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approach me. I remember at the time feeling very uneasy and embarrassed. I do see her as an authoritive figure to me and it felt like seeing a teacher out of school times. In an economical context the counselling relationship is based on fees for the counsellors service. The fees could be based on the counsellors abilities, the clients ability to pay as well as other factors which could create a power differential. Counsellor clients political beliefs could cause a power differential in the therapeutic relationship and can often cause people a lot of distress.
The client may have a differing view on politics to the counsellor but may not bring it to therapy out of fear or not knowing what the counsellor's beliefs may be. I believe as a counsellor we have an ethical responsibility to the well being of clients regardless of what our political beliefs may be and we should not impose our views onto our clients and accept we all have different views.
Although Rogers made steps towards addressing the imbalance of power in therapy by getting rid of the idea that the therapist is an expert, Masson (1989) remains doubtful that this impacts on power imbalance and believes that it is the nature of therapy to distort another person's reality. My own feeling as a client having had therapy is that power imbalance is definitely felt. In other life situations and conversations it is always two sided however in my therapy sessions I know less of my counsellor than she does of me.
Having said that I do understand that therapy is for the client and that self-disclosure is to be used when it is appropriate and would be beneficial to the client. Power differential may exist in the counselling relationship however person centered therapy challenges the inequality and rather focuses on the person to person relationship and the clients perception of their own power. There may always be institutional and structural power attached to the role of the therapist.
As mentioned earlier my focus will move onto culture and how I feel that may impact the therapeutic relationship while bringing my experiences coming from a mixed Asian background.
I grew up in a mixed culture family environment. My father is Pakistani and my mother is Jamaican Indian, neither, was born here in the UK. My father came into this country when he was nine and my mother when she was sixteen. Traditionally my fathers' family would have liked him to marry someone who was from a Pakistani background but he chose my mother, which caused conflict, but years later they are still happily married. I was bought up in a predominantly white area and it is all I ever knew until I was a teenager. My family had many white friends and was friends with one black family, so I thought we were the only ethnic people when I was younger. When I was a teenager I was taken to a predominantly Asian area in the heart of Birmingham and I remember thinking and saying to my father " I didn't know that this many Asians existed". My grandfather was in the army and used to go to the pub every Friday with his white friends. Although we were always taught not to drink alcohol because of my dads religion (non practicing Muslim) my grandfather was excused, he was the exception and he was the authoritive figure in the family. I remember my dad's side of the family being mean to my mother, being racist and mocking her hair. When at school I assimilated myself with the majority and did not talk about my culture as this highlighted that I was different. On the whole I was treated the same as the other children but little remarks stayed with me and I felt uneasy but did not say anything. Words like "the paki's" were used regularly but people would say "no offence", so I thought it was okay although it never felt okay. The most common phrase I remember and I still have people say to me now is "your not like the rest of them, your like us". I know now this is a form of racial microagression, which are everyday verbal or non-verbal messages, sometimes unintentional but can cause a person to feel like they don't belong or inferior. My uncle's married white women as well as Asian so on the whole my family is very diverse and we embrace each other's cultures, for example we celebrate Christmas and Eid. I have been bought up very westernized and not like your typical Pakistani upbringing, I say typical because I have witnessed some of my cousins who have been bought up differently to me.
My understanding of race, culture and difference only grew when I moved out of my family home at sixteen to Birmingham. The only races spoken of in my home as a child were 'White and Asians' and I have put that term in commas as I feel uneasy using those terms as they were used in a negative way around me when I was younger.
