Good, professional, ethical counselling should offer you a safe, confidential place where you are not judged or made to feel like a freak or a time-waster.
It should be a place where a counsellor with experience, understanding and empathy can help you untangle and make sense of whatever relentless, chaotic mix of confusing, frightening thoughts and emotions is weighing you down, making you feel depressed, anxious, isolated.
If it feels as though your mind is speeding, your life running out of control – then counselling can give you somewhere to slow down and discover the way to get back on track to a new, more fulfilling way of being.
If – like at least one in four of the population – you experience some kind of mental health problem at some difficult period in your life, your first choice to get help will probably be your GP. And your GP may very well prescribe some kind of medication to dampen down your mental and emotional distress.
Medication can be helpful, but it can be like simply shutting away your trouble-making thoughts and feelings in a crate inside your head – so you can’t hear them. But they are still there – in your head – ready to burst out if life gets too stressful.
The aim of good, professional, ethical counselling is to help you understand where those thoughts and feelings have come from and why they are making your life hard: when you understand them, you take away their power to hurt you – and in the process you become stronger, more resilient, and more able to cope with those times when things don’t go so well.
The therapy that I offer is always tailored to what you want – what seems to be the cause of your unhappiness and how you hope to free yourself from the crushing weight of depression, sadness, anxiety.
So my therapeutic work can involve CBT-style counselling in which you can learn to recognise behaviours and thought processes that are the symptoms of – for instance, low-self esteem; a phobia; an eating disorder; anxiety in relationships – and learn new ways of thinking and behaving to overcome those problems.
This is the kind of counselling that can take place over six or up to 12 sessions – sometimes more – it’s known as “short-term” counselling, and doesn’t usually involve a lengthy in-depth exploration of your life, your experiences since childhood and so on.
However, if you feel that your problems are more complicated, if you feel that they have been building up over a longer time – for instance, feeling that you are in the wrong place in life; relationships with lovers, friends or family don’t work; feeling unhappy with your gender or sexuality; feeling like a failure, an outsider; struggling with anger, depression, addiction, fear; doubts and questions about the purpose of life – then coming to me for longer-term, analytical “talking therapy” may be what will provide the answer for you.
Although this kind of weekly counselling is sometimes called “open-ended”, in my counselling I always works towards a time-frame and an outcome that is defined by you, the client: I check regularly that you are happy with the counselling you are receiving and the direction in which it is progressing – taking every effort to make sure you are getting the maximum value from your commitment to the counselling work.
“Open-ended” counselling is about talking and listening and empathy and new insights – and with my confidential counselling you will not be judged; you will be valued and respected as an individual.
Deciding to have counselling involves a big commitment – both in terms of time and money – and I make an equally serious commitment to making your counselling as helpful as possible for as long as you want it to – to take you where you want to go in re-starting your life.