What’s the difference between counselling & psychotherapy?
Counselling and psychotherapy share a common task - to help people who have exhausted their own emotional and psychological resources to find a better way of managing what has become unmanageable. Counsellors and psychotherapists are doing very similar work, but psychotherapists will usually have completed a longer training, often at postgraduate degree level, and had more rigorous demands placed on them in terms of the amount of personal therapy they must have completed in order to qualify for accreditation or registration. Some would say that psychotherapists work longer term than counsellors, but this is not necessarily the case.
What kind of problems can you help me with?
People most often come forward with difficulties maintaining or establishing intimate relationships. Many are trying to manage high levels of worry and anxiety, and many are dealing with what is often called depression, or low mood, or ‘stress’. Sometimes this is a more serious depression that has required the help of a GP and medication.
Some clients are trying to resolve long-standing problems which they have tried and failed to resolve themselves. Many identify ‘poor self esteem’ as a central concern. A number are wrestling with issues to do with sex or sexuality, or the consequences of childhood difficulties, of whatever kind. Others are struggling to come to terms with a loss, either through bereavement or separation.
... so like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.
The Poetics of Reverie
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves.
Diplomat, politician, poet & civil rights activist
How long will it take?
There is a general tendency for people to compare their emotional and psychological difficulties with medical notions of ‘disease’ and ‘treatment’. This is a false analogy and can lead to confused expectations when approaching a counsellor or therapist. Progress in therapy tends to proceed in fits and starts, with periods of relief being mixed up with periods of confusion and disorientation. Negotiating this uneven path is an inevitable and necessary process in any therapeutic work. Research seems to suggest that one of the indicators of a good outcome in therapy is the degree to which you and I can build a robust and constructive alliance as we work. This in turn determines something about the time it will take to work through what has been causing the unrest or disturbance.
Are sessions confidential?
What is talked about in the privacy of my consulting room is strictly confidential. However, I am ethically bound to receive supervision from a senior colleague where I will discuss aspects of the work I am doing with you. When discussing my work you will always be referred to by your first name only, and certainly never identified beyond that. My supervisor is also bound by professional ethical codes regarding the safeguarding of your confidentiality. There are also one or two instances where the law obliges me to break confidentiality but these are very rare and unusual circumstances and will be discussed with you at the outset.
Can I apply through my health insurance company?
I am an approved healthcare provider for the following companies:
Aviva UK Health Cigna Health PruHealth
Western Provident Association Ltd
I have tried to answer here some of the more usual questions that people have when approaching a counsellor or therapist for help. It is not an exhaustive account so please get in touch if there are other more pressing questions you would like to ask before committing to a face to face meeting (my contact details are ☞ here).
Sometimes my clients are managing their lives pretty well. Life is, on the whole, going well enough. But there is somewhere a gnawing sense that they are not as fulfilled as they might be. Some are looking for help understanding a stunted or blocked creativity, or wanting to find ways of making their lives more meaningful and enriching.
But often enough my clients don’t know what it is exactly that troubles them. What they do know is that they need a space in which they can talk and reflect and think ...
What can I expect when I phone you?
You will probably reach my answer-phone. Leave a short message with a your number and a time I can reach you and I’ll get back to you promptly. When we speak I’ll want to know a little about what is troubling you, whether you’ve had any help from a counsellor or therapist before, and what you might be looking for. If I think I can offer something helpful I’ll suggest a face to face meeting.
What can I expect at the first meeting?
The decision to enter into therapeutic work is a serious one, and no doubt one that you, as a prospective client, have thought about a great deal. In the first session I’ll ask a fair number of questions in an attempt to understand as much as I can as quickly as I can. I’ll also be trying to determine if I am a suitable match for you - temperamentally. It is important that there is enough sense of ‘fit’ between us if we are to work well. This first meeting is also an opportunity for you to ask questions about me and the process of counselling/therapy. On occasion the process of making a decision to commence will take more than one session. If we decide to go ahead and make a start we will make that decision together.
Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe ... What we believe determines what we take to be true.