Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

Can counselling help a couple to break up?

Are you one of the many people who assume…

“…couple counselling tries to prevent a couple from breaking up…” ?

Then you might be surprised to learn that this commonly held view is a myth!

When people think that couple counselling is for couples who want to stay together, they’re missing the fact that couples who are breaking-up, divorcing or dissolving their civil-partnership can also benefit from using couple counselling to help them end their relationship.

Breaking-up a Couple Relationship.

When couples build their relationship, they acquire assets: physical, tangible and emotional.

Perhaps the couple share accommodation and a joint bank accounts.  They may develop joint responsibilities, and may have friends of the relationship. Many couples may have children, foster care or adopt children. There may be loved pets.

When a couple reaches a place where they may be facing the end of their relationship, matters such as these – and the couples own emotional attachments and distresses – need attending to.

The couple may be angry with each other, emotions may be running high, and there may be lots of blaming. Because of the relationship’s responsibilities & acquisitions, the couple may have to continue seeing each other during the break-up.

Some couples choose to use lawyers to end the relationship for them. This is understandable, the couple may be able to afford this (usually two lawyers), and the lawyers do the communication behalf of couple.

But some couples, at the end of their relationship, are able to work together to legally dissolve their relationship together – often at a much lower cost (financing and emotionally) than using solicitors. A couple counsellor can help the couple find a place where working with each other to dissolve their relationship is possible.

Working with a couple counsellor to end a relationship can be helpful – not least because:-

  • Meetings take place in neutral territory.
  • The Couple Counsellor is an independent third party who does not take sides.
  • Session times are fixed: the couple know when the session is going to end (which can feel quite containing).
  • Any matter can be discussed.
  • Should one or both partners wish to change the focus of the counselling – this can be discussed in session.
  • Counselling helps bring understanding… and this can reduce the need to blame and hurt.

The Couple’s Focus in Counselling.

One of the first things we do in couple counselling is begin to find the focus for counselling.

The focus of a couple’s work will be what the couple want to change about the relationship (including behaviour).  Assisting both partners express what they wish to focus on can help a couple bring a mutual understanding; that they are on the same page and that their direction is an agreed one.  It may be at this stage that the couple learn what the separation is really about – and may decide to work on that whilst postponing a permanent separation.

The couple may need a way to manage their separation – if not with any friendliness then at least with a modicum of tolerance.  That’s not an easy process – for obvious emotional reasons – but the couple can make use of a professional’s experience in helping their relationship to end.

Why choose a Couple Counsellor?

Not all qualified counsellors are qualified in working with couples.  A majority of counselling training qualifications train the counsellor on how to work with an individual, not a couple.

Couple counselling is quite different.  For example…

A counsellor trained only in individual counselling may meet with a couple and may focus upon one partner first (listening to them & offering questions & comments to them).

For example:  ‘how did you feel about his affair?’  (this is called an open question – it invites the individual to say more about a matter). The therapist may then turn to the other partner to repeat the process.

The counsellor is not offering true couple-counselling.

A counsellor trained in couple counselling, will practice neutrality whilst listening to the couple discuss their issues in a way that’s most comfortable to them (perhaps equally, perhaps one partner dominates the other before the counsellor intervenes).  The counsellor may offer questions & comments that addresses the relationship, (rather than the individuals).

For example: ‘Who first noticed that the relationship was breaking down?’ (this is called a circular question – it invites both partners to address their relationship, rather than their individual perspective in isolation).

 

For more information click here: Dean Richardson and his approach to couple counselling.

Divorce & Couple Counselling.

Couples who have engaged in marriage or a civil-partnership may decide that they wish to divorce.  Solicitors will be involved for the legal matters but the couple can still meet weekly with the counsellor to discuss matters about their divorce.

It is normal for an individual wishing to leave a relationship by “saving face”, and there can be pressure to denigrate their partner (because doing so helps the individual to appear or feel better than the partner).

Couples counselling can assist the couple with the separation processes through divorce; both partners may leave the relationship in a neutral (perhaps even friendly – though not essential) way.

Are you a couple thinking about breaking-up?

Whether divorce, dissolving, breaking-up, or separating, couple counselling can assist you in the process of bringing your relationship to an end.

Dean Richardson offers couples counselling in Portsmouth and Southsea (Hampshire) and online via Skype.

 

Categories
Blog FAQ

How Long does Counselling Last?

A question that a number of people want answering before they commit to counselling is: “how long will counselling take?”

As a counsellor who practices with psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural and a systemic approaches, I would suggest that there may be at least two things motivating this question:-

  1. You’re asking for the amount of time until what you’ve brought to counselling feels better.
  2. You’ve have underling concerns that this question might be trying to cover.

What does the Question Mean?

How long Counselling Takes to complete.

To be fair, with this question, I don’t know how long our counselling work is going to take.  The reasons is: I’ve never worked with you on this subject before, and as counselling is not simply a factor of what the counsellor does to the client, then you will be an important a factor in the equation.

