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There are lots of things about counselling that people think they know.

For example:

Some parents ~ even of adult offspring ~ believe that they can send their child to me for counselling. After all, it’s the parent’s position that they know their child’s needs better than anyone.  So what’s the problem?

Some problems with this include that counselling children (i.e. under the age of 18) requires that the counsellor has completed a very particular form of training; a generally-qualified counsellor is not qualified to work with children (unless the counsellor has completed additional training).

Even the parents of an adult child may not understand that as counselling is an autonomous process it requires an autonomous decision. One cannot send someone to a counsellor (even if one thinks it would do the person some good). The person entering must make their own decision (and make their own contact with the counsellor).

Similarly, general qualifications in counselling train people in one-on-one individual counselling work. Such generally-qualified counsellors have no qualifications in working with couples, or with groups of people.  If you’re unsure as to the counsellor’s qualifications it’s wise to ask the counsellor: “how are you qualified to work with…” and judge the answer you get for yourself).

To help with some of these assumptions, I’m developing this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

If you have a question that is not addressed here, please use the comments section to post your question, and I’ll update this FAQ page with my response.

Contents

What can I expect from our first counselling session?

Worried ManYou'll arrive on the time of our session, ring the door bell and I'll come to take you to our room.

I'll introduce myself, invite you to have a seat opposite me & maybe you'll pour yourself a glass of water.

I'll summarise what we're going to do during our first session.

Usually this will be:-

  • An overview of confidentiality and what you need to know where your privacy may be broken ~ about 5 minutes.
  • I'll take some details and a little about your history (eg past counselling) ~ about 5 minutes.
  • We'll spend most of the session talking about the problems you're bringing; you'll get some experiences of how I work as a counsellor, and I'll be monitoring if you're able to make use of what I say ~ most of the remainder of the session.
  • Last 5 minutes we'll talk about meeting again, and I'll give you a pack that helps you make an informed decision about working with me.

The whole session will be conversation based: no forms to fill in, no tests to take, no using toys or equipment.

There's no problem that's too large to speak about.

I won't be shocked or express disgust (although you might to take a big bite of courage to discuss some things that are difficult for you; we can always talk around difficult subjects when you're not ready to just dive in).

If something I say triggers a thought that you'd not been prepared to speak about, you can decline to answer my question (I won't be offended).

It's my job to help you make an informed decision about working with me. If I don't do that well enough, you can choose to work with another counsellor.

Couple Counselling? Individual Counselling? Group Counselling? Which one do I choose?
Confusing Sidewalk Signs © https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/

Confusing Sidewalk Signs © https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/

Contact me to discuss your needs from counselling.

It may become obvious which form of counselling could help you better after talking with someone experienced.

I'll try and help you make an informed decision on which counselling might be a good choice for you by explaining options with respect to your circumstances.

Individual: For your personal problems (or problems related to others).

Couple: For relationship problems, where the couple work together with the counsellor.

Group: For individual and relationship problems, where an individual joins a group of people and the counsellor..

Do I have to come to counselling weekly?
Calendar © https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/

Calendar © https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/

The counselling approach I use (am trained & qualified to use) is effective when we both are able to work it together. Part of that working-it together, is being able to meet regularly and repetitively.

Once upon a time, clients met their therapist on a daily basis (or, sometimes, three times a week). This is still a preferred approach with therapies such as psychoanalysis. Now the basic standard for counselling is weekly sessions (although some clients may choose to work with a counsellor twice-a-week).

For an understanding of the psychological rationale underpinning this, read upon on the concepts of Containment, Holding and Therapeutic Alliance from authors as Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, and Wilfred Bion.

Some clients, inexperienced in counselling, believe that they'll be just fine coming to counselling on an ad-hoc basis (e.g. coming to an appointment every so often, arranged with no planning or when they feel like it). Whilst there may be some therapists who use an approach that supports this (and I can talk with you about such arrangements after we have established a strong therapeutic alliance), I'm afraid that I don't offer ad-hoc sessions to people beginning counselling;

I offer weekly sessions arranged for the same day, same time and same location each week… until we're done ("done" meaning an agreed, set number of sessions, or working open-ended until either of us recognise that we've worked through the problems enough).

