Writing as a psychologist who reads the BACP Journal to keep in touch with the world of counselling, I was left perturbed by an article named Who Is This Man? March 2012.
The client C.W. in this article ruminates about the wish to know more about her therapist and thinks that after 3 years of therapy it is “not fair” for disclosures to go only from her to her therapist. She manages to extract from him a confession that he has once lost his temper with a mobile phone as did she. Thereafter the client begins to quest for other ways of getting information from him (along the lines of you show me yours and I’ll show you mine) so that she can feel that her therapist is “real”.
Perhaps it is normal for a client to start wondering about the personality/life of a counsellor. It is more sinister to think it isn’t fair for disclosures to go one way (why not?) and to use the counselling space to manipulate information from the therapist – instead of attending to the process of growth and change. Where does it stop? The client seems to be showing all of the signs of narcissism, the effects of which presumably have got her into therapy in the first place. Why is the counsellor not bringing this into the room? And when a therapy extends 3 years, what on earth is going on?
In an earlier version of the BACP Journal, a similar process was taking place where the client wittered on to the point of indigestion (mine) about whether her therapist would think about her while he was on his holiday. I hope that he did not, but why is this stuff published without comment?
Congruence is important, and I may use some of my own emotional reactions judiciously to help the client validate and develop their emotional vocabulary, to build resilience. But the narcissism/dependency of client submissions in the BACP Journal read distastefully. Does anyone else feel this?
If I want my health addressed, I would choose an expert who knows their job; There is no concern to know the details of their private life. Nor do I mind whether the physician thinks about me once I have left the room. Perhaps counsellors should give their clients an introductory booklet in which conditions of the counselling relationship are laid bare. Disclosures DO go one way; the counsellor does not and maybe should not give the client mental space once the session is finished, the notes are written and the supervision is under wraps. Would that be too difficult to bear?