At times we can all face challenges in life, which affect us so much that coping becomes difficult. Counselling can provide a safe environment to explore the nature of your difficulties and help you find ways to resolve whatever is troubling you. Talking through sensitive issues with a supportive and skilled counsellor can bring great emotional relief and empower you to make positive changes in your life.
On this page you will find answers to some questions you may have about counselling.
- What is counselling good for?
- What to expect from counselling?
- Is counselling effective?
- What happens on the first counselling session?
- Is counselling confidential?
- What is supervision?
- What is the difference between a counsellor/ psychotherapist / psychiatrist?
- How to choose a counsellor?
- What is the difference between counselling approaches?
- How long does counselling take?
- Can my partner or other family members attend sessions with me?
- What else can I do to get better?
What is counselling good for?
These days more and more people turn to talking therapies in order to address personal difficulties. You can enter counselling for a wide variety of reasons:
- conflict at work or home
- loss of confidence or motivation
- health problems
- financial concerns
- feeling “stuck”
- feeling overwhelmed
- coping with crisis
- resolving specific problems
- making decisions
- developing personal insight and knowledge
- working through feelings of inner conflict
- improving relationships with others
… or any number of other issues, large or small, which crop up in everyday life.
What to expect from counselling?
Counselling is not about getting direct advice, but to facilitate a process of finding your own ways to resolve what is troubling you and to develop your own resources for coping better in life. To demonstrate the value of this approach to my clients, I like to use a metaphor: Giving a piece of fish to a hungry man will feed him for a day; teaching him how to fish will feed him for life.
The chance to explore your difficulties in a non-judgmental and understanding atmosphere with a trained professional will often help you to understand why advice that is freely offered by your friends, family or books may not work for you. Effective counselling will assist you to find your own unique answers to problems that suit your individual circumstances, abilities and preferences. Talking about your issues openly in a supportive environment can also bring great emotional relief and increase your motivation and confidence to make positive changes in your life.
Is counselling effective?
Research repeatedly shows that counselling and therapy are effective – those who receive it are 80% better off than untreated counterparts. This is not related to any particular theoretical approach because differences in technique do not seem to contribute greatly to effectiveness. Several studies illustrate that the two key factors in change as a result of therapy are the therapeutic alliance between client and therapist ( ~ 60%) based on their agreement on goals and tasks and the quality of their relationship and allegiance or your commitment intellectually and emotionally to therapy ( ~ 30%) , with only about 5% due to therapeutic approach or technique. In practice, this means that it is more important that you and your counsellor can build a good working relationship and you trust the unfolding counselling process than what type of counselling you are receiving.
What happens on the first counselling session?
Because the success of our work together will be dependent on whether we can create a good working relationship, our first session will be about finding out whether counselling with me is the right thing for you. For this reason, I offer a low cost initial session for my clients with no further obligation. On the first session I will do my best to understand your specific needs based on your current situation and past experiences. I also answer any question you may have about counselling and my approach to it. If my approach feels right for you and I am also confident that taking up counselling with me will benefit you, we can agree about the practical details about our work together. I can also advise you about other therapists or services, if either of us feels that you could benefit from a different approach or setting.
Is counselling confidential?
Whatever you discuss with me during a counselling session remains strictly confidential. However, it is important to know that there are some exceptions to this due to professional or legal requirements. These exceptions are:
• Where there is a threat of physical violence or significant harm to self or other persons
• At supervision, which is necessary to maintain good clinical practice
• If subpoenaed by a court to disclose information directly relating to a crime.
I inform my clients, whenever possible in advance, if it is required to share any information about our work in accordance to these exceptions.
What is supervision?
It is a professional requirement that counsellors attend regular supervision by a suitably trained and experienced Counsellor or Psychotherapist in order to monitor and improve their practice. During supervision, some clinical material is discussed, typically without full name or other details that may identify the identity of the client. This is an important way to ensure that you get counselling that is safe and adheres to high professional standards.
What is the difference between a counsellor/ psychotherapist/ psychiatrist?
There are similarities between these professions, as they all assist people with emotional, psychological or mental health problems. The difference lies mainly in their type of training and qualifications, which has an impact on the nature of services they can provide.
