Counsellors are expected to be reflective and reflexive about our work, we’re expected to reconsider our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, our clients and the relationship that develops between us. We’re given a vocabulary and specialized terms in which to frame reflexivity, which is undoubtedly helpful and can also serve, as all specialized language can, to obfuscate true meanings even from ourselves. This is especially likely when thinking about and working with people who are on state benefits. A search of the literature shows that there is a paucity of research or even commentary on what has become known as The Underclass, itself a derogatory term, rather like calling gay men ‘Confirmed Bachelors,'
The socio-economic boundaries around counselling mean that counsellors are only ever likely to encounter people on benefits as clients rather than as peers which means that teaching about class, where it is rarely attempted, is purely theoretical. Although there are proportionately few non-white counsellors, non-white counsellors exist and can speak directly to the experience. The same can be said for gay, lesbian and transgender counsellors, counsellors who have experienced child abuse, domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse. Those people who have the experience of long term poverty remain unrepresented and thus unheard.
This blog aims to offer an experience of living in poverty to counselors who have not had that experience. I hope that, if it doesn’t directly alter some of the commonly held opinions about the poor, it will add to the complexity of the so far very limited debate on how best to understand and work with an enduring experience of poverty. I don’t aim to be an apologist for every person who is living in poverty since every individual will have an intricate and complex multifaceted existence. There are, however, important parts of the life of being a person who lives with poverty that have a direct effect on our wellbeing, our view of ourselves, our view of others. Having an insight into some of these aspects will, I hope, offer food for thought.