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Psychotherapy FAQ

FAQ about psychotherapy

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a way of working where you can explore the difficulties that you're facing and find a way to address them. This might include things like:

  • relationship issues

  • self-esteem

  • drug and alcohol use

  • managing chronic pain or illness

  • anxiety and depression

  • traumatic experiences that you feel you haven't 'dealt with'

  • bereavement

Although talking about our problems usually helps us feel better, psychotherapy is more than just talking. Your therapist will help you to identify patterns in your behaviour or thinking, and to understand how they might have come about. Very often these patterns are set in childhood, but they can also come from adult experiences such as relationship breakdowns, bereavement or abuse.

 

Is all psychotherapy the same?

No. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to psychotherapy, from Freudian-style psychoanalysis to Carl Rogers' person-centred therapy. 

 

However, researchers have found that the relationship between the client and the therapist is more important than the various tools a psychotherapist might use. No matter how skillful the therapist is, if you don't feel comfortable with them, you are unlikely to get much benefit. 

 

This is  why therapists usually offer an initial session without any obligation to continue. If you don't feel safe, welcomed or listened to by your therapist then it's wise to try a session with someone else.

 

What type of psychotherapy is offered at Parker and Jones?

Our psychotherapist, Hilary holds a postgraduate Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy, which means that she has studied in three psychotherapeutic schools of thought:

  • Person-centred theory - we are the experts of our own lives, and we all have a kind of 'inner wisdom' or gut instinct that knows what is best for us. This inner wisdom might have been repressed by parents or other people in positions of authority, or by conventions of religion or society, resulting in feelings of shame, depression or self-hatred . By exploring these conflicts in the company of a therapist who wants to know and support us as we truly are, we can befriend our true selves, making our own decisions about the kind of life we want to live. This usually results in feeling happier and more confident to pursue what will truly make us feel fulfilled.
     

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
    CBT theory suggests that many of our problems follow from the 'faulty' thinking (or cognitions, hence the C in CBT). Noticing our thinking patterns, and finding ways to manage them can have a big impact on the way that we feel and behave. A CBT therapist will help you explore your thinking patterns, and will often encourage you to keep records of negative thoughts, when they happen, and the behaviour they lead to. 

    CBT is usually goal-focused - your therapist will ask you to describe a goal you have (for example, being able to talk to strangers without feeling anxious) and will structure your therapy towards achieving that goal. Because of its short-term and goal-focused format it's very easy to measure the success of CBT. This has led some organisations to conclude it is 'better' than other types of psychotherapy. It's probably fair to say that CBT is very effective at addressing specific symptoms such as anxiety, obsessions or phobias - but it doesn't address the underlying issues that may have caused them. 

     

  • Attachment theory - our early experiences with our parents/caregivers shaped our ideas about relationships and the world around us and gave us rules for living. People often come to therapy when they realise that these rules aren't working for them, and they want to explore different ways of doing things, or relating to people.

Hilary is also interested in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Narrative Therapy. 

Internal Family Systems Therapy suggests that we have different parts of ourselves that can override the wisdom of our 'self' by creating problematic behaviours. However, these parts have good intentions for us and are ultimately trying to protect us - most often from being overwhelmed by our feelings of sadness or fear.  

Narrative Therapy suggests that the negative stories we tell about ourselves cause us to build up a self-fulfilling prophecy and to disregard any evidence that contradicts our story. These stories may have come from others or from conventions in society that might label us as 'bad' or 'a failure'. By considering alternative stories, we can look for evidence in our lives that contradicts our old story. Together, you and your therapist can author your 'preferred story', taking into account your strengths and highlighting the evidence that disproves your old narrative.

 

Both Internal Family Systems and Narrative Therapy believe that you are the expert and the author of your own life, so they are kind and empowering.

 

What will happen in the first session?

The first appointment is more structured than subsequent sessions. Your therapist will ask a series of questions to gather information about you, the support you have, medical conditions, suicidality and previous experiences of counselling/psychotherapy, as well as an initial exploration of the reasons that you decided you might benefit from therapy. The therapist will explain how psychotherapy works and will be able to answer any questions you have.

 

How many sessions will I need?

This will depend on the complexity of your situation and whether you want to address the immediate symptoms you face, or to work at depth. However the number of sessions will always be your choice. You are free to continue with therapy as long as you feel that it benefits you. Similarly, if you feel that it's not helping you then you are welcome to end the sessions. 

 

Are my sessions confidential?

Yes. There are just 2 situations in which a therapist might not be able to keep what you have shared confidential:
 

1. if they believe you are planning to harm yourself or others

2. if you reveal that a child or other vulnerable person is in danger

 

If either of these situations arise, the therapist will discuss with you the best way forward.

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