WHAT’S THERAPY ABOUT?
‘Having counselling’, ‘being in therapy’ are familiar phrases but what do they actually mean – what’s it like? Perhaps you know someone who is seeing a therapist but they can’t really explain what happens; they just know it seems to help. Therapy is a complex interaction between 2 people and can’t easily be reduced to a few sentences. It’s a place where past trauma can be shared, pain is felt but emotional alchemy can happen – sometimes as dramatic as in films and books. And then at other times, it is felt in more subtle, nuanced ways, where fleeting moments produce something indescribable and even healing. It’s a difficult thing to pin down but I am asked about it so often that I feel it is important to try to explain what therapy can do; and aslo what it might not do. I will always be open to discuss this with you.
I am often asked whether people can change – maybe that’s what you want to do? I like to start with the premise that we are who we are, but what we crave is a different version of ourselves. So perhaps what we want to do is to be able to have more choice over our emotional reactions and behaviours at certain times. If we can learn more about WHY you feel and react in the way you do, then we can work towards giving you choices of HOW you could feel and behave in the future. It might be that you feel this way because of your past experiences of people which have been traumatic, painful or have let you down If you could understand your feelings better, maybe identify a pattern and develop some control over them, then theres a real chance of being that different version of yourself.
What about the difference between counselling and psychotherapy? They can perhaps be differentiated broadly by their depth and direction: counselling can feel more structured, tackle identified symptoms and need defined goals whilst psychotherapy thrives with less of an agenda and is best suited to dealing with more profound, intractable issues such as trauma, abuse or a difficult childhood. But in reality, the similarities are greater, the ebb and the flow between both more common and the differences diminished.
The length of therapy is possibly a better way to look at the question. You might come to
Short Term or
Time-Limited counselling via a private health provider who will generally fund between 6-12 sessions. This would allow us time to work on the symptoms you have – psychological and even physical – and we can explore your experience of these in the context of your life today and your history. We would work together to find links, patterns and clues to help us understand what might be happening to you. We can work on ideas, workshop some ‘what if’s’, trial some ‘how about’s’. We can work together towards a better expression of your feelings that are more manageable, with the goal of lessening your symptoms and setting a better path ahead. If your day-to-day regulation of your feelings can be improved, your emotional competency can be increased and we can really get you back on your feet with some sessions of short to medium term counselling.
Longer term, Open-Ended psychotherapy is better suited to deep-rooted issues that hamper your experience of joy and pleasure, make relationships difficult and affect your ability to direct the course of your life. It is also a better forum to process a traumatic event(s); maybe you have thought you are ‘fine’ but find in reality you are clearly not? If you have suffered abuse – emotional, physical, sexual – you will know how profoundly this can affect emotional growth and hamper psychological and physical wellbeing. If these issues you know about and need now address this would benefit from the longer and less-structured time open-ended therapy facilitates. We would work together with great care and respect, always vigilant for the effects past trauma still has on you. In the therapeutic alliance, there is comfort to be found and we make space where you are truly listened to and your emotions - however difficult - are engaged with, so that the healing can happen.
Do I need counselling or psychotherapy – what’s the difference?
Have a look at the section above where I talk about this more fully in terms of length and approach. Once we make contact I can discuss this with you further and we can work out together, in our initial consultation, what might be best for you.
I’m not sure I can afford therapy - do you offer reduced fees?
I understand that therapy can be a serious financial commitment. It is worth investigating whether your employer can offer sessions via an Employee Assistance Programme (I have experience with Validium, Lifeworks and Compsych) or a private health provider - I am registered with most major providers including BUPA, Cigna, AXA PPP. On occasion, I can offer a reduced fee and we can discuss this.
How do appointments work - can I cancel my session?
Therapy is also a commitment in your time and in my experience you will benefit more when you feel ‘ready’ for the commitment rather than being told to do it by a friend or family member, however well-meaning. To that end, you and I will find a mutually convenient time and day and endeavour to meet weekly (sometimes twice weekly is preferable). I always try to accommodate the reality of your life and therefore will do my best should you need to reschedule occasionally and can give good notice. Because I will commit that time to you every week and ask you to do the same so I do generally charge for missed sessions. However, I do not charge for the weeks that I take as breaks which are around 6-8 week a year for which I give good notice.
Can you be my training therapist whilst I am studying to be a counsellor/psychotherapist?
Yes, I can be your therapist whilst your train. Please check to see if my training and mode of practice are compatible with your course requirements. I suggest we discuss this further should you be interested.
Do you practice from an office? Can we meet face-to-face?
Currently, I am not practising any face-to-face therapy and all sessions are via VC. This is in line with government requirements and the advice of my professional bodies. If it doesn’t feel that this could work for you please do let us discuss this but in my recent experience, sessions can still function well and often make finding time in your schedule easier.
How do I know whether you can help with my problem?
I don’t think of problems as big or small, rare or common, complicated or otherwise – I’m more interested in what your experience of your life is like. If you have identified a particular issue(s) then we’ll start there. I will take time, in the beginning, to learn about your life – past and present – and we’ll be looking for links and patterns. In my experience, it is often not what you come to me about that remains our central focus: it is because I have a different viewpoint that I may see something different that we’ll then explore. I have spoken to many people over the years with diverse histories and very different experiences and although we are all unique our problems are often similar, shared and have commonality.
Will what I say be confidential?
Yes, all sessions are strictly confidential. In very exceptional circumstances, it may become evident that we should escalate concerns about your safety to other professional such as your GP. However, this is always done in discussion with you and only with your agreement would I make contact with anyone else.
I’m not in crisis now but I’m interested in what therapy can do for me.
Psychotherapy isn’t just for those times of crisis although, of course, this is when it can be of real help. But at other times we want to learn about ourselves to get more out of life, to live, love and play with more intensity, satisfaction and joy. Socrates said something of this:
An unexamined life is not worth living.
Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.
An initial consultation is £50 and is where we start. You will be able to tell me something about yourself and what you think the issue(s) is that you want to tackle. We can discuss what therapy might be like for you and what the time commitment is so that you can make arrangements. I consider this first meeting as part of the therapy, which is why I charge.
Together we can discuss the best way forward for you.
Ongoing fees are £85 per session.
There are certain circumstances for which I might be able to offer a lower fee. When we meet we will be able to discuss that more fully, including my policy regarding missed sessions and holidays.
I am registered with major health insurers such as BUPA, AXA PPP, Aviva, Vitality Health & Cigna. If you have insurance, it is worth enquiring whether you are eligible for counselling through them and all or most of the cost will be covered by the policy. This Time-Limited allocation can be an excellent way to get the support you need.