Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ: I CAN TALK TO MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS, SO WHY GO TO A COUNSELLOR?
Every day, women and men all over the world get great counselling from their friends, family and colleagues. Well meant, caring and often insightful, the benefits of that kind of support are many However, sometimes there are things that need to be talked through without constraint or embarrassment with someone who is genuinely neutral. And that’s where professional counselling comes in.
Professional, credentialled counsellors provide a safe and totally confidential space to explore your deepest secrets and most intimate issues. They are trained to listen without judgement and with empathy. Only in exceptional circumstances do they give direct advice, but they listen carefully and ask insightful questions to help you with expressing emotions and understanding thoughts, so that you can arrive at your own conclusions and insights.
Negative emotions, especially, benefit from being processed as they seem more likely to get stuck. Counsellors are also trained to spot mental and physical health issues that might benefit from specialist help. They may even be able to suggest suitable referrals to other professionals to help with these.
FAQ: WHY GO TO SUSIE?
I have extensive life experience, with an understanding of the ups and downs of life, and literally thousands of hours of experience working with a wide range of people and issues. Plus extensive training which means I can choose from a wide range of therapies to tailor the sessions just for you.
My job is to support you with what we call in the therapy world “unconditional positive regard”, while maintaining a fresh, independent, objective perspective that opens the door to your positive new phase. I would describe it as always being on your side, but never joining the team!
FAQ: WILL I FEEL EMBARRASSED TO TELL MY STORY TO A STRANGER?
You may feel embarrassed to come for help, especially in sexual or intimate matters. Perhaps it feels weak or you believe you should be able to handle every problem alone. You may be feeling shame or stigma, and fear judgement or ridicule. Perhaps you have already had distressing experiences when trying to talk to others.
We now know that being able to reach out and get support when needed is beneficial for our long-term wellbeing and personal growth, and even our physical health. This is especially true for men, who are often isolated in our modern, competitive society. It is also very helpful for people struggling with sexual and gender identity, who are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety than average.
A highly-trained sexologist and counsellor, I understand there is a wide variety of human sexual and relationship experiences. As I listen- without judgement and with compassion – to your story, typically people describe their relief at being able to share their experience with another person. The sense of despair, isolation or fear drops away, and then clarity and hope often come in to take their place.
FAQ: WHAT APPROACHES DOES SUSIE USE?
There are different fields and styles of counselling. I employ the powerful combination of a genuine interpersonal relationship with research-based professional techniques. As we work through past and present events and emotions, you can expect to feel a burden is being lifted as you become psychologically freer. Energy can now be put in to making your life better.
Our sessions are tailored for you as a unique individual or a unique couple with unique issues. At times, we might work more in the past or more in the present. In a modern holistic way, we may have some straight-forward information-giving, or introduce tools such as stress management, bibliotherapy (a fancy name for recommended reading), home exercises, sleep management, and many others as appropriate. With your agreement, other professionals such as medical and nutritional personnel can be included if needed.
I have done extensive training in Gottman relationship therapy. John Gottman in the world’s most famous relationship researcher and, with his wife Julie, has developed wonderful tools and books to assist couples in their search for better relationships. I regularly call on this fund of information to assist couples of all orientations.
FAQ: WHAT HAPPENS IN A SEX THERAPY SESSION?
A session working on sex-related issues is much like any other therapy session. You may come with a partner or alone.
My training means I am comfortable talking frankly and in an informed way about sexual practices and behaviour, to clear away misconceptions and misinformation about your sexuality or sexual activities.
Using “talking therapy”, we work together to get a clear picture of the issue. As discussed in more detail in About Susie I draw on many therapeutic techniques, depending on your particular needs.
I will ask you to tell me your general life story, and I will usually take a “sexual history” and ask some personal questions about the development of your sexuality from childhood to now. While this may be the first time you have talked in detail about this side of your life, is important to understand that this is not motivated by idle curiosity but is based on research that shows our sexuality is influenced by many factors which I am seeking to understand. Once we both understand what is going on, I may recommend reading, or real-time activities to be undertaken alone or with a partner. Since sexual problems can sometimes be the early-warning signs of other health problems, I might suggest a medical check-up.
Sex therapy is different from sexual surrogacy and also from the sex “treatments” available elsewhere in that there is no physical contact and what we do is grounded in research and university training. Professionalism, respect and dignity are maintained on both sides, and we are bound by professional ethics.
FAQ: MY PARTNER WON’T COME TO COUNSELLING. IS IT ANY USE COMING ALONE?
FAQ: WE HAVE A SMALL BABY/CHILD AND NO BABY SITTER. CAN WE STILL COME?
FAQ: HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO FEEL BETTER?
Everyone’s different and so is every issue. Some people find that just putting their story into words automatically gives a new clarity. “A burden shared is a burden halved” is an old saying. Just sharing your issues with a compassionate listener often lightens your burden and lifts your mood.
Long-standing or complex issues rarely magically disappear. Good outcomes that stick usually are the fruits of working together patiently and hopefully over some time.
