Security… . How do I know my information is safe?
We follow the British Psychological Society’s ethical guidelines for confidentiality to safeguard our clients and their significant others:
i) Meeting in therapy rooms: In order to make sure we are as safe as humanly possible there are protocols to follow. In a therapy room we are able to pretty much control our environment to maintain privacy for the client. For example, no phones are switched on during sessions; no-one is allowed to disturb the session unless people’s lives are endangered; people can’t see into the room to identify who is there and no other people will be in the therapy room other than those involved with therapy.
ii) Email/Telephone/Skype™ Therapy: As long as we exercise similar caution when using email, telephone and Skype for therapy, we will be as safe as we would be in the therapy room. This means making certain that no-one can access our mode of communication (i.e. your email site has a password; the phone used cannot be listened into by another person and we use a secure communication site [e.g. Skype] when video calling). You must also be careful about the network service you use to access email and Skype. This article that appeared in USA Today describes how a significant number of us do not understand the dangers of using shared and open networks at food chains and airports and even of using our neighbour’s unlocked network. Before accessing therapy online by email or video call, make sure that the network you use is locked and secure with suitable anti-virus software installed and activated so that others cannot access what you are doing. Finally, whether at home or at work, make sure that your email has a password that is not known to others and that you have an automatic screen-lock on your computer to minimise the risk of interference from others.
If you are paying by credit card, you will not see ‘Acton-Coles Clinics’ on your statement but an acronym that keeps your use of the service private. If you are in a threatening environment, or there could be questions about charges on a credit card bill, we can organise other forms of payment that will leave no trail. Payments online are managed by HSBC, and for their privacy and security policies go to hsbc.co.uk. See also the Acton-Coles Clinics Patient Confidentiality Statement.
What type of therapist is appropriate for what I am experiencing?
There are so many types of therapists in the world today that it would be difficult to reference them all, but there are some important things to consider:
You need to feel comfortable working with a particular therapist so you must not feel you are to be judged because you make appointments with several therapists in order to find the one that “fits”.
Therapists are human and therefore have different personalities, characteristics and preferred ways of working. You’ll know intuitively who works for you and if you don’t click with anybody, that would be a great topical area to focus on at the start your therapy: sometimes, with our life experiences, it becomes so difficult to trust.
I work in a solution-focused manner which means that we find your most desired results and work towards them. Because of my psychological, therapeutic and systemic training, I tend to perform a review every 12 sessions or so, to make sure we are on track and that we can attend to any other issues that may surface during our work together. We will then review your priorities, and what you feel is important for you to address first, before agreeing on a plan for that work.
What type of therapy would best help me?
After two decades of working in this field (and having been engaged with this type of work since I was 13 years old), I have seen quite a lot of development. People are complex and so is the therapy that is developed to help us through our challenging times. So my motto is: ‘If it works, stay with it.’ There is a book that specifically deals with this subject, called What Works for Whom (Roth and Fanagy, 1996). This book informs therapists of best outcome results for certain types of issues. It also points out practices which can be dangerous when applied to certain conditions, something many therapists may not be aware of due to limited training or experience (for example, where they have not used a critical eye and considered evidence-based therapeutic efficacy, but instead rigidly followed their chosen type of therapeutic work, be it person-centred, psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, etc.)
All effective therapies put the client at the centre of the work and their self-actualisation.
What Works for Whom also details the efficacy of scholarly therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which works very well with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc. Alternatively, Rogerian-based therapies are client-led with little or no structural agenda. Motivational interviewing techniques are utilised to find a practical working platform which can be especially effective with substance misuse, anger control, and decision-making. The Freudian-founded relationship-based therapies (such as psychodynamic, psychoanalytic and Jungian therapies) are excellent for solution-based approaches, systemic family work and for changing behaviours and thought processes.
