Q."How long will have to wait for an appointment?"

I usually have no waiting list and, depending on your availability, can usually see you in the same week that you get in touch or the following week. I believe that it is important to get started promptly after you reach the decision to reach out and make a change.

Many people seek out private counselling after realising the length of NHS waiting lists for Counselling. If I cannot see you promptly, I will refer you to another therapist who can (somebody I know personally and can vouch for).

Q."Why choose private Counselling / Psychotherapy rather than go through the NHS?"

I am a huge supporter of the NHS. It is a fantastic service built on wonderful principles. Unfortunately, it often lacks the resources and funding to offer the best possible care. This is particularly apparent when it comes to ‘mental health’ and emotional wellbeing.

– You don’t have to jump through hoops and assessment tools

In order to qualify for Counselling via the NHS, you must first jump through several hoops, including a requirement that you score high enough on tick box assessment tools to indicate that your ‘symptoms’ are severe enough to fit within the parameters of ‘clinical depression’ or anxiety, for example.

This saddens me as it means people cannot receive counselling when they feel themselves beginning to spiral and wish to get the right help and support before they get worse. I know from personal experience that it is much easier to prevent yourself spiralling into a deep depression than it is to climb out of that hole once you are in it!

You do not need to have a mental health diagnosis to come and see me, nor do you have to score within a certain range on an assessment tool or be at crisis point. In fact, you don’t even need to be in distress of any kind to decide to come for Counselling or Psychotherapy. Many choose to work with a therapist to support them with their self-awareness and personal growth. I dispense with tick box assessment tools all together – I trust you and my own professional experience and judgement in deciding if therapy would help you.

– You don’t need to wait a long time to get the support you need

People also choose private Counselling because they do not wish to wait as long as 6-12 months for Counselling through the NHS as is the case in many areas. I will see you promptly or refer you to another therapist who can.

– Greater choice and a personalised service

Another reason people choose private counselling is greater choice and a personalised service.

Through the NHS, in most areas you are first offered group-based psycho-educative workshops and/or a short course (6-8) sessions of CBT with a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP). PWP’s are not qualified Counsellors / Psychotherapists and are only trained in offering manualised CBT. This can be of benefit to some people, with some issues but does not suit everyone. There are a number of criticisms of CBT, particularly as a stand-alone therapy rather than as one tool in the context of an integrated approach.

If you choose private therapy, you get to choose the therapist you would like to work with, based on their approach and even their personality, age, gender etc. – it is important to have a therapist you feel that you can open up to and who makes you feel safe and comfortable.

– As many or as few sessions as you need

You also get to have as many (or as few!) sessions as you choose. 6-8 sessions can be enough for some people, with some issues. For others it takes 6 weeks just to feel safe and comfortable enough to begin to open up! People work with me for anything from 3 sessions to two years. This depends on your unique circumstances, your goals and the issues you wish to explore. With private therapy, you are in the driving seat and can work with me for as long as we both feel it is beneficial to you.

– Greater Privacy & discretion

The final reason people choose private therapy is greater privacy and discretion. Working with me will not appear on your medical records. In addition, unlike many organisations, I do not have policies that require me to share information with other agencies or break your confidentiality in the case of historic events or minor criminality.These policies are often more about covering the agencies backside than any real concern about risk.

I think it important that people have a safe space to discuss the darker and more shameful aspects of their thinking and behaviour. Many of my clients talk to me about suicidal thoughts, drug use and aspects of their thinking and behaviour that they feel ashamed or guilty about. The bar for confidentiality for me is set very high in order to respect your privacy and allow you to feel safe to talk openly about whatever you need to. I will only break your confidentiality if I believe you present an imminent risk of serious harm to yourself or somebody else.

Q."Is it normal to feel very nervous or anxious about coming for Counselling?"

It is completely normal to feel anxious at first, particularly if this is your first experience of therapy. It can feel quite unnatural to come and talk to a stranger about your deepest feelings and struggles! I want you to know that I have a lot of respect for anyone brave enough to come for Counselling. I have been for Counselling myself in the past and remember what it feels like to sit in the other chair.

It can take a while to get used to the situation but almost all clients report feeling significantly more at ease as the session goes along. It can be quite a relief to talk about difficult issues with someone who is understanding, who clearly withholds judgment and with whom you do not have an emotional attachment.

Q."How long does a session last?"

Therapy sessions last for 60 minutes. I can’t extend sessions beyond the time booked, but with notice, we can arrange longer sessions where appropriate.

Q."When will I be seen?"

You will usually be offered an appointment within the a week or two of getting in touch. My appointment times are by arrangement only. I am fairly flexible, but typically see clients in the afternoon or evening during the week, with some morning appointments available on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Ideally, you will be offered a regular day and time slot that is mutually convenient, though in some cases this may not be possible.

Q."How often do we meet?"

It is useful for the therapeutic process to meet once a week. If appropriate we might agree to meet twice a week for a period of time if you feel you need additional support. As your therapy nears its end, it is common to move to fortnightly (and in some cases monthly) appointments before ending.

Q."Why do I need to attend weekly sessions?"

The standard format of weekly sessions helps you make gradual and steady progress that means you see real results. Counselling and Psychotherapy do not offer a quick fix. It is a process that supports you in making and sustaining changes over time.

Q."How much will it cost?"

The standard fee for a 60-minute session is £40.

Q."How do I pay?"

Payment can be made at least 24 hours in advance of your appointment via bank transfer to Sort Code: 110814 Account Number: 02922465 or if you prefer in cash at the start of our appointment.