Counselling is a collaboration – a joint effort worked at both by counsellor and client together. As a client, if you’re expecting a kind of GP Appointment experience where you describe your problems and the counsellor prescribes a course of treatment, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you discover that you can become an equal participant in your recovery.

However, if the amount of time (and money) you might spend meeting with a counsellor is, literally, a concern for you, then you and I can discuss what we think we can (and cannot) achieve in a set number of sessions.  

It’s worth having this conversation because this has to be a mutually agreeable arrangement.

If I am unsure about entering into a time-limited counselling contract with you (perhaps what you want to achieve is vast and you only want to spend a couple of sessions on the matter) then can will discuss my reservations and what might be an acceptable compromise.

Meanings Behind the Question.

Often, it can be useful to look into meanings behind questions.  We do this so that we can understand more about what potential anxiety is being expressed.

So, when you ask: “how long will counselling take”, we might wonder about what could be behind / fueling your question. For example:-

  • “How much money am I going to have to spend?”
  • “Is there something seriously wrong with me?”
  • “Do  you think you solve my problems?”
  • “Have you worked with this problem before?”
  • “Can you cure me?”
  • “I wasn’t happy with my previous counsellor, but I don’t know exactly how to ask you how you will be any better.”
  • “Can you work with me – and for how long do I have to wait until we can begin?”

In my private counselling work, my approach is to discuss and agree with you what will be the focus of our counselling work. 

Once we have understood the focus, counselling can be effectively employed.

A focus can change during counselling work.  It doesn’t have to, but if there appears an opportunity to talk about how our original focus appears to be changing, this might be helpful.

We can begin to end our counselling arrangements when the focus has been address sufficiently for either you to no longer need to meet with a counsellor, or when I (as the counsellor) begin discussing with you about how the focus appears to me to have been addressed, but perhaps not to you.

Group Counselling and Time.

The type of group you join may influence how long you stay a member of the group.

For example, a fixed-term group may state the number of sessions that the group will exist for.

An open ended group might already be meeting when you join as a new member, and may continue to meet when you have left.

The Ethics of Time Spent in Counselling.

As a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, I work with and uphold their (and my) Ethical Framework.

Sometimes, new clients are worried that I will keep them in counselling for a long time. The reality (and I have this written down for you) is that you can leave counselling at any time you wish.  I cannot (and will not) force you to stay in counselling.

Sometimes, clients hold the idea that I will tell them when they are ‘cured’ and only then may they leave counselling. 

These are natural worries and can be talked about when we begin meeting.

  • I do not – in fact cannot –  force people to stay in counselling beyond the point where a person wishes to leave.
  • When a person wishes to leave counselling, it is helpful to spend some sessions bringing the counselling to a close (eg talking about the start of counselling, what we worked through, what things have changed and what unfinished business there is).
  • If a person does not like counselling (or me, as the counsellor) and wishes to leave, we can talk about the dislikes… because sometimes the counselling relationship brings things out in a very real way (sometimes re-enacting difficulties from the past).  If talking these matters through do not help, I will not stop a person from leaving counselling.
  • If a person wishes to leave counselling – and I disagree with the decision – it would be authentic for me to share my thoughts, and my reasons for doing so, but this will not stop the person from leaving counselling. It can add an extra dimension by discussing why s/he and I disagree about ending our counselling work.
  • If a person continues attending counselling past the point where I believe there may be no further therapeutic gains (a thought I will have first discussed within my clinical supervision), I will bring this up in conversation with the client for discussion.  Sometimes ending counselling might be difficult for the client, and avoiding the ending might be a real difficulty for them.  It would be my ethical position to helpfully notice this and bring it up to talk about with the client.

So, ending counselling can sometimes be a little bit complicated – but this is perfectly OK and healthy to be aware of this. 

Types of Counselling.

Brief/Focal Counselling.

In brief counselling, the client and I agree a set number of sessions (sometimes anything between, say. four and twelve) and we agree a specific focus for the work (i.e. one specific element in the client’s life). The focus must be reasonable to work with within the time constraints.  We then meet weekly focussing in on the agreed topic until the number of sessions is complete.

It is not usual for the number of sessions to be changed once we have begun counselling. Sometimes the pressure of knowing the date of the ending can help with the focus of counselling.  There are always exceptions to changing the time limit, which we can talk about during the counselling.

One benefit of short-term counselling is that the number of sessions and the focus is agreed upon at the very beginning.  Even though it can be tough work focussing upon a problem and even six sessions can fly by very quickly.

One disadvantage of short-term counselling is that it doesn’t afford any time to work upon matters that are related (or very close to) the focus in any depth.

Short-term counselling is not suitable for every situation and, ethically, if I think that such work is not suitable for a client I will discuss it with the client before offering such a counselling contract.