If you are unable ~ or unwilling ~ to commit to weekly counselling sessions, I wouldn't be the counsellor to choose.

What makes you different from other counsellors?
Dare to be Different © https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/

Dare to be Different © https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/

Here's some information that I've heard given to me over the years:-

1. Plain speaking & human

I know all the psychology jargon, but you (probably) don't. So I'll talk to you in plain English and explain some things as we go along.

I believe that people can make use of knowledge, and if they can learn something of what's going on for them then that can be a big relief.

Talking with me can be like talking with a friend whose opinions you might begin to trust; who doesn't just say things like "Oh, you're fine" or "Don't worry, everything will be OK" just because this might be the easier thing (for me) to say. I won't dismiss your concerns.

2. I don't sit in (unnecessary) silence.

A stereotypical counsellor sits there saying nothing. Occasionally you get an "Hmmm...".

If you're working away, talking things through, sharing stuff, thinking, then I (usually) won't jump in and interrupt you… I'll be listening and learning from you.

But if there's nothing going on, if the "space" in the room is empty, then I think silence from the counsellor can be quite punishing.

I speak!

3. I have strong/reliable Boundaries.

You have to feel safe during counselling.

For example: whilst it might seem friendly to invite you to meet with me in the pub, that would be a serious breach of ethics and of protecting our professional relationship… that would be a big breach of boundaries.

But little boundaries also matter considerably: like starting our session on time (and ending it on time, too), being consistent in my behaviour, not putting you in a situation that makes you feel unsafe, being trustworthy and competent, not talking about stuff that I have no training in (e.g. making diagnoses) etc.

Sometimes my behaviour or my questioning might seem a little unusual (our relationship looks social, but it's not really)… and we can always talk about anything that puzzles you.

4. It's our Relationship that matters.

People come to counselling to talk about stuff out there.

But often that same stuff can begin to appears in here (between you and me).

The stuff between you and I can be a rich source of information and help. This stuff is real and it's happening between you and me! With other people, they may not have the wherewithal to discuss "here and now" happenings with you. They may prefer to turn a blind-eye. But that's where I'm different to your mates.

So, if it's helpful to us both, we can talk about the stuff that happens inside the room, as well as outside the room.

5. I use unfocussed listening and several other layers to understand the problem.

Whilst I'm listening to you, I'm also listening to several other layers of things.

Sometimes called "unfocussed listening", I'm listening to between the story, listening to my feelings and my response (sometimes called counter-transference), I'm paying attention to things around the story, and what's missing from the story.

You see, you're living the with your problem, so your problem gets your full focus. That can mean that you're too close and missing the bigger picture.

By working in this way, I can obtain much more information from your problem that you can, and in turn I can offer you some (partially digested) insight; thoughts that you may have been missing that may be key to your recovery.

6. I believe that you have (or will have) the solutions to your problems.

When you meet with me for the first time, you may be experiencing loss.

Loss of ability to resolve your problem.

But, somewhere within you can be the solutions to resolving your problem.

It's my skill to help people discover things that block their own solutions, and to take down the blocks (when appropriate).

You'll leave counselling independent of me (which can be vastly more powerful than a therapist telling you what to do, and you leaving feeling that you have to keep going back for new answers).

I'm a bloke!
Dean Richardson MNCS(Acc) MBACP(Accred)

Dean Richardson MNCS(Acc) MBACP(Accred)

As you search the Internet for counsellors, you'll notice lots of women. Hundreds of them in the Hampshire region. Many of them showing compassionate, smiling faces (apart from some peculiar exceptions where the counsellor declines to show their face online), many of them with their websites showing wispy butterflies, calming candles, and peaceful oceans.

I'm a bloke.

I get puzzled by stuff I don't understand.

I work with behaviours, thoughts, somatics (as well as feelings!).

I use coarse, basic language (if you do).

I work with the really tough stuff (like behaviours that you've had for years and feel helpless to change).

