Frequently Asked Questions WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE OF COUNSELLING?
Only you know what it is that hurts or troubles you, although it may be that the real reasons for your anguish are tucked away out of your immediate notice. We will listen impartially and without judging or setting conditions. The journey is one of self-discovery and the first step on it is learning to accept yourself completely, as we will do.WHY COUNSELLING?
Life can be difficult at times and may well highlight or produce problems which might not otherwise appear. Difficulties regularly talked over with a counsellor might include:
General Unhappiness....General Unhappiness
Feelings of panic
Unwanted sexual experiences
Pressure of Work...
Adapting to change
'Dropping out'-for (Students)
Exam anxiety or failure (Students)
This list contains only some of the problems that people may experience. Counselling gives you space and time to explore issues that are important to you.
WHAT IS COUNSELLING?
Counselling offers an opportunity to think and talk about your concerns, through dialogue with a trained counsellor.In time, this exploration may help you develop an increased knowledge of yourself whilst helping you to locate appropriate coping mechanisms and possible changes in your behaviour.The Counselling Service is here to help you to look at problems of a personal and emotional nature so that you can begin to explore your alternatives.
HOW WILL TALKING GET ANYTHING DONE?
It isn't so much about talking as listening. We are all guilty, to a greater or lesser extent, of not listening to our true needs. We may suppress them out of fear, out of a sense of duty, or in an attempt to gain the acceptance of others - especially if our self esteem is weak (or we do not value ourselves). Our aim is to help you 'get in touch' with these needs and talking is one of the principal ways in which we will do this. It is not, however, the only form of therapy we use.
I HAVE A PROBLEM, will you advise me what to do?
No. We are not advisers and certainly don't pretend to be experts in all the areas where the problem could exist. However, it is true to say that the process of counselling does help in problem solving or decision making. Counselling will help you to put things into perspective so that you can discover the solution which is right for you. It can also support you to look at things from new or fresh perspectives. This can be enormously helpful because, to use a metaphor, where you stand affects what you see and how you see those things and value them. Counselling is about empowerment. Our aim is to inspire and empower you to have confidence in your own decisions. After talking things over, the problem may turn out to be different to what you think it is and the 'right solution' may therefore also surprise you!
I'm depressed, can you help?
Many people visit a counsellor for help with the kind of depression which may affect us following a bereavement, loss or sudden change in circumstances such as redundancy, or family crisis. In such cases, it is natural to feel a sense of anxiety, despair or worthlessness (amongst many other feelings) which can lead to mild depression. Shorter-term counselling may be extremely valuable here in helping you come to terms with changes and set plans and ambitions based on the new situation.
For other people, the depression may be significant or may have lasted many months. It may even be something that has been a part of their lives, perhaps off and on, for many years. At times, seemingly 'minor' events may trigger a 'major' depression. In many such cases, the roots of the depression may lay in early life, rather than in the events of the present day.
Whilst it is hard to generalise, such depression may arise as a result of patterns of thinking and feeling that were adopted in early life as a response to trauma, abuse, anxiety or persistently unmet childhood needs. There may be so-called 'unfinished business' around these issues. The thinking and feeling associated with these may be re-played today with equally unsatisfactory results and hence more frustration, more sadness, continuing anger, and a sense of 'failure'. Not surprisingly, depression is very often the result.
In these cases, counselling can still be highly effective. It is important however that the person seeking help is properly assessed in order to determine the suitability for them of longer term counselling or psychotherapy. Key to success is the 'fit' between client and counsellor, the client's capacity for self dialogue or insight, their motivation and their commitment to what may be a long and painful process of reflection. Once counselling commences, the approach is more in-depth and requires longer time periods to be effective - usually many months and sometimes years.
Counselling is less helpful where the depression is very severe (leading to regular hospital in-patient treatment for example) or is so incapacitating as to limit the scope for communication or good psychological contact with the person concerned. Nor is counselling indicated where there is a history of diagnosed psychosis or personality disorder.
I want to change my life, will you help me?
