One question I am asked frequently is ‘What is counselling? Isn’t is JUST talking?’. I always find it a tricky question to answer. I could go into a detailed explanation of what someone like Carl Rogers would say but I wonder how much help that sort of answer offers? Instead I have been pondering on an everyday analogy that may sound a little silly but hopefully will go some way to give a very simplistic idea of the process.
The Laundry Basket
In the hallway of your home is a laundry basket, clothes cascading from it, blocking the entrance to your front door. You can’t let anyone in and it gets in your way constantly. You can’t remember how it got there, what’s in it or how it got so full. You used to know how to deal with it but now the task seems overwhelming, you feel powerless and deskilled. The thought of it exhausts you and fills you with anxiety and feelings of depression. You feel sure no-one else has a basket like this one. You’ve tried covering the pile with pretty sheets, sticking an air freshener in the hall and buying new clothes. None of this has helped. Today you’ve had enough. Today you’ve made the brave decision to ask for help.
You choose a laundry partner who has been recommended and you know is part of a laundry professional body! You worry that she will judge you and you are filled with guilt and shame. Instead she greats you with warmth and understanding. She isn’t afraid to look at your laundry with you, listening as you tell her about each item, gently asking questions and challenging you, seeming to really understand how you are feeling, helping you hold things up to the light. Some items are important to you, some you’d forgotten you had and some are things you want to throw out. You decide together what to deal with first, you sort, discuss, create piles. At first the mess seems to get bigger as the basket is unpacked. You feel even more overwhelmed. Was this a good idea? Will this chaos ever get any better?
Some things are thrown quickly into the washer others need careful handwashing, stain remover. Some items you decide to throw out. Some things never did fit and when you look at them together, she is honest and genuine in a way you haven’t experienced before. You decide to get out a needle and thread to make some changes. You find an item that meant a lot to you but it seems so stained it may never be of use again. Talking it through, you begin to see past the anger and sadness about the damage and instead focus on the experiences you had whilst wearing it. You decide the stain is a part of the pattern of the fabric, you find a sense of peace about what happened. Slowly you start to see the bottom of the basket.
One day you find the entrance to your home is much clearer. You, your family and friends can come and go more easily. You have remembered how to use the washing machine and together you have learned new programmes. Your laundry partner has been with you every step of the way while you made your discoveries, faced sadness and challenges, stayed with you when you felt it was all too much to deal with, helped you learn new skills, never judging, never questioning your ability to move forward, respecting your knowledge of you and what was in your basket. Today though, you feel strong enough to stand on your own, grateful for the partnership on your laundry journey you turn and say ‘Thank you for your help but I’ve got this now’
Nicola Medlicott is a registered member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
She works at the Blue Lotus Therapy Centre, Scorrier.
Information can be found on her website
www.cornwallcounselling.net or phone 07470 187976. Evening and weekend appointments are available.