Having looked through my website you may have come to the conclusion I’m not the counsellor for you: maybe I don't specialise in the sort of counselling you feel you need or maybe you just do not like the feel of the site and the picture it paints ... well that is actually a positive and encouraging start and I am pleased you have been able to make it! I believe the most important factor in counselling is finding a counsellor YOU feel you can work with ... a counsellor may come highly recommended, have many qualifications and a wealth of experience but if it doesn't feel right to you, it's going to be hard to make it work! BUT If you have felt reassured looking through my site let’s explore a little more about the options we have and how in practice we might work together ...
How do we start (our first session)?
Well in face to face counselling or live Internet counselling our first session together will be predominantly an ‘assessment session’, it will be a chance for us to find out a little more about, what brings you to counselling and how we might work together.
After a first session many people leave on a ‘high’ ... possibly for the first time ever they have found someone to talk to and share what has been on their mind for a long time ... but be warned that might not be the case in future sessions: we are going to cover areas and issues that trouble you .. possibly things you have denied or that have been ‘buried’, this can be painful, so there may be times you leave a session on a ‘low’, but we are looking for an overall change over our complete block of sessions not necessarily individual ones. .. so don't worry.
It’s often the case that the issue people initially ‘present’ with turns out not to be the issue that really needs addressing ... it can sometimes take a while for this to surface.
How long is a session?
Many Counsellors state 50 or 60 minutes, I prefer to say that our sessions will be between 55 and 65 minutes (at my discretion) with the aim of achieving a 60 minute average. While it is important to have strong boundaries in counselling, I believe they need to be realistic boundaries and to attempt to finish at a precise time can often mean ‘clock watching’ as the session draws to a close and that can be an unnecessary distraction for one of us or both of us.
How often will we meet?
Ideally and usually once a week, this gives time to reflect and digest what may have come up in a session. It’s good if we can find a regular time slot each week, but obviously for some people changing shifts etc. may not permit this, so we will just do the best we can.
How many sessions will we meet for?
This is a very common question asked by most clients new to counselling and there is no short answer. I would prefer us to work ‘open ended’ if possible: that is to say with no fixed number of sessions, simply monitoring our progress as we go. However this is not always possible, perhaps your employer or insurance is paying for the counselling and they will only allow a set number of sessions or perhaps your own budget is limited: in these cases we will work to best advantage with the time we have.
What will we achieve in a session?
This may vary greatly, some sessions will appear pivotal while in others we will appear to achieve very little ... if it was easy to recognise and address the issues that bring us to counselling we wouldn’t need it! Perhaps one thing we will be looking for is a ‘light bulb’ moment, that moment when you are recalling an event or aspect of your life and suddenly go ‘ah’ and see it in a different light.
Do I need to do anything between sessions?
Between sessions most people will reflect, so although in humanistic counselling there is no set task between sessions you will often find that you are working things through from the previous session. With a CBT approach there will often be set tasks to complete
How will we end?
In person centred counselling, if the relationship is good both the client and counsellor should simultaneously start to sense when the time is right to end. Hopefully the ending will be talked about and planned before it happens and as a counsellor I would be looking to avoid an abrupt ending ... but ultimately the choice is yours to make and there will certainly be no contractual obligation to continue longer than you wish. Together, we will periodically review our progress and assess whether we think the sessions are beneficial.
What happens if I’m late or need to cancel?
Not a lot! Everyone has unexpected events in their life (such as illness or work commitments) and has the need to cancel appointments occasionally ... although it is desirable to have as much warning as possible! ‘Do I have to pay if I cancel’ ... No! (but not all counsellors will agree with this). If we have a good working relationship you will be as disappointed as I will be about the cancellation and will be back the following week (or as soon as we can re-arrange it).
If you’re late we will attempt to make the time up if possible (again other counsellors may not agree with this), but this will be at my discretion, I may have another client booked in after you and I may need time to prepare for that client
Everyone can run late everyone can need to cancel (it’s the world we live in) ... BUT what I will be aware of and assessing is whether it is part of your process? ... is there something making you feel the need to cancel or be late ... It may well become something we address as part of the counselling!
Email counselling actually works much the same way ... although you can obviously spend as long as you wish composing you email to me, I will spend a total of one hour reading your email and composing mine to you. We will have time boundaries (for returning emails), ending sessions, emails that seem pivotal and emails that seem less so ...
Traditional Face to Face counselling, is how most counselling in the UK is carried out, you book an appointment, you travel to the counsellor, you have a one hour session and usually repeat the process at weekly intervals until the counselling comes to an end
It’s a tried and tested method that has produced ‘good results’ since professional counselling came into existence.
You are sitting in front of your counsellor, the counsellor can see you facial expressions and other non-verbal communications and you can see theirs. You are present at the same time and can work on the ‘here and now feelings’ that are in the room. Your counsellor can be aware of the impact the session is having on you and can offer you immediate support if it is becoming to distressing for you (and will often be available in an emergency situation). It lends itself well to most ‘approaches’ to counselling. It is what most people expect counselling to be and what most people are comfortable with.
