Smart people have therapy? Really? Yes. Having someone available to offload and process emotions can be really helpful to overcome inevitable bouts of confusion, fear or uncertainty.
Getting that extra support in place while working on yourself is not weak – it’s pragmatic. Support of this kind helps you rise to new heights of success, joy and fulfilment.
Despite this, having therapy can sometimes feel like a shameful secret as it is rarely talked about openly.
Traditionally emotional and psychological support took the form of a listening ear. It may have been a consistent relationship with a loving relative, a kind teacher or an encouraging childhood friend.
For urgent matters you could rush to the village specialist: the wise woman, the herbalist, the nurse or one of the elders. Today support, advice, wisdom and protection within a local network is no longer available to many who are far from home.
Social isolation is increasing. Loneliness is growing. Many people don’t need a research study to tell them what they already know. These factors increase the risk of death by 26%, as well as impacting overall health and personal self care. For younger people life in big cities is transient.
The pressure is on to work, achieve and earn enough money to live. Many people have uprooted to pursue worldly goals in new cities or countries. Due to time constraints or location they experience a lack of community ties, as well as reduced face-to-face family contact.
Hence the rise in alternative methods of accessing support. Counselling, psychotherapy, coaching and mentoring are increasingly accepted as a part of life. The right kind of support, motivation and inspiration underpins all personal growth. It has become desirable in many circles to have a coach, advisor or mentor (Forbes, Feb 2012).
For example, Richard Branson is open about working with many mentors and several coaches regularly. Nevertheless there is still some stigma attached to traditional therapy.
Smart therapy – no pain, no gain?
Inevitably, the process of traditional counselling or psychotherapy will unearth buried – painful – feelings. You are bringing past experiences that have affected you on an unconscious level into full conscious awareness. The consequences of leaving any kind of wound covered may include: it taking longer to heal, or limit healthy emotional / psychological fuctioning for longer or – metaphorically speaking – go septic.
Characteristics of this last factor might include chronic illness, debilitating addictions, breakdowns or other dark nights of the soul. A therapeutic counsellor or psychotherapist helps you take the sticking plasters off any wounds so the wounds can air and heal properly.
Ultimately, this process of working through will lead you to a better understanding of yourself and give you better coping skills, higher self-esteem and many other benefits.
Smart therapy – how does it work?
Uncovering hidden or suppressed emotions and experiences in this way can make a person (the counsellor’s client) feel vulnerable in the short term. This is why it is important to work with someone you trust and feel comfortable with, who is secure and experienced. That way, contained within a structured framework, the sharing that occurs can be the path to transformation and an increased capacity for coping with and enjoying life.
Smart therapy – counselling or psychotherapy?
Counselling – Therapeutic counselling can be short term (a few weeks) up to a few years. Counselling is useful for helping with immediate circumstancial issues: bereavement, job loss, end of a relationship or life transition, or common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
If you decide you want to have counselling, I recommend the ‘psychodynamic’ counselling approach. This is where the counsellor proactively helps you make links between present experiences and your past. A psycho-dynamic counsellor works like a detective to uncover hidden patterns, causes and effects, underlying reasons for you feeling a certain way. They should be robust and able to work with your unconscious, including projections, transference, resistance and blind spots.
They should also be experienced enough to maintain strong boundaries. If you are interested in a more spiritual approach you may prefer transpersonal counselling which incorporates a more holistic view. You may also like working with an integrative counsellor who combines a range of different approaches and uses elements a few disciplines to suit each client’s individual needs.
Psychotherapy – Long term psychotherapy is a reparative relationship that can build inner scaffolding, make you more resilient, re-write your negative experiences, and even re-parent your inner child. Particularly for serious mental health issues long-term structured care of this kind (psychotherapy) is appropriate. Psychotherapy works best when you commit to at least two years of regular sessions.
This process goes deep. It is more effective than counselling to heal ingrained emotional/psychological issues, childhood trauma and serious mental health issues. If you find a robust psychotherapist with whom you feel a bond, and you are prepared to make the time commitment, I highly recommend this approach because you will be working on the very foundations of your being and not skimming the surface.
