What do I need, counselling or psychotherapy?

Often the difference between the two is described in terms of goals and time, the general agreement being that counselling is a short-term commitment with specific goals, whereas psychotherapy is a more in depth and exploratory process. The well-known psychoanalyst Susie Orbach suggests change in psychotherapy is similar to the acquisition of a foreign language, which can take a good two to four years to become imbedded into oneself. Counselling on the other hand can have a more practical quality. Counsellor John McLeod described it as, “a collaborative conversation… exploring the nature of the person’s difficulties and goals and identifying step-by-step tasks that might contribute to the resolution of the problem…it is an opportunity to learn new ideas, skills and strategies (or remember old ones) that the person can actively apply on an ongoing basis.” Although many counsellors work with their clients long-term, I choose to think of counselling as time-limited & goal-orientated, whereas psychotherapy is a more open-ended and exploratory process.

How much experience do you have?

I completed my five-year MA training in 2009 and have been working in private practice since. During training undergraduates are required to undertake highly supervised clinical work and honorary placements in counselling and mental health services. When I include these years I have in excess of 15 years of clinical experience. I currently work for the training organisation in which I trained, The Minster Centre, supervising students and their client work. All accredited therapists are required to undertake CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to keep their work up to date and relevant. Since graduating I have gained additional qualifications in couples counselling and supervision; and attended various specialist courses for example – treating eating disorders; PTSD (post traumatic stress); brief therapy; personality disorders.

Do you do CBT, I’ve heard about that?

I trained as an Integrative therapist, which means I studied a large range of theories and continue to integrate new ideas into my work on an ongoing basis. Psychotherapy and counselling is a dynamic and fast growing field and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been a very popular referral choice within NHS services in recent years. I do use some CBT techniques, when appropriate, to help my clients consider their problems, but I am not solely a CBT therapist. If you would like to try pure CBT perhaps contact your GP in the first instance for a referral (this can take several months in the NHS), or alternatively, search specifically for a CBT therapist using one of the directory links I mention further below.

If you can’t help me, who can?

Your GP is the person to talk to in the first instance, especially if you are feeling very concerned about your mental health. Most psychotherapists in the UK are not doctors so do not prescribe drugs, your GP is the person to speak to if you want medication for anxiety or depression for example. I co-founded a small group of London-based therapists so have a look at our website – London Psychotherapy Network. Otherwise an internet search of respected therapy organisations is the best way to find the right person for you. Here are a few of the ones I recommend:

UKCP – The UK Council for Psychotherapy is the largest accrediting body for psychotherapists and has a good search facility online for all their registered therapists.

BACP – British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is the best place to look for a trained counsellor and many psychotherapists too. You’re likely to find a CBT practitioner here.

Counselling Directory, Psychology Today, Welldoing – and other similar sites all offer ‘find a therapist’ services, and require their registered therapists to be accredited and insured. Make sure your chosen therapist has this in place as it offers you protection should anything go wrong.

Help! I’m desperate….?

If you feel like this you must contact your GP, and if your GP is not available go to the A&E department of your local hospital. If you can’t face even this, call The Samaritans – sometimes just talking to a stranger can really help when you feel despairing. The Maytree in London is a small respite service that I hear good things about, but your GP or Samaritans should be able to guide you to other services in your area where possible.

I can’t afford private therapy – what can I do?

Like many experienced therapist I offer some low-cost therapy, it’s always good to ask. Your GP might be able to refer you on to affordable local services, but be aware there will be a wait. Alternatively you could approach training organisations like The Minster Centre where I trained and currently work. There are many other training organisations around the country, so search for them on the UKCP & BACP websites. Training centres provide extremely affordable highly supervised long-term therapy. It’s a good choice if money is tight and you feel you need more than the six sessions of counselling most GP referred services provide.

Do you offer couples counselling?

I have completed extra training in couples counselling (accredited by COSRT), but am not currently seeing couples. However, my work with couples informs my individual work, so if you are struggling in a relationship therapy should help you with this. Alternatively, contact COSRT or Tavistock Relationships for a referral.
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