Living more satisfyingly
Often misunderstood as a term, “counselling” is not about advice or guidance. Most professional counsellors will tell you that they do not offer specific advice or tell people what to do. Instead, counsellors endeavour to provide an environment within which the client can help themselves.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy defines the task of counselling as to:
“provide an opportunity to work towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully.”
Listening and trusting
The role of the counsellor is to listen and try to understand their client as they explore areas they may find difficult. The counselling session should be a time and place of safety. As a counsellor I aim to earn your trust so that you feel able to explore these difficult areas.
The counsellor/client relationship is not the same sort of relationship you have with a friend. It is a professional relationship with clear boundaries. You will usually meet at a fixed time on a weekly basis and except for making changes to arrangements, there is no counselling contact between sessions. This respects the individual commitments of both the client and counsellor, as well as the relationship itself.
What type of Counsellor do I need?
Counsellors work from a variety of different approaches. Unfortunately, there appears to be more concern about what approach the counsellor takes than about the relationship itself. Research comparing the main approaches; person-centred, CBT and psychodynamic, indicate that there is no discernible difference between them in terms of the likely success outcome. However, what does make a difference is whether or not the client and counsellor are able to establish a trusting relationship that allows the client to examine their life honestly and safely.
When considering which counsellor to work with, please take into account how they are with you, not simply how they do counselling.
The person-centred approach
I am trained as a person-centred counsellor, also known as client-centred and while I have developed my own, personal style of working with people, this is the basis of how I work. The person-centred approach was developed by Carl Rogers, a psychologist who believed that everyone has the potential to develop and grow – to become the best they possibly can. Rogers developed a model of how the counsellor can foster this growth, emphasising the need for the counsellor to be genuine, to attempt to empathise with the feelings of the client as accurately as possible, and to be accepting of the client as person to be respected and valued regardless of their beliefs and attitudes.
What is the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?
Many counsellors and psychotherapists appear to hold clear views as to the difference between the two. Personally, I don’t think there is a meaningful difference.
Some practitioners suggest that psychotherapy tends to take longer than counselling, and that counselling is more focused on dealing with a single issue than looking at a range of issues or delving into the past – childhood experiences, for example.
Well, this doesn’t really fit my take on it at all. I’ve worked successfully with people for as few as four sessions and as long as two years. Those sessions may be very specifically to deal with a single issue such as bereavement, or to explore a range of problems. It’s also not unusual for a client to embark on counselling with one issue in mind, and quickly find that their situation is more complex so they move onto explore and resolve other issues.
I’m a counsellor
The first thing to say is that as things stand there are no “legal” definitions of the two. Anybody, regardless of what they have studied, where they have studied or, indeed, if they have studied at all, can set him or herself up as a counsellor or psychotherapist. The most important thing for a potential user of such a service, is to be comfortable with the competence of the practitioner. If you want to be sure that your counsellor or psychotherapist has undergone some type of training that means checking out their qualification and membership of an appropriate body.
I describe myself as a Counsellor simply because that is the name of the qualification I have attained – Diploma in Person-Centred Counselling.
Why then, you may wonder, is my website called North London Therapy? Well, that’s simply because North London Counselling was not available and therapy is a good term!