147 – Power Dynamics in Counselling

147 - Power Dynamics in Counselling

Issuing of Qualifications - Maintaining Professional Motivation

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In episode 147 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes talk about the power dynamics in the counselling relationship. 'Check-In with CPCAB' then explores how counselling qualifications are issued. Last, in 'Practice Matters', Ken and Rory discuss how to maintain professional motivation, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Power Dynamics in Counselling (starts at 1.50 mins)

The historical beginnings of psychotherapy - in the psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud - portrayed the practitioner as an expert and so placed them in a position of greater power than the 'analysand' (client).

Since then, however, the nature of therapy has changed greatly, so that client autonomy is now seen is a vital part of therapy in all modalities.

In the power dynamics in counselling, it is possible that clients (especially those who are not yet familiar with how counselling works) may expect their therapist to provide expertise and advice to them.

This expectation may be fuelled by transference - for example, if the therapist reminds the client of a figure of authority from their past.

As counsellors, we have a responsibility to encourage exploration of any such perceptions, and to encourage clients to trust that they themselves can find their own solutions to life difficulties.

Part of this approach involves working to equalise power where possible. For example, we seek to ensure that both the client and the counsellor have a seat of the same or similar type and height.

However, there are some areas in which it is impossible to fully equalise power, for example:

  • it is the client who comes to us with a difficulty
  • it may be us who sets the time and location of the session
  • there are legal requirements for us to break confidentiality in certain situations.

All these aspects of counselling increase our power and reduce the client\'s. What matters is being aware of the power dynamics in counselling, and doing what we can to equalise power where possible, in the service of our clients.

Rory provides an example of where power can be used positively by therapists: maintaining session boundaries (e.g. finishing at the originally scheduled end time, even when a client has arrived late) can be helpfully stabilising for clients.

Check-In with CPCAB: Issuing of Qualifications (starts at 15.50 mins)

Rory talks to Heather Price (Senior Counselling Professional) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) about how qualifications are issued.

As a student of counselling and psychotherapy, your contract is with your centre (i.e. your training provider, such as a college).

Meanwhile, your centre has a contract with the awarding body (e.g. CPCAB) - though universities are able to act as their own awarding bodies. Thus, if you have any questions about your qualification, it should be your college rather than CPCAB that you approach.

To gain your counselling qualification, it is necessary to satisfactorily complete both your internal and external assessments.

The internal assessment takes the form of a portfolio of work, while the external assessment for CPCAB is an exam.

Once you have passed both elements of the assessment, CPCAB will then issue your certificate, which it sends to your course provider to pass on to you.

Rory and Heather discuss what happens if a student has not completed all their work by the end of the course. This is more likely to happen at level 4 and beyond than it is at levels 2 and 3, since the practitioner levels require the completion of placement hours.

Tutors can contact CPCAB to request extensions on behalf of students, but only when there are genuine extenuating circumstances. Extensions are time-limited.

As a student, you have a responsibility to try your best to keep on top of your work - and to communicate at an early stage with your tutor if this becomes impossible.

You can find more information about CPCAB on its website. CPCAB is the UK's only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.

Maintaining Professional Motivation (starts at 29.35 mins)

Ken reflects that he - perhaps like many of us - entered the COVID-19 lockdown period with lots of good intentions about all he would achieve, but the reality can be that doing so is challenging when we have to rely on ourselves for motivation.

The usual daily routines are gone, and we must find our own daily structure and drive to keep working towards our goals.

If you do find yourself with more time during this period, it does offer opportunities for boosting our self-care, CPD and networking - all within the social-distancing requirements, of course.

Why not have a look around at what online CPD options are available?

At Counselling Tutor, we are pleased to offer you Counsellor CPD, a brand-new service aimed at qualified counsellors.

In Counsellor CPD, we have over 150 hours of formal lectures, all linked to learning outcomes, delivered by experts in the field and with CPD certificates available.

Online networking could take the form of talking online to peers from your in-person study groups - or you may like to visit the Counselling Tutor Facebook group, where you can ask questions and discuss relevant issues with over 30,000 other students, qualified counsellors, supervisors and tutors.