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I’d like to get some help, what are the first steps?

Read this page if you are seeking face-to-face support, along with my Online Therapy FAQs if you’re seeking therapy via the internet. You can then write to me at mark@marksnelling.co.uk and I will get back to you within two working days to arrange an initial meeting, either online or face-to-face. (If I am on leave or travelling with work, you will receive a message confirming when I will be back.) If you would like to proceed, we’ll agree on a contract clearly setting out the terms of our work together, including a regular time each week for your sessions. If another form of support would be more helpful, I’ll do my best to help you with an appropriate referral.

What issues can you help with?

Over the years, I have worked with a wide variety of clients who have brought a broad range of difficulties. In organisational settings, I work a lot with stress, anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties and burnout. In my NHS work, I have also supported clients with complex and enduring mental illnesses. I strongly believe that counsellors should never work beyond their realm of expertise, so if I feel you would be better served by seeing another kind of therapist, I will certainly let you know.

In my trauma work, my clients bring a broad range of experiences, including childhood abuse, sexual violence, armed conflict, mugging, kidnapping and traumatic bereavement. Some have a formal diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but many do not.

How long does it take before I feel better?

I do not think that people should be in therapy for longer than is necessary, so I undertake to be as focussed as possible in our work together and as clear as possible in helping you decide how much you need.

Many people find that talking openly and honestly makes an immediate difference to how they feel. Just knowing that there is an opportunity each week to be listened to carefully and non-judgmentally can quickly shift one’s attitude to the world. In terms of fully resolving the problem that brings you to counselling, it really depends on how deeply entrenched it is. A current issue that you feel a bit stuck with can normally be worked through in a matter of weeks. Difficulties arising from more longstanding patterns of behaviour and feeling can take longer to address.

In terms of trauma support, some overwhelming experiences are relatively straightforward to deal with. But if what has happened has been particularly severe, has gone on for a long time, or follows previous experiences of trauma or mental illness, you may need more sustained support in order to move on with your life.

During our initial meeting, we will take some time to consider whether we will take a time-limited or open-ended approach to our sessions. We can always adjust later on. Ending well is very important in successful therapy, so if and when you choose to stop seeing me, I would encourage you to give me at least 2-3 weeks’ notice so that we can bring our work to a satisfactory close.

How long do sessions last?

All sessions last 50 minutes. For those seeking trauma support, we may agree for a period of time to extend our sessions to 90 minutes in order to give you plenty of time and space for processing what has happened.

How often do I need to come to therapy?

For counselling and psychotherapy to be effective, it is essential to maintain both continuity and reliability. It is optimal, therefore, to attend sessions weekly. We will agree on a particular time and day at our initial meeting and proceed from there. In some cases, mainly with online clients, I offer supportive fortnightly sessions.

Are counselling and psychotherapy confidential?

Everything that is discussed in our sessions is confidential. I am bound by the Data Protection Act 1998 as well as the BACP’s code of ethics to actively protect all information about my clients from unauthorised access or disclosure. Respecting your privacy and confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for establishing trust and maintaining your autonomy.

In line with legal and ethical requirements, I will only break confidentiality if I believe you are at risk of harming yourself or others. Under the terms of the Children Act (1989) and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006), I am also required to alert Social Services or Police if you disclose that a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of significant harm. This applies no matter where in the world those concerned are located. I have a statutory obligation to report any disclosure of activities related to terrorism or drug trafficking. I will always endeavour to discuss confidentiality issues with you first, although this may not always be possible.

Finally, I am required by the BACP to receive regular clinical supervision of my work. I may discuss aspects of your therapy in supervision, but without identifying details. You can read the BACP’s full Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions here.

How secure is my information?

Many people are now increasingly concerned – with good reason – about the security of their personal information, which I take very seriously. In accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, I am a registered Data Controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office (Registration Number ZA183635). In compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), I store all confidential client data on an encrypted cloud drive. My local computer is also fitted with full-disc encryption and high-quality anti-virus protection.

I need help right now, what should I do?

I do not provide emergency clinical support. If you feel you are in severe crisis right now and need immediate assistance, I urge you not to keep it to yourself. If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 08457 909090, 24 hours a day for emotional support. You can also go to your nearest Accident and Emergency department or book an appointment to see your GP. Internationally, you can contact Befrienders Worldwide. Helpline numbers are listed country by country on their website at www.befrienders.org. You can also contact your insurance company, if you are covered for medical evacuation or psychological support, or your embassy’s nearest consulate.

Online Counselling FAQ

Specific FAQ for online counselling