Looking after yourself - counselling

Last updated: December 2020 | 4 min read


You may have hit a crisis in your relationship and hope that you can get through it.  You may not be sure whether your relationship can be saved.  Or you might be sure that the relationship is over but are finding it difficult to deal with the emotional fall-out of separating.  It is completely normal for a human being to feel overwhelmed and confused in these situations - indeed, not feeling like that is likely to be far more of a concern.

Counselling is not for people who are 'weak' or 'don't have friends' but for anyone in need of some proper professional help in trying to resolve their problems as quickly as possible. In addition to helping with relationship and separation issues, counselling can also help with many other emotional difficulties and problems, such as depression, anger and addiction, just to name some examples.

What is counselling?

Counselling is a process where an individual sees a trained counsellor in a private setting and in absolute confidence.  Whether you go on your own, or as a couple, the counsellor will help you to (amongst other things):

  • Safely explore all your feelings, including those you feel embarrassed or negative about;
  • Understand and accept your own feelings (and those of your partner);
  • Identify the emotional (and often also practical) issues that concern you;
  • Reduce confusion you might feel;
  • Find ways in which you can resolve particular issues.

Unlike friends and family, counsellors are specially trained to not take sides or become burdened by their clients' problems.  They actively listen to try and understand the problem from their clients' point of view. They will not judge you.  They are often able to suggest an alternative way of looking at a situation or problem.  They will never tell you what to do but may make suggestions and help you find your own solutions.

What type of counselling is best?

There are many different approaches to counselling, which can be very confusing.  The 'type' that's best for you is the type you are likely to feel most comfortable with. In very broad, very general terms, there are many approaches:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT);
  • Existential Therapy;
  • Person Centred Therapy;
  • Psychodynamics; and
  • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT).
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Narrative Therapy

At least as important as the approach and area of expertise of a counsellor is the quality of the relationship you build up with him or her.  You will need to trust your counsellor in order to open up and benefit.

Where do I find a counsellor?

  • Your local health centre may well have a counsellor attached or be able to refer you to someone. 
  • For couple and relationship counselling, including separating, Relate has counsellors near you.  They do charge, but this is on a sliding scale based on your income;
  • Try the Yellow pages or the Internet.  Make sure you check that he or she is registered with one of the professional organisations, such as the Australian Counselling Association.  They will also be able to help you find an accredited counsellor in your area;
  • Internet counselling (where you communicate by e-mail and, or in a chat room rather than face to face) is a fairly new area.  This might suit you if you find it difficult to get to a counsellor or think you might find it easier to be open in chat or e-mails, for example.  If you choose this option, make sure your counsellor is registered with a professional organisation (details of this should be on his or her website) and read the code of ethics of this organisation before committing yourself.

Counselling can save you money as well as making you feel better

The main reason for escalating costs in divorce proceedings is that people find it difficult to accept that virtually none of the decisions made have anything to do with 'fault' - they are concerned with the needs, resources and best interests of people.  Seeing more clearly what your emotional issues are also helps you to be able to separate them from the practical issues arising out of divorce or separation.

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