Yes, in the sense that our sessions can be viewed as a place where it is OK to 'be you' and where you can begin to realise just how you want to change. We will also 'stick with you' during what may be traumatic times and can help you work out a programme for change.
What kind of problems do you treat?
First of all, we don't see 'problems' we see people and we don't offer 'treatment' or 'cures'. Counselling requires a considerable commitment from you as well as from us. It is often hard work and, as with many things in life, the best outcomes result from the biggest efforts. It is not an 'instant quick fix!' The range of problems which people come to talk about are as varied as the people themselves. Some people don't know what the problem is - they may simply be unhappy - whilst others want to talk about a specific difficult situation. Clients sometimes come to talk about a particular problem, only to discover that it's something else which is the real trouble. Relationships, loss and change are all common themes, as are anxiety and stress. We will listen to you without judgment regardless of what it is you wish to discuss.
Is everything confidential?
Counselling is given in the strictest confidence and ordinarily nothing will be divulged to anyone outside the Service without your written permission.Rare exceptions to this will be explained to you by the counsellor allocated to you in the initial session.
What are the confidentiality policy?
The counselling provided is confidential and we work to British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) standards and practice including ethical guidelines covering confidentiality.
Nothing will be divulged to anyone without your expressed written permission e.g. writing a letter, or liaise with your General Practitioner or other institutions.
We all receive clinical supervision in accordance with BACP guidelines
Exceptions to Confidentiality
In exceptional circumstances we may have to disclose information but we would make every effort to do this with your knowledge and agreement. These exceptions are outlined in the BACP guidelines on confidentiality and are:
where there is risk of harm to yourself or others;
under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Northern Ireland);
if the counsellor is subpoenaed or summoned as a witness in a Court of Law.
If you have any queries we would suggest you discuss them with your counsellor at your first appointment.
Will anyone find out what I've said to you?
We will keep everything discussed absolutely confidential to the extent that we are permitted within UK law.
The Child Protection policy and measures designed to prevent terrorism (for example), place clear limitations on confidentiality. Moreover, we may be compelled to provide evidence in Court or at a Coroner's proceedings as Client-Therapist confidentiality is deemed not to have special privilege.
In the overwhelming majority of cases these limitations have no impact on our work. However, if you are concerned that any of this may be an issue for you we will be pleased to discuss it further.
As part of our commitment to safe, effective and ethical practice we may also discuss aspects of our client work in clinical supervision. When we discuss aspects of our work, we always do so in ways that protects the identity, anonymity and confidentiality of our clients.
Client confidentiality is also maintained and protected.There procedures I have for keeping notes about my work.
How long will it take?
This depends on so many things that it's really hard to say. A few people come six or eight times whilst others feel they need 20 or 30 sessions and occasionally more. In practice, most of our clients attend counselling for between 10 and 15 sessions. Your counsellor may suggest meeting weekly at first and then perhaps less frequently as time progresses. Even after the formal conclusion of the sessions, we may agree that a follow-up would be useful in six or twelve months time.
Our counselling relationship won't end before you feel ready, however, our happiest moments can be the point at which you feel able to say "I don't need counselling any more!"
How is counselling structured?
An initial session to talk over your difficulties is offered as quickly as possible with the option of returning for futher sessions. We can offer up to 5 sessions but some people attend just once or twice to talk over something that is troubling them. Each counselling session lasts for 50 minutes.We will arrange counselling to begin as quickly as possible after you make the initial contact. In very busy periods a short waiting list may operate. We will always try to minimise the impact this has on you.Arrangements can be made for longer or shorter term counselling . This is by agreement with the counsellor.
Who can use the counselling service?
Counselling is available to all members of the public with the exception of children under the age of 18yrs who will need parental consent. We have also worked with students from various institutions and offer them a sliding scale. We offer counselling to individuals, couples, families or small groups of friends. People who are unemployed contribute a small fee, but will need to provide evidence that they are unemployed. The contribution made by people who are unemployed is discretionary. We offer time-limited counselling to this group of people.
Who are the counsellors?
We are highly qualified counsellors and have been practising for a minimum period of ten years. We have all completed our research degrees and are embarking on further research programes. This is beneficial to clients in the sense that we always keep abreast of changes and attend regular professional training programes.
