How much do we need to know about our counsellors?
I have often thought long and hard about the power dynamic in a therapeutic relationship. Clients arrive and think I am the 'expert', but am I? Surely, you are the expert about you? It is my 'job' to give you the opportunity to explore more about yourself. But how much would you like to know about your counsellor? Would this information enhance your experience?
When you arrive for your first session feeling nervous and anxious - the emotions you have been fighting are building up to bursting point - if you knew your counsellor had, as part of their course or because they chose to, undertaken lengthy personal counselling, would this help?
I believe it would for two main reasons - firstly, the aforementioned power dynamic. This information would show the counsellor, for whatever reason, has needed to seek a safe space to explore his or her issues, therefore, he/she trusts the process and feels it has enabled them to move on in their lives. It would put both counsellor and client on an even footing, making the space more comfortable, more conducive to working together. Secondly, there is still an issue with the stigma surrounding mental health. Admittedly, there has been much coverage in the press about seeking help, having time to talk, and being able to admit you need help without being judged. Many in the field are trying to bring mental health up to the same consideration as physical health. If you knew your counsellor had sought assistance for a mental health issue, would this help alleviate any stigma? Or is the silence surrounding mental health issues being strengthened because counsellors remain quiet on the subject?
There has to be a consideration for the client's safety - too much information could lead to a problematic working relationship; but a little may go some way to building up the trust between the client and the counsellor. It also shows the process in a positive light, for those of you old enough to remember Victor Kiam who produced an advert for Remington shaver - he liked it so much, he bought the company - it's a bit like that for many of us, we believed in it so much that we trained in the field.
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About Jayne Booth
I am a UKCP registered member, with a BSc (Hons) in Integrative Counselling. I have a private practice in Norwich. I am experienced and work with a vast range of issues, but particularly trauma including domestic abuse and child abuse. I also work with clients on the Autistic Spectrum including Asperger's Syndrome.