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I moved chairs. I had been sitting with the youngest people and I realised that I didn’t really feel that I was getting enough from them. I thought this a few weeks ago but hadn’t quite got round to sitting somewhere else, as if it matters or is a criticism of them. However this time I got there early as we had planned a pre-group discussion for some of us so I sat down with those who were there. This whole thing feels like being back at school. Who you sit with and where and whether you can move is all part of an invisible social dance I feel a stranger to.

I realised that the check in is really annoying me. Rather than say, this is how I feel, right her, right now, people (including the leader) use it to say how their week has been, which may contribute to how you feel at the start of a session, but it’s not really what it’s for. I’m not saying how my week was, but I do struggle with what to say.

T said in check in that he found his research on CBT difficult as it conflicted with his personal views that people couldn’t be programmed. Apart from the fact that this is the sort of interesting thing to hear at check in it made me think. Whilst I would like to think that we’re not some sort of programmable robots the reality is that we are fundamentally programmed. Our parents programme us, as does school, the media and the rest of the outside world. There are expectations on us all to behave certain ways in certain situations and that is essentially a programme. To take it to extremes brainwashing is a form of dramatic re-programming. The military programme their troops to regard the enemy as less human to make them easier to kill.The Israeli army is well known to be best at de-humanising in this way. This is all programming. Free will is an illusion, but it’s so complicated that we might as well act as if it’s real because we can never work out the programme in full detail.

We discussed ethics, although in a very limited way. We compared the counsellor’s position to that of a teacher or a doctor. All are in a position of authority with the power to abuse people in their care. Registered counsellors will have signed up to the BACP’s Ethical Framework (other organisations exist) and must always have a supervisor (who is more of a mentor than a supervisor). The supervisor is there both to discuss your clients and how to handle them but also how you are and to point out what you may not be able to see. There’s more to it than that but it’s a start.

We discussed a case and the ethical issues around it but it was rather superficial.We talked about boundaries and responsibilities, balance and malpractice.

We then briefly went through the differences of CBT, person-centred therapy and psychodynamic models. Some people were looking at these for the very first time and other than for a few brief moments it wasn’t really all that informative and I lost interest and doodles a lot. M was interesting as he talked about EMDR, a debatable therapy that for him at least seemed to work quite well in terms of him jumping into combat alert status when out on the streets of London.

We only had time for one speaker and I listened to V who was really interesting. He reminded me of the social awkwardness of not having any money and the not being able to say what you do because when you don’t have a job, for whatever reason, you tend to get ostracised. He’s going through rehab at the moment, in what sounds like a really excellent institution and that makes him an outsider to society in so many ways. I didn’t warm to him in the first few weeks but I’ve got better. There was so much I wanted to share with him in response to what he said and it seems that the closer someone’s experiences or feelings are to your own the more you want to share and the harder it is to keep your mouth shut. Feedback often turns into to a voluntary continuance of the session but with more interruption, more questions and more advice.

I went home planning to book for the next term, something that is in progress and with homework of writing a summary journal for the course.