Understand the past, embrace the present, enjoy the future

GEOFF BOUTLE
BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

My office provides a safe environment in a pleasant relaxed location on the outskirts of Basingstoke, with easy access and ample parking
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Counselling, Elections – and our opportunity to choose

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Within a few days of this note appearing the General Election will be upon us.  As with many people I suspect that I am becoming just a little weary of hearing those comments from the various party leaders about the importance of the choice we are about to make. 

Yet I ought to be aware that this is a reaction some clients may have to those comments about choice that I often make in the counselling room. 

Just as with the political process, choice is ever present in therapy work.  In fact important choices in the counselling world are made before the client steps through the door. I have written elsewhere about one key aspect of choice related to therapy. That is around choosing both the right individual counsellor and also the most appropriate type of counselling strategy.   

For example, some therapists work very closely with one particular model and this can sometimes result in the counsellor appearing to be quite directive in the way in which clients are encouraged to act. In particular some CBT work can reflect this didactic way of working.  Some organisations and agencies are quite insistent on counsellors following a particular way of working irrespective of who the client is or what their individual concerns are.

Other therapists may want to be motivational and exalt the client to act in a more positive way and that approach can be found in some variations of Solution Focussed Strategies or motivational interviewing.  Alternatively traditional psychodynamic work has been much more reflective and encouraging of clients in their efforts to fully understand what is happening and why.

I have remarked before that all these approaches can have advantages and disadvantages. What is important is what is right for each individual client.  I therefore prefer to work in what can be regarded as a more integrative way (or in what some are now calling a pluralistic approach).  

I do not believe that one size fits all or that one specific approach will always provide the best way forward for the client.  The choice as to how to work in the therapy room is one which we as client and counsellor should make together. This approach can ensure that the therapy work is tailored to fit as close as is possible with client needs.

And if the client is unsure about how they will wish to work then we can let that choice evolve in an informed way as we move into the work.

Choice also abounds once the work is actually underway. For example the counselling room needs to be a safe place. It should therefore be very much up to each client to choose what to reveal, what to risk and what to work with in the therapy room.  The counsellor can encourage, prompt or perhaps embolden the client to go a little deeper but it is fundamental to the work that the client remains in control of that choice process.

If I think back again to the impending General Election, there is now one very recent difference which can be drawn in any comparison of the political and the therapeutic choice. The advent in the last administration of the fixed term parliament act threatens to take away an element of choice certainly from the Prime Minister and perhaps also from MPs with regard to deciding on the date of the next election.

Time horizons in therapy can be very different.  In the counselling room there can be fixed term work which is is common with regard to CBT work where there is a very specific focus but other therapy work is often much more open ended.

That can be beneficial when there is no clear sense of what the main underlying issue is. It will however always be important to keep therapy work under active review in order to ensure that there is a real return for the emotional, time and also financial investment which the client is putting into the counselling process.

So perhaps I am making what is no more than an obvious point.  In the age of the sovereign consumer, choice is everywhere and that includes both the polling booth and the therapy room.

Yet I would suggest the choices made during counselling work and the subsequent changes we may then make in our personal and professional lives, can be even more important and have a far greater influence on our individual well-being than the ‘once in every five years’ decision that you will be making in the polling booth a few days’ time. 

But then of course, I choose to say that.  After all I am a therapist and not a politician!

So next week enjoy either your stroll in the spring sunshine to the polling booth or alternatively that deliberate abstention.  It is very much your choice to make.

By
Geoff Boutle

added on 1st May 2015

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