I’ve always thought of myself as “people person”. Indeed in my application for my counselling course, way back, I wrote: “I am exceptionally interested in people, who they are, and who they might become. I have always worked in jobs that involve a lot of interaction with people of all ages and backgrounds. I have worked as a Care Worker, Teacher, Education Welfare Officer and Child Development Instructor. I hope that I have learnt many things from each of the people that I have come across in my life. I have also learnt never to make assumptions based on pre-conceptions; people nearly always surprise you and often prove you quite wrong.” Yet, nowadays, I find myself shying away from interacting with other counsellors, particularly in big groups (I do wonder what the term is for a big group of counsellors). As an individual in private practice in North Staffordshire, you would think that I would seek out the succour and support of my fellow colleagues and professionals and, yet, I find that I don’t want to.
Why so? This change in my behaviour confuses me; various thoughts wander through my mind and I wonder ‘why so’? To take this morning as an example Onlinevents* put on an event to discuss the new BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions*: Before too long I was resembling my 9 year old, when we’re enforcing school reading book time of an evening. I was sighing, disengaged and grumpy. Once again, I found myself thinking: why does it have to get so damn complicated?
PLEASE NOTE THE CONFERENCE IS CANCELLED.
There will be a new blog post about this shortly.
Our conference details are now up and bookings are being taken! Book now to secure your places! Early bird entries are now being taken and we have bursaries available for those who wish to apply. These are popular, so please ask us asap if you'd like to take one of these up. Please don't be afraid to ask - if you don't ask, we can't give you one.
It has reached our ears that some people are concerned that BAPCA might be folding at the conference and thus it might not be worth coming/signing up to BAPCA. We want to assure you that this is definitely not the case!
We were in need of a new treasurer and a new chair, and we could not legally continue without a treasurer, although we do not legally need a chair. We have been very fortunate to have Lindsay van Dijk volunteer for the treasurer role. She is currently co-opted and hopes to be voted in fully at the conference. This means that the future of BAPCA is secured. In the rare possibility that Lindsay wasn't voted in, she would remain co-opted until/unless someone else was voted in. So. In short, we are not folding!
The university of Roehampton has a PhD opportunity. The information is as below:
Here at the Centre for Research in Social and Psychological Transformation we're delighted to be offering a fully funded PhD to help us develop humanistic/person-centred therapy for unwelcome experiences of presence in grief.
“I don’t want to be this way” - a Person-Centred response. By Karen Pollock
LGB - ……; T - trans/transgender
GSRD Gender, sexual and relationship diversity
UPR -Unconditional Positive Regard
CBT Cognitive Behavoral Therapy
cis het - cis (not trans) and heterosexual
SInce January of this year LGB, and finally T, people have been protected from conversion therapy by members of all of the major organisations which regulate counselling in the UK (1). The harms of conversion therapy have been demonstrated, both through the lived experience of clients, and a number of different pieces of research. A consensus has been reached that trying to change someone's gender or sexual identity is contrary to ethical practice (2).
However, this leaves a question, especially for those who have “person-centred hearts” - how do we reconcile the known harms of conversion therapy, and the prohibition on offering to change a client's gender and/or sexual orientation, with a client who enters into therapy in distress about their gender and/or sexual orientation, and wishes to change it?
We can say with some certainty that a person-centred approach can be exceptionally beneficial for gender, sexuality and relationship diverse clients. Coming from a place of accepting the client's reality creates space for a client to bring what they need to a session. A person-centred approach is rooted in leaving the counsellor’s beliefs at the door, and entering into the client’s world without judgement. This can be especially empowering for GSRD clients, who experience a world laden with judgements about their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and ways of being.
As Carl Rogers himself said: “true empathy is always free of any evaluative or diagnostic quality. This comes across to the recipient with some surprise. "If I am not being judged, perhaps I am not so evil or abnormal as I have thought.”
Words like evil and abnormal have dogged the footsteps of GRSD people, and are often internalised. As Dominic Davies discusses here (3), demonstrating the core conditions can of themselves be life changing for GRSD clients. To a client exploring their gender and/or sexuality, to be met with empathy, lack of judgement and UPR, perhaps for the first time, can be a moment of revelation. Perhaps the beliefs they have internalised are wrong. Perhaps the aversion others show is not universal. From the schoolyard insult of “That's so gay” to transphobic jokes on mainstream TV, a client absorbs messages from birth about how certain ways of being are aberrations, lesser, worthy of mockery. Whilst the idea of rehearsing in the therapy room may seem to belong to CBT, the person-centred therapeutic relationship is often a rehearsal for the world outside too. Picture a client who looks “male” but tells their counsellor that they are a woman. In a split second a myriad of possible reactions, each with huge repercussions are opened up. If the therapist responds to the client with acceptance of their gender, with empathy and unconditional regard, then the path marked “this is possible outside the therapy room” will seem a little more achievable.
