Paul Hawken’s Speech at the 2006 Bioneers Conference

When I first saw this, it sent chills down my neck and I thought ‘We are part of this’. I watch it fairly regularly. I think what Paul is saying is vitally important.

The purpose of this counselling service stated in our memorandum of association is ‘ a not for profit organisation to provide counselling, psychotherapy, support and other therapeutic services, for the alleviation of distress and social exclusion…’.

In other words, we have a value here around social justice. This manifests in a number of ways.

We are a gift culture – our therapists volunteer their time. So do our office volunteers.

Our higher income clients pay us a commercial rate for the high quality service we offer, and thereby allow us to provide that service to those with much lower incomes.

From a person-centred perspective, psychological distress arises in life experience, especially childhood experience. The effects of that can be profoundly disempowering, hindering a person’s ability to realize their potential, and participate in community in ways that are meaningful and enhancing. The service we offer is about supporting people in healing/change.

So I see our service as one of the grass roots groups Paul is talking about.

One of the ideas I come across a lot in the therapy world is that there is a ‘proper’ way of seeing things, a ‘proper’ way of doing things (often one the speaker endorses). I hear regulators and therapists pay lip service to ideas of ‘diversity’, whilst simultaneously espousing and seeking to enforce ideologies – for example the idea that increasing regulation creates ‘safety’, or some of the disempowering ‘mental health’ diagnostic and treatment orthodoxies.

I do not believe this serves us as human beings. I often experience these ideas as suffocating, dangerous, anti-intellectual, oppressive, coercive.

The Ethical Framework of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (to which this service used to belong) states:-

‘A decision or course of action does not….become unethical merely because it is contentious or other practitioners would have reached different conclusions in similar circumstances.’

In other words, two people, both acting reflectively and ethically in the same set of circumstances, may well come to different conclusions.

It also says:-

‘The practitioner’s personal moral qualities are of the utmost importance to clients. Many of the personal qualities considered important in the provision of services have an ethical or moral component and are therefore considered as virtues or good personal qualities. It is inappropriate to prescribe that all practitioners possess these qualities, since it is fundamental that these personal qualities are deeply rooted in the person concerned and developed out of personal commitment rather than the requirement of an external authority.’

I agree with this. We look for therapists here who are on/up for this journey (the same journey, in essence, that they seek to support in their clients). We work with them through our in-house clinical supervision to help them foster these qualities – the Framework identifies integrity, wisdom, empathy, courage – and their own inward ethical compass. This is not supervision in the ‘line management’ sense – rather a collaborative peer-peer exploration of the supervisee’s process and work. We are not looking to inculcate any orthodoxy or ideology – rather to support individuals finding their own way (and noticing that, when someone is able to do this, it seems to work out in life-enhancing ways for everyone).

I agree with Paul, that it is in diversity and at grass roots level that our best hopes lie for healthier and more hopeful cultural paradigms.

So this feels like a valuable first post for the birth of our blog.

Lindsey Talbott
Therapist, Palace Gate Counselling Service

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