… as well as being fully qualified and experienced (working since 1999), totally understanding, helpfully challenging, and I'll even shed a tear when it comes to that.

In fact, for the most of 2015 my entire client-base was 100% men (including gay male couples)…

…it seems that many clients are looking for something distinct; something particular from a male counsellor.

What if I don't like counselling?

I won't (actually… can't) commit you to attending sessions.

Counselling is a co-operative, therapeutic relationship.

It's both you and I working together in a relationship, aimed at helping both of us work to help you improve things.

That's kinda risky… when was the last time you could guarantee that you'd get on well with someone new?

So, I ask you to commit to:-

  • One session at a time (and we'll work for only as long as it's helpful)
  • That if you find our counselling work is not helpful (or has become not helpful), that you speak up… giving us the opportunity to look into what's come up… together.

I'm afraid that if you're looking for someone to cure you (the GP scenario: you say what's wrong, and someone gives you pills that make the problem go away) then my form of counselling isn't for you.

How much does counselling cost?

You pay my fee during each session (usually once a week).

Look at the above menu for a link to my fees page.

You only pay for the service you're taking from me (different services cost different amounts).

Why don't you offer free sessions?
Neon "Free" Sign © https://www.flickr.com/photos/jking89/

Neon "Free" Sign © https://www.flickr.com/photos/jking89/

A few counsellors offer a no-fee 20 minute introductory session.

I don't 😉

It has been my experience over 17+ years that every client I have worked with only really just gets going after the first 10 minutes or so.

As (usual) counselling sessions last for 50 minutes, I'm not sure how helpful it is to begin a good counselling relationship by short-changing the client offering only 20 minutes; stopping us prematurely. To do so would mean I'd be giving you an experience that's never going to be repeated in the whole time we work together!

I've heard one or two (rather inexperienced) counsellors claim: "client's can't manage the full fifty minutes at the start" ~ I think that's a bit of a rubbish thing to think if we respectfully recognise that clients are resilient and perfectly able to manage quite a lot during counselling.

Our first session is a mutual interview, sometimes called an assessment for counselling (i.e. it's not about me deciding if I'm going to allow you to come again to counselling, it's us both evaluating each other… and the process between us). We need time to discover this together.

So, our first counselling session will be the full 50 minutes, and the fee will be my standard fee* for the type of service you (or your & your partner, or you and your group) is seeking.

*which may be an agreed reduced-fee, or a time-limited special offer.

How long will counselling take?
Calendar © https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/

Calendar © https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/

Without being flippant, my approach to counselling means that your commitment to counselling lasts for just one session at a time.

I take this approach because, in my experience, clients different vastly in their needs from counselling. Some clients need only a handful of sessions before they're done; others needs more sessions.

Counselling is not like going to a GP: i.e. you describe your ailments and the doctor gives you tablets until you're cured (or the counsellor says: "You'll be cured in 7 sessions").

No, counselling is like a relationship over time where you (or your problems) become transformed due to the relationship and what happens between you and the other person.

It's a rather effective approach!
Safety Measures.

For individual counselling, we can agree a set number of sessions (eg 6) at the beginning of our work, and we will discuss and stick to that number of sessions if we both agree it to be helpful.

For couple/group counselling, initially we work on discovering the focus for the relationship work. Once this is agreed upon by everyone, some couples and group decide they will work on the focus on their own. Others stay in counselling to discover how they might address the focus.

As the counsellor, if I think the counselling is going nowhere (or the service I'm offering seems not to be helpful to you) we'll have a conversation about what we might like to do about this (rather than just continuing to meet aimlessly week after week).

So, in conclusion, I will work for you for as long (or as short) as we both find that counselling is being helpful.

When we're done, we're done and we'll plan to say goodbye (with there being no requirement for you to come back for "top up" sessions in the future ~ as if you'd somehow run out 🙂 )

How do I pay for counselling?
Rainbow of Credit © https://www.flickr.com/photos/armydre2008/

Rainbow of Credit © https://www.flickr.com/photos/armydre2008/

You can pay by cash, cheque [made out to Dean Richardson] or bank transfer (no admin costs involved).

