Gwyneth Hellewell Psychotherapy and Counselling in Hoddesdon

What happens in a counselling session?

Your very first session will be an opportunity for us to explore in detail what has brought you for counselling/psychotherapy; I will also ask you questions about your past from your earliest memories up to the present day, although this might take place over a number of weeks.

As we progress and we get to know one another you might find that I am saying less and leaving it more to you to decide what you would like to bring. I feel I am most effective when I can facilitate others to listen to themselves and discover their own inner truths.

I am not someone who has all the answers, but I can help you to discover the answers which are meaningful and true for you. Some people find the space to talk to be liberating, others find it daunting and even frightening; whatever your experience I will try to respond in ways which I hope will be helpful.

Counselling and psychotherapy involve a great deal of trust and you need to feel safe enough to be open about your thoughts and feelings. For this reason I make every attempt to protect your privacy and keep you free from interruption.

My consulting room is in my house a few steps away from the front door. The rest of the house is closed and usually quiet. My consulting room is used only for that purpose and contains mostly books and pictures, as well as 2 arm chairs and a couch. You are free to use either the couch or the chair; some people decide to move onto the couch after a few months as they begin to get deeper into the work, it can help you to be more relaxed without having to keep eye-contact, and it can make it easier to think. On the other hand others feel safer and more connected in the chair. We can discuss your preferences as we go along; everything can be talked about.

Also important for developing trust in the therapeutic relationship is the establishment of boundaries which we will agree between us. We will always start and end on time, and we will agree on payment of fees. I will be openly myself with you, but will not disclose personal information so that you can be confident that the space is yours and as far as possible free from interruption or having to be concerned about someone else’s feelings.

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What can I expect from being in counselling?

At it's most simple a counselling or psychotherapy session is a conversation between two, or in the case of couples therapy three, people. Then it's a question of what you are looking for. For example short term therapy/counselling of, say, between 6-20 sessions might focus on a current problem, e.g problems at work or in a relationship, or a bereavement.

In therapy lasting longer than 6 months it is possible to work more deeply and explore the roots of your problems, which will involve seeking to understand the impact of childhood experiences on your adult life. Understanding the link between past and present can be very helpful in bringing about new insight and change.

Long term in-depth psychotherapy, of up to 3 sessions a week allows time for an exploration of unconscious processes and patterns of behaviour and thoughts which have been set since early childhood, and uses the therapeutic relationship to bring these into consciousness so that they may be thought about and worked on together, enabling lasting change to take place. In more intensive work I will make use of dreams and images, and even the seemingly irrelevant and random thoughts that arise during a session, all of which can provide insight into deeper fears and anxieties which might be preventing you from moving on. You have the option of using the couch rather than the chair which can help you to get more in touch with your feelings.

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How does psychodynamic counselling and psychoanalytic psychotherapy work?

Psychodynamic therapists work to help you to manage and make sense of your feelings in a number of ways:

• By listening attentively and reflecting back their own understanding of what you are bringing, and working with you to reach a deeper understanding of the causes of your distress.

• By engaging with you in a therapeutic relationship, so that the relationship itself becomes a therapeutic tool for the enhancement of your self-discovery. Any problems arising from closeness with another person can then be experienced and addressed directly.

• By exploring your dreams. Freud was of the opinion that the interpretation of dreams was ‘the royal road to the unconscious’.

• Through an understanding that developmental stages in childhood can remain part of us as we grow, especially if difficult experiences have occurred during these times, and that under stress we can revert to ways of thinking and behaving which belong to that earlier time.

• All psychodynamic training requires that trainees undergo their own psychotherapy, and this ensures a deeper level of awareness and understanding of their own unconscious and defences and acts as a safeguard for clients. Psychotherapists are not expecting you to go where they have not been.

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What is psychodynamic counselling and psychoanalytic psychotherapy?

The terms ‘psychodynamic’ and ‘psychoanalytic’ describe a theoretical and practical model of understanding emotional and psychological development from earliest infancy. Based originally on the theories of Sigmund Freud these theories have evolved and developed over the last century. Modern theories focus more on relationships and how as children we develop a sense of ourselves in relation to those around us. In psychoanalytic therapy the relationship between therapist and client becomes an important part of the work.

The most significant aspect of psychodynamic theory is the understanding of the unconscious part of our minds, which is seen as a hiding place for all our painful, disturbing, and unmanageable experiences, things we don’t want to be conscious of, but which continue to influence us in many ways throughout our lives. Part of the work of psychodynamic counselling and psychotherapy is to enable these aspects of our minds to become conscious so that we can reflect on them and over time lessen their effect on us.

For example, we might be convinced, unconsciously, that we are bad, or have no value for other people, but on the surface appear confident and self assured; we might, because of an un-mourned loss in childhood, believe that those we love will always leave us. Fears and anxieties often only surface when a crisis occurs and we might begin to feel depressed, or feeling empty and life appears meaningless, or we become aware of constantly repeating the same patterns of destructive behaviour or relationship choices.

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