7 questions people considering psychotherapy often ask

When considering psychotherapy, people often ask the below seven questions:

  1. How can I choose a suitably qualified therapist?
  2. What are the early signs to look for after the first meeting with a psychotherapist?
  3. How can psychotherapy help?
  4. Will I become dependent on my therapist?
  5. Am I just having a bad day or do I need to speak with someone?
  6. Will I get caught up in a treatment which is going to be costly and lengthy?
  7. What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

1. How can I choose a suitably qualified therapist?

This is an important issue. Over the last twenty years there has been an impressive growth in the number of counselling training. However, counselling courses vary in both requirements for selection, length and rigour of training.

In all professions there are statutory bodies to safeguard standards and provide a Code of Ethics for members. For psychotherapists, two of the central registering bodies are the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP) and the British Confederation of Psychotherapy (BCP). These bodies were formed collectively by all the established training organisations to protect the interests of the public by promoting what they consider to be appropriate standards in the selection, training, professionalism and conduct of members.

Ethical code of practice

Both UKCP and BCP registered psychotherapists are bound by a code of practice which includes, ‘the preservation of confidentiality about the client and respect for the autonomy of the individual allowing development in the light of the person’s own values’.

2. What are the early signs to look for after the first meeting with a psychotherapist?

1. In the first meeting did the therapist help you understand something which you had not understood before? When the interview is over, ask yourself the question, ‘Do I understand something now which I didn’t understand before?' If the answer is ‘no’ then you should try someone else.

2. Subsequent to the meeting, did you experience any change in your mood, your feelings or your way of responding to people? If not then the meeting has had no impact upon you and you would do better to find another therapist. This does not mean that you will feel necessarily better, but rather that you note a change in your inner mood or a change in your outer behaviour.

3. When you go to a therapist you may want advice. If you get it then don’t go to him/her! If the therapist says something that shows insightful understanding with regards to what you are anxious or concerned about, then you have probably found the right therapist.

3. How can psychotherapy help?

Two common concerns for most people when they feel the need to consult a professional about themselves are, ‘will the problem be put right?' And ‘will I be treated well?’

The majority of people discover that therapy can provide an opportunity to gain insight and understanding about their feelings and ways of behaving which opens the way towards:

  • improved relationships
  • the ability to make clearer choices
  • develop their own potential in life

4. Will I become dependent on my therapist?

We were all dependent as children and if something goes wrong for a child, he/she may decide never to depend on anyone again. A fear of dependent feelings may hold someone back from risking closeness in relationships, which at the same time is usually what is longed for.

Problems with intimacy are symptomatic of the times and often bring people into therapy. The therapeutic relationship offers a safe place where dependent feelings can surface and be experienced with the therapist until the person grows confident enough to leave.

The central goal of therapy is to leave and live your life. If you are afraid that your dependent feelings would be exploited it might help to discuss this at an exploratory meeting.

Woman leaning on wall

5. Am I just having a bad day or do I need to speak with someone?

If you are aware that your feelings may have built up as a result of particular or immediate difficulties - for example having to manage an unusual amount of stressful activities over a short period of time resulting in over tiredness - then you may find that recognising this and managing your feelings in the familiar ways that you’ve found helpful in the past does, in fact, help you and ease the situation. This may be what you describe as ‘just having a bad day’.

If, however, these feelings have persisted for any length of time and are not relieved through your usual supports and, on reflection, appear to follow a repetitive or familiar pattern which begins to interfere with your day-to-day functioning and relationships, then speaking to someone not involved in the situation may be helpful and appropriate.

6. Will I get caught up in a treatment which is going to be costly and lengthy?

People seek therapy because they have depression, are lonely, or may feel that their lives are pointless. They may experience problems with their families or relationships or worried that they have an eating disorder or may struggle with sexual difficulties. If, after a time in therapy, they become engaged in living, can make lasting relationships and are able to make the most of what their unique lives can offer the cost is difficult to quantify. It depends on priorities and values.

At the same time not everyone can afford to see a therapist but this need not necessarily be a barrier. Nearly all therapists reserve part of their practice for people who cannot afford a full fee. Also there are different agencies that provide low-cost therapy or short-term therapy if anyone would like to enquire about this.

Therapy can be:

  • Short-term focussed work which may be appropriate when a specific problem has arisen as a result of a particular incident or life experience.
  • Longer-term therapy which is more appropriate when the difficulties have been more long-standing or may include repetitive patterns of behaviour.
  • For people who want to make deeper changes in their lives.

Fees either for the initial consultation or on-going sessions are usually discussed at the first telephone contact.

7. What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

Firstly it’s important to say that the training requirements, rigorousness and duration of the two trainings differ. Psychotherapy training is longer and the requirements for trainees are more demanding.

One way of answering this question is to think about what you do when you are having a problem with your car: if your car breaks down, it may be helpful to get an experienced mechanic to look at it and get the car back running on the road again. In the same way counselling is extremely helpful for addressing symptoms which may interfere with your day-to-day functioning but may not necessarily get rid of the underlying cause.

If your car continued to breakdown you would then take it to an engineer who understands the design of your car and the possible underlying cause of your car’s problem.

In terms of the difference between counselling and psychotherapy: like the experienced mechanic, a counsellor would help you to address your problem so that you get back to managing as before. However, counselling may not necessarily get rid of the underlying cause of your problem which may have a pattern of reoccurring. In this instance, just as you brought your car to an engineer, you may then want to consult a psychotherapist who would address the underlying difficulty which is affecting and interfering with your adequate day to day functioning.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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