If you've never been to counselling or talking therapy then it's very understandable that you'll have some questions. Below I try and answer some of the most common ones. If there's something else you'd like to ask, please don't hesitate to contact me.
• How can counselling help me? read here.
• Will you tell anyone what I say? read here.
• How long does counselling take? read here.
• How do I get the most out of counselling? read here.
• What are 'Psychodynamic' and 'Person Centred Counselling'? read here.
• What's the difference between 'counselling' and 'psychotherapy' and 'talk therapy'? read here.
• Do you specialise in anything? read here.
How can talking help me?
Different people find different things helpful about talking therapy. Some people find that a non-judgemental space to get things off their chest is key, for others it's about making sense of some of the things that have happened in their life and how it's left them feeling about themselves and the world around them. The name 'counselling' can be a bit misleading as it suggests that someone might give you 'counsel' or advice on how to approach things, but it's far more important that you are able to find out what works for you by talking it through.
Will you tell anyone what I say?
All counselling is conducted in a confidential manner where nothing you say will be repeated outside the counselling room. There are, however, two exceptions to this. The first is in my regular meetings with a supervisor, which is a professional requirement. In supervision I talk about my work with clients in order for my supervisor to advise and challenge me on how I might give you the best in sessions. The second exception to the confidentiality principle would only occur if I felt there was a genuine risk of harm to you or another person. In this scenario I would have an ethical duty to ensure everybody was safe, but I would always try to discuss my concerns with you first.
How long does counselling take?
The number of sessions needed is different for everyone. During our first meeting I try to get a sense of what it is that is bringing you to counselling and what you would like from it. If we agree to work together then I start by offering a block of six sessions. This allows about a month and a half of working together on a weekly basis. By session three or so, most people have a sense whether counselling is right for them or not. At around session five, I like to review with the client to check whether the work we're doing is meeting their needs and whether they'd like to extend beyond the six sessions we initially agreed on.
Obviously, you are by no means tied into the full six sessions and if you feel that counselling is not right for you at this time then there is no obligation to continue, although I would usually advise that a client who wished to discontinue counselling came for a final session in order to make sure we end the therapy relationship well.
How do I get the most out of counselling?
There's no magic formula that make counselling 'work' but there are certain things that can support the process. In my experience the clients who get the most out of counselling are those who commit to attending their weekly appointment regularly. As with any other healthy change, such as seeing a personal trainer or a physiotherapist, those who work on things in between our appointments also seem to benefit. This can be as simple as taking some time to reflect on what came up in that week's session and how it interplays with their daily living. The third aspect that always aids the counselling process is being honest with your counsellor about what you need. I would encourage all clients to be honest with me if you feel you aren't getting what you want so that we can tailor our work together.
What are 'Psychodynamic' and 'Person-Centred' counselling?
There are several different schools or models of counselling which place an emphasis on different things. The two schools I trained in are 'Psychodynamic' and 'Person-Centred'.
The Person-Centred approach is very much rooted in the belief that everyone has within them the ability to grow and thrive given the right conditions. Person-Centred counselling aims to provide these conditions through empathy, warmth and understanding. In Person-Centred counselling the therapist's role is to try and understand situations from the client's perspective. They focus on how things are for you in the here-and-now and whether this lines up with how you would like things to be.
The Psychodynamic approach is more curious about past experiences and how they might relate to your present circumstances. Some people come to counselling knowing that there are obvious things from their past which they want to talk about about, however, it doesn't always have to have been a big or significant event to affect how you see yourself or the view the world. Psychodynamic counselling provides a space to explore this.
In my counselling work I weave together these two approaches, taking my cues from the client as to whether more or less of a certain approach would be helpful.
What's the difference between 'counselling', 'psychotherapy' and 'talk therapy'?
Honestly, not much. This topic often came up during my training in 'Counselling and Psychotherapy' and the conclusion we usually came to is that we couldn't really pin down a difference. I use these words interchangeably to talk about what I do. As I mentioned above, I find the word 'counselling' can be confusing as it suggests that I will be giving advice, but it's probably the most commonly used word in the UK. 'Talking therapy' seems to capture more of what the process is about as the therapeutic element often comes through talking through and processing problems. 'Psychotherapy' can sound very official but if you break it down, the word 'psyche' comes from the Greek psykhe, meaning "the soul, mind, spirit; breath; understanding; life" - so psychotherapy is really just taking therapeutic care of all these things.
Do you specialise in anything?
My research dissertation looked into how people who went to boarding school are viewed in counselling.
Having said this, the one thing that all my research has taught me is that, regardless of any specialisation the counsellor may have, the client is always the expert in their own lives.