The initials ACCEPT stand for “Association for Community Counselling Education and Psychological Training”. ACCEPT/Newpark Counselling Training Centre, Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock, Co.Dublin.
The Director of ACCEPT, Malachy Kinnerney, spoke to Mary Montaut about his understanding of Counselling and its applications to every day life.
One of the tasks of our training is to get people and professionals to integrate their counselling skills in a way that helps them to work effectively. People in counselling training, whether they be nurses, teachers, personnel managers, workers in the voluntary organisations and so on, come on our courses with a view to doing their work in a more effective personal and professional way. I do not believe that counselling and psychotherapy should be restricted to academics and graduates in medicine, psychology and social science to the exclusion of people with qualifications in teaching and nursing. There is a need for professionals, but there is a difference between being a professional and doing one’s work in counselling in a professional way. Very often counselling and psychotherapy are games of power and privilege, to the advantage of the powered and privileged and to the detriment of those most in need of caring. The concept of counselling (and “having the ear of”) is as old as history itself. It would be an enormous restriction on counsellors if they had the academic restrictive criteria set out for psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and psychiatrists.
There is a sense of inferiority and panic in the rush towards accreditation and vali dation on the part of counsellors and psychotherapists. The work of counselling and psychotherapy ought not to be about elitism, but availability, access and equality in the community. Counselling thrived within the education and nursing professions and it seems a pity that both professions with their respective qualifications are now excluded from any post-graduate courses in counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland. ACCEPT is a training organisation for persons and professionals from every “walk and wake” of life. We do not have a selection procedure, we have a self-selection procedure and process. We advertise publicly and send out the information along with an application form, a condition and acceptance of the courses available. People self-select. If they are unhappy they elect out. We believe in the concept of inclusion as opposed to exclusion. An enormous amount of time, energy and money is spent in selecting people for courses when persons can select themselves. At the most extreme, a psychotic might apply to do the course, but he/she would either come to terms with the reality of the course or feel excluded by it and and simply not turn up. What is a selection process really about?
The central cornerstone of our training is that if a person seeks to be a counsellor they are saying, “I want to help and have them tell me their story.” We believe that to be an effective helper or counsellor, they must have experienced telling their story them selves, i.e. we think it is immoral, unjust and “downright lousy” to expect another person to tell their story to somebody who has not already done the same. Effective counsellors make effective clients, and effective, open clients in counselling training make effective, open counsellors. That is a cornerstone philosophy and psychology in our training and it dates back as far as Socrates. He who wishes to know must question. In an Irish context, ”No-one wishes to buy a pig in a poke.” The dignity of every human being is such that we believe that counsellors ought to experiment with their humanity in their training, so that when they meet a person they are most skilled, equipped and motivated to respect that person/client. Throughout our counselling courses, behaviourist, feminist, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches are included; that is to say, our diploma is both eclectic and experiential, as distinct from most other courses where the approach is didactic, academic and abstruse. There is a very clear structure of three modules. In each, autobiography as a subjective discipline is the only written requirement. The course is dynamic in that it develops the skills with training as the trainees move forward in their understanding of life and of counselling.
This is a training as distinct from a therapy programme. In any event, I believe that most so called psychotherapeutic training programmes are in reality training for “career professions” and/or “caring professions”. Our courses are training programmes, despite the fact that therapeutic value may derive directly or indirectly as a result of the working through of material arising from the course. Our groups are training groups, not therapy groups. The primary method of training is through a mixture of experience, behaviour and traditional didactic presentation.
Originally ACCEPT was intended to train everybody in everything from A-Z, i.e. from Assertiveness to Zen. The demand for training in Counselling was overwhelming. The public want it. It is extraordinary to know that currently in Ireland, access to post- graduate qualifications in counselling and psychotherapy debars those with education and nursing qualifications. These are the people who are involved in caring and counselling all of their working lives. What a shame to debar them from “psychotherapeutic” courses! Medics, academics and psychologists rule OK!
I believe that the de-mystification and de-mythologising of counselling, psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry is a cornerstone of our philosophy in training. I do not believe that I must bow down before them as new religions in an age of disbelief. It would be and IDol of despair.