067 – Difference and Diversity in Counselling

067 – Difference and Diversity in Counselling – Recognising Own Transference – Writing a Reflective Journal for Submission

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In episode 67 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes talk about difference and diversity in counselling. ‘Practice Matters’ focuses on how you, as counsellor, can recognise when you are experiencing transference relating to a client. Finally, the presenters discuss writing a reflective journal when this needs to be submitted to your tutor.

Difference and Diversity in Counselling (starts at 2.04 mins)

Differences between people can be hidden or visible. Examples of areas of difference and diversity include gender, faith position, ethnic origin, sexuality and disability.

In counselling, the key thing is not to make assumptions about the client either based on just parts of their lives or because you are applying your own frame of reference. We need to see people as their whole selves – i.e. as fellow human beings – not as either stereotypes or as constructions based on our own views.

Our frame of reference is inevitably influenced by many factors, e.g. our culture, upbringing, family set-up, political stance, personal values and educational background. Counselling training helps us become more self-aware so that we don’t unknowingly project our views onto clients.

Recognising Own Transference (starts at 9.53 mins)

Rory opens ‘Practice Matters’ by describing the example of a counselling student who is feeling frightened of a client, even though the latter has done nothing to bring about this feeling. After talking this through at length with Rory, the student suddenly realises that the scent that the client is wearing is the same as one worn in the past by an abusive partner.

Transference happens when someone reminds us of a person from the past, and we transfer emotions relating to the past relationship onto the current relationship. Because it is often a subconscious process, it can be hard to spot. Your supervisor is a key ally in identifying transference.

Rory gives some clues as to when transference may be causing problems in the therapeutic relationship:

  • It is hard to focus on your client: you feel distracted during the session.
  • You are unable to get into the client’s frame of reference.
  • You experience feelings that don’t relate to the client’s themes and emotions.
  • You dislike – or over-like – the client for no clear reason.
  • The client is in your thoughts between sessions for no clear reason.
  • You feel an urgency to help the client more than you do for other clients.
  • You want to refer the client for no clear reason.


Writing a Reflective Journal for Submission (starts at 19.57 mins)

Students on counselling courses are often expected to keep a reflective journal – this is important in mapping your personal-development journey. Often, these are just for your own eyes – but what if your course requires that you submit your journal?

In this case, it is important to check the criteria, so you can ensure that your meet these. Once you understand these, do consider how much you wish to reveal in your journal. While it is good to challenge yourself and not always just to stick with what is completely comfortable, it is important that you don’t expose yourself more than feels right for you. Similarly, it may be best to think about what you are sharing about your peers, asking yourself whether material is truly yours to share.

After all, counselling training is about learning how to behave professionally towards clients. A good counsellor would neither force a client to reveal more than they wished, or reveal confidential things about other people. Rory quotes the example of John Shlien, who worked with Carl Rogers, In his book, To Lead an Honorable Life (PCCS Books, 2003: 1), Shlien spoke of visiting a poppy field to watch the flowers open in the sun, observing that he could force the petals open in an effort to speed up the process, but that doing so inevitably damaged the beautiful flower within. In other words, people must be allowed to open safely in their own good time.

If you do need to submit a reflective journal, there is nothing to stop you keeping a separate one for your own private use, where you can be fully open.