Questions about counselling

What is Humanistic Counselling?

As a Humanistic/Integrative counsellor, I practice using techniques that draw from models such as the Person-Centred approach, Gestalt, Transactional Analysis (TA) in addition to the use of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) when engaging in short-term work with clients. The Humanistic therapist works ‘alongside’ the client on their journey of self-discovery; being a fully attentive equal who is there to help make sense of the clients’ experience. The client is the expert. There is much trust placed in the client’s own resources to work things out and a belief that everyone has the capability to reach their own potential.

How can counselling/psychotherapy help?

Counselling and psychotherapy are terms that people use to describe various talking therapies. These therapies aim to help bring about change in how a client might feel, react, respond to others, etc. or perhaps just to feel better about themselves.

Therapy provides a regular time and space for people to talk about their troubles and explore difficult feelings in an environment that is supportive, free from intrusion and confidential. A therapist will respect your viewpoint while helping you to deal with specific problems, cope with crises, improve your relationships, or develop better ways of living.

How do I decide if you’re the right counsellor for me?

Finding the right person to work with is a very important step in your counselling and it can be helpful to talk to different counsellors before making a decision.  I offer a free initial assessment session for us to see if we want to work together.  If we decide to proceed with counselling then we will agree on a contract, outlining the responsibilities of both the counsellor and the client in the relationship.

Therapists aim to be impartial, and be able to express warmth and empathy to assist you to talk openly about your feelings and emotions. They are also non judgmental, fair and trustworthy to enable a respectful working relationship to develop between you. The therapist provides a standard of care, which includes their own ongoing training, experience and limitations and referring you on when appropriate if they feel unable to assist you.
Therapists also receive regular supervision, which is a formal arrangement for therapists to discuss their work regularly with someone external in order to maintain adequate standards of therapy. (Ideally the supervisor would not know the identity of the client). The therapist and their supervisor will be members of a recognised professional body such as the BACP.

Protection against bad practice

Each professional body has its own code of ethics or ethical framework, and complaints procedure. Codes of ethics vary in their details, but all of them make it clear that a counsellor should never exploit the client financially, emotionally or sexually. They should also endorse a commitment to equal opportunities. The BACP can provide you with a copy of its ethical framework, and any counsellor will be happy to tell you about the ethics they abide by and the complaints procedure of their own professional body.

For further information/explanation: see the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013).


What therapy is not

Therapy is not advice giving or orientated to the therapist’s point of view, although therapists may offer information and some therapeutic approaches may ask you to do homework as part of your therapy. Nor is it just a friendly chat discussing the week’s events as you would with a friend, a parent, or sibling, who would probably have an opinion about the issues discussed. The therapist is an impartial professional, who is able to listen to you non-judgementally and to work with your emotions and not get emotional themselves. The therapist helps you to develop understanding of yourself and others and to find your own solutions, making no demands upon you except for the terms agreed in your therapeutic contract.

What is ‘being in therapy’?

Therapy is time that you set aside for yourself. This is usually weekly at an agreed time and place that offers a confidential, safe environment without judgement or interruptions. Together, you and your therapist will look at why you have decided to make the first step towards therapy and this might include talking about unexplained emotions, life events, (past and present), difficult relationships, the way you think and your own behaviour patterns.  Talking about these things may take time, and a number of sessions will be agreed between you and your therapist.

You may have experienced a difficult or painful time in your life, or perhaps you are struggling with feelings of low self esteem, sadness, anxiety, stress, or guilt. The act of talking about how you feel can help you make sense of such feelings.

What happens in a counselling session?

That really is up to you.  We generally have 50 minutes for a session, and that time is entirely devoted to you.  We will probably begin by exploring what has brought you to counselling and the concerns and issues that are uppermost in your mind.  As we begin to discuss things it is likely that other thoughts and feelings will emerge which you might also wish to examine.

Will I feel better straight away?

Some people feel an immediate sense of relief when they begin counselling, maybe because they are being listened to for the first time, or because they have been struggling for a long time. Other people may feel more anxious or distressed when they start, because they have to pay attention to difficult feelings that, in some way, they would prefer to push aside. In this situation, they may feel worse before they start to feel better. The work you do in therapy begins with sharing with your counsellor any concerns you have about how you are reacting to the therapy.

There are no straight answers to life’s many complex problems, but counselling can help an individual gain a thorough understanding of themselves, their thought patterns and ingrained patterns of behaviour.

Why do people choose to enter therapy?

People may come to therapy because of difficult experiences they’ve been going through, such as a relationship breakdown, bereavement or redundancy. Or they may want help dealing with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety or low self-worth that don’t seem to be connected to any particular event. They may feel isolated even when they have supportive family and friends around them; it may be they find it impossible to explain why they are feeling anxious or depressed.

Sometimes it is easier to talk about personal issues with someone independent of friends and family. Therapy is also about self-care; you don’t have to be in crisis before choosing to talk to someone. You may be experiencing difficult feelings about life in general, or be seeking to put some balance back in your life. There are so many reasons that might bring an individual to therapy.

How long does counselling last?

I work with clients in the short, medium or long-term, depending on their needs.  We will probably agree to meet for a number of sessions (usually 6 weeks) and then review how things are going.  Reviewing the situation every few weeks will help us to see how things are progressing, and if something in the counselling relationship needs to be addressed.   However, the decision about whether to continue or to end the counselling relationship will be yours.

How will I know when it’s time to stop?

In open-ended counselling, it will be up to you and your counsellor to decide when to stop. There may be a practical reason that brings it to a close, such as moving to a new area. Otherwise, your counsellor will try to decide with you about an ending, based on what you wanted to achieve and how you feel about the counselling process.

People sometimes feel quite dependent on their counsellor, and this can make endings difficult. Counsellors will never exploit these feelings as they are trained to help you to deal with the feelings that come up when facing endings. This may be the most crucial part of your work together.