Counselling and psychotherapy are types of talking therapy that aim to help you deal with issues that are causing you emotional distress by offering you a safe and confidential space in which to talk about and explore difficult feelings. You may choose to seek professional support over talking to friends or family because the therapist can offer you a confidential and non-judgemental relationship, and you may feel more comfortable talking to them about upsetting or frightening thoughts and feelings. Your counsellor is not there to tell you what to do, but they will help you to find your own answers.
Because counselling involves talking about difficult, and sometimes painful, feelings you may initially feel worse, however the therapist will support you through that and the ultimate aim is for you to leave feeling better. Once you feel secure with your therapist, they will encourage you to explore aspects of your life or yourself that you may not have felt able to before. The experience of being heard and understood can be very helpful in moving you towards clarity, change or making different choices.
For a more comprehensive overview of counselling and psychotherapy, and links to useful information about mental health, please refer to NHS Choices.