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Our Counselling

We usually come to counselling confused or distressed often stuck or unclear what the problem is or how we feel. We want to work out how to manage this time in our lives and emotions in a less chaotic or painful way to find a more productive way. Sometimes we just need an understanding person to talk to. Frequently we either have no one to talk things over with or are further confused by advice and judgements of friends family and others (however well intentioned they may be). Counselling is a time when you can explore whatever issues you need to with someone who tries to listen carefully and without judgement supporting you to explore fully and find your own solutions.

The importance of the client-counsellor relationship

Research and experience show that one of the most important aspects of successful counselling is the relationship between the client and their counsellor. It is important that you feel reasonably at ease and understood by your counsellor so you can trust the counselling process.

Telling your story

Often it is enough to tell the story to someone who is genuinely interested and accepting. Counselling will generally begin with an invitation to talk about what has brought you to the point of seeking help and what you hope for from it. Your counsellor will be interested in your thoughts feelings (emotional particularly but also physical) and behaviour. In my experience the feelings we express are usually only a fraction of the intensity we actually feel.

Exploring and understanding your feelings

Once we have expressed our feelings we are usually less distressed and can begin to understand our reactions better. Our ability to use our own resources for working things out may then resurface. Not everyone finds identifying and discussing their feelings easy. Your counsellor may suggest working non-verbally for example using art materials or objects to symbolise your experiences.

Sometimes people feel worse before they start to feel better because difficult experiences and feelings may get stirred up. For this reason it is good to discuss with your counsellor ways of taking care of yourself of managing your feelings and how to find other support as well as your counselling. This is especially the case if you are exploring childhood abuse or other major traumas.

What you can do

Counselling is likely to be more effective if you do things between sessions which will support the changes you want to make. This could be thinking drawing writing taking exercise a relaxation exercise undertaking specific tasks or actions—whatever seems likely to help you feel better and that you are happy to do. It is best if these ideas come from you but your counsellor may suggest things.

Some things your counsellor will and won’t do

Counsellors do not generally offer advice. However your counsellor may make suggestions for you to consider and may introduce you to different ways of exploring and expressing your feelings and actions. This could also include assisting you to find and discuss relevant information. Sometimes people appreciate learning some new skills like improved communication or problem-solving. Some problems respond to particular techniques. These should always be explained to you so you can make an informed choice whether to go along with them.

Saying no

A good counsellor will never try to make you do anything you do not want to do or which conflicts with your values. If you ever feel under pressure to do something you are unhappy with you should feel able to say so. If not or if you feel your counsellor is persisting in pressurising you you should STOP your counselling and ask to see someone else.

Boundaries

Providing a safe space is the reason why counsellors usually have ‘boundaries’ (a bit of counselling jargon). Boundaries are things like being clear about the contract you are entering into appointment times duration payment confidentiality. Abuse by therapists is not unknown it is sad to say (as in all other walks of life) and is usually accompanied by serious blurring of such boundaries including inappropriate suggestions for example to meet socially or inappropriate touch. You may be more vulnerable when you are in counselling because you could be exploring difficult issues and it is important that you are not taken advantage of.

Cornerstone’s role

We hope at Cornerstone to minimise the risk of you encountering a counsellor who might abuse your trust by checking the credentials of our Associates. We have known most of our counsellors for a number of years and have taken up references for those who were new to us. If you feel unable to tell your counsellor any concerns you have about the counselling please contact Gail or Sue at Cornerstone.

Feelings about your counsellor

There may be times when you experience uncomfortable or unusual feelings towards your counsellor which are not due to them having abusive intentions for example you may experience unexpected feelings of abandonment jealousy or anger when your counsellor is away. It is important to mention these as they are often a normal part of the process and may help you and your counsellor to understand the influence of past relationships on your life now. We frequently censor our feelings in order to be polite or seem ‘normal’. Counselling is not about being polite and should be a place where you can discover your true feelings because they will influence your behaviour even when you think they don’t show!

Practicalities

Appointments:

These are most often weekly. Different intervals can often be negotiated. There is a balance to be struck between making a commitment which is sensible for your life circumstances and making and maintaining progress in your counselling—in general you will make more progress if you attend regularly.

Appointments are usually 50 minutes but some counsellors may offer slightly different timings.

Smoking:

Cornerstone is a smoke-free zone. If you feel you cannot manage 50 minutes without a cigarette you may be able to agree a ‘time-out’ with your counsellor. However it is worth thinking about and discussing the timing of ‘time-out’—is there something you are finding hard to face?

Alcohol and other substances:

You will not gain lasting benefit from counselling if you arrive under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs. Some prescribed drugs can have similar effects so it is a good idea to mention any mood-altering substances you are taking.

Payments:

Counsellors at Cornerstone will expect you to pay by cash or cheque made payable to the counsellor. Some will expect you to pay for a session in advance. Missed appointments will usually incur a cancellation fee. This will be a minimum of £10 and up to the full fee—please ask your therapist for details.

Number of sessions:

Your counsellor may suggest having a specific number of sessions to start with (such as 4 or 6) with a review to see how it is going and whether more sessions would be useful.

You are free to end counselling at any time of your choosing although it is generally helpful to you to have and your counsellor would probably appreciate an ending session particularly if you have worked together for a while.

The average number of sessions people attend for is between 5 and 8 but some people only come for one or two and others may continue for a year or more (not necessarily weekly). It is difficult to predict with certainty the number of sessions you will need. This is why regular reviews are helpful so you consider what you are committing yourself to.

Notes:

Counsellors usually make a few notes after sessions to help them think about you and your issues and to remember details. These will be without identifying information and carefully kept safe. You are entitled to see notes pertaining to yourself.

Confidentiality:

All our counsellors abide by professional codes of ethics and practice. Part of this is related to confidentiality. What you talk about with your counsellor is private and confidential with some exceptions:

If you tell your counsellor anything which leads them to believe you or another person especially a child are at risk of harm they may need to divulge this information. However a counsellor would usually hope to discuss this with you first and enable you to take appropriate action.

Your counsellor would discuss any decision to disclose information to relevant authorities with their supervisor to try to ensure they are acting in the best interests of the most vulnerable parties. Discussion of their work in supervision with a supervisor and trusted colleagues is a normal part of a reputable counsellor’s work in line with professional guidelines. This will always be done with care to protect your identity.

Your questions:

If you have any questions about these things you should feel free to ask your counsellor or the staff at Cornerstone.

Feedback Comments and complaints:

We hope you will give us feedback about our service and your experience of therapy. There are feedback cards in reception.

If you are not happy with your therapy we hope you will feel able to speak direct to your therapist in person or in writing. However should this prove too difficult please contact one of the Principals Sue Campbell (07971 713042) or Gail Evans (07814 371884). In the event that this does not answer any concerns you can contact the professional association your counsellor belongs to (ask Reception for details). We also hope you will tell the counsellor about the things you have found helpful and positive.