A fully qualified Counsellor would have typically about 3 years long specialist counselling training. However, currently there is no state regulation in the UK about the minimum training required to practice as a counsellor, so it is always advisable to check their training and professional memberships. For example, BACP membership (which entitles the use of letters: MBACP) indicates that the counsellor’s training has been approved by the BACP, as well as a commitment to adhere to the BACP Ethical and Professional Standards. Accreditation to a professional body, like BACP or UKCP requires longer experience with clients and providing further evidence of a suitably high standard of professional practice. A counsellor can work with a wide range of clients but would typically refer clients with more severe psychological problems to experienced Psychotherapists or Psychiatrists.
Psychotherapist training is similar to counselling training, but typically it is at least 4 years long and includes more in-depth training about complex psychological conditions. Similarly to counsellors, it is always advisable to check their training and professional memberships. Psychotherapists can work with a wider range of clients, especially if they require intensive or long-term therapy.
Psychiatrists have many years of medical training, with further specialisation in medical approaches to mental health problems, especially complex and acute cases. They can prescribe medication to clients, so they are particularly suited to work with mental health conditions that may require medication. Some clients can also benefit from talking therapies provided by a Counsellor or Psychotherapist in addition to medication prescribed by a Psychiatrist.
You can find further information about various therapist titles at:
How to choose a counsellor?
Many research findings point out the importance of the quality of the therapeutic relationship for effective counselling. When choosing a counsellor, you need to decide whether the idea of working together feels right for you. I offer a low cost first appointment for you to decide whether you feel comfortable and safe enough to talk to me openly about the issues you bring. I will also encourage you to ask as many questions as you need to decide whether counselling with me is the right thing for you.
What is the difference between counselling approaches?
There is a bewildering array of approaches to counselling and psychotherapy, which can be confusing when looking for the right type of therapy for you. One way to start is to decide whether you would prefer one to one counselling or would like to work together with your partner, your family or a supportive group. When choosing a practitioner, find out about how they work and decide whether their approach sits with you comfortably. If you can’t find a suitable therapist near you, you can also consider therapists working online or via phone. Any therapist with good professional standards and integrity would also tell you whether their approach and setting suits the issues you bring. As a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor, I am able to offer a variety of approaches to my clients, which suits many people. I am also specialising in Focusing Oriented Therapy and working with Highly Sensitive People (HSP). You can read further details about the counselling approaches I use on this website.
You can also find further information about various approaches to therapy at:
How long does counselling take?
The length of counselling you require can vary greatly, depending on the issues you would like to resolve and your circumstances. Typically, clients can benefit from shorter counselling (6-12 sessions over a 6-12 week period) when there is a clear focus to our work or dealing with some new situations in your life. Long term or complex issues can benefit from working in an open-ended way, to allowing you to take the time you need.
Can my partner or other family members attend sessions with me?
Typically, I work with individual clients only. Any exception to this would be agreed in advance, should your situation make this necessary. I can also recommend suitable couple, family or group therapists, if I feel that you would benefit from these types of therapies.
What else can I do to get better?
As a holistic practitioner, I believe that there are significant and complex connections between our mind, body and spirit. Many research evidence supports this view, as well. This means that improvements to your physical health can improve your emotional well-being. For example, simple exercise, especially outdoors, like walking or gardening has proven benefits for mental health issues and for improving your mood. Getting enough sleep is also very beneficial, so if you struggle with insomnia it is especially important to get help with that. Many alternative therapies that focus on the body can similarly improve your emotional state. Changes to the environment that surrounds you can also have a positive impact on how you feel.
If you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), you can make very dramatic improvements to your well-being by getting as much rest as you need, which would be usually more than 7-8 hours. If you have difficulty with sleeping, even just lying in a dark room with closed eyes helps or any other kind of relaxation technique. Introduce quiet breaks between activities and avoid rushing by giving yourself extra time to get ready. Reduce overstimulation and stress from your life whatever way you can and you will be rewarded with feeling energised and happier.
You may find it easy to make some practical steps like these and feel better. If making this kind of changes is not so easy for you, counselling can explore the nature of your difficulties and support you to find what works better for you.