You will be asked to pay one session in advance, payable at the second session (or over the first two sessions). This deposit will be redeemed by you at your final session.

24 hours notice is requested for cancelling or re-arranging your appointment. Appointments cancelled with less than 24 hours notice will still incur the full fee which will be taken from your deposit.

Q."How many sessions will I need?"

People attend counselling for anything ranging from 3 sessions to 2 or 3 years. It depends entirely upon your unique circumstances, the issues you wish to explore and your goals for therapy.

Most people and most issues require at least six sessions – Counselling doesn’t offer a quick fix, it is a process that takes time to unfold. A key aspect of the work is building a close, trusting relationship with your therapist, this itself can take a number of weeks.

Most people attend for somewhere between 6 weeks and 6 months, up to 1 year. We will regularly review our work together and you can come for as long as we both agree that the sessions are beneficial to you.

Q."What can I talk about?"

You are free to discuss whatever you wish, from everyday events, dilemmas, feelings and thoughts, to regrets, aspirations, memories and dreams. I will work with whatever is most pressing to you and ask pertinent questions to guide the process.

Q."What happens if I have to cancel or re-arrange an appointment?"

If you give me more than 24 hours notice, you can re-arrange or cancel your appointment and will not be charged. However, if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice or fail to attend your appointment, you will be charged for the session (taken from your deposit).

Q."Will you give me advice?"

I am not there to give you advice, tell you what to do or judge you in any way. The aim of counselling is to help you come to your own decisions. What works for me or somebody else may not work for you. You and your life circumstances are unique. I will help you to come to your own decisions and take action to move forward.

Q."Will you be available for me in a crisis?"

Counselling is not a crisis service. Therapists are generally available to you at your scheduled appointment time only. In the case of an emergency you will need to seek other resources. Contact your GP, the Samaritans (call 116 123, www.samaritans.org), or, if necessary, emergency services.

Q."Is there any parking nearby?"

Yes. The nearest paid parking is as follows:

– St. Mary’s Car Park. Open until 6.30pm. Up to 2 hours is £1.50, Sundays are free.

– Millenium Centre Car Park. Open until 7pm. Up to 2 hours is £1.50, Sundays are free.

There is limited on-street parking available free of charge after 6pm.

There is also, at the time of writing, a car park behind the Raven pub and The Quakers Meeting House which is free of charge whilst the pub is unoccupied. This could change at any time if the pub reopens under new management. This car park, whilst available, is your closest option and comes out opposite my office.

Q."Does my GP need to refer me for an appointment?"

No. You are free to refer yourself. Whether or not you inform your G.P that you are attending Counselling is at your own discretion. I will not contact your G.P unless I believe you post an imminent risk of serious harm to yourself or somebody else.

Q."My partner, friend, or family member really needs therapy. Can I refer someone for counselling?"

You may be very concerned about someone’s wellbeing and would like to see them have counselling. But it really is best if the person in question can reach out for support themselves. I am able to take enquiries from you on behalf of someone else, but you should have their full consent and they must be willing and motivated to engage with therapy.

If you really feel you must suggest counselling to someone, do it in as calm and private a moment as possible. It’s important you express your concerns in a judgement-free manner. Make it clear you support him or her and merely want to see them be helped in feeling better. Then leave them to make the decision for themselves. Counselling is rarely effective when somebody feels forced to attend against their will.

Q."How do I know if I need counselling/psychotherapy?"

Only you can decide whether you wish to try counselling or psychotherapy. Just talking to someone confidentially who is not a friend or family member can make all the difference. Counselling or psychotherapy provides a regular time for those in distress to explore their feelings and talk about their problems. A counsellor can help you develop better ways of coping, allowing you to live the life you deserve.

Q."What’s the difference between talking to a friend and talking to a counsellor?"

Sometimes talking to a friend can be helpful and counsellors often encourage clients to use their family and friends as a source of support. However, there are some disadvantages to using friends as your only confidants and support.

Friends and family could feel a conflict of loyalty and find it hard to keep things confidential. They may become upset themselves by what you are telling them and could become upset if you don’t accept their advice. They may judge you or change the way they see you as a result of something you disclose to them.

Counsellors’ training means they have formal support and a work structure which helps them to deal with upsetting and difficult situations; friends may begin to feel overburdened, especially if they have their own problems too.

Counselling works so well because your counsellor is not your friend or your family member. They are outside of your social circle and don’t have a prior relationship with you. Whilst you will build a close, caring relationship with you, you will not have the same emotional ties that you do with family and friends. This means your counsellor is better able to be impartial and non-judgemental. A professional who is trained and experienced can offer you a different kind of support, helping you feel and think differently about yourself and others. A therapist should not have an agenda as your friends and family might.

Q."At what time should I arrive at the appointment?"

Please arrive at the time of your session. The reception area of my office is unstaffed and I will not be able to answer the door if you arrive early and I am still with another client.

Q."Will I get upset?"

It is also quite common to feel tearful and cry in therapy, often much sooner than anticipated. You might feel surprised by the intensity of feelings but it is completely normal especially after having to hold so much, usually for quite some time. The tears might be as much about relief as about expressing sadness. There are boxes of tissues in the therapy room and I am very used to witnessing tears in the therapy room.

We aren’t very good at dealing with tears in this society. Because of this we can tend to be very self-conscious about crying in front of others. Please be reassured that I am perfectly comfortable with your tears and that all of your emotions are welcome. I don’t judge you for getting upset, actually I usually see it as a sign of progress!