I am a member of the BACP, the largest regulatory body for Counselling and Psychotherapy in the UK. Whilst I have at times raised issues with their treatment of GRSD issues part of the reason I joined was that their values were aligned with my own. The BACP list their values as
respecting human rights and dignity
alleviating symptoms of personal distress and suffering
enhancing people’s wellbeing and capabilities
improving the quality of relationships between people
increasing personal resilience and effectiveness
facilitating a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned within their personal and cultural context
appreciating the variety of human experience and culture
protecting the safety of clients
ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships
enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application
striving for the fair and adequate provision of services
These are not mere tick boxes to me, but a description of how we should interact with the world, and those around us, not only in the counselling room but beyond it. Ensuring that all people are respected, regardless of their identities, and appreciating the variety of human experience are both values the BACP and I share. However, as a counsellor it can be a challenge to find ways to enable to change I wish to see in the wider world. We have to walk a fine line between activism, which may intrude too far into a client’s world, and turning our backs on the injustices we see.
One of the ways in which I have discovered I can navigate this tension is via training and consultancy. The connection may not be immediately obvious, but, to me, working with organisations to ensure they also have these values, or to help them determine how they better live up to their values, is immensely rewarding. Recently I worked with OutReach Cumbria, training their first cohort of GRSD counsellors, knowing that this would make a huge difference to the provision of therapy in rural areas. The isolation, and lack of support for GRSD people in rural areas has long been a concern of mine, not just in terms of therapeutic support, but also peer support, community, health and social well being. It is all too often assumed that someone who belongs to a gender, sexual or relationship diverse community must move to a city if they wish to be their authentic self.
To live by my values is to challenge this idea, to try to build safe, sustainable and nurturing GRSD communities in our towns and villages, as well as our cities. So it is very exciting to be involved with a project initiated by Berwick Town Council to not only try to determine what the local GRSD community experience is, but to see if their needs can be better met. Research shows that GRSD people living in rural areas face specific problems, problems which all too often parish and town councils have turned a blind eye too. Saying not only that marginalised people are part of the community, but that they want to hear from them is a radical step. I can only hope that other councils across the country will follow them
If you would like to take part in the research Berwick is conducting, either as an LGBT person, a family member of an LGBT person, or friend or ally who lives, works in, or visits Berwick, the link is here.
One of the most important values can perhaps be summed up as- everyone has the right be their authentic self, in their own hometown.