What To Expect From Counselling

What To Expect From Counselling

Counselling - means talking through your problems, issues and feelings with someone who is trained to help people to do just that.

Talking through your feelings can help you to understand and manage them and find ways of coping with them.

You are usually called the ‘client’.

It may sound impersonal but it is intended to indicate a more equal relationship than ‘patient’. You are an equal partner in your relationship with your counsellor, they are not ‘in charge’ nor can they tell you what you should do.

Your counsellor needs to be convenient to you, regarding times, location etc.

It is easy to find excuses not to go - many people feel ambivalent about counselling.

It can be tempting also to stop attending sessions after only a few, it needs to be something that is reasonably easy for you to fit into your life.

Some people find that they feel worse than ever when they start counselling and then stop going to sessions.

Counselling can be quite confronting and painful, as the feelings and events you are talking about are deeply personal to you and deeply felt. This is because your feelings are coming up to the surface and you are facing them head on, instead of burying or denying them.

If you stick with it, counselling will help in the long-term.


Confidentiality means the counsellor does not tell anyone what you have said, or even tell anyone that you are their client, unless you give them permission to do so – Your counsellor will not discuss with other family members your issues even if they ask. Your privacy is guarded strictly.

However, there are a few qualifications to this statement; a counsellor is legally obliged to break your confidentiality under the following circumstances. ‘Breaking confidentiality’ may mean telling the police, your family members, doctors, ambulance services etc. information about you if they believe that you are at serious risk of suicide or you are at risk of harming another person.

The counsellor has a duty of care to you and a responsibility to prevent any harm to other people that they might reasonably foresee occurring. This will only be done to protect you because your counsellor cares.

In addition to this condition, there are other people who may learn information about you. These are:

1) If your counsellor works in an agency such as HVSG, other counsellors may need access to your case notes. Case notes are kept by each counsellor so that you don’t have to retell your experience to another counsellor if your counsellor is sick, or leaves their agency and you start seeing another counsellor at the same agency. Also the counsellor’s direct supervisor or employer will often supervise their work and may see notes.

2) Your counsellor’s supervisor – most counsellors have supervision sessions with a professional outside supervisor to help them in their work and for them to debrief themselves.

Counsellors sometimes discuss clients with their supervisor in a learning capacity. Employers and supervisors are bound by the same rules of confidentiality as the counsellor.

What is a counsellor and how does it differ from a psychoanalyst or psychologist or psychiatrist?

A counsellor is a person who is trained in counselling – helping people to talk about difficulties in their lives and find better ways of coping with them.

A counsellor may have other qualifications, such as in social work or psychology. Counsellors cannot prescribe medication.

A psychoanalyst is a psychologist specialising in psychodynamic therapy (Freud/Jung etc). This is often the (incorrect) idea people have of what a ‘psychologist’ or psychiatrist is. This type of therapy is long-term and complex and is not usually appropriate after bereavement.

A psychologist is a person with degrees in psychology, usually clinical psychology. They can do assessment, counselling and various types of therapy. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication.

A psychiatrist is a medically qualified doctor, who has gone on to specialise in the treatment of mental illness. Many psychiatrists also see people who are not mentally ill but just have problems in their lives. Psychiatrists often prescribe medication.

Which one should I see?

Initially, probably a counsellor. A counsellor can help you to work through issues after the murder and will tell you if they think you need more specialised help. Remember that grief is a normal, healthy process, not a disorder.

What can a counsellor do for me?

A counsellor will listen to you talk and help you to tell your story and try to make sense of it.

They can create a safe place for you to explore difficult feelings and life events and support you while you do this.

It can be helpful to talk to a counsellor because they don’t have any emotions invested in your issues, as your family and friends probably do. A counsellor can reassure you that your feelings are normal and that you will survive this.

What can a counsellor not do for me?

Solve your problems.

If they were that easy to solve you would have done it yourself by now. They should instead help you to learn ways of helping yourself. They cannot take away the pain but can help you to express it and find ways to heal yourself.

A counsellor cannot take responsibility for you and your recovery - only you can do this.

A counsellor may be happy for you to call them between sessions or in emergencies/crises. It is not always possible to call and ask to see them at short notice or talk on the phone especially if they are seeing other family members.

If your counsellor is unavailable to see or speak with you there is always someone else to take your call.

How can I find a good counsellor?

You may be eligible for free counselling through Victims Services, if you are an immediate relative of the homicide victim and they were murdered in NSW.

Counsellors are available state-wide. If you are based in Sydney, it is possible to see one of the HVSG counsellors.

Family doctors can make referrals to a counsellor or most Community Health Centres offer free counselling.

Private counsellors advertise their services in magazines, journals, newspapers, health centres etc.

It can be trial and error, just as you don’t like some people in everyday life, you may get a counsellor you dislike or just don’t quite connect with. This is OK; you may have to shop around a bit until you find someone you feel comfortable with.

What exactly does counselling involve?

You sit in a room with just the counsellor for a session which will probably be between 50 mins & 2 hours long – often 1 hour.

You may arrange with the counsellor to have a certain number of sessions or you may wait and ‘play it by ear’ week by week. Your sessions will usually be held weekly or fortnightly.

The counselling session is a purposeful conversation, not just a chat. The counsellor will probably have some kind of structure to their sessions which you may not be aware of but will help you to tell your story.

You talk about the murder, your loved one and anything else you are concerned with. The counsellor is trained to be an effective listener, even if there is nothing much that can be done to change the situation, it often helps just to share your worries or get some input from an outsider.

They can also help you learn new and better ways of coping or managing things like relationships, conflict or anger.

Counsellors on the whole are trained to be non-judgemental and have heard it all before – they are not easily shocked, so don’t hold back on what you want to say for fear of upsetting them or looking bad yourself.


The Homicide Victims’ Support Group (Aust) Inc. employs five fully qualified Trauma and Bereavement Counsellors to provide a professional service for our members.

They offer individual grief counselling in our office, or in your home if it is difficult for you to get to us.

They can arrange referral to a counsellor in your area for those living out of the Sydney area via Victims Services. All counselling services of the Homicide Victims' Support Group and Victims Services are at no cost to family members.

You can also speak with a counsellor over the phone at any time during office hours or to a telephone support volunteer after hours.

All our telephone support volunteers have access to one of our on call counsellors and are able to contact them in cases or emergency.

We are here to help and support you 24/7