You can also pay by credit card or debit card (online will cost you an additional 4%, in person will cost an additional £1.50).

You pay weekly - during each session.

When you can't pay (eg forgot your wallet) we'll add the fee to the next session, or you can pay online via my website iCounsellor.co.uk/payments

How soon can I begin counselling?
Calendar © https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/

Calendar © https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/

It usually takes us up to a week to arrange our first session.

We'll email each other to agree a day and time.

You'll send me a £30 deposit to secure our first appointment.

I'll confirm the booking.

Is counselling right for me?

Honestly, I can't tell you that here.

Because I work "one session at a time", you can book a session with me and try it for yourself.

You won't be committed to months or years of therapy. You'll only try the one 50-minute session.

It's part of my job to help you make an informed decision. If you think I'm not right for you, you can talk it over with me or choose not to enter regular counselling with me.

So, I just come along and we're in counselling?

The first time a counsellor and client meet is often called an "assessment".

It's a mutual assessment... the client is seeing if the counsellor is suitable for his/her problems, and the counsellor is seeing if the client can make use of what the counsellor is offering.

Neither of us have to accept working with the other.

Only if we both recognise that this seems a good-enough fit will we continue meeting for further sessions.

If you don't think I'm the right counsellor for you, then you won't need to come to me again.

If I don't think I'm the right counsellor for you, then I'll let you know, and we won't need to meet again.

How long (or short) have you worked with someone?

Shortest: one 50-minute session.

Longest: five years (approx 200 sessions).

On average? About 6 to 10 sessions seems to be a vague average, but everyone is quite unique in their needs from counselling. So, if we both agree that we're both making use of our time together, we'll continue to work together.

Can I talk to you about something illegal?
Is it Illegal? © https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/

Is it Illegal? © https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/

Brief answer: kinda yes… but with risk to consequences.

The law does not protect privacy when there is an intention to commit a serious crime. If you tell me of your intention to cause harm to someone, or to commit terrorism, that kind of thing, the law does not allow me to keep your intentions to myself ("whistle blowing").

If you're thinking about a crime with no intention to carry it out, and you haven't already carried it out (let say: sex with someone under age), then we can discuss this in counselling: what the thoughts mean to you, what's concerning you etc. This would be unlikely to result in me telling authorities.

If you're unsure about telling me something that may be illegal, and that may put me in a position where I cannot respect your privacy, you're advise to seek independent legal advice (eg Citizen's Advice Bureaux) before discussing a matter with me.

Do I need CBT?

CBT - or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - is a type of therapy that assists with you changing your behaviour by looking at how you think about things.

It was introduced into the NHS via their IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) scheme due to evidence that CBT could be delivered inexpensively, quickly and could be a preferred approach to help people move out of certain conditions (such as depression). When delivered by computer and paper forms, with support from a therapist, it can also be referred to as "low intensity" treatment.

Unfortunately, "CBT" has become a layman's generic word to refer to all sorts of therapies. If you've been told "you aught to get some CBT, mate!" by a friend or family member, they may not understand if CBT would really be helpful for you.

CBT is not the preferred approach to couple relationship counselling.

My approach to counselling is to help you (your partner, if couple counselling) and I learn how you came to arrive at your current problems, so that with new knowledge and understanding you'll become empowered to undo your own difficulties. This approach may involve some CBT, but will likely involve more effective approaches such as psychodynamic and systemic counselling.

If you've tried NHS-referred low intensity CBT and found it unhelpful, I'd be the private counsellor you'd come to for a different experience.

I'd like to send someone to you for counselling… how do I do that?

I'm sorry, but counselling arrangements have to be made directly between the interested party and I.

Anyone entering counselling must make their own decision to contact me and make arrangements themselves.

Once in a while I may receive a message saying:

Hi, my (husband, wife, son, daughter, friend etc) wants to come to counselling,

or

I think my (husband, wife, son, daughter, friend etc) needs counselling. I'd like to make an appointment for them…

... which, whilst well intended, leaves me unable to know if the person has made their own autonomous decision about counselling - or even if they know that someone is contacting me on their behalf.

