In this issue
Drawing wisdom from practice
Liz Bondi and Judith Fewell point out the creative research potential found in everyday work with clients.
Look beyond the binary
Kaete Robinson urges counsellors to look beyond simplistic binary accounts of gender.
Exiled: the girls’ school boarders
Joy Schaverien describes the lasting impact of a girlhood spent at boarding school.
Counselling in the era of the human genome
Alan Phillips, Vishakha Tripathi and Charlotte Tomlinson illustrate the necessary place of counselling
in genomic medicine.
Tutor self-disclosure: from theory to life
Tutor Brian Charlesworth and student Lee Ferrigon report a moving outcome of tutor self-disclosure in
the lecture room.
News feature: FGM - exposing a hidden child abuse
Catherine Jackso talks to counsellors about their work with survivors of female genital mutilation
This issue touches more than once on the subject of difference, and how this is negotiated in the counselling room. We start with the news feature on female genital mutilation (FGM) – a practice once called ‘female circumcision’ but whose name now says very plainly what it is. But still there is a nervousness around criticising it, for fear of being labelled racist, or lacking cultural sensitivity. FGM is child abuse. It changes unalterably a girl’s life; it prevents her learning at school, enjoying sex, having children; it means she may be psychologically traumatised and in frequent pain for the rest of her life. The fact that it is a cultural practice does not make it all right. If we were told by a client that she was about to take her daughter to be sexually abused, would we look the other way?
Then we have Kaete Robinson’s article about gender, questioning the way we, as a society, feel more comfortable when everyone can be slotted neatly into one or other binary category: boy, girl; male, female. How many of us truly feel we fit the stereotypes associated with our gender? As Kaete writes: ‘When it comes to gender identity… being told who I am is always a painful experience.’ Being told who you are when it’s not who you feel you are is painful in any context, and a reason why many clients seek counselling.
And then we have the moving joint article by tutor Brian Charlesworth and his student Lee Ferrigon about finding themselves in the same lecture room sharing an experience of being on starkly different sides of our shameful history of slavery: Brian as a representative of British colonial power, and Lee as a descendant of enslaved people. Apart from being an illuminating example of the power of apposite self-disclosure, their moment of meeting demonstrates the healing power of dialogue – of ‘talking about a taboo subject’, as Lee says. That is what counsellors need always have the courage to do.
The cover story continues our running theme on research – here, why we need to look beyond the randomised controlled trial and sterile so-called scientific research, and share the wealth of learning that our clients bring us in their stories.