HOW CAN I BE SURE I WILL BENEFIT FROM COUNSELLING
Counselling is a highly complex, interactive process. It relies on the input of both the counsellor and the person or persons being counselled. It helps to explain what you are hoping for and to check in as the sessions go along. Ideas, thoughts and feelings will also evolve. The benefits are usually visible over time because of this evolutionary process.
In short, while there are no guarantees, many, many people experience highly positive outcomes.
To get the best out of the process:
Try to attend regularly.
Be open – share your thoughts and feelings frankly.
Do the homework suggested.
There are no “silly questions”. If you are unsure, doubtful or conflicted, explain this and work it through in the session.
FAQ: IS THERE ANY TIME WHEN COUNSELLING IS NOT A GOOD IDEA?
It is a good idea to assess your readiness to come to therapy . There are practical considerations of enough time and money. And sometimes, such as in very tough situations, it is preferable just to put your head down and cope, leaving the processing for later. Ideally, the best time is when you can commit regular time and resources and feel strong enough to deal with what you might discuss.
And occasionally the truth hurts – at least for a while. But pretending everything is OK when it’s not – that rarely ends well.
It is useful to be aware that sometimes strong reactions arise from counselling. Counselling and therapy may deal with deep issues and be the catalyst for a range of feelings, reactions, or moods. Some of these reactions may be negative, such as anger, sadness, guilt, fear, shame, frustration, loneliness, confusion or the like. Some people experience mood swings. Some feel flat, with a drop in direction or motivation. Some people experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, headaches or nausea. Occasionally, for some people, their reactions affect daily life, relationships or work, so it’s wise to assess whether your cirmcumstances can support such stressors.
In rare cases, counselling is a catalyst for thoughts of self-harm or harm to others. It is important to tell me if you have had those thoughts in the past, or if such thoughts arise during counselling.
Because everyone is different, this is not an exhaustive list of every positive or adverse affect of counselling.
Feel free to phone and talk through any concerns when making your first appointment.
FAQ: CAN I CLAIM ON MEDICARE OR MY EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMME?
FAQ: WHY PAYING PRIVATELY FOR YOUR THERAPY IS OFTEN A GOOD THING.
Many people seek counselling help but are naturally concerned at the cost, so getting a Medicare rebate, mental health care plan or Employee Assistance Program help initially seems attractive. However, for some people the advantages are outweighed by the disadvantages.
- Working with a counsellor means you are able to access your therapist directly. You don’t need a GP referral as you do for psychiatrists or some psychological treatments, so you don’t need to discuss intimate or distressing matters with your doctor and then retell them to the therapist.
- Mental health care plans referring you to a psychologist require a formal mental health diagnosis, for example for anxiety and depression. You may later find that this has damaged your ability to insure yourself or your income. In some cases, it has been used against people in claims for workers’ compensation, employment and similar.
- The consultation is not noted in your hospital or doctor’ notes, does not appear on your Medicare/healthcare records or workplace records and is only seen by your therapist (except in a couple of legal circumstances). Medical records are accessed in numerous circumstances by insurance companies and for worker’s compensation cases. Recent cases in the media have highlighted the way insurers have trawled through peoples’ records to deny legitimate benefits.
- You can access the therapist and therapy type that best suits your needs. Psychologists may be required by the conditions of the treatment to limit their therapy approaches, often to a medical model such as cognitive behaviour therapy. While CBT and other similar therapies are excellent, they may not be the best one for you at the time.
- EAP sessions are usually limited. Though they can be helpful for straightforward issues, they are often provided by generalist counsellors, not specialists, and are rarely enough for long-lasting change.
FAQ: HOW LONG IS A SESSION? ANY AFTER HOURS?
An standard session for an individual is 50 – 60 minutes.
A first session for an individual is 80 – 90 minutes, to give plenty of time for you to tell your story, for me to ask any questions, and for us to work out what to do next.
A standard session for a couple is 80 – 90 minutes.
A first session for a couple is usually 90 – 110 minutes, to give plenty of time for you both to tell the story, for me to ask any questions, and for us to work out what to do next.
Couples can also book a private weekend workshop in which we work together in an intensive way. This is especially helpful for couples who are otherwise unavailable for regular weekly sessions.
All sessions are by appointment only, and there are various times available, before, during and after hours as well as on Saturdays.
FAQ: WILL TELEPHONE OR SKYPE CONFERENCING WORK IF I LIVE OUT OF SYDNEY OR FIND IT HARD TO MANAGE REGULAR FACE-TO-FACE SESSIONS?
I am an experienced telephone counsellor, so Skype and telephone phone sessions are also options. I have clients all over Australia and overseas, and it is an option for those who live in country areas to access counselling with someone who is not part of their local community. Couples with small children and busy schedules also often find Skype helpful. In that situation, it is preferable to get together face-to-face for at least one initial session.
Some people find telephone counselling is especially helpful to enable them to talk about intimate personal or sexual matters.