What does ‘trust the process’ mean in counselling?
You might have heard counsellors using the phrase ‘Trust the process’ when they’re talking about how counselling works, but what does it actually mean?
Counselling as a journey
Counselling is rarely a straightforward journey from A to B: it’s not like going to your GP with a nasty bug and being given a prescription to cure what’s bothering you.
Counselling is often compared to starting a journey; sometimes what starts as a straightforward issue of, let’s say, anxiety turns out to be a journey of self-discovery leading back to childhood, or to events that at first seem unconnected.
Part of the process of counselling is taking the first step on that journey and then committing to the next, and the next and the one after that, in search of an understanding or a change or a resolution – or a goal.
Counselling as a relationship
Research has consistently shown that it’s the strength of the relationship between the counsellor and the client that does the ‘heavy lifting’ in therapy; a good therapeutic relationship is what helps the healing process.
But a strong therapeutic relationship doesn’t happen overnight; like any relationship, trust takes a while to grow. It takes a while to feel safe enough to be vulnerable – to share the memories or experiences that are most painful or difficult.
Building that trust is another part of the process.
Learning to live ‘in the moment’
Have you ever started to cook something and ended up with a meal that isn’t exactly what you’d planned but is pretty tasty anyway? I did this the other day; I started out making a moussaka and ended up with a chilli, because I discovered that the aubergine was rotten and I only had one potato!
The chilli was great though, and it fulfilled what I’d set out to do in the first place – cook a tasty, nutritious meal for my family.
I achieved my goal, just not in the way I expected.
Setting goals is good – cook a moussaka, stop feeling so anxious/angry/depressed, etc. But we can get stuck in the effort to reach our goals. Rather than beating ourselves up about it, or focusing on the end result to the exclusion of all else, trusting the process means being open to all the other things going on right now that may be helping us on our journey towards our goal.
By trying to live ‘in the moment’, whilst also working towards your desired end result, you’re trusting that it’ll add up to a good result in the end.
That’s trusting the process.