PRESENTATION: CLASS – Searching for the elephant in the room from inside the elephant.
Class defines every part of our profession, from whether you’re more likely to be a client or a therapist to our experiences as a qualified professional, and while we seldom formally address it it constantly seeps into our conscious, unconscious, formal and informal communications. Because defining class has become all but impossible and because the subject is hugely volatile it has taken on the energy of the unspoken: it’s on our minds all the time – every time we meet a client, every time we sit in a group with other therapists, every time we read a therapists or clients tweet or write an essay – and rarely mentioned in training or CPD. Yet our present identities are informed by our class histories, a dense weaving of politics, income, status and power.
Ideas of ‘professionalism’ are immersed in class, SCoPEd is a product of class, our membership bodies have strong classist tones and our training courses quickly let us know that certain behaviours and attitudes (which have nothing to do with therapeutic boundaries) are more acceptable than others. So many of our conventions have more to do with class than with therapeutic outcomes but because these customs and understandings are accepted ways of being for certain groups of people with particular kinds of power they remain unchallenged.
I’ve been studying the subject of class in counselling and psychotherapy for many years and it’s only in the last 3 or so that there’s been any degree of meaningful engagement with it, ironically because of the unrestrained free market that therapy has enthusiastically embraced. As training courses have focused on undercutting each other and increasing group sizes, without any professional debate and with full support from membership bodies, so people from cultures that have not traditionally been represented in therapy trainings have been allowed to enter the profession and to speak in greater numbers.
Class isn’t the elephant in the room, it’s the room. Let’s begin to explore the subject, to feel for the edges of both delicate and unwieldy realities, to experiment with words and feelings that might begin to describe how we experience different worlds.
Clare is a counsellor, psychotherapist and supervisor, and on the Steering Group of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, www.pcsr.org.uk. You can find our more about Clare on her website here: www.clareslaneycounselling.com.