Sunday, 14 June 2009
Counseling as social control
As a counsellor sometimes I feel like Pinquean Smallcreep. Or more correctly I feel like the factory in which Pinquean Smallcreep worked. Good old Wikipedia gives us a run down on the book “Smallcreep’s Day” which I read in high school and it always fascinated me:
“The story is a surreal satire on modern industrial life. The central character Pinquean Smallcreep works in the slotting section of a vast and labyrinthine factory and has done so for years. He becomes curious about the purpose of the pulley that he puts the slots in and one day, having become obsessed by an idea, leaves his machine and goes exploring through the strange world of his factory. On a quest to find meaning in his monotonous existence, Smallcreep experiences many surreal and disturbing situations. Each scene explores some of the author’s ideas about human relationships, freedom and the value of human life. Some of the scenes are hilarious, some depressing and some macabre. The final two pages are taken up with a powerful vision of the futility of factory work and a passionate cry for the lost dignity of the craftsman.” (end quote)
In recent years with the development of the nanny state in Australia (and the western world) there has been a move away from dealing with deviant behaviour by legal means to dealing with them as a health issue as they call it. The best example is the drug courts which now for minor drug offences redirect the drug user into counselling rather than punishing them through the law.
This theory is an enlightened idea except that it has subtly changed the idea of what counselling is. Another example of when counselling is so used is when an errant sportsman runs off the tracks. A good example of this was recently when a high profile cricketer got drunk at some event and made a mess of himself. He had done nothing illegal and the police were not involved but his behaviour was considered deviant and thus amongst other things he was sent for counselling.
The counselling is meant to convert him into behaving in a non-deviant fashion. It is meant to get him to see the error of his ways and thus he will then behave in ways that are considered non-deviant. This of course changes what counselling is about. In essence counselling becomes as mechanism of social control to make people behave in non-deviant ways. I must say this is a concern for the counselling profession in general. The word counselling gets used regularly in the press in these very circumstances.
I feel like I need to make some sort of public declaration that the counselling I do is not for social control and my goal is not to make people behave in non-deviant ways especially when the ‘deviant’ behaviour is not illegal. Indeed a lot of what I do is facilitating people to accept that their deviant behaviour is OK. If I was referred a sportsman who was sent for counselling because he got drunk and told someone to fuck off in front of the camera, this is what I would do.
1. The administrators of sport are power drunk.
2. They can tell you what to do because they dangle a big wallet of money in front of you and say unless you behave how we want then we wont give you any money.
3. Do you want to continue living under those circumstances?
4. If the answer is no, then the problem is ended
5. If the answer is yes, then you conform but you must never lose your spirit because if one does then one becomes like Pinquean Smallcreep.
The counselling profession needs to distinguish the two. I for one want to distance myself from those counsellors who are used by sporting administrations as a means of social control. That is not what counselling was originally about and it is not what I do.