Therapist demystifies counselling 

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Nthatisi Machema

Counselling is a useful tool that can help people develop coping skills and process emotions and feelings. However, there is still some negativity surrounding counselling regardless of its benefits. in this interview with theReporter’s Seleoe Nonyane, professional therapist and founder of Seed Consultancy Nthatisi Machema who casts light on counselling and its importance.

Who is Nthatisi Machema? Where do you come from and how did you get into this career?

 I am Nthatisi Machema from Ha Foso in Berea, and I am the founder of Seed Consultancy. I am a 25year-old who holds a diploma in spiritual counselling from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and a degree in spiritual care and counselling also obtained at NUL. I am currently studying sign language interpretation so that I can be able to accommodate even the minority especially for people with disabilities.

I am looking at people who cannot speak because now it is a process for someone to come to therapy because they will need an interpreter. So, counselling needs confidentiality because it only needs to be in the room without a third person.

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What is counselling?

Counselling is just a dialogue you have with your therapist or counsellor. However, it is not a normal dialogue as it is very confidential that will help to assess one’s behaviour and their feelings. It helps deal with cognition which is how one thinks and also how one acts. The way one thinks influences their reactions, feelings and their actions. They all influence each other, it’s just a matter of which one they have started it.

What is the importance of counselling?

The importance of counselling is that it helps the person in need of counselling to offload; it helps them put their problems into perspective and think of possible solutions. Counselling enables one to evaluate and judge the way one reacts to different scenarios. It also helps one to know themselves as a person, to know your limitations. It helps an individual to restructure their life the way they want.

Who needs counselling?

Everyone needs counselling because we come across life problems from the earliest of ages; the only difference is the age of the person. That is why we have child therapy, adolescent therapy. We also have adult therapy. There is also marital therapy. What differs is the person’s problem.

Do you think people understand the significance of counselling?

There is a slight change and impact when it comes to understanding the need for counselling. In the three years of working as a therapist my target group is young mothers. However, I do have elderly people coming in and a few of them seem to be informed about counselling. In these three years I think I have only had less than 10 cases of older people coming in for counselling. Most people that come in for counselling are young people.

The other issue that I could say is a contributing factor to the number of people coming in for counselling is the cost of therapy; it is expensive even though it is an essential.

One other contributing factor is that people only come to therapy when they have problems not realising that one can seek counselling even when they are happy.

What other issues can trigger counselling?

One example can be career guidance, after completing LGCSE one may not have an idea of what course they would like to pursue. So, as counsellors we also come in to help one choose the right field.

New business owners can also come for therapy which will help them market their business while contributing to its growth.

Also, for motivation, such as motivating employees due to conflicts at work. As therapists we teach them how to handle conflicts at work.

We help in so many ways, maybe one has difficulties in sleeping, we pitch in as therapist to assist them to achieve a healthy sleeping routine.

In terms of Covid-19, the most leading cases are depression, anxiety and stress. For married persons, it is conflicts that occur at home because they had to spend so much time in each other’s spaces since they were always at home during the lockdowns. There was a lot of it between couples because there was just so much they had to deal with. Issues such as surviving the pandemic and keeping their jobs, marital issues and children’s issues.

Which gender embraces therapy the most?

Females seek therapy more than males for individual therapy. Even for chid therapy it is women at the fore front bringing their children for therapy. However, in terms of marital therapy which is surprising, the man in most cases is the one that brings up counselling and pursuade their spouses to go for therapy.

I do not know how it happens but men are the ones who insist on giving therapy a try. But still, women come for counselling more than men. I think this is because of the stereotyped society that a man does not cry. So, for a man to come for therapy, to them it is like removing their masculinity.

Men tend to bottle things up, while women tend to cry easily and show emotions when they are sad or happy.

I make sure that my male clients leave happy.

What are the most common issues you find in the process of counselling?

Lack of communication is one of the contributing factors, whether being a child or a married person. People communicate in different ways which the next person may not perceive as communication. One may have a great point but if they do not have good communication skills, they may not be able to get through to the next person.

Again, people lack listening skills. Therefore, we have to learn to listen before responding, this is where the issue is. In parenting, there can be a miscommunication between a parent and a child over what course to pursue in tertiary. The child ends up studying something that they are not passionate about just because the parent wants them to study it and the child ends up having issues with the parent regarding that. Whereas all that could have been avoided by simply communicating.

Therapy does not need to be expensive. There are other places that offer free therapy such as churches which have professional therapists. Counselling can also be found at government departments; it just differs what type of therapy one seeks.

It is also wise for a client before going to therapy to inquire about the skills of the therapist.

What is the feedback from your clients?

I have honestly had a setback with one client who was not willing to open up. So, since I was still new, I gave up on them and had to refer them to another therapist.

So far, I have been having successful cases; what differs is the pace at which we respond to the problem we are dealing with. In other cases, we begin from the client’s childhood to their adulthood. So, starting from primary school when they have their own children is a long process.

We also do follow up sessions even after the completion of our sessions.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a therapist?

There is a minor difference because we do the same job mental health-wise; a therapist cannot diagnose a mental health illness even if they have observed it. Therefore, should a therapist observe a mental illness they are to seek a second opinion from a psychologist.

We also have psychologists here at Seed Consultancy depending on the issue we are dealing with.

We also follow a hierarchy; one first consults a therapist, then a psychologist and if necessary, a psychiatrist.

Counselling is a useful tool that can help people develop coping skills and process emotions and feelings. However, there is still some negativity surrounding counselling regardless of its benefits.