058 – Law on Adoption Counselling – Brain Plasticity – Does Therapist Gender Matter?

Counselling Tutor Podcast 058 – Law on Adoption Counselling – Brain Plasticity – Does Therapist Gender Matter?

058 – Law on Adoption Counselling – Brain Plasticity – Does Therapist Gender Matter?

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In episode 58 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken and Rory explain the law on counselling adopted people on adoption issues. ‘Theory with Rory’ looks at the cutting-edge field of brain plasticity. To finish this episode, the presenters discuss whether and how the gender of the therapist affects counselling.

Law on Adoption Counselling (starts at 1.30 mins)

In the UK, the law changed in December 2010 to mean that only counsellors registered with an adoption support agency are allowed to work with adopted clients who wish to work specifically on adoption issues.

It is legal to work with an adopted client who wants to process other issues, but if you are in doubt, do always consult your supervisor.

If you are writing an assignment on making outward referrals, a good example to quote might be that of an adopted client wishing to explore adoption issues. This would be a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and ethical approach to practice.

The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) has produced guidance sheets on this issue; as the situation varies between the different countries of the UK, there are three separate sheets:

  • Counselling and Psychotherapy in the Context of Adoption Law in England (BACP, 2015)
  • Counselling and Psychotherapy in the Context of Adoption Law in Northern Ireland and Wales (BACP, 2016)
  • Counselling and Psychotherapy in the Context of Adoption Law in Scotland (BACP, 2016).


Brain Plasticity (starts at 9.35)

Have you learned a new skill this week? If so, then your brain has demonstrated neuroplasticity – that is, its ability to rewire itself. This is demonstrated too by people who regain skills lost through having a stroke.

Key names in this field are Americans Stephen Porges and Bessel van der Kolk, researchers investigating how the human brain responds to trauma. The UK also has its own researcher in this field: Catherine Knibbs, who is working on cybertrauma (recurrent trauma triggered by internet images and by online grooming and abuse). It is valuable for clients who have been traumatised to understand how they can help rewire their own brains, giving them hope and supporting them to move forward in their lives.

Rory believes that having an understanding of how the human brain works is vital in providing high-quality counselling and psychotherapy: offering psychological education to clients is a growing service in the profession. Rory believes that this should be part of counselling training.

Rory gives an example of how explaining to clients the natural way for a human brain to react in a traumatic situation can help them deal with the shame that may result from not having run away from an abuser – that is, from freezing rather than fighting back. Such clients can experience a huge sense of relief when they realise that their reactions resulted from the normal wiring of the human brain.

You can download a free handout written by Rory on brain plasticity; this is also available in the Handouts Vault and Counselling Study Resource.

Free Handout Download



Does Therapist Gender Matter? (starts at 16.00 mins)

Does your gender influence how you are perceived in the counselling room? This topic clearly links closely to equality and diversity.

Ken and Rory discuss how men and women are treated differently in society more broadly, and debate to what extent this hold true in the therapy room. In particular, might gender cease to become noticeable once relational depth has been achieved between therapist and client?

Traditionally, women’s contribution to counselling theory and the development of the profession has been less visible than men’s – for example, Laura Perls’ significant work in founding gestalt therapy was largely unrecognised at the time, being publicised under the name of her husband, Fritz Perls.

If you feel passionately about this topic, why not consider writing a blog post for us? Around 250–300 words is a good length: send it along to us, and if it fits with our audience, we’ll be pleased to publish it for you. Alternatively, let us know your views via our Facebook group page.


Links and Resources

Counselling Tutor Facebook group

Counselling Tutor website

Counselling Study Resource

Counselling Tutor Handouts Vault

Basic Counselling Skills: A Student Guide