Chronic illness often brings with it many lifestyle changes that can be hard to accept. Losing the ability to do things that you previously enjoyed, like driving a car or having a busy social life, can be particularly difficult and may leave you feeling like an entirely different person from who you were before.
Although self-help tools (like the Surviving Me workbook) can go a long way to helping you cope with your new situation, you may reach a point where you feel you need more support. In this case, you might want to consider seeing a counsellor.
What are the benefits of counselling?
Counselling offers a safe, non-judgemental space in which you can talk about how you’re feeling. You can share whatever you like; it doesn’t have to be how you’re feeling today or this week. If there’s something on your mind from 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, you can talk about that, too. This is your time to process any thoughts or experiences that you feel are holding you back or impacting negatively on your life.
Although it usually takes several sessions before you start to see results, counselling offers a great way to manage the stress, depression and anxiety that may accompany your health condition. It can help you better handle life’s ups and downs, draw a line under issues from the past, make healthier life choices and create new plans for how you’d like to live going forward.
What does counselling involve?
There are many types of therapy and different approaches tend to work for different people. The most important thing is to have a good relationship with your counsellor. Research has shown that this relationship is more important than the approach used, and has the strongest correlation with a positive outcome.
The most common types of therapy used in the UK are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and person-centred therapy. CBT aims to identify patterns of thoughts or feelings that are negatively affecting you and convert them into something more constructive that will improve how you feel. Person-centred therapy focuses on the relationship between the counsellor and the client, aiming to create an accepting, empathetic environment where the client feels understood, validated and more able to identify the solutions to their problems.
How do I find a counsellor?
In the UK, counselling is often free of charge through the NHS or via your local hospice. Your GP, carer or district nurse will be able to give you more information. However, as there may be a waiting list you may choose to pay privately. You can find an experienced, qualified counsellor through the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy website, itsgoodtotalk.org.uk.