What happens in our first session?

In the first session, I’ll ask you to describe your difficulties while assessing your strengths and weaknesses. It’s likely I’ll also ask you about your family background, the relationships in your life, your reasons for seeking therapy and what you might want to get out of it. I’ll also ask about your current health issues, any medication you might be taking and if you are supported by another healthcare practitioner.

You don’t need to bring anything or have a written agenda but if it helps you to write things down in case you forget something, then feel free to do so.

The first session should allow you to get a feel for the process of counselling and help you determine if counselling is for you.

How long is a counselling session?

An integrative counselling session lasts for fifty minutes. An EMDR session lasts for either 75 minutes or 100 minutes.

Why might you decide not to offer counselling?

It is important for me to work within ethical boundaries and this means I am only able to take you on as a client if I feel competent and confident to work with your issues.

It’s also important that I don’t work outside my areas of expertise and training.

For example, I wouldn’t be able to offer counselling to someone with acute, complex or enduring mental health conditions, including psychiatric disorders.

I would also be unable to work with anyone who may be at risk to themselves or others. This would include individuals who are self-harming or expressing active suicidal thoughts.

How does counselling work?

We’ll agree a counselling contact, which outlines how counselling will proceed. The contract covers issues such as confidentiality, data protection and payment arrangements.

As your counsellor, my role is to facilitate your personal development in a supportive and non-judgemental manner. I can’t tell you what to do to make things better but I will work with you to help you explore what is going on in your life with a view to encouraging personal insights and emotional acceptance.

It can often take time for you to trust yourself, your therapist and the therapeutic space. There’s no rush. You might find you edit parts of your life in early sessions until you’ve established the trust necessary for therapy to be effective.

Talking to a counsellor isn’t the same as talking to a family member or a friend. It’s usually the case that I’ll get to know quite a lot about your life as our sessions progress while you get to know very little about me. It’s important that I remain neutral and objective.

It can often take a period of time for you to explore and make sense of the issues motivating your thoughts and behaviours. Counselling isn’t necessarily about fixing something; rather it’s focused on you learning who you are, how you want to live your life, how you can become the best version of yourself or how you might better manage difficult emotions.

How do you work?

I work as an integrative practitioner, which means I combine various therapeutic modalities depending on what you bring to counselling. I employ cognitive-behavioural, psychodynamic, person-centred and sensorimotor techniques. I am also trained to utilise EMDR to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term, structured, solution-focused therapy that places emphasis on how an individual thinks about an event, rather than the event itself. Aspects of CBT I find useful include highlighting core beliefs about the self and the use of negative self-talk. I therefore work to encourage goal setting and affirmative self-talk to help you reframe thinking, with an emphasis on autonomy through activities between sessions.

Person-centred counselling utilises the core conditions of unconditional positive regard, congruence and empathic understanding to help an individual explore his/her own issues, beliefs, values and worldview in order to develop greater self-awareness and authenticity.

Psychodynamic theory emerged from the tradition of psychoanalysis and its features include an assumption that an individual’s difficulties have their origins in unexamined childhood experiences.

Sensorimotor therapy works with the language of the body. It explores the relationship between bodily sensations and life experiences, with a focus on resolving trauma. It shifts emphasis away from the verbal to mindful exploration of posture, movement and breath. It pays attention to how the autonomic nervous system detects environmental features that are safe, dangerous or life-threatening with a view to helping clients become more grounded, regulated and stable. You can find out more about sensorimotor therapy at the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It is a trauma-focused therapy that targets distressing memories and disturbing life events. EMDR is recognised as an effective trauma treatment by the World Health Organisation, the UK National Institute for Care and Health Excellence and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. The therapy focuses on how rapid eye movements (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) allow the client to process current disturbing feelings associated with a past event. It works to identify negative beliefs about the self and replace them with positive cognitions of strength and resilience.

For a fuller overview of how EMDR is used to process traumatic memories, see EMDR All Ireland or the list of FAQs at the EMDR Institute.

My rationale in counselling is underpinned by an awareness that no single theory is comprehensive enough to account for the complexities of adult behaviour.  I’m mindful to only employ tools that match your needs. Some individuals will respond better to an approach weighted towards problem solving; others will benefit from a more person-centred process.

Can I see two counsellors at the same time or should I stick to just one?

I would ask that should you select me as your therapist, you commit to working only with me. It’s likely I won’t be able to see you if you tell me you are also seeing another therapist.

Different therapists have different working styles, approaches, philosophies and values and having two therapists at the same time might result in you getting contradictory messages.

For example, with certain individuals – particularly those who have suffered significant trauma – I would need to pay attention to your readiness to progress in counselling and the importance of working slowly, with a recognition that faster-paced work might be retraumatising. This could be undermined by another therapist working at a faster pace.

