This is your chance to find out how I work, and see if you feel comfortable with me. I will spend a few moments explaining the format of the session, and I will talk through confidentiality. Then the rest of the session is yours, to talk about what’s brought you to counselling, and what you hope to get from it. I allow 5 minutes at the end to check how you found it. You may feel that you know whether you want to continue, or you may prefer to go away and think about it. Either is fine, and there is no pressure for you to continue.
Will what I say be confidential?
Anything you say to me is confidential. I have supervision once a month, as all counsellors do, to discuss my work, but no names are mentioned, or any identifying information given. Your anonymity is preserved.
However, if it became clear you were at immediate risk of killing yourself, we could talk about who we might need to contact – your GP for instance, and decide on a way forward. I can’t keep that information to myself. Similarly, if you were to tell me that you had harmed, or were planning to harm someone, or that your or someone else’s safety was at risk, I couldn’t keep that information to myself. Legally, I am required to disclose acts of terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, and traffic offences.
What should I talk about?
This is entirely up to you – there are no right or wrong things to talk about. Talk about whatever is troubling you; my job is to listen and understand. I definitely won’t be judging what you say; you may worry that what you’re taking about is trivial or unimportant (I hear this quite often!) – but it’s important to you, and therefore valid and worthy of attention. You don’t have to come prepared with an account worked out – sometimes I find people start talking and surprise themselves where they end up. I say go with this – 9 times out of 10 you’ll end up talking about something that feels really helpful to talk about. Often in the first session people have no trouble talking, and can find it a real relief to have that space and time. Occasionally, people can feel self-conscious and uncomfortable – after all, how often are we in a situation when we can have all the attention and talk about ourselves for 50 mins? If this happens, it’s my job is to help you talk – I’m not going to make you suffer in silence! We can talk about how you’re finding it and what might help you, for instance, you may need me to ask questions, or there have been times when I’ve used creative activities to help when people have found it difficult.
How often should I have counselling?
This is entirely up to you. It can depend on your availability and your finances. However, I find that it can be helpful to meet weekly, certainly at first. Sometimes, as counselling comes to an end, people decide to come less frequently, maybe fortnightly.
Why do you have a sliding scale of fees, and how do we agree what I pay?
I know that people’s financial circumstances vary; a set fee might be quite comfortable for one person, but a struggle for another. With this in mind, I work with a range of fees of between £45 and £55. When we agree to work together, we will discuss what feels manageable for you to pay. It might be an idea for you to think about what fee feels right for you. I realise this may feel uncomfortable, being the person who’s asked to decide, but please say the fee that feels realistic and appropriate for you.
How do I pay?
Payments during Covid-19 are made by bank transfer. I will give you my bank details when we make the first appointment, and I ask that you make the payent before the session.
In normal circumstances, I take payment by cash or card. Please note – fees are paid at the start of each session.
What happens if I don't attend an appointment?
If you’re not able to make it to a session, and need to cancel, I ask that you give me as much notice as possible. If I receive less than 24 hrs notice, I charge the full fee for the cancelled or missed session. This fee will need to be paid before another session can be booked. You can ring, text or email me to let me know if you need to cancel or re-arrange.
Do you keep records of my sessions?
I keep notes of our sessions. These are anonymous (I use codes instead of names) and are kept securely. They are for my personal use, and are a brief, factual, record of the key information from each session. My aim is that my notes should be respectful of each person. Under GDPR you have the right to ask to see any data I hold on you.
How many sessions will I need?
This is entirely up to you. You decide how long you continue; you are free to stop counselling at any time.
Some people prefer to have a structure. So for example, we could agree to have 6 sessions, with the possibility of further sessions if needed. We can have a review in session 5 to discuss how you are finding counselling, what is proving helpful/ unhelpful to you, and decide whether you’re ready to end, or whether you’d like to continue. Other people prefer to leave it more open-ended. In which case, we can take it on a week by week basis, checking each session whether you’d like to book for the following week. It would still be important however, to review our work regularly, just to check how things are going for you.
Regular reviews will also help us identify when the work is coming to an end, and we can then agree an ending session. This would be a mutual decision; it is important that you feel ready to end. The number of sessions people have can vary enormously; it is about what feels right for you.
Would you ever refer me to another counsellor?
In our Introductory session, it might become clear that you are looking for a specific type of therapy, for example CBT, that I do not offer, and you would be better off working with a CBT therapist. In this case, I could give you details of who you might contact.
My professional association requires me to work within my competence and training. This is my ethical and professional responsibility (www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework). Should there be a point when I feel that the issues we are exploring are beyond my competence and training, I would consult with my supervisor, and might reach the decision that it would be in your best interests to bring the therapy with me to an end. However, I would discuss this with you, and would make sure I could refer you to someone I felt was more suitable to help you, so that you could get the support you needed.