As with counselling clients (see separate tab), clients seeking psychotherapy often feel distressed, weighed down or overwhelmed by something that is happening in their life. And my initial role is to listen carefully and respectfully to what clients have to say and to feedback to them what I am hearing so that we can develop a common understanding of what they are struggling with. Sometimes I may also point out aspects of the client’s situation that I think that they may have missed – or that they might think about in a different way.
This may sound simple and yet it can turn out to be challenging. Our struggles in life are normally complex and often difficult to talk about. It can be very easy to feel misunderstood or uneasy as we share our story with another person - particularly if we are speaking about things for the very first time, or if when we have spoken about them before we have not got the response we wanted. So talking can be very challenging and yet, when it works, it usually provides a sense of relief – a sense of being ‘lighter’ or ‘carrying less of a load’.
In the case of psychotherapy clients, this feeling of relief is only part of the process. For these clients, their original distress is normally linked to a longer-term, deeper sense of things not being right. There might be some sort of traumatic event in their past which they can trace their troubles back to. Or they are aware that their troubles have a repeating pattern over a long period of time. They may even feel that they have ‘always lived with this problem’.
For these clients, simply ‘getting back to normal’ or to their ‘old self’ does not feel like the solution. To live the life they want to lead, they realise that they need to change in some way. And sometimes the prospect of the changes required can be very daunting and the changes themselves difficult and complex. For example, patterns of behaviour which have been in place for years may need to re-examined and adjusted.
In my experience, the process of identifying the changes that will help clients and supporting them as they go about making these changes, is at the heart of successful psychotherapy and what distinguishes it from counselling. In other words, psychotherapy focuses on deeper change as well as relieving distress. Because of this, psychotherapy is a process which normally takes longer than counselling, and, sometimes, can take years. As such it can require a significant commitment of time and money by the client.
Normally I meet psychotherapy clients on a weekly basis at the same time each week for a 50 minute session. Where this is not possible for a client then we work around their schedule, although, in the case of psychotherapy, my experience is that the sessions need to regular if the work is going to be effective.