What is Counselling/Psychotherapy?
'Therapy offers you a safe, confidential place to talk about your life and anything that may be confusing, painful or uncomfortable. It allows you to talk with someone who is trained to listen attentively and to help you improve things'. (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy definition) This School of Life video explains a bit more about how and why therapy works.
Counselling can either be short term (or 'solution focused') usually if there is a time or financial restriction, or an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) or insurer has organized it for you. This means that knowing we have a limited amount of time to work together on your difficulties we will agree together on the focus and goals and review progress at every session.
Or, when possible, I offer open-ended counselling, which means that we can work together as long as you feel you need to. Regular reviews of progress and frequency of sessions is a natural part of the counselling process.
In the UK, a good level of training, experience and commitment to ongoing professional development is currently verified by accreditation with one of the professional associations and an entry on the Professional Standards Authority Register where you can confirm a counsellors status. For my listing on the register see PSA and for my page on the BACP online Directory of counsellors see 'It's good to talk'.
How does it work?
A counsellor does not advise, but is trained to help you to reach the answers that are right for you by listening intently, helping you to deeply explore emotions, reflect back emerging patterns and look at your situation in different ways. This is done supportively and without judgement, with openness and sometimes by challenging you.
There are many types of counselling, and a good counsellor is aware that some can suit an individual better than another. Having worked within the NHS for many years I have a wide range of training and experience to offer, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) and mindfulness.
What can I expect?
Counselling is a journey of exploration that can help in many different ways. You might find that during your sessions you realise you have recurring patterns in your life that are no longer helpful. Sometimes people feel worse before they feel better as they begin to explore the roots of their difficulties and gain insights into their life, this is a normal part of the counselling process. Counselling is led by you and what you are ready for, and great care is taken to help you to feel safe to speak about difficult subjects, which arise naturally as feels right for you.
There is a wealth of evidence for the effectiveness of counselling, and on-line information on qualifications and types of counselling. If you would like to explore this further I have provided links in the resources section at the bottom of this page.
I have also written an article on how counselling can help with stress, which gives examples of different types of therapeutic approach.
How do I get the most out of my sessions?
Finding a counsellor who you feel comfortable with and can open up to is essential for you to get the most out of counselling. Not everyone 'fits' with every counsellor, so it is ok to meet more than one person before you choose who is right for you.
Being as honest as possible will help you get the most from your sessions, but it is normal to take time to feel able to discuss the most difficult parts of your experience and to need to have built up a good relationship of trust with your counsellor first.
If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to ask me at any point and I will do my best to answer.
Free Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources
Information about common mental health problems:
Great accessible information on understanding and coping with common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, stress and bereavement. Also alcohol issues, domestic violence and sleep. Available as leaflets and as audio files to download from Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
For detailed information about all types of mental health difficulty, therapies and medication see MIND the mental health charity.
Free 24hr/356 day a year helpline:
The Samaritans provide free support to people in emotional difficulty. Just call 116 123 to talk to someone or email email@example.com
More information about counselling:
For a useful website about counselling training, different types of therapy, professional bodies and facts about how many people go to counselling in the UK see Counselling Directory
For free guided mindfulness meditations ranging from a 3 min taster to complete meditation instructions go to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website.
Book 'Living Well with Pain & Illness - The mindful way to free yourself from pain & suffering' by Vidyamala Burch, 2008, Piatkus, London.
A free introductory mindfulness course is available by Headspace via an app downloadable to both Apple and Android devices. This has great support to help you through the common difficulties people can find when trying mindfulness for the first time and the option to upgrade if you wish to progress.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME:
For useful downloadable booklets on ME/CFS including information on managing symptoms, pacing, information for employers and benefits guides go to Action for ME's website information page.
If you would like easy to understand information to help explain to loved ones what it is like to live with ME/CFS and suggest ways that they can support you, take a look at this page about my book ‘CFS/ME: Support for Family & Friends’
For people who live with persistent pain, a fantastic resource for information, worksheets, learning and courses is The Pain Toolkit.
Pacing is a helpful strategy for managing many health conditions that involve fatigue such as chronic pain, endometriosis, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, and also when recovering from depression and stress. See see archive page for my guide to pacing.