Frequently asked questions

Is there wheelchair access? Our counselling suite in Weymouth is on the 1st floor and is accessible to wheelchair users via a lift. My counselling room in Dorchester is on the 1st floor and is not wheelchair accessible. Call me to discuss your specific needs.

Is it confidential? A good question. Yes, but there are legal and ethical exceptions to confidentiality. I am a Registered Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and work within their Ethical Framework For The Counselling Professions . I have monthly supervision and discuss the work that I do, but client data is anonymised. I must also share information with others to protect a client or others from serious harm including safeguarding commitments, and when legally required or authorised to disclose. I discuss these exceptions to confidentiality with clients at the beginning of our first session.

Is my data safe? I maintain contact details and brief client notes. These are anonymised and held securely. I am registered with ICO and compliant with GDPR regulations. Client notes are destroyed when we finish working together.

Does counselling work? There is empirical research demonstrating that talking therapies are effective for a range of conditions. This [page] from MIND.org explains what talking therapies are and outlines what happens in therapy. However, like medications and mindfulness, talking therapy is not effective for everyone.

Can counselling be harmful? In 2015 there was interesting research published in the USA which suggested that about 15% of clients surveyed reported that they felt worse after talking therapies. This [article] in Psychology Today explores this issue. It appears that this primarily results from issues with the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist, i.e. therapists getting it wrong! The research concludes that good therapists should routinely be obtaining client feedback and adapting their work to meet the needs of the individual client, and there is a wealth of empirical evidence suggesting that a good therapeutic relationship is the best predictor of successful therapy outcomes. In my own work I regularly invite client feedback and use a range of tools, including Helpful Aspects Of Therapy (HAT) forms and the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) to explore how clients feel about our work together. Whilst talking therapy isn't the right answer for everyone, my own anecdotal experience is that clients who complete therapy have all provided feedback suggesting that they have found it a rewarding experience.

How long does counselling take? There is no fixed term, a single session could be all you need, or it can be open-ended. As a guide, short-term work often requires 6-8 weeks, longer-term work may take 12-24 weeks. It depends on a client's goals and we regularly review these throughout our work together, creating a unique experience tailored to meet individual client need. Ultimately it is up to you the client but, working ethically, I will tell you when I feel we are coming to the end of our work and include planning for our ending in our regular reviews of direction and goals.

What if I can't attend a session? In our first session I will go over a therapy contract with you and discuss our responsibilities to one another as counsellor and client. When we make a booking, that time is yours every week until we finish working together, and I will be at our agreed venue ready to see you. If you miss a session I shall not be able to fit in another client and I will not be working. If you have given me 24 hours notice then there is no charge for missing a session, but otherwise you are liable to pay for that session.

What if I am late? I shall be at our agreed venue waiting for you for the full length of our session. If you are late, I shall still see you for the time between your arrival and the planned end to our session. I have only a few minutes between clients so cannot normally overrun.

Do you offer concessionary fees? I believe counselling should be available to everyone. If you are a student, work for the health or emergency services, or if you are on a low income, discuss concessionary fees with me when we first speak. Once we have agreed a contract in our first session, the agreed fee will not change and remains payable for all further sessions.

What if I want to complain?  - I hope that none of my clients ever need this information but I want you to know that I am open and accountable. Should you wish to complain, I would be grateful if you would first of all direct your complaint to me here at Shall We Talk. That will give me an opportunity to resolve your issue and to learn from your experience.  - If you want to take a complaint further, then I am a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy who have a complaints procedure [here] which you can use to complain about a member's professional conduct.  - Finally, if you are unhappy with something that has happened in therapy and want advice about it, the BACP also have a helpline "Ask Kathleen" where you can discuss your concerns with an expert from the profession's governing body.

How does online therapy work? I am currently using an online conferencing provider and have my own virtual waiting room on their site. When we book an appointment I will send you a link to click on or type into your web browser. There is nothing for you to download and the site is compatible with PCs, iOS and Android. When you access the site I will see that you are in the waiting room and will start the session. I cannot offer technical support with webcam issues but am aware that some Antivirus software (e.g. BitDefender) blocks webcam use in browsers by default, so be sure to try logging in ahead of time to be certain everything is working. As an alternative we can use Skype for our session, but this requires clients to have first downloaded the app and set up an account, so is more of a faff.

What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy? Ouch! Thanks for that question. The truth is that there are no universally agreed definitions for either. Some countries, some theoretical models and some counsellors cling firmly to one term or the other, whilst others view the terms as interchangeable. The most common definitions I have encountered are 1) that counselling focuses on relieving an identified issue or issues, whilst psychotherapy digs deeper in a longer and more comprehensive exploration of a client's mind; and 2) that counselling explores the external factors, whilst psychotherapy explores the internal. If you want to read a heavy academic paper on this topic which was presented to the European Association for Counselling you can do so [here]. In my own practice I consider the terms interchangeable and allow my clients to choose where our work takes us.

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