How I work

I've trained both as a counsellor and in three forms of CBT. Mostly I use CBT though I have used Schema Therapy for long term work and I use Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) as the basis of working with anger. What does this mean? You can expect any work we do together to be focussed and targeted. We will work with a plan and will have an agenda which we will set together so we know what we're doing at any given time and can remain focussed on it. Each week we will agree homework (self-directed learning, if you prefer)which allows you to experiment with thoughts and behaviours and to put into practice what you are learning each week.

CBT and counselling

There are many different schools of counselling. If you went to see a person-centred counsellor, you would expect them to be warm and to encourage you to explore whatever is troubling you, but not to direct you. If you went to see a psychodynamic counsellor (think Freudian), you would expect someone less warm and who might leave you for long periods of silence, but also not to be directive.

CBT is rather different. It is much more purposeful and focussed and works with specific issues. We would agree what it is we are working with and the number of sessions we would be planning to have, we would set an agenda together at the beginning of each session so that we remain with what we are dealing with. And CBT differs from counselling in that we would set you homework (self directed learning, if you prefer) each week so that you can start making the changes in your thinking and behaviour that lead to shedding the troubling emotions.

CBT is the treatment of choice in the NHS for all anxiety disorders and for depression.

CBT helps you explore how your thinking and behaviour affect your emotions. There are ways to directly control your emotions, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs being a common one, but these are self-defeating in the long run. But by looking at the way you think and behave and making changes to both of these (practising them throughout the therapy in homework), you can stop being anxious or depressed or angry (or shamed or guilty or jealous).

How many sessions?

As few as possible! For some problems, such as Assertiveness Training or dealing with low self-esteem, this can be as few as three or four. Learning to manage your anger takes eight sessions in a group. It's harder to say for some of the others conditions; depression and anxietyaffect people to a different degree and can take anything from six to twenty sessions. It's best to have a plan for a number of sessions and to try to keep to it – you can always come back after a gap, either planned in the sessions or if you experience problems later. What we want to avoid is counselling become a comfort blanket, something you do every week, because it has become a habit, and where you have the perception that you are doing something just because you're "in therapy".

Therapy is two people meeting to talk with the hope and expectation that one of them will lead a more fruitful life.