Sunday, 3 May 2009

About Counselling

Last week was an easy week for me blog-wise. I handed my blog over to my guest, Mennard, who wrote most honestly about his marriage in “Indoor Fireworks” and I introduced his blog with my feelings about counselling. I discover this week, that I haven’t actually got everything I want to say about counselling out of my system – so, with a bit of a pre-amble about reaction to last week’s guest blog, I intend to ramble on about it for a while longer. And when I’ve rambled on, I shall be able to amend my profile on my blog – because I won’t have “recently” given up learning about counselling – it will have a been a while ago and I have very much moved on!

I was quite amazed by the first comment reacting to last week’s blog. The person who left the comment was apparently “astonished” and “horrified” and just for good measure actually came across as a bit “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells”! My amazement was quite strictly down to the fact that a double-standard was occurring and I am perhaps naive enough to believe in this day and age, we should really be past all that.

The commenter was “appalled” that my guest was so upfront and honest about his wife’s tendency to physically and verbally abuse him. Like it doesn’t ever happen? Like, in truth, “only women bleed”? Not true. Fact. Many, many men are abused by their wives and I suspect many of them are too embarrassed to say much about it. But does that mean it doesn’t happen? Of course not. The person who commented had only a few weeks previously written a fairly hefty diatribe about her ex-husband in her own blog but criticised Mennard (who uses a nom de plume when blogging) for placing his wife in the public domain. It was therefore “okay” for her to say the most loveless things about her ex-husband (without his express permission, I should imagine) but NOT okay for Mennard to write honestly about his domestic situation maintaining an acceptance of and love for his wife throughout.

My blog attracts a very slim (but hugely appreciated!) readership. Mennard’s blog has not been splashed across the front page of The Sun. I do so love to keep things in proportion!

So, why am I so anti-counselling? I feel that throughout life things happen to us – nobody leads a completely carefree existence. Nobody. We have choices about how we deal with the “ess-aitch-one-tee” that is inevitably thrown at us. We can keep our own counsel; we can talk to our friends; we can talk to a stranger – ultimately we still have to continue, don’t we? For the most part, probably as I’m only child and I didn’t get married until I was 38 years old, I’m fairly used to keeping my own counsel – although, of course, I chat to friends about my life and in so doing discuss problems I’m encountering. Would talking to a stranger help me? I don’t think so!

I married into a family of counsellors ... probing, nosey, controlling, egotistical counsellors. If I moved at less than 30 miles an hour my sainted mother-in-law would stop me and advise me – whether I wished to be advised or not. She died a few years ago now but her probing and controlling tentacles do sometimes appear to reach beyond the grave!

Not all that long ago, DH decided that as we’d reached an impasse regarding a financial matter, we should go to counselling. We spent a fortune on reaching no solution whatsoever. DH, who had wanted to attend the counselling sessions, got nothing from them at all. I, on the other hand, seemed to “appeal” to the counsellor who armed me with leaflets, ‘phone numbers and advice to become a counsellor myself. I work from home, I own my own business and I am privileged in my time being my own – so I thought, why not?

I enrolled on an Introductory Course and from the outset was quite bemused that most people who were on it were either card carrying heroin addicts or people who were “earning” their job seekers’ allowances. None of them - apart from me (just call me Methuselah!) were anywhere near the age of 40. I didn’t see much evidence of their own life management skills coming to the fore in what appeared to me, to be facile role playing games using concepts so simple that I struggled with boredom.

The tutor (a suppressed thespian if ever there was one) told us over and over again about how a counsellor should paraphrase and repeat back to the person they are counselling what has just been said and how to ask an open-ended question. I thought I might be going mad. Why were my fellow attendees finding it so hard to do what I do as second nature? If I want someone to tell me about themselves, of course I ask open-ended questions. But if they don’t want to tell me about themselves, I’m not presumptuous enough to pursue them relentlessly about it until they do. It’s – after all – their business and not mine. I got out before I started to criticise the damaged people whose lives were imperfect but who believed that they could help others with damaged, imperfect lives. I expect they’ll gain their counselling qualifications and I hope they can help other people because I can’t – not in that way, at any rate.

