For this assignment I should l…
For this assignment I should like to provide a fictional case study, portraying the counselling of a client who is dealing with issues related to fear and sadness, I will then consider how the clients problems could be caused by the sociocultural climate within which they are surrounded. The case study will be focusing upon issues such as culture, gender, race and sexuality, looking at the usefulness of recognising the importance of sociocultural issues when considering an individuals distress, with culture, sexuality and race being the main focus of the study. I will be using a person-centred approach as my counselling technique, as this is considered to be a more open-minded approach, relating sociocultural issues to the client.
Approaches to counselling are constantly evolving as therapists continue to try and help their clients resolve issues that are causing distress. While fear and sadness are said to be naturally occurring human emotions that form part of life, society has become aware of the negative side effects of stress, and clients are either encouraged or feel compelled to seek out help before their lives are completely consumed by these issues, which may then cause a severe decline in their mental health.
My study is based upon a gay, 28-year-old woman of mixed race, who suffers attacks of anxiety when in the company of men, the result of a domineering and intimidating father and verbal abuse from strangers, regarding her sexuality.
Bethan is 28 years old, of mixed race from the south east of England, currently living in London, having moved 8 years earlier when she was offered a job with a well-known firm. She has referred herself for counselling in order to seek help with her anxiety issues.
Bethan informed me that she is from a working class background but when she moved to London she started to live a very middle class lifestyle, something she felt very uncomfortable with, Bethan explained to me that after 5 years of living this way, she realised that she was gay, resulting in her no longer seeing a casual boyfriend and leaving her job so that she could start a new life within the gay community. Bethan tells me that her parents, Mother Jamaican, Father English, are supportive of her decisions, neither Bethan nor her parents follow any religion.
Bethan’s father is an intimidating, controlling and dominant man and she now suffers verbal and at times physical abuse from males, she feels this is because she is gay. Her father has always dominated the family, intimidating her mother most of all, because of her fathers treatment towards her mother Bethan became her mother’s carer and protector, offering love, reassurance and emotional support through the difficult times, this support was never reciprocated and has left Bethan feeling vulnerable and frightened, She says that in general, her fear of males is vast and she believes the lifestyle that she is now living is causing the fear to be increased, because most of the abuse now suffered is from, males.
Bethan also tells me that she also feels out of place within the gay community, due to her being of mixed race, growing up she was always rejected by black and white people because she didn’t fit in completely, and now that she is a mixed race lesbian, she feels she is being rejected twice.
In todays society we have hierarchical views regarding sexuality, gender status and class, Being “normal” consists of being heterosexual, white, able bodied etc ‘We don’t often see that aspect of our identity, but in other groups we may be all too aware of it’ ( Barker, M. 2010 pg.214)
It has been argued by multicultural and LGBT affirmative therapists, these norms are present in mainstream psychotherapy, As we are aware, the majority of today’s psychotherapy approaches have come from the western world and the minds of heterosexual men, Barker questions, Can counselling therapies and practices be usefully applied to people outside these groups without reinforcing the notion that that their members are lesser or problematic ? (Barker, M. 2010 pg. 215) In response, we could argue that the therapists and counsellors of today are just that, of today.
However, Barker also states that, in today’s society, the majority of counsellors are white, heterosexual women, as is the bulk of the clientele, With this in mind, how easy can it be for other people to access counselling ? or to even experience it without power differences between counsellor and client being exacerbated in ways that would be extremely unhelpful ?
Ours is a modern world and we are fully aware of many of the sociocultural aspects which accompany it, we are all individuals, but when attempting to treat clients as nothing but, the experience of being an individual can become lost. Some more traditional approaches to therapy have been criticised by multicultural and LGBT affirmative therapists for their stances – It is said that they regularly fail to see how important culture, gender and sexuality are. (Barker, M. 2010 pg. 212)
An industry, psychotherapy and counselling are evolving, moving with the times, keeping everything relevant for all clients, in order that therapists are not seen as “useless” However many available counsellors still subscribe to the original ideals, meaning that multicultural and LGBT style therapists are not so readily available and these clients feel a though their needs are not being met.
