Counselling in Oxfordshire

Bill Imlah :: Counselling in Oxfordshire


Being verbally assertive - the Stuck Record technique

This is a technique to help you be verbally assertive by: maintaining your boundaries; being calm and respectful, not aggressive; ignoring guilt-inducing statements; and not being defensive about what you want, but staying with it. The technique involves repeating what you ... Read More »

Enhancing your conversational skills by repeating words and phrases

Here's something you might like to try in your conversations with those around you. When the other person finishes speaking, simply repeat back a word or phrase from their last sentence. There isn't a "right" one to choose, so it's not crucial which word or phrase you pick ... Read More »

The Core Conditions for Therapeutic Change, and how they relate to my work with you

One of the pioneering figures in the field, Carl Rogers, developed an approach to counselling called the Person Centred Approach. He believed that we all have a natural tendency towards growth and wholeness, but that, often, difficult life experiences lead us to have a negative concept of ourselves ... Read More »

How do I work with the ending of our counselling sessions?

Counselling aims to reach a point where you need no longer come to sessions. So from the very start, the process of our working together contains the seeds of its own ending. The ending process can be a chance to celebrate progress, reflect on the present and plan for the future. ... Read More »

How do you know you're getting counselling?

How do you know you're getting counselling? Seems like an odd question but many people go in for counselling and psychotherapy without knowing what to expect. If you're new to therapy, then it's important to be able to recognise what constitutes an appropriate and professional service. ... Read More »

How can self-disclosure help you form friendships?

Self-disclosure is sharing information about yourself with others that they would not normally know or discover. What is unknown will be different for different people depending on their relationship to you and the context in which you meet. Self-disclosure involves risk and vulnerability on the ... Read More »

Matching: a way to help you develop rapport with other people

One way of helping achieve rapport, so that the other person can feel more comfortable and safe in your presence, is matching: adopting aspects of their behaviour, such as particular body language, gestures, tone of voice or forms of speech. In everyday life, people tend to do this naturally. When with ... Read More »

The small signals that enhance your conversational skills

Minimal encouragers are small signals that let the speaker know you are listening and understanding – words like "uh-huh", "yes", "no", "mmm", and little actions like nodding that show you are engaged in listening. They encourage the speaker to talk, with minimum interruption or influence by ... Read More »

Confidentiality - what can you expect in our sessions?

Anything you disclose to me in counselling will be treated as being given in confidence, but there are also circumstances that can act as limits to that confidentiality: in relation to my own supervision; in relation to professional accreditation; or if I am legally obliged to ... Read More »

What training do you need to be a qualified counsellor?

At the time of writing this, the terms counsellor and psychotherapist are not protected by law (this article refers to the UK only), so anyone can call themselves a counsellor without any training at all. (A few related terms are protected  - for instance people using the title Arts Therapist ... Read More »

Active listening - a way to improve your relationships

Active listening means using a set of skills that encourage the person you are listening to to talk, to help them feel heard and understood. We call them "skills" because anyone (excepting certain mental health disorders) can, with application, learn to use these. And we call them "active" because ... Read More »

Why do I summarise and paraphrase in our sessions?

I use summarising and paraphrasing to let you know that I have heard you, and as a way of checking whether I got it right. In our counselling sessions, summarising involves my taking what you've said over a prolonged period and putting it in a nutshell – a sentence or a few sentences that condense ... Read More »

As a counsellor, when would I use challenge?

When I use challenge in counselling, it's about bringing into focus discrepancies in feelings, thinking or behaviour that you may be tending to overlook or ignore. In everyday life, "challenging someone" can have negative connotations, carrying the idea of conflict and confrontation. In the field of ... Read More »

Where do counselling theories fit in our work together?

A counselling theory is a structured set of hypotheses about what makes people tick, and how that might inform my work with you as a counsellor. Theories are useful because they are predictive  - they tell me what may be happening or what might happen  - and because they are explanatory ... Read More »

When and how do I use questions in counselling?

Asking questions is one way for me to find out what's going on for you , but it has its limitations. I use questions sparingly in counselling, and usually prefer open ones  - questions that invite a wide range of responses, rather than closed (ones that invite a limited number of responses, like ... Read More »

The Metamodel - a tool to enhance your listening skills

In essence, the Metamodel is a simple way of identifying what it might be useful to explore in relation to what the other person has said. It was formalised in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Bandler and Grinder studied the techniques of ... Read More »

How can you make use of silence as a listening skill?

If people are engaged with their feelings, or coming to an awareness of them, sometimes it takes them time to process what's going on or to find ways of putting it into words. Giving them space instead of "jumping in" with something to say lets them stay with that process and helps ... Read More »

Why do I work with an integrative counselling model?

