Here is one hour to be lived through as it goes, one hour of present and immediate relationship, however limited, with another human being who has brought himself to the point of asking for help. - Jessie Taft (1937, cited in Sanders & Hill, 2014, p.118)
Many people seek counselling because they are experiencing symptoms of distress (e.g. depression and anxiety) that are causing them difficulties in their relationships, at work, or in life in general.
Often we find ways of coping with our distress (e.g. social withdrawal, substance misuse, various forms of self-harm or other risky behaviour, suicidal thoughts) that seem to help in the moment but that we know, deep down, are adding to the difficulties that we are experiencing.
Sometimes we have an awareness of the reason for our distress, perhaps one or many significant life events (e.g. the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, redundancy, a traumatic event) or situations in our life that, gradually or suddenly, feel out of our control.
For others, the reason for our distress is unclear and this lack of awareness can cause further anguish.
There is a strong likelihood that counselling can help you. Research suggests that the average person experiences significant improvement in their psychological wellbeing through counselling (Cooper, 2008).
In a recent research study (Stephen & Elliott, 2015), clients described what they found helpful in their experience of person-centred counselling.
They said that it brought something new into their life: an opportunity to talk to someone – a trustworthy professional who listens, understands and doesn’t judge - about themselves and their issues openly and honestly without being forced to say anything. This helped them to feel accepted and ‘normal’; it enabled them to reflect on their experiences by thinking about what they had talked about and this resulted in them becoming more aware of themselves.
They came to realise that they were ‘ok’ and that change was possible.
These clients reported that, following counselling, they perceived themselves and their situations differently - in particular that they had more awareness of, and were more accepting of, themselves within their situations – and that they were doing things differently – not accepting their low mood or negative thoughts and choosing to do things that they weren’t doing before.
Often the need for counselling arises because we bottle up our feelings about difficult and distressing experiences. It is no wonder, therefore, that when we start to talk in counselling, we experience feelings that we have tried to suppress. This can be painful. Please tell me if you are struggling with the feelings that you open up. As your counsellor I will support you to stay safe by exploring and processing your experiences at the pace that you choose.
My understanding of the theory and process of person-centred counselling is based on the original work of Carl Rogers (1951, 1961) and informed by the ongoing development of his ideas by contemporary person-centred and experiential writers and researchers such as Mearns, Thorne & McLeod (2013) and Elliott, Watson, Goldman & Greenberg (2004).
As your counsellor, I will listen deeply to you and work with you to understand your experience of yourself, and the situations and stories that you share with me. I will respond to you and support you to explore and develop your understanding of yourself and the impact of the experience that has been troubling you. Through this process, I believe that you will increase your self-awareness and self-acceptance and that these changes will enable you to find a way to resolve the distress that you are experiencing.
At the heart of my work is my respect for you as an individual with a distinctive identity and unique life experience. I will recognise our difference in whatever form that this may take (eg age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability) and strive to understand you, your values, and your view of the world.
It is important to me to seek regular feedback from you about your experience of your counselling with me. I want us to be able to talk openly about the way that we are working together in order to make sure that your needs are being met.
The counselling that I provide is confidential and I will always seek to protect the details of our work. The only circumstances in which I would consider breaching confidentiality are if there appears to be a genuine and immediate risk of serious harm to you or another person, or if required by the law. Should such an issue arise I would seek to discuss my concerns with you first. I would not make a decision to breach your confidence lightly. In the rare event of breaking confidentiality only those persons who absolutely need to know will be informed.
- Record keeping
I keep brief and confidential records of my counselling work. These records are created, stored and destroyed in line with the data protection principles contained within the Data Protection Act. Should you wish to access your records, please ask me. I require one week’s notice to fulfil your request as my records are not stored at my counselling premises.
In line with the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy’s Ethical Framework, I have regular and ongoing formal supervision of my counselling work. The purpose of supervision is to enable me to ensure that I am meeting my ethical responsibilities as a counsellor. Any aspect of our work that I take to supervision, I will present in a way that preserves your anonymity and will be treated confidentially by both my supervisor and myself.
Typically counselling sessions last 50 minutes (the ‘therapeutic hour’) and are held on a weekly basis. I am open to varying this arrangement with you, if this length of session or frequency does not meet your needs. I am happy to work with you on a short-term or long-term basis, for an agreed number of sessions or in an open-ended way, where we review our work regularly (for example, every 4 - 6 sessions).
Please give me as much notice as possible should you need to cancel your appointment. If you give me less than 24 hours’ notice, then it will be necessary for me to charge you 50% of your usual session fee for the cancelled appointment. This fee should be paid to me at our next appointment.
If you miss an appointment I will contact you using the telephone number or email address that you have given me to find out if you would like to re-schedule. If I am unable to speak to you then I will leave a message for you (if you have given prior consent for me to do so). It is necessary for me to charge you the full session fee for a missed appointment. This fee should be paid to me at our next appointment.
I hope that your experience of counselling with me will be positive and will enable you to resolve in some way the difficulties in your life that caused you to seek help. In most cases, through the regular review of our work, it will become clear to both of us when it is time for our counselling work to end. Should you decide, between sessions, that you no longer wish to continue in counselling, please do contact me to let me know, giving me at least 24 hours’ notice.
I am committed to my ongoing professional development as a counsellor. This means that I am active in reflecting on, and learning from my experience of working with each of my clients. I carry out this process individually and also in regular confidential meetings with my individual supervisor.
As a researcher I am also committed to the ethical collection, analysis and dissemination of data from consenting clients about their experience in counselling with me, in line with the BACP Ethical Guidelines for Research in the Counselling Professions
Often clients find that the reflective process that comes from taking part in brief research activities increases their focus, awareness and sense of progress within their counselling experience (Stone & Elliott, 2011). Please contact me for information about the kind of research activities that I offer. I understand that some people will not wish to participate in research alongside their counselling. If you prefer not to take part, then this will not affect my interest and commitment in working with you.
Cooper, M. (2008). Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Sage.
Elliott, R., Watson, J., Goldman, R., & Greenberg, L.S. (2004). Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy. American Psychological Association.
Mearns, D., Thorne, B., & McLeod, J. (2013). Person-Centred Counselling in Action. Sage.
Rogers, C.R. (1951). Client-Centered Therapy Constable.
Rogers, C.R. (1961). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Constable.
Sanders, P. & Hill, A. (2014). Counselling for Depression: A Person-centred and Experiential Approach to Practice. Sage.
Stephen, S. & Elliott, R. (2015). Client Experiences of Post-Treatment Change and Helpful and Hindering Aspects of Low-Intensity CBT and Person-Centred Counselling. Paper presented at the BACP Research Conference in Nottingham, UK.
Stone, C. & Elliott, R. (2011). Clients’ experience of research within a research clinic setting. Counselling Psychology Review, 26, 71-86.