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“Power” within Counselling/Psychotherapy

Saturday, January 20th, 2007 @ 9:39 pm
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Reflecting on my own cultural background and the observations I made around relationship dynamics in the different cultural environments I have been exposed to, I became very aware of the role of the use of ‘power’, especially when acknowledging the existence of ‘dominant’ and ‘dominated’ cultures, and how such tendencies inevitably come into play in the counselling room. And, although those involved in delivering psychological/support services are in a ‘caring’ role, I think it is of paramount importance to remember Contenuto’s saying, not to encourage fear towards one’s role but to cultivate the necessary humility within those ‘helping’ roles.

According to A. Contenuto (1992, The difficult Art: A critical discourse on Psychotherapy, Wimetta, Illinois: Chiron Publications):

“However, we often tend to conceal the fact that no other profession involves a greater inequality of power than the psychotherapists’, in which one of the two poles is always, by definition, psychologically weaker than the other. For reasons intrinsic and structural to the psychological field, when a person is overwhelmed by suffering or convinced that his/her rational dimension, (which up to that point had qualified him/her as a human being,) has failed, asks someone stronger than he/she is to save him/her, s/he places that person in a position of power and superiority. This could also be why we undertake this profession: it is the only one that allows us to deal with weaker individuals, in partial identification with the omnipotent figure of saviour offering a hand to the suffering.”

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