Frequently Asked Questions.
What is the first session like?
If you have decided to try counselling, the idea of a first session can leave some feeling a little worried. Taking that first step to get help and address what you are facing can take a lot of courage and should not be made light of. Hopefully knowing what to expect can prepare you a little for that initial session.
This preliminary session is often me asking questions and exploring your experiences so that I can get an idea of what you may be struggling with. It can help build a picture of the way in which you see yourself and the world around you. I will usually ask questions about what made you decide to come to counselling and what you believe counselling can do for you. I will also ask about your day to day life and a bit about your personal history, this is all part of building up a picture of who you are as an individual.
If you feel as though you would like to continue counselling with me we will discuss the practical aspects such as dates and times to meet, confidentiality and how and when to contact me outside of counselling sessions and then, perhaps, agree on some initial goals for our sessions.
If, after this first session, you decide that you do not feel as though counselling is for you then that is completely fine. Likewise, if you feel you would like to continue counselling but would like to see a different counsellor I can give you some names of other counsellors or refer you onto a specialist service. There are no obligations.
What happens in counselling sessions?
We talk. Well actually, you talk. You can bring any issue which is worrying you, something that has developed since we last spoke or your reaction to some thinking or action which has affected you in some way. I have no preconceived ideas about you because I don’t know you in any other context than the counselling room. I hope that you will feel safe in the space which I offer so that you can say whatever it is which needs to be said knowing there will be no judgement. Then, together, we can explore your reactions, feelings and what is troubling you before moving towards helping you to continue forward in your life.
Sometimes, we will discuss upsetting emotions and painful memories. Bringing these up can be difficult to start with and can sometimes make you feel worse initially, but it’s important to remember that everything we’re doing is designed to help you in the long run, even if at the beginning it doesn’t feel like it.
Counselling isn’t a quick fix and, sadly, I don’t have a magic wand which I wave that will make everything better. I also won’t tell you what to do to make everything right in your world because counselling is a journey of exploration which we go on together, making discoveries as we go along.
How does counselling help?
The way counselling can help completely depends on you. For many, the fact that counselling offers a safe and confidential environment to speak is all it takes. Outside in daily life, what we say to others can sometimes affect relationships and the way people see each other. Counselling eliminates this problem and offers you the space and freedom to explore your own thoughts with an unbiased party.
While I may not give you concrete advice or a checklist of things to make everything feel better, what I will do is help you discover your own insight and understanding of problems and then, hopefully, provide you with the tools which will help you to resolve them on your own.
Counselling can help you understand yourself and the way you think in a more thorough way, which will ultimately help you develop a clearer understanding of issues you may face. The more that you understand yourself, the easier it gradually becomes to find your way through difficulties so that you can come out the other side. Counselling can also help you understand other people’s point of view, shedding light onto the way you interpret words or actions which you feel have been directed at you.
How long do I have to see you?
Essentially it is completely up to you. Counselling is a journey, and it takes time and consistency to work effectively.
Short-term counselling is usually 10-15 sessions and will tend to tackle one specific problem. Long term or open-ended work is suggested if there are a number of issues which seem to be interlinked.
I do, however, encourage individuals to start with a minimum of 10 sessions as then we have time to get to know one another, build an understanding of how you experience yourself and the world around you as well as a chance to explore the challenges you are facing.
In the case of longer term work we will regularly review the work we have done together and will, together, discuss an agreed ending date when you begin to feel as though you would like to move on from counselling.
You are more than welcome to come back again if later down the line you feel as though you could benefit from further counselling support.
How confidential is confidential?
What you bring to counselling is often very personal and close to your heart and therefore it can be a worry to think that other people will find out about things you have said in the counselling room. I hope to reassure you with regards to this, and if you have any questions please feel free to ask when we meet.
All records are kept in locked storage. For my own files, you will have a reference code which is kept separate from your personal details. In all note taking I will only use your initials or reference code so as to keep your details confidential.
As part of being a counsellor I have regular supervision. This is to make sure that I am doing my job right and keeping to the guidelines and standards which I am bound to as a qualified counsellor. Part of supervision is that I may share a general overview of what you bring to counselling however only your initials or first name will be used, and this is simply so that my supervisor can ensure that I am working in the best way possible to support you.
If any outside bodies (such as police, doctors or social workers) request to see your records I will always speak to you first and discuss the situation as fully with you as I am able. Likewise if you speak of something in a session which I feel is of concern (i.e. putting yourself or others in danger) I will speak about this with you first and explore options of how best to move forward safely.