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BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Counselling: Choices and Decisions

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With all important news stories there seems to come a point when for the public enough is enough. A saturation level is reached with regard to news and information which begins to turn readers away in search of other topics.

Given those thoughts and the blanket coverage I hesitate to add further comment on the referendum.  Nevertheless the various links from the referendum across to counselling and therapy work are just too strong to ignore.  There are three particular aspects of the debate which mirrors the work which goes on in the counselling room.

There is for example an obvious parallel between Brexit and couple work. Much has been made about the ending of a relationship between the UK and the EU. In particular concerns as to whether a split will be carried through in an angry acrimonious way or whether a more gentle parting of the ways can be achieved. 

This reflects some couple work when the therapy room can be used as a place to work through what is happening when a relationship is ending away from the influence of others involved in the drama. Within the counselling room there is often the palpable anger of those who feel rejected and also a ‘fear of freedom’ from those who have now attained an exciting but potentially disruptive state of individual freedom.

Counselling is also used by clients to work through issues around decision making.  The referendum provided many people with the opportunity to make an important and far reaching decision. Some people had already made their mind up on which way to vote before walking into the voting booth but for many there was apparently much last minute agonising over what was clearly for the country a very important decision.   

In our personal lives we can also be faced with crucial decisions which can have an overarching impact on our lives from an emotional but also a pragmatic, quality of life perspective.

Do I stay or do I go. What do I tell and to who and when. The issue could be a relationship, a company, a friendship or a location. It could involve a university place, a training opportunity or just an invitation to a party.  There is a choice and there is a decision to be made. Usually we decide what to do through personal reflection or via discussions with friends and family. Sometimes however others may have strong views as to what should be done and will waste no time or energy sharing those views with you, deliberately trying to ensure that your decision mirrors what they feel is the right course.

The therapy room can provide a safe alternative place for those reflections. This can be helpful when there is ‘some thinking out loud’ to be done, when words need to be spoken and heard but by an objective listener who may comment but in a non-judgemental way. That is very much counselling in the moment. For some can prove to be a good way of carefully deciding which way to walk or whether to stay or go.

A third link between the recent referendum and counselling is around that issue of ‘why’. There was much surprise on Friday morning at the referendum result. Yet commentators accept that there were societal fault lines which had been visible for some time and just ignored.

Some forms of contemporary counselling work may also just focus on what lies ahead and ignore any issues of causality. There are often suggestions particularly with short term work that there is no point in looking back into an individual’s past experiences. Yet there can be very real value in trying to understand why things have turned out as they have if only to inform what may happen in the future.

Contemporary therapy has moved a long way from complex Freudian, Jungian or Kleinian analysis of the human condition. To sit with a therapist and to try to understand why a relationship collapsed, how that breakdown occurred or why a depression has taken hold, does not necessarily demand hours of introspective analysis of early family relationships. Nevertheless open minded reflections on the relationships and forces that has shaped our personal way of being and our emotional world can help inform our view of how we wish our future to be.

If we are able to understand why we act and function as we do, this enhanced self-awareness can help us to steer a future path along the roads that we wish to travel. That may on occasions be a difficult journey but at least it will be one of our choosing.

And that thought of difficult journeys brings me back to how I started this piece and with those thoughts on the referendum. 

What is clear is that decisions have consequences.  I have a great respect for those who carefully thought about the issues and then made their own considered decision whether to go for in or out and stayed with that despite the increasingly shrill verbal histrionics on both sides.

The country and the elected leaders are now working through the consequences of that referendum vote. In a similar way we can sometimes also find ourselves working through the consequences of the important decisions that we make with regard to our personal journey. It is on those occasions that a therapist can prove to be a useful support.




Geoff Boutle

added on 1st July 2016

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