Putting Me In the Spotlight

I was recently interviewed about my work as a Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor for The Natural Health Centre Newsletter.  Here’s how the interview went:

Dean, what first brought you into Counselling and Psychotherapy?

Well, my upbringing was happy, but we experienced quite a lot of heartache; we sadly lost beloved family members to Leukaemia, Cancer and Brain Haemorrhage. This taught me to value life, from an early age.  My childhood was unconventional; my Father was a Stunt Man in the world of film and television and my Mother ran hotels, inn’s and pubs. This taught me to be a resourceful and creative thinker.

My parents divorced in the mid 1980’s, which evidenced to me just how impacting relationship difficulties can be and showed me how life changes can also trigger practical and emotional challenges.  My Father tragically died, as I turned thirty years of age; due to Cancer.  This was devastating but it had a significant impact upon me and the direction that my life would take; for I decided to leave work in the private sector and move into the helping professions; health, social care and mental health.

Could you please briefly explain the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?

There are a number of views on this, within my field of work, but I would say that Counselling is helpful in responding to specific difficulties, issues or crises that are more current.  Counselling considers the cause of presenting problems, explores how the difficulties are impacting upon day to day life, upon thoughts, feelings and emotions and helps create coping strategies that will empower new ways of responding to problems and difficulties; both now and in the future.  Counselling usually takes place over several weeks to several months; a shorter-term therapy.

Psychotherapy is helpful where difficulties are known to exist, but the origin of the problem is not necessarily clear or may be related to historic trauma.  The impact of the difficulty being experienced may be causing considerable psychological distress and, in some cases, a physiological disorder or physical symptoms.  For example; weight problems, sleeping problems or long term illnesses. This is often because the difficulty may be causing an unwellness in the person as a whole; ‘mind, body, spirit’ – so to speak. Psychotherapy usually takes place over several months to several years; longer-term therapy.

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If someone is struggling with an issue and recognises that they would benefit from some external help, do you guide them with which would work best for them?

I am an ‘Integrative’ Counsellor and Psychotherapist.  This means that, through my training and qualifications, I have been taught a number of different therapeutic models, from which to draw the most appropriate methods to meet the individual needs of my clients.  As people, although we may experience common issues, we are all different, diverse and bring different life experiences.  My skills enable me to design therapy specifically for each individual client, rather than expecting a client to come along and take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ form of therapy.  For this reason, I tend to have only a few clients that need onward referral for other support but, when a need arises, I have a strong network of partners in statutory and non-statutory services across Suffolk.  I can provide clear, confidential pathways to other treatment providers and support services, with ease; with client consent.

Typically what kind of issues would a person be looking to overcome when they come to see you?

There are many but, most common among these are symptoms of depression, anxiety, grief and loss, relationship difficulties, problems at work and stress.  Sometimes, more historic issues may be causing difficulties; surviving childhood sexual abuse, a traumatic event, low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence.  The support of a trained therapist offers confidence and understanding from the support of someone with specialist skills.  It can also simply be that a person needs to work through a private difficulty with somebody that is objective and not personally involved.

Counselling & Psychotherapy benefit individuals, couples, families and groups in a number of ways.  There may be emotional relief, greater insight, improved self-awareness, the developing of new or broader perspectives, bringing order where there may have been chaos or confusion, developing peacefulness and creating a sense of safety. New skills can be developed, the improvement of physical symptoms can be achieved, new methods of coping can be developed and the ability to let go of past events can relieve distress.

The ability to focus on the present, rather than on things that cause us difficult emotions when we think of the past or the future, can empower. Anxiety can be reduced and sleep patterns resolved.  Improved communication can lead to the betterment of relationships and an end to conflict.  The ability to overcome compulsive behaviours or thoughts can bring control and order. The emotions that may seem to overwhelm can, in fact, be returned to a manageable level. There are these, and so many more, benefits to counselling and psychotherapy.

How long would a course of treatment usually last? Or is that a ‘piece of string’ question?!

With a good therapist, a lot can be achieved in just several sessions but the process is ‘organic’, in that the support is there for as long as the client feels they need it.  The client determines for his/herself, whether they have achieved their goals of coming to therapy.  I tailor my support to meet those needs.  Remember, Counselling is shorter-term therapy and Psychotherapy is a deeper, and therefore, longer-term therapy.

Would someone need to be guided to you by a doctor, or is it possible for them to refer themselves directly to you?

Sadly, due to the nature of funding in the NHS, Doctors rarely refer clients to private Counsellors and Psychotherapists.  Some of my clients are self-referred or ‘signposted’ to me by other services.  I am in the fortunate position of having most new referrals via recommendations from former clients who have gone on to tell people they know about the success of their therapy with me.

Accessing my service is hopefully easy; clients can telephone me, they can contact one of the clinics I work from, they can access my service via Skype (ideal for those with mobility difficulties) or they can contact me through my web site/e-mail.

And lastly, no doubt the questions that all psychotherapists are asked – do you analyse everyone that you meet?! Or like everyone else, are you able to switch off from work when you go home!? And how do you like to spend your relaxation time?

This makes me smile, knowingly, for it is a common question! No, I do not analyse everyone, any more than the usual ways we all assess each other as fellow human beings.  My friends and family will experience me using my skills if they are in difficulty, but otherwise I am very boundaried and keep my work skills focused at work.  It is nice, if not essential, to be able to switch off and relax just like everyone else.  I am passionate about my field of work, about helping people and, equally, I love to enjoy my home and family life.  I am a Writer, at heart, and hope to write my first full novel, or a book on therapy,  over the next two years.

Many thanks Dean, for answering these questions.