Individual Counselling focuses on the concerns of the individual that arise from within. Though negative thoughts and feelings can be triggered by the comments or actions of others, such thoughts and feelings belong to the person who has them. People seek individual counselling, therefore, when the intensity of emotional distress becomes an impediment to living effectively or when self-control is diminished to the point of concern. Approaches may include consideration of the client’s life experience and background, self-perception, assumptions, values, and thought processes for the purpose of producing insight on which to consider behavioural changes.
Whereas the primary focus of individual counselling is the individual, the primary focus of couple counselling is the relationship – the interaction between individuals. The process is one in which spouses are helped to express their concerns to each other and to listen to each other with respect and genuine interest in what is being said so that issues can become clear and negotiation can occur. The process requires sufficient goodwill in the relationship to make meaningful interaction possible. Resentment, contempt, constant rationalization, violence, or damage due to unfortunate past experiences can impede the success of couple counselling. In such cases, individual counselling would be recommended.
As couple counselling shifts the focus from the individual to the relationship, so family counselling shifts the focus to the family system. A system is a set of interdependent relationships that function as a whole. Disturbance in one portion of the system will affect the entire system. Family counselling helps members identify well intentioned but maladaptive behaviours and interactions and facilitates changes in the way the members interact. Family counselling, like all counselling, proceeds at the family’s pace and is respectful of the efforts, intentions, and safety concerns of its members.
Counselling for Children
Child counselling fits within the systemic framework of family counselling but offers special attention to the child who is experiencing distress due to challenges such as bullying, family separation, learning disorders, conflict, anxiety, or depression. Counselling with children requires engaging their interest and maintaining comfort at their developmental level, while helping them to develop coping skills, express and explore emotional issues, or find ways to solve problems. Child or play counselling often includes parents and may use free or directed play, written work, relaxation exercises, purposeful games, or reading stories.