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Frequently asked questions

If you’ve never had counselling before then it might seem quite a strange thing to talk to a total stranger about things that are distressing you or causing you difficulty. As a trained counsellor I am experienced to listen to you attentively, kindly, respectfully and without judgement and help you find your own way to resolving sources of distress in your life. As a therapist I will give you the space to cry, shout, express your anger, try to find the words to explain how you feel, or just the space to think out loud.

I will encourage you to use the time to explore the things that are important to you in those moments. I see this as a conversation between us - I am not there to just nod away to whatever you say, but to listen actively and be a close companion, offering you empathy, unconditional positive regard, and to be an honest and real person. I will not tell you what to talk about. That might feel like pressure to come up with something, but in my experience, as both a therapist and a client, the material will emerge organically.

You might also find the BACP website helpful.

Yes it is, but with a few important exceptions. Confidentiality is extremely important to me and is an important part of my ethical commitment to my clients. But it’s important for you to know that there are several specific areas where that confidentiality will not hold.

The main one is that as part of my ethical practice I have a supervisor. My supervisor is another counsellor who is specifically trained to support counsellors in their work. As part of this I will take various aspects of our work together to supervision and so will reveal parts of what we have explored. The work with my supervisor is covered by a similar bound of confidentiality.

The areas where we may have to consider breaking our confidentiality are:

  • Duty of care: Counsellors have a duty of care to their clients and to others. This means that if you tell me anything that makes me think you or other people might be at serious risk of harm, then we may have to consider breaking our confidentiality. However, I would always try to discuss this with you first. There is always a balance between a duty to your wellbeing, a duty to the confidential nature of counselling, and the duty to protect others. I take this very seriously.
  • Legal obligations for specific criminal offences: If you tell me about a crime where I have a legal duty to report it to the Police, or where I feel I should report it to the police. This is particularly relevant for terrorist activity, money laundering, and drug trafficking. There may also be situations where my records are formally requested by the courts and/or Police.
  • Safeguarding: If I become aware of a risk to children or vulnerable adults, even in the case of an alleged offence in the past, then I have a duty of care towards victims and potential future victims.

Counselling can helpful in a wide range of situations. It can help you to understand yourself and help you recognise what you feel, think and do in different situations. It can help if you need to make sense of things that have happened to you in your life, particularly those that have been traumatic or painful. Counselling can help you cope with major life events, such as bereavements, problems in relationships, and transitions in life. Counselling can help you explore your identity, talk through changes you want or might want to make in your life. Counselling can also help if you've been diagnosed with particular mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone is different. Some people may want to engage in long-term counselling — which might be measured in years — but some people may only want to work for a small number of sessions on a really focused thing. I won't tell you how many sessions you will need — I won't prescribe the length of your "treatment" (!) — although I may want to explore with you how you are experiencing the sessions, how you are feeling things are going, and if you think you might have explored everything as thoroughly as you want to. This is part of my ethical and professional responsibility to you.

The difference between counselling and psychotherapy is often debated amongst counsellors, psychotherapists, and others in the helping professions. The term counselling was introduced by Carl Rogers because the dominant psychiatric profession at the time wouldn't let him use the term psychotherapist as it would have taken power away from them, so he used the word counselling. I use the words interchangeably to mean a meeting of two people with the aim of providing a safe space to explore difficulties that one person may be having.

Supervision is an opportunity for counsellors to explore the work they are doing with their clients and how it is impacting them. For me, supervision allows me to look at what thoughts, feelings and emotions counselling is bringing up in me and how that is playing out in my responses to my clients. Supervision is there to support my own wellbeing in my counselling practice and to be the best and most ethical counsellor I can be to my clients. All counsellors in the UK should be having regular supervision. The BACP specifies a minimum of 1.5 hours of supervision every month.

Supervisors are bound by similar rules around confidentiality. If you are curious to see something of the process of supervision, the BBC series "Couples Therapy" shows some short snippets of supervision that come the closest to my experience.

A counselling agreement or contract is an agreement between counsellor and client about the work that we will do together. It will set out some practical aspects, such as how regularly and for how long we will have sessions, how much the fee will be, where the counselling will happen. It also plays an important role in giving informed consent for therapy - so you know exactly what you're getting into. It's not a contract in a legal sense.

I am trained in Person-Centred Therapy which has been shown to be effective in helping people with a range of mental health conditions through randomised control trials (the gold standard for evaluating treatments) and qualitative research. Person-Centred Therapy is approved by NICE as a treatment offered by the NHS and has been shown to be as effective or better than medication for some people.

The continuing professional development (CPD) that I do reflects a balance of the needs of my clients and my own development as a counsellor. The BACP suggest that I do 30 hours of CPD each year. For example, if I am working with someone with a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, then I might decide that some additional CPD to develop additional expertise in that area would be very beneficial for my client but also in my own professional development. I might decide that, as a counsellor, I'm reading a lot in the media about eating disorders and so I might decide that it would be beneficial for me to do some additional training in anticipation of future client needs. For example, this year I am doing additional training around trauma.