Saturday, August 17, 2019

Developing and applying theories in a pluralistic society – The Person Centred Method

For this assignment I will be considering Carl Roger's person centred method and it's application to lesbian women in a pluralist society, I will be drawing upon the theoretical frame work previously used in my presentation. Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was the founder of the person centred method his theories are associated with the Humanistic psychology it is also associated with Maslow(1908-1970) and phenomenological approach. Phenomenology is a philosophical assessment of the individual it was developed by Husserl (1975), the focus is on the subjective experience. The method involved requires the professional to suspend their assumption and interpretation of the client's world, thereby allowing the client to interpret and explore their own experiences and thoughts. It is important to consider the context in which psychological theories conceptualised and developed. Humanistic psychology developed in the industrial age and in the 50's and 60's it therefore places great importance on the individual as a person striving for independence, self actualisation and their maximum potential. Dryden et al (1989) have also given an outline of the origins of the humanistic theory, that these were in the affluent era of the 50's and 60's in California, terms such as self actualisation, can be just a ‘slogan' that is applied without any real meaning, when contrasted between the prosperous, optimistic society of California, it can have a different meaning for those people that are in poverty are unemployed or homeless. The concept of self actualisation which is considered necessary by psychologists such as Rogers can be explored in relation to lesbian women and how society conceptualises them. Homosexuality has been viewed by psychotherapists and psychiatrists as a mental illness, and was considered as such until 1974 when the American Psychiatric Association declassified it, however there was considerable opposition to this from psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, and ‘medical model' psychiatrists ( Mcleod J, 1998), in-fact psychotherapy was used to try to ‘cure' homosexuality. Although the work of Rogers' has encouraged progress and has been associated with movement away from the previous medical model of mental illness, one the draw backs of Rogerian person centred therapy out lined by Ivey et al (1997) is that it is a ‘highly verbal' technique, which is over-concerned with the deeper meaning of life rather than tackling problems and finding solutions. Therefore it may not be suited to all clients especially those with mental health problems etc. Roger's therapy known as ‘person centred' and non-directive aimed to change the balance of power towards that of the client, and to treat the individual as a ‘client' rather than a patient. However this point can be debated as to whether the balance of power is actually shifted and the control is with the recipient, rather than the provider of the therapy. Criticism of therapies, such as Rogerian, psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural according to Ivey et al (1997) is that they place responsibility for the problem with the client rather than considering structural, political and environmental issues that are relevant to the clients experience. The person centred method in relation to lesbian women needs to be applied in a way that is sensitive to them, therefore if the counsellor is male he will need to be aware that he does not impose his own assumptions and interpretation onto the client, firstly about his ideas about women's roles within society and as nurturers, wives and mothers, secondly stereotypical perceptions about lesbianism. Feminists criticise models of the helping relationship which have their origins in the white middle class male ideology, they relate this to the way a patriarchal society oppresses women into submissive roles, Banks (1999) also questions whether male therapists can validate a female clients experiences in a male dominated society. Hetro-sexual women can also oppress lesbians through negative assumptions and homophobia that can lead to imposing our own values and assumptions about lesbian relationships, McLeod (1998) gives a good example where a female therapist tried to actively encourage her lesbian client to date men. The person centred approach places particular emphasis on the use of the core conditions, genuiness, unconditional positive regard and empathy, and its view of human nature is positive and optimistic in comparison to Freudian psychology. The core conditions out lined by Rogers plays an essential part in building a therapeutic relationship, between the therapist and the client. From my professional experience when working as education social worker relating to a teenage pregnancy, the girl was fifteen years old and Asian. I was surprised when she said that she thought she was a lesbian, however working with the young person and applying Rogers core conditions, of genuiness, empathy and unconditional positive regard, enabled me to realize that people need to discover their sexuality and who the real person is; society can place pressure on young people to conform to the norms of a white, heterosexual society and thereby place conditions of worth on them. Unconditional positive regard which is accepting the clients experiences without judgment is essential in building a therapeutic relationship, however if the counsellor has absorbed negative, homophobic assumptions about homosexuality, from the society that he/she lives in then these may consciously or unconsciously be transferred on to the client. Humanistic psychotherapist Don Clark (1987) has expressed that therapeutic neutrality is impossible to maintain, since we have taken on board society's negative stereotypes of homosexuality, he has stated that â€Å"it is presumptuous to assume that counsellors who have been taught about valuable concepts such as unconditional positive regard are able to apply them with gay-lesbian clients if they are not aware of their own heterosexual or homophobia biases† (Davies and Neal,1996) A lesbian women may for example find it difficult to come to terms with her own sexuality, because of negative stereotypes and stigma associated with it, â€Å"Lesbian women are raised to view themselves as a half person without a man, they may see marriage as a door to personal growth, adult hood, freedom, and motherhood†Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. ( Davies and Neal,1996) the counsellor may therefore need to enable the lesbian woman to restore her self esteem and her concept of being a woman, the traditional female roles, as mother and wife may not be stereotypes that she aspires to. The impact of Homophobia on the self concept of a lesbian woman will create conditions of worth, therefore lesbians may feel they are not worthy individuals if they are not heterosexual, do not have children, have a male partner and behave as society expects women to do. Bradshaw (1998) has defined the concept of ‘Toxic shame' in relation to internalised homophobia within the self-concept. This