What about the client who says, I am trans and I do not want to be, or I am gay, and I do not want to be? What about the client who feels bisexuality is shameful, or that their thoughts about their gender need to be “fixed”?
Part of our role as counsellors is to hold negative emotions, not to deny, nor seek to denigrate, downplay or minimise them. If someone is in a place where such a vital part of their identity as gender and/or sexuality is causing them pain, that must be acknowledged. Perhaps part of the problem here is simple narratives, often put forward to reassure cis het people. There is an idea that, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, members of gender and sexual minorities all unfold their wings and fly. In this emergence the only issue faced is acceptance of oneself, which has become framed as being either in or out of the closet. To be in the closet is seen as incongruent and inauthentic, and to “come out” (presented as a one time event of transcendence) is to be one's authentic self. Indeed Darnell L Moore argues that coming out is in fact a heteronormative construct (4). For some GSRD people coming out is indeed a celebratory moment, but not for all, and, in a recursion of pain, and shame, there can even be guilt at their shame of their identity. As Tangney (5) explores, shame and guilt can be anticipatory, and consequential. A client need not have acted on their desires in order to be feeling shame or guilt about the existence of these desires. Nor do they have to have a clear view of what their authentic self is to have absorbed ideas about what an authentic self is, raising within them feelings of shame, and failure.
Within a person-centered therapeutic relationship, the first step is to create a space where these negative emotions can be displayed, received by the therapist, and not judged. It may feel “right” to say “it's ok to be gay”, or that gender is a spectrum, and - indeed - further along the road some clients may want and need to hear that. However, such affirmations contradict the client in the here and now, and may add to the feelings of guilt and shame. Just as we would not (hopefully) tell a mother who disclosed she did not love her children equally that she must change how she feels, so we should not tell a client unhappy with their gender and/or sexual identity that they should feel differently.
Holding the negative feelings, allowing them to exist, going further, and honouring the trust which leads to their expression, allows space to explore where the negative feelings come from. As Julia Serrano discusses detransition is often a result of transphobia (6). Each client will have their own particular reasons for struggling, but some familiar themes may emerge. Cultural and religious backgrounds which see their identity as sinful, aberrant or outwith the culture cannot be ignored. Nor can the very real existence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in society. In some ways a counsellor can be a permission giver, or denier, to the fears expressed by the client. By openly accepting the negative feelings we say that they have value. It is why it is especially important all therapists, regardless of orientation, be aware of the oppressions a minority client may face. This was reflected in the recent update to the BACP ethical framework (7). Some people face violence, family ostracism, hate speech and rejection by their community. They need to be allowed to express their grief, anger, and uncertainty around this.
For those of us with person-centred hearts it should not be a new step to accept where the client is coming from without interpretation or judgement. As we accept the client’s negative feelings, we must be aware though that we are not colluding with them. We should have examined reflectively how we feel about GRSD people. By collusion, I mean when a client expresses dislike of a part of themselves, it is not our place to agree that being gay, or bi, or lesbian, or trans, or any other identity is worse than belonging to the majority. Acknowledging that society may make it harder, that there may be violent reactions to a client, is not the same as saying society is right. A client may well be right in expressing a belief that life would be easier if they were cis/het, it does not equal cis het being better. In the same way, exploring how a client might accommodate some of their fears, by for example inviting in rather than coming out, should not be about diminishing their identity, but recognising the fears are genuine.
- Stonewall Welcomes Clinical Condemnation of Trans “cures”
- The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Human Rights Campaign
- The six necessary and sufficient conditions applied to working with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients Davies (1998)
- Coming out or Inviting in? Moore (2012)
- Moral Emotions and Moral Behaviour Tangney (2006)
- Detransition, desistance and Disinformation Serano (2016)
- Just who is educating who? Pollock (2016)
You can follow Karen on Twitter: @Counsellingkaz
This is to let you know that there are two rooms now available at the St Rita's Centre for this year's La Jolla Program in Honiton, Devon, 29th April to 7th May.
The St. Rita's Centre is situated in the beautiful vale of Honiton, noted for it's market and lace. Honiton is five miles from the coast and fifteen miles from the historic city of Exeter. The Centre was established in 1960 as a junior seminary but has been refurbished and updated and is now a modern retreat centre with all bedrooms ensuite and a lift to each floor. The food is plentiful and excellent. The atmosphere is relaxed and the friendly and helpful attitude of the staff fits well with the person-centred ethos of the workshop.
