What will the initial therapy session be like?
Going to therapy for the first time can feel daunting. You might be afraid of what suppressed emotions will surface and worry that you will be pushed to say more than you want to. You might also hope that talking to someone brings relief, especially if you have been holding on to difficult feelings for a long time. Perhaps you are wondering how a ‘stranger’ might help or maybe you feel disloyal that you are not sharing information with those closest to you. It is not unusual for clients to at first feel undecided whether therapy is really for them or not.
Before you start therapy, we will be clear on what you hope to get out of it. The success of therapy very much depends on the honesty and safety of the therapeutic relationship. This will support you in gradually extending and stretching outside your current understandings, as well as to probe and focus within yourself. I will help you do this by reflecting what I notice, asking you more about your experience and offering a non-judgemental space where you can really come to know yourself more deeply. This knowledge will help you see more clearly obstacles, which you yourself or others may be putting up, so that you can step around problems more easily.
How you see the world and your difficulties will be the starting point. As you become more honest, and so more attuned with yourself, a broader array of possibilities becomes more visible. This means that we first need to deeply understand where you are at now. This clarity brings wisdom to know how to live more fully, openly and with a deeper purpose and sense of yourself.
What are your qualifications & credentials?
The following list outlines my formal education, professional qualifications and accrediting organisation recognition:
Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy – Middlesex University
Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy – Metanoia Institute / UKCP accredited course
Graduation Diploma in Psychology – University of East London
NCFE in Person-Centred Counselling – BACP accredited course
Bachelor of Arts: Psychology and Communications –Communications – University of South Africa
Member of the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) Association
HCPC registered: The title “Counselling Psychologist” can only be used by those registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), an independent regulator set up by the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001. The HCPC only registers people who meet the standards it sets for training, professional skills, behaviour and health.
Chartered Psychologist: Chartered psychologist status with the British Psychological Society (BPS) reflects the highest standard of psychological knowledge and expertise. Chartered Psychologist status is the BPS gold standard, demonstrating a commitment to professional development and high ethical standards of practice, teaching and research. Chartered psychologists are entitled to use the designation ‘CPsychol’.
UKCP registered: The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists (UKCP) holds national registers of psychotherapists, listing those practitioners who meet exacting standards and training requirements. This includes meeting established standards of professional practice as well as abiding by the UKCP’s Code of Ethics and requirements for continued professional development.
BACP Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (formerly known as UKRCP): The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy register is assessed and accredited under a scheme set up by the Department of Health. It is administered by an independent body, accountable to Parliament, the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (the Authority).
In addition, I am committed to continuing professional development (CPD). This means that I am always updating my skills and keeping abreast of new knowledge by attending regular training modules, conferences and workshops. Below is a selection of my ongoing professional training:
ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) foundation & intermediate training – Present Mind / TIR
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy specialist training – Bangor University
Mindfulness Teacher Training – Bangor University
Teaching mindfulness in the workplace – The Mindfulness Exchange
Introduction to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, MBSR – Michael Chaskalson
Modules 1 to 5 towards Practitioner Certificate in Couples Work – Metanoia
Introduction to Somatic Experiencing – SOS Internationale
Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR) levels 1 to 3 – Sandi Richman
Focusing Oriented Therapy introduction – Terapia Consultancy
Certificate in Focusing Skills – The British Focusing Teachers’ Association
What kind of problems can you help me with?
I work generally with adults facing common human difficulties. We all go through rocky periods in our lives and therapy can help you smooth a way forward. Some examples of how therapy can help you move through difficulties include:
Understanding what might be causing problems and repetitive patterns.
Clarifying what direction you want to take in your life.
Exploring problems with intimate relationships or family members.
Exploring difficulties in relating to and accempting yourself
Managing emotions and thoughts more effectively
In particular, I have worked extensively with bereavement, domestic violence, trauma and adult survivors of childhood adversity. My doctoral thesis was on emotions in adult survivors of childhood abuse and I have worked in a hospice service for bereaved families and an agency for women in violent relationships. I am trained in EMDR (eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing) a government-recommended treatment for trauma. I have also had specific training in working with couples.
