What’s in a Name Counsellor?

A blog from one of our Counsellors.

A while ago I saw a trailer for a film called The Counsellor.  Apparently the counsellor in question is a hotshot lawyer, smart, ambitious and morally flexible, working for the drug-trafficking industry.  Not much like any of us at SBC, then.  As we already know from American TV shows, “counsellor” is an honorary title used in some countries for a courtroom lawyer, meaning, like the Godfather’s “consigliere”, someone who gives advice, or counsel.  This meaning persists in other uses of the word:  a counsellor can be an officer in the diplomatic service or someone who advises on debt and other problems.  The Queen has about 600 Privy Counsellors to advise her, mostly senior politicians.  People who sit on other types of council are councillors; known for debate and opinion, as well as advice.

As one of the counsellors at SBC, I worry sometimes that if I don’t fully identify with my title, neither will the people who come to us for help.  However clearly we explain that we do not give advice, or offer judgment or opinion, these ideas linger, implicitly, in the semantics.  Our professional body echoes this confusion.  We belong to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) which acknowledges a large overlap between the terms “counsellor” and “psychotherapist” and, in practice, treats the titles as interchangeable.   Couldn’t we all be one, or the other?  Part of the difficulty may stem from outdated generalizations that counsellors work for shorter periods and at less depth than psychotherapists, or have less training.

Currently, the Health & Care Professions Council regulates many other health-related roles like dietician and physiotherapist but anyone can style himself as a counsellor or a psychotherapist, whether trained or not.  The hybrid term “psychotherapeutic counselling” is defined by another professional body, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, by a detailed list of competencies that closely matches the way we work at SBC (Professional Occupational Standards, downloaded from www.psychotherapy.org.uk/ukcp_professional_occupational_standards ).

If “counsellor” can be ambiguous, “psychotherapist” is liable to be confused with similar sounding professions but, whereas “counselling” derives from a Latin root meaning advice, the origins of “psychotherapy” are in Greek words for healing and the soul.  The latter concept is much closer to what we counsellors aim for.

So, with all this confusion, what should we call ourselves and does it matter?  Anything that sets up uncertainty, or skews expectations, can be a barrier to trust in the all-important relationship we aim to establish with our clients.  Things being as they are, the safest approach is to be clear about what we do, and what we don’t do.  What we do is to offer a particular form of psychotherapy, which needs to be explained.  What we don’t do is to offer counsel or make life easy for gangsters.

Last Chance to Learn How To Survive Parenting!

Our Surviving Parenting Course starts next week:

Thursdays 12-2pm, 10 Week Course

Dates: 8th May – 17th July 2014. Half term 29th May.

This course will consider the difficulties, many of which are emotional, we face as parents. Are we good enough and what can we do better? Can a greater understanding of our own history prevent us from repeating patterns that are less than helpful? This ten week course is aimed at anyone who would like to explore their experience of being a parent in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. The course is aimed at parents of children of all ages, since we will be looking less at child development and how to manage various stages of a child’s life and more at the emotional demands of loving, caring for and guiding children.

For more info go to our parenting course page.

1 in 3 People Struggle to Cope at Work

An omnibus survey of 1,200 people across the UK by charity Depression Alliance has shown that a third of people struggle to cope at work because of depression, stress or burn out, with 83 per cent of those affected experiencing isolation or loneliness as a result. Only half of those feeling lonely or isolated had confided in a colleague, yet nearly three quarters (71 per cent) found that discussing their condition with a colleague helped them feel better.

The survey, published by Depression Alliance as part of Depression Awareness Week, reveals the high numbers of people affected by depression at work, and highlights the need for employers to take action to better recognise the condition and support affected staff.

Also launched today, a new report, “Depression in the Workplace in Europe: new insights from business leaders” highlights how several major UK companies including Royal Mail, Barclays and Unilever are tackling depression, by implementing new policies to enable structured support and processes for affected workers. www.targetdepression.com

According to Tim Munden, Vice President HR, Unilever UK, “At Unilever we firmly believe that addressing depression through our mental health policies benefits both our business and our employees. We aim for a 10% reduction by 2015 in work-related mental ill-health cases and working days lost to mental ill-health.”

Chief Executive of Depression Alliance, Emer O’Neill says, “Depression is the biggest mental health challenge among working-age people and often leads to considerable loneliness and isolation at work. However, many companies aren’t properly equipped to manage employees who suffer from depression so providing support to these individuals in the workplace is essential. We have just launched, Friends in Need, which provides anyone with depression with a free and easy way to connect, either online or by meeting in groups and taking part in local activities, all of which help stop the feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

The Charity for Civil Servants has partnered with the Depression Alliance to provide its own ‘Friends in Need’ community specifically for civil servants.

Judith Smith, Head of Help and Advisory Services at The Charity for Civil Servants says, “as well as providing advice and support, we recognised a clear need for people suffering with depression to share their experiences by talking online or meeting with each other. Our Friends in Need programme facilitates connections which makes a huge difference to people isolated and lonely due to depression.”

Depression Awareness Week, organised by Depression Alliance, takes place from 26th April – 3rd May 2014.  For more information go to www.depressionalliance.org