Counselling or Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy and counselling are both 'talking therapies' and in practice they're similar and often overlap.
Counselling is more often thought of in relation to time limited work. This means meeting for an agreed number of weekly counselling sessions (between 6-12). It tends to focus on immediate and specific concerns (e.g. reducing work-related anxiety levels) that are troubling your life now. Counselling can help you gain more clarity about a particular issue, identify realistic options, express your feelings and gain a better understanding of what you want moving forward. The number of sessions you need depends on the type of problems you bring. Some people find a short sequence of sessions sufficient but others may need a longer time to explore their issues in more depth.
Psychotherapy is longer term work and is open-ended as opposed to time limited and, again, sessions are arranged weekly.
In psychotherapy we explore your present and past experiences in more depth and detail. Thinking about and reflecting on your life history brings greater self-awareness, clarity and self-understanding. It can bring you insights into how your past may be impacting your life, behaviour and relationships in the present. For example, if you find yourself caught in a repetitive pattern of thinking or behaviour that you seem to have no control over (e.g. over-thinking, self criticism, difficulty trusting others) then the roots of this could lie in childhood experiences. Understanding yourself and your history better provides an opportunity to change unhelpful old patterns that are restricting your life and creativity now.
My training was as a psychotherapist so I tend to work more in depth, on an open-ended basis. However, I also offer focused, time-limited counselling.
Attending on a regular, weekly basis is essential for both counselling and psychotherapy as each session builds on the previous weeks.
What happens in the first session?
It may seem a bit daunting coming for psychotherapy or counselling for the first time and it may feel strange to talk about personal experiences to someone who is unknown to you. This is why it is important to find the 'right' therapist for you as an individual. This basically means they need to be someone you feel at ease with, able to trust and talk to freely. A good relationship between us is key to the effectiveness of counselling or psychotherapy.
In the first meeting our main task is to discuss and think about your concerns together and find out if the way I work is going to be helpful and meaningful to you; whether you feel at ease with me and we are able to engage with working together. We also talk about whether you are thinking of coming for short term counselling or more longer term psychotherapy. Often it doesn't become clear which is more appropriate until we have seen each other a few times. However, there's no obligation to continue after the first session if you decide not to.
If you decide to continue with counselling or psychotherapy after the initial session then we arrange to meet weekly at the same regular time. I offer both short and long term work - the decision lies with you how long you wish to come for and what you want to focus on in our work together.