You may know something about counselling. You may know a lot. You may have seen a counsellor previously. Or it may all be new ground for you. Perhaps you are unsure about whether it is the right thing for you or not. I will explain here a bit about how I see counselling, to help you to decide. I will also outline other options available to you.
I am also happy to talk to you by phone and explain what counselling with me involves, but we would still need an initial meeting after that (also called an assessment session) to work out whether counselling is appropriate for you right now, whether I am the right counsellor for you, and whether we want to proceed to work together.
You may be drawn to me by my offer of a 'green therapy' approach, i.e. meeting outdoors instead of in a room. We could discuss this from the outset, if you wish, or else consider it later.
Our initial contact, including assessment, does not oblige you to anything except to discuss in general terms with me the reasons why you are seeking counselling.
If it feels like you are in an emotional or mental health crisis or emergency - including feeling suicidal - I would urge you to contact:
Your doctor (out-of-hours service if necessary)
NHS 111 (24/7 service)
A&E at your nearest hospital
Samaritans (call 116 123)
Norwich Samaritans (call 01603 611311 or drop in 8am-9pm, 19 St Stephen's Square, NR1 3SS)
If you would like to find low cost (or even no cost) counselling, you may want to consider the following. Bear in mind though that these services will all differ from private counselling in respect of waiting times, type of therapy offered, number of sessions available, their assessment of their suitability for you, and whether you get to see a fully qualified counsellor or a trainee.
Free NHS provision, accessible either through your GP or directly
The Norwich Centre
St Barnabas Counselling Centre
And for young people:
Mancroft Advice Project (MAP)
Benjamin Foundation (Side By Side)
Off The Record
As a private practice counsellor, I can, in principle, offer you weekly counselling for as long as you need it, whatever the issue(s) you want to address. You will not usually have to wait more than a few days to see me. I will contract with you to tailor our work together to your specific needs.
The issues or problems people bring to counselling are too numerous to list here. Instead, I share below some thoughts about the process and the value of counselling, which hopefully will help you to decide whether or not to get in touch. I would encourage you to do so - whether it's with me or with another counsellor - and I applaud you for taking the courageous step which has brought you here.
Is this for me?
Most of us know what it is to struggle with thoughts, feelings or life situations that are difficult or painful. Sometimes you can get through it. But sometimes you might feel overwhelmed and perhaps find it hard to see a way forward. It might be that you just want to share with someone to ease your burden. Or maybe you have a good idea of something you would like to change about your life, but getting there is another matter.
Sometimes the problems come from challenging circumstances. There might be a clear cause, recent or otherwise, of your difficulties. A life event may have brought about a crisis. Or alternatively, the picture might be less focused. You might not know exactly what's wrong, but you think you need to talk. Or else, you might feel that now is the time to address things you've been carrying with you for a while, perhaps for years, perhaps a lifetime.
Sometimes life can feel too much to handle on your own. And for all sorts of reasons you may not be able to turn to your usual support network. Or you may not have one. Counselling gives you a chance to offload ('a problem shared...'), to get things out there and sort through them, making whatever further explorations feel necessary, with the support of somebody who is both impartial - not involved in your life in any other way - and trained to help you and to hold the threads of your pain and confusion with you – hold your hope too, if necessary.
While you might find yourself judging your issues through others' eyes, I would stress that it is how things feel to you that matters. Nothing you bring to counselling with me will be dismissed or not taken seriously. No issue is too small or too big. I provide you with a space of safety and trust in which you will not be judged but instead listened to with patience, respect and compassion.
My initial training was in Person-Centred Counselling (see my links page for more on what this means). I firmly believe that the best therapeutic tool I can offer you is my empathy: my intention really to hear, understand and accept you and all that you tell me, and to be by your side as you find your way through whatever difficulties, confusion, darkness or loneliness you currently find yourself in.
I am open to working with clients for as long as they need. We will regularly review the progress of our work together. What you want from me and from counselling is up to you. I have no agenda, I will not tell you what to do or impose my own views or solutions on your issues. I have faith that given the right conditions – including my unstinting support – you can find your own solutions to your current problems.
Having additionally trained in, and used in my practice, an integrative approach (i.e. other kinds of counselling besides Person-Centred, including working outdoors), I can discuss with you how we might work together according to your own preferences as well as according to what I judge likely to be helpful. But ultimately, our therapeutic relationship will be less about a particular kind of counselling than about the depth and honesty of the relationship itself, for that is generally where the therapy happens.