Do the counsellors work to any ethical guidelines?
All counsellors work to the standards set in the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. This is a national document written and produced by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. A copy can be given upon request.
I am really afraid / anxious about seeing you / a counsellor
Initial fear or apprehension is entirely understandable - it can feel like a big step. First of all, you are acknowledging that there is an issue or problem that you need some help with. This in itself can feel like a massive admission, especially if you are someone who is used to 'always sorting things out on my own', so it is like you are entering a whole new type of situation.
Then there is the issue of inviting someone - perhaps a total stranger - to help you. This can bring up massive issues of trust. And of course, in many cases, the abuse of trust may be implicated in what it is you need to discuss. Asking for help and support when you have learned that it is better/safer not to trust is absolutely a huge thing to do. Realising that it has to be done doesn't make it easier to do it.
Many clients are very nervous indeed when they first come along and naturally we will do our best to help make the experience as easy and as safe as we can. we appreciate and understand how big a step this can be for you and we respect and honour the fact that you are choosing, perhaps tentatively, to take this step with us.
Our counsellors always emphasise that the first session is an introductory one, a chance to meet and for us to find out a bit about what it is that has brought you to counselling - but we will invite you to tell us only as much as you feel comfortable saying. Naturally, we will reassure you about confidentiality and about how we will not judge or diagnose you; this is a place that we hope you might come to regard as a 'safe space', a place where you can 'just be you' and we can explore together what it is that is troubling you.
One of the most important things in therapy is the relationship between client and counsellor. All the research that has been done about what makes counselling work, says that this is the most important factor. We recognise that we might possibly not be the right choice for you, so we won't ask for a commitment to further work, giving you the chance to meet with other therapists until you find someone who feels right for you. Our main concern is that you find the help you need and that might not always be us!. The introductory session is therefore very much a 'no obligation' situation where each of us, and especially you, can can go away and choose whether you want to commit to further sessions.
These things won't of course make your anxiety go away, but they might help to make the first meeting a bit more manageable. Even so, the first session can be a difficult one and our counsellors are always aware of the courage that you might need to take it.
I don't know whether it's me, my partner, or both of us who needs help!
Couples counselling is useful where there is tension between two people, usually -- but not always -- partners in a relationship. The best chances of success occur when both individual enter into the counselling openly and in an honest and committed way. Each partner has to be prepared to look both inwards to themselves, as well as to the other, if they are to get what they want out of this kind of work. This can be hard for many people and our counsellors will help and support this process.
We will be impartial (not'take sides') with anyone but will listen without prejudice and encourage each of you to do the same. Oftentimes, this safe, confidential, supportive and 'blame free' environment enables each person in the relationship to lower their defences. Only when we really listen will someone feel heard. When we feel heard we may feel valued and notice that our feelings are being acknowledged. Real progress can be made on tackling the issues at hand.
Individuals in Couples Counselling need to be prepared to look inside themselves and not only at their partner if the relationship is to develop or grow.
One of the main advantages of counselling with a neutral party is that the counsellor can help each of you to become aware of the routines and behaviours that have come to be used as a substitute for real communication. Often there is great anger or hurt within the relationship and these kinds of feelings are often 'taken out' on each other because you have 'given up' ever hoping to really be heard by your partner.
Linked to this is the assistance we can offer you in becoming more aware of the issues you each have brought to the relationship but that may well pre-date it! Many of us often look to our partner for help with and/or resolution of, personal issues. This creates expectations that neither we nor they are aware of and which cannot possibly be addressed by them. Over time, this leads to frustration, disappointment and anger. These are then seen as the 'problems' of the relationship but it is often vital to dig a little deeper. Each of you need to be responsive to the idea of opening yourselves up to at least some of these kinds of insights.
Although most people come into couples therapy hoping to improve or save their relationship, this is not the only possible objective and even when relationships are destined to end, counselling can help each of you to achieve this in a more satisfying and less damaging way.
What is the difference between Counselling & Psychotherapy?
