Why doesn't my counsellor answer my questions?
This series will be addressing some weird and wonderful things your counsellor does that might seem strange but you didn’t want to ask about.
Week 2 tackles the issue of not answering a client's question in the counselling room.
Sometimes counsellors can be accused of being as avoidant of a direct question as a crafty politician, but why do we do that?
I often get asked questions by my clients, and rarely do I answer them straight away as you would in a “normal conversation”, but why do I do that? I’m a pretty down to earth type of counsellor, so why wouldn’t I answer your question about where I’m going on holiday with “Oh, I’m off to Majorca for some sun, sand and Sangria!”.
If I get asked “What do you think?” I don’t answer straight because questions make me curious, in a good way. Your questions to me could symbolise a lot of things you daren’t mention to me directly, and I want to make sure I don’t miss a key bit of information that could help me to help you.
Your question could mean “I want her to be like me” or “I need her to ask me about the same thing I’m asking her”, or “I always need to make sure everyone else is OK”. You could be checking to see if I was listening, which would mean you perhaps felt overlooked, or uncared for.
Yes, I could be overthinking this, and yes, you could just be being “polite” but even then, EVEN THEN, I would be curious about you feeling the need to be polite, when you are paying for 50 minutes where it is completely about you, and your feelings, and your world.
I would be wondering whether perhaps you feel the need to follow social rules, and perhaps these rules have held you back from being the awesome rock star you know you are inside. Perhaps your parent’s voice is shouting in your head “You MUST ask people about themselves, else you’re rude, and ignorant”.
The bottom line is that questions about me or direct questions to me create a friendly curiosity about you and your world, and I don’t want to miss a thing!
My colleagues at Muswell Hill Counselling Group also had this to add:
“When clients ask me 'what do you think?' I don't offer advice, and as counsellors we are not meant to. My opinion isn't the right one, as you know you best, so exploring the different answers a client might have can be so much more helpful.
It's ok to ask questions to your counsellor though. You can't get anything 'wrong' in the therapy room. “
Some questions will get an answer by the way, and these are the questions that when answered directly will help you therapeutically. If it helps you to understand yourself more and the world round you in relation to others, I will tell you my favourite flavour icecream. Also, when working with children and young people, I do answer direct questions a bit more.
If you come in to my counselling room, with a perfectly lovely social norm greeting of “How are you?” my response would probably be “I’m interested in how you are” because it is very, very true, and the next 50 minutes are all about you.
N.B. Some counsellors would answer your questions by the way, and it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. We all work differently, and you just need to find out what way of working suits you :-)
What are your thoughts? What would you think if your counsellor did this? Let me know in the comments below.
Laura Mole Adv.Dip (MBACP) is an Integrative Counsellor working with the Muswell Hill Counselling Group.