Frequently asked questions about counselling

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Might it help to talk to a counsellor?

Often we get all the support we need from family and friends, but sometimes we find it really helpful to talk things through with someone outside our circle of family and friends who can give us a neutral view. 

Perhaps there is no one who understands what you are going through, or you are afraid that they are getting bored of your problems.  Or maybe you feel you need a professional view on your difficulty.  Counselling is valuable if you want a safe place to talk about past experiences or current difficulties that are affecting your quality of life. 

Can I get counselling for free?

Your GP may be able to refer you for counselling which will be provided free of charge through the NHS.  There are also a number of organisations in York that offer low cost counselling.  It is worth asking how many sessions you will be offered and how long you might have to wait before you start. 

If you are able and willing to pay for a private counsellor, you have the advantage that you can choose your counsellor, you will
often be offered an appointment within a week, and you will usually be able to see your counsellor for as long as you choose.  And it could be the best investment you ever make!

What kind of problems can I bring to counselling?


People come to counselling with a wide variety of issues, including:
  • stress or anxiety
  • low mood or depression
  • difficulties in your relationships with partners, family or friends
  • problems with anger
  • struggles with body image
  • loss or bereavement
  • trauma
  • physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • domestic violence
  • difficulties at work or with your studies
  • loss of meaning in your life
A counsellor will listen carefully and without judgement, in order to help you make sense of your experiences.  A counsellor is unlikely to make suggestions or give direct advice but will encourage you to work out for yourself what changes you would like to make.  Counsellors help you identify your strengths and work out ways of helping yourself so you won't be dependent on counselling forever. 

What makes counselling work?

Counselling is most likely to help you when:

  • You are able and willing to be honest with your counsellor
  • You are able to clearly identify what you want from your therapy
  • You are curious about the roots of your difficulties and are willing to explore what you might be contributing to them (rather than simply expecting other people to change)

Counselling is a confidential and contracted opportunity for you to talk about the things that are troubling you. 

Confidential
means your counsellor will not pass on anything you say, or even the fact that they are seeing you for counselling, to anyone else except in certain specific circumstances which he/she will tell you about. 

Contracted
means that you make an agreement with your counsellor to meet at a specific time and place, usually once a week, to explore the issues that you wish to bring.  Many counsellors will write this agreement down, and you may be asked to sign it.  (My own agreement is here.)

How many sessions will I need?

The number of sessions should be discussed between you and your counsellor at the beginning, and can usually be reviewed as you go along.  Short-term counselling provides a chance to do some practical problem-solving and action-planning.  Longer-term counselling creates an opportunity for you to explore deep-rooted patterns or difficulties at your own pace.  Many counsellors offer a block of 4 or 6 sessions to start with so you can get used to the process and the counsellor's way of working, and assess whether it is helping you before you commit to coming for longer.

What kind of counselling is right for me?

Counsellors work in many different ways, depending on their own personality as well as the theory they have chosen.  However, research shows that (with some exceptions) it tends to be the quality of the relationship between you and your counsellor that makes the difference, rather than the theory or technique they use.  For this reason, it is important to have all the information you need to make an informed choice about who you work with and how.  Don't be afraid to "shop around" and ask questions until you are confident you have found someone you can work with.  For the same reason, if you've had counselling before and didn't find it useful, you may still find it helpful to try again with a different person.

  • More information about the different ways that counsellors work is available here
  • My own way of working (and a bit about me as a person) is described here.
  • For practical details about working with me, including my fees, click here.