Some frequently asked questions:
What is counselling?
Counselling is what is commonly known as a “Talking Therapy” where you, the client(s), meet the counsellor to examine your difficulties and to talk through the possible avenues of resolution. This may include looking at past life events and how they influence your way of dealing with life issues here in the present. Not all therapy requires this approach however; some are more direct dealing with “the here and now” and are very solution-focussed. As a counsellor I am trained to listen to your problems in a confidential and non-judgmental way and to help you to look at your problem from a different perspective. However, a counsellor cannot provide instant, ready-made answers; you the client, must find the right solution yourself. The careful listening attention and support of a trained counsellor can help you discover a way through the apparently impossible problem-maze and the difficult days. Counselling can be emotionally draining and painful, but it can also be liberating and joyful. Each journey is unique and I will be there to walk it with you and provide the support that you require.
How do I/we know if you are the right counsellor for me/us?
The most direct answer to this question is that in the initial stages of therapy you don’t know if I, or any other counsellor for that matter, will be the right one for you. Please feel free to contact me by phone or email if you wish to discuss your immediate concerns. Then if you feel comfortable we can arrange for a first assessment session. This is primarily a question and answer session during which I listen to your difficulties and take some initial history. We can discuss a possible agenda which you feel would be a way forward. You are then able to decide if you feel comfortable working with me. You are under no obligations to return and remain in therapy with me. At the same time I also have the opportunity to consider whether I can work with you or whether I feel it would be appropriate to refer you to another therapist who may be better-suited to helping you with your particular problem.
How long will counselling take?
As with choosing a counsellor there is no single answer to this question. It is something which we can discuss during the initial assessment session. The duration of therapy can be time-limited to a few sessions or open-ended and continue for as long as you find it beneficial. I generally recommend at least 6 sessions, after which we can review progress, discuss how you feel about the value of therapy and consider whether you wish to continue. You will know when you feel that therapy has come to a conclusion. At times you may also realise that this is not the time to undertake therapy and you no longer feel it is appropriate to come. What is important for you to understand, as the client, is that it is your choice at all times whether to continue or to stop therapy.
What is psychosexual therapy?
Psychosexual therapy is a specialist field of counselling which required me to undertake a further two years’ specialist training, following qualification as a general counsellor. This is still a ‘talking therapy’ which examines the psychological issues surrounding sexual performance, intimacy and sexuality. Part of the therapeutic process will explore the personal, medical and physical history which may be impacting on your life. Issues such as past abuse, confusion over sexual or gender identity, sex addiction and the use of fetishes can all be examined in this was way and the impact on life choices better understood. As a therapist I am unable to treat physical problems and these may need to be investigated, and treated, by an appropriate medical practitioner, either prior to counselling or in parallel with the counselling process. Medication prescribed by your doctor can also influence sexual performance and feelings. As a specialist therapist I am aware of these difficulties and can help you come to terms with the side effects or, with your approval, write to your G.P. asking for an alternative to be considered if possible. Once the medical causes have been eliminated or resolved the psychological causes can be worked with in therapy. Common problems include (but are not limited to): low desire, painful intercourse and erectile dysfunctions. Please be assured that, although you may feel embarrassed talking about your sexual and intimate problems, I will listen in a non-judgemental way and will do my best to help you work through these difficult times. I can also assure you that you are not alone when facing these difficulties – they are quite common but people naturally do not like to talk openly about their personal lives.
What is relationship/couples counselling?
All relationships face difficulty at some time. As with all therapies I practise, this is a talking therapy where the difficulties being faced by one or both people in a relationship can be examined and expressed in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space. Poor communication resulting from high emotional involvement or distress is a major element in relationship difficulties and learning to communicate fully with each other forms a major part of the process of resolution. Couples therapy requires commitment from both parties: if one is reticent to attend then the therapy will struggle and may not be effective. In this case it is best to try to find out what is causing the concerns about attending as a couple. I would be happy to speak with either party individually to alleviate any concerns and to then let you decide whether or not to attend together.
It is understood that in some cases the relationship is in crisis and therapy is seen as a final attempt to save it. As a couples therapist I will not work to encourage that you stay together. Any decisions to stay together or to part are made jointly by the couple. In some cases the therapy may be more useful in assisting an amicable parting of the ways. This is quite acceptable and forms part of the therapeutic process which I have been trained to facilitate.
I think I may be gay / transgender – can you cure me?
“No I can’t”, is the simple answer to this question. Any attempt to ‘cure’ such a condition is called reparative or conversion therapy and, as a member of both BACP and COSRT, it would be unethical for me, or for any therapist, to approach a therapeutic relationship in this way. What I am able to offer is a safe and non-judgemental space for you to examine your own innermost thoughts and feelings to enable you to come to an informed decision about who you actually are. Using this as a foundation we can then work toward a better understanding about how you wish to live your life.