In my experience, although the work is evidence-based, therapy becomes eclectic and intuitive with grey boundaries. A therapist who possesses training in several therapeutic areas and selects an appropriate approach from their “toolbox” is likely to be very effective when working with you. However, the skills of each practitioner will be quite different.
I am terrified of seeing someone about this. What can I do?
If you haven’t accessed therapy before it can be nerve-racking attending your first session. If you have been to
therapy before you will understand the commitment and work and the rewards, but it can still be uncomfortable
facing your issues or recognising the need for doing things and experiencing things differently. I try to tell
people accessing me to think of what the worst case scenario could be of spending a little time with me – the
Then, I ask them to weigh up what they would gain if they resolved what they need to access therapy for.
Generally, the benefits of accessing therapy far outweigh those of doing nothing or going it alone. There is very little
that can shock an experienced therapist. Some issues such as gender dysphoria, domestic violence, coming out,
and anger management, to name but a few, can leave a person locked away with their suffering and feelings of
guilt for so long that it becomes incredibly difficult to engage that part of themselves. As therapists, we are used to being
the first to be confided in and we respect that position. We will gently enable you to talk about your experience; we will listen and hear what you are saying and, at your own pace, we will look at what our journey together could be before working out an agreement and a course for our work together.
What happens in our first session?
For most people, their session feels like it goes by in a flash.
Your first session will give you space and enable you to talk and explore a little of why you have come to therapy. It may be that to reach the ‘guts’ of the situation and a full understanding of what is going on will take a few sessions, but people generally leave with a sense of achievement, feeling that the first step has been taken.
You will also be asked some general health questions and for some demographic information. Before the end of the session you will be asked if you feel you wish to continue working with me and if that is the most appropriate course of action for you. At that point you will book your next session or you will discuss options for other types of work that may be more helpful to you.
How can I prepare for my first session?
I usually ask the question: “What brought you to this point of needing to work with me today? What caused you to take this step?”
Keeping my identity private is important to me. If I want to work by phone or email initially is that OK?
This is more than OK. Taking manageable steps at first is to be promoted and nurtured. We will work together at your pace. Your safety and wellbeing are at the centre of our relationship.
How many sessions will I need and how often?
This largely depends upon you, what you’re bringing to me and the safety and management issues of our work. Because I work in chunks of 12 sessions, we generally contract for 12 sessions and then see where we are. Some people feel they have explored their issues enough by then and will move on; others will need more time to come to terms with and resolve what they have brought.
Some issues can take several years to work through, some a matter of a few months. I am ethically bound to work with you for only as long as you need and to advise you what your options are so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.
Intensive therapy™… Why should I consider this?
In the world of today, with time being ever more precious, some people who see me need an intensive therapeutic experience. Either they have a situation where they need a quick resolve due to family, work or their own need for wellbeing; or it may be a matter of logistics. I have worked intensively with ex-patriots and local people in the Middle East, Far East, Australia, the USA and Europe. I work intensively with people who are in the public eye and have difficult schedules as well as corporate people who cannot commit to being in one place each week or who do not have time to attend appointments over an extended period.
Intensive therapy™ may involve a full week of systemic-based work or sessions can be increased in length each week to accommodate our therapeutic goal. There are only a few windows each year that can be open for a full week of intensive work; however, in an emergency it is sometimes possible to rearrange schedules and to make space. The location of the intensive and the structure of the week is discussed and the most appropriate way of working is agreed. When considering intensive therapy the best way forward is to book an initial session with me and discuss it then. I always leave extra sessions each week to accommodate a person’s need to lengthen a session or to see me very quickly.
Click the link for more on intensive therapy™.
What happens if I have a session booked but do not attend?
If you are not able to make your session it is considered good practice for me to remain in my room as if you were with me. During this time I will revisit what we have worked on and reflect on ways to achieve your goals. By working in this way your session is not a waste to you and if you are late and could not contact me for some reason I will be there for you when you do manage to contact me. If there is a connection issue with our Skype, our phones or our emails we will have already arranged a Plan B.