I took part in an online conference on psychotherapy and global transformation a couple of days ago and I wanted to share with you some reflections I’ve had. It was a timely conference in many ways because I have been thinking a lot recently about what I do as an individual to contribute to change, change being a large part of the counselling process and life in general.
The first comment I made at the conference was around my feeling of anxiety when I think about the words ‘global transformation’. They seem so big and I feel so small. I think of Carl Rogers (founder of the person-centred approach) who said ‘when I look at the world I’m pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic’. That speaks to me. When I zoom in to the individual level, I feel I can do something and counselling is one of the ways I contribute. It is when I zoom out and look at a world dominated by organisations and institutions which seem to value conformity, compliance and consumption that I feel pessimistic.
As I work to try and become outwardly more aligned with how I feel and think internally, I realise that I practice as a person-centred counsellor because it speaks to me at that optimistic individual level and I believe that it is not only an effective counselling approach but its wider applications could have a transformative effect on society.
Going back to the conference, during one of the presentations Professor Mick Cooper talked about whether helpful relationships could be offered in a wider context, not necessarily just in one to one counselling and it got me thinking about group work. Does group work have to be specifically therapeutic to be effective or is being in the presence of others with the same intention therapeutic in itself? Something for me to ponder further is how I might contribute to something wider than one to one counselling.
The final thing that came out of the conference for me was during a talk by Clare Slaney (who writes an excellent counselling blog in my opinion). She was talking about our views of the poor in the UK and she invited us to contemplate what the word is for society’s intense dislike of the poor. It got me thinking about the recent election and my fear for what continued austerity might mean for the vulnerable and let’s face it, we’re all vulnerable in one way or another aren’t we? Many of us are only ever one step away from becoming part of a system which may have a significant impact on our mental health. When I think of enforced therapy in job centres or the recent proposal to withhold employment and support allowance if you’re obese or have drug or alcohol problems and refuse to do something which makes it more likely you will return to work, it fills me with dread.
The talk tied in nicely with my sense of anger and injustice at what feels to me like punishing of the vulnerable and my plans to attend the End Austerity Now national march which is taking place in London in June. It’s a leap out of my comfort zone. I’ve never taken part in anything like this before but I have a desire to do something about my strength of feeling. I’m going to keep in mind John F Kennedy’s words ‘ One person can make a difference and everyone should try’. An optimistic quote which is both individual and global.