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You’ve noticed that you have a problem. Mental health, emotional health. Or you’ve reached out for support through a difficult time. First of all: well done! It takes a huge amount of courage to admit that things are going pear-shaped, and even more to reach out and seek help.
So, you’re seeing a counsellor and you’re telling them all about what’s going on. They’re asking you good questions – questions that challenge you, questions that help you see your situation better, questions that open up options to you that weren’t even visible before.

And you’re not making progress.

You’re telling the same stories. Describing things just as they are. Nothing seems to have changed, except perhaps you have some new names and labels for different parts of your experience.

You might be feeling frustrated with the process. Certainly your counsellor might be frustrated too!

I’ve been in the client seat doing exactly this. Talking, talking, talking but not getting anywhere. Learning about psychology, but not changing my own. Airing my issues but not resolving them.

So what was going on? I was talking about my issues, in the abstract, in the distance somewhere. I wasn’t connected to them. Heck, I wasn’t connected to myself – and THAT was the root of all problems.

It’s all too easy – when you’re good with words and enjoy a good discussion – to treat a counselling session in the same spirit. You go in, you have a good chat, you come out. But you’re not really getting the counselling you want and/or need.

You’re running in circles around the session, talking about this, that, or the other, but without making any contact – and thereby any progress – with the issues at hand.

You have a few options here.

  1. Open up a discussion about this with your counsellor. You may be able to find a different way of relating to one another that helps you connect with yourself and your stuff, and thereby find some solutions.
  2. Find a different counsellor. Don’t bunny hop from one counsellor to another, but find one who really helps you to connect with yourself. One who helps you feel your feelings. One who challenges you if you’re merely telling stories like you’re entertaining your mates down the pub on a Friday night. One with whom you feel you’re making progress.
  3. Give the talking a rest and find a bodywork practitioner. Someone who does massage or acupuncture, shiatsu or cranio-sacral therapy. Someone who does energy work. Someone who can bypass your head (your thoughts, your storytelling) and help you communicate directly with your body which is, after all, where all your emotional experiences are.
  4. Give up, carry on with business as usual until you hit another, potentially more serious problem down the road. I don’t really recommend this option, actually. I put it here to prompt you to think “oh shit, I’d better do one of the other things rather than risk a bigger problem later.” Did it work?

The big takeaway from this is: you’re not alone. Loads of people do this. Loads of people get stuck in their heads, unable to connect with their feelings, and it’s a hard – but not impossible – habit to break.

What are you going to do about it?

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