Monday, 20 September 2010

Wonderful Opportunities For Counsellors!

The October 2009 issue of Therapy Today, the BACP journal, led with the edifying news that "one in 6 therapists still sees fit to offer gay clients treatments that aim to make them straight" In the same issue comes the entirely uncritical piece “Work Is Good For You” a puff for government policy with added ‘Opportunities for Therapists’.

Counselling is splitting right down the middle; on one side people who enjoy the conveyor belt of uncritical engagement with everything from political strategy to their own practice, and on the other people who prefer to look behind the research findings, statements of what’s best for counselors, clients and society. BACP, the largest representative of British counselors, falls firmly on the side of convention. Where this affects the working conditions of articulate professionals the damage can be limited, not least by counselors leaving the organization. But where the BACP perceives vulnerable people as an ‘Opportunity’ we are on to some very dodgy ground.

The piece references no research on what makes for good mental health in relation to employment and yet the final sentence is “All [these opportunities for counselors are] based on the premise that work is good for your health and wellbeing.” They may be referring to the results of the 2007 joint conference of the Dept of Work and Pensions and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The DWP reached a very different conclusion from the RCP: one decided that employment was good for mental health, the other than activity was. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which organization came to which conclusion.

Work is broader than ‘employment’ and should encompass voluntary work, home making etc. The majority of the research evidence refers to full time work whereas it might be more informative to consider ‘activity’.
Waddel 2007:5

In 2008, the BACP campaigns manager wrote another puff piece for the DWP

. . . access to psychological therapy and/or support, with the aim of helping people achieve improved mental health and wellbeing, thus improving their ability to gain and/or maintain employment.

Robinson 2008:5

Cui Bono? The BACP, like the majority of counsellors, wouldn’t dream of questioning assumptions around mental health and employment: counsellors might lose a source of income.

Governments of any colour don’t give a fig for anyone’s mental wellbeing, which is why our children are the most unhappy in Europe. What is important is that unemployment figures are kept low and in the past this meant encouraging people to move from unemployment to disability benefits. We are fed a constant steam of approval for ‘Hard Working Families’ not just working, but working hard, and virulent disapproval for ‘dole scroungers.’

Jung’s Red Book is number 3 on the Amazon bestseller lists, a rich exploration of a mans inner world, his spirit. As a nation, we’ve entered the machine world where peoples only value is in how much they spend and how much tax they pay. Today, Jung would join the other sensitive failures in a hostel, on sickness benefit, raving on a street corner and wouldn’t have a hope in hell of training as a counsellor. I doubt very much that with the state counseling is in, he’d have any desire to.

Brown, K. (2009) Work Is Good For You. Therapy Today October Vol.20 issue 8 pp17
Robinson, L. (2008) The Future Is Now. Therapy Today April Vol. 19 no. 3 pp4
Wadell, G. (2007) Employment and Mental Health. Absence from work due to mild and moderate mental ill health. Conference Report. Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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