Q. I am thinking about having counselling. How do I choose a counsellor - any tips?
A. Often, it's useful to either email or phone a few counsellors and see how you feel when you speak with them. Treat this as a Goldilocks (and the Three Bears) Principle exercise. (Yes, there is a scientific principle named after Goldilocks!). Maybe you will respond better to one than another - maybe one will feel 'just right'.
Q. What should I expect from the first session?
A. The first session is an opportunity for you to talk through what has been on your mind, but first you and your counsellor will sign 'the contract'. This agrees and outlines the nature of confidentiality, the cancellation policy, my code of ethics (BACP) and fees. At the point that this is signed, everything you say is then bound by the terms of confidentiality (as set out in the contract).
At the first session it is likely that you will want to talk about your reasons for seeking counselling at this time and identify some goals in order that these can be kept front of mind for your sessions going forward.
For couples, the format is rather different. You will have completed the Couples Questionnaire and that will form part of the first session.
Q. How long does counselling typically last?
A. For some clients, having weekly counselling or therapy is part of their routine for anything from a year to several years, as they undertake to evaluate the framework of their life. For others, counselling is potentially anything from 12 weeks to six to eight months to focus in on a particular issue or transition.
For couples, the sessions are typically time-limited (around 8/10 sessions) with a structure that usually includes: two or three sessions together, followed by individual sessions each and another two or three sessions together.
The dynamic coaching sessions can be just a one-off primer for i.e. an event (interview/discussion prep) or a few sessions only.
I regularly review how therapy is going with my clients. A client might wish to add a new goal or investigate an emerging issue in greater depth. When an ending is in sight, it is recommended that this be fully acknowledged and a session or two focussed specifically on this.
Q. What information about me is shared - are the sessions confidential?
A. It's very important that you feel safe in your sessions. Yes, all sessions are confidential. There are some exceptions to confidentiality (as per the BACP Ethical Framework: https://www.bacp.co.uk/events-and-resources/ethics-and-standards/ethical-framework-for-the-counselling-professions/) including ‘harm to self or others’ or by order of a court. The 'Terms/Contract' document will be sent to you in advance of your first session for you to read and this outlines more about confidentiality, cancellation and Code of Ethics.
Q. How are the coaching sessions different to counselling sessions?
A. Here’s the BACP definition of how coaching differs to counselling:
‘Coaching builds on the clients existing strengths to develop their potential, and/or understanding of themselves, their beliefs, behaviours and actions. For BACP therapists who coach, their practice may incorporate elements of counselling and coaching, with an emphasis on the clients broader life, future and goals.’
In very broad terms, counselling works on a deeper, more emotional level whereas coaching looks to apply behaviourial change (likely without the references to personal history/past/family etc.,).
I work in a way that is best suited to each individual and tailored to what they want to achieve. Certainly I will use my coaching skills from time to time in a counselling session and also draw on NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and TA (transactional analysis) too.
Q. Do you have a cancellation policy?
A. Yes, like many therapists, I have a cancellation policy, which in my case is 48 hours. You can cancel or change an appointment with no charge as long as you give me a minimum of 48 hours notice (otherwise the session fee is payable). I adhere strictly to the cancellation policy, with the exception of a personal tragedy.