As an integrative practitioner, I love the flexibility and power of working across a range of counselling models. Being aware of a range of counselling theories can bring a richness of perspectives on our work together that can be very productive at times. The danger of working with a single theoretical model was ... Read More »

Immediacy as a relationship skill

to let the other person know how you are experiencing things in the here-and-now. Since it involves being open about your immediate reactions and feelings, it is very closely connected to the notion of authenticity. Being immediate, being ... Read More »

Why you need a support network, and what to do about it

People tend to find that they cope better with situations and enjoy life more if they have the support of family and friends. So reviewing your informal support network can be a useful exercise to check that you have support available for when you need it. Your informal ... Read More »


Ernest Becker writing on the limits of psychotherapy, points out that opening one's eyes to existential realities can not only result in greater feelings of wholeness and joy, but can also leave one with a greater awareness of the problematic nature ... Read More »

How can eye movements help you understand others?

Studies have shown that there are typical patterns of eye movements that often correspond to types of thoughts and feelings. Eye movements can give you hints and clues about what's going on for the person, but shouldn't be mistaken for factual evidence ... Read More »

Want more freedom? Then take more responsibility

Sometimes someone in counselling will say to me "I have no choice", which without exception has meant that their choices felt so difficult that they did not want to see them as possibilities. In those cases I'll encourage them to notice where their situation exists as a result of their own choices, because ... Read More »

What happens if you cry in our sessions?

As a counsellor, it's important to know how to work with clients who are crying. People's natural reactions and cultural conditioning may lead them to have the strong impulse to comfort someone who's crying  - to placate and soothe. They might also display a discomfort ... Read More »

How I work with sandplay

Sandplay is one of the ways that we can working symbolically in therapy: I might invite you to create a scene in the sand tray, using the objects available for doing so and sculpting the sand too if you wanted. I wouldn't normally give you more information than that, except maybe to help ... Read More »

Archetypes and symbolism in counselling

Whereas Freud's unconscious focussed on the biographical – a place where memories of life-experience could be repressed from conscious awareness – Jung's notion of the unconscious focussed on the biological – that depth-unconscious that we inherit by ... Read More »

Authenticity as a foundation for good personal relationships

Authenticity is about being genuine – being yourself in your relationships with other people, without any pretence or façade. When we are congruent, how we act and what we say is consistent with how we are feeling and what we are thinking. This is not always easy to do – our own ... Read More »

What is an ethical dilemma?

A dilemma is a situation where you have to choose between two or more alternatives, each of which has problematic consequences. An ethical dilemma asks you to make a choice between alternatives where each one has consequences that are difficult ... Read More »

What is integrative counselling?

Integration, in counselling, is used to describe either an integration of two or more models of counselling or psychotherapy, or a theoretically sound integration of therapeutic techniques into an existing model. The difference between working integratively and working eclectically, is that although both ... Read More »

The importance of therapeutic re-experiencing

Merton Gill (1914-94) challenged Freud's notion that it was enough to remember repressed material for therapeutic change to ensue. He suggested that simply remembering was not enough: the key was re-experiencing it. Gill's conditions for therapeutic re-experiencing of impulses, feelings and ... Read More »

What does it mean for my counselling approach to be relational?

As an integrative counsellor who utilises relational therapy models, I will sometimes explore the relationship between you and me, and what's going on between us in the counselling room. The notion of engaging and working together with this "real" ... Read More »

What is empathy?

Empathy is the natural ability to sense what is going on emotionally for the other person. It means having a felt sense of what is going on for the other person. It is the ability to put yourself in their shoes and have an awareness of what they are feeling, how they think, how they see ... Read More »

Four roles I won't take with you

As your counsellor I will work with you to help you achieve your therapeutic goals, but it's important to dispel some common misconceptions: I am not a sage  - it would be unwise for me to try to be wise. I may contribute insights from time to time, but our work together is intended to ... Read More »

How to reflect others' feelings and when it helps

When you feed back your perceptions of the emotions that the other person may be experiencing, this is called reflecting feelings. Reflecting feelings can happen naturally, when someone "gets" where the other person is coming from emotionally, either because they ... Read More »

Therapeutic insights and the danger of blind spots

I like the succinct way that Erich Fromm lays out the crucial discoveries of Freud, that: "people are largely determined by irrational drives most of these drives are unconscious attempts to bring them to awareness meet with energetic resistance apart from their particular ... Read More »

Nine questions to ask yourself when choosing your counsellor

Trying to decide which counsellor to engage can feel confusing. Often people looking for counselling aren't experienced at understanding what to expect or what different approaches are available. So what should you think about when choosing a counsellor? ... Read More »

Encoded messages and missing links

As a counsellor, sometime I get messages from people about their feelings toward me in encoded form. I may or may not be right in suspecting that this is an encoded message about the therapeutic relationship, but it's often useful to work on the assumption that it might be, and to ... Read More »

How can I make sure I perceive you accurately?

