As a practicing Counsellor, I have worked with clients from various parts of the world including South Asia, China, Malaysia, Africa and the Middle East. Coming from an Asian background myself, I have noticed a few common beliefs among Asians as to what we might initially expect from Counselling. With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful for clients to understand the real nature and role of Counselling prior to engaging in it, so that they have an idea of what to expect.
Although I have written this article from an Asian perspective, I am aware that many of the points are relevant to other societies as well. I also think it is important to mention that I have written this article from a global perspective, and there might be exceptions to how Counselling is viewed in certain parts of the world.
My Counsellor is my Doctor:
In many Asian societies, elders are viewed as authority figures who guide the younger generation in making life choices. This hierarchy might also have a parallel in the professional world, with Counsellors being looked upon as ‘doctors’ who can treat problems.
However in actual fact, Counsellors are usually trained to engage in talking therapies only, and do not provide medication as Psychiatrists do. A Counsellor can help a person talk through their difficulties, past or present, by providing a safe and confidential space to do so.
My Counsellor knows best:
Carrying on from the previous point, people in positions of authority are highly respected in Asian culture as they are thought to be educated and probably more knowledgeable than the layman. This can lead to choosing a Counsellor without checking their credentials or suitability, and thereafter going along with whatever they say because ‘they know best’.
It is important to note that if something has worked for the Counsellor or a specific client, it does not mean it will work for everyone. We are all unique individuals, and we need to find the things that help us based on our individual circumstances. Although a Counsellor might offer some techniques, it is up to the client to choose from them based on their own experiences. Counselling can help clients take responsibility for their choices.
Counselling means advice giving:
I have found that some of us might go for Counselling to seek ‘advice’ or ‘guidance’ on how to correct ourselves and fix our problems.
An important aspect of Counselling is the belief that the client is the ‘expert’ on his/her life. Each one of us knows ourselves better than anyone else, including the Counsellor. Counsellors are trained and experienced in their field, however they won’t be able to advise us about what we should or should not do simply because the advice will be based on their own upbringing and life experiences.
Another reason giving advice is not helpful is because, in the long run, this hampers autonomy and instead, fosters dependence on the Counsellor.
Counselling can help us explore our options and make healthy choices. But the decision, in the end, is ours because we know ourselves best.
Counselling will make my problems disappear:
Many a time, clients enter Counselling thinking the Counsellor will wave their magic wand and all their problems will disappear into thin air!
Reality is, this never happens. At the end of the day, Counsellors are also human beings like their clients. Counselling is usually useful and successful when both client and Counsellor work together in a collaborative manner towards a desired goal. This means clients take on a great deal of responsibility for working on their problems, whether it means expressing feelings, thinking differently or changing a set of behaviours. As the saying goes, ‘You can take the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink’. The onus is on the client to put in a degree of effort and bring about a change in their life. This, of course, isn’t easy and many of us choose Counselling especially because we have tried hard on our own but it hasn’t worked for us. A Counsellor can help us identify what isn’t working and support us through this process.
My Counsellor will fix me:
Since we look up to those in authority, we might subsequently be looking for our Counsellor to ‘fix’ us. For example, a client might think that all she needs to do is tell her Counsellor her problems and they will tell her how to rectify them.
In truth, the Counsellor might offer an outside perspective or challenge a client’s thought process; however change needs to come from within the client. As long as we keep expecting the environment to change or for people to change us, this will keep us back from attaining the life we want.
With that being said, it might be helpful to choose a Counsellor based on their way of working. For example, if we are looking for techniques or solution-focused strategies, we might opt for a Counsellor who can help us focus on the present. A quick read on the various approaches to Counselling and matching them to a Counsellor might be useful as a starting point.
Many clients describe Counselling as a ‘life changing experience’ and their best decision so far. When we generally understand the process of Counselling, it can help alleviate distress, make sense of life patterns and possibly enable one to work towards specific goals.
About The Author
Soha Daru is a Psychological Therapist and Counsellor with six years’ experience counselling at various organizations including the NHS. She is a registered member of the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and British Psychological Society (BPS) and works according to their code of ethics. Soha helps clients struggling with low mood, depression, anxiety, stress, grief and relationship issues. You can get in touch with her via the contact form below, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wong, P.T.P. and Wong L.C.G., Eds. (2006) Handbook of Multicultural Perspectives on Stress and Coping. USA: Springer, p. 60.
- Burnard, P. (1999) Counselling Skills for Health professionals. United Kingdom: Stanley Thornes, p. 120.
Copyright: To cite this article: Daru, S. (2017) Inner Beam Counselling. Available from: https://innerbeamcounselling.com/2017/01/08/what-to-expect-from-counselling-an-asian-perspective/ [Accessed insert date]