In this issue
Young people: not straight, not narrow (free article)
As more young adults choose to define their sexuality and gender identity across a broader spectrum, Neil Young explores this significant social change
Creating a connection
Sarah Worley-James discusses how to establish an effective online therapeutic relationship most effectively through the written word
If you teach a man to fish, he needs to know how to mend the net…
Does staff engagement have to interfere with the primary purpose of student-led peer support? On the contrary, it’s empowering and vital, asserts Ralph Armstrong-Astley
Counsellors and the culture of organisations
The organisational context in which counselling takes place can have a major influence on therapeutic practice, explains Peter Jenkins
Fear of the shameful failure
Charmian Beer considers how, within the success-driven culture of HE, resulting anxiety can pass from client to counsellor and enter the supervisory space
The wonder of student counselling
Reconnecting with a sense of wonder enables client and counsellor to know each other differently and it can potentially bring about transformation in the therapeutic relationship, says Paula Seth
Notes from FE
Notes from the chair
Notes from HUCS
From the editor
In this issue, our contributors help us to think about the impact of culture on our work. It’s not so long ago that counsellors felt the general stigma associated with being seen by a therapist was enough to put many people off from contacting us for the help they needed. Nowadays, the culture has changed to the extent that some observers believe we are living in a ‘therapeutic culture’ where a wide range of previously self-managed concerns are felt to need professional support. In our services, demand continues to rise year-on-year, lending credence to the notion that any stigma associated with discussing emotional issues is disappearing fast.
As someone once said: fish don’t know what water is. So other changes in culture are not always easy to identify, until someone points them out. Peter Jenkins writes about the culture of work and organisations, and helps us to understand how and why some of the pinch points in our communications with our employing institutions arise – the hidden expectations that lead to differing values and priorities. Peter gives us tools with which to appreciate how the values of an in-house counselling service, compared with those of a large educational establishment, may differ quite profoundly, creating mutual misunderstandings and even suspicions about intention and integrity.
Shining a light onto a different aspect of culture, Neil Young takes us on a journey into the fast-changing world of sexualities and gender identities. Challenge to the hitherto norms of sexual and gender identity is now mainstream, and young people in particular are comfortable questioning the assumptions and shibboleths of former generations’ attitudes. Openness, a willingness to be challenged, and a concern to enter into our clients’ worlds and subcultures, are ongoing needs in our work.
Sometimes, the pull of the cultures we find ourselves among can seem to take us away from the values we espoused during our training, or our early career. The sheer volume of work, the increase in administrative tasks, the move to short-term working – all can leave us feeling that we are processing clients, rather than being alongside them in a meaningful way. Paula Seth calls us to remember the importance of wonder – powerful moments of surprising insight and awareness that take us beyond our natural understandings and assumptions to a shared new space with our clients. In workplaces, with our policies and procedures all carefully worded to demonstrate professionalism, have we left space for the elements of curiosity and awe that may, from time to time, enrich our endeavours with clients?
None of us exist outside of a network of cultures, all intersecting and exerting their influences in different but powerful ways. Expanding our awareness of these drivers of behaviour and emotion is a key part of our work together.
David Mair firstname.lastname@example.org