This week was the return following a week off due to the College open evening. We did the usual check-in; mine being a brief “I’m here” and that I felt it was an opportunity for me to unwind after a fraught couple of weeks at home. Initially we had to go over to the library to complete some college admin work but it was also an opportunity to research the ethical frameworks of counselling professional bodies, other than the BACP. We were put into partners and allocated the ACCPH – Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists. When we got back to the room we then had to present our findings to the rest of the group which was interesting to hear how other people had collated their information.
I sometimes struggle to pull the needed information out of text – although I know what is needed, I can’t always see it in front of me. I made a conscious effort to speak out and participate in discussions and reviews but only after I had the confidence of seeing others doing the same. I’m always very conscious that I’m saying too much and don’t want to portray myself as someone who likes the sound of my own voice (believe me I don’t – I’ve heard the tapes!)
Before tonight’s session I felt a little anxiety. The WhatApp group was red hot this week with an individual’s own anxiety. Despite my efforts to quash these anxieties by contacting the tutor; to gain some information and relay it on; the individual was quite persistent to find out what work other people had done (when we had been told there was no need to). This began to grate on me to a degree but I tried to be empathetic toward this person and understand how anxiety can manifest itself in persistent reassurance seeking. I also found that within myself, I was slightly angered that my efforts to present this individual with information; that should provide them with reassurance (that we didn’t need to do the work); was rejected/ignored.
This is a trait of mine that I am becoming increasingly aware of recently. If I have made some form of effort to help others but it isn’t reciprocated, or at least acknowledged and actioned to a degree, I start to shut down those efforts. I feel “why bother”. At this point I took myself away from the group for a while.
Needless to say my anxiety was quelled once in the group and hearing for sure that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t attempted the work. Maybe to a degree, reassurance seeking on my own behalf?
I enjoyed the debate in the group that ignited as a result of doing the exercise surrounding certain dilemmas that a counsellor could face. There are aspects of this career that sometimes get overlooked. I found that I may struggle with certain ethical dilemmas because I’m a great believer in context. Even the nicest and sincere of people can be driven to do “bad” things. This is where we have to take into account the letter of the law. It isn’t open to interpretation and is there in black and white.
We learnt that it is important to remain within our “limits of proficiency”; being able to recognise a situation where we feel you are out of our depth or conflicted in some way. This is not only important for us as the counsellor but also for the client. If they expect a certain level of service from us, we must be able to provide this service to a satisfactory standard. It would be unfair to embark on a counselling journey with someone only to decide halfway through that we cannot deal with the issue (having known from the start – there will however be instances where certain issues will only come to light part way through the length of the relationship). For example, if a client is experiencing issues in their life to do with gender or sexuality and we find this an uncomfortable subject; or maybe that you aren’t proficient or experienced enough to handle the client; it is our responsibility to notify the client and signpost them accordingly. Likewise, if there is a disclosure of a crime being committed, we cannot act as judge and jury, we are duty bound to disclose serious crime to the relevant authorities.
The risks I took where when I used an example of how a rape victim may have successfully fought off an attacker and subsequently killed them. I am always conscious of offending people and rape can be a very taboo subject in some cases (meaning if it is a subject close to someone in the group – it will always be a taboo subject, et al). I was also conscious that although rape isn’t just an atrocity that women endure; society and cultural zeitgeists tend to instantly conjure up the image that victims of rape are women. Being the only male in the room, I initially thought better of speaking out but I feel that the trust in the room and the courage that others have previously displayed, granted me the safety and confidence to speak up.
I need to start remembering more names now. The lady I worked with tonight, I feel comfortable to work with, as in the first week we gravitated toward each other as we were both new and sat next to each other. I am finding one or two individuals in the group difficult to work with for both different and similar reasons. Both are outspoken, one I feel could be attributed to a lack of awareness and the other being an anxious confidence. I am conscious of the feeling of discomfort it provokes within me so am trying to train myself to not be judgemental and supress the feeling, or at least train myself to react differently; with empathy. I personally, am careful and choose my moments to speak with consideration of others; people who speak over others riles me but that’s me trying to apply my own standards onto others which isn’t fair. Although I will still give myself permission to feel a momentary shudder when they do it!!
I would like to now start extending this development into my personal life. There are moments when I feel I can also speak over others in complete hypocrisy of what I have just stated above, but only in the company of certain people. For example I wouldn’t do it in a meeting at work and would apply the same consideration as I do in class but then at home where I am finding myself continually defending myself and justifying my actions, I am less tolerant and more outspoken.