How do I know if I need therapy?
There isn’t a straightforward answer to this question as different people have different beliefs about the benefit they get from therapy. Some of our clients choose to have long-term therapy because they find it benefits them simply to have a reflective space to think about themselves and their responses to life. However, other clients come to therapy because they have found themselves feeling very anxious or low in mood, they may be struggling to sleep, to concentrate at work, or finding they are isolating themselves or they are losing their friendships. More severe difficulties can even include self harm, thinking of death or suicide, doing impulsive things, or becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol to cope with their difficulties. We would suggest that if you feel dissatisfied with things in your life to the extent that this has an impact on your functioning or mood, it’s a good idea to have an initial consultation with a therapist and see what they think they could do to help you. When managing your mental health, as with any physical health condition, the sooner you notice any signs that you are struggling and try to get treatment for it, the quicker the treatment is likely to benefit you. This doesn’t mean that if you have left things to accumulate for a long time, therapy won’t be beneficial. As clinical psychologists, we are well trained to work with very complex problems as well as more general difficulties.
What issues can therapy help with?
Therapy can help with a huge variety of difficulties, particularly if you choose to work with a Clinical Psychologist. By training and experience, Clinical Psychologists are well versed in working with a multitude of issues of varying complexity. They also have a variety of evidence-based therapies in their toolkit to draw from. This means every client we work with can receive a different treatment that integrates therapies that are likely to respond best to their particular needs.
Some of the issues we tend to work with include: all anxiety conditions (OCD, phobias, general anxiety, health anxiety); depression and low mood; personality and eating difficulties; neurodevelopmental difficulties (ADHD, ASD); couples and relationship difficulties; trauma (PTSD, complex trauma); substance misuse and addictions; stress; behavioural difficulties (challenging behaviour and anger management).
What is a Clinical Psychologist and why is it different to a Psychiatrist, a Psychotherapist or a Counsellor?
It can be confusing to work out the difference between these mental health professionals. Clinical Psychology is one area of psychology that requires extensive, doctoral-level training to practice legally within the United Kingdom. In this regard ‘Clinical Psychologist’ is a legally protected title and indicates that those with this title have also completed a degree level qualification, and often a postgraduate qualification before completing their doctorate. The profession is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and all Clinical Psychologists must have membership to the HCPC by law.
Clinical Psychologists: are trained in working with adults, children and young people and have experience of working in several different capacities as therapists, trainers, supervisors, mentors and consultants. They are able to work with a diverse range of issues including mental health, learning disability and physical health problems. They are also known to be good at detailed psychological assessments that increase understanding of an individual’s specific problems. The fundamental difference to other therapy professionals is that they are trained to draw from a wide range of scientific and evidence-based methods, including assessment measures and therapeutic models. They may also offer active guidance and consultation to their clients.
Psychiatrists: are professionals with medical training who have chosen to specialise in mental health as opposed to another branch of medicine such as a surgeon, a GP or a dermatologist. Psychiatrists are most often responsible for the safe prescribing of psychotropic medication and for diagnosing mental health disorders, although Clinical Psychologists can also diagnose if required. Psychiatrists don’t tend to offer therapy, although there are exceptions to this rule and some may be registered as psychotherapists.
Psychotherapists: who are registered with professionally regulated bodies are often (but not always) mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, mental health nurses, counsellors or psychologists who have taken on additional training in one or more models of therapy. Like counselling, the title of ‘psychotherapist’ is not a regulated term in the UK and this can mean that anyone is able to practice under this title with or without training. Those who have received training in a particular model tend to be highly trained in that model.
Counsellors:aren’t a regulated profession in the UK and this means that while some counsellors have received high quality training, others may not have had any training. There are a number of good counselling membership bodies that do put in place minimum standards for counsellors to work by such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and those who are members of these bodies are likely to have Diploma level training. Good counsellors are excellent listeners and strive to offer a compassionate and safe space for their clients but are unlikely to act as advisors.
I’ve never talked to anyone professional before. I’m used to handling things on my own. Wouldn’t going to therapy prove I’m not strong enough?
We all need help from other people, and at some intervals in our life we need a bit more help. People who come to therapy know when they need support and have the ability to recognise and try to meet their own emotional needs. Many people acknowledge that making time to meet their physical health needs, such as doing physical exercise and eating healthily, is necessary to maintain a balanced lifestyle but they often don’t realise that there are times where we also need to attend to our minds. Our minds can be the emotional and mental muscle that can get forgotten which is why sometimes we be more vulnerable to a build up of problems in our lives. Psychological therapy offers a professional relationship with someone who can help you work through problems and consider alternative strategies to cope with them.
What’s the difference between talking to a therapist or my best friend or family?
