If you have any more questions after reading this, feel free to get in touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nothing is ‘done to you’ – except for listening to you. Counselling is a space where we explore together. I’m not an expert who is ‘treating you’ although I am trained to recognise some things that come up that you might want to work on – or not. You are the expert in your own life and I will help you navigate.
I’m afraid that there is some of that, and it goes a long way, but a decent therapist isn’t passive. I will sometimes repeat what you’ve said, or summarise it to check our joint understanding. I might link it to something else you’ve said in a way you haven’t thought of. While I don’t ‘diagnose’ I’m not just a sounding board either – we work together to find answers and change. Most people want me to challenge them and, done sensitively, this can be really helpful.
I’m a relational therapist and believe that relationships are responsible for how we see ourselves and, often, for the difficulties we are in. Sometimes we approach relationships in a way that hurts us and others. The relationship between you and me will be important in making counselling work or not. If you don’t grow to trust me, we won’t get much done. I might not be the right therapist for you and that’s OK. I haven’t met anyone I’m unable to work with yet though.
In terms of theory, I’d say I have a humanistic and person centred core – a belief that everyone is able to make progress and improvement in their lives and no-one is inherently evil. I incorporate other theories if they might be useful for you – we can collaborate on what might work for you and what might not. CBT, for example, has its place but has been over-used in the NHS and often delivered without paying attention to the rapport between therapist and client – this has damaged its reputation for some.
People don’t fit neatly into boxes – theories can help but they’re only approximations of what’s really going on. However, research shows that people generally do better if they can understand a rationale for how they are feeling or behaving.
There’s no concrete answer as everyone is different. With one or two clients, we’ve had marked improvements in three sessions but some go for much longer without hitting their main goal although they do achieve other things along the way. Some people can usefully work for years.
Most of my training was with a limit of ten sessions and that can help us to focus and stick to what’s most important for people. I suggest that we plan for a minimum of six sessions and review regularly.
Knowing when to stop, or take a break, is important too – you can always come back or go elsewhere in the future. Along the way, we might uncover different areas that you want to work on but we don’t need to do everything. Counselling isn’t a friendship or permanent relationship and to keep going forever isn’t ethical. However, I’m not going to pull the rug out from under you – we need to review regularly how it’s going.
Some clients know exactly what they want to work on, some just know they are unhappy and want to feel better. Some clients have had multiple traumatic events or bereavements and don’t know which to start with first.
We just start. What needs to be talked about has a way of coming out. Sometimes there is so much that you want to cover that we can just start with a bit of it – like just tidying a corner of one room in the house rather than being overwhelmed by the whole thing.
There is little that shocks me and I have heard a lot so far, including working in prison. Shame and embarrassment are very normal responses but it can be worth sharing if you’re ready. It can be healing to reveal something and still be accepted. A counselling relationship allows you to share your burdens with someone else without having to worry that it’s too much for them. I have training, experience and regular supervision so I have support for my own needs – I won’t be burdened with what you tell me.
Confidentiality is absolutely critical to building trust and we will go through this at the first session so you know the boundaries.
All counsellors who work ethically, go through their work regularly with a supervisor (a senior experienced counsellor) and sometimes a confidential supervision group of other counsellors. This is always done anonymously so that no-one can identify you.
Not quite! It isn’t a friendship but is still warm and trusting. Some key differences are that I will listen deeply, taking in ‘your movie’ without trying to play you my own. Friends love giving advice which can be nice but sometimes you just want to be heard and to know that someone ‘gets it’. Another difference is that a friend is already part of your life so often you can’t be 100% open, particularly about them. With a counsellor, the focus is on you, not them.
It does usually but it’s not guaranteed. We will review regularly to see how things are going for you. Maybe it will help in a different way than you first expected since being in a counselling relationship often leads to personal growth and changes in perspective.
I follow the BACP code of ethics. They have produced a summary for clients explaining what you can expect.
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