Frequently Asked Questions
1. What happens in therapy?
2. How long will I have to come for?
3. How much does it cost to have a therapy session?
4. How confidential is therapy?
5. How do I know that the service you provide is going to help me?
6. What sort of therapy do you offer?
7. What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
8. Can I bring a friend/relative with me to counselling?
9. Can I make an appointment for someone else? They are too nervous to contact you themselves.
1. It may come a surprise to learn that therapy (as I understand it) is not, in the first instance, about making you 'feel good', or about solving all of life's problems. Instead, it is about taking time to grapple with difficult life issues and, hopefully, learning to live with yourself and others in a more compassionate, self-aware way. My aim is to help you think about your situation in such a way as to develop greater awareness and understanding, and with this awareness and understanding to decide whether you wish to make any changes. I provide a safe, confidential space for you to think and reflect on your life - what is going well and what is not going so well. Where that reflection leads is a very personal matter: I do not judge or tell you what to do. But the essence of good therapy is that it leads to greater self-awareness, greater sense of choice - and perhaps to greater courage to live in a more fulfilling way. (Back to top)
2. This depends on what your needs are. Some people find that after only a very few sessions they have some clarity and focus and are ready to end the therapy. Other people value the ongoing support and relationship with me and will continue to come for weeks, months, or even years. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' when it comes to therapy. The frequency and duration of your contact with me is something that we will review from time to time as we work together. Ultimately, however, a therapist should never tell you that you have to keep coming for sessions - you are always free to leave when you feel ready. At the same time, it is helpful for us to agree mutually in advance when the therapy will end so that we have time to bring things to a close.(Back to top)
3. My fee is £55 for individuals , and £70 per session for couples. If you are able to give me a week's notice I do not charge for missed appointments. Without a week's notice, you will still need to pay for any sessions missed.(Back to top)
4. In order for therapy to be effective, it has to be confidential. This is something that I take very seriously. This level of confidentiality is one of the main ways in which therapy differs from many other forms of helping - for example, talking to friends or family can rarely offer the same degree of confidentiality as talking to a counsellor. Because of this confidentiality, you will find that - as you get used to coming for therapy - you are freer to talk about whatever you wish to. No therapist can offer 100% confidentiality: there are some situations where the law requires disclosure of risk (e.g. certain child protection issues) and in common with most other therapists, there are some situations where I may not be able to keep total confidentiality. In particular, if someone tells me that they are thinking of harming themselves in a way that I believe puts them at serious risk, or if someone tells me that they are doing something that could put others at risk, I may not be able to keep such information confidential. However, breaking confidentiality is rare, and only happens after talking to the person concerned. Any information disclosed to a third party (for example, a doctor) is kept to an essential minimum.(Back to top)
5. This is an interesting question! Seeing a therapist is not like seeing a doctor where you remain fairly passive and the doctor 'treats' you. And 'being helped' means differnt things for different people. Different therapy approaches will help different people, but I do not believe that there is a way of pre-determining which counsellor or which approach will be most helpful to you. Equally, there will be times in your life when therapy is 'right' for you, and times when it may not work so well. Ultimately, you are the one who will decide whether therapy is beneficial for you and this will be a very personal decision. Naturally, you want to be sure that the person you are seeing is professionally qualified and sensitive to you and your situation so you have a right to ask certain questions of any counsellor you contact: - how experienced are you in helping people with similar issues to myself? - are you supervised regularly? - what happens if I am not happy with the therapy? A good therapist will happily answer such questions. Another good sign would be a therapist who reviews with you every so often how you feel the therapy is going, and whether there is anything else that could make the sessions more helpful. This is something that I do with all my clients.(Back to top)
6. My therapy is based on a non-pathologising understanding of people. I recognise that all of us encounter 'problems in living': this does not mean that there is something intrinsically wrong with us as individuals. Rather it reflects the fact that life is unpredictable and throws challenges at us which we may struggle to overcome alone. Sometimes the strategies that we adopt to deal with these challenges may turn out to be unhelpful in the long-term. Equally, our culture and society may impose ways of thinking and being which exacerbate the problems we encounter. I therefore believe in the importance of exploring wider sociological factors that impinge on individuals, intensifying their problems. I value a wide range of approaches to thinking about 'problems-in-living': amongst others, I draw on psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural (particularly so-called 'third wave' CBT approaches such as ACT) and existential/phenomenological ideas about who we are, the sources of human suffering, and ways of responding to this suffering. What you will get from me is time, attention and compassion. I do not rush you, or impose a pre-determined way of working onto your life. I don't believe that it's possible to have one way of working that is right for everyone: your situation is unique, and we will think together about what can really make a difference in your life. Time and time again research points to the fact that it is not the particular model of therapy that is the most effective factor in promoting awareness or change, but the quality of the relationship between therapist and client. (Back to top)
7. Psychotherapy is a generic term that describes many different ways of helping people who are dealing with emotional or mental distress. For instance, the prescription of antidepressants by a GP could be seen as a form of psychotherapy because it is one way of helping someone to deal with depression. Sometimes there is an assumption that psychotherapy takes longer than counselling, or that it deals with deeper issues. However, this assumption is probably based on the confusion of psychotherapy with psychoanalysis which is a specific (usually long-term) way of working with patients. Counselling, therefore, is just one form of psychotherapy - a way of working which is about enabling you to think through issues which have been troubling you, and which may lead you to make some decisions to do things differently in future.(Back to top)
8. When you come for counselling it's important that you feel free to talk about whatever is important to you. Sometimes, you may not be clear what those issues are. Having a friend or family member with you is not usually helpful because they may have their own agenda for you. Even if this is just that they want to be supportive, or want you to 'get better', this agenda can prevent us opening issues up. When you come for therapy, you may need to explore thoughts or behaviours about which you feel ashamed or embarrased and you may censor yourself so as not to hurt someone, or you may find that what they want you to talk about is not really what you need to discuss. Sometimes, family/friends can even be part of an underlying issue which needs to be aired and discussed. Usually, people who ask this question are nervous about coming for a session alone, or they are anxious for the person who is thinking about arranging sessions. This anxiety is quite normal, and you will not be forced to talk about anything you feel uncomfortable about - but you do need to be able to talk about whatever is important. For this reason, I do not see clients accompanied by friends or family.(Back to top)
9. It can be really hard to see someone else suffering, or behaving in ways that are upsetting or hurtful to you. You may feel desperate for them to start changing, or to find a new way of being that is less painful for them and for you. However, long years of experience tell me that it is absolutely vital for the person who will engage in counselling to actually take the step of arranging an appointment for themselves. There is a key issue here of taking responsibility, and of entering therapy for personal reasons, rather than because someone else is pushing you to take that step. It never works - in my experience - for someone to come to therapy because a relative or friend thinks they need to. By all means, encourage someone you care about to take that step of making contact, but be clear that this is something they need to do for themselves and that you cannot take that step for them. I do not arrange appointments for third parties, or via another relative/friend.(Back to top)