What is therapy.....?


The English word therapy comes from the Latin, therapia, which itself derives from the Greek word for 'healing'. When we talk about 'therapy' we are usually referring to 'psychotherapy', often referred to as a 'talking therapy'. Some may ask what is the difference between talking to a therapist and talking to a friend and of course many of us find great comfort in talking to friends, family or others who might offer support such as ministers or spiritual leaders, however there are key differences between these types of talking and specific counselling and psychotherapy. Many people find it easier to talk to someone 'independent' - they won't be embarrassed to talk about personal matters, they won't feel obliged to give the other person their 'turn' to talk, they won't worry that they've upset or burdened the therapist, and hopefully they will soon learn to trust that they can speak freely without being judged or viewed differently. These experiences alone can make therapy a truly liberating experience and one in which we have space to explore ourselves, our feelings, our hopes and our fears, within a respectful and safe environment.

Person-centred therapy

The person-centred approach places an unwavering trust in an individual's ability to find their own path toward health and this is the concept of the actualizing tendency, as described by Carl Rogers -

"Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided (Rogers, 1980, A Way of Being, p115)"

The relationship

One of the key philosophies behind person-centred therapy is equality; it would be easy at the start of the work with a client for both parties to view the therapist as the 'expert' and the client as the vulnerable or weaker party who is in need of help. Within person-centred therapy - and you may have realised this already when reading about the actualizing tendency - it is important that the client's wisdom and the client's personal choice are respected from the outset, as equal to the therapists. During our first session we will both be quietly working out whether in fact it seems right for us to work together - of course I hope that it will do - and this will help to set the 'tone' for our sessions, showing that we are entering into a therapeutic journey together and that you are ultimately responsible for the direction in which it takes you and that I am your companion. I will sometimes offer or suggest something that could be taken as guidance, but ultimately you have the choice of whether to consider my suggestion or perhaps instead to use it to clarify a way forward, which might indeed be in completely the opposite direction!

"Helen has always listened to me and understood me and each session would tailor what we talked about around what I brought with me to the session, eg. if something had happened that week.  Helen is very easy to talk to and her questions helped me to think about things even when the session had ended" - Rachel