your kind of counselling

Dear Suzie,

I love your Stepfamilies programme and the way you deal with the people involved which feels much more like coaching than counselling. Myself and my partner have had several courses of counselling over the 12 years we have been together, the most recent one being over the last 6 months but I feel that although we get to understand our feelings and discuss them things never go any further. I love the way you get couples and families to do activities and tasks together and would like to have this type of counselling with my partner but can’t find anyone in our area that does this type of things only the traditional type of counselling. How can I find someone who will work with us like you do?

Thank you for your kind words! The families you saw me with on the whole most certainly did make extraordinary progress, and continue to do so, I’m glad to say. How did we do it?

As far as I was trained, counselling has three stages, and every single one is vital. The first stage is exploring, where you ‘tell the story’ and tease out what has happened. If you don’t explore the way all of you see what is going on and what led to it, you can’t get any where.

Then, you understand. You need to have insight, to see links, to fully appreciate what is going on and why. If you can’t see the links and the meanings, you can’t go any further. I used my experience and expertise and training to open up the stories i heard from the families.

And then you make decisions, make changes – you act. You look at what has happend and how it adds up, and decide what you’d like to do in future.

Explore, Understand And Act – each stage relies on the previous, and proceeds from it. if you don’t explore, you can’t understand or act. If you don’t understand, you can’t act. And if you don’t act, neither of the other two stages have much point.

Some clients get stuck. They don’t want to scratch under the surface and tell the whole story. Or they don’t want to see the links and understand what is really going on. Or they may be happy to endlessly circle the drain but not move forward in action.

It sounds as if, so far, you may have done one and two but certainly not proceeded to three. What you need to consider is whether it’s the responsibility of the counsellor you had – and it could be; some are excellent at delving but less good at asking you, firmly, to move on. Or it could be that one of you is holding back.

I was trained by Relate so most Relate counsellors would have the benefit of knowing the strategies and ideas I used. Although I have to admit much of what I did in the programmes was adapted to the special circumstances of dealing with families in front of the camera and on a deadline. You could get my book Stepfamilies – Thriving and Surviving In a New Famly (go to the books page and follow the link) as i do outline all the strategies i used in the series and a few more in there. Find a counsellor you like and trust, and discuss it with them!

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