Having two therapists might also allow an individual to either keep different parts of the self for different therapists or pit the two therapists against each other. This might represent something from the individual’s past (e.g. playing parents off each other) and is likely to be counterproductive to a successful counselling experience.

How often should I come to counselling?

That’s up to you. Some people only need to come for a short period of time; others prefer to come on a more long-term basis. You might decide to attend weekly, fortnightly, once every three weeks or once a month.

The amount of time you spend in therapy will usually depend on your individual needs, goals, outcomes and feelings on how you are progressing. You might feel you have made enough progress after a month or two, or you might feel you need to remain in therapy for a while longer.

Do I have to come at the same time every week?

No. Most people move their appointment times and dates around from week to week, depending on what is going on for them at any particular time. Life is often busy and very few of us know we can be available at the same time on the same day every week. If I offer you an initial session on Thursday at 5.30pm it doesn’t mean you have to stick to that day and time. We’ll discuss what works for you on a session-by-session basis.

If I arrive late, do you extend the session?

It’s important that the structure of therapy is consistent and predictable. If you are late, I’ll still have to end the session at the normal time as it’s usually the case someone else will be waiting for their session to start. However, I leave enough time between sessions to allow for some degree of flexibility, should something unexpected arise.

When might you breach confidentiality?

There are only a limited number of situations when I might find it necessary to pass on information about you to another person, and then only to another professional with a legitimate reason for needing the information. Examples when this may occur are when the law requires it or when you or another person is at risk of harm.

What happens if we meet in public?

Contact between us is usually limited to pre-arranged appointments. However, there is always the possibility that we might bump into each other in public. I’ll usually talk to you about how we might best manage such encounters in our initial session.

We might agree that we nod hello and walk on. We might agree to ignore each other.

You might be with someone who doesn’t know you are in therapy and I wouldn’t want to make you feel exposed. In such a situation, it’s likely I’ll wait for you to acknowledge me prior to responding.

We wouldn’t engage in any kind of discourse should we meet in public. That’s for the counselling room.

Might you decide to end counselling with me?

Yes. The initial counselling contract states that I might decide to terminate counselling at any time and without giving a reason.

For example, I might decide to end counselling if you presented as actively suicidal and/or if I felt you would benefit from more specialised support. I might come to the realisation that therapy isn’t working for you or that therapy is actually making things worse for you.

My training has limitations and it would be unethical for me to work with you if I became aware of issues that I felt were beyond my abilities. I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist and I would be unable to work with particular conditions that might become apparent as therapy progresses.

In such cases, I would endeavour to suggest other avenues or point you in the direction of a professional service that would be better equipped to work with you.

Can I see you if my partner or another family member is also seeing you?

You might decide to see the same counsellor as your friend or family member because they’ve given you a good report or maybe you’ve recognised how they have grown and developed by attending counselling. It might also be easier for you to see someone who comes recommended rather than have to go through an arduous search for someone you think you might be able to work with.

It isn’t unethical for two people who know each other to see the same counsellor. It’s likely I’ve worked in such circumstances without knowing about it and sometimes I’ve become aware, after several sessions have elapsed, that the person I’m currently working with is related to someone I’ve seen in the past. Whatever the situation, should you tell me that a previous client recommended me, I would be unable to affirm whether or not they had actually attended counselling.

If two people who know each other go to the same therapist for very different reasons, it’s unlikely to be an issue. For example, one person might want to talk about their feelings on a recent bereavement while the other might want to talk about their social anxiety.

However, there may be drawbacks to seeing the same counsellor. For example, if you’ve spoken about a particular family member, ex-partner, work colleague or friend in counselling and that same person should then attend at some future date, I’m likely to already have some prior knowledge or information about them that they might not wish to talk about.

The possibility of conflict might arise when two people who have issues with one another see the same counsellor at the same time. They might compete with one another to see who can get the counsellor on their side or they may try to influence the counsellor’s view of the other person.

I’d therefore ask you to think about how comfortable you are seeing the same counsellor as your friend or family member. Consider what you want to get out of counselling and whether or not the process might be complicated or become ineffective as a result of seeing the same counsellor. Think about what might work best for you.

Do you see couples?

No. I only work with individuals.

Do you see children?

No. I only work with adults over the age of eighteen.

Do you provide a reduced rate for students?

No. Everyone pays the same.

How can I pay?

You can pay by cash, PayPal or bank transfer. I’m unable to accept credit cards at this time.

How do you keep my personal information safe?

I’m registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and compliant with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You can find out more about my commitment to data protection here.

Do you provide supervision to other counsellors?

I’m not providing supervision to other counsellors at this time.