The La Jolla Program is a project of the Center for Studies of the Person which is based in San Diego, California.It's internal focus is one of supporting its members in their personal and professional lives. It offers workshops or consultations and sponsors events for the general public or specific groups.The staff at the Centre worked intensively with Carl Rogers, who was personally involved in the development and establishment of the La Jolla Program. Thousands of people from around the world have participated in the Program, which provides an opportunity to learn, experiment, study and experience the person-centred approach.
The Person Centred Approach is built on a basic trust in the person. A trust in the constructive directional flow of the individual toward a more complex and complete development. No matter how things may appear there is always an organismic movement within the individual.This movement may be thwarted, but it's seeds are always present.
The Person-Centred Approach is a systemic, holistic approach that focuses on health rather than illness, empowering rather than curing. It promotes the development of individuals,groups and organisations, through the process of freeing people to be responsible for what they do, rather than encouraging passivity and dependency.
This will be the fourteenth year that the Center has brought the La Jolla Program to the UK. We look forward to welcoming new participants as well as more regular attendees, and hope you will be able to join us.
Further details and an application form are available on our website www.lajollaprogram.org
Kay, Will & John
The first meeting of the Central London Person-Centred Encounter Group will be on Saturday 18th March 2017. It is open to anyone interested in the person-centred approach and aims to offer trainees, counsellors and therapists an opportunity to come together for support and personal and professional development. We now have a venue and a new Facebook group which will help us to communicate with everyone who want to come along. Maybe one day we will have a website – but early days!
The encounter group meetings will not be facilitated, but will be unstructured and will develop each month according to what people bring and want to focus on. We are hoping to have the opportunity for occasional guest speakers and themes if this is something that the group would find helpful. The aim is to offer a confidential space, allowing people the chance to be open and share their experiences, challenges and beliefs in a safe, accepting and warm environment. We look forward to discussing with others their ideas for the group and the direction to take.
Meetings will be for 2.5 hours and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificates will be available on request.
The group will meet on the third Saturday of every month from 10.30am to 1pm, with the first meeting on Saturday 18th March 2017. The cost for each meeting is £5 and includes refreshments.
To join or find out more please sign up to the Central London BAPCA Facebook group or email email@example.com
Coventry's BAPCA local group would like to invite you to a day of encounter, based at the Quaker meeting house on 25th February. 10.30-4.30
The venue is 0.7 miles from the rail station, and several (7!) buses run from the rail station to the bottom of the road the meeting house is on. There is limited parking at the venue, but on-street paid parking and a multi-storey car park near by.
BAPCA will provide a range of teas, coffee and cold drinks (and maybe a biscuit or two), and we ask that you bring your own lunch, either just for you, or as a bring and share. As a bring-and-share, please make sure it's clearly labelled.
This is a self-structured day of encounter, which is facilitated non-directively. This means that we (BAPCA trustees) won't be dictating the structure or the content beyond the start and finish time. This day is open to members and non-members of BAPCA and we actively hope that non-members will come along and be involved.
The kitchen and downstairs food area will be open at all times.
Please feel free to pay online here
The meeting house has a loop and a microphone available for use, and the ground floor has an accessible toilet. There is a small ramp up to the main door and in the building, the coffee area has a small ramp (or one step down) within it, and a stair lift (in the style of a Stannah lift) between the ground floor and the main meeting room.
We recognise that cost is prohibitive to some people and we'd like this to be as little of an issue as we can manage. Therefore, we are making a number of grants available per event. The grants are available for the full cost of the attendance price (£20 for members/£40 for non-members) and 90% of your travel cost, up to a maximum for £100 total. So - if your ticket cost is £40 and your travel is £70 we will cover £100. If your ticket cost is £40 and your travel is £50 we will cover £85 total. Equally, if you would like to pay something, but feel you cannot afford all of it, you can ask for this as well - just drop me an email.
For most people, you might well be able to pay in advance and claim your bursary back on the day/via phone with Di. And that's fine. But you might also need the money in advance. This is also possible - please drop me a line as below.
If you have any questions, please send LJ an email. If you'd like to book, please give Di a call on 01600 891508
The WAPCEPC Scientific Committee invites PCE researchers to join our effort to create and to organize a research database so we are sending a questionnaire in order to gather the information. Those who have never answered the questionnaire, this is a great opportunity to do so; for those who previously answered the questionnaire, this is a time when you can update the information about your ongoing projects and new research interests.
This database will allow us to link and liaise with research initiatives, support PCE conference organizers and identify interest groups, creating a network of information for researchers, research consultants and practitioners. This information will also maintain and keep updated research pages of the WAPCEPC website and explore further editions of PCE works and future publications.
If you want to participate, please fill in and submit the this form to firstname.lastname@example.org by February the 28th, 2017. You can also send the form to other colleagues to be completed as well.
We appreciate your time and effort to contribute to our goals.