Working with Difference Considerations for Counsellors and Psychotherapists An Introduction to Counselling and Psychotherapy: From Theory to Practice Sexual Orientation • Based on the work of Pixton (2003), it is important that counsellors and psychotherapists: • Communicate clearly, both verbally and in all written and online client material, a non-pathologising view of sexual orientation • The therapist facilitates a safe space for an exploration of sexual orientation, where appropriate • The therapist takes active steps to increase their awareness of issues around sexuality, to then increase competency • The therapist holds, and communicates, an holistic view of human sexuality, rather than only viewing sexuality in terms of discrete ‘labels’ • Are willing in their own reflective space to consider issues regarding sexuality in relation to themselves. Pixton, S. (2003) ‘Experiencing gay affirmative therapy: an exploration of clients’ views of what is helpful’, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 3 (3): 211–15. Gender • Bring gender awareness into counselling and psychotherapy might include: • Wherever possible (and appropriate), ensuring publicity and information is written in a gender-neutral way • Where possible, offer access to female and male therapists • Ensuring access to service is equitable and available to all • To ensure that therapists reflect on gender in their work • To explore gender in supervision • That no ‘one way of being’ is privileged above another (e.g., different communication styles are acknowledged) • To reflect on client experience in relation to gender roles • To critically reflect on gender roles and socialisation • To be open to an exploration of gender, if client-led. Faith and Spirituality • Based on the work of Gubi (2009), for counsellors and psychotherapists to: • Ensure any faith-based exploration is client-led • If used at all, interventions should be informed by faith, not driven by faith • Ensuring clients are able to ‘move away’ from any faith-based exploration, when/if they are ready to do so • Acknowledging how culture might shape explorations of faith and spirituality • Any exploration of faith and spirituality is defined by the client’s experience, and not the therapist’s • Ensuring any discussion about faith is bridged back to the client’s original aims of attending for therapy • Using supervision to explore issues of faith and spirituality. Gubi, P. (2009) ‘A qualitative exploration into how the use of prayer in counselling and psychotherapy might be ethically problematic’, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 9 (2): 115–21. Culture • Consider any preconceptions you might hold about a client’s culture • Recognise individual difference, particularly within same cultural groups • Consider how the sociocultural location of therapy might inform the nature of therapy itself • Consider differences in how key aspects of experience (e.g., mental health, distress, communication, understanding of therapy, ‘self and community’), will shape therapy • Acknowledge that power, privilege and racism have the potential to be present in all therapy interactions • Be open to learning, all the time • Use supervision to explore issues of culture. Disability • Based on the work of Henry (2007), counsellors and psychotherapists should: • Not make assumptions about particular disabilities, or the implications they might have for a client’s needs • Ask whether help is needed, rather than simply doing something we think might help • Talk directly to the person, and not the relatives or carers • Use usual dialogue rather than adapting it, unless asked to do so • Avoid euphemisms for disabilities, rather be led by the client’s narrative of themselves • Use ‘people-first’ language (e.g., people with a visual impairment) • Be sensitive to personal space and access. Henry, S.L. (2007) ‘Interacting with people with disabilities’, Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design. Madison, WI: ET\Lawton. Retrieved from www.uiaccesscom/accessucd/interact.html (accessed 6 June 2012).