For those who specialise in this therapy look for the letter ‘Z’ in the speciality column

The following information has been kindly supplied by Barry Coleman BA(Hons), GQHP, Cert. Counselling, GHR

I don’t think it is possible to define clearly and comprehensively what counselling is. I will try to describe some of the things it is, and some of the things it isn’t, in the context of how it supports, or is supported by, hypnotherapy. It is, however, a part of an enormous number of other helping strategies including your GP visits.

Even when you only expect hypnosis from your therapist to, say, lose your fear of flying (a phobia) or to boost your self-confidence, there will always be some counselling. You will probably experience it as a period when you feel able to talk relatively freely about whatever your problem is and not feel judged in any way. You will know that whatever you say is confidential; this should always be made clear by the therapist.

Many clients very quickly realise that they have willingly disclosed thoughts and feelings that they have never felt able to disclose before, even to loved ones, and enjoyed the experience. They will often experience surprising and enlightening insights just from talking freely about themselves. There is no compulsion to disclose. In fact the opposite is true; no demands are made by either the therapist or the client.

I suppose the most important enabling skill that the therapist brings to counselling is the ability to listen non-judgementally and without giving advice. Empathy, but not sympathy, will be a part of the process of developing a relatively deep and understanding relationship which will have, nevertheless, clear boundaries.

This may all happen in the first 30 minutes of a hypnotherapy centred treatment and would be essential for the hypnotherapist to attune to what is needed and for you to attune to the therapist. At the other end of the scale, it may also extend for years and even a lifetime and also all points in between. Hypnotherapy may be the main focus of the treatment or it may be used in many ways as a powerful tool to support more extended counselling.

The therapist’s aim is always to help you to understand what may be going on and to empower you to help yourself.

Sometimes simple talking, listening and deep understanding is all that is needed, however long, or short, it takes. Often, though, we may learn from past masters like Sigmund Freud and many others and employ other approaches under the universal banner of, “counselling”. There are many of these but I suppose about three main groups can be identified; but with blurred boundaries.

The humanistic approaches are really extensions and natural partners to simple counselling as described. They are often termed, “person-centred” and are all about the immediate thoughts and feelings of the client in the therapy room.

The psychodynamic approaches were started by Sigmund Freud, but seriously modified and enhanced by many others. Problematic and unexplained feelings and behaviours are often suppressed into our subconscious minds at some time in our past, often in childhood. These feelings may be triggered by present-day events and we wonder why we are frightened, angry, depressed, argue with a spouse or can’t go into a hospital, or can’t walk down a street, or fear to touch a frog, can’t stop eating, can’t eat or faint when injected and so on. This approach helps us to understand where these feelings are coming from and to use our grown-up psychology to deal with them. Hypnotherapy is very powerful here to help with forgotten memories and even re-live, with safeguards, forgotten experiences.

The third main approach would be centred around the Cognitive Behaviour Therapies (CBT). This deals with rationalising the thoughts that we have about events that lead to problematic feelings and behaviours. If the feeling or behaviour is a problem then it is almost certain that it is caused by irrational thoughts about an event and not by the event itself. See stress article This approach does not deny that these feelings are often rooted in childhood events but provides the possibility of a more immediate resolution by encouraging a modification and rationalisation of thought processes. Hypnosis is, of course, another useful tool for reinforcing these changes and also for discovering the real thoughts behind the feelings.

It is not really sensible, however, to draw strict boundaries around different therapeutic approaches. There is considerable overlap. Some therapists will concentrate on one main approach and others will integrate several different approaches.

Finally –

Counselling is –

  • An open, honest, trusting and helping relationship
  • Empowering
  • Listening
  • Clarifying
  • Often challenging
  • Life enhancing
  • Worth while for just about anybody (including me)
  • Confidential (except where damage is predicted)

Counselling is not –

  • Advice giving
  • Judgemental
  • Only for, “nutters”
  • A substitute for medical treatment (at least at first)
  • A way around your problem