There are three questions which I have found are important to many people when they start therapy or are looking for a new therapist or counsellor. I hope you will find it useful to read about my approach to these questions, as an integrative psychotherapist and also as an individual practitioner.
1. How can psychotherapy help me?
You may be thinking about seeing a therapist as a way of dealing with a specific problem or situation in your life, or you may have a more general feeling that ‘something is wrong’, without necessarily being able to describe exactly what the problem is. Psychotherapy can be helpful in either of these situations.
I am an integrative psychotherapist, which means that I am trained in more than one form of psychotherapy, and actively use a blend of different therapies in my work. Integrative psychotherapists are interested in uncovering, and working with, the common forces of change across different forms of psychotherapy and counselling. For example, there is considerable research which suggests that the individual relationship between therapist and client is more important to the success of the therapy than the particular ‘brand’ of therapy being practised.
From an integrative perspective, some of the ways in which psychotherapy can help people are:
- To gain a clearer and more subtle understanding of your own internal world.
- To become more skilful at getting your needs met within relationships, while also taking account of the needs of others.
- To take a more compassionate and open-minded attitude towards yourself and others.
- To be more emotionally resilient.
- To be more comfortable with change and uncertainty.
- To become more skilful at adapting to change.
- Where necessary, to endure suffering, and creatively transform it.
This is not to say that everyone who has therapy will benefit in all of these ways. Psychotherapy is a very complex process, and each person’s experience is unique.
2. What will therapy be like?
Many people are interested to know what will happen in therapy, both at a practical level and also what being in therapy will feel like. If you have never seen a counsellor or therapist before, you may have formed some impressions through books, television programmes, family or friends. If you have had some prior experience of counselling or therapy, you may still be wondering what it would be like for you now, at this point in your life, with a new therapist.
The first session in psychotherapy provides an opportunity to begin to get a sense of what it will be like, and to ask any questions you may have. To some extent, it is impossible to know what will happen in advance. However, I can describe to you some of the main aspects of how I work:
- The therapy I offer involves a 50-minute session at a regular time each week. This would be your time to explore whatever it is which is causing you unhappiness or difficulty.
- My role is, first of all, to understand you from your own perspective, to hear what you are thinking and feeling. For some people, the experience of being listened to and understood can, in itself, have quite a powerful impact.
- I will also listen out for themes in your experience and life story which you may not be fully aware of yourself. I will try to support you to become more aware of how you perceive and relate to the world around you. For some people, developing insight and self-knowledge is the aspect of therapy that they most value, and it can be helpful in making choices which are more likely to lead to fulfilment in future,
- If you are facing difficult choices or wanting to make changes to your way of life, I will support you in thinking through the consequences of different options, and understanding what you most want and need. I can also work with you on aspects of daily living, such as self-care, self-assertion, and setting boundaries in relationships.
3. How long will it take?
The length of therapy varies hugely between individuals, and can be anything from a few sessions to a few months or even years, depending on your needs and the nature of the difficulties you are bringing. Normally I would suggest an initial set of four sessions, with the length of further therapy to be decided between us at the fourth session, once we have had some opportunity to explore the nature of the difficulties you are bringing. Some people are comfortable with a short, focused period of therapy. For others, a longer period of therapy feels more secure and supportive. If you are unsure, this is something we can discuss and work out together.