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Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a counselling psychologist and a psychotherapist?

A psychologist is someone who has studied the human mind with a view to understanding why people behave in the way that they do. Beyond primary degree level in psychology, there are various specialisms. A counselling psychologist, for example, specialises in helping a person to bring about change using an approach that emphasises a collaborative understanding of the person’s subjective experience, inner world and construction of reality. A psychotherapist, or therapist, on the other hand, is a generic term for a professional who is trained to provide psychological treatments for people. Therefore, a counselling psychologist is a type of psychotherapist. The differences between various types of psychotherapists usually lie in their routes to qualification and the bodies by which they are accredited. The words ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ are often used interchangeably, although, usually, counselling refers to shorter-term work that focuses on helping a person with what he or she is experiencing right now, whereas psychotherapy usually refers to helping a person to overcome deeper and more longstanding issues that have their origins in the past.

How many sessions will it take?

Like most questions in psychology, the answer to this one begins with ‘It depends’. It depends mainly on the nature of the issue that you are seeking to address, how deep-rooted and long-standing it is and what you wish to achieve. You may only be seeking help to overcome a recent adversity. In such cases, we may agree on a small number of sessions, say 6, to help you to identify strategies and coping mechanisms to help you to navigate your current difficulty. Here, the emphasis is often on identifying strengths and solutions that you have previously applied to other or similar problems. On the other hand, when you have been badly affected by something for a very long time, it can take longer, sometimes months or more, before you feel that you have made significant, or sufficient, progress in altering the course of your life. In such cases, it is more apt to think of this as a journey of healing involving exploration, reflection, experimentation, acceptance and more reflection.

How often would sessions take place?

Sessions usually take place weekly. This is a usually a good interval to provide you with enough time for reflection on the content of the previous session whilst, at the same time, keeping you sufficiently engaged in the process for you not to lose sight of your objectives. Of course, sometimes it happens that there is a longer gap between sessions due to holidays or other unforeseen events.

Can I cancel or reschedule a session?

Of course. However, I charge 50% of the usual fee if you cancel or reschedule a session giving me less than 24 hours notice. There is no fee payable if you have to cancel or reschedule for reasons that are unavoidable or unforeseen.

Are sessions confidential?

Yes, but it is important to explain what ‘confidential’ means. As a general rule, I will not discuss with anyone anything that you tell me in therapy. However, because I have a duty to keep you and others safe, there are some important exceptions where I may need to break confidence. These are:

  • If you do something or tell me something that leads me to conclude that you or others are, or will be, in danger, I may have to act on this to protect you or whoever might be in danger. Ideally, I will discuss this with you first, or seek your permission to act, but, depending on the urgency of the situation, I may have to break confidence and act immediately without your consent. Such action may be to contact the emergency contact person nominated by you, your GP or the emergency or social services.
  • If you tell me something that leads me to suspect that a child has been or is being abused, or is at risk of being abused, I have a duty to make a report to Tusla, the State’s child and family agency.
  • I may discuss something that you have told me in confidence with my supervisor. My supervisor is an experienced psychologist with whom I meet periodically, or on whom I may call, to obtain advice or a further opinion when I feel that this is appropriate or required. My supervisor is, of course, also bound to confidentiality.

If I am in any doubt about my obligations or what I should do, I will, if possible, discuss the matter with my supervisor before taking any action. This does not preclude circumstances arising whereby you provide me with consent to disclose certain information to certain third parties or other circumstances arising whereby my discretion to protect the confidentiality of your attendance in therapy is removed. Please be aware that all psychotherapists have similar confidentiality understandings and procedures in place.

Do you treat children and adolescents or people aged under 18?

Yes, I treat children and adolescents from secondary school age upwards. However, the arrangement is a little different from the arrangement with adults. Usually, the parent(s) initiate their son’s or daughter’s attendance at therapy. Therefore, I will, of course, initially consult with the parent(s) to understand their concerns. I will also ask the parent(s) to attend the beginning of the first session in order for them to meet me, to discuss how confidentiality applies and to gain their formal consent for their son or daughter to attend. However, thereafter, therapy sessions will be confidential between the child/adolescent and me with the same provisos as set out in the question above. Some of the problems that are often experienced by children and adolescents include being bullied, relationship issues, the separation or divorce of their parents, study and exam pressure, conflict with their parents, addictions, sexual abuse and sexuality. Such problems can lead to highly distressing outcomes, for example, the development of low self-esteem, self-harming, suicidal thoughts, depression and social isolation.

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Ethics statement

At all times, I seek to work in your best interests and in accordance with our agreed objectives. In addition, I conduct my work with full regard to the codes of ethics of the professional bodies to which I belong. These codes of ethics focus on your protection and what is expected of me in the course of my work. You may access the full codes of ethics of the bodies to which I belong through the following links:

The British Psychological Society – Code of Ethics and Conduct (logo)
Health & Care Professions Council (UK) – Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (logo)
Psychological Society of Ireland – Code of Professional Ethics (logo)
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – Code of Professional Conduct (logo)