Q. How many counselling sessions do I need?
A. It depends. Some people find adequate peace of mind after a couple of months of sessions with a counsellor, others have a lot of things to share and need longer. Some people come regularly at first and and then come back for a session every now and then. Others may work with a counsellor for a year or more.
A big factor in therapeutic change is the open and trusting relationship you have with your counsellor, and your own sense of what you want to achieve. That can take a few sessions to establish. Everyone is different.
Six sessions is generally accepted to be a minimum space for any kind of therapeutic work. It is because longer is often required that I offer some discount for mid term and long term work.
Q. How long are sessions and are they regular? Can I park nearby?
A. There is free parking. Each session is 50 minutes, they are regular. It is accepted practice that once weekly is ideal. Some organisations will not accept fortnightly patterns. I suggest weekly for the first 12 weeks with a review after that.
Q. Is counselling completely confidential?
A. Yes. It is completely confidential. I am bound by a professional code of ethics and I will never tell anyone what you tell me, apart from my supervisor who is also bound by these ethics. All counsellors have to have supervisors.
Nobody knows you are having counselling and there are no notes with your name or any identifying information. I never keep notes unless you ask me to, in which case anonymous (coded) notes will kept in a locked filing cabinet. You can ask to see them any time.
If there is a risk to safety for yourself or anyone else, I will bring this up with you and we can discuss whether anyone else, like a doctor, might need to know.
Q. Do I really need to see a counsellor or therapist? I’ve never had mental health problems. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me, I just feel awful.
A. Counselling and psychotherapy is for anyone who feels they might benefit from talking to a professional therapist about the problems they are facing. Sometimes issues might seem small on the surface but then start to feel overwhelming as they can affect other parts of our lives without us realising it straightaway. We may notice a change in our sleep pattern and/or appetite. We may feel increasing mood swings, or lack energy; perhaps we are finding it difficult to focus at work or around our friends and family. We may feel less pleasure in the things that we have previously enjoyed and start not to feel like ourselves anymore.
These are all early warning signs that tell us something isn’t quite right and it is at this point that we either hope things will start to get better soon or reach out for help.
Early intervention is key to feeling better about ourselves sooner, as often issues escalate into bigger issues without help and support.
Q. Do I need to know anything about counselling or psychology?
A. No. In fact sometimes it’s better if you don’t – then you can stay with your own experience without diverting into theories.
Q. Can you tell me how to fix my problems?
A. I can’t, and wouldn’t tell you how to fix anything. I will help you to find the way to take care of your problems, and help you find your own solutions if that’s what you want to do.
Q. What is mindfulness meditiation?
A. Mindfulness can help to stay in the present, or to come back to the body after a dissociated experience. Basic techniques, if practised often, can help you to relax, ground, and help stay in touch with yourself when you need to, or when you feel threatened. Some meditation can increase your self awareness which can help with counselling.
I can offer simple, non-religious mindfulness meditation techniques that I have learned over the last 25 years. I have received teachings on meditation from Buddhist masters including The Dalai Lama, The Karmapa, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche and others, as well as respected Zen and Theravadin teachers. I don’t teach Buddhist ideas.
Q. What is Skype / webcam counselling?
A. An increasingly popular option for those who can’t make face-to-face counselling sessions is Skype. Skype is a computer program that enables you to video chat in real time (synchronous) over the Internet.
The software itself is free and is easy to download. If your computer doesn’t have a webcam or microphone, you will have to purchase these too, however they are relatively inexpensive.
The benefit of Skype is that you are able to physically see me your counsellor, a factor that people sometimes miss during e-therapy, online-chat or telephone counselling. As with other digital methods, Skype allows you to attend a counselling session from the comfort of your own location anywhere in the world.