My recent letter published in Eisteach the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal December 2016. On reflection of reading this article, fundamentally it is not us that decide but the client, on what we will focus. You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink, seems to be the appropriate phrase to highlight my point.
Regarding the question of whether we call ourselves a counsellor or psychotherapist? At the recent IACP/ACA conference, a keynote speaker suggested that we should be clear on our role, not one for holding back on questions I asked: “What in their view, was the difference?”. She did not address the question directly but threw it open to the floor. The silence was deafening, no response! As a newly qualified, pre-accredited member of IACP I have thought about the reply. Initially, I was embarrassed to have asked the question; I do not see a difference between counselling and psychotherapy. Why, might you ask? What is psychotherapy? My research on the internet proved interesting. The European Association for Psychotherapy and the European Association for Counselling both exist. I do not believe that it is the word therapy that provides the differential. Consultation of a dictionary meaning of psyche was “The human soul, mind or spirit.” When a client sits in front of us, we meet the client where they are. Finnerty (2006) writes “It has both a process i.e. client/therapist interaction, and content i.e. the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and experiences both client and therapist bring to the encounter.” Whether we call ourselves a counsellor or a psychotherapist at the centre of our work is a person who is in psychological pain and has come to therapy. Do we want to confuse the general public even more between the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist or do we want to improve the understanding of our profession? A founding goal of IACP was to have legislation in place. This is ever closer due to the recent proposal by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD. Asking us for our input regarding including Counsellors and Psychotherapists for inclusion under “Social Care Professionals Act, 2005”. As the keynote speaker was suggesting, we need to be clear about our role, should the term include counselling or should it include psychotherapy or both? I wonder if the deafening silence and resulting embarrassment were because those present felt embarrassed or had not thought about the difference? Should the difference be as a result of your level of education? Those with QQI Level 8 Honours Degree be called a counsellor and those with Level 9 Masters be called Psychotherapist? I wonder would this cause a two-tier system? As a group, we are sitting on the edge of monumental change, but being able to move forward and ensure legislation becomes law we need to be protective of our identity and professionalism. Dialogue and replicating Rogers’ core conditions that we afford our clients on a daily basis need to be in place. Moving forward, we need to have a clear understanding of our role to feel proud to call ourselves an appropriate fitting name be that counsellor or psychotherapist, or both. Gráinne Clancy