Counselling FAQ's

What is a counsellor and what is counselling?

A qualified counsellor is a professional who has completed in-depth training in a range of therapeutic interventions and is trained to offer talk-based therapy.

Counselling uses an interpersonal relationship to create a non-judgmental, safe space for a person to talk about and work through their problems. For some people, just being able to tell their story and be listened to, is helpful. A counsellor can help a person to work through their problems by assisting them to clarify what the issues are, identify strategies to make changes in their life and increase their self-understanding.

 

What's the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

Counselling and psychotherapy have a lot in common and the two can appear very similar. Often the two terms are used interchangeably. However, the key difference is in what each one focuses on.

Counselling usually refers to short-term therapy focusing on a specific problem, for example, family conflict or addiction issues. The counsellor’s role is to help a person to clarify the issues, explore options and make changes that improve their wellbeing and self-awareness.

Psychotherapy tends to refer to longer-term therapy for complex issues that may have built up over time. For example, trauma experiences or more complex mental health issues. In psychotherapy, a person is helped to gain insight into how these issues affect their thoughts, feelings and actions. Healing from these more complex issues tends to be a slower process requiring longer-term support.

 

 

 

 

How can counselling/psychotherapy help me?

We all have difficult times in our lives where we can find ourselves struggling with an issue and not doing too well. For example, being bullied by a homophobic boss at work and not knowing what to do.

Many, if not all of us also have aspirations to achieve our full potential, to reach our goals and make our lives even better. For example, wanting to be the best parent possible.

In either of these situations, we may choose to manage things ourselves and/or have friends and family who we can call on for support. However, there may be times when these things aren’t enough. We may find ourselves feeling stuck and not knowing how to move forward. Times when we feel like we could do with a bit of extra support. This is when talking to a counsellor can be helpful.

Some of the benefits of talking to a counsellor:

A counsellor is someone neutral who is not a part of your everyday life. Because they are removed from your immediate situation they can provide you with a different perspective on things which may help you to find a new way forward.

Talking to a counsellor can help you to feel less alone with a problem. Because a counsellor is neutral you can talk to them without having to worry about their reactions or them breaking confidentiality. Family and friends may be less neutral which can make it difficult for you to be open with them.

A counsellor is trained to help you work out what’s right for you. Friends and family can mean well, but they often have their own opinions and can tend to come up with solutions based on what they think should happen. While this can be useful, you may also benefit from having the space to gain a better understanding of yourself and a clearer sense of what you want and need.

What will we discuss in counselling/psychotherapy?

Put simply, you can discuss whatever is important to you. A counselling session is your time for you. Kate isn’t going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t talk about because at the end of the day it’s you who has to live your life, not her. Kate may make some suggestions based on what she’s noticing, but you get to make the choice about what to focus on in an appointment. No topic is too big or too small.

Sometimes people attend counselling because they have been told they should get help with a certain matter. For example, a person may be ordered by the courts to attend counselling for an addiction issue. In this instance, talking about the issue at hand would probably be a good idea. However, Kate’s role is to work in collaboration with you, not to impose rules about what should be talked about.

Some of the common issues that people talk about in counselling include;

  • Grief and loss
  • Relationship issues
  • Sex, sexuality or gender issues
  • Managing stress
  • Working towards and achieving goals
  • Mental health concerns
  • Making positive changes in their life
  • Life transitions such as the birth of a new baby, separation, divorce or the death of a family member or friend
  • Work and career issues
  • Parenting
  • Addiction
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Self-esteem difficulties.
Will you give me advice?

A counsellor‘s role is to work collaboratively with you and facilitate you finding your own answers. Kate firmly believes you are the person who’s most qualified to make decisions about your life. Therefore she will never just tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

However, Kate is very experienced in supporting people process range of issues and which means there are times when she has some insights and ideas about what could benefit you. In these instances, she may make some suggestions and offer some advice. If this advice feels right for you then great. If it doesn’t then you are under no obligation to take it on board. You are also very welcome to ask Kate for her suggestions and advice at any stage in the counselling process.

Will you prescribe medication?

The only professionals who can prescribe medication are psychiatrists and other doctors. Social workers, psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists do not have medical training, so they are unable to prescribe medication.

Sometimes a counsellor may think that you would benefit from taking medication. In this case, they will encourage you to see your GP and discuss this further. You need to see a GP to get a referral for a psychiatrist, so it’s always best to start there first.

How many appointments will I need?

 

The number of and frequency of appointments needed is entirely dependent on the individual. Some problems can be resolved in a few sessions, while others benefit from longer term work with a therapist. Other times talking about a particular problem may bring up other issues that need to be explored. There is no right or wrong length of time to be seeing a counsellor and it often depends on why a person is attending counselling. If you would like to get an idea of how many sessions you will need you can discuss this with Kate. She will be able to give you an estimate based on what is clinically indicated. 

 

What qualifications do counsellors/psychotherapists need to have?

Unfortunately, it is possible for someone to call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist without any training or qualifications. For this reason, you should always choose a counsellor who is able to provide evidence of their qualifications.

A properly trained counsellor has usually completed three or more years of study, either at a University or another accredited higher education institution. This can include social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who have chosen to specialise in counselling or psychotherapy and undertake additional relevant training.

A good way to check if a counsellor is properly qualified is to ask if they have completed PACFA accredited training. PACFA is the peak professional body that provides national standards for counsellors.

What's the difference between a counsellor and a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist and a counsellor have different training and qualifications.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has chosen to specialise in mental health. As a doctor, they are able to prescribe medication to help with mental illness symptoms. They may also offer talk-based therapy.

A counsellor is not a medical doctor and is not qualified to prescribe any medication. A counsellor is someone who is trained to offer talk-based therapy. There are many types of talk-based therapy that a counsellor can use. Many people have heard of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is one type of talk-based therapy. Kate can talk with you in more detail about the therapeutic approaches she uses.

With your consent, a counsellor and psychiatrist may work in partnership. This is because medication and talk-based therapy work well together, providing you with the best care possible.

 

What is cognitive behaviour therapy?

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that aims to help a person manage their difficulties by changing the way they think and behave. It is used to help people with a range of mental and physical health issues and is often used to treat anxiety and depression. CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected and create a feedback loop. Negative thoughts affect a person’s feelings, which in turn affects a person’s behaviours. These behaviours then reinforce the negative thoughts and a vicious cycle is created. CBT aims to help a person understand how their thinking affects their mood and behaviours, and teach them new ways of thinking and behaving that are more helpful. This approach is based on the concept that negative thinking is a habit that can be broken.