Open Ended Counselling.

In open ended counselling, the client and I meet weekly for enough sessions to address the focus sufficiently –  allowing the therapy to develop in its own time.  Both client and I keep an eye on what we discussed in the first session (the assessment) as this will be the main focus of the beginning portions of the therapy… although longer-term therapy allows other matters and other matters of focus to find a voice.  At some point (sometimes several points) during the therapy either the client, or I, or both of us will begin to talk about if our counselling work has been completed sufficiently to warrant discussing and/or setting an end date (or a set number of sessions in which to complete and say goodbye).

As an ethical therapist, I would not let open ended counselling continue in an unlimited, forever, manner.  And having an unspecified number of sessions can be a valuable container for the client as he/she addresses his/her concerns and makes changes to his/her life before we both agree that the focus of the counselling work has been addressed and worked through – and now the work should come to an end.

Taking this approach allows a person to work through matters in their own time, in the safe container of the weekly counselling session.

Combined Brief/Focal/Open ended Counselling.

In reality, open ended counselling (at the beginning of counselling) has been the preferred choice for most of my private counselling clients.

It has allowed them the time and space to work through some important matters.

And as those matters become diminished in the person’s life, deciding on when to end counselling can invite a brief/focal experience.

Instead of, say, a client coming into a session saying “I’ve had enough now, bye bye!”, we discuss the ending of counselling.  This can include setting an ending date, or setting a number of sessions to continue, after which we will finish.

This last part – becoming a form of ‘brief’ counselling – can bring up many important aspects to the surface (as time is now running out!) and provided that the relationship between counsellor and client is a well-formed alliance by now, those matters can be looked at swiftly and with focus. 

 

Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

Platonic-Couple Counselling (Professional & Non-intimate Relationships)

For the purposes of this article, I define a “couple” is two adults involved in a relationship … any form of relationship.

Whilst some assume that ‘couple counselling’ is only for couples in an intimate (meaning sexual) relationship, because a couple relationship does not have to be sexual,  marital or a civil-partnership, then couple counselling is also not exclusively for those only in such relationships.

Couple counselling can be very helpful to platonic relationships.

By “platonic relationships” I would include:

  • Business partners.
  • House-mates / flat-mates.
  • Neighbours.
  • Friends.

  • Parent and (adult) child.
  • Brothers / Sisters.
  • Family members
  • … any relationship where two people are involved with each other and who wish to change.

And using family systems theory as his model, Dean Richardson’s Systemic Couple Counselling for Platonic Relationships is ideal for non-intimate couple relationships wishing to change their relationship behaviour.

Systemic Couple Counselling.

Systemic couple counselling is a process that assists two people in a partnership to focus upon their relationship with a view to learning how to change the relationship for both parties’ benefit.

By being deeply interested and curious into how a relationship works, a couple (who may arrive with the story “we’ve tried everything already, how can counselling help us when we’ve already tried everything?”) can be assisted in seeing new avenues and new approaches that they had not been able to see before.

And, for platonic partners intimacy & sexual congress will likely not be a topic for discussion – though if the couple wish to discuss this too them this is available in couple counselling.

What we do in Counselling for Platonic Relationships.

  • Conversation: we use verbal communication to discuss the relationship and the changes to be negotiated.
  • Diagrams: we can use drawings (such as the Ishikawa Diagram) to visually outline how the relationship works.
  • Genograms: we can diagram family trees to document the individual’s relations’ behaviour, allowing us to identify patterns from our families of origins that are being replayed in this relationship (see Wikipedia Genogram article).
  • Role playing: we can act out different scenarios to see how they work (or don’t work).  The therapist may take on the role of one or the other partner in order to participate in changing the current relationship patterns (the observing partner can watch a different approach & be invited to comment).
  • Role Reversal: inviting both parties to swap seats and repeat something (such as a recent argument) playing the role of the other partner. This helps both parties see how they are perceived (and misunderstood/understood) by the other, inviting a conversation about what has been mis-communicated.
  • Separation: couple counselling is not bound in keeping a couple together.  If the couple are looking for a way to separate whilst negotiating responsibilities in the separation, couple counselling will support this process too.
  • Perturbation: whilst learning how the current relationship works, we aim to disturb (or ‘perturb’) the relationship behaviour to make room for new ways of behaviour and relating.

Couple Counselling is not Facilitation, Mentoring or Mediation (and vice-versa).

… but there are similarities and important over-lapping areas (in this table ‘counsellor’ refers to a [tooltip text='Systemic therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate and platonic relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_therapy'] systemic [/tooltip] couple counsellor).

