The main aim of counselling is not recovery
It is not the main aim of counselling to cure, restore or remit illness through counselling. While these things may be possible as a result, that is not the purpose of counselling. Counselling is not a magic pill that will make all problems disappear after a few or dozens of sessions. A magic pill that would reduce suicides and help people living with mental illness to recover quickly would help, but unfortunately, such a magic pill does not exist. All kinds of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs, or drugs that are illegal in many countries (methamphetamine, cannabis, etc.), or counselling, basically cannot make a mental illness go into remission. This is because they are only symptomatic treatments and do not cure the cause. The main purpose of counselling is not treatment and therefore not recovery.
However, there are many people in the world who receive counselling, and for some of them counselling is very effective. It is not the counsellor’s power to say that counselling has ‘recovered’ them, only that they have recovered. So why is counselling particularly effective for trauma-related issues? Although counselling is not covered by medical insurance (SSN), there are many people, including myself in the past, who receive counselling at their own expense. I am one of them, and counselling has helped me a lot to stabilise my mental state. So what is the purpose and aim of counselling?
The role of counselling is to draw out the client’s own strengths
The client (the patient being treated) has a mental difficulty. The slightly different term ‘mental difficulties’ reflects the philosophy of the Italian psychiatrist Franco Bazaglia. Known as Law 180 or Bazaglia’s Law, he abolished the closed and extraterritorial hospitals in Italy that consisted solely of psychiatry and created new psychiatric beds in general hospitals called SPDCs. I wrote a book on Italian psychiatry (if you are interested, search for Honoka Miki on Amazon). Mentally healthy people do not need much counselling, but the greater the mental difficulty and the greater the interference in daily life, the more counselling is needed. And the more medication stalls, the more counselling is needed. However, the purpose of counselling is not to alleviate emotional pain, but only to encourage the client’s natural capacity for recovery. In other words, the actual alleviation of pain caused by mental illness is partly due to the help of the counsellor and others, but the main reason is that counselling has brought out the client’s innate strength. Counselling is a process of drawing out that resilience. We at NPO Bousai Italia believe that resilience is something we are all born with. People who do not have a mental illness are able to cope and survive everyday stresses because their resilience is not inhibited or events do not occur that exceed their resilience. However, it can be roughly said that people with mental illness are either inhibited in their resilience by some factor, or they are simply overwhelmed by events that exceed the resilience they originally had. In these cases, counselling can be most helpful in correcting thinking habits (i.e. cognitive distortions) and helping people to consider a healthier perspective, rather than stop-gap medication that only lasts for a few hours. If you have a problem that is too big, or a relatively small problem that is too complicated, counselling is the way to take each problem in hand, untangle the tangles, put a band-aid on the damaged areas and make the originally strong threads even stronger. The role of the counsellor is to help solve the problem. The counsellor only helps to solve the problem and it is up to the client to apply what they have learned from the counsellor, including advice from the counsellor. If the client recovers, they do so with the help of the counsellor, who only encourages and supports the client’s own resilience, and it is the client who chooses to recover and live a more pain-free life. It is the client’s choice to recover, and it is the client’s role to make that choice and to think about and implement the specific methods. The counsellor is a companion and support to help the client recover. It is only when the counsellor is in the process of counselling and is faced with a number of obstacles, and is about to give up, that the counsellor’s hand becomes more powerful.
We, NPO Bousai Italia, work under the slogan ‘Everyone has the power to recover’. We believe in the power of counselling. We believe in the power of counselling, because it can increase everyone’s resilience. If you are interested in our work, please contact us at bousai.italia(at)gmail.com.
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