About Counselling and Psychotherapy
There isn't currently a clearly agreed distinction between counselling and psychotherapy, and in practice there is often a considerable overlap between the two.
In very general terms, counselling is usually most appropriate when dealing with a specific, temporary issue or set of circumstances. Psychotherapy more often explores deeply rooted, long standing or repetitive patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving and relating to others - your 'way of being' in the world, and your sense of who you are.
Regardless of whether you come for counselling or psychotherapy, my approach is to begin by exploring in detail how the problem affects you in the here and now. My aim is always to raise your awareness - of yourself, and of your unique circumstances and resources - to enhance your capacity for making choices and living your life in a way which is satisfying and fulfilling for you.
I usually suggest that clients come for an initial appointment to 'test the water', to get a better sense of what therapy involves, and for us both to get a sense of whether it might be helpful for you. If you decide to continue, we might agree to work for a specified number of sessions, or on an open-ended basis, or to review your progress after a few sessions and decide whether it seems beneficial to continue longer term. What is important is to commit to coming regularly - usually weekly - as the consistency and regularity of sessions helps to make difficult feelings more manageable.
There isn't a simple answer to “How long does therapy take?”, as everyone's needs and responses are different. Very occasionally a single session can be enough for someone to clarify their thoughts, feelings & priorities, although this is unusual. Sometimes clients gain enough sense of support or clarity, and feel better able to manage themselves and their situation, after a few sessions. Sometimes therapy may last a few years; or someone may return from time to time as their needs or circumstances change. Every client is different, and the same person may need different things at different times in their life.
Usually anything you tell me in therapy sessions is confidential, but there are a number of important exceptions to this and circumstances under which I might need to break confidentiality & share information. These are:
If I think there might be a serious risk of harm to you, or anyone else, including you seriously harming yourself.
If there is information about risk to children or vulnerable adults.
If you give consent for me to share information.
If there is a legal reason that I have to break confidentiality.
In cases where I might feel the need to break confidentiality, I would usually discuss my concerns with you, agree between us the best way forward, and act with your knowledge & consent. In an emergency however I may need to act without prior discussion or consent.
Counselling and psychotherapy are gradual processes entailing regular appointments over a period of time, and I don't offer 'same day' appointments, or a crisis service. If you feel you need immediate help, or that you can't keep yourself safe, please contact your GP's surgery, or A & E.