When the outside world comes into the counselling room

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;”

John donne

So wrote the English poet John Donne in 1624. He was making the point that humans are social beings; we need others for comfort and security and we don’t do well in isolation.

The counselling room can be a kind of island, a secluded sanctuary away from the turmoil of the ‘real world’ of mainland life. And we need that too; a respite from turmoil in order to recharge. Sometimes though, events in the outside world are so huge, so disturbing or impactful, that we bring them with us into the therapy room.

There’s a tradition in the therapy world that counsellors don’t share their personal opinions or beliefs with clients as this can get in the way of the therapeutic process – after all, you (the client) are the important one, the one whose life is at the centre of the professional relationship between us. Occasionally, where I think it would be helpful to the client, I’ll share my own belief or opinion, but it’s not something I do as a matter of routine.

Having said that, I also believe that I’d be doing my clients a disservice if I didn’t reflect on and sometimes share my responses to the huge impactful events going on in the world. In recent years, we’ve had the political upheavals over the U.K. withdrawal from the E.U. which took its toll on families and friendships; the devastating pandemic; the increasingly frightening news of the climate emergency and now the terrible events in Ukraine. Like it or not, the counselling room is not an island cut off from the rest of the world, and neither are you or I.

As human beings, whether counsellors or clients, we have to walk in the outside world and inevitably we are affected by it, sometimes subtly and sometimes as if it were flashing big neon signs in our eyes or hitting us over the head with a sledgehammer. The outside world sometimes slips into the therapy room almost unobserved and sometimes it hammers on the door and demands entry. Whichever it is for you, let’s sit with it together and explore what these big events mean for you and all of us.

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Take good care