Here we introduce you to PCSR psychotherapists and counsellors as political activists. If you are a member of one of the therapy professions, or indeed a teacher, social worker or other member of the healthcare or helping professions, and you have not experienced this aspect of our profession, please read on.
We hope that this will open up a new perspective, and you might want to be part of some of our initiatives and projects, and perhaps help form co-operative and collegiate alliances. You may want to join PCSR, and perhaps participate in joint activism.
It has been well known for decades that many helping professions working with disadvantaged people have been pioneers in providing counter-narratives to ideologies that not only accept but entrench inequalities. By contrast, our profession (with some notable exceptions) has traditionally been rather rooted in the establishment, with little or no reputation for activism or campaigning for social justice.
The prevailing ideology of much counselling and psychotherapy training was – and still is - essentially normative, its founding theories rooted in individualistic western culture, designed, predominantly, by white middle-class, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied (mainly) men. Its ethos focused on examining each person’s interior life rather than looking to the effects of an unequal, often oppressive society. Those who did not fall into this ‘default’ category tended to be pathologised, alienated and financially excluded, both as clients and as aspiring therapists.
A few radical thinkers and practitioners in the therapy world had begun to create new narratives around inter-generational trauma, social inequalities and ‘planet-consciousness’. It was from these ideas that our movement, PCSR, started over twenty years ago when a diverse group of therapists and supervisors, academics and researchers decided to incorporate social responsibility, a concept current in other disciplines, into our profession.
Today these ideas have gained currency. New terminology abounds: social justice, anti-discrimination, intersectionality and eco-consciousness are all part of engaged political debate. We, in PCSR, come from a plurality of backgrounds, cultures and identity affiliations. We call ourselves by many different names, and work in many settings. We are practitioners of a wide range of therapeutic modalities. Some of us work in related fields. What we have in common is social and political engagement, both in our professional work and in our lives.
Our ethos prioritises questioning accepted narratives which are steeped in inequality and oppression, about who and how we are: freeing our minds and our work by exploring difference, engaging, for example with the issue of ‘whiteness’ within dialogues about individual ethnicities. We work consciously with a range of cultures, disabilities, class affiliations, sexual and gender identities with the aim of modelling a more co-operative and collegiate dynamic. We contribute to developing the theory and practice of therapy in our society and in the wider world.
We aim to influence our own professions by improving accessibility and updating the content of the trainings, to become more relevant to the people who need our services. In particular we emphasise that the psychological ills and distress that befall each individual are located in the socio-political context of their lives as well as in their personal histories.
We contribute to political action through conferences and workshops, and through participating in public non-violent action. We set up dialogues with professional colleagues, law-makers and those in authority on many issues, including human rights, social justice, climate change and the ecological crisis, ethics, and national and international politics.