Contemporary counselling for a contemporary society

by Susan Kaye, The Counsellor@ The Challenge of Excellence

Change is a Constant   Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Be the change you want to see”. Easier said than done isn’t it! For some of us we do want to create the change we want to see and I like to refer to this as being in possession of an entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit I believe we all possess, but often lies latent. Part of a contemporary counselling process seeks to awaken this creative part of our personalities. Creativity is as much a skill we can learn, a process to adopt as it is about natural inclination. Limiting belief systems can stop us thinking we can be creative. Whether to solve a problem related to bringing up our children, or successfully manage a professional sports or business team, tapping into our entrepreneurial spirit can offer creative and alternative ways of looking at things. I particularly believe that an entrepreneurial spirit is something we should be nurturing in our children in school through Youth Entrepreneurship Education.

Sometimes however, we are using up all our energy dealing with change imposed upon us. How we deal with change helps to dictate our levels of happiness, that much prized possession we all aspire to. I like to work with people who, in their personal and or work life are bravely considering change in whatever form that may be. But I also aspire to work with those who wish to make a difference for others as well. As a contemporary counsellor for a contemporary society I enjoy and seek to be creative in my work so that counselling can be both an enjoyable and learning experience for my clients, regardless of the subject matter we are working on. As a contemporary counsellor I have always sought to learn, not only about my own profession but to inform myself about my client’s world.

Over the years I have, much to the dismay of my colleagues, often introduced new methodologies and techniques to my work, learning-by-doing activities that I have trained in or learned during my professional career (I think they probably viewed me as a bit of a maverick!). Activities or metaphors that would draw out for my client a particular learning point or help them to see a view from a different perspective. I would argue that we should be more creative, should stretch our knowledge to outside of the counselling profession and be more in sync in the fields of endeavour that our clients live and work in; that we should broaden the way in which we work as professionals for the contemporary society in which we live. As counsellors we should be bringing more strands of our experience to a broader population of people who want to improve their lives and the lives of others.

Below you will find a couple of examples of what a typical client may bring in terms of contemporary issues. These are anonymised compilations of client issues and do not reflect any particular client.

Case Study 1   Let’s say you are the 50 year old father of two teenage girls and a son of 24. You run your own financial consulting business and your son has been working in the business since he left university at 21. He achieved a good degree and wanted to work in marketing but was out of work for nine months and couldn’t get a job so you took him in.

You are divorced, your ex-wife has re-married and your son lives with her and her partner. He is close to his mother and he gets on very well with his stepdad. This bothers you a bit but you have learned to accept it and your son’s stepdad is quite a nice guy. You too have re-married and your teenage daughters live with you and your new wife who has a young son of seven from her first marriage.

As a Dad, a husband, ex-husband and a CEO of a thriving business you find yourself struggling with a range of issues. The business is doing well and you are about to appoint a new Marketing Director.

Your ex-wife is not happy that you are not promoting your/her son and that he does not have a more senior role in the business. She calls you about it on a regular basis and you are feeling hassled. You know your wife would not like this so you do not tell her you are in touch with your ex.

Case Study 2   Now, let’s say you are a 38 year old female and have been in a loving and happy relationship with your partner for five years. He is the same age as you. You have a well-paid high flying job with a top law firm in London. You love the glamour and success that your job brings you.

Your partner quit his job in a design company just over a year ago and is now self-employed having recently started up a decorating business – something he has always wanted to do. It’s just beginning to take off but he is facing some staffing difficulties and is stressed. He has always wanted children but you are concerned that it will change everything if you go ahead now; you feel it’s just not the right time.

On top of this your mother has recently been diagnosed with cancer. You know she would love a grandchild. You are facing a dilemma and things between you and your partner are beginning to sour.

These are contemporary families confronting a range of challenging, personal and professional issues. They are not at all unusual situations in today’s contemporary society.

A mixed set of issues such as these requires the contemporary approach we are discussing here which may involve a deep exploration and understanding of fundamental issues and some work on that, but then may move to a more solution focused approach used by coaching and mentoring, or a combination of both or even vice versa. Couples or family/family business counselling may also be proposed. Critically, it is up to the practitioner to know and propose to the client, which processes to use, in what order and when.

Both of the above examples cite people who are dealing with a range of challenging issues in their lives. Children, parents, partners, professional work situations, business challenges. Would you describe them as having mental health issues? Probably not. Would these people be inclined to seek, what we understand to be, traditional counselling? Probably not. Mostly, they appear to be reasonably successful people without obvious financial worries and within their psyche they probably believe that people who seek counselling carry the badge of having a mental health issue.

And yet the multiple challenges we all confront in our lives today do indeed challenge our mental capacity. And as a result our emotional intelligence is being tested.

Where along our road in life did we learn to increase our emotional intelligence, or find the capacity to mentally manage several practical and emotive issues all at once? Are our belief systems getting in our way or do they serve us well? To move forward with developing these skills, what is the best approach, what should we look at first? Should we use a coach, a mentor, a counsellor/a therapist? How do we know which practitioner is right for us?

If you would like to consider how you might achieve your own change, do please contact me, The Counsellor@, I hope to see you soon.

"Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible"