Have you ever been to a counsellor?
I hope so. Because we all have challenges and we all need support. And as much as I hope you also have family and friends around you to be that support, sometimes talking with a professional who is objective and can take a bird’s eye view is really helpful.
When I was at uni I went to a few sessions with one of the counsellors. This service was available at no cost to students.
She was helpful. She taught me decision making strategies and she helped me realise that I was avoiding making some decisions because I was scared of failure. Helpful.
I think she was a qualified social worker. Or maybe a psychologist. I can’t remember.
I’ve also been to one session with a counsellor referred to by the education department. Teachers get a certain number of free sessions throughout the year.
She helped me reframe my approach to teaching, especially around being a perfectionist and my stories and feelings about not doing a good enough job, not being passionate enough, not being enough, period. Helpful.
She was a psychologist. I remember.
Psychologists and social workers are the two classifications of counsellors you can go and see if you’re referred by a GP on a Mental Health Plan. You get 10 free sessions per. I’m sure these sessions would be very helpful.
So what’s the difference between the two? Psychologists are trained to focus on the individual experience and locate the problem within the individual. So someone is depressed because of something going on within them (distorted thinking, brain chemistry imbalance, genetics etc.) On the other hand, a social worker is trained to see the person in their environment. So someone may be depressed because they’re homeless, jobless, and lack a feeling of community support.
Theoretically, social workers look at the structural and political factors that lead to someone ending up in this kind of situation. They focus on advocacy, empowerment, and policy change.
In reality, 90% of social workers lose this critical perspective within 5 years of being in the field and they start to work more like psychologists.
It’s hard not to. This is the dominant narrative in our world. Your success as an individual is determined by who you are as an individual.
The advantages society grants me automatically for being white, middle-class, hetero, cis, and able bodied are not given consideration in this picture.
Yes, working at an individual level is still important. A social worker might have a feminist critical perspective about rape as a wide spread social problem that is a by-product of the way women are perceived and valued in general. But if an individual shows up for a counselling session who has been raped, you work with them on their individual healing process. For sure. While maintaining awareness and perhaps communicating to them at the right moment that this is not a problem that only they experience, this is a societal and cultural issue.
Social workers offering services under the Mental Health Plan can only utilise approved “Focused Psychological Strategies”.
And then what about counsellors, coaches and mentors? There are a range of different short counselling courses people can do. And proclaimed life coaches abound these days – with zero regulation.
Some of the most powerful and transformational healing processes for me have been with counsellors or therapists with “soft” qualifications –holistic counselling, transformational kinesiology, medical intuitives, and occupational therapy. For these kinds of therapists I’ve paid through the nose, and it’s been worth it. More than helpful. Life changing.
So what am I??? All of the above!! I’m proud of my pieces of paper – in Education and Social Work. And I’ve gained a lot of important counselling knowledge and skills through this training. But I’m never going to be an accredited Mental Health Social Worker. I don’t want to be trapped in a system that only looks within the individual to locate the problem.
I also highly value my spiritual and intuitive knowing. Sometimes when I’m speaking with teenagers, and writing these blogs, I get goosebumps all over my body. I trust this more than any academic knowing.
I’m passionate about working with girls. Yes, definitely about helping them process their personal individual experience. Overcoming self-doubt, feelings of “not-enoughness”, self-criticism. Processing and managing all of their emotions – anger, shame, sadness, hurt, joy.
One of my favourite women’s leadership coaches says that as women, once we overcome our internalised oppression, we find the courage to use our voice and power to dismantle the structural and institutional barriers that we face.
This is what I want for the young women I work with. That they see the big picture. That they learn to say “fuck you” to anyone or anything that tells them they’re not enough, or that their role is not valued.
They need it all… the tools to manage their individual experience… the knowledge and courage to fight against the systemic and societal issues… and the spiritual connection to maintain a sense of peace and power amongst it all…
This is what I offer… click HERE to find out more…