When people ask me:” at what point shall I seek counseling?” I tell them: “if you feel like you are not as happy as you could be.” It really is that simple. All of us go through times in our lives when we encounter periods of stress causing us feelings of great discomfort. We can loose our support system in transitions such as relocation, parenthood, and general change in circumstances, accentuating feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

Another reason for seeking counseling is recognizing patterns of behaviors that are not working, such as relationships ending badly in the same sort of way. People often wait too long before they seek help. This may lead to depression and/or physical symptoms, which in turn may result in difficulties in our personal and professional relationships.

I had one client who, due to language problems, job promotion and change of environment for him and his nuclear family, suffered an acute anxiety attack on a business trip. Unable to function anymore, he had to be repatriated and was forced into therapy. He was able to adjust and restructure some of his behavior in a short period of time.

To be anxious and/or sad in this society is often to be alone. When we feel alone or isolated it is not unusual for these uncomfortable feelings to intensify. This can be a vicious circle, triggered by many things. It can be very painful to feel that, because you are suffering or sad, you are not welcome, or even that your sadness might be contagious. And we can feel alone even, or especially, when we are amongst family or friends; such is often the nature of sadness, anxiety or depression.

A more long-term client of mine was unable to enjoy social functions. Being a diplomat she was exposed to such interactions very often. Unable to connect with people she felt more and more alone and incompetent. She often felt unwelcome and even contagious in her sadness. By looking into some of her childhood beliefs and patterns, we were able to change this. Today, relocated, she has a very active and supportive social circle.

I have seen clients whom have been struck with pain and unresolved grief issues, triggered by the vast distance of close sick relatives, whom they could not see and help at the time. These feelings of helplessness in a difficult situation have resulted in them seeking help and resolving some old issues. Sometimes merely being able to talk with someone has eased their pain.

Our local community Council or neighborhood houses may have some information on workshops such as Loss and Grief, or Effective Parenting, Anger Management and various other supportive groups, which will not only address a specific problem but also help you meet other people with similar issues. They can also help us find professional counselling services that are available in the community that can support us and help us to deal with these difficulties.

It is appropriate to seek counselling support when you feel stressed beyond your ability to cope with a situation. This does not signify a character flaw or weakness but rather demonstrates an ability to be proactive in staying emotionally healthy. It is not necessary to be facing a severe personal or family crisis to seek counselling. Many people enter counseling to resolve issues, improve and make changes in relationships, or adjust to new situations.

Frequently people will seek counseling due to problems that are temporary and created by specific situations. Dealing with transition is a very common difficulty that many people share. Often people can benefit from speaking with someone who is a neutral listener, one without judgment, and who can provide a different perspective on the problem.

It is very important to feel comfortable with the professional from whom you are seeking counselling. Confidentiality and a sense of trust are essential for effective counseling relationships. Finding a counsellor who can understand what issues are at stake is of great importance. The outcome should be that the clients have a clearer understanding of their feelings, which in turn often allows people to deal more effectively with them.

Counselling may take only one or two sessions or could continue for a longer period of time depending on the needs of the individual client, couple or family. Counsellors can listen to you and give you support, ideas and information on what you could do.

Services listed below can talk to you and provide support and information over the telephone, and will refer you to see a counsellor in person if you want to. These services are free.

There are many information databases available on the Internet or by phone, such as Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) 1 300 134 130. www.dvirc.org.au/whenlove/servicestxt.htm a Domestic Violence help line 9373 0123. A Support Agency Help Line such as www.spph.com.au/help_lines.html LifeLine www.lifeline.org.au is another great referral service (telephone counselling (general)Ph: 131 114). Gambler’s Help 1 800 156 789, Gay & Lesbian Switchboard 9827 8544, Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) 9349 1766.

You might feel nervous about ringing a service. If so, it might help to ring first with a few questions about who they are and how their service works, before you talk about your situation. You don’t have to give your name, and you can just hang up if you feel uncomfortable. If you want to, the counsellor on the phone can refer you to someone you can talk to face to face. If you are worried that a worker might not keep what you tell them confidential, ask them about their policy on confidentiality. Sometimes it can be difficult to access these services. Their lines are frequently engaged so keep trying. Nicole Renaud



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Nicole Renaud

Nicole Renaud

English, French and German B.A. (USA), M.Couns & H.S.(Australia), PACFA Adv. Dip. Gestalt Therapie, GANZ

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