Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
This familiar lyric, originating from an 18th century Scottish ballad, by Robert Burns, poses a rhetorical question: should we forget about our old friends, colleagues and associates? Memories and past experiences are the stuff of therapy, consciously and unconsciously. Now, more than ever, connection feels important, be that in the counselling room or the lecture hall, the pub or the park, on the phone or the screen. We have an innate need for attachment which, when denied, we crave more keenly. It’s evolutionary. It’s essential. This time last year, some of us were deprived of the opportunity to connect in real life, to celebrate together during Diwali, the winter solstice, Christmas and New Year. Therapy sessions prior to the December 2020 break happened remotely or not at all. Everything felt low key, a let-down, a bit of a damp squib, as we were thrown off kilter by events beyond our control.
In my last editorial, I mentioned temporary Government COVID legislation which prohibited therapy ‘in a private dwelling’ in England. It prompted several readers to write to me and say, ‘What? Why didn’t we know?’ BACP has provided members with regular COVID-19 updates throughout the pandemic, and you can read the Association’s latest guidance on Working Within the Restrictions. Within this guidance, you’ll find useful information about the actions your business must take, in order for you to continue working safely with clients from your home.
For me, the last 18 months highlight the significance of the wider social, cultural, environmental and political context to the work that we do. Even if we are in private practice, none of us are islands. Even if we offer individual therapy, the individual in therapy is not an isolate. What’s going on in the background affects us all.
Context is addressed in some of the topical articles in this issue. In Fighting for the COVID-19 generation, Bryony Doughty argues for the need to move beyond the trend for documenting the decline of young people’s mental health. The statistics are depressingly familiar, but, she says, it’s time to stop counting and do something. Tonia Mihill talks about commissioning a youth mental health charity within an ever-changing political climate in With the future in mind, and I spoke with Dr Niki Cooper, Clinical Director of Place2Be, about what’s planned for Children’s Mental Health Week 2022 in Introducing…. The theme is Growing Together: growing emotionally, trying new things and celebrating.
There are articles in this issue which nurture a sense of connection too, as contributors generously share with us their personal and professional experiences. Lucy-Jean Lloyd courageously raises the issue of Racism in the [counselling] room and Anna Bowles shares her personal experience of bipolar type II in With skates on. Elsewhere, online connections are discussed. Samia Quddus asks, Is social media damaging your health?, while Ellie Finch presents a more positive aspect to going online in our featured article, Therapeutic adventures in Minecraft, in which she shares her innovative approach to counselling children and young people, using gaming as a resource.
The implied answer to the rhetorical question posed by Robert Burns is that we should not forget our old acquaintances; they shape us. Cultural, political, social and environmental context does matter. Remote and real-life connections all matter. And whether it’s Hannukah at the beginning of December or Hogmanay at the end, the opportunity to celebrate together matters too, for the sake of auld lang syne, and for whatever lies ahead.
Jeanine Connor, Editor