Two Ways of Looking at The Art of Counselling

Holistic on the left. Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology on the right

The picture above shows how AI art interprets two very different words. They both mean the same thing. The long psycho word is just the medical term for how all the various human systems work together, as explained here.

Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology, which was first described in 1936, is the study of the interactions between the psyche, neural and endocrine functions and immune responses.

Whereas Holistic therapy means something like this

‘Holistic’ originates from the Greek root ‘holos’, which translates as ‘whole’. Therefore, ‘holistic therapy’ is an umbrella term for any healthcare therapies and practices that treat the entire body and the whole person, rather than curing ailments in isolation as modern medicine does.

The first perspective comes from the medical world, whilst the second originates from the world of Humanistic Therapy.

Humanistic therapy is a mental health approach that emphasizes the importance of being your true self in order to lead the most fulfilling life. It’s based on the principle that everyone has their own unique way of looking at the world. This view can impact your choices and actions.

The Art of Counselling as of 2022

As a recently trained counsellor but someone very experienced in the world of mental health, I have studied the science of Counselling in depth. And the conclusion I have come to after 35 years is that it is not a science. It is an art.

Making it science is the medical and academic world’s way of corralling and branding it, like gathering and taming wild horses ready for market. Once corralled, the horses are weighed and tested and compared with each other. In the process, however, you have restricted their freedom and taken away their autonomy. The horses that have survived unaided on the plains for 55 million years are now domesticated and dependent on humans for survival.

These images for psychology paint a grim picture.

Image created by the author on Midjourney

Creative Counselling can give you back your freedom.

Art is ever-changing. Techniques and materials come and go and fall in and out of fashion. With the coming of AI art, I can summon up the pictures in this article with a few words as a prompt. I do not have to restrict myself to one particular school of art or material. I can be creative in the moment and follow any threads that interest me.

The same is true of Counselling. I clarify to my clients that I do not restrict myself to any particular branch of psychotherapy. My focus is firmly on providing each client with exactly what they need. If I counsel you, then your inner world is the focus of my attention. You can take it in any direction you wish. I will follow along, noticing patterns and nuance, cheering for your success and listening and encouraging you while you untangle your confused thoughts and feelings.

By painting a picture with your words to your counsellor, you may or may not understand yourself better rationally, but you cannot take away the fact that you have painted the picture. You have chosen the materials, the tools and the pallet. You have allowed yourself to be creative and maybe surprised yourself with some of the images that have arisen.

Image created by the author in Midjourney

The creative process makes a difference.

Many clients arrive on my doorstep like those corralled horses I described above. They have learnt to survive in captivity, which is all they know. They seem unaware that the gate is wide open and freedom awaits. If they are aware of the open gate, they are afraid to step away from the safety of the corral. The regular meals, rules and routines have embedded themselves as an illusion of safety.

For some, their childhood was not safe physically or emotionally, but even so, they cling to it like a punctured liferaft, afraid of stepping out into the unknown.

There is no doubt that the gate is open and all they have to do is step through. The creative process is all about exploring the unknown. In the picture on the right below, my conscious mind was aiming for three horses in a corral. By some magical, mystical process between me and the AI server, a human face appeared in place of one of the horses. The image expressed what I wanted to say so much better than the one I had intended to create. I had allowed chance and randomness to lead me into the unknown, and the result was far more potent than I had planned.

Image created by the author on Midjourney

Identifying Counsellors who work creatively

I think all I can suggest here is to avoid narrow specialisms. I will not name specific therapies to avoid, but you are more likely to find a creative therapist if they call themselves Integrative, Pluralistic or Eclectic. I don’t use any of those labels for myself. I prefer to call myself a Counsellor and leave it at that.

If you ask for a description of my way of working, I will tell you I follow your lead and work with any approach I feel you need. I could list all the therapeutic approaches I know well, but often, that can be confusing. There are broad misconceptions about many of the therapies that hold specific labels.

Maybe I should show you the two pictures below and say I will help you look beyond the window that marks the confines of your present world. I will help you imagine the freedom and colour of that alternative future, to get used to its smell and weight. When you eventually leave your present constraints behind, it will be like walking into something new with a trusted friend. You will realise that your trusted friend has always been there. You will realise that all I have done is help you to find something you already had.

Image created by Author on Midjourney.

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Go to my website if you are interested in Counselling over the phone, via video or face to face.

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