What is counselling?
Counselling and psychotherapy can be defined in many ways, which may sometimes feel a little confusing. The definition given often depends upon the context of the work and the approaches that are being offered.
Fundamentally, my aim as a psychotherapeutic counsellor is for us to reach a good mutual understanding of the origins and nature of the ways in which you think, feel and behave, especially relating to any difficulties you may be currently experiencing . We will carefully explore how you might gain relief from sources of distress or discomfort and discover how to live life more fully and freely.
I will work collaboratively with you to initiate positive changes. In some situations and at certain times in your life, change may seem too difficult to manage. If this is the case, I will aim simply to help you to express your feelings clearly and openly - always in a confidential and safe setting where our relationship can be one of mutual trust. This, in itself, can often lead to greater self-acceptance and compassion which, in turn, can provide considerable relief from psychological stress and perhaps lay the foundations for future change.
Although I sometimes use a single approach, it is more likely that we will negotiate a way of working together that integrates ideas from more than one theoretical perspective. All my work is based on principles that have a firm evidence base and are informed by widespread research carried out over a considerable period of time.
The essence of pluralism means that we will collaborate to find the most effective and meaningful approach for you as a unique individual and we will regularly review your counselling together as we progress, in order to ensure that it continues to meet your ongoing needs.
Psychodynamic or psychoanalytic psychotherapy:
The way we relate to ourselves and other people is influenced by things that have happened to us in the past, often going right back to our early childhood. The psychodynamic approach to counselling aims to explore these factors and the unconscious expectations we may hold that drive our ways of relating. Sometimes a sense of this can emerge within the counselling relationship itself, providing useful insights into what may be happening in other relationships and areas of our lives.
Humanistic and person-centred therapies:
These approaches are based on the recognition that we all have an innate need to be known, understood and to feel accepted. A relationship of trust, acceptance and positive regard between the therapist and the individual is central to humanistic therapy, which aims towards greater achievement of potential and self-fulfillment, giving life more personal meaning and often allowing for individual self-expression and creativity.
Cognitive behaviour therapy (or CBT):
CBT often involves taking a more structured and methodical approach to understanding the patterns of thinking and behaviour that characterize individual lives. These can sometimes lead us to develop ‘automatic responses’ that may be unhelpful and cause problems such as anxiety, depression or perhaps an obsessive behaviour pattern, a phobia or a difficulty with eating. CBT tends to focus more on the present than the past and may be more directive than other approaches, sometimes requiring specific tasks to be completed not only during sessions but as ‘homework’ in the time in between.
Mindfulness and Compassion-focused approaches:
Rather than being a therapeutic ‘approach’ in itself, mindfulness involves techniques that can help us to make changes in our daily lives through practising a different form of awareness and openness to what is happening within us, in response to both external and internal challenges. The strategies we automatically employ often lead us to avoid things or to try to run away from pressures which, in turn, can diminish our opportunities and leave us feeling more anxious and upset. Through practising mindfulness regularly, we can learn to pay attention to things differently and purposefully; to embrace the present moment and give less focus to past events or anxieties about the future. It is an alternative approach to life involving particular techniques that can initially be learned and practised either individually or as part of a group. Teachers of mindfulness embrace this approach to life for themselves in an active way through ongoing, regular practice.
Compassion focused therapy (CFT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are examples of current therapeutic approaches that embrace mindfulness within their framework. They are sometimes referred to as 'third wave' CBT approaches. I regularly incorporate elements of these approaches into my work with clients and encourage clients to explore these ideas for themselves as part of my pluralistic approach.
If you would like to know more about mindfulness, here is a document that provides additional information.