Frequently Asked Questions
Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and their therapist. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental.
In therapy, you will meet a therapist regularly, and they will help you understand your problems better, while also developing ways of coping with them.
In short, there is no definite difference between the two, as each practitioner uses these words differently. I tend the use the two expressions interchangably precisely because of this.
To define the commonalities: both of them are talking therapies, and they can be either short or long. Most counselling training courses take at least two years to complete, while psychotherapy courses tend to take even longer; but this is not always the case. In short: it is better to judge the quality of the therapy/counselling based on the length of the training and the amount of experience the counsellor/therapist has.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is able to treat mental health disorders with medication. A psychotherapist is not a doctor, and therefore is unable to prescribe medication.
Counselling can help give you the tools to cope with any difficulty you may be struggling with. However, ultimately it is you who needs to do the ’work’. Therapy will help increase your resilience, but the therapist will not solve your problems instead of you. To give an example, if you are struggling because you are going through a messy divorce, your therapist can help you by helping you recognise your feelings, and by helping you become better at managing them. However, the therapist will not give you practical advice and they will not manage the problem for you.
The length of short-term therapy can vary, but generally it is a therapy that is 12 weeks (12 sessions) long or shorter. 6 sessions are usually required to make lasting gains in therapy. According to recent studies, on average it takes 9 weeks for the average person to pick up a new habit; in therapy we are looking to help you make changes in your life, so it makes sense that it would take a while for these to become solidified.
Usually in short-term work I draw on CBT techniques and practices such as relaxation and mindfulness. Short-term therapy focuses on finding practical solutions for your problems; it may include learning stress management tools or a focused exploration of the topic that bothers you.
Short-term therapy may be a great option if there is one particular aspect in your life you would like to focus on, that you may wish to improve. Some examples are: you would like to resolve your insomnia, or you would like to learn how to manage panic attacks, or perhaps you just lost your job, or your romantic relationship has ended and you are not sure how to continue.
I will help you mobilise your own resources and also to create new resources so you will have the tools and the energy to deal with your problem.
At its most basic, open-ended therapy is simply a therapy that has no set, pre-agreed ending date. It means we meet once a week for a therapy session, and we continue to do so for as long as we feel that you are getting something out of this process, and we are working well together.
I prefer the term ‘open-ended’ (meaning that we do not agree on a fixed end date) rather than long-term therapy; because while indeed, some therapies could go on for six months, a year, or even longer, there will be plenty of instances where therapy will come to a natural ending point maybe after just a few weeks or a few months of weekly sessions.
Open-ended also means that you, as the client, are always in charge; you can decide to end your therapy whenever you wish to do so. I ask that you provide two weeks’ notice where this is possible, so that we have time to address the ending of our working relationship and we can reflect on our progress.