Race and ethnicity is not spoken of as much as I think it should be out of fear or being labeled 'racist', if we were given the opportunity to speak about how it feels to live in a multicultural society maybe there would be more harmony and that race and ethnicity can belong to everyone rather than the minority. Race, culture and ethnicity are often used interchangeably, ethnicity can impact on our development and some of our beliefs, attitudes values and behaviours are a reflection of our cultural backgrounds. In the 1960's cross-cultural psychology began to emerge and the research in this area developed. (Jahoda & Krewer ,1997). The focus of how ethnicity may affect the therapeutic process has been investigated in literature, however it is mainly from the perspective of the ethnic minority group in particular 'ethnic matching' where clients have a preference for a therapist of the same ethnicity. In future a Pakistani client may come to with the assumption that I will be more understanding of their culture and someone who may have been bought up similar to them. Research suggests that clients may prefer counsellors from the same ethnic background. (Harrison,1975). As discussed earlier I have had a more westernized upbringing and when clients come with an assumption of my ethnicity what do I do with that? I could offer the core conditions in the hope that it will be enough and gain more knowledge and understanding of their culture from their frame of reference. When I was seeking a therapist I did not mind if they were male or female but I knew my preference would be a white therapist. The rationale behind this for me was that it was how I was bought up and that they could relate to me more. I have also suffered from racism from people of an Asian ethnicity when I moved to Birmingham. "If you are Asian why aren't you wearing the right clothes?" "Why are you smoking your Asian?" "Why are you out clubbing & drinking if your Asian? Explaining myself a number of times to people used to annoy me, I was not bought up with anything other than what I wear now, I was allowed to go out and drink and go clubbing, the response I would get is·"their not proper Asians!" "Her dads probably not religious or a good Muslim". This has not stopped me from wanting to support ethnic minorities through counselling; it has helped me gain an understanding of the issues young Asian women can face. From seeing first hand how older Asian ladies were treated in my family I empathize with women who are not treated equally in their relationships with families and partners and the expectations of them. It could be argued that the needs of the therapist are overlooked with respect to this area as much as it is of importance to gain more expertise in the needs of ethnic minority clients. It is important for therapists to acknowledge difference in ethnicity between themselves and their clients as this shows a commitment to cultural diversity. Bhui, (2012) suggests that when issues of ethnicity do arise therapist may experience discomfort and anxiety and the client may not get the response they are hoping for. It is essential for therapists to recognize their own attitudes and assumptions so that it does not impact on the therapeutic relationship and find ways in which to work that is appropriate and sensitive. (Fernando, 2010). Lago and Thompson, (2002) argue that traditional methods of counselling are "culturally captured within a Western view of the world and are insensitive to all counseling situations. For me my knowledge of the western society has helped me in practice with clients as I have a frame of reference but equally feel that some understanding of other cultures would enable me to work with ethnic minorities. While I do believe that offering clients the space they may need to explore and the core conditions may be enough for the therapeutic relationship to develop, knowledge of racial groups is essential to offer effective practice. The knowledge of power difference in different cultures could be beneficial so that as a therapist we can be mindful that we are not exerting the same in therapy. As a student at University I took part in a counselling session where I was the client with a peer, the session was based around bereavement and the loss that I felt when my brother passed away. I have not really spoken much about the loss other than in therapy so I felt it was a big step for me, and time I started to process some of my thoughts and feelings whenever they arise instead of suppressing them. The session started well and as I talked through the process of what happened the conversation went to the funeral and I spoke of how difficult the thoughts of my bothers body underground were hard for me to comprehend. I explained that in my culture we do not believe in cremation but burial and that it was important to me even though I am not religious or follow my dads religion. The counsellor stated that she understood that as she has friends who were ethnic that were buried then she said, " they do that ritual, of mourning and chanting and staying indoors for forty days, that must have been difficult". I just replied, "No we don't do that". Immediately after her comment I felt hurt, upset and stereotyped, with questions running through my head. My family does not do a ritual or chanting so her assumptions hurt, it was a bereavement with genuine hurt and upset not a ritual. Although the counsellor was probably trying to empathize, making assumptions, lead to me not wanting to open up or talk anymore and the words "they do that chanting" was very stereotypical. Everyone is individual and every family deals with bereavement in their own way a little bit of understanding and empathy for difference could have helped.
In some eastern cultures therapists could be seen as problem solvers and would seek guidance and direction from the therapist. This creates the power imbalance in
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