A mental health professional can help you approach your situation in a different way and teach you to develop new skills, gain different perspectives, listen to you in a non-judgemental way without expectation, and help you listen to yourself. Furthermore, therapy is a confidential environment so you won’t have to worry about other non-professionals knowing about what you’re struggling with.
Why shouldn’t I just take medication?
Medication alone cannot solve mental health issues because it merely treats the symptoms. Work with a psychologist is designed to explore the underlying issue and teach strategies that can help you accomplish your personal and relational goals. These strategies can help prevent future difficulties you may encounter which medication wouldn’t be able to achieve.
Medication can be effective and is sometimes needed in conjunction with therapy.
How do I know which therapy approach is best suited for me?
Some people who are referred to us have a clear idea of the type of therapy they would like to receive. This may be because they have looked into it themselves, or because someone has recommended something to them already. Other people are happy to work with their therapist to decide what options are available to them. It is a minefield and while we are happy to accommodate referrals for particular therapies in most instances, we would never expect a new client to know what they need therapeutically. We expect to help you with this in your initial consultation and along the way.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is a guidance, advice and information service for health and social care professionals. It releases guidance to clinicians about what forms of treatment tend to respond best to particular disorders for the majority of people. This is usually based on the most current and available research in the area. Your therapist will often consider a combination of sources when deciding what might be a useful therapy for you, these sources will include the NICE guidelines, other recent evidence in the area, their training and experience, and what you want which may or may not be based on previous experiences you have had. For example, if the NICE guidance suggests you might benefit best from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but you haven’t had a positive experience of this therapy in the past, your therapist may need to explore other options with you.
How does it work? What do I have to do in sessions?
Every person has different issues and goals so therapy will be different depending on the individual. Arranging an initial consultation session will enable you to meet with a psychologist who will be able to explore the issues you have and the things you want to achieve. You can then consider the most helpful approach with them going forward.
How long will it take?
Everyone’s circumstances are unique to them and the length of time therapy can take to allow you to accomplish your goals depends on your desire for personal development, your commitment, and the factors that are driving you to seek therapy in the first place. It is possible to decide that you have a certain period of time you are willing to commit to therapy and both you and your therapist can agree to work on specific issues during this period and review progress regularly. Some people find that committing to a time frame can be helpful while other prefer not to do this and recognise that they enjoy investing in longer-term therapy and recognise that investing in longer-term therapy is very helpful for them. Either approach can bring about great benefits.
I want to get the most out of therapy. What can I do to help?
Active participation and dedication to therapy brings about much more individual progress and success. While the work done in the therapy session is very important, the work you do outside your session brings about the most change. Reflecting on the sessions afterwards and considering the central points of change can be one very good way of helping the process. Sometimes it can be even more helpful to agree work to be accomplished between sessions with your therapist before the end of the session that can then be reviewed in your next session.
My partner and I are having problems. Should we be in individual therapy or come together?
If you are concerned about your relationship and you are both considering meeting with a psychologist, it can be most useful to initially attend together. It may be that your therapist feels seeing you together and then separately for a session can also be helpful before bringing you together again. After couples work has ended, it is possible for one of you to return on an individual basis but it is important to know that it isn’t helpful to move from individual into couple’s work with the same therapist so once individual therapy has started, the couple should not return to therapy.
Do I have to contact my insurance provider or book an initial consultation first?
If you are hoping to receive therapy funded through an insurance company such as AXA, BUPA, Aviva or Cigna, we would ask that you first make contact with them and ensure they have authorised funding for you. When you do this, they will tell you how many sessions are available to you initially, how and if you can apply for further sessions if you need them in the future, and what your excess payment is. They will also give you an authorisation number which you will need to provide to us, alongside your membership number before therapy can start. Usually this information is given to you in a letter from the insurer and it can be easiest to share the letter with us if you are happy to do so as this will tell us what we need to know and will reduce the time we take to confirm details with them. The process of checking with your insurer can be quick and shouldn’t hold up the process of booking an appointment for too long.
What is the process of paying for therapy sessions?
We usually ask that self-funding clients pay for their first consultation upon confirmation of the first appointment. When you make contact with the company and we arrange a date and time for you to meet with a therapist we assume this is confirmed for you. Closer to the session date, we send out a confirmation and reminder email with the details you need to access the session along with payment details and some forms to complete which help us open a client file for you. It is at this point that we would ask you to make payment for the session. If you decide to continue with further therapy sessions, our Assistant Psychologist would then send out monthly invoice in arrears which we ask to be paid within ten days. It is also possible for you to opt to pay for each session as you have it, in which case we would ask for you to pay for the session 24 hours in advance.
If your therapy questions haven’t been covered above, contact Serendipity Psychology today and we will be more than happy to go over your questions.