12 Things I’ve Learned In 12 Years As A Counsellor - Reflections Counselling Lincoln - Counselling and Psychotherapy in Lincoln
12 things I've learned in 12 years as a counsellor - Reflections Counselling Lincoln

Did you ever wonder what a counsellor learns from their clients?

Well I'll tell you!

I started my counselling practice Reflections Counselling Lincoln in January of 2005, so have run my own counselling business for over 12 years now.

It's been an amazing 12 years and I have worked with some truly amazing and inspirational people. ​

Client confidentiality dictates that I can't tell you about individual stories, of course, but I have worked with people from all backgrounds, with all types of issues and the transformations have been truly memorable.

I feel humbled by the courage that has been shown and I feel honoured that I have been trusted with their story.

So let's take a look at what I've learned as a counsellor


1.  When you accept yourself, both the good and the bad, you will find peace.

Many ​of us feel that somehow we are not quite good enough, and try to change to become more acceptable to others.  

I'm here to tell you that you ARE good enough.

Okay, so you're a bit heavier than you'd like, or you procrastinate, or your house could be tidier.

But you know what?  None of that matters, you really are an amazing, fascinating person - I promise!​

When you start to accept yourself, you will start to experience peace.

Journaling is a great way to start your exploration of self. If you don't know where to start, 'How To Start A Journal' walks you through the whole process.

2.  Comparisons will get you nowhere

Comparisons come in two forms:​

  • They make you feel superior
  • They make you feel inferior

​Neither of these serve any useful purpose. 

There is a great line in Baz Luhrmanns 'Everybody's free (To Wear Sunscreen) lyrics:​

'Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't

Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't

Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the Funky Chicken 

On your 75th Wedding anniversary ​

Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much

Or berate yourself either

Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's'​

​Seeing someone you admire can be used for personal development, so instead of comparing in a ‘They are prettier/richer/happier/thinner/more popular/more successful than me’ way, it can be useful to look at what traits you admire in that person and use it as something to work towards.

Comparisons come in 2 forms. They make you feel superior or inferior, neither of which serve any useful purpose

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3. Changing yourself to fit in will make you lonely

​We all want to be liked - we all want to be loved! - and none of us want to feel the crushing blow that is rejection, so the temptation is to change yourself in order to fit in, be accepted is strong.

However, changing yourself to fit in can be precisely the thing that keeps you lonely.


Well, no one gets the chance to meet the real you: they'll get a watered down version - the version of you that you think they want to see.

They'll never get to discover the unique individual that you are, and therefore won't be able to make a meaningful connection with you.

​And no meaningful connection means loneliness.

4. Learning to say no is vital ​

​Those 2 little letters N and O can bring you happiness and contentment, but for many people saying no feels practically impossible.

But saying no is a vital and fundamental life skill. The good news is, it can be learned.

Here are some resources to get you started:

When saying no isn't enough - ways to deal with people that won't take no for an answer​

Say no to yes - a blog about why it's ok to say no to others and yes to your own needs

How not to say no - there's a right way and a wrong way to say no, and this is the wrong way

7 blogs that teach how to say no - the best blogs about saying no I could find

It's your choice explores the serious consequences not saying no can have.

5.  Sometimes good people do bad things.

​It's impossible to go through life without hurting someone - ending a relationship for example.  It can't be helped. 

Maybe you were mean in the playground.  maybe you cheated on someone.  Maybe you lied.

Well look, we have ALL done things we aren't proud of!

But that doesn't make you bad, that makes you human.  You regret it?  Then learn from it and move forward.

Do yourself a ​favour and forgive yourself.  And if it feels too much of a burden, counselling will help. 

6.  A walk outside will always help.​

​Stressed?  Depressed?  Sad?  Worried?  Take yourself out for a walk, and if you can be around nature then all the better. 

Try it, I promise it will help.

7.  Communication is key.

S​o many of our problems come from poor communication.  An inability to say no, or resentment through unexpressed anger, or not getting our needs met - all these things are down to bad communication skills.  

The good news communication is a learnable skill.  One of my favorite books on assertiveness skills is 'When I Say No I Feel Guilty' by ​Manuel J Smith, I recommend it to clients all the time, or look for an assertiveness course.  

8.  Be careful with language.

No, not sweary language - swear at will!

Do you say 'sorry' a lot?​  Do you say you feel guilty a lot?  Little things like the language you use can have a profound effect.  

9.  Sometimes, you will never know why.​

Having an explanation can help you understand and come to terms with life's events, but sometimes you will just never know:

  • Why your dad abandoned you
  • Why your mum was cruel to you
  • Why your partner cheated on you
  • Why your boss bullies you

​Something I CAN tell you is: It wasn't your fault.

Other people must take responsibility for their own behaviour. 

10.  Anger is good

I have done a lot of work around anger, and have really learnt a lot about this often misunderstood emotion.

​We get angry when there has been an injustice done, either to us or on behalf of someone else.

​Violence and aggression are NEVER good, ever. But well expressed anger brings about change and that is good.

I have written several blogs about anger, Why Anger Is Good, How To Argue and 6 Simple Anger Management Tips. If you struggle with anger, either too hot tempered or you never let people know you are angry (or deny ever feeling angry) then I recommend you to take a read.

11.  Happiness comes from the small stuff.​

​If you have never practiced mindfulness, then I urge you to look into it.

​Mindfulness is about being fully present in the here and now. In our busy lives we rush rush rush, and think about what happened yesterday, or what might happen in the future and somehow forget about the now. You’ll be happy when you have £x amount of cash? Have that fab new job? Are a size smaller? Are on holiday?

​Well what about being happy now, and appreciating the sunrise, the snow, the bulbs peeping through the soil with their promises of colour and warmer weather?

Appreciating our lives in lots of small ways makes a massive difference in our happiness levels. Take a read of 'How To Feel Special Every Single Day'.

​12.  You are not a problem to be fixed.

You are a person, a human being. You are complex and unique. Counselling isn’t about being fixed, it’s about understanding yourself, finding clarity and learning about your needs.

If you live to be 100, you will still be learning about yourself.

You are NOT a problem to be fixed!

How to start a journal - step by step instructions for starting a journal, including 7 different methods and questions for reflection

So what did I learn in a nutshell?

That we're all wonderful, unique, interesting people struggling to do our best in the world.

That we all want different versions of the same things, that we all have fears and worries, hopes and dreams.

That we're all both strong and vulnerable. We're resilient.

Oh, and that you have to learn how to be gentle with yourself - you can't bully yourself out of depression. ​

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About the Author Jane

Jane Travis is a qualified and experienced counsellor and clinical supervisor in the Lincoln area. She has been working at Reflections Counselling Lincoln since 2005. She also helps other counsellors and therapists market and grow their private practices at JaneTravis.co.uk.

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