Alternatives - The East York Mental Health Counselling Services Agency




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East York Mental Health Counselling Services Agency,
1245 Danforth Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario,
M4J 1M8
Tel: (416) 285-7996
Fax: (416) 285-5733
Web-site designed by:
Luke Mastin
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Counselling means different things to different people. It does not offer quick answers, but asks the participant to engage in a process and an exploration. Most benefit is drawn from counselling by the person who engages with this process.

This factsheet aims to help you prepare to make the most of counselling. It is not a comprehensive guide to the profession, but it does aim to provide you with enough information to decide whether or not counselling is right for you.

What is counselling?

There are many definitions of counselling. One simple version is, that counselling is a working relationship in which you are helped to explore and manage what is happening in your life.

The overall aim of counselling is to provide an opportunity for you to work towards a more satisfying and resourceful experience of life. Naturally, each person’s needs are different.

Counselling may be concerned with:

  • Experiences of violence, abuse and trauma
  • Personal development issues
  • Addressing and resolving specific problems
  • Making decisions
  • Coping with crisis
  • Developing personal insight and knowledge
  • Working through feelings of inner conflict
  • Improving relationships with others

…or any number of other issues, large or small, which come up in everyday life.

The counsellor’s role is to facilitate your work in ways that respect your values, personal resources and capacity for choice within your cultural context.

Many of us use some counselling skills in our daily lives and often appreciate support from friends, colleagues and family members. Sometimes however, our usual source of support can be too close, inappropriate – or sometimes part of the problem.

Counsellors who have been trained have been shown to be particularly effective in helping, especially in difficult, sensitive situations. They are independent, neutral and professional and they respect our privacy.

Counselling can sometimes be helpful to clarify our problems and challenges, identify changes we would like to make, gain fresh perspectives, consider the consequences of various options and acknowledge the impact of life events on our emotional wellbeing.

Why Counselling?

People enter into counselling for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Social isolation
  • Poverty
  • Experience of racism and systemic oppression
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Partner Abuse
  • Experiences of violence
  • Health issues and lack of access to care and support

Counselling can help us come to terms with these kinds of specific issues and the many others that we may face on a daily basis. Counsellors can help us to understand our situations, review the options and decide upon actions. People often find that knowing they have a plan they have considered carefully from all angles improves self-confidence and optimism about the future.

How Counselling works

Most importantly, you will benefit most if you enter counselling of your own free will. Sometimes, a well-meaning friend or family member, who might be concerned about you but unable to help you directly might suggest counselling. You might engage in a first session of counselling to see what it is all about. To take full advantage of the service available it is therefore preferable if you decide for yourself that it is worth trying. You can certainly stop anytime. Many people have received enough assistance after one contact with a counsellor; for others more sessions can be better.

Counselling will be a specific arrangement between you and your counsellor. It will be entirely private except in exceptional circumstances. Counselling is not about making judgments. The counsellor will accept whoever you are, regardless of status, lifestyle or whatever the issues you face.

A partnership

Counselling works best as a partnership. It helps if you can get along with, or even like your counsellor. Chemistry can matter, but it is more important that you respect him or her. The partnership with your counsellor begins as soon as you make contact. Good counsellors help you to explain what is important to you; they ask questions and, naturally, they will listen a great deal to begin with.

Your counsellor will often clarify, reflect comments back to you and encourage further exploration so that you both develop an accurate picture of the situation. By looking at the situation from a fresh perspective, we often discover new possibilities.

You will find yourself encouraged to talk, to think and also to listen. Counselling is an interactive, two-way process. You do not have to tell the counsellor everything about you and your life, but you should be honest with your counsellor. It is better to say that you prefer not to talk about a specific issue that to be misleading or to deny that the issue exists.

Counsellors are trained to avoid imposing their own view and answers to your situation. They are there to help you realize your own potential and find the solution that works best for you. Counsellors may guide you to other services that can help you with specific issues, where appropriate.

Worth remembering…

Counselling is not:

  • Something that has to last for years
  • Only for rich people
  • Only about sex
  • Psychoanalysis
  • About giving advice

As the client you may like to know that:

  • You do not have to be ill in any way to benefit from counselling
  • You do not have to tell your secrets
  • You should not expect the counsellor to solve all of your problems
  • You can expect some help handling the issues you face
  • Counsellors are very approachable and make it easy for you to take the first step in making an appointment

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