Today I had a decision to make – my daytime work is filming something that I am a part of that will end up on youtube. I had to decide what top to wear. This got me thinking: self-disclosure is a tricky beast, where it’s generally agreed that some self-disclosure might be ok, if it benefits the client, but other self-disclosure is not ok, where it might not. Although having said that, there will inevitably be times where we self-disclose to benefit a client, when this doesn’t help, or choose not to disclose when it might have helped.
But disclosure is in the ‘life’ disclosures that we do or do not make. And it’s here where I see people often reply with a ‘why would you need to do that?’. Generally this comes from a person in a majority – so I am questioned for example, being open about my sexuality with clients, by a person who is not of a minority sexuality, yet who has no issue wearing a wedding ring. In this instance, it’s assumed that the person asking ‘why’ is straight. They have already been saved the issue of disclosure by virtue of the fact that it’s just assumed by society.
There are other disclosures to be made as well however. All too often these are also based on ‘norms’. I would not be surprised to hear myself told that it is not always appropriate to disclose to my clients that I have a mental ill-health history. However, what I then need to know is if I can wear long sleeves always (as a result of that mental health history I have extensive scarring on my arms). If not, what happens to the person-centred principle of therapist congruence, where my client can see that I am (for example) uncomfortable in the heat, but for some (unknown to them) reason am not wearing short sleeve/rolling my sleeves up? Should I be free to wear short sleeves and no cardigan into my office? If not – why not?
We make other disclosures all of the time, based on our speech, our clothing style, and it would be daft to assume that we do not. But still, there definitely seem to be ‘sanctioned’ disclosures that we should or should not make, based on what society (or counsellors?) as a whole have decided are ok. Whilst I don’t think that our place as therapists is to tell our clients our life stories, I do think we need to be aware of the fact that we self-disclose all of the time, and this isn’t avoidable. Sometimes I think that we should actively embrace this and yes, whilst a conversation might be interesting to have around the client-asked question (why is this important to know?).
As trainees, we get told a lot about what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing. I’ve been told that ANY self-disclosure is wrong, and also, that the right amount of self-disclosure for the right reason at the right time is ok. Both by qualified counsellors (the second one by Fred my supervisor. I’ll take his judgement on this issue). I think that what we need to be aware of most is a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a question, and I also think that we need to have thought through issues such as self-disclosure before we are faced with it, so that we have some idea on what we might do/how we might react. For me it feels akin to a shame reaction: society dictates the norm, and those who operate within it do not have to ‘out’ themselves. For those of us who wish to out ourselves as NOT being part of the norm, suddenly, we must justify our responses: ‘why would you want to tell someone you were a lesbian?’ ‘why would you want to let someone know you used to self-injure?’. It’s not a question for me of ‘want to’; it just is. I can never remove those parts of me and they are present in the room as I am. Do I want to make those explicit at times? Absolutely.
- Let’s Just Be Real. Let’s Be Ourselves (wonderfultips.wordpress.com)
- Between Therapist and Client: The Great Divide (psychologytoday.com)
- Making Decisions about Therapist Self-Disclosure (drkathleenyoung.wordpress.com)
- Boundaries and Clients: Considerations for Clients (drrhondasutton.wordpress.com)
- The flip side of disclosures (mixedbrewblog.wordpress.com)
- Self-Disclosure: Too Much, Too Little, Just Right? Are You an Open or Closed Book? (psycentral.wordpress.com)
Memberships(and what you get)
As a trainee, you probably have to join some kind of association (trainees lucky enough to get a placement with a BACP organisational membership may not have to, which might save you some pounds. But for those who do: The two main ones are UKCP and BACP. You won’t need me to tell you that. Whilst anyone in training can join BACP as a student/trainee, unless you’re on a UKCP course, you can’t join UKCP except as an ‘affiliate’ member. Aside from those two, there are a number of other groups that might be useful to join/be aware of 🙂 Starting with the two ‘recommended’ ones:
- UKCP: Trainee membership costs you £67 annually(student membership, which you can only have until you see clients is £37), and for that you can get cheap insurance (from £10 a year). You also get a regular magazine: The PSychotherapist, with a cross-modal focus (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything directly ‘person-centred’-related in it, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
- BACP: Student membership is £74 and is designed to be the same whether you are seeing clients or not. For that, you receive a regular magazine: Therapy Today – parts of which you can view free online. You also get free electronic access to their research journal: Counselling and Psychotherapy Research (link goes to the free copy). You also get discounted entry to the various events that they organise.
