Let us de-mystify therapy – things are complicated enough!
What are counselling and psychotherapy, and how do they work?
Both counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a wide range of talking therapies. Counselling and psychotherapy should be delivered by trained professionals who belong to a UK registered professional body. Client work can be both short or long-term, depending on personal requirements, the presenting issues and your therapist’s particular approach.
Counsellors and psychotherapists will work in different ways, and with different underlining theoretical approaches, using tools, strategies or creative methods. Whatever the style or approach, at the heart of all therapy is the importance of the therapeutic alliance between client and therapist.
Therapy offers the client a safe, confidential space where they can explore feelings and emotions around issues both past and present, that are presenting difficulties for the client.
Therapy differs from discussing our problems with others in our lives. Friends, family and partners may be too close to us to be able to help. Often well-meaning, they are likely to input their unique take on what they would do, leading to further confusion and frustration. Sometimes we feel we cannot share things with others because we are frightened of what they will think of us. The issue could be about those others, and we are not sure how best to approach it. Maybe you don’t have the experience of sharing feelings and emotions and find this tough to do. Your therapist will not judge you and will see things from your own unique experiencing. You are what matters to your therapist.
Clients may bring an area of particular concern but often discover additional areas for work along the way. Recognising and addressing these connections is a positive step to learning about ourselves and navigating a way forward.
The exploration of concerning issues within therapy allows the client time and consideration for making sense of these issues in a way that is meaningful to them. The client feels empowered, in control, trusting themselves to be able to make any necessary changes.
Counselling and psychotherapy-what’s the difference?
There is much debate on this one, but there is no agreed difference. Some people use the term interchangeably to describe the same thing. Traditionally, counselling was used to describe shorter-term therapy and psychotherapy referred to longer-term work, and this is my interpretation within my practice where I offer both.
How do therapists work safely with clients?
Therapists are required to belong to a professional body and work to their ethical frameworks. Popular professional counselling bodies in the UK are the BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) and UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists) but there are others. These provide guidelines to ensure safe practice, the welfare of clients and counsellors, and the profession as a whole.
As part of the ethical frameworks, there are clear guidelines including:
- Desired therapist values and attributes
- How we should practice (this is generic and is not specific to differing approaches) including the counselling environment, current legislation, confidentiality and setting appropriate boundaries
- How we keep, store and share information about clients
- Therapist supervision requirements
- Therapist fitness to practice and self-care
- Ongoing requirements for the therapist’s continued professional development (CPD)
- The respect of equality and diversity
Therapists are required to attend monthly clinical supervision; the length may vary in accordance with the amount of client work or the particular professional body. Clinical supervision in the field of therapy is carried out by an experienced and well-qualified therapist who has undertaken a qualification in supervision. Clinical supervision ensures the safety of both client and therapist and provides best practice in the therapy room. The therapist may bring client work into these supervisions, discuss any conflicts both professional and personal, look to solutions, or use it as a space to share new ideas and ways of working. Supervision is the only place where a therapist may share client work and wherever possible a client’s details are kept anonymous.
Boundaries in the therapy room
It is important to set appropriate professional boundaries in the therapy room to ensure ethical practice and the safety of both client and therapist. This is set out in your first session when you will complete a counselling contract outlining ways of working.
Setting boundaries may include:
- Expectations of the therapeutic relationship and limitations.
- Terms of the therapy sessions, frequency, a mutually agreed day and time, fees and methods of payment and cancellation procedures.
- Maintaining a professional relationship including what might happen if you see your therapist in a public place
- Appropriate behaviour and conduct
- What information is stored, kept and for how long
- Confidentiality and any limitations to this
- Complaints procedure
Hopefully, this has helped to explain what might happen in the therapy room and how counselling might work for you.
Person-centred counselling and psychotherapy
Whether you are looking into counselling for yourself or someone else in your life, you probably have some questions. Click the button below to arrange a call at a time that suits you.