I have started looking at the course materials for my counselling course.

One of the first terms mentioned is the idea of empowerment.

EMPOWERMENT – the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

I think feeling empowered over your own life is such a strong feeling and it can be one of the first things to disappear if you have a mental health condition. I know when I have been really ill, either manic or low, I have felt completely out of control and not in charge of my own life.  It’s as though the mental illness is another person and can be the one pulling all the strings.

I think it is really important that this is a central concept of any form of counselling.  I want to be the sort of counsellor who empowers other people and doesn’t just tell them what to do.

I think in this way counselling is very different to giving advice.  Counselling should prepare the person for making their own choice and give them the autonomy to do so.  It should never be about giving a set of instructions.

However it can be too easy for people to advise rather than counsel.  People are full of opinions, which is a good thing, but a counsellor must leave his or her opinion behind and be a voice of guidance instead.

This also leads me to reflect on how empowered or not I feel right now.

In most areas of my life I do feel a sense of autonomy and am able to feel in control but there are still some aspects of this illness which are difficult to break free from.

  • Food – a real issue that I have been blogging a lot about recently and I still feel like food does have control over me and I don’t feel as empowered as I should.
  • Relationship – my relationship is great but I feel less empowered than I should because we are still long distance and closing the distance depends on me being well and working.
  • My daughter – my ex is reasonable but I still feel like he holds the balance of power of when we each have our daughter.  This is something I need to work on with him.

On a more positive note there are lots of areas of my life in which I do feel a sense of empowerment.  I feel like I understand my mental illness better, I feel more able to cope with the dips in energy and the lows.  I also am starting to feel in control of the direction my life is taking.

Thinking about all this has made me realise how this course is going to affect me.  I am naturally a very reflective person and this is going to give me a lot to think about but in a good way I hope.