I also cannot protect the person's privacy and confidentiality by corresponding with a third-party.

If you contact me on behalf of someone else, for reasons of protecting that person's privacy I will reply but will decline to correspond further with you about counselling for the other person.

If, however, your message might really be about counselling for yourself… get in touch 😉

Couple Counselling: can you fix my partner for me?

Couple Counselling is about the relationship.

There are two people involved in the relationship.

If you're hoping that you coming to Couple Counselling will fix your partner, you may be turning a blind-eye to your part in the relationship.

Very occasionally I have had a couple sit in front of me, and one partner tells me something like

"the problems are caused by [him/her]. I'm just here while you work with [him/her]."

If this is a position you wish to hold (i.e. having no part in the relationship's problems) then I would not be the counsellor for you.

However, if you might be curious to learn what your part could be playing in the relationship that maybe leads you to your thoughts that your partner is the (only) one causing the problems, then form of Couple Counselling could be beneficial for you both.

Couple Counselling: are you a relationship expert who will solve our problems?

Dean Richardson is a qualified and experienced Couple Relationship Counsellor… and he is not a relationship expert!

During counselling he will give you, the couple, no solutions. No answers. No "if you do this several times you will fix your problem" advice.

Instead, Dean uses a much more powerful and effective approach: your own relationship with each other.

The trouble with someone taking the position of an expert, is that the couple can make themselves powerless ("we don't know what to do") in order to invest the therapist with their power ("he will tell us what to do").

Whilst this may seem what a despairingly-unhappy couple think they want, this approach can create inappropriate dependence on someone who doesn't actually know how this couple's relationship works (think: repairing a TV by hitting it with a spanner until it works. Co-incidence? Or is the spanner a television repair expert?!) and leave the couple continually trying to do what "he says we aught to be doing".

Taking a systemic/psychodynamic facilitative approach to couple counselling (technical stuff, there!) means that the couple will receive support in developing their own resolutions to their own problems. This approach means the couple counsellor will become redundant, and the couple will continue to develop and own their own problem-resolving systems.

Plus, this approach works equally well for couples who are looking to separate and bring an end to their relationship.

I'm under 18...

I'm sorry, but I only work with adults (persons of 18 years or older)…

…and even if you are 18 years old, there is a possibility that you and I may not work well together. We can't know this unless we meet and talk, of course.

Regarding (parents) wishing to send children to me, I am qualified to work with adults only.

I have no qualifications that would support me working with children.

Can I talk to you without my partner knowing?

Nothing is impossible, but we have to have a thought about context and its affect.

If we're working in individual counselling, then I won't discuss anything you say with your partner (or anyone else you know).

If we're working in couple counselling, then my responsibility will be towards your partnership. We might wonder together how the partnership might be effected by you and I speaking with each other without your partner knowing. This isn't to say that you absolutely cannot speak with me in isolation from your partner; some matters may be appropriate for this (eg topics of domestic abuse), and we will have time during our initial sessions to meet separately if you so wish.

Why do I have to send a deposit?

For our first counselling session, I ask for a £30 deposit to be paid at least a week before the session date.

Your £30 deposit will be taken off the cost of your first session (e.g. for an individual session of £45, after your £30 deposit has been paid there will be £15 left to be paid on the day of the session). You're not paying any extra money.

Your deposit can be paid online (securely via this website).

Rationale.

Counselling requires commitment, both from me and from you together. Counselling is not something we approach casually.

Unfortunately, some people assume that counselling is a bit like a GP's "prescriptive" process :

  1. Describe your problem,
  2. Wait for the GP to tell you what pills to take,
  3. Take the pills.

In other words, the prescriptive approach doesn't really ask any participation from you in your "cure" (except taking some pills).

When such an analogy is (mistakenly) held about counselling, the client may expect this process:

  1. Describe the problem,
  2. Wait for the counsellor to tell you what to do,
  3. Go and do it.

However, counselling is a relationship between counsellor and client in which both will discover how the client may begin to resolve their conflicts. Both counsellor and client work together.

