Dena Darling M.Sc., C.T.A.(P), U.K.C.P.

(Frequently Asked Questions)

Below is some information about counselling and psychotherapy, but if you prefer to read what clients themselves have said please visit the feedback page here.

Q: What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy and counselling are 'Talking therapies' - rather than using drugs or other physical treatments, the therapist and client work together by communicating - by talking. Talking therapies may also be used alongside prescribed medication and occupational therapy etc.

A definition of psychotherapy is offered by the U.K.C.P (The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy): the umbrella organisation which regulates psychotherapy in the U.K. Their definition is:

"Psychotherapy is the provision by qualified practitioners of a formal and professional relationship within which patients/clients can profitably explore difficult, and often painful, emotions and experiences. These may include feelings of anxiety, depression, trauma, or perhaps the loss of meaning of ones life."

Q: What happens in a psychotherapy session?

Many people think of the client laying on a black couch, eyes closed and talking about their Oedipus complex - the therapist sitting just out of sight and taking notes in a notebook. Although the client usually does lay down during psychoanalysis, this is not usual during other types of psychotherapy. During a T.A. session, for example, the client and therapist will usually sit in comfortable chairs in a room that resembles a sitting room. The client will explain what's troubling him, and they will discuss the matter until the therapist has enough information to identify a possibly cause of the difficulty.

Sometimes it is enough for the client just to 'be heard' - the experience of having their difficulties listened to by someone empathic may be enough to gain relief. This is often the focus of 'counselling'. However, expressing difficult emotions is not always enough, and the client and practitioner may need to work on identifying a childhood decision that is having negative consequences in the present. Identifying these early decisions (which may not be easily remembered!) and then making new, healthier decisions, is the realm of psychotherapy.

Q: How long does therapy last?

Most T.A. therapists prefer to work with their clients for an hour a week. Sometimes it's more appropriate to work for one-and-a-half hours once a fortnight, or some other variation. Some therapists prefer to work the '50-minute-hour', taking 5 minutes at the start of each session for preparation before seeing the client, and 5 minutes after each session to assimilate the work that's been done.

Some agencies limit therapy to a course of 6 weeks (1 session per week for 6 weeks). Private therapists are less likely to have a limit on the number of sessions they will offer a client.

In practice the therapy is completed when the client feels that they have achieved the changes that they wanted to make, whether that takes a week or a year.

Q: How do I find a therapist?

Your G.P. may be able to refer you. Alternatively you can find a therapist independently by looking in Yellow Pages, searching the internet using a Search Engine or Yell (online Yellow Pages) or by following some of the links on my home page.

At the moment there is no statutory regulation of counsellors or psychotherapists: this means that there are no checks on the qualifications, supervision or experience of practitioners who call themselves counsellors or psychotherapists. There are voluntary registers that practitioners can join, but there is no requirement for any counsellor or psychotherapist to join any registers. This can make it difficult for a potential client to know what to look for in a practitioner. For people who are looking for a therapist in Suffolk I usually recommend that clients consult the online register of the Suffolk Association for Counselling (S.A.C.). The S.A.C. check the credentials of all practitioners on their register, so you can be confident that counsellors and psychotherapists on the S.A.C. register meet basic requirements. There are other registers of course, but the S.A.C. is convenient because it's local.

However, even counellors and psychotherapists who have completed recognised training and are eligible for inclusion on the S.A.C. register may have very different levels of training. If you wish to investigate the specific level of training that a particular practitioner has undertaken, I encourage you to use a search engine with the question "What does BACP mean?" or "what does UKCP mean? "

Q: If I have therapy does it mean I'm not 'normal'?

All sorts of people seek help from a therapist - you don't have to be 'crazy' or 'mental'. If you experienced pain in your back you would probably consult your G.P. in the hope that he or she could identify the problem and provide relief. If you experience emotional pain or anxiety it makes sense to consult your therapist in the hope that he or she can help you to identify the problem and obtain relief.

Q: Is it confidential?

Absolutely. All good therapists abide by a Code of Conduct which ensure confidentiality.

Q: Does my G.P. have to know, and will it be on my medical record?

You may choose to seek therapy through your G.P., but if you prefer to seek therapy independently then you don't have to inform your G.P., and under normal conditions there would be no reason for your therapist to inform your G.P. either. Your therapist will probably wish to have contact details for your G.P. but this would be in case you should suddenly require urgent medical attention, and under normal conditions your therapist would not have any contact with your G.P. It's a good idea to clarify things like this during the initial consultation with your therapist, before you start working with them.

Q: How much does therapy cost?

It varies according to the experience of the therapist, the location, the cost of premises etc. Charges may range from £25 and £80 per hour. Group therapy is less expensive as there are more participants to 'share' the cost of the therapist.

Q: What's the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?

There is much debate regarding the difference between psychotherapy and counselling, and there is no universally accepted distinction, but psychotherapy is generally seen as 'deeper' than counselling. One viewpoint is that counselling is aimed at assisting the client to make better use of the resources they already have, whereas psychotherapy is aimed at increasing the client's resources. Some professionals suggest that counselling is well-suited to assisting clients who usually function well but who have hit a rough spot, and psychotherapy is suited to clients seeking to improve the way they usually function.

It generally takes longer to qualify as a psychotherapist than a counsellor, for example the UKATA (United Kingdom Association for Transaction Analysis) demands a minimum of 750 hours of practical experience with clients before a trainee is permitted to sit the examination for certification, and the BACP requires 450 hours of practical experience before registration.

Q: What is T.A., or 'Transactional Analysis'?

UKATA have a good explanation here,

The ITAA (International Transactional Analysis Association), offers the following definition:

"Transactional analysis is a powerful tool to bring about human well being. In psychotherapy, transactional analysis utilizes a contract for specific changes desired by the client..."

For further details you may like to visit the U.K.C.P. website and go to the 'Humanistic and Integrative psychotherapy' section.

If you have any questions, or if you'd like a brochure or an initial consultation, please contact me by email, by telephone on 01394 278887 or by mobile 07787 980281.