My apologies for no blog last week – I was at a conference and I thought I would write it on the 3hour train trip home, but as it happened I was too ill to write, and the moment passed.

This week, it seems to me to be relevant to write about counselling narrative arcs, as I’ve experienced it both as a client and as a therapist.


A few weeks ago I’d been talking about something fairly in-depth with my therapist and the week after when she came in, I made a comment that was completely unexpected to her and unrelated to my arc. She was visibly surprised and commented that whatever she had expected me to say, that was not it (and let’s face it; she’s heard some fairly unexpected things from me!). It absolutely wasn’t a problem, and was lovely to hear that I had been unexpected (as opposed to the poker-faced therapist, which she isn’t usually anyway).


But it made me think about my own client work. Clients often come with stories, and ongoing situations, and their ‘stuff’ is a continuation of the week before, or at least has relevance to it. Much like the time I learnt that you never make throw-away comments in the corridor in case it has relevance for a client, I do objectively know not to expect my clients to follow particular arcs. In practice however.. A few months ago, a client had an important interview coming up that she was worried about. I had wholly expected the session to be about that interview and how it had gone, and i ALMOST made a throwaway comment about it in the corridor (but decided not to). I was glad, because as we sat down and she started to talk, it became clear that given the multitude of other things that had happened to her that week, the interview was actually the lowest thing on her radar. In fact, as she opened her mouth and delivered her first sentence to me, I felt very much as I suspect my own therapist felt; I was not expecting THAT.


And you’ll wonder perhaps where the ‘hospitality’ comes in? It is a concept from Derrida. The law of hospitality is to ‘expect anything’ and I like that very much. Invite in what comes, and accept whatever that is. He says however that although that is all you need, that humans are good at overlaying that with ‘the laws of hospitality’. Those laws- things we ‘must/should’ do, detract from the LAW of hospitality.


I read this as a concept when I was researching for something else, and it strikes me that it sits very well with counselling and psychotherapy. Clearly here, I have let my laws of hospitality overwrite the law, and thus I almost subject my client to a less than hospitable welcome, so concerned am I with the laws of hospitality and ‘getting it right’.


Over the xmas break (haha – I have 25 undergraduate papers to mark and my own dissertation proposal to submit) I want to read more on Derrida and hospitality and see if I can get something published on it. Watch this space.


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