There are some people for whom I have huge admiration: counsellors who have branched out into teaching other counsellors ways in which they can build their business. Two I know of in particular extol the virtues of having a ‘niche’. They have both succeeded in this, which they’ve successfully promoting their businesses via their websites, speaking on public platforms, running courses, having a presence on Instagram, Linked in, twitter, Facebook, and other such social media platforms.
I may be doomed, but I don’t really want a niche. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and only talk to Angry Men, or Anxious Women two ‘groups’ with whom I seem to do quite a lot of work. From my point of view, giving someone a label can be very misleading. Angry men, labelled ‘angry’ because of a box they’ve ticked, often aren’t really angry at all. OK, maybe they occasionally lose their temper, but who doesn’t? When you talk to them in a counselling session they are invariably quick to say they don’t have an ‘anger problem’, but describe sometimes feeling really wound up or frustrated, and it is this frustration that can spill over into having an ‘angry’ label.
Additionally, angry men are sometimes anxious, and the same applies to women too. Anger isn’t ‘owned’ by men, and neither is ‘anxious’ the sole preserve of women. It just so happens that a label has stuck, and each time it’s applied if it becomes a problem, the glue needs loosening to find out why.
In a similar way, if I have a specialism at all it’s probably bereavement, thanks in part to volunteering for a bereavement charity in the past, but ‘bereavement’ as a word can be very limiting as people often assume it applies to death and only think of it in terms of the passing away of someone they know. I can write about this at length and will do in another blog, but fundamentally, for me bereavement covers a multitude of different kinds of loss. What about the pain experienced by a father as he is only allowed a weekly video call with his young kids whilst waiting for a court to decide on access arrangements, a situation that has arisen after false (from his point of view) accusations were made against him by his ex-partner? No-one has actually died, but he’s grieving for his kids, missing them intensely and certainly going through many of the emotions traditionally associated with bereavement. How about the loss of friends of a woman in her twenties who have decided to believe the tales being told by a mutual acquaintance who has been spreading ‘mistruths’ and painting her in an unappealing way, meaning she’s now been ‘blocked’ on social media accounts? Again, maybe not ‘bereavement’ as we usually think of it, but she’s mourning the loss of what used to be very important friendships to her.
Using any label, such as ‘bereaved’, ‘angry’ or ‘anxious’ frequently just exposes the tip of an iceberg. Underneath can be a wealth of feelings and emotions that are playing out and it is the counsellor’s work to try and unpick the label and expose the truth behind its use.
In the same vein, when it comes to labelling counsellors, I’d prefer to be known as a General Counselling Practitioner or GCP, just as a doctor may be a General Practitioner, prepared to accept a wide spectrum of people with a variety or labels or none and make referrals to specialists as and when it is needed.