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BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Counselling, Jules Rimet and you – A therapeutic perspective

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So are you prepared for the inevitable?  Baring a global catastrophe, from mid June to mid July there is just one event which is going to be in the headlines day after day.  Certain world events are difficult to ignore wherever we live and whatever we do – and the football world cup is one of those.

Irrespective of how we interact with the world around us be that through radio, TV, social media or newspapers, information sources during the coming month will focus on Brazil and that world cup.  That may provoke irritation or interest dependent upon your relationship with the beautiful game. 

A few years ago I wrote a couple of articles published in the BACP Journal Therapy Today in which I used football as a way of thinking about counselling, men and emotions. (Erikson or Eriksson, July 2003 / Talking of the World Cup July 2006) I was using the groundswell of interest in the tournament to consider the stereotypical perception of the average male as lacking in emotions and being essentially stoic.

There will of course be divided views on what constitutes a typical male although that difference of opinion will be as nothing compared to the rift in approaches towards the coming football carnival.

This divide will be reflected in our behaviours from viewing habits to conversation topics. As an aside it also provides an interesting opportunity to reflect on some counselling techniques. There is for example the approach which argues that it is not specific events or actions that are key to our emotional well-being but more how we process the event.

The suggestion is that how we internalise the impact and the consequences of events is more critical to our emotional well-being rather than the event per se.   For example, England’s inevitable demise in Brazil may be met with a shrug of the shoulders, anger, complete indifference or with much sorrow depending upon the outlook of the individual.

This line of thought reflects one of the key tenets of a CBT approach within therapy. ‘People are not disturbed by things but by the view they take of them’ is a much quoted phrase attributed to Epictetus a Hellenic philosopher who apparently played in goal for the Greeks back in the first century. It is an expression which has been adopted by many within the CBT world. ‘

I should say at the outset that I have an ambivalent view towards CBT work.  The NHS will want to find quick and ideally cheap solutions to issues of health and well being. Given that resources in terms of time and money are always limited for organisations as well as individuals, that is of course a perfectly sensible approach to adopt.  Some may feel however that this drive to find seemingly swift and low cost solutions to complex problems led some years ago to a concentration on CBT within the talking therapies which was unrealistic and excited inappropriate expectations. Perhaps we are still dealing with the impact of that approach.

My personal view which may not be popular with some fellow therapists is that CBT is a useful methodology but a simplistic one. That simplicity maybe disguised by a wealth of research often presented in unnecessarily pompous terms.  It can be confused by the evolution of complex protocols and be concealed within the design of ever more structured forms which clients are encouraged (and alas on some occasions directed) to complete. This rather disguises the reality that much CBT is common sense based as reflected in that Epictetus quotation from the first millennium.

In case these comments sound critical of CBT I will quickly correct that impression.  There are certain CBT techniques and strategies which clients can find extremely helpful. For my part I work with CBT strategies where that is appropriate and right for the individual client. That sense of what is appropriate for each individual, is however key.   I am an integrative therapist who uses CBT techniques rather than working as a CBT therapist per se.

That is because I have a firm belief in the uniqueness of each individual.  One size does not fit all. As therapists we should always look with great care as to what is likely to work for each individual client rather stay attached limpet like to one set of protocols imbibed at an early stage in our therapeutic training.

Now back to the world cup.  The tournament provides a really helpful way of engaging with this basic CBT principle.  What is important will not be what happens in Brazil but how we decide to regard it. That remarkable focus of attention by the world’s media on the world cup will be a reality, whether we like it or not.  So we will each have a choice as to how to be during the next few weeks

We can as far as that blanket coverage of the world cup is concerned, decide to embrace it, reject it, laugh at it or scream in frustration.  Whichever of those approaches you decide to adopt is your choice.  It is not forced upon you.  You may regard the late Jules Rimet as a man of vision or the devil incarnate but the decision as to which view to take of this visionary is for you alone. (A note to the uninitiated – if Jules Rimet is for you an unknown name then revert to Google and all will become clear)

And how else does therapy and counselling come into play during world cup time? There is certainly a potential for increased traffic to the therapists door.   

For those who detest the game, the therapy room may at least offer a blissful retreat from that incessant coverage.  There is however the unfortunate likelihood that for some fragile partnerships, the acrimonious rift in the domestic relationship caused by the insistence on different viewing patterns may require some couple counselling.   

The opportunity for the obsessive to be consumed is also self-evident.  Given the likelihood of poor refereeing and teams underperforming, anger management will need to be much exercised. And there will alas at some time during the month, be the requirement to deal with that overwhelming sense of loss when the inevitable happens and the favoured team upon which all hopes and dreams are placed are crushed by the malevolent forces of referees or other teams.

So it will be great fun – or not – dependent upon your perspective.   Whatever happens remember it will pass.  Just like Christmas, elections, rainstorms, love, births, deaths, marriages and all the dramas that we embrace or endure, it will pass.

The world cup will seem all consuming but it will conclude. The tournament only lasts for a month. It is just that for those who are not enthusiastic devotees of the beautiful game,  it will seem to be a rather long month…..!!!





Geoff Boutle

added on 1st June 2014

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