This depends on what your needs are. Some people find that after only a very few sessions they have some clarity and focus and are ready to end the therapy. Other people value the ongoing support and therapeutic relationship and will continue with therapy for weeks, months, or even years.
There’s no fixed or ideal length of time for the counselling process; it varies from person to person and will often depend on the depth of the issues you are facing. I find it is helpful for us both to agree before we start on undertaking a certain number of sessions and reviewing once we reach that point. You are able to decide how long your therapy will last, and in return my aim is to make sure therapy continues only as long as it is of benefit to you.
My aim is to reply to you within 48 hours of receiving your telephone call or email to arrange a free 20-minute assessment session so that we can discuss your needs. Our assessment session will ascertain if my method of counselling fits with your needs, and for you to find out if I am the right counsellor for you.
Confidentiality is one of the main ways in which therapy differs from many other forms of helping - for example, talking to friends or family can rarely offer the same degree of confidentiality as talking to a counsellor. Because of this confidentiality, you will find that - as you get used to coming for therapy - you are freer to talk about whatever you wish to.
No therapist can offer 100% confidentiality: there are some situations where the law requires disclosure of risk (e.g. certain child protection issues) and in common with most other therapists, there are some situations where I may not be able to keep total confidentiality. In particular, if someone tells me that they are thinking of harming themselves in a way that I believe puts them at serious risk, or if someone tells me that they are doing something that could put others at risk, I may not be able to keep this information confidential. However, breaking confidentiality is rare, and only happens after talking to the person concerned.
When you come for counselling it's important that you feel free to talk about whatever is important to you. Sometimes, you may not be clear what those issues are. Having a friend or family member with you is not usually helpful because they may have their own agenda for you. Even if this is just that they want to be supportive, or want you to 'get better', this agenda can prevent us opening issues up. When you come for therapy, you may need to explore thoughts or behaviours about which you feel ashamed or embarrassed and you may censor yourself so as not to hurt someone, or you may find that what they want you to talk about is not really what you need to discuss.
Sometimes, family/friends can even be part of an underlying issue which needs to be discussed. Usually, people who ask this question are nervous about coming for a session alone, or they are anxious for the person who is thinking about arranging sessions. This anxiety is quite normal, and you will not be forced to talk about anything you feel uncomfortable about - but you do need to be able to talk about whatever is important. For this reason, I do not see clients accompanied by friends or family.
Kirsty Stacey, Counsellor and Psychotherapist
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