Some Frequently Asked Questions about
Counselling and Psychotherapy
What is the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?
Counselling is generally regarded as an approach that focuses on the immediate or pressing problem and is usually shorter term. This is frequently for a period of 6 to 12 weeks though in some cases it can be longer.
Whilst psychotherapy also helps with the kinds of difficulties brought to counselling more often it is the treatment of choice for deep seated issues that may have built up over a much longer period of time, even stemming from childhood.
Broadly though, the approach used in psychotherapy is similar to that used in counselling. The main difference is that psychotherapists tend to undertake a longer and more in-depth training than counsellors and have greater experience of working with more chronic or difficult problems. The process of psychotherapy takes place over a much longer period of time and because of this leads to a deeper more established relationship between client and therapist. Most significantly it is through the safety of this longer term relationship that more profound and deep seated issues can be explored and worked through.
What are the benefits of counselling and psychotherapy?
While the researched benefits of counselling and psychotherapy are well documented the actual changes vary from person to person as every process is completely individual. However, clients often report changes such as a significant improvement in their initial concerns, an enhanced insight into their situation, improved self-worth, or more specifically:
* Increased confidence and self-esteem
* Greater sense of self worth
* More intimate and satisfying relationships
* Feeling more empowered
* More success in a chosen career
* Improved physical health
* Feeling calmer and more relaxed
* Greater personal awareness and understanding
* Having greater choice
* Feeling more alive / having more energy
* Better communication skills
Can I speak to someone before I make an appointment?
You are very welcome to call and speak to Sam Lawson our Practice Manager before you make your first appointment. If she is unavailable when you call please leave an answer message giving your name, telephone number and convenient times when she can call you back.
How do I make an appointment?
To make an appointment for an initial consultation you can contact us by telephone on 01905 20707 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org .
What will happen if I cancel or miss a session?
If you are unable to attend your appointment please let us know as soon as possible. The required notice for cancellation is 48 hours. Where there is less notice of cancellation or if you do not attend your appointment you will be charged the full fee. You will be given as much advance notice as possible in terms of holidays or needing to cancel your appointment for any other reason.
Is it a sign of weakness or strength to go for therapy?
Some people come to believe in life that being unable to solve a problem or sort out a personal difficulty on their own or having uncomfortable feelings like vulnerability and fear are signs of being dependent or weak. However, most therapists believe that human beings are at their most healthy functioning when they have a full range of feelings and expression. Whilst it is important to be resilient and independent too much independence can be isolating, make personal relationships extremely difficult and often prohibit the natural process of benefiting from the wisdom, experience and support of other people. For the person that fears appearing weak, it is both an act of considerable strength and courage to acknowledge difficulty and ask for help, a process through which they can in fact become stronger and even more able to take care of themselves.
A more desirable position is one of interdependence, neither being too independent nor too dependent. This is when a person can provide themselves with much of what they need independently, whilst also having the openness and flexibility to seek and receive help and support when they need it. In certain instances this has become the key goal of the therapeutic process.
What happens in the first session?
If you have never been to counselling or therapy before you may feel nervous and apprehensive. This is quite normal and people often find it a relief to say how they are feeling at the beginning of the session. You do not need to prepare in any particular way before you attend your session and once you arrive, anything you need to know will be explained to you.
The first session is an ideal opportunity to ask any questions you may have and for you to see whether you feel comfortable talking about your concerns. To begin with you will be asked for some background information and then invited to talk about what brings you to counselling or therapy. Some people have a clear sense of why they have come and what they want whilst others might only know that they are in distress without knowing why. Both positions are fine, they simply describe a different starting point.
Towards the end of the session there will be the opportunity to discuss how the session has gone and whether further work would be useful or necessary.
How long does each session last?
Whilst the initial consultation can last for up to an hour or more the standard counselling or psychotherapy session lasts for 50 minutes
How often do I need to come?
Attendance for both psychotherapy and counselling is generally on a weekly basis and is usually one 50 minute session once a week. However, there may be instances when it is important and in fact beneficial to come more often.
Can I bring a partner, friend or family member to my session?
Individual counselling and psychotherapy is on a one-to-one basis. However, if you wish to bring someone with you to your first session this is fine and they will be able to wait for you in the waiting room.
Will what I say remain confidential?
Confidentiality is an essential aspect of counselling and psychotherapy. It contributes greatly to the client’s sense of safety and is one of the things that make the therapeutic relationship different from any other. Counselling and psychotherapy encourages clients to be as open and honest about themselves as possible and inevitably involves clients discussing personal experiences and sensitive information with their therapist. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the client can trust that what they are disclosing about themselves will remain confidential.
C. H. Counselling & Psychotherapy holds all records securely and will ensure the utmost confidentiality in the treatment of any information held about its clients, in line with the BACP Ethical Framework for good practice.
All information will be kept confidential unless the client and therapist agree together to discuss something with a third party. The only reasons for breaking confidentiality would be if the therapist considered that your life was at risk, if another person’s life was at risk or if the therapist was liable to civil or criminal court proceedings if the information was not disclosed. If at all possible this would be discussed with you at length beforehand.
How will I know that I am seeing a properly qualified and accredited psychotherapist?
If you are unsure about a therapist’s qualifications it is always a good idea to ask. They should be able to give you the details of their qualifications, where they trained, which governing body they are registered with and their registration or accreditation number.
What is a psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is first of all a qualified medical doctor that has then gone on to complete further training in the diagnosis and medical treatment of mental illness; in addition some are trained psychotherapists. Categories of mental illness include: mood disorders such as depression and manic depression (bipolar), psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, developmental and personality disorders.
Being a medical model of help, the psychiatric approach is generally to treat and alleviate the symptoms of the illness by the use of medication. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists often work in collaboration to offer the best possible support programme for their patients.
What if I have a mental health diagnosis?
If you have a diagnosed mental health condition and think you would like psychotherapeutic support in addition to the support you are receiving from your GP or psychiatrist you are very welcome to come for an assessment session. This will be an opportunity to discuss your needs and whether psychotherapy may be useful to you. It is often very helpful to clients when psychotherapists and psychiatrists/mental health teams work together to provide a linked-up package of care.
When attending psychotherapy clients with a mental health diagnosis will sometimes be asked to give permission for communication between their psychotherapist and primary health carers should it be necessary and appropriate.
What are the limits of counselling and psychotherapy and are there any conditions that need more than psychotherapeutic support alone?
There are certain conditions that may require a more specialised form of intervention than psychotherapy or counselling on its own. People suffering with severe mental health difficulties such as clinical depression, debilitating anxieties, manic depression, schizophrenia, severe eating disorders, personality disorders, together with those people who are actively suicidal or have a severe substance abuse problem, will often require specialised medical treatment in addition. In the most severe cases this might be in the form of a day-care programme or perhaps in a residential setting such as a hospital or a therapeutic community.