- ADPCA: Association for the development of the person-centred approach are a person-centred organisation. Their student membership is $15/£10, and their standard membership is $30/£20. For that you get their Person-centred journal once a year, and their newsletter. You also get discounted rates to the bi-annual conference, which is often in USA
- BAPCA British association for the person-centred approach are a UK person-centred organisation. Student membership is £45/year, although it doesn’t say it on the main page – it does when you click through. For that you get a regular BAPCA newsletter, and a paper copy of PCEP journal (link goes to free copy). If you want electronic access, you can pay an extra £17/year to upgrade to it. You also get discounted rates for the bi-annual conference, often held in the Midlands (UK).
- WAPCEPC World association for person centered and experiential psychotherapy and counseling are (as the name says) an international membership organisation. Student membership is 30 euros/£25, or if you are a BAPCA member, 20 euros/£16.50. For this you get electronic access to PCEP, a newsletter 3x a year and a 50 euro/£41 reduction on the PCE conference price. The conference is held at various international locations bi-annually on opposite years to the BAPCA conference.
- ACC Association of christian counsellors are a multi-modal group (not just person-centred). Student membership is £35. For this you get a magazine four times a year
- BAATN Black and Asian therapists’ network are also multi-modal. Student membership is £20 and for this you get a newsletter (and the chance to advertise in it if you wish) and access to student support groups. There is also a member’s area online and an annual conference, that you will get a 10% reduction on.
- PCSR Psychotherapists and counsellors for social responsibility is for anyone (therapist or not) who has an interest in politics or social responsibility. Student rate is £30/year and for this you get online access to the journal Psychotherapy and politics international and also the association’s own in-house magazine. You can however, join the website and take part in online conversations for free.
- Pink Therapy is a FREE organisation that is the largest independent organisation working with sexual and gender diversity clients. They have a regular newsletter and a facebook group. As well as this, they put on an annual conference with a general theme of gender, sexual or relationship diversity (2014 conference was Trans*, 2013 was lesbian) with discounts available to students.
Are there any I’ve missed?
- PCSR – Taboo Conference (eugenebaatn.wordpress.com)
- Working with Shame and Identity (creativityfromwithin.wordpress.com)
- conference-going (traineetherapist.wordpress.com)
I went to a conference this weekend (Emerging trans* run by @pinktherapyUK for those who want to know and I’d recommend pinktherapy conferences to anyone – they aim to explore the full diversity of human sexual/relationship/gender/sexual diversity experience that we might encounter as therapists).
It can be a daunting thing to do as a trainee – last summer as a first year, I went to the BAPCA conference. I wasn’t going to go to the BAPCA one – it was expensive, and I was a student. I was worried that I would be out of my depth. But when i looked at the site, they had bursaries available and on a whim, I applied for one. They gave it to me. I was nothing short of amazed, and then of course, I had to go – someone else had paid for me.
What both of the conferences (with their very different themes) had in common was just how friendly they were. At the BAPCA conference I didn’t have a ‘trainee therapist’ label, (at the trans* conference I could choose to give myself a label and i chose that one), but I felt free to speak as myself, as a trainee, and give my own experiences, which were well-received and I was treated with kindness throughout. It was the same experience this weekend; I was much less daunted, and much more secure (in part because I do have actual clients, and some of them have fallen into the category that was the theme for the conference – hence the interest!).
As a trainee who pays out a horrendous amount each month for my training, the conference was on the high side for me, but the experience of the first conference taught me that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and so I asked if there was any way/concession for volunteers. Dominic kindly accepted me as a volunteer, and for half-price entry, all I needed to do at the weekend was to sell Pink Therapy’s 5GB memory sticks loaded with 400+ papers covering a range of sexual diversities (including LGBT, non-monogamy, BDSM and asexuality) to anyone who asked me for one. It wasn’t arduous – I have the memory stick already and have found it an invaluable resource. I got to see all of the seminars and missed nothing, whilst at the same time, having a great opportunity to talk to people from a variety of backgrounds about our shared trans-related interests, amongst other things.