This being illustrated when a lesbian is asked about her sexuality when a heterosexual woman wouldn’t be, or when a white man looks at himself in a mirror, he doesn’t see a white man, just a man. Whereas a black man will see ‘black’ because he believes that this makes him different, we could argue that if he chooses to focus on the fact that he is black, then he is choosing to feel different, this leads us to think that if they focused elsewhere, then they’re skin colour would not be an issue.
Unfortunately, Bethan’s skin colour was point of focus for her, being of mixed race she wasn’t accepted by either ethnic group, making life lonely and scary for her. In Laudets (2005) study, Barker discovers many links between depression and people of mixed race – It was found that there was little support or guidance for them growing up, which left them feeling not good (Barker, M. 2010 pg.219)
I feel it would be difficult for people of mixed race to open up to others about their problems, however loving and caring their parents might be, they couldn’t fully understand, as they themselves might not be mixed race. As Barker indicates, it is vital that as counsellors we react upon assumptions and beliefs held about culture, race and class etc so that we may approach with an awareness of what we bring, personally, and how people of all cultures and identities should be treated – When a client is the minority within our society, it is imperative that we try to have an understanding of how this has an impact on them, as it would be related to their experience of fear and sadness (Barker, M. 2010 pg.212)
If I were Bethan’s counsellor, I would do my very best to ensure that she felt as comfortable as possible inn the therapy room. I would, at first, attempt to build a rapport with Bethan, in the hopes that I would gain her trust. I would suggest two to three one to one therapy sessions with myself in order for me to understand clearly, the cause of her distress and then if she were willing, gradually introduce her to group sessions, starting with fellow females from minority groups and then, slowly introducing males to the group, all of whom would be of various cultures and identities each with issues of their own. I would suggest to Bethan that she spend eighteen months, dividing her time between the group therapy sessions and one to one progress meetings with myself.
Bethan wanted to avoid traditional therapies, so, I felt she would benefit from a person-centred approach. The humanistic approaches to counselling draw upon the values and ideas of ‘humanistic psychology’ also known as the ‘third force’ in psychology because it emerged as a reaction against the mechanistic, reductionist and determinist theories of the two prevailing psychologies in the mid-twentieth century, behaviourism and psychoanalysis (Barker, M. 2010 pg.103)
While working with Bethan I would be thoughtful and kind, hoping she would see my willingness to grow and learn with her as well as to help relieve herself of her distress. As Bethan came to me with multiple issues, her father, being mixed race and now being gay, I would encourage her to start at the point she feels is the most significant to her. Bethan makes a point of telling me that she has always felt unaccepted because she is mixed race, Rogers argues that humans have a basic need for approval (Barker, M.
2010 pg.109) Bethan feels neglected and isolated because she was denied this need.
Bethan is confused about her feelings and suffers from a very low self-esteem, she keeps her hair cut very short and wears trousers most of the time. Bethan tells me that she is often mistaken as a male, which she does not mind. She knows that she is female and does not want to change her gender, however, since joining the gay community she feels as though she is being forced to behave in a more masculine way. As Bethan’s counsellor I feel that having a masculine persona helps her to feel safer and more in control, I believe her early experiences with males, namely her father, has taught Bethan that in order to have control you need to be, or at least behave, male.
This assignment consisted of a fictional case study, detailing how a gay 28 year old mixed race female has been affected by issues concerning her race, sexuality and gender, also the issues caused by her family and community. I chose a person-centred approach for Bethan because she has spent her life under one label or another and I felt that a person-centred approach would offer a refreshing and positive change for her, with its label free approach. For people in similar situations as Bethan, sociocultural issues often relate to personal issues and in this case study I have looked at how to maintain an awareness of the client’s issues, as well as how the client is affected by these issues. I have shown how I, as Bethan’s counsellor would work through these issues with her and have explained why I think therapy, including group sessions would help her.
The ability to be able to recognise diversity and to be sensitive to cultural differences is a very important tool for effective and meaningful counselling. The necessity of this becomes obvious when there are cultural differences between counsellor and client. As counsellors we should assess our own views of the world and our awareness of different cultures before trying to help others. We can not begin to help people like Bethan unless we first accept and understand our own cultural differences.