How does counselling and psychotherapy work?

Counselling and psychotherapy (therapy) is a process of exploration, learning and growth. I believe therapy is fundamentally about helping us to grow and to learn ways to manage ourselves more effectively, whatever is going on in our life. In counselling and psychotherapy sessions, we sit and talk together about what you’re experiencing. Maybe we need to do some detective work, and to teach you particular ways of increasing your awareness. In initial sessions in particular we might explore what’s going on for you in the present; your family and relationship history; your relationship with yourself; and what you’d like for yourself from working in therapy.

I work with the whole of you: your emotions, thoughts and physical presence. We look at how you form and deepen your relationship with yourself and others. This is all grounded in your bodily experience, so we pay particular attention to what’s going on for you physically. I’m also curious about how you create meaning. This could be through how you live, the things you do, or the things that are important to you, such as work, relationships, or spirituality.

Experiments, awareness and relationship in counselling and psychotherapy

At some point we might start to introduce exercises and experiments to support you to increase your awareness of who and how you are. This might include your patterns of relating to yourself and others, and how you function, day-to-day. We pay attention to your thinking, feelings and behaviour, looking at the impact these have on you, and how each affects the other. I might encourage you to practice new ways of communicating, to support you to have a different, more satisfying experience of being in relationship.

We also keep an eye on how you relate to me: your expectations and hopes of coming to therapy, and how our relationship mirrors your wider patterns of relating. It’s important to note that therapy sometimes involves challenge as well as support: everything we do in a session will be with the intention of serving your best interests, whatever it is we’re working on.

Content and process

It’s sometimes easy to fall into focusing on content in therapy, for example recounting what’s happened the previous week. We might structure sessions to ensure we move beyond content into doing specific pieces of work. I pay attention to the bigger picture, to your process, and the themes and attitudes that surface in you and in our work.

We review our work along the way, to ensure it’s helpful to you. It’s important to know that, working in therapy, sometimes we might feel worse before we feel better. This often happens in therapy, and is not unusual, so it’s important to keep going and to not give up at that point.

Ending counselling and psychotherapy

When the time comes for us to end our work together, whichever one of us initiates that, it’s good to do this in a managed way, rather than ending suddenly. I recommend taking at least two sessions to review and consolidate our work, or more if we’ve been working together longer-term. In these ending sessions we can look at how you will continue to integrate the work beyond our time working together.