Counseling is designed to focus exclusively on the client’s concerns and needs. This allows the client to enter into an objective, supportive relationship that is ideally free of the emotional biases typically present in the client’s familiar relationships (with family and friends). For example, a client’s parents might not support the client setting healthy limits because it might mean they will not get to see their grandchildren as often. But, a counselor can give the client appropriate and necessary feedback (speaking the truth in love) without being so concerned about the impact (whether positive or negative) on the counselor. The counselor can be involved with the client while also maintaining some distance.
Professional counseling is an intentional process. When the client pays for counseling, they are foremost paying for the right environment in which they can recover. A therapeutic environment has elements of real life, yet is a somewhat ideal environment that allows for exploration with minimal consequences. The right environment includes best therapeutic practices such as confidentiality (the client is not harmed by others finding out about the client’s personal concerns), assurance that the counselor is available (the counselor will not abandon the client), the use of practices that clinical counselors agree are sound and helpful (not harmful), and a comfortable environment free from distractions.
Surprisingly, other potential helpers such as family, friends, or others in close relationship often are not the best choice. Others may have abused the client. Others may be less motivated than the client, so they will not be able to model the needed behaviors. Others may care and have life experience, but do not have the time or resources to devote their full attention to the client’s issues. Still others may not have the gifting or ability to discern or advise. A counselor has experience helping people and can focus their full attention on the client, which increases the likelihood that issues are addressed properly and timely and decreases the likelihood of further emotional harm. Feeling safe and secure is a necessary ingredient for healing.
Clients with unidentified, unmet needs tend to subconsciously expect (or even demand) others to fill their emotional void. This usually results in increased tension and conflict. So, it becomes helpful, and in some cases crucial, for the client to be able to step away from those with whom they are directly involved, get the help they need so they can return to their family and friends as a rejuvenated person. Counseling provides the opportunity to connect and grow through experiencing a therapeutic relationship.