Why talk to a psychotherapist?
Mostly we manage to cope with problems when they arise by sharing them with friends or family or seeking the support of like-minded people. This is often all we need. But there are times when we can feel that we are in crisis, that we have exhausted the support and advice of friends and family or that we cannot fully confide in them for fear of the consequences. In situations like these, it can be a relief to talk to a qualified and experienced professional who has no other role in one’s life but to support you to care for your emotional health and wellbeing. Psychotherapists are also skilled in dealing with clients’ distressing or disturbing feelings, thoughts and experiences in ways that allow for safe and appropriate expression. This kind of expression can bring clients release and recovery from old hurts and help them move on in life.
Is it all talk?
Psychotherapy and counselling can involve different forms of expression. When the client is struggling for words or feelings, it can be helpful to use other forms of communication, such as art, free writing, role-play, movement, body awareness, dreams and images. These ways of exploring our inner life can often get to the heart of what we are experiencing more directly and creatively than talk alone. Humour, compassion and imagination can go a long way in the healing process.
Is there a difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
There is a lot of overlap between counselling and psychotherapy but there are some important differences. Some clients begin with counselling and stay on for psychotherapy if they are getting the support that they need and want. Counselling is shorter term, lasting anything up to about 12 weeks, while psychotherapy can last from several months to several years, depending on the client. In counselling, the therapist is mainly focussing on the client’s immediate needs and conscious processes, that is the thoughts, emotions and situations that they are already aware of in their lives. In psychotherapy, the therapist is also addressing issues that arise from outside the client’s immediate awareness and that offer a deeper understanding of their apparently contradictory feelings, thoughts, desires, actions or relationships. Psychotherapy is usually experienced as being both more challenging and more satisfying to clients who are interested in resolving deeper or more complex personal issues and patterns of behaviour.
Both counselling and psychotherapy are based on trust, respect for difference, empathetic listening and understanding, non-judgmental acceptance and confidentiality.
What are the benefits?
The key benefits of counselling and psychotherapy include greater self-understanding, and acceptance that, even if our lives have been difficult to-date or even if we’ve made mistakes, we can take control and exercise choice in how we deal with our past and how we continue to lead our lives as adults.
This can bring a greater sense of freedom and independence, enhanced self-regard, greater capacity for forgiveness, greater motivation to care for one’s own wellbeing and safety, greater clarity in following own’s own values and goals in life rather then those imposed by others, more confidence in expressing one’s real needs and emotions, richer relationships, enhanced creativity and expression in life.
Can I meet the counsellor/ psychotherapist before I make up my mind?
Yes. If you are unsure about whether counselling or psychotherapy is for you, or if you have found the right therapist for you, ask for a short initial meeting. Many therapists encourage this approach and you will probably get your queries answered more clearly by talking in person than by relying on websites or brochures!
How will I know when I’m ready to finish up?
You will know when you are ready to finish up when you feel that your situation has stabilized and that you are able to put what you have learned from your difficult experience into practice in your daily life. This may takes weeks, months or years depending on the client, their situation, personal history and supports in the wider community.