I only truly have the right to manage my own life – not someone else’s. I’m a Mum and - of course – I have a duty of love and care to be responsible for my son until he’s old enough to be responsible for himself. Do I do that in a controlling way or do we discuss the best ways to go about things? I’m a forceful personality – I could oh, SO easily run his life for him – but would that be good for him? No. We discuss. Sometimes we argue. But we reach agreement on ways ahead that are right for us both and more importantly, he’s learning how to make decisions for himself.

I am not the perfect wife (I’m a sulker, an ingrate and on occasion, a plate-thrower). I’m not the perfect mother either but my little family unit muddles through. We don’t hold back on how we feel – be those feelings good or bad. We’re open with each other as much as we possibly can be. Would family counselling benefit us? I don’t think so.

If I have something on my mind, I write about it – and if it’s still on my mind, I write some more about it. Not everyone can or indeed wants to write to express themselves. There are times when I don’t. I haven’t come across a problem yet that can’t be solved by me or by me in conjunction with those closest to me. And there’s always a stomp across the Common with my dogs to allow me to let off steam – which is something I quite often have to do. The dogs don’t mind however much I rant!

Counselling – to either dole it out to someone else – or to be on the receiving end of it – is categorically NOT FOR ME.

(You may like to read a professional's views about Counselling ... Jackie Walker is the Divorce Coach at UK Divorce - she's a solicitor who speaks to her clients in plain English!)


  1. Dear RedMummy,

    I have read your blog on Counselling & also Mennard - Indoor Fireworks. I have also read several of Mennards Blogs. I did Tweet Mennard the other week saying; "I have been your wife (not literally)" but, no reply.

    I can associate on so many levels with you all,

    I have been a perfectionist, I have had a partner for 30yrs (we are both 46), I have also even been a legal secretary but, that is just by the by. I have been on a Counselling Course & also been a Samaritan in Liverpool Office.

    When I say I have been Mennards wife, I can relate to her behaviour, I have behaved in a similar manor for many years, my need for perfection drove me further away from it. I wanted my partner to the exclusion of all others, inclusing his hobbies.

    I have shouted, ranted and raved, made several attempts at suicide, it goes on. I was never particularly violent but when Mennard says that the more he does not retaliate and walks away the angrier it makes his wife, he is so right! My partner has ALWAYS walked away, ALWAYS walked away with me trailing after him shouting and getting angrier.

    I have resented my childrens relationship with their dad, incase he had more feelings for them than he did for me! My eldest daughter (no longer lives at home) and I had many altercations, never to the point of violence, not that I didn't feel that way inclined.

    I hate that I feel I can understand Mennards wife (from what is written of course) and understand her behaviour. I was never in need of medication (my partner possibly may not agree lol!) so maybe her problem is bigger than mine.

    I am no longer that person, thank god.

    I also believe that deep down Mennard does know how to make things better, is it worth the effort and anyway, why should he bother?

    I am now a menopausal person but oddly enough I have not suffered any mood swings because of this.

    I could go on and on but feel I shouldn't, but to mention Counselling, how does that make you feel? isn't that all you need to know?

    Linda Knox

  2. Counselling can be a useful tool - sometimes one does not wish to unburden oneself to one's nearest and dearest - but ultimately would be unnecessary in a functioning and cohesive society.

    When Margaret Thatcher congratulated herself on having created "the culture of the individual", she might as well have claimed the glory for the destruction of co-responsible society. Were we to exist in a society where each individual saw itself as a part of the whole, rather than the whole in itself, we might fare better emotionally, spiritually and even physically.

    I relish my relationships with my close friends and family. Without them to lean on in times of trouble and laugh with when thing are amusing, cry with in pain and celebrate with in joy, I would be so much less.

    In essence I suppose that my point is that while a counsellor can act as if they have your best interests at heart - and even if they do, they cannot create something which comes from within. My relationships are real, deep and very meaningful for me. A counsellor cannot help to emulate that no matter how hard they try.

    I vote we try our close friends and family first - and then resort to a counsellor once our natural resources are exhausted or have earache!

  3. Also, you can at times earn even more if you decide to get your bachelor's degree and certification, because employers tend to offer a higher salary if you have these kinds of additional qualifications under your belt. It is also vital that the procedures are correctly followed, since you are dealing with something integral to the survival of your patients. If you pass that exam, then you will have a demanding, yet rewarding job.
    My web-site - Respiratory Therapist Programs