What will happen in my first session?

I will try to get a sense of what your life is like right now. I will ask you what you are hoping to gain from seeing me and I will ask questions about your cultural background, what is was like growing up in your home town, what your work life is like and what struggles you have faced in achieving goals.

How is talking to you different from speaking with a friend?

There are many significant differences:

  • Absolute confidentiality – I adhere to the APS code of ethics and this includes ethical responsibilities including, within legal limits, a client’s absolute confidentiality
  • Unlike a friendship, therapy is a structured relationship with clear responsibilities and rights
  • A therapy relationship entails responsibilities on my part, including ensuring you are safe. This extends to issues around undertaking a structured assessment of your suicide risk, whether there is domestic violence and children at risk in a relationship and many other matters.
  • The dialogue is focused in one direction – the focus of our therapeutic relationship will be you and thus it is incumbent on me to ensure the work does not stray into a mutual exchange of dialogue where my own life enters into the work.
  • There are very clear boundaries within which the therapeutic relationship sits. 
  • I will not approach you with a preconception about how and why things are happening.
  • You will always in the driver’s seat. 
  • I am trained to work with painful material as it comes through in the therapy at a safe and supportive pace. 
  • You can share very private and sometimes embarrassing or shameful things with complete acceptance and no judgement from me.
How long will I have to attend counselling?

It depends. I aim to get through as much as I can in each session, so you may only need to see me for a short amount of time. You will know if we are on the right track almost straight away. I will be checking in with you from the start, as to whether you are feeling as though we are hitting the mark. When it appears that you are no longer needing therapy and/or wish to move on, we will have a discussion and plan for your last session. It is a good idea to discuss your last session, as it is an opportunity for you to consolidate everything that you have learnt and achieved in therapy. Ending therapy abruptly is a disservice to you, and a missed opportunity to practice ending a relationship in a gentle and peaceful way. 

Will our conversations be discussed with others?

I participate in peer supervision, which means I meet with my peers and discuss my work. However, if I need to discuss a particular client I will deidentify them. This means, if I talk about your case, I will not use your name or any details that might identify you. 

Please note: Ethical and legal state guidelines require me to disclose to emergency services (police/ambulance/hospital) if there is a potential for serious harm either to yourself or another person. For example, if you present to a session and disclose to me a clear plan and intent to seriously hurt yourself that day, I may contact your next of kin and/or call an ambulance if I feel that you will not be safe after leaving the session. 

What training, qualifications and experience should counsellors have? others?

Although the title “counsellor” is not regulated in Australia, you will find that the majority of person’s who present or advertise themselves as counsellors in Australia, have at least an undergraduate degree in social sciences or behavioural sciences as well as experience working with individuals with mental health issues. 

Many also have postgraduate degrees as well as having completed specific certificates in specialised areas. Almost all will have had supervised training, where a specially registered professional will oversee their placements and clinical training. Once finishing their training, many counsellors also participate in professional development throughout their career, attending workshops, conferences and keeping abreast of the latest research. 

If the “counsellor” you are thinking about seeing, does not have the above background training, they may not have the skills to help you. If you present to me with an issue which I do not believe I am competent in helping you with, I will refer you to a health professional who does. 

Please see Safe Haven’s “About Me” page for my qualifications and previous experience. 

How long do counselling sessions last?

Typically, 50 minutes. This is more than enough time to engage in productive, therapeutic work. Any longer, and it can be too draining on the client. 

How regularly will I see you?

On average, most people see me fortnightly, however during our first introduction, we will discuss your individual needs. People that attend counselling regularly tend to have better outcomes in therapy than those that attend sporadically.

Can I have counselling by email, telephone or online?

Safe Haven recommends that your first session be in person, but following this, if you live remotely or cannot attend an in-person session for some reason (e.g no childcare available), telephone counselling can be conducted in lieu of an in-person session. With email, counselling is generally not recommended due to the difficulty in ensuring confidentiality. Safe Haven does not provide online counselling.

What do I have to say in our sessions?

Some people start by saying a lot at once and others offer a brief description. There is no right or wrong way to begin. What you say is totally up to you. You might find yourself feeling safe enough to say more than you expected to and conversely people find it also okay to be silent at times. I will help you toward your expression of your experiences and will keep checking with you to clarify the understanding that is forming between the two of us.

Will you give me advice?

The purpose of counselling is to help you make your own decisions and for you to learn to be a wise guide for your own actions.  I will work to explore the values that you want to inform your own behaviour and decision making and I may offer feedback on how others have successfully dealt with similar problems/situations.

Is counselling like psychiatry?

Counsellors and psychiatrists both deal with cognitive, behavioural, emotional, and relational processes. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, who work largely through diagnosis of illness and then by prescribing a treatment – usually involving medication. Counsellors are non-medical professionals, who bring together the evidenced based strategies of the talking and behavioural therapies. Counsellors can however recognize the symptoms of severe mental distress and may suggest you consider medical help if this is appropriate.

What can I do to make the most of my counselling sessions?

It is normal to have some anxiety. I respect your courage to venture into counselling and will endeavour to make the counselling experience as safe as possible for you. 

  • Be as open and honest as you can when telling me your problem or concern
  • Be as active in your participation in the counselling process as you can be, including doing your best to undertake agreed tasks between sessions
  • Ask questions to clarify anything you don’t understand, and let me know if there is anything you don’t agree with or like about the process or the impact on you
  • Make an effort to be punctual in your attendance
  • Keep appointments where possible and give me as much notice as you can if you are unable to attend
Are you open after hours or on the weekend?

Unfortunately, no. I can however, conduct over the phone after hours sessions for current clients who have missed a session during the week due to illness or other reasons. This will be arranged in person at the time. 

Do you Bulk Bill?

Safe Haven does not bulk bill. Safe Haven services are not subsidised by Medicare.

What are the fees/charges at Safe Haven?

 I do not receive funding from Medicare or the government to counsel individuals. Therefore, you will need to pay the entire fee I charge. Fees for sessions are listed on Safe Haven fees page.

Can I claim a rebate when I see you?

 Medicare only covers the services of a clinical or registered psychologist who provides counselling to an individual – counselling by a professional counsellor or psychotherapist is not subsidised by Medicare.

Do I need a referral to see me?

You do not need a referral to access Safe Haven counselling services.

I am under 18 and wish to see a counsellor, can I see you?

If you are between the ages of 16 and 18, you can see me without your parent’s knowledge. I do have a fee for my service; however, if this cost is an issue, contact me directly.