Terms and concepts in counselling

Here is a few concepts that may be useful for you to understand more what counselling is about.

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Boundaries

Boundaries are agreed limits or rules which protect both the client and the therapist. They set a formal structure, purpose and standards for the therapy and the relationship between you.

Boundaries include both practical details, such as providing clear, professional arrangements for appointments, fees or contact between sessions, and ethical considerations such as remaining impartial, focusing on your needs and maintaining an appropriate relationship.

Your relationship with your counsellor will be a professional one. They will not be a personal friend and, depending on their way of working, may share little personal information about themselves. You will not meet or have any contact, as far as possible, outside of your therapy sessions or when your therapy has finished.

The aim of boundaries is to create a relationship where you feel safe, comfortable and able to talk about your experiences or feelings, even if they seem taboo, frightening or embarrassing.

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Contracting

You should agree a contract for all therapy, whether it's face to face counselling or online. It should cover:

Practical details

  • how many sessions you’ll have and how often you’ll meet

  • if there are any fees and how these should be paid

  • what happens if you miss a session or if either of you are away on holiday

Confidentiality

  • how your therapist will protect your privacy and when they might need to disclose information about you

  • how they keep records of sessions

  • how they’ll keep your personal data safe

How you will work together

  • what issues you will work on together

  • what approach or methods they might use

  • what contact you might have between sessions

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Confidentiality

Confidentiality is key to building trust between a counsellor and a client. Your therapist will listen to you in confidence and will not tell anyone else what you say. They won’t discuss you with your GP, employer, family, friends or anyone else without your consent.

However, there are certain circumstances when they may have to pass on information about you. These include:

  • if they believe you or other people are in danger

  • if they’re required to do so by law

  • when referring you to another healthcare professional for help

  • when discussing their work with their therapeutic supervisor (this is standard practice)

Any such disclosures will usually be made with your knowledge and consent, but your counsellor may not always be able to ask you first. You should discuss this with your therapist and agree on the limits of confidentiality for your work together.

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Empathy

Empathy is your therapist’s ability to see your viewpoint as if they were you. Even if your life and experience is very different to theirs, they will do their utmost to understand your thoughts, emotions and behaviour and be able to communicate that understanding back to you. They will not judge you but will treat you with respect, care and dignity. This is vital to creating a strong and effective therapeutic relationship.

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Ethics

A therapist’s work should be governed by a set of values, principles and personal moral qualities that ensure they practise effectively and safely. These include such things as being trustworthy, fair and sincere and treating all clients with respect, care and candour. 

Young Confident Woman

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