What to expect

Perhaps you have never been to see a psychologist before, and wonder what might be involved. You might even have unfounded misgivings about your “competence as a person” if you are contemplating services from the mental health care sector. There is no need to worry: most people report that, no matter how anxious or sceptical they may have been beforehand, they come away from their first consultation feeling better than they did before.

A note about terminology: "therapy" vs "counselling"

Although I am professionally registered as a Counselling Psychologist, I generally prefer to describe my client consultations as “therapy,” rather than use the more official term “counselling.” In common use the term “counselling” can sometimes carry unhelpful baggage about “advice-giving,” which is far from what I do.

 

What is psychological “counselling” or therapy?

Effective therapy is supportive and non-judgemental.Effective therapy is a conversation focused on issues that are of serious concern to you, structured in such a way that you are able to find some kind of peace or resolution. Research has consistently demonstrated that therapy works best when the relationship between you and the psychologist is one that you experience as supportive and non-judgemental. Many descriptions of psychologists focus on the “techniques” they use, but it is actually the nature of the relationship and the quality of the conversation that are the most important features of professional therapy. So this means that you decide what it is you need to talk about or work on, you decide the pace that is best for you, and you choose, in conjunction with the psychologist, what sort of approach suits you best.

What can I expect in the first therapy session?

During the first therapy session, we talk—really thoroughly—about what is concerning you. We discuss the history of the problem and any possible solutions that you have tried already. We talk about relevant bits of your life history, and about what strengths and resources you already have, and we talk about what you would like or expect as an ideal outcome. At the end we then discuss what options we have for working on the problem, and you decide how you would like to proceed. Sometimes this will involve my offering a range of suggestions that you might choose from.

What are further therapy sessions like?

Therapy is a highly personalised, fluid and responsive process.After the first session, therapy may take any of a number of different forms. Sometimes it will seem to you like a fairly regular conversation. Sometimes it might involve you learning some specific skills or information (for example, how to relax your breathing; how to deal with persistent unwanted thoughts; how to engage in better sleep behaviours). Sometimes it might involve a more formal treatment, such as a guided meditation or EMDR (a highly-structured technique for defusing traumatic memories). Whatever forms it takes, your therapy will always be a highly personalised, fluid and responsive process, focused on working towards the goal or goals that we have set together.

How is therapy different from help from my friends and family?

Friends and family may be too close to the problem.If you’re like most people, much of the time you can resolve life problems yourself, often with the help of friends or family. The value of sharing thoughts and feelings with trusted others can be enormous. However, there may be times when you find that this is not enough, or is not helpful. Friends and family may be too close to the problem, too close to you, uninformed about particular issues, have their own needs, or be too inclined to give gratuitous advice. The benefits of seeking professional help include:

  • the therapist is not a part of your social network, so you won’t have to deal with her in social settings, after having discussed personal things with her;
  • it isn’t a social conversation, so you don’t have to attend to the therapist’s emotional needs or worry about the social consequences of things you might say;
  • the therapist will have a professional body of knowledge about your problem or issue;
  • she will be experienced in knowing what usually works and doesn’t work;
  • she will be attending very carefully to learning about you—your individual differences, strengths and weaknesses—so the work you do is individually tailored to you;
  • she will be experienced at helping you to talk about things that may be difficult.
     

What if I don’t know what I want?

You wouldn’t be alone in feeling this way. Although therapy is often about finding a resolution to a problem or learning to accept it, occasionally it’s a more exploratory journey. You may be aware of being distressed in some way, but not know what the cause is, or alternatively, not be able to imagine what, realistically, would stop your distress. In this case, therapy would focus on helping you to clarify these things.

How will we know how well my therapy is going?

When you work with me, we deliberately and periodically discuss your feelings and thoughts about what we are doing together. Additionally, my practice participates actively in an international professional network and database dedicated to therapeutic excellence. While using de-identified data in order to protect your privacy, the system tracks your experience of progress and of being understood and helped. The system compares your record with countless other de-identified therapy records, and the results are shared with you. This is an ongoing process during your therapy and is designed to ensure that our relationship is productive and of value to you.

What are your professional qualifications and commitment?

I am registered as a Counselling Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. This means that my practice has met rigorous standards for training, as well as ongoing professional development and supervision. I am also a long-standing member of the Australian Psychological Society and regularly attend its professional development activities.

Where can I see you?

I currently have rooms in Carlton (Melbourne) and in Geelong. However, if you are unable to attend either of those locations, we can work either via the phone, or via the Internet, using Skype. This can be particularly helpful if you live in a rural or remote location, or if travelling is difficult or especially inconvenient for you.

What about fees? Is there a Medicare or other rebate?

My practice charges an hourly fee and does not bulk bill. If you are able to arrange a Medicare referral from your doctor (either your GP or specialist), you will be eligible to claim a rebate from Medicare. Please note that Government policy currently does not offer a Medicare rebate on services with psychologists other than face-to-face. Some ancillary-benefit policies with private health insurers may offer a partial rebate for psychology services. Check with your health fund if you are in doubt.

How can I start?

If you think there might be a good fit between what you are looking for and what I offer, the best approach is to phone me directly for a confidential, no-obligation preliminary discussion of your circumstances. You can find my phone numbers and an online contact form here.

 

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