Mediation.Counselling.
Mediation is a structured process that can be restricted to a small number of sessions.Counselling can be structured too, but tends to invite the couple to decide upon the structure they wish to work in. The work tends to work on the focus of the relationship problem, rather than a set number of sessions, ending with both parties agree the work has been done.
Mediation focuses on the future: how both parties would like things to be rather than have any detailed knowledge of the past.In addition to looking to the future, counselling includes a curiosity towards how the relationship came into being how it is now. This is to support couple’s learning what contributed to the relationship’s current status, in order that the couple can put in places processes to manage recurrences.
A mediator does not overtly try to influence the participants or the outcome.The counsellor keeps the same neutral stance, but may also opt (with the couple’s permission) to “play” the part of one partner in a discussion with the other.  This allows both partners to witness a process different to their own, and invites curiosity towards the different approaches.
A mediator relies on both parties being present.The counsellor also requires both parties be present, but if it has been discussed with the couple first, meeting with one (either or both) partner on their own can be helpful provided that the other partner is brought up to date about what was discussed later on.
A mediator doesn’t explore a person’s feelings in any depth.The counsellor may explore feelings to the depths acceptable by both partners, so that either partner can learn something of how the other partner functions in response to their partner.
A mediator aims for clear agreement between the parties and how they will deal with specific issues.The counsellor also aims for clear agreements between the couple, except to get there the counsellor would assist the couple in helping them learn & understand how their relationship currently works; by being focussed on the couple’s relationship the parties can learn how to change behaviours to alter the relationship.
A mediator remains neutral.The counsellor also remains neural, whilst also being supportive of both individuals and the relationship.

It’s interesting to note that a mediator’s professional role appears to be a subset of a professional couple counsellor’s role and, of course, a couple may choose one approach over the other:-

Marriage counseling typically brings couples or partners together for joint therapy sessions. The pathology of the marital breakdown is explored and analyzed.

Marriage mediation is practical, agreement-oriented and detail-oriented. When a couple identifies specific areas of conflict on which to focus, they learn to use the mediation process to find points of agreement and negotiate conflict-reducing resolutions. Through the process of marriage mediation, couples will be developing and practicing cooperative, respectful, constructive ways of communicating and reaching accord.

(Citations from http://marriage-mediation.com/ sourced February 2nd, 2012).

… and as I am writing as a systemic & object-relations orientated couple counsellor, Marriage Mediation’s expression of marriage mediation is precisely a subset of the skills that I include in my professional role as a couple counsellor.

Dean Richardson’s development from Non-Counselling to Counselling Professional.

As this article’s author, it is my position that mediation skills are a subset of counselling skills (albeit both approaches have an important place on their own).  It is therefore interesting to notice my own development as a mediator/facilitator/coach towards practising as a professional couple counsellor…

I began as an IBM-trained business facilitator and coach.

Originally trained in the mid 1990s, my role as business facilitator was to attend meetings that had nothing to do with my own department/business (hence maintaining neutrality) and assist the meeting attendees to identify problem that got in the way of work issues and work through the problems to a resolution that the meeting attendees wanted. By the end of the 1990s, I took the role of head of the IBM UK Facilitator’s Network.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, IBM UK introduced the concept of coaching & mentoring.  I trained to became one of a team of business coaches; the role of the coaches was to meet with certain IBM employees, whom management had identified, to support and assist the employees in aspects of their careers.

It was these roles that began my journey into becoming a BACP accredited counsellor/psychotherapist – and it’s these skills of a counsellor – and in particular my qualification in couple counselling – that I offers to couples (platonic or intimate) who are seeking assistance with their relationship (read more about Dean’s professional qualifications & experience as a couple counsellor…).

Where is Couple Counselling for Platonic Relationships Available?

Couple counselling for platonic relationships is available from Dean Richardson as follows:-

  • Portsmouth & Southsea (Hampshire): face-to-face meetings centred on the south coast in Southsea (click for location information).
  • Skype: video camera conference meetings using three Skype devices – idea for people who are in separate places, even remote countries (click for Skype information).

 

What to do next…

If you are involved in a platonic relationship with another person, that relationship is causing distress and both you and the other party would like to work on changing the relationship, make contact with Dean Richardson today to discuss options.

Categories
Counselling Ethics FAQ

Will my Counselling be Confidential?

I abide by and adhere to the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapy’s Ethical Framework.

As part of that framework, I practice confidentiality with all of my clinical work.  This means that you can speak with me knowing that your friends, your family, your work colleagues and so on will not get to learn what you have said in a counselling session – and neither will my friends, family, work colleagues and so on.

But … what confidentiality also means is that I will discuss your case with a strictly limited number of other professionals for sound ethical reasons.  All clients and patients of therapists should be made aware of this (as you will be during our initial meeting), but unfortunately this is not the case with some other professional therapists.  I make it a particular point to discuss what confidentiality means – and what are its boundaries – with all of my clients at the start of counselling.  During our initial meeting I will also give you a printed copy of our counselling agreement.  After all, there’s a lot to remember during our first sessions.

Because confidentiality is not just about not talking about our therapy work, our written agreement explains what confidentiality means.

