitment.  It doesn’t work instantly, I’d recommend at least 12 sessions with a person-centred counsellor.

What I am trying to say is – please do not ask me to do any unpaid work for you.  If you want to learn about counselling, go and do the work yourself.  Asking me for my opinion on these things is demanding resources from me I don’t have.   Not when I am already exhausted and drained with all the other things in my life.

Let me put this in another way.  A biologist rarely becomes close friends with an animal-rights activist – because it would be very difficult to get companionship, friendship, understanding & support from each other.  It would be a friendship full of arguments, and it will be draining and unfulfilling.  Of course a biologist can go out and become friends with an animal rights activist with the goal of convincing them that animal research is A-OK…. But that is a premeditated goal.

It isn’t my goal to convince you.  I just want you to continue being the good friend you have always been.  You are reading this because I am trying to preserve the friendship.  You are reading this because I cherish you.  But I don’t have the time to defend my choice when that was never what the friendship was about before I went down this path.  I don’t have the resources, the energy, the emotional resilience and the time to discuss counselling with you, so please do not force me to.

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