In addition, over the duration of my career I have helped clients work through issues including (although not exhaustive):
Anxiety (including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), Panic, Phobias)
Bereavement (including complex, traumatic and delayed grief)
Chronic fatigue syndrome/ME
Depression (including postnatal depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and suicidal thoughts)
Eating disorders (including binge eating and bulimia)
Low self-confidence and esteem
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Pregnancy and birth
Relationship issues (including couples in cross cultural relationships, family issues including in-laws, domestic violence, pre-nuptial counselling, separation and divorce, affairs and betrayals)
Work-related stress (including perfectionism, redundancy, harassment and bullying)
What is the difference between counselling, psychotherapy and counselling psychology?
I am a chartered counselling psychologist and psychotherapist. Very often, those seeking a talking therapy do not know exactly what these titles mean and what the difference is between them and between that of counsellor.
It can be confusing to determine which profession is most likely to have the level and focus of training that best suits you. Understanding the difference between the titles of counsellor, psychotherapist and counselling psychologist might help you make a more informed decision.
The government now protects only some talking therapy titles so that the public can be confident that the professional has completed a specific training to a certain standard and abides by regulated ethical criteria. ‘Counselling psychologist’ is one of these titles ensuring a consistent level of training amongst those using the title. You can find the list of statutory protected titles here. The titles of ‘counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are not protected by law meaning that anyone can legally call themselves these titles regardless of training or not. However, counsellors and psychotherapists usually follow voluntary guidance set by self-regulatory bodies such as the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists (UKCP).
With regards to training, it is necessary for those becoming chartered psychologists to have an undergraduate degree in psychology before pursuing further specialist study. Chartered counselling psychologists are expected to do at least a 3-year (full-time) or 5-year (part-time) post-graduate course including research modules. Since ‘counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ titles are not protected, there are no legal minimal set training criteria for these professions. Typically, reputable counselling courses are 3-years part-time and psychotherapy courses 5-years part-time; although neither have any requirements for previous further or higher education. If extent of learning is important to you, it is fine for you to ask before starting any therapy with anyone.
Because there is variation in the length of study, the depth and breadth of therapy offered also differs. Roughly, the profession-specific demarcations of emphasis of therapy are as follows: The focus of counselling is usually on immediate difficulties and helping the client find a way forward drawing on the client’s current understandings and abilities. Psychotherapists include these skills but also have additional training to encourage a client to look more in-depth at childhood and background. This helps the client identify repetitive patterns and unconscious processes replaying recurring themes over time. Counselling psychologists include and expand on all of these areas of focus to place what clients bring in the wider context of research and the academic literature.
Counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists also have many skills and core knowledge in common. All three are trained to allow you to explore your experience more deeply in the attentive and empathic space of therapy. Therapy is not as effective if you do not feel confident to slowly open up to what you find difficult or perhaps even shameful. So, the most important thing is that you trust your therapist and can form a good relationship with him or her. There is some research showing that choosing the right person for you is more important than deciding on which profession is best.
What type of therapy do you practice?
There are many types of therapy or schools of psychological thought. They fall, more or less, into one of three main categories: Cognitive behavioural, psychodynamic or humanistic. Each therapy has a set of theories on the human mind and how a person can overcome difficulties. A therapist or psychologist will work with you based on the theories he or she has studied and practiced.
I am ‘integrative’ in approach. This means that I am trained to start with the problem the client brings rather than sticking strictly to just one approach. Integrative modalities draw on what is in common between many of the different theories. It puts the client and the client’s concerns at the centre and pulls in understandings and insights from a variety of sources. I use a wide range of both traditional and modern psychological techniques to be able to tailor my approach to suit my clients’ needs. This means that my approach to working with you will be as unique as you are.
Who can I call in an emergency?
If you are in immediate crisis, acute distress and might need urgent help to keep you safe – please contact one of the relevant organisations below and they will talk you through some steps you might need to take right away.
Emotional support / crisis
Samaritans (UK & Ireland):
08457 90 90 90
Breathing Space (Scotland):
0800 83 85 87
C.A.L.L. Mental Health Helpline (Wales):
0800 132 737
0845 767 8000
0300 123 3393
Mental Health Foundation:
Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse
NAPAC (National Association of Adults Abused in Childhood)
0800 085 3330 / 0808 801 0331
01708 765 200
Sexual assault / rape
Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (women & men):
Survivors UK (for men):
0845 122 1201
Rape Crisis (men and women):
0808 802 9999
0808 200 0247
Welsh Women’s Aid:
0808 801 0800
Northern Ireland Domestic Violence Helpline:
0808 200 0247
Children & young people
0800 808 4994