Saturday, May 06, 2006

Interview with counsellor who would prefer to remain anonymous

This counsellor wanted to remain anonymous for fear, in the current climate, his words could be misconstrued or quoted out of context.

What do you understand by the term 'other power'?

It's something about being open to the situation, and seeing counselling as an interaction and a point of meeting between me and the client [he said pointing to an area in the room between us). So being open means the counsellor being changed by the encounter, by entering the world of the client and having shit stirred up in yourself as a result. The bit that gets changed in me kind is like something inside whose shape gets permanently changed, something really deep though, deeper than the observer part of me. It's like I let my presence get changed like a lump of plasticine. Working this way is something about going into the unknown - the more I do it the less I realise I know.I think a lot of counselling is up its own rear-end - the stuff about anger "management" and stopping a client cutting. That's just about trying to make difficult feelings go away and be denied. I work from a kind of observer self and try and be in this difficult stuff with the client and let them be.Getting really into the client's world like this can be so absorbing that it's as though I get drawn through a kind of membrane [gestures by pushing his face through his hands] into a deeper consciousness - all of your attention is in that point [pointing to an area on the floor midway between us but some way to the right].

When I'm counselling I see what the client is saying as a kind of unfolding picture or film and we're both looking at it, a thing outside us, that we're trying to understand

This sounds risky or wrong to say, but counselling is like ideal sex should be, with no one taking the lead.

I don't think that's a wrong analogy, but I know what you mean, it sounds risky, like it could be misconstrued. I mean, it's like you're talking about working with life's big forces!I like this song where Gil Scott Heron says, "I got into all this analysis and ended up in some kind of paralysis, and I almost didn't hear the spirits calling

"Wow! I like that! .......... I like working with young people because many of them have no choice but to go with where their spirits take them. My job is to help them go with their spirits, knowing I won't be going with them. That following spirits thing is so different from a lot of counselling which I think is about encouraging [clients] to just get better at monitoring themselves. All that does, as I see it, is just make a person go full circle; you're just helping them, to use a Rogerian phrase, replace one set of conditions of worth with another. I mean, when you're not looking over your shoulder at the manual to see if you're doing it right, it is a purely spontaneous and caring thing..I remember this client I've been working with for a long time. She kind of went through that membrane into that kind of unself conscious state in a session and looked up at everything and said, "This is what life's all about". I still find it very moving now remembering it. Going into that state is something about having trust in the world.

It's just making me think, what do you think the difference is between someone in that good state, trusting of the world, that which is other, and someone who has been abused and trusts the wrong things... like being open to the wrong things.... [pause]..... thinking about it, may be someone in that state isn't open? I've never really thought about this.....

No, I don't think a person who has been abused is open. It's like a purely defensive position they're in. It's like they've gone as a child and put their trust in a person and that person has gone and abused them. That abused child never gets to learn what trust is, or therapy is about helping them get back to the memories of what life was like before the abuse happened, what it was like to trust an adult and therefore get in touch with the adult in them. It's like that Winnicott stuff, learning through play. A lot of my clients play in the session. Sometimes they try things out, like, once they've trusted me and we're drawing at the table they might come round and sit right next to me, so they're making physical contact with me. This is the kind of stuff I take to supervision all the time. It's like they're checking out whether I'm an abuser, what kind of response they'll get, like all they know to gain an adult's approval is behave in this way. But they're also checking out if there's something else... by responding in a respectful way, or not making a big deal out of it, - then I'm modelling what it is to be an adult and care with respect. Someone has to feel safety so that they can know safety. You can't teach it out of a book.

So by modelling a caring adult you're encouraging them to empathise with you and discover it themselves?

No, more the other way, by seeing it it they discover it in themselves and are then able to be it. To encounter an other in that playful, unself conscious state, you regain trust in other and learn to trust that it's OK to be in that beyond self place. The play work I do, and reminding them [clients] of rules is about trying to help them develop some kind of observer self while getting carried away at the same time.

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