What is the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?

  • The BACP (British Association of Counsellors & Psychotherapists) regards the terms psychotherapy and counselling as generic terms that cover talking therapies practiced by appropriately trained professional practitioners. In other words these terms are interchangeable providing the practitioner has completed a BACP accredited course or the BACP’S Certificate of Proficiency and abide by the Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions. Some practitioners and organisations prefer to use one or both of these professional terms.
  • I generally refer to myself as a therapist or psychotherapist as both psychotherapy and counselling terms refer to helping clients explore who they are, how they become the way that they are, and how would they like to be; as well as identifying realistic goals and achieving affective change. This can be short term or long term work depending on what the client wants at the time. How we work together and for how long will be discussed at the initial assessment appointment and agreed together.  This is called the therapeutic contract.
  • What is important is that your therapist or counsellor should have undergone extensive training and personal therapy themselves, preferably a postgraduate training and should be registered members of a professional body such as the BACP. Note: Any member of the BACP (MBACP) or Accredited/Senior Accredited member who has not achieved registration by the 31 March 2016 deadline must join the Register before their next membership renewal date or their BACP membership will end. This is to ensure the highest possible practitioner standards.
  • Accredited members of BACP will have undergone such training and personal therapy and be more experienced and achieved even higher levels of knowledge and development.
  • I am a Registered and Accredited member of BACP

How Can Psychological therapy help?

  • I offer a non-judgemental relationship in a safe and confidential environment where issues and concerns can be openly discussed.
  • Psychological therapy typically involves an assessment process where I seek to understand problems from the client’s perspective and how and why the particular difficulties evolved.
  • My postgraduate training in counselling psychology is a research based perspective to therapy and integrates a number of theoretical models including cognitive & behavioural therapy (CBT), a psychodynamic approach (attachment theory), humanistic therapies, existential therapy and neuropsychology.
  • I work from an existential perspective taking an integrative therapeutic approach in clinical practice.
  • Briefly this means that as everyone faces difficult times, it is normal to struggle with these difficulties and it can be useful to listen and engage with these feelings so that we might discover what they have to tell us about ourselves and our reactions to others.
  • Thus my aim is to help you explore and understand the limitations of your life and also where you may be self-limiting.
  • How we become who we are usually develops from childhood and our past experiences. So it might be useful to reflect on how things were for you in the past and see if this links with how you are now.  How you were as a child or growing up and what kind of attachments you had may be triggered or played out in therapy.  This can be very useful if it can be noticed and recognised so that you can decide whether you would like to change this way of being. You may, for example, experience a different kind of relationship in therapy and this might be reparative in itself.  This psychodynamic way of working enables you to understand how you became the way that you are.  Your behaviour no longer needs to be driven by unconscious thoughts and feelings.   Instead you can be free to make different choices and set yourself different goals.
  • Sometimes we find that the way that we think, which is likely to drive our behaviour, seems to result in us feeling bad. These thoughts and behaviours may have been helpful to us in the past but when they have become set or rigid it may be that they aren’t helpful to us anymore but it may seem very hard to change them.  An existential approach can help you challenge yourself and explore your options.  Sometimes a CBT or cognitive Behavioural approach can also be helpful.  This approach helps you to challenge your automatic thoughts and sedimented beliefs and set yourself new realistic, achievable behavioural goals.   This could include working with a thought record, taking more exercise, taking small steps towards making friends, eating mindfully, learning how to relax including simple meditative practices and visualisations.
  • So clients can learn how to:
  • Enhance their relationships
  • Manage job and school stress
  • Overcome depression and loss
  • Change self-defeating thoughts and behaviours (including OCD, eating disorders) and manage anxiety & panic attacks
  • Find other ways to manage difficult feelings
  • Change addictive behaviour
  • Recover from trauma
  • Develop improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Communicate more effectively

Sometimes it is difficult to talk……

  • Feeling very depressed, panicky or traumatised can make talking difficult, even unhelpful. When this is the case other ways of working can be more useful, at least to begin with.  For example psycho-education about how our brain and nervous system affects our behaviour, feelings and ability to manage affect, can allow understanding about what is happening to us.  Some people find reference to neuroscience & neuropsychology in this way reassuring.  Psycho-education can also be accessed in the form of recommended reading or self-help books or sometimes I provide information sheets.
  • When a person is very distressed the body’s stress response is activated causing stress hormones to be released, driving up blood pressure, heartrate and oxygen intake – all preparing the body for fight or flight. When this is severe the part of the brain that is involved in speech (the Broca area) can go off line.  This makes putting your thoughts and feelings into words very difficult.  It may be that a different form of therapy could be more helpful such as EMDR – see EMDR page.
  • Alternatively, to help a person reach their ‘window of tolerance’ where exposure to distressing memories can be tolerated in order to work on their distressing feelings I sometimes teach ways of calming your stress response or Equine therapy could be considered.

What happens at the Assessment Session (first appointment)?

  • At the initial assessment session I will explain my confidentiality and disclosure policy (see confidentiality page) and ask you a few standard questions. Then you will have the opportunity to talk to me about what you feel the problems are and I can discuss with you how I can help you. It is at this session that we can explore what kind of therapy will be most helpful to you.
  • For individuals, it will involve one session. For couples, assessment will involve three sessions, one with you and your partner and one with each of you alone. I ask clients to allow up to 50 minutes for their first appointment and each subsequent session.

A note on childcare arrangements

  • It is not normally appropriate for children to be present during a therapy session for ethical reasons and because I have a duty of confidentiality to all my clients.
  • If you have children please make sure that you have adequate childcare arrangements in place so that your therapy session can proceed.

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