People at conferences all seem to remember very well that they were trainees once, and they were absolutely kind. Both at this conference and at the BAPCA conference, I was able to meet people who had written text books that I own (in some cases my core texts) and have conversations with them ‘just like they were anyone else!’ (to quote myself last summer).
This summer is the ADPCA conference in Nottingham. I’m going. I also applied for one of the bursaries for that, and was successful. There is a pre-conference day, and then the conference itself. I shall be there for the pre-conference day, and the first full day of the conference, as it is my last training weekend of the year. Whilst sad that I will not get to attend all of it, I’m very grateful for the chance to attend those bits, and this time, I won’t be feeling so out of place as a student, as essentially, I know I’m guaranteed a warm welcome.
For anyone who wants to know what sorts of things happened at the BAPCA conference, check out the Online Events webpage. They filmed most, if not all of the keynotes from people like Gillian Proctor, Art Bohart, Stephen Joseph and Peter Schmid to name a few, and all of them are available in their library free to students. They have much more available than this and their library is well-worth a look.
Some of the other trainees I met at the BAPCA conference last year will be going to the ADPCA conference this year (the BAPCA conference will be on again in 2015 and I hope to be presenting – if you want to go, start looking out early for bursaries!), and we have – those of us still in contact – decided that we will meet and have dinner after the conference one night. If you’re a trainee and you want to join us, let me know!
- The Person Centred Approach – Keynote Presentations 2013 (ensoucounselling.wordpress.com)
- How we got shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards (pinktherapyblog.com)
I have an essay due. I’ve sort of written it, but it is, for me, contentious. I am arguing against, or maybe for (I’ve talked myself into and out of my arguments a couple of times) something generally accepted without critical evaluation. I’m not going to go into the argument itself right now, but in order to help support my argument I am opening with a case study that is extreme and confronting.
And then in my head, i think ‘what if it’s too radical?’ and that’s immediately followed by the thought ‘if I can’t be a radical as a student, when CAN i be a radical?’ which again is followed by ‘I don’t want to fail my essay!’ But then I decided that as long as I hit my ‘aims’ (I really should double-check those!) I *should* in theory be able to write an essay as radical as I wish.
It reminds me of when I was an undergraduate. In my final-year abnormal psychology exam, we had a question about ‘borderline personality’ as a diagnosis. It spoke to my inner feminist, and my entire essay was about the overdiagnosis in women as a method of ‘taming’ them, when the same symptoms in men are accepted as entirely standard in men. I then went off into a segue into schizophrenia diagnoses and race (leaving aside the issue of diagnosis in the first place). It was all referenced and sourced, and apparently, something went right in that exam – I came out with a mark in the high 80s. It was a risk for me, although I’m sure that it was not the most radical essay my professors had ever seen, just like I’m sure that this essay (which will also be wonderfully referenced) won’t be the most radical my tutors have ever seen. It will however, be one of the best-referenced essays ever, so that no-one can say ‘where’s your evidence?’.
But still, it’s a risk. I don’t always get the marks I’d like to get, and in many ways, that speaks to me of being more cautious. But again – if you can’t be a radical when you’re a student, when can you be a radical? Rogers was a radical. We have a whole therapy system based on his then-radical ideas. If he was a ‘run of the mill’ thinker, I’d be studying some other type of therapy (and whilst in many ways that would be great, I kind of like this one a lot!). My point is – be a radical. You are only a student on your course once. If things speak to you, SAY them. As long as you can back up your argument, it doesnt matter if other people think you’re wrong. And you’ll learn something. I know I am. I found a lovely bit of Rogers that I would not have otherwise found, and thus, whatever my tutors think of this essay, I have expanded my knowledge.
Rogers was a radical, and so am I trying to be.
I’ll let you know if it passes.
- Carl Rogers on relationships/counselling (thesilentangels.wordpress.com)
- Client-Centered Therapy, Student-Centered Learning and User-Centered Design (gumption.typepad.com)
- Counselling Issues (liferesolutionswollongong.com)
- Teaching Argumentative (Persuasive) Writing (rightfulwriter.wordpress.com)