Simon Arthur-Smith Counselling & Psychotherapy in Brighton & Hove

Counselling or Psychotherapy?

"All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why" - James Thurber (1894-1961)

"The answers are always inside the problem, not outside" - Marshall McLuhan (1911-80)


Personal Approach

My counselling approach, as a person-centred counsellor, is strongly informed by the humanistic school of psychotherapy pioneered by Carl Rogers (1902-87). In essence, the Rogerian "person-centred" psychotherapeutic approach is that you, the client, have all the answers to the problems in your life within you and that these answers can be unlocked by you with the help of an effective therapist who really listens and who is empathic, real and totally non-judgmental.

What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

There is no generally recognised definition of counselling that could not equally well define psychotherapy - and vice versa. However, there is some consensus that counselling tends to work more on specific, carefully defined issues, usually over a fairly short timescale, whilst psychotherapy implies a much more broad examination of existential concerns and personal difficulties, possibly over an extended time frame. I work with clients looking for both types of therapy.

Counselling: When is it helpful?

As we all know, life is not always plain-sailing – sometimes it gets pretty difficult, and sometimes the difficult patches can last much longer than we would like. There are even times when the difficult patches seem about to swallow us whole. Counselling is of real value at these times – helping to break the log-jam of confusion and moving us forward to a better emotional place.

Counselling can also be of significant assistance even at times when life is relatively good – helping us to define future goals and directions and teasing out what it is that will give our life real meaning and purpose, thus fostering our sense of well-being.

Psychotherapy: When is it helpful?

Psychotherapy offers a safe space to address deep emotional hurts and traumas from the past – issues that typically cannot be addressed by talking to friends, family or even partners. It allows us the opportunity to face up to issues that have seemed too shameful or painful – things that we feel others might reject us over if they were to find out about them. Equally, psychotherapy provides the forum for us to approach subjects which many or even most people would have great difficulty listening to or understanding, because the therapist is trained to hear our story compassionately and with respect, offering both understanding and appropriate support. The 'aim' of psychotherapy is to render us as 'fully-functioning' as possible; that is to say, comfortable in our own skin in almost every situation that life can throw at us, having shed problem inhibitions, unnecessary hang-ups and destructive patterns of behaviour.

So, what's right for YOU?

I would suggest to anyone thinking of therapy, especially anyone who is unsure whether it is for them, to read as widely as feels appropriate about counselling and psychotherapy and what makes for effective therapy. There are plenty of good articles available on the web. To get you started, you may want to read this down-to-earth American view of what makes for effective counselling (or counseling as our North American cousins prefer to call it). Also, although regrettably access to this article is now via subscription to The Times website only, here is a thought-provoking contributing journalist's very personal view on counselling from The Sunday Times's Health section. You may also be interested in the findings of this recent research on attitudes to counselling and psychotherapy in modern-day Britain. Finally, you may want to watch this short video about depression: even if you do not yourself feel depressed, it neatly summarises the route to liberation from many of the problems that people can feel dogged by in day-to-day life.

It is possible that the biggest question mark for you regarding embarking on therapy is a concern about whether it is genuinely possible to make significant personal changes that improve your overall quality of life. Personally, my experience after helping scores of clients make exactly those changes is categorically 'Yes, you can'. However, change definitely requires work, courage and a willingness to appraise things honestly and openly.

You don't have to take my word that change is possible for you (by this point I'm aware you're quite conceivably saying to yourself "Well, of course, he would say it's possible, wouldn't he?"!) Try an Internet search engine search such as 'is personal change really possible?' and read the wealth of articles. Or you can start right now by reading about the ten traits required for engendering real change, or this discussion in The Guardian looking at the question (looked at via the slant of New Year's Resolutions), and the viability of making significant personal changes.

Once you feel that you are motivated to make real changes and have a clear notion of what type of therapy is right for you, I suggest you find at least three therapists local to you who you find potentially interesting and go and meet with each one individually, and find out with which one you have the best 'chemistry'. Feeling at ease with the therapist you finally decide to work with is extremely important to the likelihood of you finding therapy beneficial.

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