For example, in addition to the ‘not discussing what we say in the room’ part of confidentiality, I will have made you aware that:

  • I meet with my choice of clinical supervisor one a month to discuss my cases and my work.
  • During my yearly quota of continued professional development (eg training courses), I may refer to certain casework in order to review of reflect upon the case  (you details will be anonymised, meaning I won’t use your name nor other identifying information).
  • UK law may require of me to break our confidentiality if I learn of something that is unlawful.

The rest of this article expands upon these matters.

Confidentiality & Supervision.

As a private practising therapist who is a member of – and accredited by – the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, I meet with a qualified supervising counsellor once a month for a minimum of 90 minutes. This is to discuss my practice and my case load and to check that I’m working to my best, keeping with ethical principals, and dealing with dilemmas that come up in most every case.

I will, from time to time discuss your case and our work together with my supervisor – but I will have first made sure that my supervisor does not know you, or is likely to come in contact with you (say, for example, though the workplace).  I will refer to you only by your first name (or another name if you prefer).  If I cannot assure your confidentiality in this manner – for example if my supervisor knows you in the work place or socially – then I will seek supervision from another supervisor for the duration of our work together.

Confidentiality & Continued Professional Development (CPD).

In seeking additional knowledge to keep me up to date with therapeutic thinking, it is sometimes useful to refer to an aspect of a case whilst attending a training course.  If, when we discuss our agreement, you request that I do not refer to you during my CPD then I will respect this.  Even so, it’s rare to-the-point-of-never-happens nowadays for me to bring up casework willy nilly, and I make sure that anything I discuss within the confines of other therapists in the context of CPD still keeps your identity anonymous and our casework vague enough to never identify you.

Confidentiality & UK Law.

Confidentiality sometimes has to be broken if I am required to do so by law (for example if you disclose to me your intent of harming yourself or others (including children) or if you disclose intent of committing a serious criminal offence or terrorism).  This may also apply if I learn of someone else who may be being harmed or in danger, or is planning to harm others.

This does not mean that I will go running to the police the moment that I hear about something illegal, but it is part of my ethical commitments to you to inform you that the law may not protect your confidentiality.

I will intend to discuss with you of my (admittedly very rare) intent to break confidentiality of our work before I do so, but you need to be aware that the law may require that I take action first and without your consent or knowledge.

Declining your request to break confidentiality.

I have been discussing where confidentiality is maintained but expanded in the form of supervision and CPD, and have discussed UK Law where I may not be able to keep knowledge confidential.

There is another aspect: your request to reveal information about our counselling work.

Confidentiality is very important – even to ensure it is not broken in situations where you request it (for example, giving your permission to a solicitor to request that I give a report about our case work).

If we are still working together it is best for us to have a sufficiently detailed discussion of the consequences of such events before I decide how I will respond – and I will not automatically respond with a ‘yes’.  What has been, up until this moment, vital to protect needs a serious conversation about why this need has now changed.

Should our counselling work have been completed, and we are no longer in contact, if I receive a request to reveal the contents of our counselling work with a third party… even having received your permission (eg written) to do so … I may decline [if I am unable to discuss the request and its consequences with you directly].

Confidentiality – In conclusion.

Counselling is not to be taken lightly – neither by therapist nor clients.  Clinical work such as counselling and psychotherapy requires ethics, respect and the highest form of protecting both the therapist and the client’s right to feel safe during the work.

I take a particularly thoughtful approach to protecting confidentiality – and this may surprise a number of clients who may assume that (a) nothing is ever revealed about the case to anyone … or conversely (b) I will summarise our casework to anyone when the client wants me to.

Confidentiality is vital.

Categories
FAQ

Don’t I have to be mental to go to a counsellor?

Answer: no.

This article is talking about counselling for mental illness… in fact, a counsellor may not be able to work with you if you are mentally ill.

Counselling and psychotherapy are not psychiatry.  They are a valuable form of psychological support that can assist you in unravelling problems (sometimes emotional, sometimes cognitive) but only if you are able to participate in the process too.

If you are diagnosed with a mental illness, then counselling may be contraindicated – and certainly counselling won’t be as effective if you were not able to engage in the process with a good (or at least a reasonable) sound sense of yourself and a stable-enough mental health.

Beginning Counselling.

All counselling begins with an assessment.  This is not a mental diagnosis because counsellors are not qualified to make such diagnoses.  Instead, we are making sure (as much as we are able because we are human and don’t have foresight!) that you are able to engage well enough with the counselling processes, and with us as your counsellor. 

Counsellors won’t announce that you have an undiagnosed mental illness during the assessment.  Apart from anything, counsellors are not qualified to make diagnoses of mental health – although we have experience and training in being aware if there is something amiss in a person’s mental health (which may help us judge if we are the right sort of therapy for an individual, or might help us to help a client find the right sort of therapy).

Counselling and maintaining mental well-being.

