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090 – Reflexivity in Counselling

090 – Joining an Ethical Body – Sex in the Therapy Room – Being a Reflexive Practitioner

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In episode 90 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes describe the importance of joining an ethical body as a student member. In ‘Practice Matters’, Rory provides an overview on how to work with issues of a sexually intimate nature in the therapy room. Last, the presenters discuss the difference between reflection and reflexivity.

Joining an Ethical Body (starts at 1.42 mins)

There are a number of ethical bodies in the profession of counselling and psychotherapy, including different ones for different countries (e.g. COSCA in Scotland, and IACP in the Republic of Ireland) and for different modalities (e.g. the British Psychoanalytic Council). Perhaps the best-known ethical body for counsellors in the UK is the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP); there is also the National Counselling Society (NCS). All professions have their own ethical bodies.

Here is a selection of UK professional bodies for counsellors and psychotherapists:

This list is not exhaustive, and it is possible for a counsellor/psychotherapist to be a member of more than one organisation.

There are many reasons why it is important to join an ethical body, including:

  • improving employability – many placement providers and employers expect their counsellors to belong to an ethical body
  • showing commitment to the profession – since membership involves signing up to a set of ethical standards
  • helping assure the public and clients of your professional standards – including giving them a body to complain to if they feel the need.

The usual time to join an ethical body is when you enter the final (practitioner) stage of your training to qualify as a counsellor. Your tutor will let you know when they recommend joining. It is a good idea to join when you are a student as you can then progress more smoothly to the next stage of membership once you are qualified – the professional bodies also tend to offer all kinds of resources and support (e.g. the BACP publishes a regular journal, has much online guidance, coordinates and reports on research, and can provide individual ethical guidance).

Do you belong to an ethical body yet? If so, which one? Do let us know via the Counselling Tutor Facebook group. We also have a business page on Facebook, where you can leave us a review if you’ve found our podcast and other materials useful in your studies.

Sex in the Therapy Room (starts at 14.19 mins)

As counsellors, we must expect to work with the full experience of clients’ lives, including sexual identity. It can be hard to hear the intimate details of clients’ sex lives, making us feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or even (when erotic countertransference occurs) aroused. Rory suggests that any of these reactions need to be explored in supervision – and perhaps in personal therapy too. This is important in order to enable us to be non-judgemental towards our clients, and also aware of our own limitations in client work.

Rory ends by suggesting that you discuss this issue with your personal development group, listing some possible questions you could use as a framework. His handout on this important and sensitive topic can be downloaded here; it is also available in the Handouts Vault and Counselling Study Resource (CSR).

Being a Reflexive Practitioner (starts at 19.47 mins)

It’s common to hear the term ‘reflective’ practitioner – but what is a ‘reflexive’ practitioner? ‘Reflexivity’ is a term taken from the field of sociology. While reflection involves thinking about something, reflexivity involves taking action to implement the learning that results from reflection.

Thus, although it’s important to reflect, the ideas generated by this process do not in themselves change how we work. We must implement these ideas through taking action.

The concepts of reflection and reflexivity fit well with Kolb’s learning cycle. Supervision is the ideal environment in which to plan the actions you can take following reflection in order to improve your practice.

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