“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Getting Started

This page guides you through the process of starting therapeutic or personal development work, from essential reading, to the informal introductory meeting, to having your needs assessed, to planning and starting our work and using each session to get the most out of it.

Step 1: Essential Reading

Here is some essential reading if you are new to therapeutic or personal development work with me:

When you start therapy:

You can find many other useful articles in the Blog Section

STEP 2: 60 minute Introductory Meeting

The first meeting is a reduced-cost, no obligation way for us to meet informally to discuss what you are looking for and allows you to ask any questions, talk about your concerns or aims, and to get a sense of what might be involved in any work you might want to do.   If you wish to continue to assessment I will give you a copy of my Terms and Conditions and standard assessment form to complete before the first assessment session.  Alternatively, you might wish to take some time to think after the first meeting and get back to me if and when you feel ready.

  • You can book your first face-to-face meeting HERE
  • If you live too far away, or outside Scotland, or can’t leave your home, work can be started online via Skype-icon Skype HERE

STEP 3: 60 minute Assessment Session

I have over 20 years experience in assessing patient needs and I undertake a comprehensive psychosocial assessment prior to any therapeutic or personal development work.   A formal assessment saves you time and expense in the long run by creating a clear picture and understanding of your presenting difficulties, how they work, the kind of therapeutic tasks you could undertake to address your needs, and what outcomes might be achieved.  My assessment forms help us gather information that will highlight your needs, lifestyle, habits, existing support, history and general circumstances and allows us to establish a focus for the work you want to do.  A detailed assessment can usually be done in one or two sessions, or span multiple sessions, depending on your needs, your particular circumstances, and the amount of information we need to understand.

At the end of the assessment process I provide you with:

  • Our joint understanding of your circumstances and difficulties, with
  • A summary analysis that explains how I think your problems work
  • Where possible, I can also provide you with a breakdown of the therapeutic tasks or kinds of work I believe you could undertake in order to address your difficulties, and
  • The structure of the work and support provision we could organise to provide you with the most effective help

You are free to stop at this assessment stage. If you choose to go ahead then usually we agree time-limited or open-ended work.

  • I also offer a detailed written assessment summary, problem formulation and recommendations for an additional fee if you require this (see fees list).

STEP 4: 60 or 90 minute Therapy Sessions

Once the assessment is complete – with or without a support plan – each psychotherapy, counselling or personal development session usually takes place at the same time each week, in-person or via Skype.  I try to accommodate shift workers or other people with a variable schedule where possible.  I can also offer 90 minute sessions for a small additional fee, and more than one session per week if requested, but the important factor is attending sessions regularly rather than randomly.  Regular weekly sessions help you concentrate on your goals at a steady pace, maintain momentum, develop new habits, and apply what you gain from each session during the week.  Attending once a week or more also entitles you to reducing fees, otherwise a flat fee is applied for less frequent attendance.

  • A Guide to Making the Most of Your Sessions
  • Provision can be made for supplementary support by telephone, email or Skype support between sessions where this could be helpful.  I would also normally suggest regular reviews of our work along the way so that we can both monitor progress and assess the effectiveness of the therapeutic relationship.

Starting Sessions

You start each session by talking about what concerns you.  It’s often helpful to ask yourself a the start what you need from each session.  Your therapist then works with whatever you bring.

During sessions you are responsible for:

  • what you choose to discuss or raise in the sessions
  • your mindset, feelings and level of motivation
  • your degree of engagement with therapy exercises and methods
  • any changes that you make (or choose not to make)
  • how you use the session time
  • continuing therapy between sessions by doing agreed tasks between sessions

Your therapist is there to:

  • listen intently and carefully
  • help you develop greater awareness of yourself (of your mind, body, thoughts, feelings, beliefs etc)
  • build a shared understanding of your way of experiencing the world
  • respond empathically
  • encourage you to be authentic
  • offer suggestions and new ways to explore your experiences in depth
  • guide you if asked to do so
  • suggest therapeutic tasks that could help you
  • help you better support and empower yourself
  • challenge any assumptions, beliefs and habits that do not serve you
  • Yoga, meditation, writing and art therapies are also available and may be suggested within your therapy or where you request them
  • continue my analysis and developing understanding of you between our sessions

This last point, in practical terms, means that, as your therapist, my work with you doesn’t end at the end of each session. Instead, my thinking process continues in the service of understanding you; empathising with you, your history and current life; and developing better ways of supporting you. This is a process that often occurs unconsciously, with solutions emerging into conscious awareness as time passes. It is a process that happens within motivated patients too and makes therapy more than just what we do in a meeting once a week.

Additional Services and Types of Work

  • Standard 60 minute support planning session.  This is an optional step in the assessment process for patients who want to proceed with psychotherapy or counselling work.  It offers you the opportunity to have a full written therapeutic support plan as a guide for the work you want to do including a 60 minute session.  Written support plans are particularly useful for time-limited work or where you are particularly vulnerable or at risk of self-harm, or if you experience variable states of emotional stability, or where you feel that you might have difficulty focussing on particular topics or outcomes.
  • 60 minute Personal Development, Life Coaching and Psycho-education Session.   Personal Development work is so varied in scope that it is best to let me know your needs and enquire for details of what might be involved for the direction you would like to take.  It would normally follow similar steps to the therapy route i.e. informal meeting, assessment and agreed sessions.  The assessment for personal development work and Life Coaching differs somewhat from my psychotherapy assessment but is still in-depth.
  • Out-of-hours support during difficult times.  As a supplement to your usual sessions, provision can be made to provide you with out-of-hours support during particularly difficult times.  Such arrangements are carefully planned and agreed ahead of time with clear boundaries in place to provide help if needed outside of normal business hours, either by Skype, telephone or in some circumstances face-to-face by home visit.  Please let me know your needs and enquire for details.
  • Email, Skype, Telephone and Chat support in between sessions.  This service is available by prior arrangement if you feel that you need some supportive contact in between sessions.  Provision can be made for daily contact or one or more contacts per week, depending on what you feel you need.  Pre-paid support minutes can be purchased and used for this purpose.  See the online support page for details.

Time-limited or open-ended work?

Time-limited work entails our agreeing a set number or module of sessions within which we establish a focus and desired outcomes.  For example, ten, twenty or thirty sessions.  This relies on you being able to stay on whatever topic or need you consider to be most important, clarifying to yourself what your expectations are for the outcome of that module.

Open-ended work has no pre-determined time limit.  This way of working still requires some degree of clarity on your chosen focus and desired outcome, but without the time pressure of limited sessions.  Sometimes it just isn’t possible to set a time on how much work you need to do to achieve your goal.

Whether time-limited or open-ended, I would suggest that regular review sessions are arranged, which will allow us to keep an eye on progress, and look at what is helpful in the work and what could be changed or improved.

Couples, Families and Partners

Work as a couple or family is possible (See the Groups page).  When seen individually (sometimes helpful at the assessment stage or occasionally throughout therapy) individual rates apply.  From time to time I also post offers on the Fees page for combining couple, group and individual work.

Reducing Fee Scale

I have occasional reduced fees on multiple sessions that are prepaid (see Offers on the Fees page), and a reducing fee scale whereby patients with the greatest motivation, need, and commitment to attending sessions weekly benefit from lower fees over time.  Sessions can also be attended on an ad hoc or non-weekly basis for a standard flat fee.

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Woodland image used under Creative Commons licence.  Source: dreamypixel free gallery