The Therapeutic process by Jenny Hartill
In the last article I explained a few myths around counselling and counsellors. This time I’ll explain the therapeutic process, including how to find a counsellor and what you might expect. I find in my work that people are scared of counselling because they don’t know what it entails. Allow me to demonstrate:
Firstly you need to find a counsellor. Organisations including The National Counselling Society and the BACP have member lists. You can also use online directories like The Counselling Directory – counsellors prove their membership to an accredited body to be listed on here. Specialist directories are an excellent source for counsellors as they list the counsellor’s expertise.
Once you have chosen a counsellor: do they have a website? If so I suggest you look at it, check the fees, times they work, where they’re based, directions etc. You would not believe the number of people I have enquiring who have looked at my website and then ask how much I charge. (For the record I have a “FEES” tab – on my website). I guess some people are more concerned in the moment about their issues rather than the money involved, but this is something to consider. Your counsellor should be fully qualified (and their qualifications listed), fully insured, have a supervisor and be a member of an organisational body (like the ones listed above).
I’ll take this opportunity to dispel another myth I came across recently: “you have to be a certain age to have enough expertise to deal with certain issues”. A good counsellor is not age dependent. When training we counsel people at the same time, so when we qualify there’s already 2 years experience in the bag. My clients ages range from fifteen years younger to fifty years older and frankly none of them could care less how old I am, they want my support and therapeutic knowledge and that’s what they get.
So, now you need to bite the bullet and contact your chosen counsellor. If you’re a little scared about calling them just email. Next you’ll arrange what we refer to as the “initial consultation” or "assessment" – you meet the counsellor and describe your main issues. Remember, we’re here to listen not to judge – take your time, bawl your eyes out, be confused, have a panic attack, moan about your ex – seriously, we’ve heard it all. We just want to help. When I was training my tutor used to refer to the first issues presented in session as “the envelope” – the client takes one issue out of their envelope and puts it on the table, but there are many more things in the envelope that we’re not yet aware of. As these issues come to light you learn how to analyse, how to use coping mechanisms, and how to become self-aware. It’s likely you’ll become aware very quickly of other people’s emotional and mental states. This is normal. See it as a practice stage before your own self-awareness.
What about length of therapy? I’m an integral therapist (meaning I use different therapies) so I don’t have a time limit. Some therapists do, so it may be a good idea to check. The last thing you want to feel is you’re just getting somewhere and then your sessions expire. Some NHS counsellors are CBT therapists and have a time limit. I’ve treated clients in the past that came to me because their time limit with their NHS therapist ran out or because the waiting list was so long. Length of therapy is extremely variable, you really can’t say to your client “you will be better in X time” it’s just not possible. Why? Because everyone is an individual, and life can sometimes get in the way. Saying that, personally I try to avoid treating anyone for less than a few weeks. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that.
Therapy sessions should be tailored to suit each individual client, and regular sessions are essential to maintain progress and to help solidify the coping mechanisms learned in session (and so they remain when the client feels ready to leave therapy). Naturally, there will be occasions where a client will be unable to attend a session due to unforeseen circumstances however, I would always urge any client to reschedule a session rather than cancelling it completely. A last minute cancellation is sadly detrimental to both client and counsellor: for the client, they will not be receiving the therapy and support they require, and for the counsellor, they’re not only losing contact with their client but also a session that could be spent helping another individual. At Chelmsford Therapy Rooms we have a service where you can have a Live MeeChat with your therapist - you can pay for this online - it's completely private and secure - and you ensure you don't miss your session.
Many counsellors hire additional premises (as well as or instead of working from home) that must be paid for. A last minute cancellation can have a significant financial impact on a counsellor in addition to the above mentioned points and therefore some counsellors have a cancellation policy, so please do bare this in mind.
Eventually, you’ll come to the end of therapy. Personally I won’t end with a client unless they feel absolutely ready. It’s best to discuss with your therapist if you feel you want to leave therapy. With my therapist I explained I was ready to leave because I felt ready to move on. She understood completely.
For more information about getting therapy just go to www.chelmsfordtherapyrooms.co.uk