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What is counselling and how can it help?

Counselling is the time and space to think and talk about you. It can:

  • support you get through a distressing time in your life;
  • facilitate for you to talk about something difficult that you’ve never shared before;
  • help you to explore and make sense of parts of yourself and your relationships;
  • decrease your levels of stress and teach you how to cope better with it;
  • assist you to develop resources and skills to cope with difficulties;
  • provide comfort that someone is there for you;
  • be a safe place to work things out;
  • help you explore and clarify problems and issues that matter to you;
  • offer the opportunity to get to know yourself better and to develop your potentials;
  • assist you to explore and work though unresolved issues in your earlier life.

What counsellors and psychotherapists do and don’t do?

  • Counsellors won’t give you the answers or tell you what to do. They will support you as you find your own solutions and make your own decisions;
  • Helping you to define your problems in your own terms and decide what you wish to do next is also part of their work. They will never make a moral decision about the course of action you ought to take.
  • They can help you to build your confidence and self-esteem;
  • Counsellors and psychotherapists listen carefully to what you are really saying, accepting you and respecting your feelings and thoughts;
  • Counsellors sometimes can be more active, offering suggestions for further ways of investigating or beginning to resolve problems; at other times they can make less interventions, letting the work proceed at the client's pace.

What are the main differences between the types of therapy?

There are different types of therapies currently used by counsellors and psychotherapists. They usually fall into three categories: behavioural therapies, focusing on cognitions and behaviours, humanistic therapies, which look at the 'here and now' in the therapy room and psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies, which emphasises the unconscious relationship patterns developed from childhood experiences.

Research has proved that they can all be effective and that the main contributing factors for therapeutic effectiveness are the therapist skills and the quality of the therapeutic alliance (Corrie & Milton, 2000). The ability to adequately combine and use different approaches can help therapists to better serve their clients by looking beyond the restrictions of these models and seeing how clients can benefit from other perspectives.

What types of problems can I talk to a counsellor?

You can talk to your therapist about whatever is troubling you and why this may be happening. However, a number of issues that frequently come up are:

  • Abuse: (verbal, physical, sexual), trauma, self-harm;
  • Addiction: substance misuse, alcohol, drugs, obsessive and compulsive behaviours;
  • Anxiety: panic attacks, agoraphobia, generalised anxiety, social anxiety;
  • Bereavement: loss, anger, loneliness, sadness, life adjustments;
  • Depression: low moods, feeling isolated, lonely, empty, tearful, unloved, suicidal thoughts;
  • Eating problems: bulimia, binge eating, negative body image, anorexia;
  • Lack of confidence: fear of failing, never being good enough, feeling judged, low self-esteem;
  • Relationship difficulties: arguments, break-up, divorce, affairs, inappropriate partners, jealousy, sexual problems;
  • Stress in the work place, work-life imbalances;

What do I say?

You can say whatever you like or comes to your mind, from everyday events, feelings, thoughts, dilemmas, aspirations, regrets, memories and dreams.

There is no typical counselling session. It is time set aside for you, and what you talk about will vary according to your needs. Sometimes there might be silence, and that does not mean that the work is not in progress. Therapy is also happening outside the room.

You may also find yourself saying things you had not expected to say.

The therapist will assist you to explore your difficulties by providing a safe environment where trust is built, working towards self-awareness and improvement. He/she might keep referring to you to clarify her understanding of the situation and that you are happy that you have expressed what you are really feeling and thinking.

Does asking for counselling mean admitting failure?

No. It is an indication of strength to ask for counselling.

Although many people may believe that they are being strong in not seeking for help, admitting one’s own difficulties and being willing to work to overcome them is a great sign of courage.

Asking for counselling often means you have taken the first difficult step to unravel and resolve your problems to improve to quality of your life.

What if I still feel ashamed of my problems?

Counsellors understand that most of us may feel ashamed of our problems and do not want to advertise our difficulties, trying to appear successful.

This is why great emphasis is place on non-judgemental understanding and confidentiality.

How confidential is counselling?

Counsellors work to a strict Code of Ethics which means they must inform you of the limits of confidentiality stated by this Code. West London & Chiswick Counselling work in accordance with BACP’s ‘Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy’.

Everything you say is kept confidential unless there is clear evidence someone may be at a severe risk, include yourself, others and children that might be living or in contact with you.

Does counselling work for everybody?

No, but research has shown that counselling can provide positive effects depending on various factors such as the willingness, readiness and acceptance of clients to undergo treatment, the quality of the relationship between the counsellor and the client, the effectiveness of the counsellor, amongst others.

During the first appointments your counsellor will assess your situation in more detail and decide on the best course of action to help you. If he/she feels for any reason that he/she is not able to help you alternative treatments will be suggested for you.

You are advised to contact professionals personally to find out more about how they work. Whether you choose a counsellor or psychotherapist, the most important thing is that you choose the right individual for you. How you connect with your counsellor or psychotherapist is likely to determine how successful your treatment will be.