When do we seek the services of a Psychotherapist, Psychologist or Counsellor?
During times of uncertainty and change, psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors can assist us to work with the various challenges life invariably presents. The confidential and respectful nature of the counselling relationship creates a safe context for us to begin the process of getting in touch with what it is that we need, and to truly experience our feelings. We come to an understanding of what is getting in the way of our achieving a sense of well being, while learning more helpful ways of relating and of being in the world. The therapeutic experience is a deeply supportive, sometimes challenging, and richly rewarding process.
‘At this very moment you might be struggling with problems, big or small. You may be feeling confused, sad, angry or alone in some way. You might be concerned about someone you love, or simply keen to take more control over your life so that you can start living in a way that feels more complete. Whatever it is that you are going though, or wishing for, I promise you something: your life will become easier if you allow yourself the help of others from time to time.’ Shopping For a Shrink, by Todd Zemek
What to look for when choosing a counsellor
Psychotherapy, Psychology or Counselling?
It is difficult to make a succinct distinction between psychology, counselling and psychotherapy. However, it is probably fair to say that psychology and counselling tend to be shorter-term, solution-focused work. Their aim is to provide skills and strategies for the relief or cessation of symptoms. Psychologists and counsellors generally employ a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach, which is to say that they challenge and modify the ways our thoughts affect our emotional well being. Some psychologists may also offer psychotherapy if they have undergone further studies.
Psychotherapy is different to psychology and counselling in that its aim is to address the causes underlying the symptoms, that is to say, the reasons why the symptoms appeared in the first place. For this reason, psychotherapy is often longer-term work. The therapist’s role is to help the client gain a deep understanding of the cause of distress or unhappiness and its impact on our lives and the lives of others, whilst challenging the unhelpful ways that we currently respond to the stresses in our lives. It is through the growing awareness and appreciation of our underlying and sometimes unconscious material that we begin to heal and blossom.
Qualifications are by no means the full story, but they certainly help! Appropriate training can ensure that the therapist or counsellor you choose has a deep understanding of the theoretical and experiential nature of their particular field of counselling, and as such, will most likely be affiliated with a recognised counselling association.
Does the counsellor belong to a recognised counselling association?
Without a personal recommendation from a friend or other health professional, it can be tricky when deciding who to see. Because choosing a counsellor can be a difficult task, it is worth checking to see whether the psychotherapist, psychologist or counsellor is affiliated with a recognised counselling association. If you Google their association, you will quickly discover the counsellor or therapist’s level of training and experience, as each association has different levels of membership according to the therapist’s years of training, experience, supervision and professional development. These associations help to ensure that you are receiving a high standard of professionalism, experience and accountability. This information can take some of the stress out of selecting a counsellor!
Your relationship with your counsellor is going to be the most important factor when choosing a counsellor / therapist. Obviously, relationships take time to grow. However, for the work to be productive, you need to feel a positive connection with your counsellor (even if you are initially somewhat anxious!) Empathy, positive regard, good listening ability and skill are the essential ingredients of a good counsellor that will assist you to feel safe and supported.
It’s important to feel comfortable with the setting and environment ~ does the counsellor’s room ensure privacy? Is it aesthetically pleasing to you? Can you relax? The Hartington Centre is situated within a delightful Edwardian house, with 6 practice rooms plus reception. This non-clinical environment helps make being at Hartington a pleasure.
First Contact with a Practitioner
Feel free to spend a few minutes talking to a prospective counsellor or therapist. You may want to ask about their qualifications, experience, approach, availability and fees. The counsellor may ask you to briefly describe the issues or concerns you have, to make sure she or he is the best person for you. Already you are gaining a sense of each other. The first consultation will be another opportunity to ask questions and to gauge more fully whether you wish to pursue a counselling or therapeutic relationship with this practitioner.
As the Hartington Centre isn’t a government-run organisation, we do not receive any funding. This means that our therapists work independently, setting their own fees. However, if you are experiencing financial difficulty, practitioners are often willing to negotiate their fees, so please feel free to discuss this.
Medicare offer a cost-effective means of acquiring short-term counselling, via the Better Access to Mental Health Care plan. You will need a GP’s referral to access this plan. You pay your psychologist his or her full fee at the time of your consultation, then take the invoice to Medicare to claim your rebate.
Please note: The Mental Health Care plan is only available to individuals experiencing a mental health illness (depression, anxiety, personality disorder, etc). Your GP will make this assessment at the time of your consultation.
In accordance with the plan’s criteria, the psychologist or social worker will utilise a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or solution-focused counselling model (see above, under the heading: Psychotherapy, Psychology or Counselling) in his or her treatment of your condition. Hartington has two psychologists and one social worker registered with the Mental Health Plan.One of these counsellors is also a relationship counsellor.
Relationship Counselling: As most relationship issues don’t fall under the category of mental-health disorders, the Mental Health Care plan is not available for the majority of couples seeking relationship counselling. Usually, relationship issues have an interpersonal and relational basis, and need to be addressed as such by a qualified relationship counsellor (see Relationship Counselling). However, if one of the couple is experiencing a mental-health disorder, it may then be possible for the couple to access the Mental Health Plan.
Psychotherapists are not funded by private health insurance companies or by Medicare at this point in time (despite, often-times, equivalent or greater levels of qualifications and experience). Unfortunately, this means that we cannot offer rebates. However, we are happy to discuss a reduction in fees.
Please direct your enquiries to the Psychotherapy and Counselling Practice Manager, Julie Twohig: 9482 1888