This isn't the easiest question in the world to answer. There is considerable debate within the profession about what the differences are. What I will give you here is my answer and you should be aware that, whilst I have tried to be fair and to give a full (and therefore rather lengthy) account of the issues, other therapists might give you a different response.
The fact is, there is often very little difference between one client's experience of counselling and another's experience of psychotherapy. A couple of years ago one of the main professional bodies changed its name to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), adding the 'Psychotherapy' bit in order to reflect this. Similarly, the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) numbers among its ranks a good many members who regard themselves as counsellors.
There are two reasons, I feel, why we have a therapy profession that has two ways of describing itself. The first concerns the way in which 'therapy' as a whole brings together a number of different schools of thought and ways of working. Some of these have traditionally regarded their practitioners as counsellors and others have regarded them as psychotherapists.
So, the way your therapist is described may be a reflection of the way they were trained. Therapists practicing person centred therapy, for example, are usually referred to as 'counsellors', as was the founding father of this form of therapy, Carl Rogers. Similarly, those trained in Freudian analysis, or in cognitive behavioural or cognitive ways of working might refer to themselves as 'psychotherapists', again reflecting the historical traditions in their schools of therapy. However, there is no 'hard and fast' rule here. You may well encounter person centred psychotherapists and cognitive behavioural counsellors!
The second, and in some ways, more important part of the debate concerns the amount of training the practitioner has had. There has been an enormous and in some ways unwelcome increase in the numbers of people training to be counsellors. At the moment, virtually anyone can call his or herself a 'counsellor', irrespective of the nature or the amount of training they have had. Whilst a member of the BACP would be in breach of ethics if they misrepresented themself or practiced without adequate training, the fact remains that their is no actual law to prevent this from happening.
In years gone by, those who offered thorough training and those who undertook it, sought to distance themselves from the plethora of counselling courses that were springing up, some of which spanned only a year of part time study, for example. They did this by designating the course as a psychotherapy course and by applying the title 'psychotherapist' to candidates who successfully completed the training. Training institutions worked with the UKCP. Now, potential new members had to have undertaken four years of training (usually part time) on a validated course in a recognised training institution. There were also stringent requirements for the candidate to have undertaken personal therapy as a client.
So, if you choose a UKCP registered psychotherapist you can be fairly sure of the level of training he or she has had. (Note that for a number of reasons too complex to address here, this is not necessarily the case with UKCP registered hypnotherapists, where different issues apply.)
However, very many counselling training courses have equally rigourous standards, requiring levels of academic achievement and personal development equal to psychotherapy courses. My own training, for example involved four years of study (one of those full time) plus over four years of my own therapy as a client.
You should not assume, as many people unfortunately do, that counselling is for 'lighter' issues or problems and 'psychotherapy' is for the 'heavy and serious stuff'. The length and nature of a therapist's training will obviously impact of the type of presentations s/he feels qualified to work with. Many therapists calling themselves counsellors (including myself and my team of counsellors) have been trained to work with clients who may sadly be affected by deeply disturbing issues, such as childhood abuse or other major trauma. Such work often spans many months and years, and is at a very deep level where a great deal of commitment, skill and care is required on the part of the practitioner.
Throughout this web site I use the terms 'therapist', 'counsellor' and 'psychotherapist' interchangeably and the specific use of a term in connection with a situation or issue should not be taken as an indication that I am recommending or advising a particular job title or way of working, unless the text specifically indicates that this is so.
Do you provide any other service?
I and my team of counsellors are invovled in training and individual development and offer consultation to tutors, GP's, friends, family etc. on a range of issues. These services are offered at competitive rates. Consultations are an opportunity to discuss concerns, manage difficult situations or to ask questions about counselling. They can be by telephone, email or personal appointments. We also run/facilitate groups on specific topics such as anxiety and relaxation as well as more general therapeutic groups, such as support groups. We rely on small donations for support groups.
When can you be contacted?
We provide counselling in the mornings, afternoons or evenings. Session times are as follows:
Monday to Saturday - 8am to 7pm
Sundays - 12noon to 3pm
Please let us know as soon as possible if you cannot keep an appointment.