One of the most common ways to treat anxiety and depression is counselling. But how does it work, and why does it work? Let’s break down what the process is like, and if it could benefit you.
But if you feel constantly overwhelmed, this exposure to long-term (chronic) stress can have a real impact on your physical and mental health.
Most people seek counselling with a desire to change some aspect of their lives they’re unhappy with.
A qualified counsellor will listen and help you move through the problems you’re facing, develop new strengths, and improve your wellbeing.
“I would say that counselling was crucial for me. Somehow it makes you able to carry on, because you know someone is there to talk to.”
A study from Kings College London and Maudsley NHS Foundation has shown that talking therapies can change the brain.
It does this by encouraging you to change the way you think about, and respond to, difficulties.
Changing those thoughts and behaviours strengthens the connections in your brain (the neurons) associated with a more positive outlook.
The focus can be on you to direct the therapy, meaning it’s up to you to put change into practice.
That doesn’t mean you have to do it alone - you’ll be supported by your therapist, who’ll adapt the direction of your sessions based on your experiences.
When neurons are repeatedly stimulated by these new thoughts and behaviours, changes in your brain take place. The more you focus your attention in one direction, the stronger those neural networks become. Over time, you’ll get better at thinking and behaving in a certain way.
Think about when you learned to drive, swim, or cycle - these are all activities you had to practice repeatedly to become good at.
And now, for many of us, those things require less effort than when we first learned them.
What you focus your thoughts on grows in the brain.
“Our HR manager explained that I could apply for some counselling with caba. I was extremely nervous but she encouraged and supported me to make the initial call - I had never thought about counselling before. I felt that I needed to do something so I phoned and I am glad I did as it is a process that changed my life and continues to do so.”
Relationship counselling is for everyone, regardless of if you’re married, living together, single, or LGBTQ+. If you’re struggling with relationships, it will provide a caring and supportive environment for you to work through things, regardless of what your age or background is.
Family counselling, for example, can be beneficial during changes to the family structure because of things like divorce, separation, bereavement, or stepfamilies. It can also help when families aren’t getting along.
Sessions usually last 45 minutes to an hour. You can receive counselling on your own, or it can involve your partner or other members of your family. There may be times when your counsellor also recommends some one-to-one sessions.
Evidence suggests that healthy relationships help us to live longer, boost our self-esteem, and improve our health. But they don’t just happen overnight - we have to work at them.
Relationship counselling has a number of benefits, including helping you to maintain or strengthen relationships, improving concentration, and boosting confidence.
During your session, your counsellor will ask questions about your situation and how it makes you feel. Even if you feel apprehensive, sometimes just talking to someone who isn’t involved can be helpful.
Counsellors are there to listen and provide non-judgemental support and encouragement. Everyone in the family is welcome, and they’re encouraged to share their feelings regardless of age. Being listened to in this safe, supportive environment can be particularly beneficial to children.
After seeing a counsellor, many young people feel happier and feel better able to deal with their problems. This can help them concentrate at school or college and improve relationships with their friends and family.
If you’d like to improve your love life, sex therapy can help. This is a talking-based therapy which will help you learn how to deal with the problems you may be having in your romantic life. According to Relate, 93% of couples who’ve used their sex therapy service said it improved their sex life.
We’ve partnered with Relate to offer confidential relationship counselling, family counselling, young people’s counselling, and sex therapy to ICAEW members and their families.
“I was nervous, but the counsellor was so good. She didn't push me to re-live anything scary or go to any dark places. She just listened to me and helped me piece together what was going on. She helped me realise that all my rushing around was a way of avoiding getting in touch with myself. She also helped me to see that all the anxiety I was experiencing was around control. She taught me very simple techniques - like mindfulness, to help me stay in the moment and calm down. It was amazing, it really worked. It was only during the sixth session that I realised I'd stopped having panic attacks.”
There’s no right or wrong time to go for counselling. It’s common to delay it because of feelings of anxiety, but the sooner you seek help, the sooner you’ll feel better.
Many people see counselling as a break-down service to help them when they’re in serious difficulty, but it’s more like an annual service - a regular activity where you can talk through challenges and see how you’re coping.
Counselling needs to come at a time where you’re comfortable exploring your feelings and opening up about things that might be difficult to talk about.
At caba, we can provide short-term support, and help you identify the steps you need to take for long-term wellbeing.
Your GP is also important for planning your long-term support and should be one of the main people to help you put together a plan.
Counselling is perfect for helping you learn how to manage your wellbeing long term. If you need immediate help, please contact Samaritans via phone, email, or their self-help app.
When you get in touch with us, our specialists will talk over the situation with you, then refer you to our counselling service. There, they’ll conduct an assessment and recommend the right short-term support based on your individual needs. This is usually done within seven days of you contacting us. Counselling can be online or over the phone.
It’s important that you feel comfortable talking to your counsellor so that you can get the most from your sessions. If this doesn’t happen, you always have the option to switch counsellors. There’s no harm or offence in changing if you feel someone’s approach isn’t the right fit for you.
It’s up to you what you discuss in your session. Our counsellors can help you move through whatever you’re facing. They can also direct you to other organisations for information, advice, and support.
We also have a partnership with Qwell.
Qwell has a 24-hour helpline, with phone and video options available. This makes it a great fit for anyone who can’t get out, or who’d prefer to speak to someone virtually.
It also has a wealth of resources like journal templates, to help manage your mental health.
Find out more about Qwell here: https://www.qwell.io/caba
If you feel you’re in need of long-term help, reach out to your GP. They’ll be able to talk through the different options available to you, and help you put together a long-term action plan to help you going forwards.
“My life now is so much better, although there is still a long way to go. Having counselling and being able to understand everything has impacted on so many areas of my life; my relationship, friendships and family, work, my social life, but perhaps most importantly, how I view myself and respect myself. I feel more confident as a result of counselling and everything has started to slot into place. My work productivity has improved so much.”
We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4.
You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer page.
If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.
*Please note none of our other services are means tested.