When you talk to me in counselling, you'll use language in your own way. But words can mean different things to different people. You are likely to interpret what you hear in terms of how you use language, which will never be exactly how they do, and may sometimes be very ... Read More »

On being interested in the client

When we are working with clients, we can find ourselves being caught up in thinking how we should work with them, or what we ought to say next. But this can take our focus away from what's going on for the client in that moment. Congruence and acceptance are ways of being ... Read More »

Why is acceptance important in our work together?

Acceptance is an attitude of non-judgemental warmth that's core to working as a counsellor. It means my accepting you exactly as you are, as a separate person entitled to your own feelings and experiences. It means my being willing and able to let you be in touch with ... Read More »

How non-verbal messages can help when talking to others

Our body language and non-verbal behaviour play a big part in whether the person we are listening to is comfortable with us: being open – not crossing your arms or frowning at them; leaning forward – to show interest and attentiveness (although sometimes it may be more appropriate to be ... Read More »

Boundaries - the invisible lines that keep you safe

Boundaries are the limits you set on what you will allow and on how you relate to others. They are "invisible lines" that separate the participants in a relationship and allow them to take responsibility for their lives, respect others, and to meet their obligations. Your boundaries are how you keep ... Read More »

Choosing between different types of therapy

How do you choose between the many types of counselling and psychotherapy that are out there? Sometimes you might feel that you're being expected to be an expert before you even embark on therapy. All roads lead to Rome, and whatever approach your counsellor uses, you may well ... Read More »

Eleven ways that counselling differs from other types of helping

Counselling is different from other forms of helping. Here are the chief characteristics. A contracted activity. Counselling involves an explicit agreement between the counsellor and the client. This means that the client must consent to counselling and will be aware that the relationship is a ... Read More »

Providing therapy for witnesses in court cases

Some counsellors refuse therapy to those in impending court cases, for fear of being seen as "coaching" witnesses. But guidance does exist to help navigate this tricky area. The 1998 report Speaking Up For Justice, recommended that vulnerable or intimidated witnesses should ... Read More »

What is transference?

Transference happens when we displace onto people unconscious wishes and fears which more properly relate to figures from our past, such as mother, father or other important figure. It involves inappropriately bringing the past into the present. We tend to imagine, without any real evidence, that ... Read More »

Reframing - what is it and how do I use it in our work together?

Reframing is where you change the meaning or context of something so that the client can see it differently, with the aim of creating a shift in feelings, perceptions or behaviour. Though not always termed as such, reframing has been around at least since the 1940s, in the work of ... Read More »

Why do I focus on what's going on between us in counselling?

It's often useful in our work together to explore what's going on between us in the counselling relationship, and especially to explore any similarities between your experiences of the past, or with other experiences in your life now, such as at home or in the workplace. When I work with you ... Read More »

Borderline Personality Disorder

The term "Borderline" was first introduced more than sixty years ago to describe those who fell between being psychotic and neurotic but could not be classified properly as either. Although this concept was rejected in the seventies, the name has stuck. The primary features of ... Read More »

Does incongruence compound the damage of neglect?

A study by Rollo May, in his first book, The Meaning of Anxiety, based on his doctoral thesis, highlights the importance of congruence in relation to those who are in a carer role to us in childhood. May carried out a study of anxiety in single mothers, and found that neurotic anxiety didn't correlate ... Read More »

Reflections: C - a case study in counselling and growth

The person in this case study, C, was the fourth of six children. A rather sickly boy, he lived his childhood in a close-knit family in which hard work and a highly conservative, almost fundamentalist Protestant Christianity were equally revered. C.'s parents were, in his own words, "masters of the art of subtle, loving control". As a child he shared little of his private thoughts ... Read More »

Jane Elliott: The Anatomy of Prejudice

Elliott is best know for the "brown-eyes blue-eyes" exercise she developed in the sixties as a primary school teacher, and has carried out repeatedly since, to give people a sense of what it feels like to experience colour prejudice. The idea came to her when she heard ... Read More »

What is Feminist Counselling?

Feminist counselling attempts to actively address the problems of social inequities, especially gender inequalities, in counselling. As befits a movement that challenges authoritarianism in the development of counselling and psychotherapy, there is no "authorised" ... Read More »