In this issue
Making sense of fetishes (free article)
Jeanine Connor offers thoughts about sexually fetishistic behaviour
Beyond words there is music
Adrian Snell on how music helps his clients with special needs to think and relate
The value of involving the native language of the young client. Beverley Costa explains
The autistic brain
Phyllis Coulter explains how we can put neurological understanding to good use with autistic clients
The lone trauma therapist
The final part of Alix Hearn’s series from the shop floor
The boarding school counsellor
Multiple layers and powerful narratives emerge, says Katia Houghton
Sharing our skills
Zoe Nangah and Sarah Randall on the benefits of counsellors supporting other professionals and volunteers
Reflecting on… getting it wrong
Thinking about… value
Word for word
A practitioner’s personal response to a given quote. This time, Ilaria Calussi
A mini focus on two BACP Good Practice in Action resources
From the chairs
Welcome from the editor
Respond to every call that excites your spirit,’ wrote Persian poet Rumi.1 It’s now ‘enpixellated’ in the corner of my screen. I guess all of us reading this have had our spirits excited – in the passionate/on-fire sense – to respond to the difficulties and traumas that young people experience.
And we probably often need to remind ourselves of that original call in the face of – and in spite of – the poor on-the-ground situation we now find ourselves in. It’s easy to despair at how things are going officially (child poverty, children wanting to kill themselves, young people told to exaggerate symptoms to get help, Green Papers about training staff instead of funding school counsellors, service cuts and closures, you name it). But looking over this super-high fence with a periscope, I believe we could take back an element of control over our passion to help, and keep it burning. There are pointers in these pages that can help us grasp opportunities and move things forward for children – despite.
Jeanine Connor’s lead article on sexually fetishistic behaviour may seem uncomfortable or even intent on startling (depending on your viewpoint). But we can choose to read with a desire to extend our skills and help a wider range of young people – without it costing our funders a penny. Stretching our knowledge muscles carefully and ethically keeps the flame alive.
Again, why include music therapy? Hans Christian Anderson2 coined the frequently misquoted phrase, when words fail, sounds can often speak. Well, in broad terms, Adrian Snell uses sounds when words won’t work. Having a box of instruments in our rooms allows a child to express feelings by making sounds, notes, rhythms, tunes – and us to join with them, the sounds creating a non-verbal conversation. Yes, Adrian is highly skilled and officially trained – but even limited to a small ‘no specific training’ scenario, there is a take-home clue here about another way in which we can help young people heal. Integrating a new tool carefully and ethically keeps the flame alive.
Beverley Costa encourages us to invite the use of a client’s own language in sessions to further facilitate process and healing. Linda Hafez invited a Cruse Bereavement Care counsellor into school to share their expertise in co-leading groupwork – with financial saving and pupil benefit. And Sue Barr and colleagues show us how they bring in parents and family effectively, where appropriate. Extending the sphere of our work carefully and ethically keeps the flame alive.
But perhaps, alongside this, we do need to remind ourselves exactly why young people are having such a hard time. Some issues are age-old, of course. Just being a dependent child or an independence-seeking adolescent is enough to start a sparring match in the home. But other issues have a more 21st-century flavour to them as traditional society rips itself to shreds. And one of the root causes seems to lie in ACEs – those ‘adverse childhood experiences’ that leave their poison, like nerve gas, in the system long after the event(s).
Professor Mark Bellis, of Public Health Wales, reminds us that we can retake control of the effectiveness of our work in yet another way – by asking about ACEs: ‘There’s a strong argument for informed assessment by trained professionals to ask about ACEs, identify those at risk, and intervene where children may already be victims of abuse, neglect or living in adverse childhood environments.’3 How many times have we worked seemingly in vain, and only then got to the root issue? How many times has a child backtracked after a supposedly successful therapy, because issues weren’t healed at source? Asking questions about ACEs specifically and sensitively is another skill – but using our skills carefully and ethically is what we do. And we can also think about branching out to share our skills beneficially in other professional contexts, when occasion arises, as Zoe Nangeh encourages.
If we’re to continue responding to every call that excites our spirits without losing hope, we need to take Alison Smyth’s advice (in her last supervision column for us) and model holding the hope. Not only for our supervisees, and our supervisees for their young clients, but also for ourselves, via support, encouragement and networking. Each child who comes our way is the echo of that initial call that excited us, and in the present socio-economic climate, we cannot risk it fading to a distant memory.
1 Barks C (Trans). The essential Rumi. London: HarperOne; 2004.
2 Anderson HC. What the moon saw and other tales. London: Routledge; 1866.
3 www.communitypractitioner.co.uk/opinion/2017/07/adverse-childhood-experiences (accessed 15 April 2018).