notion cannot be fully understood without the use of a more eclectic approach to counselling because it states that the self concept can become, fragile and a false self concept can develop, through denial, this may be conscious or unconscious but it will be due to the fear of discovery. Toxic shame can lead to the development of defences which can lead to alcohol, substance abuse, suicide attempts, distancing oneself from others, underachievement or over-achievement etc. Being functional or dysfunctional human being is particularly relevant to how lesbian women's identity and self concept develops, becoming functional human being requires being able to use ones own organismic valuing process, which maximises the potential to grow and become the true self. The dysfunctional human being lives to meet the values of others to acquire love and respect. Coming out as a lesbian therefore is fraught with anxiety and even danger of rejection by family, friends and community. The primary question is will they be valued by society if they come out as Lesbian? The organismic need to come out and be accepted as a lesbian should be facilitated by the therapist to enable the client to accept their real identity; however the client should be ready to do this in her own time. Therefore acceptance from the therapist or social worker or other professional is an essential first step. However therapists as well as other professionals such as social workers can easily oppress lesbian women, an example from my practice experience when working with the Education Welfare service in a case where the child was not attending school regularly, during the home visit the client revealed that her relationship with her husband had broken down and that she had started a lesbian relationship, this immediately led me to make the assumption that the child's non-attendance may be related to this new relationship. On reflection I noticed how easy it was to jump to a conclusion relating to same sex relationships and would I have made the same assumption if the relationship was with a partner of the opposite sex? Drawing from my own experience I notice how easily professionals from helping organisations can make assumptions that can lead to discrimination and oppression, when working in a refuge for vulnerable women that had been the victims of domestic violence, a Black woman with four children came to the centre it was assumed automatically by the member of staff taking down her history that the abusive partner was male. The woman found that she had to explain that she was in a lesbian relationship, and the abusive partner was another woman. This is a good example where social assumptions and stereotypes where women are perceived to be submissive, passive individuals that are the victims of domestic violence rather than the perpetrators of it. It also shows that assumptions are made by professionals regarding relationships that a partner automatically means someone of the opposite sex. The person centred method when applied to lesbians need to take into account the experience of the individual as a woman and also as lesbian her experience needs to be valued and respected, this method if used effectively according to Rogers, can build up the self -worth and self acceptance. However Davies and Neal (1996) state that few British training courses in counselling or psychotherapy cover working with lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people. They propose a model of gay affirmative therapy; this should be incorporated into other theoretical methods such as humanistic and psychodynamic etc. â€Å"Gay affirmative therapy is not an independent system of psychotherapy. Rather it represents a special range of psychological knowledge which challenges the traditional views†¦Ã¢â‚¬  Davies and Neal (1996) Gay affirmative therapy is an eclectic model that incorporates both theories. 2 important factors pointed out by Davies and Neal is firstly whether the counsellor is competent to counsel the homosexual individual, and secondly that it is important for the counsellor to examine their own ‘ideas about values, moral and lifestyles when working with clients who are culturally different'. This is the important factor of genuiness or congruence that Rogers has defined, Kus (1990), states that a therapist should be open and honest about personal prejudices that they hold about homosexuality, and refer clients on, however congruence can be much more difficult in practice, if the therapist or the client with holds information from each other in the relationship. Empathy is also an important core condition that was noted by Rogers with in the person centred approach, it is a deep understanding of the clients personal perspective of their problems, however it can be argued whether a heterosexual person can fully understand what it feels like to be a lesbian, similarly can a white person fully understand what it feels like to be black? This question exposes the difficulty of cross-cultural counselling, especially if the counsellor or therapist is unaware of the their own prejudice for e.g. non-verbal behaviour, body language or are ignorant about the issues for lesbian women. However it is important for professionals such as therapists not to assume that all lesbians need counselling for coming to terms with their sexuality, counselling may be required for a wide range of other issues as with hetero sexual women. R.J, Kus (1990) states that one of the most frequent criticism concerning helping professionals is that they get ‘fixated' upon the homosexual life style and lose sight of the issues the help is being sought for, this means that the therapist assumes that the life style is the problem, despite the client stating other issues that help is sought for. The Humanistic perspective has contributed to social work practice by providing valuable criteria working in anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory way with service users, the most useful contribution is the person centred approach, which facilitates building of genuine helping relationship and listening to the service user. It also acknowledges that the client is expert on his/her particular problems. The person centred method has many positive aspects that can be used by social workers and other helping professionals, and aspects of this model can be incorporated with other theories to provide an eclectic model that can be used effectively by them. For example the humanistic person centred method is a valuable tool to build warm, respecting and trusting relationship with clients such as lesbian women, it will facilitate understanding their present situation, and how they view them selves within society and explore their organismic needs. Aspects of the psychodynamic approach may be useful in the enabling the client to explore their unconscious feelings and motives, whilst multicultural perspectives, acknowledge the cultural background and identity of the individual. I think that for anti-discriminatory social work practice that can empower the individual an eclectic model may be the most useful approach in a helping relationship.

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