You’ve never been to counselling before…
You may have something to talk about that you’ve never revealed to anyone. Someone’s told you therapy might be useful to you right now, and here you are looking at my website and – help!
I’ve been in therapy myself, and have had a wide variety of experiences. I know that the therapist has to be a good fit, and that if you’re looking for therapy, you have the right to take time choosing the person you’re going to share so much with. If you’ve been put off by a past therapeutic encounter, or somehow didn’t find yourself connecting, I hope you will feel able to try again.
So what happens?
The kind of therapy I’m offering here is talking therapy, where we sit in a room together, most likely for 50 minutes, every week. Put very simply, you bring whatever you need to bring, and and we work together to help you make sense of it. Sometimes you might not want to talk much, (or at all), and that’s okay too. The work does not have to be complex – if you have never felt heard, just the simple act of being listened to can be very powerful and transformative. Other times, unpacking the complexities of how the past interacts with the present can be extremely enlightening.
Can’t I just talk to my best friend/brother/mother?
You certainly could, but what if you’ve never mentioned any of it before? What if it’s about them, or may impact them in some way? You may wish to keep such a personal part of your life private, and you may not wish to burden them either. Also, their responses to your issue, however well-intentioned, will be conditioned by their previous knowledge of you. Therapy can give you a fresh perspective.
When you come to see me, you are paying for my uninterrupted time and my work with you during the session. I am focused on you completely, without preconceptions. And of course, you can expect confidentiality. It is part of the ethical code of the BACP, my professional organisation, that (serious threat of harm aside, and when in supervision) therapists must keep what their clients tell them private.
Do I have to lie on a couch?
No. That is fairly rare these days.
Do you sit in silence?
Although there may be times when I don’t speak, I certainly don’t sit in silence. While your response to silence may well provide useful material in our session, the notion of the ‘blank screen’ – the idea that it is beneficial to create anxiety in the client and trigger countertransference (essentially, feelings about another person from the past) – is not something I subscribe to and you are less likely to find these days.
How long can I have? I’ve got so much I need to talk about!
It’s important to remember that a therapy session has an impact, particularly if you’ve never shared your inner thoughts and feelings with anyone before. For individual therapy, 50 minutes is usually plenty of time to go over things, leaving you the rest of the week to process it all. When I work with two people together, my sessions are 70 minutes.
Can I come every two weeks or monthly, or just when I feel like it?
You may well find someone who is happy to work this way, but in my experience I don’t find it useful. Therapy is a process that generally benefits from consistency, and I find that working weekly is generally the most effective. (This said, I am open to working more often than that.)
How will I know it’s working?
For therapy to be effective, research suggests that two factors have to be in play – (1) a good rapport between client and therapist, and (2) the client has to want to do the work. So if someone’s leaning on you to go and ‘do some therapy’ but you really don’t want to be here, you are less likely to find the work useful. Sometimes you will find the work difficult, and feel like it’s not doing anything for you. Other times you can have realisations about yourself and your life that feel very intense in the moment, but those may not represent the lasting, deeper effects. Sometimes the really deep work is quiet and subterranean and takes a long time to emerge. In my personal experience, I have found myself suddenly ‘waking up’ months later, and realising something has changed.
Do I have to come for years and years?
Everyone seems to have a horror story about a friend of theirs who was ‘imprisoned’ in therapy for years and it didn’t really do anything for them, but they felt unable to leave. While very long-term therapy can be an amazing and transformative personal journey, you absolutely should not feel obliged to remain in a situation which you are finding unhelpful. Remember, you are the client and you are paying, so if you feel things are not working, you are fully entitled to raise it with your therapist, and leave if you cannot resolve things together.
If I come for therapy, does it mean I’m ill?
No. It means you are trying to address some life issues which you have not been, up to now, able to solve on your own.
I’m a bit embarrassed about telling people that I’m seeing a therapist – will they think less of me?
UK culture has improved immeasurably on this front, and if you do disclose to someone, you may well find that they have had therapy too. Some people feel that the word ‘psychotherapy’ sounds a bit more fancy, while others find it too medicalising. Some people find that ‘counselling’ feels safer and less potentially labelling. Of course, you don’t have to tell anyone anything at all.