Sunday, 2 October 2011


    . . . Personal narrative is all we have, whether as individuals or a society.
Like any narrative the Western self-view is riddled with contradiction. Decisions rarely have anything to do with the rationale that supposedly provoked them. And as with personal narratives, what does not fit is conveniently ignored. The difficulty for anyone who tries to step outside the dominant narrative to present a different view is that we cannot, by definition, provide the ‘evidence’ that is required by the narrative that demands such evidence – a bit like going into the pub at 10pm on a Saturday night and preaching the benefits of sobriety. Neither can we provide evidence from within that narrative. The minute we step back into that world we are governed by its conventions, and any attempt to explain ourselves becomes a nonsense.

William Johnson
Therapy Today March 2008

This blog has been a personal journey of exploration into the relationship between social justice and counselling and I wanted to share some of what I discovered. Some counsellors, I’d say about 10, have shown a positive interest. It feels as if I’m William Johnson’s person in the pub at 10 on a Saturday night preaching sobriety: it’s a waste of my time. Counselling as exemplified by the BACP, if it makes any acknowledgement of it's relationship with society at all, is dismissive and contemptuous of anyone who suggests that counselling might look at the way it perceives and relates to itself and to people with far less power.

In today’s Times Dr James P Smith writes about nursing, a career that includes a goodly number of excellent nurses and which prides itself on it’s professionalism but en mass seems to ignore the experiences of the huge number of patients who’ve been brutalised and neglected, often to death whilst in their care:

As a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing since 1978 . . . I want to thank you for your editorial in which you finally explode the myth that there is a shortage of qualified nurses in the NHS. We have come a long way since 1956 when I was a young staff nurse on a 46 bed cardiothoracic unit, working five nights a week on 12 hour shifts. In spite of the intensity of our work all our patients got an early morning cup of tea. 
Even though the Royal College of Nursing knows it and the Times knows it and a great many nurses know that understaffing is not the issue the profession of nursing still falls back on understaffing as the reason why so many patients are suffering unnecessarily rather than taking a brave look inwards.

Thankfully, counsellors are nowhere near as important as nurses. Whilst we have many excellent counsellors our exploration of ourselves as people with power over people with less power is academic where it exists at all. Yes, BACP Professional Standards offer a useful tool for sanctioning counsellors and the fact that they name counsellors who’re sanctioned suggests they’re interested in humiliating individuals – do you make note of those people named and shamed in Therapy Today to ensure that if ever they darken your agencies door you can shun and denounce them? Yes, the Ethical Framework is valuable and well thought out but the BACP doesn’t apply it to itself. Letters, if not totally ignored, will be condescendingly responded to ‘in due course’ and apparently the BACP has always functioned perfectly; if any changes are made it’s not because anything may have been inaccurate or done badly.

For me, that the BACP can stand outside of the decades of debate, politics and struggle that surround the issue of abortion to support the recent Dorries/Field amendment solely on the basis that, like the punitive DWP proposals which it also supported, it offered ‘increased opportunities for counsellors’ is a reflection of counselling itself. It doesn’t matter how or where the money comes from, we’ll work for anyone under any circumstances as long as we can clutch tightly to the status and identity of ‘counsellor’. I'd be interested to know if we have any limits at all.

Have a look at counsellors social network profiles. Many only communicate in Inspirational Quotes, almost all are written as if by experts responding to people who need this counsellor’s knowledge and experience. Some are written as if the potential client is a sad idiot in need of sympathy.

A great many counsellors are probably very concerned about social justice but clearly there are not enough. Organisations like the Independent Practitioners Network have a committed core of highly experienced (and ageing) members who value functioning face to face rather than paperwork to bureaucracy and inevitably have a minute membership. They're not concerned about competing, they're vitally interested in relating - and prove it. 

I'll put a fiver on most counsellors never having heard of them.

The BACP deny monopolising counselling but why then, in the face of 1 in 6 BACP counsellors feeling fine about ‘converting’ gay people into straight people, and BACP accredited counsellors being most likely to abuse their power with clients, do they have the greatest membership, with non-counselling and counselling organisations alike employing only BACP accredited counsellors? It is not, be assured, that BACP accredited counsellors are always the best. It is because the BACP is a glossy, hugely marketed presentation of acceptability and safety which openly suggests that non-BACP counsellors are unprofessional, unsafe, and unacceptable. And you and I as individual, responsible people allow that.

Even in the teeth of raging and increasing poverty, charities providing British families with food, social unrest that made news across the western world, an increase in suicides linked to benefits, UN recognised child misery and a national reading age of 7, counselling has absolutely nothing to say about any of it. We stand above it all, perhaps watching as interested observers of rats in a cruel experiment, uninvolved unless it might offer us an 'opportunity'.

So here I am, in the pub on a Saturday night or rather, a tightly packed morgue. There are some very important rules to follow and one or two people are not in drawers with a sheet over their head able to hear and talk, but as we chat my breath evaporates and I wonder what on earth I’m doing, spending my time in a morgue on a Saturday night.

Thanks to those individuals who’ve commented, popped in or promoted my work over the last two years. Were it not for you I’d wonder if there was any vitality left at all in counselling. My final statements here are: Who’s benefiting from our current way of being? and, Follow The Money.


  1. I'd like to offer my "positive interest" as a counsellor, and wonder if this may open into more discussion here or elsewhere. I'll await something from the blog author.

  2. Nice blog.keep going ahead.I think mentally disabilities is a form of unconsious have a great job.recently I search a new blogwhich is full of information about counseling & therapies .