Psychotherapy tends to consider itself discrete from the non-psychotherapy world. When we’re being psychotherapists and discussing psychotherapy we don’t also think about the gross domestic product 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, psychotherapists are individual people living individual lives that overlap into many different areas.
The life experiences of the psychotherapist – 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 and works, and lives.
I trained as a psychotherapist in a university where class and income were not covered at all and the make up of the group was such that only two of us from a group of 27 had any experience at all of living on state benefits or in social housing. This is inevitable in a system where training as a counsellor has moved almost entirely into higher education; where higher education is only available as a commodity that must be paid for; where universities are subject to market forces which are determined by the political processes in which we live and which we as individuals vote for.