It’s comparatively time consuming, as well as your ‘hour’ you have to travel there and back. Unless you are able to find a counsellor free in the evenings it can mean time off work, which is not only a hidden extra cost, it means explaining why you are not at work (something many people would prefer not to have to do). It will be necessary to book a fixed appointment and this may not always be easy to accommodate in your life style.
Face to face counselling and live Internet counselling are ‘synchronous’ methods, the client and counsellor are ‘present’ and working at the same time.
Email counselling on the other hand is an asynchronous form of communication; we do not have to work at the same time. It has both disadvantages, and advantages. Personally I think it is a great way to work and I like it! Please do not think it is an inferior method to the other two, it is just a different style of working and one that suits a great many people. People often choice to send a text messages (asynchronous) as opposed to calling a person on the phone (synchronous), not only for convenience but because they feel more comfortable doing so, likewise many people feel more comfortable with email counselling.
There is no traditional ‘none verbal communication’, we can’t look each other in the eye (or advert our gaze), we cannot hear the tone of each other’s voice or see our facial expressions, often as important as what we actually say! We perhaps lose some of the ‘here and now’, the immediate emotion that face to face sessions can generate. Although I believe we quickly learn to put ‘TONE’ and conveying plenty of feelings :-) in our emails.
Although we may lose some of the immediacy and the spontaneity, of an hour together it does not matter if you have an ‘off’ hour where you do not really want to talk or can’t put over what you really want to say or perhaps your mind is temporarily somewhere else (may be something happened that morning that is not really part of the issue but needs your immediate concentration) but you have to try because that is the hour you have booked! In email counselling you will be encouraged (once it has started) to take your time, possible re-read your email a few times and pause for a while before sending it (it will also be 2/3 days before you receive my reply) this gives you the opportunity to say what you really want to say.
You will be able to save our emails (and print them off) re-read them at your leisure, and look back at them in the future something many people find useful.
There is no waiting to book a session and trying to find a time slot we can both make, you can go to the appropriate page on this site and begin composing your first email to me within about 10 minutes …
Many people worry that their spelling and grammar will not be good enough to express themselves in email counselling ... this is rarely the case. In fact you will find we do not necessarily stick to conventional grammar rules ... we will often add extra spaces for affect ... we will often miss a line to signify a pause...
and we may insert emoticons :-) to express how we are feeling or we may use ‘emotional brackets’ to tell the other how we are actually feeling as we are writing.
The ‘Dis-inhibition Effect’ ... people often feel more secure and comfortable talking via email and tend to open up sooner about what is really on their mind and this is usually a great advantage, but I have mentioned it separately as we have to be aware that it is not always for the best to move to quickly
So why is the cost set at £35? You will often see email counselling offered quite cheaply (cheaper than me!) ... I question this and wonder why? If email counselling is done properly then it is just as time consuming and just as intense for the counsellor (and client) as face to face counselling ... If not more so. You have several days to contemplate and write what you want to say to me ... you are ‘buying’ one hour of my time (just like face to face counselling), in that hour I will read and digest what you say to me, and I will write my reply (there is no cutting and pasting of standard replies), provided you give me enough to work with I will be working just as intensely as if you were sitting next to me. The advantage email counselling does give me as a counsellor is flexibility, I can choice when I work on your email (although once I start I will work on it for a solid hour not 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there .. that doesn’t work!) so If a new face to face client wants an appointment I can be more accommodating with the time slots I can offer ... therefore the flexibility it gives me deserves a discount over face to face counselling (£40 per session) ... what it does not deserve is a drastic reduction on a counsellors rates if this happens surely we should be asking the question why?
Live Online counselling is comparatively new (most early online counselling was email-counselling). Like traditional counselling it is synchronous, both the counsellor and client work together at the same time: it can be a very flexible platform.
Advantages: There is no physical travelling to do, which saves both time and money. As there is no physical travelling to do it is suitable for those with limited transport, living in remote locations or with disabilities which make travel difficult. It is often easier to arrange at short notice.
As well as using webcams for a visual online experience it is possible to use just the ‘sound’ of a connection (in effect telephone counselling) for those that want to work synchronously but prefer / feel more comfortable not being seen (with the option of adding vision as the counselling progresses if so desired)
Disadvantages: The main disadvantages are technical ones. It is necessary to have the equipment and a connection good enough to give a good quality reliable connection for a full hour. A few years back this was a problem but is becoming less of a problem with time (and something we can test for before committing to proceed). Many computers are shared and in communal rooms so the client will need to ensure they can be free from interruptions and not over heard at their end.
If you have a PC with windows we can use Skype. If you have a Mac we can use either Skype or FaceTime. In the near future I hope to be able to offer an embedded counselling room direct from the website that will require no software.