Counselling tends to consider itself discrete from the non-counselling world. When we’re being counsellors and discussing counselling we don’t also think about the GDP of the country in which we’re working, or labour relations or what’s on television. There’re good reasons for this, not least being absorbed in the relationship between ourselves and our clients and yet we bring all those things – concern about paying bills, images from the news of war and mayhem, conversations about reform of the benefits system – with us into the room and so do our clients. Like our clients, counsellors are individual people living individual lives that overlap into many different areas.
The life experiences of the counsellor – who has to fit too much in to the day in order to pick up her children from school (just) in time; who has to walk home at night through a potentially hazardous area; who worries about how to afford the car tax and mortgage repayments – will all inform the ways in which she is with people from different income groups as will the culture of the country in which she is born, raised, works and lives.
The cartoon satirises a situation we all find ourselves in: we agree we want things to change as long as everything can remain the same. I’m inviting you to consider anew – how would it be for counselling courses to cost a proportion of a person’s income rather than a flat rate? Does the culture of counselling embody Middle Class attitudes rather than therapeutic attitudes? What does ‘professional’ mean? How do we change our way of being when we’re with people at different levels of hierarchy? Is it possible to be congruent if we endeavour to remain the same with everyone, in every situation? Are we allowed to swear in the counselling room? What are our genuine beliefs about people from different classes and can we bear to hear how clients see us? And so on.
Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, and 7 years on austerity has finally hit enough counsellors to create a tipping point where we’re beginning to talk about it. 3 years ago we were talking about clients who’d been struck by unemployment and workplace stress as ‘Opportunities for Counsellors.’ So far, much of this blog is a very lightly edited cut and paste of blogs I kept from 2009 to 2011 which fell into the Void. It’s heartening to see that there’s more interest in the subject from ordinary counsellors – and I was invited to facilitate a workshop by Temenos in 2012 which was generously received, so it may be that the time is right to attempt this subject again.
If you’d like to contribute – I have a policy of positive discrimination for writing from counsellors and clients who have experienced or are experiencing long term poverty and/or unemployment – please get in touch.
I hope that we can discuss and debate, learn and share, and make class an ordinary part of cultural diversity training. Wouldn’t it be great to make talking about it redundant because counselling has become as diverse as the communities in which it functions?