What’s it like to be in counselling?
A counselling session is typically once a week, at the same time and place, and lasts 50 minutes.
Counselling is face to face in an ordinary, private room with two chairs. It is a conversation, but somewhat different from a social one. You do most of the talking, although in humanistic counselling the counsellor is not silent! You explore something that is happening or has happened in your life, or feelings you have about your life, that you want to understand better and maybe connect with past experiences or future intentions. The counsellor’s job is to help this process, to make it safe to explore difficult issues, to explore the feelings associated with the story that allow their underlying meaning to be understood, to use psychological mindedness to help with understanding.
Sometimes this results in a change in your perception of the event and therefore a change in the way you live your life. Sometimes it just puts past events into perspective. And sometimes it uncovers a well of unprocessed feelings that just need to be expressed. A counsellor is expecting any of these and is trained to deal with any response.
The counselling relationship feels personal. However, it is not a personal relationship in the usual sense but stays within professional boundaries. It is the counsellor’s responsibility to ensure that. This therapeutic relationship is part of the therapeutic process, it is safe and bounded by professional conduct guidelines.
Is counselling confidential?
Everything you discuss with me is confidential. Your identity is also confidential. I do not share information with anyone.
However, bear in mind that I discuss my work with a supervisor. This is done without identifying details to protect your confidentiality.
There are very rare exceptions which can override confidentiality, specifically a stated intention to harm or kill yourself or someone else. A court of law can also demand to see notes but only under a subpoena and only if relevant. In such cases these issues would be discussed with you wherever possible. These exceptions are extremely rare and I think largely common sense.
What is supervision?
Supervision in counselling is a form of professional consultation with another experienced therapist in which my work is discussed. It is often referred to as ‘clinical supervision’ to make clear that this is not the same as line-management supervision.
The reason for having clinical supervision is that counselling can be complex and involved, and it is recognised that one person, no matter how experienced and well trained, cannot always see everything. Supervision is used to understand the therapeutic work better.
For this reason, counsellors are expected to be in clinical supervision for all of their work.
The supervisor is bound by the same rules of confidentiality as I am and never gets to know your identity.
What if you are not happy with the me as a counsellor?
It depends on what you don’t like. If it’s because you are finding it painful, we can talk about this, it is a part of the process and sometimes a necessary part.
However, if you think that I’m not suitable or compatible with you, then say so. I won’t take it personally. It is important that you find someone you are comfortable with and I will always prioritise that. If you like I can give you some advice on finding someone else.
How can you be sure I am legitimate?
I am registered with the UKCP National Register of Psychotherapeutic Counsellors.
What does it mean to be Qualified? What about Accredited?
The terms “Qualified” and “Accredited” relate to the level of training and experience a therapist has achieved. The training path for a counsellor is usually in two stages – qualification first and then accreditation some years later.
A counsellor is Qualified if they have completed and passed a training that includes psychological theory, counselling practice and personal therapy. This usually results in a Post-Graduate Diploma. The standards for qualification are set by the training body, typically a college of further or higher education.
A counsellor is Accredited if they have then practised for several years and have met the criteria for duration of practise and supervision cover laid down by their professional body. There is then an examination process that the counsellor must pass to become Accredited. The standards for accreditation are set by the therapist’s professional body.
In my case, I trained at Eastleigh College in Hampshire and qualified with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Counselling in January 2006. I then accumulated experience over three years. In October 2009 I gained Accreditation from BACP. I have since become a member of UKCP since it better suits my practice. To do so, I went through the accreditation examination process again, gaining my Accreditation in November 2013.
What does it mean to be Registered?
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) is a government organisation which oversees the public safety aspects of a number of health-related professions. The PSA sets the standards for Codes of Ethics and Complaints Procedures within these professions.
Registration is voluntary. By registering, a counsellor is making a public declaration that they will abide by the Code of Ethics of their professional body and will be held accountable through their Complaints Procedure.
Registration is solely about public safety through accountability to a professional body, it has nothing to do with educational standards which are covered instead by Accreditation (see above).
I am Registered with the UKCP as a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor and am therefore accountable through the UKCP’s Complaints Procedure.
Will I see you straight away?
I will see you as soon as possible. I aim to do this within a week of first contact.
How can you get counselling for a member of your family or a friend?
You can’t. A person cannot be ‘sent’ for counselling. They must wish to use the service and make the approach themselves. By all means give them my details but please encourage a direct approach by the person who needs the help.