Emotional Wellbeing

Therapy

Mandy Kloppers

Confessions of a counsellor

It’s not easy being a therapist. Dealing with people’s emotional problems on a daily basis can wear you down if you aren’t fastidious in practising self care. I have been burnt out in the past and this has been a result of not taking enough breaks and perhaps not enough self reflection.

One of the huge pressures that I have faced as a counsellor/CBT therapist is that people presume that I have all my shit together. Sorry to disappoint peeps, but this is not the case. I am definitely an improved version of my younger self and even from just a few years ago but I am not immune to life’s challenges.

One of the most annoying statements that I hear is, “You shouldn’t have any problems, you’re a counsellor”. This is by far the most ignorant statement. If it was that black and white, counselling would be taught in schools and we would have a perfect world. Not realistic. Mind you, teaching counselling skills in schools is a great idea and would definitely improve people’s lives and their mental health, which in turn would lead to a kinder more tolerant world.

I get down and I am on anti-depressants. This isn’t to say that talking therapy hasn’t helped me to enjoy a better quality of life. The anti-depressants have just helped me stay away from rock-bottom. I have been very low in the past, to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house and would even skip personal hygiene at times. I just didn’t care and I was in survival mode. Therapy and learning Cognitive Behavioural skills has improved my life greatly but I still get it wrong.

I still get times when I can’t figure others out and I don’t know the best course of action. Being a counsellor doesn’t make me an omnipotent being who can avoid life’s problems. As Jung once said, “we are all in this ‘soup’ together”. I have been hurt, rejected and humiliated in my life and I have also failed and had self doubt. Call me human!

Whilst it is far easier to objective about someone else’s life, it isn’t as simple when it comes to my own personal issues where there is emotional baggage and emotional investment in something. It makes it far harder to see the wood for the trees. Any counsellor that tells you their life is perfect is lying.

I see my job as a counsellor as a way to teach others the cognitive skills that I have learned personally and professionally. To help a client become their own counsellor – how to stop and think and not let their negative thinking get the better of them: this is a great help.

I spend every day looking at patterns of behaviour and read extensively. I love learning. being so engaged and focused on mental health means I am able to share this knowledge. It doesn’t mean that I can definitely fix other people. This is up to them. They gain the ‘tools’ and they then have to take that knowledge and apply it in the real world. This part can be a bit more tricky as our emotional baggage always gets in the way.

Still, seeing a counsellor can add wisdom and perspective to any situation and the act of sharing problems is therapeutic in itself. I am able to put problems in perspective and I feel more capable and ‘measured’ when dealing with life’s challenges. That works for me!

Mandy X