On Friday 20th Sep 2019, CTUK Admin attended the Drop the Disorder Book Launch event in Birmingham. Myself (Maria) and Tara listened to Lucy Johnson (Clinical Paychologist) outlining the Power Threat Meaning Framework (a must see).
Tara and I found it interesting to note the stark similarities from the power constructs mentioned at the event with clients and those we face as counsellors in the historical and current climate. Ideologically – the theory vs theory arguments and how these are argued to reflect a counsellor’s worth and core being.
A massive area that seems to be increasing exponentially right now is the link between speaking out against oppression and other injustices, and the silencing, gaslighting and general view that those who speak out cannot be a good person and certainly not a good counsellor.
The identity of what makes a good counsellor has gone beyond our direct interactions and the value we hold to our clients, and out towards how we are as humans interacting with the world. “Why can’t you hold the conditions of a counsellor, constantly?” We don’t expect this elsewhere.
Perhaps the most restrictive of these is the idea that we should be wholly non-judgemental. Aside from being a form of unattainable perfectionism, it stunts us. It stops us speaking out against the things we SHOULD be judging and casting a critical eye over. How can we best serve clients if we cannot challenge abusive and oppressive processes through fears of being (ironically) judged as unprofessional.
This isn’t to say that those who do not speak out, are flawed either – we all live and operate under these power constructions. We all have to do what is best for our own wellbeing and safety. But it’s not unprofessional to speak out. To not be completely amenable and compliant to the powers that be. Membership organisations exist within an accountability framework and we need to actually hold them accountable.
Worse than this growing social construction, is the broad sanctioning of it by some membership bodies, who frame dissent, activism and uncertainty under the umbrella of ‘disorder’ and ‘dysfunction.’ Only a few months ago, a BACP press release likened growing challenges to SCoPEd to the processes a client experiences. As if not diminishing enough, it also frames them and more widely other membership bodies as being the expert, the overriding power that we should submit to.
A submission that, recent sharing amongst peers, have shown counsellors are beginning to keenly feel – to avoid poverty, to avoid leaving the profession they love and the clients they care about, they feel the need to ‘fall in line.’
To further this, in the BACP private Facebook group there’s a thread pathologising those who chose to speak out against SCoPEd and even after complaint and challenge from the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union, this thread has been allowed to remain by BACP.
Beyond theoretical and academic discussions on what is the best way to do therapy, we have an insidious move to mirror the unscientific diagnostic framework (a framework which in itself is challenged by those previously overseeing the development of a diagnostic framework). It then ranks professionals based on their willingness to adopt this ideology.
In alignment with this, was some mention of SCoPEd and it dawned on us that if SCoPEd does progress, then counselling and counsellors themselves will become medicalised by default – because to move up the hierarchy you have to train on a more medicalised training. How ironic that membership bodies are trying to push SCoPEd through when it feeds into the system of medicalising and pathologising clients, when there is such a movement to move away from this!
We noted that those ‘above’ continually tell us, either directly or indirectly, “Think our way, speak our way, act our way.”
At CTUK we simply say ‘No.’
We’d like to thank Jo Watson for giving us the opportunity to attend the Drop the Disorder Book Launch event. It was honestly mind blowing. I laughed and cried my way through the day and got so much from it both personally and professionally. Please do go to one of Jo’s events if you can. You won’t be disappointed. Thank you Jo, for having us!
I’d like end with a couple of things Emmy Van Deurzen talked about in her presentation. She spoke about the importance of, ‘liberating our own power for the benefit of all,’ how it is necessary that we are ‘political,’ and she reminded me that, “Every time we dehumanise one other person we dehumanise ourselves as well.”
One of our aims at CTUK is “to work together to end the culture and prevalence of exploitation in the counselling profession.” I’d say that keeping counsellors silent and in their place creates a culture where exploitation is accepted or becomes the norm, because to be silenced is a form of abuse and abuse is a form of exploitation…… we all have a voice, we are all entitled to use it…. and here at CTUK we will continue to do so…. regardless of what labels others stick on us.
With Love ❤️