Professionals with diplomas in professional counselling training are adept at providing counselling both for individuals and groups. They assist their clients in addressing issues such as trauma, abuse, addiction, interpersonal and relational problems. Their sessions with clients can create opportunities for positive emotions such as feelings of relief to be expressed. It is also the reality of the position that on occasion, negative emotions will surface.
Counselling therapists are in the right position to assist their clients in addressing their negative emotions in productive, effective ways. A key psychological discovery that counselling therapists integrate into their daily practices is that embracing negative emotions can have a positive impact on a person’s quality of life. Read on to find out more.
How Accepting Negative Emotions Helps a Person
When facing negative emotions, the impulse can be to push them away. Emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration can make a person feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. However, researchers have consistently found that the acceptance of negative emotional experiences is associated with greater psychological health, even when accounting for demographic variables (Topor, 2017).
A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who practice accepting their emotions, rather than judging and criticizing them, tended to have more emotional resilience. This resulted in an overall lower degree of negative emotions when placed in stressful situations (Topor, 2017). In other studies, emotional acceptance has been correlated with a decrease in negative affect while experiencing negative emotions, as well as lower levels of depressive symptoms following a period of higher life stress (Shallcross, 2010).
The Usefulness of Negative Emotions
Managing negative emotions does not refer to a process of attempting to diminish or lessen them. Attempting to have a more productive and effective relationship with our negative emotions necessitates embracing our feelings, determining why we are feeling them, and remaining receptive to the meaning they’re communicating. Though to us certain emotions, like sadness, feel negative, in themselves emotions are neither good nor bad. They are signals that point us to pay attention to the events that created them (Scott, 2020).
A counselling therapist should advise their clients that negative emotions, though unpleasant, are very useful for humans as biological creatures. Emotions like anger and anxiety communicate that things need to change, or our well-being is being threatened. Resentment and frustration are powerful motivators that inspire us to change our lives. It can be healthy to experience negative emotions. However, the stress caused by negative emotional states can result in health issues if it becomes chronic or overwhelming, which is why it is important to build up emotional resilience (Scott, 2020).
How a Counselling Therapist Can Teach Their Clients Emotional Acceptance
There are several different ways that counsellors can educate their clients in the concept of emotional acceptance. There are different frameworks that integrate emotional acceptance, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MacLellan, 2017). Graduates of counselling therapist schools can work with their clients to decide which framework is right for them to work within.
Generally speaking, practicing emotional acceptance consists of attempting to label our emotions with increased accuracy and self-compassion (Chen & Fawal, 2019). As an example, there are several different kinds of sadness, and analyzing them more closely in a way that’s attentive to their nuances can help a person understand why they are feeling that way, and what the emotion is communicating. Self-compassion is also an important attitude to take when a client is engaging with their emotions, as it creates a safe space where they are able to take more risks and feel more secure (Chen & Fawal, 2019).
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Topor, R. (2017). Feeling okay about feeling bad is good for your mental health. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/feeling-okay-about-feeling-bad-is-good-for-your-mental-health-2017091412398
Scott, E. (2020). How Negative Emotions Affect Us. Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/embrace-negative-emotions-4158317
MacLellan, L. (2017). Accepting your darkest emotions is the key to psychological health. Quartz. https://qz.com/1034450/accepting-your-darkest-emotions-is-the-key-to-psychological-health/
Shallcross, A. et al (2010). Let it be: Accepting negative emotional experiences predicts decreased negative affect and depressive symptoms. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 48(9), 921-929. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000579671000121X
Chen, C., & Fawal, J. (2019) Why we should say no to positivity – and yes to our negative emotions. TED Ideas. https://ideas.ted.com/why-we-should-say-no-to-positivity-and-yes-to-our-negative-emotions/