If we do become concerned for your mental well-being, we have resources (such as our supervision and access to psychiatric support where needed) that we can consult.  This is to make sure that we have your best mental health in hand.

If we are concerned for your mental health it may be ethical to bring this matter up with you (it’s not likely we will go behind your back to your GP or other mental-health processional).

All in all it’s not very often that a person coming to counselling will cause us to seek such advice, but we are prepared if this might be the case.  At least … counsellors should be so prepared.

Psychiatry & mental illness.

Mental illnesses are diagnosed by psychiatrists.  A psychiatrist would fully assess someone in person (ie face to face), taking a history of the person’s mental behaviour & capacity from the person themselves and also from as many other sources as possible.  More than one problem can be identified during diagnosis.

Once there is a diagnosis a full treatment plan can be put in place, requiring the psychiatrist to consider medical, social and psychological (eg counselling) treatments available.

Whilst a counsellor/psychotherapist may be aware of a person’s mental illness, they are not in a position to diagnose.  An ethical counsellor’s approach would be to discuss their concerns with their supervisior and other psychological resources before deciding whether or not to discuss with you their observations and their advice about seeing your GP.  Think of this like having a potential problem highlighted for you, and the choice to take the matter any further remains yours.

Talk with a Counsellor.

If you’re thinking about counselling and that it might help you, but you’re afraid that you might be seen by others (or, indeed, the therapist) as having a mental illness, be assured that this is most likely not the case … irrational fears are certainly very powerful, but we can deal with stuff like that in counselling.

Talk it through with the counsellor.  You may be relieved.

Categories
FAQ LGBT LGBT

Counselling for Closet Gay People

Whilst my whole website discusses confidentiality, sexuality, gender and my therapeutic practice, it would not go amiss for me to produce at least a brief post that combines all of these counselling features into providing a safe containment for one particular area of society in which I specialise as a therapist: closet gay & lesbian individuals & couples.

Website Search – close, but no cigar.

Someone arrived on this website having searched for ‘counselling for closet gay’.  In response to the query, Google sent the visitor to my search page.  My search software dutifully produced a list of pages that were mostly about counselling, some about LGBT couple therapy, some about me, but none that expressly spoke about counselling for the closet individual.

Notwithstanding I’m taking a look at my search producing software, it was very clear that the visitor had not been presented with anything about what they were looking for from my website, and they went away.

Quite rightly.

But mistakenly so.

Counselling for LGBT People.

As male counsellor who specialises in offering counselling for the specific needs of lesbian and gay individuals & LGBT couples, it would seem to me that the whole of my therapy service would cater well for those people who are not ‘out’:

Yet, perhaps, my counselling information is (unintentionally) aimed at those LGBT people who are already out and leading happy and successful lives, regardless of their sexuality, but who sometimes wishes to meet with an LGBT counselling to work through some issues.

Being in, and coming out of, ‘the closet’.

The term being in the ‘closet’ means that a person’s sexuality or gender-identification is something other than what appears to the public, but that the person has not yet made a public declaration.  The term goes hand in hand with the phrase ‘out’ or ‘outing’ meaning that when a person becomes known for their homo or bi sexuality, or desire for a change in gender, they have come out of the closet, or they have been “outed” by a third party.

It’s perhaps interesting that it is sexual minorities that have to go through this process, as it is perhaps assumed that a person is heterosexual, gender-phoric (as opposed to dysphoric) or cis-gender until other facts are known.

It’s perhaps also interesting that as more people – particularly role (or pseudo-role) models – announce their sexuality or gender-reassignment (or gender ambivalence as not transgender people feel the need to make a full transition from one gender to another) – the process of coming out of the closet (outing ones self) is becoming easier and more socially acceptable (Seidman, Meeks, and Traschen (1999) argue that “the closet” may be becoming an antiquated metaphor in the lives of modern day Americans).

Nevertheless, society still assumes one is a heterosexual cis-gendered person until one corrects the notion.

Not everyone wants to be ‘out’.

It would not be surprising that some people would benefit from discussing their sexuality with a helpful & friendly professional, someone with whom they might feel safe, in order to find support before they go through a (sometimes) traumatic process as outing themselves.

It is not the counsellor’s position to encourage self-outing (or maintaining self-closeting) as the decision for action is down the client, with the counselling processing being available to assist the client on reflection: pros, cons, effects, affects.  LGBT counselling is not a solution of itself but a helpful tool.

In closing, I hope this brief post goes some way to correct, clarify and reconcile my services into a clearer statement of some of the kinds of counselling services that I offer.

Categories
Couple Relationships FAQ

On Bringing Couple Counselling to a Close

Couple Relationship Counselling is about working in therapy with conflicts in a couple’s relationship.  The couple can be married, in a civil-partnership, being romantically involved or just simply colleagues who have a relationship (business or personal) that has developed conflicts (read more…).

Closing States of Couple Counselling.

