I'll invite you to have a seat opposite me on the sofa, & maybe you'll pour yourself a glass of water or a hot drink.
I'll summarise what we're going to do during our first session.
Usually this will be:-
There's no problem that's too large to speak about.
I won't be shocked or express disgust (although you might need to take a big bite of courage to discuss some things that are difficult for you; we can always talk around difficult subjects when you're not ready to just dive in).
If I ask a question that you are not prepared to speak about, it's much better to say "I don't want to talk about that today" than make up a generic response. I wont be offended.
Counselling is effective when we both are able to work together. Part of that working-it together, is being able to meet regularly and repetitively.
Once upon a time, counsellees met their therapist on a daily basis (or, sometimes, three times a week). This is still a preferred approach with therapies such as psychoanalysis. Now the basic standard for counselling is weekly sessions .
For an understanding of the psychological rationale underpinning this, read up on the concepts of Containment, Holding and Therapeutic Alliance from authors Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, and Wilfred Bion.
Coming on an adhoc basis to counselling has benefits but proves to be a slow and less effective method of attaining progress.
I don't do psycho-babble, I'll talk to you in plain English and explain some things as we go along.
I believe that people can make use of knowledge, and if they can learn something of what's going on for them then that can be a big relief.
Talking with me can be like talking with a friend whose opinions you might begin to trust; who doesn't just say things like "Don't worry, everything will be OK" just because this might be the easier thing to say. I won't dismiss your concerns.
2. I don't sit in (unnecessary) silence.
Some counsellors sit there saying nothing. Occasionally you get an "Hmmm...".
If you're working away, talking things through, sharing stuff, thinking, then I won't jump in and interrupt you… I'll be listening and learning from you.
But if there's nothing going on, if the "space" in the room is empty, then I think silence from the counsellor can be quite punishing. I will speak, and offer direction and options.
3. I have reliable boundaries.
You need to feel safe during counselling. I wont invite you to a drink in the pub. I will start our session on time (and end it on time, too), being consistent in my behaviour & communications, not putting you in a situation that makes you feel unsafe, being trustworthy and competent, not talking about stuff that I have no training in (e.g. making diagnoses) etc. I ask questions to raise debate, thought, and internal dialogue.
4. It's our relationship that matters.
People come to counselling to talk about stuff out there.
But often that same stuff can begin to appear in here (between you and me).
The stuff between you and I can be a rich source of information and help. This stuff is real and it's happening between you and me! With other people, they may not discuss "here and now" happenings with you. They may prefer to turn a blind-eye. But that's where I'm different to your mates.
So, if it's helpful to us both, we can talk about the stuff that happens inside the room, as well as outside the room.
5. Whilst I'm listening to you, I'm also listening to several other layers of things. I'm listening to between the story, listening to my feelings and my response, I'm paying attention to things around the story, and what's missing from the story.
You see, you're living the with your problem, so your problem gets your full focus. That can mean that you're too close and missing the bigger picture.
By working in this way, I can obtain much more information from your problem that you can, and in turn I can offer you some (partially digested) insight; thoughts that you may have been missing that may be key to your recovery.
6. I believe that you have (or will have) the solutions to your problems.
When you meet with me for the first time, you may be experiencing loss.
Loss of ability to resolve your problem.
But, somewhere within you can be the solution to resolving your problem.
It's my skill to help people discover things that blinker their own solutions, and to widen their blinkers (when appropriate).
You'll leave counselling independent of me (which can be vastly more powerful than a therapist telling you what to do, and you leaving feeling that you have to keep going back for new answers).
As you search the Internet for counsellors, you'll notice lots of women. Many of them in Edinburgh. showing beautiful butterflies, scented candles, and peaceful water scenes.
I'm a guy. I get puzzled by stuff I don't understand.
I work with behaviours, thoughts, as well as feelings!
I work with the really tough stuff (like behaviours that you've had for years and feel helpless to change).
… I'm understanding, helpfully challenging, a kick up the rear end if you need that (some actually ask me for that).
…it seems that many are looking for something distinct; something particular from a male counsellor
CBT - or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - is a type of therapy that assists with you changing your behaviour by looking at how you think about things.
It can be delivered by computer and paper forms, with support from a therapist, it can also be referred to as "low intensity" treatment.
Unfortunately, "CBT" has become a layman's generic word to refer to all sorts of therapies. If you've been told "you should get some CBT," by a friend or family member, they may not understand if CBT would really be helpful for you.
My approach to counselling is to help you and I learn how you came to arrive at your current problems, so that with new knowledge and understanding you'll become empowered to undo your own difficulties. This approach may involve some CBT, but will likely involve more effective approaches.
If you've tried NHS-referred low intensity CBT and found it unhelpful, don't give up. Try Private Counselling, it's real, and I think you will feel human once more.
A bit like a holiday, hotel, train or plane booking, or an intention to rent or buy a house - I am asking for a pre payment.
Counselling requires commitment, both from me and from you together. Counselling is not something we approach casually. This is not like going to the doctor's 10 minute appointment, describing a condition, then receiving a prescription or a referral.
Counselling is a relationship between counsellor and counsellee, in which both will discover how you may begin to resolve your conflicts. Both counsellor and counsellee work together. Unfortunately, the prescriptive assumption may leave some people uncommitted to coming to the first counselling session ( why bother, it's no loss to me) that they simply don't turn up and don't give any notice of their absence.
When arranging a session with me, you're asking for my investment (time, preparation, reflection etc). I, in return, ask for a similar investment from you via your deposit.
I have found that asking for a financial deposit before the first session, the counsellee's attention is drawn to this being a serious engagement. It motivates and starts a disciplined process. Some have said to me, if I had not pre-paid, I would have chickened out initially.
Your fee is refundable with 1 week's notice, in full, after which, 50% loss up until the day prior, and 100% on the day of your appointment.
If you wish to make an appointment for counselling for someone other than yourself (such as a friend, a family member, someone at work) then it is important that you understand that before attending, the person must buy into the idea of counselling themselves.
Being sent, as a "condition" of something you have imposed, or as a demand in resolving relationship difficulties, usually does not work well, as it can be interpreted as blackmail or punishment. Having said that - sometimes people realise they are on their last legs, rock bottom, and something must change - so your continual encouragement will help - but they must want to participate somewhat voluntarily.
If you are a parent initiating counselling for your teen or young adult, I will start the process with you, but will request that the person attending counselling let me know they are coming of their choosing, and that my communications continue with them, rather than you (except if you are communicating about payments or booked session times.) I will not discuss anything talked about in the session with you, no matter how interested you are. Any information that you offer me about the counsellee, I will raise with the counsellee, so that there are no secrets between you and me.
I can't make you attend sessions.
Counselling is a co-operative, therapeutic relationship.
It's both you and I working together in a relationship, aimed at helping both of us work to help you improve things.
That's sort of risky… when was the last time you could guarantee that you'd get on well with someone new?
So, I ask you to commit to:-
I'm afraid that if you're looking for someone to cure you (the GP scenario: you say what's wrong, and someone gives you pills that make the problem go away) then counselling isn't yet for you.
As an ethical counsellor, there are areas that I am not capable of working with or may not feel comfortable working with.
Please see the dedicated page, including a self test, for Anxiety, Stress & Depression.