What is counselling / therapy?
Counselling - also called therapy or talking therapy - is a way to address any issues and concerns you have in life. A trained professional therapist like myself helps you explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a constructive way so you can develop some clarity and sense of control over the situations you face.
Therapy offers a safe and confidential space to take time for yourself, to focus on anything that is troubling you or that you are struggling with, and also appreciate what you are capable of. When you are given the time to go at your own pace, without fear of judgement or having to worry about other people’s feelings, and without the pressure to come up with the answers or change things until you are ready, you are more likely to find a way forward that works for you.
Most importantly, humans are not designed to go it alone, so having someone on your side as you explore things really can make all the difference.
How do I tell if I could use therapy or if it will help me?
People use therapy for all sorts of reasons. Feeling stressed, burnt out, anxious or depressed are some of the most common ones, and perhaps because it is so common to feel this way at some point, many people soldier on for a long time before telling anyone about it or seeking support. But these are definitely things that counselling can help you with.
Some challenges feel hard to pin down or are a quiet, niggling sense that builds up over time. Like relationship issues with partners, family or friends, a sense that your life could be more than it is, or that something needs to change.
Or perhaps you have experienced a major life change or event, such as becoming a parent, a relationship breakdown, job loss, bereavement or illness, and feel you need some extra support as you find a new way through.
These experiences can be recent but they can also be from years or decades ago. Sometimes how overwhelming things became, or the way people hurt us or broke our trust is too much to deal with in the moment when we just have to focus on getting through another day, and we have to find the right time later on to handle the fallout, work out what really happened, and build ourselves back up again.
How do I choose a therapist?
There’s a lot of counsellors in Bristol, and a lot of different ways of doing counselling - it can be hard to know where to start. Choosing who to work with is really important; you need to feel comfortable in their company, and get the sense you’re going to be able to trust this person. Hopefully what we write on our websites or the profiles of counsellors in your area will give you a sense of how we work and what we are like (try counselling directory, BACP, or Psychology Today) , but just as you would with finding a place to live or a romantic partner - browsing online is different to being there in person! Ideally try a few different assessment / consultation sessions with therapists you like the look of, and get a feel for who suits you best - go with your gut instinct.
What do I have to do?
I know from my own time in the client’s chair, and from working with so many different people, that trusting a stranger with your problems and feelings isn't always easy, and it takes everyone a different amount of time to get comfortable and make use of counselling. So all I ask from a session is that you turn up and be however you are at that moment. You don’t have to talk, you don’t have to have a ‘eureka / light-bulb’ moment, and you don’t have to hold it together - but you also don’t have to be constantly challenged with tough questions, get very emotional or fall apart if you don't want to; it really is up to you.
The main idea is for us together to pay attention to who you are and what is going on for you, give you some space to just be, and think about how you live your life. What works well and what doesn’t, what areas of life just flow and which ones are stuck or hard work, what are you focusing on and what gets pushed into the background? I’ll encourage you to notice the thoughts and feelings that might otherwise go unnoticed or get pushed aside,and find ways to express the things that have been hard to put into words and therefore have gone unsaid and unheard.
How do I know if it's working?
While in some situations, people might feel instant relief or a change of perspective after a few sessions, the healing or growth that can happen in counselling might be so gradual or subtle that it may be difficult to notice it in yourself.
You might notice it in a session - perhaps you find you’re able to talk about something you haven’t been able to before. Or you start to feel more or less strongly about something than before. Perhaps you find it easier to turn up to sessions after a while, or speak your mind with less worry about the consequences. There’s all sorts of patterns of thoughts or behaviours that might shift a little, or a lot.
The important thing is whether things change in the rest of your life - it might be that you feel more clear or at peace with your situation; that your mind feels less cluttered or weighed down; everyday things feel less of a struggle; your relationships with friends, family or colleagues improve; you find yourself able to say yes or no to things you found difficult to before, or that how you cope or react when you’re stressed, emotional or tired changes… There’s so many ways you might see how you’ve made therapy work in your life. And because everyone is different and we adapt and get used to small changes, it may take the space, time and extra person prompting you in therapy to reflect and notice how far you’ve come!