Ruth Ilson, 112b Osbaldeston Road, London N16 6NJ. Phone: 020 8806 0250. Email:

New to psychotherapy?

If you have never been to therapy before I thought it might be helpful to outline some of the more practical aspects of psychotherapy and to give you a feel for how it all works.

  • Each session usually lasts for one hour; some therapists work to a ‘fifty minute hour’ to give themselves some turn around time.
  • Costs often depend on what part of the country you live in, and where the therapist practice rooms are located. They can vary from £40 - £80 per hour. Many therapists make space for a number of lower cost places and will operate a sliding scale.
  • There will be a cancellation policy with some therapists requiring that the fee be paid whether you come or not, while others are willing to cancel or rearrange within a specified amount of time. Also time keeping is very important as you generally will not get extra time if you arrive late.
  • The first appointment usually takes the form of an initial assessment. This gives you a chance to begin to describe why you have decided to look for a therapist and allows the therapist to think about how you may be helped. You are not obliged to attend any further sessions if you feel that this therapist is not suitable for you.
  • Many psychotherapists are registered with their own professional bodies. The two main ones being the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). This will mean that they adhere to an established Code of Ethics and Good Practice.
  • All personal information disclosed in therapy is confidential and will not be passed on to a third party except under exceptional circumstances, such as being asked for by a court of law. The only time a therapist would discuss material from a therapy session is in supervision where you your anonymity would still be protected.

Counselling or psychotherapy, what is the difference?

Although there are many different models of counselling and psychotherapy it is generally thought that counselling is a sort of light weight version of psychotherapy. It will deal with current problems and issues that occur in a person’s life but will not delve too deeply. It will usually be a shorter process, maybe 12 weeks. This is generally the type of support that it is offered in the voluntary sector where funding is limited.

Many psychotherapists also call themselves counsellors. I do this because I think that maybe some people find the term counsellor more understandable and less frightening than psychotherapist. In practice it is very difficult to make a distinction between the two as the general definitions apply equally well to both.

There are many different approaches to psychotherapy but it is generally agreed among professionals that it is the relationship between the client and the therapist that really makes a difference, rather than any particular model or theory.