Unfortunately, the prescriptive assumption may leave some people people so uncommitted to coming the first counselling session ("Meh, why bother, it's no loss to me") that they simply don't turn up and don't give any notice of their absence.

Asking for a Deposit.

When arranging a first session with me, you're asking for my investment (time, preparation, room booking). I, in return, ask for a similar investment from you via your deposit.

I have found that asking for a financial deposit (of £30) before the first session, the client's attention is drawn to this being a serious engagement. It wakes people up!

Refunding the Deposit.

If you give me 2 days' notice of cancelling our first session, I'll return your deposit (using the same method the you used to pay the deposit).

If you don't turn up for your counselling session - no notice given - or you give me fewer than 2 days' notice, your deposit will cover my expenses in preparing for, travelling to, and reserving the room for our first session.

Why do you you ask couples to 'cc' each other on email?

If you contact me for couple counselling, I will ask you to include your partner's email address.

In subsequent correspondence (e.g. arranging an initial appointment) I will ask us to include everyone in the emails.

This is so that everyone gets to know what's being said.

As a systemic/psychodynamic couple counsellor, I practice a method known as "neutrality". Your relationship is my client, not the both of you. As part of practising neutrality from the beginning, I involve everyone in email correspondence (as opposed to replying to you and expecting that you will (or may!) show our correspondence to your partner).

This isn't to say that you absolutely cannot email me on your own. Sometimes a partner wishes to discuss matters without their partner knowing… and we allow for this privacy to happen during the first few sessions when you get to meet with me on your own.

How long before you fix me/my relationship/our group's behaviour?

Some people ask to begin counselling "this week". A matter might have reached a the stage of a kind of emergency and the person believes that the counsellor will be able to respond in a similar emergency way.

But this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what counselling is, and what the counselling process offers.

Counselling is not like when you go to a GP, you describe your symptoms, then the doctor prescribes something that will fix you (all without you having to do much except take a pill, or turn up for an operation).

Counselling is a process that involves you (your partner, and/or your group) and the counsellor together in a form of collaboration.

This collaboration takes a little time to get going - but once it's going it can be a valuable resource.

For example, couple counselling often takes around 4 sessions (one a week) before everyone has had the time to talk about and to discover what the couple's relationship may need from counselling.

It's an involved process, and everyone needs to take part.

Interrupting the process that I employ (e.g. "We can attend this week, but then I'm away, and then we're both away for holiday for 2 weeks, but we can come back for a session maybe sometime in August...") would probably be a waste of your time, my time, and your money.

So, if you're asking to come and be "fixed", and you're not willing to take part in a collaboration with me, or you're not willing to attend weekly (uninterrupted sessions) then I will likely decline to meet with you (after doing a little checking out with you, of course). The reason: it may be that you're seeking a different intervention to what I offer.

For emergency intervention, consider contacting The Samaritans ~ http://samaritans.org/

Why are you not listed in the BACP directory?

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) maintains a commercial directory of counsellors: http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/ and a directory of registered counsellors & psychotherapists: http://www.bacpregister.org.uk/

To appear listed in the commercial directory one must be a member of the BACP (tick!) and pay an annual fee to be included (um...!).

To be in the registration directory, one must either pass a small written examination (if one is not an accredited member), or be an accredited (i.e. has had one's experience, qualifications and practice evaluated) member of the BACP (tick!)

You will find me in the BACP's Registration Directory (here). You will not find me in the commercial directory.

I used to pay to be included in the BACP commercial directory, but I also tracked the amount of business the directory sent my way during my subscription. In a year the directory sent me next to no business. So, it made sense to me to no longer pay the annual expense of a poorly performing service. And let's be clear: the BACP's commercial directory is not a recommendation nor endorsement as to the suitability, nor experience, of any counsellor listed, nor their ability to offer an effective counselling service.

You will find me listed on the popular Counselling Directory (under this listing) and, of course, via several search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.

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Got a Question? Don't Hold Back…

If you have a question about Dean Richardson's counselling services in Waterlooville, or just want to ask a question, maybe about making your first appointment, feel free to drop Dean a message any time…

Get In touch, today…