How I Work with You
Initial Assessment Session
The first session lasts for one hour, it is time for both of us to get to know one another a little and decide whether counselling is right in your individual circumstance. I may ask you some history of your symptoms or the issue and you can share what is going on for you and ask me any questions you may have. The decision to go ahead with counselling is made between us based on this session but of course ultimately it is your decision as to whether you come and for how long. You can book the next appointment within this session or take time to consider it.
If after the initial assessment session you decide to come for counselling with me then we may most likely agree to meet for one hour weekly but only for as long as you feel it is helpful.
You may choose to meet with me for anything from a single session to brief therapy (usually up to six sessions) or you may decide to come for more open ended or longer term work depending on your individual circumstances and needs.
For consistency the session would ideally be at the same time each week but I can offer flexibility on frequency and times especially for those working irregular shift patterns. Counselling does work best with regular appointments that enable us to focus on the goals you set at the start.
This is your hour and the topic is you and any issues that you choose to bring. You do not need to discuss anything that you do not want to but equally you can also discuss very personal and private issues in confidence and safety. My role in the counselling relationship will vary client to client dependent on individual circumstance, presenting issue and need.
The above is a very brief nutshell of what happens. For those that would like some more specific understanding of what occurs in counselling here are just some of the ways I may work with you:
I appreciate for some people coming to the first session can feel scary so in the initial session I will offer a warm welcome to hopefully help you to feel at ease. I will also share with you the boundaries of our counselling relationship such as confidentiality, session times and expectations etc and so by doing this we can create a safe space for you to bring whatever you need to discuss.
Time to focus on yourself may be limited. Or it may be spent negatively, feeling anxious or catastrophising problems. You might even avoid being alone to avoid thinking about things. Counselling is a place where you can bring issues and begin to proactively address them and perhaps in doing so start a process of positive change.
Listening may not initially sound that earth shattering but if you have ever had someone not listen you may remember how frustrating, irritating, and even quite hurtful that can feel. During the talking process I will be listening very carefully to what you are telling me. This won't be just the words you speak but I will also notice the way in which you tell me, your body language, your emotions, and I may even notice the things you avoid or don't say. I will listen carefully. Attentively. With curiosity and genuine interest. For some people this is therapy enough.
My role is not to judge you or tell you how to live your life but to work with you to understand your self, emotions, behaviours and the situations you find yourself faced with so that you may feel more able to cope or make changes.
The process within counselling is not the same as an everyday conversation. It is more focused on you specifically. I may check out with you what I am hearing and you can tell me if I am 'hearing' it right or really accurately 'getting' you. This process helps me to understand you and helps you to really understand yourself or your issues at a deeper level. When I attempt to accurately and honestly reflect back how I experience you or reflect how I hear what you have said this acts as a kind of mirror to the self that can bring new insight and self awareness.
Empathy is very different to sympathy. I genuinely value and care about the people I come to know.
That sounds a bit scary! Basically it means talking about talking.. If relationships or communication is an issue we may look more in depth at our relationship in the room as that is a great way to discover what may be causing difficulty outside the therapy room. We may look at the deeper layers of meaning in our conversation. For a myriad of reasons human beings often say one thing but in fact mean another and this can lead to misunderstandings and frustration. Exploration of how we communicate can lead to new insight and greater understanding.
Sometimes words alone are not enough or do not adequately express how we feel. You may prefer to communicate in other ways. I welcome creative approaches of expression and communication. During sessions or in between, you might choose to bring in or create some artwork that you have done or that inspires you, you may share your own or others poetry, share song lyrics or engage with me in shell work. I am open to working in whatever way is meaningful to you or best expresses you and your thoughts and feelings. These things are not expected or thrust upon you as not everyone enjoys this kind of communication but it would usually happen naturally as and when you want to.
As children or adults, we may learn to suppress our needs or hide unwanted or painful emotions in order to adapt to certain situations or relationships, Maybe this has been happening for so long that you don't even realise it. Some people feel they have only ever lived to serve others or have never even wondered what they wanted or needed as it has felt selfish, or maybe they have always known but still never achieved it.
Some people avoid difficult emotions. In counselling we can discover how we really feel about a situation. Am I really in love with her? Why am I sad about this when I thought I didn't care? Why am I so angry about this? Why can't I feel? Within counselling I would encourage you to perhaps stay with any vague or confusing emotions to enable you to understand what you are really feeling. I aim to help you look at the sometimes complicated layers of feelings. For example anger may be most obvious and present as a 'top layer'. It may be all that others or even yourself sees but in a deeper exploration we may find there could be sadness or even fear hidden underneath. By understanding ourselves better we have more choices and power to deal with it.
Sometimes it can feel that nobody seems to understand us and that can cause frustration and isolation. We all have a unique way of seeing and experiencing the world and I will be ensuring we take time to really understand your personal perspective.
This approach comes from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and whilst this is not my core approach there are certainly some tools from CBT that I find can be useful and especially for those that suffer panic or anxiety.
Ancient Philosopher Epictetus taught that 'Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them'. I feel he had a good point because as you might have experienced we can view a single event with others present but all have a different take on it. Our view will be coloured by what the event means to us. A friend crossing a street as we approach could signal to one person that the friend does not like you. To another person it may signal that the friend is angry. To another that the friend is sad and distracted. Each different interpretation of that one event leads to a completely different feeling. The premise of CBT therefore is that if we simply think differently we might feel differently.
Many people are quite unaware that they may have developed unhelpful or rigid ways of thinking that are contributing to unhappiness. I don't subscribe to the idea that we should all be positive thinkers as this to me feels false and unrealistic but some realistic thinking can be more attainable and help give us perspective enabling us to feel better. Patterns of thinking - such as 'negative thinking', 'catastrophising', 'making assumptions', 'jumping to conclusions' or 'black and white thinking' to name a few cognitive terms - are not likely to be helping you to feel good about yourself, others or the world. We don't just notice them however, we can look at where they have come from and how we can perhaps make steps to change them.
All counsellors are reluctant to give advice. Me too. I am not an expert on life and I really value your own judgement and autonomy on what is best for you however if there is anything I have learnt along the way of my training that I feel is relevant or I feel could help you to be aware of then I am glad to share it with you. This may or may not feel helpful but I trust that like any other conversation in life, you can take what helps or makes sense to you in your situation, and leave the rest far behind!
In general you will find that I am caring and supportive of you in the relationship when that is most needed and especially during times of loss. The counselling process also may challenging however and it can at times feel quite hard work. As you reflect on your self or certain situations causing you difficulty you can expect at times for it to feel quite a challenge.
I offer you an empathic, non judgmental, supportive and engaging two way process where we are working together on your issues at a pace that is right for you. The new insight that arises from this work often brings about a process of change. Some clients experience a reduction of their original symptoms, new acceptance of self or a situation.
You will find that I personally work in a very engaged and relational way and I am happy for you to give me feedback about the process at any time and I am happy to answer any questions you may have as honestly as I can.
I am passionate about the people I work with and my aim is always to help you get what you need from therapy. You will not find me a traditionally aloof therapist or entirely neutral because I care deeply about the people I work with and this usually shows.
Feedback received from clients and colleagues suggest that I am not only found to be a professional practitioner but I am also warm, kind and empathic. I hope these qualities will help you to feel at ease, safe and supported, during what is perhaps a difficult time in your life.