Psychotherapy does not have to cost a lot of money. For example, the world-renowned Tavistock Centre in London offers low cost options. If you are based outside London some local psychotherapists working privately or in group practice offer reduced fees so it is worth searching in your local area to see what is available (see tips below).
Smart therapy – what about energy healing?
If you are spiritually open-minded and looking for help with psychological and emotional issues, I recommend finding a healer with both energy healing AND counselling or psychotherapy qualifications combined. This means that your healer can cut through and clear issues in a focused way using energy work, but will have a solid, practical grounding and theoretical understanding of emotional/psychological issues and good practice. He or she will have an awareness of ethics and how to create a safe container for a deep healing process as part of a longer term process.
I also suggest going into the relationship with a committed attitude to your own healing; i.e. don’t expect a lifehack. There has to be an acceptance that changing your life takes time, no matter what is accomplished during your sessions. It helps the process if you supplement your sessions with self-care thereby taking responsibility for your own journey to health and wholeness.
What to ask a therapist or healer
You should know which professional organisations the therapist is with and their qualifications. Here’s a few more recommended questions; feel free to ask your therapist any others that concern you:
- How many sessions will I have?
- What type of therapy do you offer?
- How much will it cost?
- What happens if I miss a session?
- What happens if I want to take a holiday, will I still have to pay?
- Will the counselling be confidential?
- Will you make notes during the session, and if so, what happens to these?
- Can I contact my therapist in between sessions?
The therapist should provide confirmation her terms and/or of your working agreement in writing (by email) and advance notice of any holidays.
Smart therapy resources: Global online services
Online therapy is increasingly popular worldwide. Over the last decade numerous research studies have shown the effective potential of online therapeutic conversation. Online therapy can be a more anonymous way of accessing support, therefore it bypasses the stigma and shame some people feel about seeking help. Some people view the fact that they do not have to be physically present with a therapist as a plus. Counselling by email and instant messaging is on the rise amongst young people too.
Smart therapy resources: In the UK
The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy runs an online directory where you can search for qualified and accredited counsellors in your local area. See the BACP’s UK-wide Counselling Directory here.
Counselling referrals may be available from GP surgeries, with some offering in-house short-term counselling services. There are many low cost face-to-face counselling options available without having to go through your GP or the NHS.
Mental health charity Mind offers low cost counselling at branches across the UK.
Smart therapy resources: London
If you are based in London, UK, there are many options for exploring and taking care of your emotional and psychological health. Good therapy doesn’t need to be expensive. There are various specialist bereavement, drug/alcohol and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender counselling services in London too. Some agencies take clients from any location, some will only take residents of the borough in which the service lies.
My own healing journey
I committed to 2 years of counselling and 2 years of psychotherapy as part of my training to be a BACP qualified counsellor in the UK. Personally, this course requirement was a great excuse to have weekly personal development without the stigma of ‘being unwell’, being viewed as unstable or having to wear the “I have a problem” T-shirt.
I am fundamentally a happy person, though I as a HSP I tend to get anxious rather than depressed. A few friends were initially surprised. My explanation: ‘therapy is a course requirement’ often meant no further questions were asked.
On the most part, I was content with my investment. I made huge adjustments to my life as a result of the insights gained and reparative relationships with the therapists. Not only did it make me a much better healer myself, but the process transformed all areas my life. However, my healing journey was slow, relatively expensive and not without pain.
Smart therapy – a new approach
In 2015 I sat down and worked out that I’d had 203 hours of counselling and psychotherapy over 5 years – plus travel time of up to 1 hour each way! Not only was this a huge time commitment but the cost ran into thousands. I believed there must be a faster and more time efficient way to heal.
I’d been working in an agency setting as a BACP qualified counsellor but wanted to integrate all my knowledge and experience of counselling, energy healing and intuition to better serve my clients in private practice. I integrated counselling with energy healing in one therapeutic counselling and energy healing session which meant wonderful results for my clients. Unfortunately, to do this I had to leave the BACP and the healing organisation I was accredited with to do this.
A list of UK energy healers I have worked with is here: 10 best healers in the UK.