12 Things I've Learned in 12 Years as a Counsellor

Did you ever wonder what a counsellor learns from their clients?

Well I'll tell you! 

I'd like to share a post I wrote 2 years ago!  It's a look at what I've learned in 10 years of counselling/psychotherapy practice - but I've updated it, as it's now 12 years!  I hope you find it useful

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I started my counselling practice Reflections Counselling Lincoln in January of 2005, so have run my own counselling business for over 12 years now. 

It's been an amazing 12 years and I have worked with some truly amazing and inspirational people.  ​

Client confidentiality dictates that I can't tell you about individual stories, of course, but I have worked with people from all backgrounds, with all types of issues and the transformations have been truly memorable. 

I feel humbled by the courage that has been shown and honoured that I have been trusted with their story.

So here are 12 lessons I've learnt in 12 years as a counsellor​

1.  When you accept yourself - both the good and the bad - you will find peace

Many of us feel that somehow we are not quite good enough and try to change to become more acceptable to others.

However, I’m here to tell you that you ARE good enough.

Okay, so you’re a bit heavier that you’d like, or you procrastinate, or your house could be tidier.

But you know what? None of that matters, you really are an amazing, fascinating person – I promise.

When you start to accept yourself, you will start to experience peace.

Journaling is a great way to start your exploration of self.  If you don't know where to start, 'How To Start A Journal' walks you through the whole process.

How to start a journal - Jane Travis

If you'd like some extra information about starting a journal, this guide that takes you step by step through the whole process.

The guide is available on a Pay What You Want basis, meaning there is no set price, you pay what you feel it's value is to you.​

2.  Learning to Say no is vital for happiness

Those 2 little letters N and O can bring you happiness and contentment, but for many people saying no feels practically impossible.  

But saying no is a vital and fundamental life skill.  The good news is, it can be learned. 

Here are some resources to get you started:

Related posts

When saying no isn't enough - ways to deal with people that won't take no for an answer​

Say no to yes - a blog about why it's ok to say no to others and yes to your own needs

How not to say no - there's a right way and a wrong way to say no, and this is the wrong way

7 blogs that teach how to say no - the best blogs about saying no I could find

It's your choice​ explores the serious consequences not saying no can have. 

Make learning to say no a priority to increase happiness and contentment

Take Control: Say No!

Take Control: Say No!

​Stop agreeing to do things you don't want to - enough is enough!

It's time to drop the guilt and take control.

3. Changing yourself to fit in will make you lonely

We all want to be liked - we all want to be loved! - and none of us want to feel the crushing blow that is rejection, so the temptation is to change yourself in order to fit in, be accepted is strong.

However, changing yourself to fit in can be precisely the thing that keeps you lonely.

Why?  Well, no one gets the chance to meet the real you, they'll get a watered down version - the version of you that you think they want to see.  

They'll never get to discover the unique individual that you are, and therefore won't be able to make a meaningful connection with you.

And no meaningful connection means loneliness.     

4. Comparisons will get you nowhere.

Comparisons come in two forms:

  • They make us feel superior
  • They make us feel inferior

Neither of these serve any useful purpose.

There is a great line in Baz Luhrmanns ‘Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)’ lyrics:

‘Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary


Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s’

Seeing someone you admire can be used for personal development, so instead of comparing in a ‘They are prettier/richer/happier/thinner/more popular/more successful than meway, it can be useful to look at what traits you admire in that person and use it as something to work towards.

Comparisons come in 2 forms: They make you feel superior or they make you feel inferior. Neither serve any useful purpose

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5. Sometimes good people do bad things.

It’s impossible to go through life without hurting someone – ending a relationship, for example. It can’t be helped.

Maybe you were mean in the playground. Maybe you cheated on someone. Maybe you lied.

Well look, we've ALL had moments we aren’t proud of.

But that doesn’t make you evil, it makes you human. 

You regret it? Then you can learn a lesson from it and move on.

Do yourself a favour and forgive yourself. If it feels too much of a burdon, counselling will help.

6. A walk outside will always help.

Stressed? Depressed? Sad? Take yourself out for a walk, and if you can be around nature then all the better.

It's simple self care. 

Try it, I promise it will help.

7. Communication is key.

So many of our problems come from poor communication. An inability to say no, or resentment through unexpressed anger, or not getting our needs met – all these things are down to bad communication skills.

The good news is, there are lots of things you can do to improve your communication. It’s a learnable skill.

Pick yourself up a book about assertiveness ( I recommend ‘When I Say No, I Feel Guilty’ by Manuel J Smith.).

8 Be careful with language.

No, not sweary language - swear at will!

Do you say ‘sorry’ a lot? Do you say you feel guilty a lot? The language you use can have a profound effect of you.

Always saying sorry means you always take responsibility for being in the wrong.

Similarly, guilty says we have done something wrong.

Related posts

 ‘How to stop over apologising’ with 2 ridiculously simple ways to change.

9. Sometimes, you will never know why.

Having an explanation can help us understand and come to terms with lifes events, but sometimes we just will never know:

  • Why your dad abandoned you
  • Why your mum was cruel to you
  • Why your partner cheated on you
  • Why your boss bullies you

One thing I can tell you is: It wasn’t your fault.

I mean seriously. Other people must take responsibility for their own behaviour.

10. Anger is good.

I have done a lot of work around anger, and have really learnt a lot about this often misunderstood emotion.

We get angry when there has been an injustice done, either to us or on behalf of someone else.

But well expressed anger brings about change and that is good.

NB Violence and aggression are NEVER good, ever.

If you struggle with anger, either too hot tempered or you never let people know you are angry (or deny ever feeling angry) then I recommend you to take a read, or get in touch - I can help. 

11. Happiness comes from the small stuff.

If you have never practiced mindfulness, then I urge you to look into it.

Mindfulness is about being fully present in the here and now. In our busy lives we rush rush rush, and think about what happened yesterday, or what might happen in the future and somehow forget about the now. You’ll be happy when you have £x amount of cash? Have that fab new job? Are a size smaller? Are on holiday?

Well what about being happy now, and appreciating the sunrise, the snow, the bulbs peeping through the soil with their promises of colour and warmer weather?

Appreciating our lives in lots of small ways makes a massive difference in our happiness levels. 

12. You are not a problem to be fixed.

My clients are only too familiar with this line!

You are a person, a human being. You are complex and unique.

You don't need fixing!  Counselling is about understanding yourself, finding clarity and learning about your needs.

If you live to be 100, you'll still be learning about yourself.

You are NOT a problem to be fixed!


So what did I learn in a nutshell?  That we're all wonderful, unique, interesting people struggling to do our best in the world. That we all want different versions of the same things, that we all have fears and worries, hopes and dreams. That we're all both strong and vulnerable. We're resilient.  

Oh, and that you have to learn how to be gentle with yourself - you can't bully yourself out of depression. ​

Free self care challenge - Jane Travis

Take my FREE 21 day Self Care Challenge, designed to kick start you into prioritizing your wellbeing and starting a regular self care habit.

Written assuming you're busy and on a budget, it's simple, highly effective and fun!

About the Author Jane Travis

Hi, I'm Jane, and if you're the one that cares for and supports others, that gives and never takes and are exhausted because you put your own needs last, then you're in the right place. It's great to have you here - I hope you stick around!

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