Counselling in Oxfordshire

Bill Imlah :: Counselling in Oxfordshire

Blog » How can I make sure I perceive you accurately?

7 Apr 2011

When I listen to your words, I won't assume that I know the personal meanings behind them.

When you talk to me in counselling, you'll use language in your own way. But words can mean different things to different people.

We tend to interpret what we hear in terms of how we ourselves use language, which will never be exactly how others do, and may sometimes be very different.

So taking what you say literally, without checking out my assumptions, could lead to my to misperceive what’s going on for you.

As a counsellor I'll aim to engaging in our dialogues in the following ways:

  • Keep an open mind: I'll hang back from drawing conclusions about how you feel about the life events and experiences you relate, until I have some feedback from you about that (although I may have hunches that suggest possibilities to explore). As your counsellor I'll stay open to the possibility that what you say to me might mean something very different to you than it does to me.

    I will aim to develop an accurate empathic understanding of your situation – what it’s like to be in your shoes, to experience life in the way you do. I'll do this by feeding back my perceptions and testing my understanding with you through paraphrasing, summarising, questioning and reflecting feelings

  • Keeping an eye on the bigger picture: especially in the early stages of our work together, I'll avoid over-focussing on a specific aspect of the your story or the problems you bring, because that risks my overlooking something else that's important. So as well as listening to your words, I will pick up on what’s going on for you in terms of body language, voice tone, and choice of words.

    Beneath the presenting issues that you bring to our first session, there could be more going on for you  - things that you don't yet feel safe enough to disclose, or unconscious patterns from the past that are colouring your interactions in the present. By focussing on your feelings and exploring those, I can be on the lookout for things yet to surface – perhaps an important aspect that you're overlooking or are not yet ready to talk about, where these indirect signals can give me clues as to where to explore.

  • Focussing on your emotions: when you talk about a practical problem I will avoid suggesting solutions ("have you tried looking on Amazon?") even if I have good practical suggestions, because as a counsellor that wouldn't be an appropriate use of our time together. My focus will be on your emotional support, emotional healing and emotional growth.

    I'll support you emotionally to facilitate your healing and growth - to help you find ways to better cope with issues and to reconnect with your resourcefulness & self-esteem as well as the skills to tackle your problems.   Occasionally, though, I might suggest a course of action that I think might have therapeutic consequences (such as exploring ways of meeting people for someone who is lonely).


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