There are two states for the end of couple counselling: resolved and unresolved.

Resolved: when the initial conflicts – plus conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have been worked through to the couple’s satisfaction. Satisfaction may mean: enough so that the couple can work on the issues themselves without further therapeutic intervention.

Unresolved: when the initial conflicts – or conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have only been partially worked  through & the couple are still distressed at – or helpless from – the conflicts.

Both of these states can be worked with during an ending to couple counselling. Although resolved might appear to be a better state, it depends upon what the couple want as it’s their relationship (and always has been even with therapeutic intervention).

When a couple decide to end counselling, working toward an ending is an appropriate choice (rather than simply stopping counselling without notice).

Topics for Closing Sessions.

In the final sessions it can be helpful to discuss the following:

  • What matters presented at the assessment for couple counselling (read more…).
  • What matters came up during the couple counselling?
  • What matters do both partners agree that we have worked through?
  • What matters do partners disagree on.
  • What matters are left outstanding (any “unfinished business”) – for both partners together, or for each individual partner?
  • What might the couple wish to do about the unfinished business?
  • What has been gained from the counselling process … and what is being lost as it ends.

A purpose of such a review is so that couples counselling can end with the work being reviewed openly.  Both partners can leave therapy knowing what is agreed as being resolved, and what matters are left unresolved.  Knowing what work is left to do means the couple can consciously continue to work on further matters in their own time and their own way.

Number of Sessions.

The number of sessions to bring couple counselling to a close will be decided in a discussion with the couple.  It’s preferable that an ending to counselling is brought about once the presenting issues have been worked through – so the ending is a case of how many sessions would be required to discuss sufficiently the closing sessions topics.

This, plus any outstanding matters the couple wish to talk about.

Ending Counselling without Final Sessions.

Leaving counselling without such an ending as discussed above can be unhelpful to the couple’s relationship.  Unresolved conflicts can continue in the relationship – assuming that the relationship continues.

Sometimes the couple decide they wish to separate and they leave the relationship (couple counselling can also be used to help a couple to separate) and when the couple no longer maintains the relationship, the counsellor’s “client” (the relationship) can no longer be brought to counselling.  Other types of endings can then be discussed.

So, working towards an ending in couple counselling are an important part of the counselling process.  whether the couple involve the counsellor in the ending or not.

Categories
FAQ

LGBTQI Language Phrases, Abbreviations & Acronyms

This is a list of (mostly) LGBT-orientated language abbreviations & acronyms. They are intended for therapists thinking about expanding into working with LGBTQI clients and who might like a crash course in lifestyle-language.  They will also be useful for anyone interested.

This list is small but I hope to expand it.

PLEASE HELP: if you’d like to help by added something please use the comments section below to suggest or correct an entry.

Index:  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  XYZ

A

B

BDSM: “Bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism”
A type of role-play – and sometimes a lifetstyle – between two or more who use the practice to experience a mix of pain and power as an erotic or sexual experience.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM

BEARD:
Sometimes ‘lesbian beard’ – a woman who becomes the girlfriend/wife of a gay man in order to deflect suspicions of homosexuality primarily away from the man (although may also be a mutually satisfactory arrangement for a lesbian and gay-man).
http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/herstory/g/Beard.htm

BUTCH:
A lesbian woman who appears to be demonstrate more masculine-than-feminine behaviour (eg aggression, dominance).
http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/transdykes/g/butch.htm

C

CBT: “Cock & Ball Torture”
Sexual play involving the delivery of pain to the penis and testicles – the sexual pleasure is mostly gained from the masochistic receipt, but somewhat too from the sadistic delivery. Torture may involve waxing, kicking, squeezing, hitting, flogging, urethral play etc.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cock_and_ball_torture_(8sexual_practice)

Closet: “In the closet”
Term (usually applying to males but equally appropriate to females) to imply a person’s sexual orientation or gender identification is different from the majority and is not publicly known. Goes hand in hand with out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closeted

D

E

F

FEMME / FEM:
A lesbian woman who appears to demonstrate proportionally more femanine-than-mascline behaviour and/or appearance.
http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/comingout/g/Femme.htm

G

H

I

J

K

L

Lesbian Bed Death:
Term coin by Pepper Schwartz in her 1983 book American Couples – the study suggesting that lesbians in committed relationships suffer the most decline in sexual intimacy the longer the relationship lasts.  The study has been critisised and the conclusions given as myth, however the phrase is used by some to express concern about their relationship’s decline.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian_bed_death

LGBTQI: “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans(gender/vestite), Questioning(Queer), Intersexed(Inquisitive)”
Self-classification from the LGBT community. Different variations include: GLBT (primarily American), LGBT, LGB etc…

M

N

O

Out: “Out of the closet
Term used to describe someone who has announced their sexuality as being different from the majority (eg gay / lesbian).  Can also refer to gender identification.  Being used more commonly nowadays as an esoteric term to refer to someone who makes something public known about themselves that was previously secret.

