chapter  12
21 Pages

An exploration of counselling identity in counsellors who deal with trauma

BySELWYN BLACK, PETER WEINREICH

Counsellors bring the instrument of themselves into the therapeutic setting. ‘To every therapy session we bring our human qualities and the experiences that have influenced us most. . . . this human dimension is one of the most powerful determinants of the therapeutic encounter that we have with clients’ (Corey, 1996: 15). In bringing the instrument of self before clients, counsellors bring the living models of who they are alongside the continual struggle to live up to their aspirations. Indeed, there is a sense where the counsellor becomes the instrument rather than using instruments and counselling techniques. This process has been described as ‘the infusing of self’ into therapy (Skovholt and Rønnestad, 1995: 81). This research explores some of the ways in which counsellors reconstruct their identity when, in the aftermath of a traumatic event, they are exposed to the trauma of their clients. In the wake of dealing with clients’ trauma, counsellors can experience ‘disruptions in their schemas about self and world’ (McCann and Pearlman, 1990: 138), and through the resultant increased stress, face distancing in both personal and professional relationships (Dutton and Rubinstein, 1995).