We looked at the issue of moral judgement in counselling and learning how to say things in ways that are not morally loaded, that do not blame the client, nor lead the client into saying things either simply to please or defy the counsellor.
There are times when one can discuss the moral aspect but must do so from an empathic, heart to heart, position, not in the manner of talking down to the client. In any case, the client is probably already fully aware of how the people around him think about things and about his behaviour. This may be a problem for him, but it is unlikely to be the case that he simply needs to be told to change his ways.
Inasmuch as the counsellor tries to maintain a safe position and be always right there will be a lack of spontaneity. This will make the client hesitate and tend to avoid looking at some things and deal with others in a stereotypical way. This may lead to the counsellor and client seeming to agree, but it is superficial. More important things are happening at a deeper level and the counsellor can easily miss them entirely.
We all have ideas about what we should not do and most of those things we do do sometimes. When we do them, we justify it - we have reasons. When the client does things, the counsellor is interested in the real reasons. It is the inner process of the client that is worth investigating.
The issue that is presented may only be the tip of the iceberg. It may simply be a way to start talking. The counsellor does not know what might be found later. If we get stuck in making a moral judgement about the presenting issue we may never get to the important matter behind it.
In pairs, giving immediate, spontaneous response to words said by partner, back and forth, until hitting a block or hesitation.
Examining the points that made one hesitate. Discussing, in general, what has this paralysing effect.
Exercise in completing or carrying on a phrase spoken by partner, back and forth, generating a small story or description. Then discussing the significance of the phrases chosen in relation to self and/or the emerging relationship.
Brief (4 minute) counselling sessions in groups, practising getting in quickly, getting engaged with the client in an immediate, spontaneous way. Then feedback discussions.
We did some free movement exercises.
Exercises like this are a kind of play. We need to loosen ourselves up and be able to play. Living in modern society can feel like being in a strait jacket. Our lives are increasingly public and our basic animal nature is more and more confined. We find relief from this in our families or with friends, but not everybody has suitable companions. Also, we are all carrying wounds. We all have bits of bitterness from all the little injuries that it is normal to suffer in the course of growing up. The baby does not always get fed or changed when needed. The child is surrounded by adults who are more powerful and do not always act in fair ways. At puberty we encounter all the difficulties of trying to break away from parental control and encountering people of the other sex, with all the attractions, rejections and experiments that it involves. Thus even somebody who has had a “good upbringing” has scars and for some people much worse. Realising that this is so in our own case we can have fellow feeling for others.
The Buddha is all accepting. Shakyamuni Buddha was amazingly accepting. We think of the stories of his encounters with Ajatashattru after the latter had killed the Buddha’s friend and patron Bimbisara. The Buddha still has sympathy and respect for this man who has killed his friend. This is great acceptance. Although, perhaps, we cannot offer the same degree of great acceptance as Buddha, still it is a worthy ideal and the counselling space can be a place where a client can find safety and tenderness even when looking at painful, shameful, bitter or terrible things from life.
Working in threes - counsellor, client, observer - doing longer (30 minute) sessions, integrating the active approach that has been practised earlier in the day.
The main topics we have concentrated on today have been
- avoiding moral judgement and morally loaded language
- spontaneity and free association: ideas, images, feelings
- rapid engagement with the client and sustaining high energy interaction
we can each reflect upon where we need to improve or practice or experiment so that we can make maximum use of the exercises in the remainder of the course.