What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
This is a frequent question so if this has occurred to you, you are not alone. The rough 'rule of thumb' is counselling is helpful for specific issues, such as the death of a loved one, where you know what you would like the end result to look like. This tends to be short-term work. Psychotherapy, or therapy as is it also known, tends to be longer-term work. This too may be over the death of a loved one but, perhaps, where this loss has triggered something further such as connecting with the grief over a parent lost when very young. Psychotherapy has a longer training and accreditation period, not to say therapy is solely for long-term work, more that it provides an added level of surety.
Why visit a therapist?
You don't need to have a major problem to go to a therapist, and people come for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because you need help with an issue such as the break-up of a relationship or help managing a bullying situation. It may be that you would like help finding direction in life, or support with your career. This may involve short-term work. Here, your therapist will work with you to help you develop skills to manage the specific situation you find yourself in, and help you find the resolution you’re looking for. Sometimes people go into psychotherapy in order to work on problems which seem a little more hazy; you know something’s not quite right, but you can’t quite ‘put your finger on it'. You may have issues such as procrastination or insomnia, where the problem may be a symptom to something more, but you don't know how it fits together in a way that makes sense for you. Other times it may be you know there is a deeper problem you need help with, such as managing an emotionally destructive family or relationship.
How long do I have to come for?
Therapy can be short-term or long-term - providing you are getting what you need from it. Sustainable, healthy growth is usually a slower process where changes are integrated naturally. Helpful therapy, or counselling, ought not be about making you feel reliant on your therapist. It's more about empowering you to have the skills and abilities you need to manage in a healthy way on your own. In longer-term work this will involve discussing the ending, but in short-term work this may not be necessary - especially if you decide one or two visits are all you need.
Is everything I say confidential?
There are certain statutory requirements which require all therapists and counsellors to break confidentiality. These concern laws which apply to all companies and businesses throughout the UK, or relate to the organisation's policies where your therapist practices. However, these are very specific and your therapist will discuss these with you prior to work commencing. This way you are able to make your own informed decision as to whether to go ahead with therapy. Other than these very specific instances, what you say to your therapist remains confidential.
Does it matter if I have a male or female therapist?
This is going to be a decision only you can answer. There may be issues you would like to address which you feel only someone of the same sex will understand, however, it may be that someone of the opposite sex can give you the alternative view you need. The main thing is to find a therapist you feel comfortable with. There is much research which demonstrates the most important factor in healing is the relationship between client and therapist, so feeling at ease with your therapist may be something for you to consider.
What type of therapy should I have?
There are many different types of therapy and it can feel daunting to find the one for you. You may find a good starting place is to ask yourself what you want to get out of therapy. This may provide an indication of what type of therapy would help you meet those goals.
What should I do when we first meet?
This initial contact is your chance to see if you would like to work together. Just as your potential therapist will have questions for you, this is your opportunity to ask them questions. It may feel strange, challenging even, to share intimate information with an, as yet, stranger. However, if you are able to share this information it may help both of you gauge whether you will be a good fit to work together. Pay attention to how you feel. This person may be the one person you share your most intimate world with. How you feel at this first meeting may provide an indication of how much of yourself you are able to trust them with in the future.
How do I know if it’s working?
Good question - and one only you can answer. Sometimes it's easier to tell than others. In counselling, where you have a specific issue to address, it is probably easier to know when you have reached your goal. Psychotherapy tends to be a little different. As your goals may be a little harder to define it can be harder to identify. However, a good indicator of whether your therapy is efficacious for you is whether you feel happier, more at peace. Healthy therapy is about helping you live differently, in the way you choose. It is not about making you reliant on your therapist.
What can I do if I am unhappy with how my therapy is going?
Firstly, speak to your therapist. It may be that there is some form of miscommunication going on. It may feel challenging to address this, but asking for what you need is the first step. A conversation about the direction of therapy can often help. If, having had a a conversation and you still feel you weren't heard, then you have choices. Remember; you are paying for a service. If it's not working for you you have other options. Further, you always have recourse to your therapist's accrediting body should you wish to make a complaint. As yet the field of counselling and psychotherapy is unregulated, and this is why having a qualified, accredited psychotherapist is important.