Before my friend went away he left me with the notion of writing about my experience of training in counselling and also how I saw my career progressing.
I laughed at the time in his ability to catch me when I had just come home, holding on to the last of my dreamy happy with so much challenge ahead of me, only to have my cage rattled as he flew past on his little cloud into the sunshine for fun and frolics.
Couldn’t help but laugh. And the contrast in where my decisions in trying to follow my heart had taken me in comparison to theirs. The never ending evidence of those with money always landing on their feet.
No matter what choices they make they always come out ok.
It’s just a fact of life.
I found myself not much wanting to write about it. I know what it looked like and how my journey going forward will compare to others. Of course I know. It irritates the hell out of me in its limitations that have no bearing on ability.
But there feels like a wasted energy in getting really angry with it. Much better to work really hard and throw my energy into what I can do and be the best I can be than moaning about the unfairness. What would that achieve. Fuck all in my experience. I think I did it a lot as an angry teenager who felt short changed.
But as I’ve started with this thought I may as well give it a little context. At some point I will revisit it when I can write about it in a much more measured, rational and less emotional way as it demands. But for now I will give a tiny slice of the uncut, unpalatable and uncensored version where the emotions of life and rawness of experience are at play.
I am a person who has always hated what money represents in this world. Greedy people who never want to share what they have because they need to be better. There’s enough money and resources in this world for everyone. But that would mean accepting that we are all equal and have the same worth. Something that we humans struggle to create. I’m not sitting on the right of good. I question my part in this all the time. I am better off financially than many others. What do I give?
But to have found it in all its glory in a world that is about helping people who are more vulnerable, does make me annoyed.
There is a big part of me that finds myself thinking if this is how it is then perhaps I would rather work in the upfront world of “The Wolf of Wall Street” where that lust for and abuse of money is shown in all its shameless hedonistic decadence.
It’s bold as brass, right where you can see it in all its honesty, saying, “This is what it is. So what!”
But in the world of therapy it is hidden behind a facade of caring, nonjudgemental and inclusive. However the machine that turns it is anything but inclusive.
Money education and status is what talks in this world unless you look at grass roots level where you will of course find many a believer in more. And of course the optimist in me hopes that there are people who have risen that haven’t yet forgotten their roots either.
Race is right up there when we look at the immediate inequalities in counselling. In London there are more white middle class female counsellors. Fact!
How those conversations about race and colour were completely stunted, uncomfortable, avoided. I’m white. I don’t know what it feels like to not be, unless you tell me. Explain to me the intricacies of what those inequalities look like for you and educate me in what you want me to understand. But you have to have a trusting space to do that. Im not sure that room provided that. And then sitting behind that as the invisible cousin was class. Well that doesn’t even exist does it. Was I the closest thing to the “chav” in the room? That most beautiful of phrases we now use that was previously referred to as common but now has a slightly meaner and more derogatory edge to it. “Those ignorant and uneducated people” I think I heard quite a few times in political conversations.
uneducated (formally) was one of the boxes I sat in. Ignorant .. aren’t we all in what we don’t know or understand. But fitting me to a stereotype of being a white working class woman is the same as me putting all middle class white women in a box. I saw different versions of what that looked like. The hearts that sat underneath everyone played a huge role for me.
And what it you put the two together (race and class) suddenly you find yourself in even deeper water. I wonder how the journey may have differed for the only Asian male in the room if he had also been working class. His financial security, education and status found him a connection to some, who found it harder to relate to me, despite the fact that on the surface they looked more like me but in fact our worlds were oceans apart.
This profession as with many others is geared up to a particular section of society who will prosper within it.
Perhaps they are better at it? I guess you would have to sit me in a room with them as a client to really know.
Or is it in fact that they are the people that have the time and money to do it? Believe me counselling training is bloody expensive and time consuming especially when you throw in your own therapy , supervision, voluntary time in working with clients etc etc. It broke my bank and I was completely exhausted. It left me hugely in debt for my side of the mess. My choice. I wanted to do it but it could not have been any more difficult.
The fact is that there is a particular section that has the means to be part of this machine And while it continues to work in that way as with all education, it’s only natural that the same types will rise.
I sound like I’m being harsh. In fact I am just being very real and honest. And Im also remembering just how unforgivingly that class could pull apart clients in case studies as though they were lesser in not being able to sort out their lives. It’s so easy when you know how. But what about when you look beyond what the presenting issues are and see what surrounds their life and the inequalities and lack of choices that may form part of their world It’s a little less easy to provide a 3 step approach to making their life what it should just because they are now aware. Awareness is one thing… having the means to change it is where it gets more complicated.
I found that Judgement was everywhere and it took my breath away.
In this world where money talks it also listens. I fear by shouting that out it may sound like bitter but in fact it is coming from a place of sad. Because there are people I come across all the time that I think would make amazing counsellors. Often clients actually. But won’t necessarily have the means within the confines of their lives to embark down this route. I know I struggled. Like all things in life it isn’t geared up for the many. I know this because I was one of them. And in that room in showed itself in the haves and have nots with education, money and status being the main players in who was heard or who was considered powerful and strong.
When I went to a taster art therapy class recently I found myself in a much bigger room of people who were again nothing like me. It made me see that to rise in this profession means i have to become part of their world and yet It is missing so many valuable elements that I treasure and are more evident in mine and others worlds that are different to the massive. Is there room for those in this apparent world of “inclusivity” if there is I’m not sure I’ve seen it yet but I will keep looking.
When I first started I read something in a paragraph of Carl Rogers work which was about the fact that anyone could do this job. That if you had real care and a genuineness in wanting to help others and had those unteachable qualities of empathy, non judgment and congruence then no amount of formal training mattered.
Oh Carl! How naive you were. Just like most things in this life which messes with the hierarchy, your therapy was regularly discredited in my class
Because if it really did work and anyone could do it, then what would be the need in that money making machine
As Jordan Belford would say “sell it to me”
It’s a little like telling me that god is all around me but if I don’t go to church then I won’t make it into heaven.
It’s the man made part that I struggle with.
Believing in something more? .. I actually need very little convincing in that.