Can you benefit from counselling? Counsellor Annabel Giles answers your questions on therapy and what to expect from professional support

I’m interested in counselling, but I’m nervous. What can I expect?

When I first see a client, I explain that we’re here to see if we want to work together, and that it’s OK to say no. I take a few details, such as date of birth and an emergency contact, and then we talk about what made them come to counselling. Most people have something they are very keen to talk about, but not always. At the end of the session (we use the full 50 mins) we know if we’re going to get on, and (usually!) make an appointment for the following week.

I think my partner would benefit from speaking with a therapist. What can I do to nudge him in the right direction, without being too pushy?

Not much! It might sound a bit critical to him, even if you’re merely hinting that he needs to speak to someone. People get very defensive when it is implied that they’re not able to handle their own lives. The best way to show him that therapy works is by having it yourself. If he sees that you are benefitting from it, the whole process might not seem so terrifying. I’ve sometimes met clients who’ve ‘been sent’ and they’re often in rather controlling relationships… Or, of course, there’s always couples counselling which could work well for your situation.

couple sitting on bench

Can anyone benefit from counselling, even if you’re not in crisis?

Yes! And yes again! I believe it should be compulsory for everyone to sit and look at themselves and their behaviour on a weekly basis. This would bring clarity, understanding, and helps so much with decision-making. It makes sense to untangle stuff as you go along, rather than wait for a crisis. Where else can you talk about yourself and your life, in total confidentiality, without worrying about what the other person thinks, or having to listen to them? I’ve been in therapy for the past 32 years, and still find it really useful, even during the good times.

My family are struggling. Things have been said and nobody can talk without arguing or getting upset. Can counselling help us?

Definitely. Often a family has become entrenched in relating to each other in a particular way, and as nothing stays the same for very long, relationships can change very quickly. The more people in the group, the more changeable the dynamic! Everyone has to be willing to do this, however. If not, sometimes it helps to see key individuals (e.g. sisters) as a couple, to work out what’s going wrong. Sometimes it’s just one person who needs to talk safely and privately. A good therapist will help you find the best approach.

Together we look at how they got here, where they’d prefer to be, and the journey in between

I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve recently come out of a relationship and I’m unhappy in my job, but have no one to speak to. Will counselling help me?

In many ways, this is exactly what counselling is for. People are so busy these days, it seems we’re just firefighting life as it happens, rather than taking considered decisions. I see many clients who feel they’ve lost their way and need to get back on track, but have no idea which path to choose. Together we look at how they got here, where they’d prefer to be, and the journey in between. I always say we’re walking through the woods together, I’m just holding the torch!

Top 3 things to consider before your first session

  • Be honest. If you’re not truthful, you’re lying to yourself and wasting your time and money.
  • Don’t worry about what the therapist thinks of you, it doesn’t matter. We’ve heard it all, and are not judging you.
  • No problem is too small or unimportant to talk about; if it’s a problem to you, it’s a problem!

Read more about Annabel Giles on

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