What is counselling?
Counselling gives you an opportunity to talk to someone about your experiences and how they affect you. You will not be judged, criticised or told what to do, but supported in being yourself and making your own choices.
It can sometimes be hard to put your thoughts and feelings into words so you may wish to try other ways of expressing yourself, such as drawing or painting. It's up to you.
How long does it take?
During an Initial Assessment with a counsellor, you will have an opportunity to discuss whether or not to begin counselling. If you both agree that it may be helpful, you will probably be offered 6 sessions to start with. This may be enough support for you, however as counselling is a very individual process it’s impossible to say how long it will take, some people attend a few sessions, others many more, longer term counselling at PARCS can be up to 6 months.
If you decide to stop your counselling or you’re ready to start ending your counselling please discuss this with your counsellor, this enables consolidating ending your counselling together.
How does it work?
You will have regular meetings with a person who has been trained to listen carefully to what you say, and to respond in a way that will help you look at yourself and your experiences differently.
As the weeks go by, you also build a relationship with your counsellor, and this can become an increasingly important part of the process, enabling you to think about how you relate to other people in your life. You will probably find that feelings and memories which you have buried are stirred up and this can be hard, but your counsellor will help you work through this and by the end you should be more able to manage your feelings about the past, and be confident that you can get on with your life.
Counselling styles vary, but there are some core values and principles, such as respect for your individuality and privacy. Counsellors at PARCS also have knowledge of the many effects of sexual violation, so you can expect that the person you talk to will be familiar with the sort of difficulties that you are having.
How can just talking to someone help?
Counselling is more than ‘just talking’ – it is a relationship with either a male or female counsellor who is trained to help you think about your feelings and experiences so that they become more manageable.
PARCS recognises that the psychological and physical impact of sexual abuse on all survivors can be traumatic and the impact on males is heightened due to societies perceptions and nurturing of masculinity and male behaviour. Cultural biases often lead to unwillingness amongst males to disclose victimisation and downplay any connection between sexual abuse and long term impact. (Anderson, 2017)
Doesn’t it make it worse to go over things?
People tell me I should forget the past and move on... It is hard to ‘move on’ when you have to avoid situations or activities for fear they bring back memories, or if you can be disturbed by dreams or thoughts that seem to come from nowhere. Counselling isn’t about repeating the same stories over and over, but coming to feel differently about what has happened because you feel different about yourself.
What I had wasn’t that bad, there’s probably people who deserve PARCS more?
People often don’t realise until they have counselling quite how they have been affected but it’s a common result of abuse to feel undeserving, or that it was your fault. PARCS is a service for everyone who has had unwanted sexual contact at any time in their lives, whatever form that took.
Will I have to tell the counsellor everything?
It will take time for you to get to know and be comfortable with your counsellor, and she or he will respect that. You can’t be forced to talk about matters you don’t want to, but it’s often the things that you are most anxious or ashamed about that are most relieving to bring into the open.
What if I don’t get on with my counsellor?
You may find you have all sorts of different thoughts and feelings about your counsellor including feeling angry or misunderstood, and though this may make you want to find somebody else it is usually better to tell your counsellor this is how you feel, and talk it through. Often then you realise that you’ve been reminded of some other relationship, and this can be helpful. Occasionally this is not enough, and in that case you can ask to work with a different person.
Is it confidential?
Counselling at PARCS is confidential. There are some limits on confidentiality if someone is at risk of significant harm. This will be explained to you in details before you start your counselling. If this happens, your counsellor will always try and discuss it with you.