Alison Hollingshead PgDip, BSc(Hons), MBACP
What is counselling and how will it help me?
Most people have a lot of questions about the ins-and-outs of counselling.
This page will hopefully clear most of it up. If you do have any further questions, please get in touch.
What is the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?
“Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing.” – (BACP, 2010)
‘Psychotherapy’ and ‘Counselling’ are terms that are often used interchangeably. Some practitioners may choose to use both terms when referring to themselves. Both practices share the goal of relieving distress or uncomfortable symptoms.
‘Counselling’ is generally used to denote a process that is briefer than psychotherapy and is mostly focused upon behavioural patterns and often targets a particular symptom or problematic situation.
‘Psychotherapy’ is generally a longer-term treatment, which focuses more on gaining insight into the underlying causes of emotional problems. Its focus is on the client’s thought processes and ways of being in the world, rather than specific problems.
Psychotherapy training requires a longer, more rigorous academic and clinical focus than counselling training. Whilst a psychotherapist is qualified to provide counselling, a counsellor may not possess the necessary training and skills to provide psychotherapy. In actual practice there may be quite a bit of overlap between psychotherapy and counselling.
Because therapy is such an individual process, there is no way to tell at the beginning how many sessions you would need or how long you would choose to stay in therapy.
Can counselling help with anxiety and depression?
It really can! Counselling can help with depression and low mood. It is a safe and supportive space to explore your feelings and thoughts. It can help you discover ways to cope and overcome cycles of depression.
Do I need Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
There are many different types of therapies out there. It is important that you find the right therapy and therapist for you. I can also offer solution-focused therapy which can help with immediate ways to cope with your symptoms. However, we will also explore your experience in more depth together, so that you can have a better understanding. This can promote longer lasting, positive change.
How many sessions will I need?
This is entirely up to you. It can be for as long as we are both comfortable working together and you are feeling benefits. When you feel ready to end counselling, you can let me know and we can book a final session to celebrate how far you have come.
Where does counselling take place?
I meet with people in person in my therapy room in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. I also meet in the local area for Nature Therapy. However, I also meet with people online, so I offer counselling to anyone in the UK.
Here are some tips to get the most out of counselling:
Take the Whole Hour: We call it a therapy hour but it’s only 50 minutes. Get your money’s worth by arriving 10 minutes early to catch your breath, collect your thoughts and prepare for your session.
Forget the Clock: Let me be in charge of ending the session on time. You have enough to think about during the session, I can be responsible for wrapping up.
Make it Part of Your Life: Therapy works best when you take what you have learned and apply it to the rest of your week. Between sessions, notice areas in your life you would like to explore. You might find it helpful to engage in the following…
Journal: Use a journal to reflect on your sessions and jot down things you notice about yourself during the week. It doesn’t have to be the “Dear Diary” of your youth, just a place to record a few thoughts or feelings. It may help to bring it to session with you.
Relationship Next: Any issues regarding the relationship with me (if there are any) come next. This could be anything – you’re thinking about ending therapy, you felt angry after the last session or you’re worried what I think of you. These relationship issues take top priority because they will impact all other areas of your therapy.
What do I want? How do I feel? These two questions are common for clients who feel stuck. If you find yourself lost and don’t know what to talk about, revisit these questions and you’re bound to find material to discuss.
Ask Anything: Clients sometimes censor their questions because they believe asking is against the rules. You are allowed to ask whatever you want, I will explain my boundaries and answer what I feel comfortable answering. Want to know a personal detail, professional opinion or an explanation for something I said? Go ahead and ask, you might learn something about yourself in the process.
Status: Check on your status any time during your therapy. How are we working together? How well do we understand each other? Is therapy helping or hurting at this point? This is ideally a two-way discussion, with both of us sharing your thoughts.
Try New Things: Therapy is a great place for thinkers to try feeling, listeners to practice talking, passive people to be assertive etc. Want to rehearse confrontation? Practice asking someone out? Let yourself cry in front of someone? Counselling is a great place for this.
Advisory: A lot of people want advice from their therapist. Therapy is more about helping you come to your own conclusions than having the therapist make decisions for you. This benefits you in the long run but may seem disappointing at the time.
Ask Why: Let your inner 3-year-old out and ask why you behave/think/feel as you do. Why do I hate my boss so much? Why am I so anxious before sessions? Why does the picture on the wall bother me?
Challenge Jargon: Some therapists have been doing this work so long they assume everyone knows what they’re talking about. If I say some gibberish you don’t understand, ask me what I mean! I will gladly explain. I want to help, not hinder.
Be Aware of Your Therapist: Talk about your relationship with me in detail to see how your projections influence this and other relationships. Often there are similarities and themes within all of your relationships and it can be helpful to explore this.
Go Deeper: If you find yourself running through mundane details of your week or hitting awkward silences, maybe there’s a deeper issue you’re avoiding. Ask what it is you’re not talking about and talk about it. Discuss what you’re discovering about yourself. Take the time to explore who you are, what you feel and why you do what you do. Push beyond it is what it is or whatever and tackle some deeper questions. Try: “I wonder why I ___” or: “Deep down, I really feel ___”.
Don’t fear the End: From the beginning, talk about when you’ll know you’re ready to leave therapy. Rather than cut and run, let therapy be one experience of a truly good ending.
Dream On: Bring in dreams, daydreams and ‘random’ thoughts, especially those about therapy. People often have more of this material when they are in therapy. This can be incredibly rich to explore.
Allow Change: Some people ask for change but feel uncomfortable when it actually happens. Accept that if you’re seeking change, things will probably change, and it might require more change than you thought. An eating disorder, a sexual problem, interpersonal conflicts, an addiction – these may require a major life overhaul, not just a little tweak.
Engage and Enjoy: Therapy is like enrolling on a course where you are the subject matter. If you’re curious, teachable and motivated to do some work, it can be one of the most challenging and rewarding courses you ever take.