P

PEP: Post Exposure Prophylaxis
A treatment to attempt to stop infection by the HIV virus shortly after exposure.
http://www.pep.chapsonline.org.uk/pep_basics.htm

Q

R

S

SORTED:
Personal description implying the person has no psychological or emotional problems.

SOUNDING:
The use of medical-orientated equipment to stretch the urethra (primarily in males / the penis) as a form of sexual play.
http://www.chaseunion.com/documents/urethra/sounds.htm

T

U

V

W

XYZ

 

Please help me expand this list by adding further suggestions and amendments using the comments section below…

Categories
FAQ

Can I send someone to see a counsellor?

Sometimes, people see counselling as a last resort.  Something that is to be tried after everything else has been tried (and failed) … to fix someone else.

It is not unusual to find that people can think of counselling as something that they want to send someone to:

I want to make an appointment for my husband.

I think my friend needs counselling, will you see her?

Can we send our sister and her boyfriend?

My husband and I want to send our son for counselling.

My mother is upsetting the family, will you see her for counselling?

Counselling is a form of therapy that is private & confidential.  It can help people address personal problems (and problems within relationships):

  • It can help address ways of thinking (such as a cognitive-behavioural approach (CBA)) so that the person can be less restrained by their thoughts.
  • It can help address issues from the past (such as a psychodynamic approach) so that the person can be free of past bad experiences.
  • It can help address relationships (such as a systemic approach) so that a couple are less restricted by the same patterns of relating over and over again.

But… counselling is a personal resource, a form of assistance, a help. You are an equal-participant in counselling; counselling is not something that is done to you.

Counselling is not done to someone.

– and counselling does not “fix” someone for someone else’s benefit.

  • Counselling is a collaboration that you (and your partner if couples counselling) willingly take part in along with the counsellor;  it is a therapeutic and professional relationship.
  • Counselling cannot be something you send someone to (even if all else has failed) with the hope that the someone will be cured/fixed/made-acceptable-to-you once the counsellor has “dealt” with them.
  • A person – or both partners in a couple-relationship – has/have decide for himself/herself/themselves if he/she/they want to participate in the counselling process for himself/herself/themselves.  

… and sometimes a person does not want to change, no matter how unacceptable someone else may consider this.  Being sent to counselling won’t do any good if the person has no interest in changing something.

Counselling and Couple Relationships.

Sometimes a couple comes into counselling and one (or both) partners spend a lot of time and emotion telling me how the other partner is the problem.  They will point out all the problems with what their partner does and says.  They will imply – or even say quite clearly – that I (as the counsellor) should be fixing the partner (implication: so that the complaining partner is no longer upset).

The couple counsellor focuses on the relationship – not he individuals.  As they say, “it takes Two to Tango”, so it also takes two to make a problem.  Although the complaining partner may feel as though they are not part of the problem(s), a systemic point of view would be to consider that both partners are contributing to the problem(s) existing.  The couple counsellor will help the couple to discover how their relationship is contributing to – and keeping alive – the problems, and will help the couple … both partners … to perturb their relating behaviour enough to invite changes to happen … checking that this is what the couple wants.

In this example – you may notice that the idea of one partner sending the other partner to be ‘fixed’ may not be a very good solution to a relationship problem.

(For more information on couple counselling, use the Counselling Menu at the top of the page…)

Hoping to send someone to counselling.

So, when someone contacts me asking:

“…can we send so-and-so because they need counselling…?”

my response will be of the form:

“The person [or couple] is very welcome to make contact with me themselves and we can discuss matters”.

Clearly, there may sometimes be circumstances when a person cannot contact me on their own (phobia against using the telephone or email etc.), and we can be creative in this respect.  Perhaps using a third party for communication where appropriate.  However, the same guidelines apply: if a person or couple have not decided to come to counselling themselves, there is nothing I can do to see someone on behalf of another person’s needs.

Alternatively, maybe you might like to come and meet with me on your own to discuss with me how you might find some support in your struggles to manage with someone else’s problem.

Categories
FAQ

How do Support Groups End?

This FAQ is about support groups.  For information on ending counselling – individual or couples click here.

Support Groups.

The type of ending will depend on the type of support group you are in:-

  • Open/Ongoing groups: group members depart when they have no longer a need for what the group offers. It can be helpful to the group and the individual if the individual first discusses their desire to leave the group before they actually do.  Subsequently, an ending date can be agreed giving the group and the departing member an opportunity to work through the ending and to say goodbye.
  • Closed/Fixed term groups: the group starts with a predefined set of objectives and group members that work for a set number of sessions or goal(s). The intention here is that all group members end at the same time.  Sometimes this is not possible and an individual is free to leave the group as they need to.  It can be helpful to the group and the individual if the individual first discusses their desire to leave the group before they actually do.