The public perception of counselling and psychotherapy is very partial because they only hear about the work of therapists when it is connected with scandals, horror stories and difficult litigations. Perhaps a false impression is created that the work of counselling and psychotherapy is forensic, consisting of unearthing hideous, but repressed, fact out of our pasts. This misconception is very dangerous to the real work of therapy.
At present, there seems to be a good deal of confusion about this issue around such questions as past sexual abuse and the legal implications of the work of therapists with all the various people who may be connected with such abuse (for therapists do not only work with victims). In fact, we believe it is inappropriate for the work of therapy to be taken over and used in this way by the law. The definition of truth in therapy is not the same as in law. In law the question is usually about facts, in therapy, facts may not may not emerge, but the work is about growth. The truths that facilitate human growth are often completely at odds with the apparent facts of cases.
Nonetheless, in areas such as child sexual abuse, therapists are sometimes asked to contribute to legal proceedings and, if they are employed for example by Health Boards, their notes may legally belong to the authority that employs them. A further anomaly arises where a man accused of sexual abuse may discover that the only defence he can offer against the charges would have to come from the very therapists whose expertise in this field means that they may already be giving evidence for the prosecution. This arises because the nature of the evidence in such cases is often confused with reports of material from therapy sessions, and at present, there are very few therapists in Ireland with this specialism. The small pool of expertise means that close colleagues may be the only people who are acceptable to give the necessary evidence for both sides. Questions about contract, money, confidentiality, etc. clearly confront both the personal and legal aspects of the work of therapists. Ethical questions again bear on all of them. In this issue of Inside Out, our contributors explore the ramifications of mandatory reporting, bodywork, the work of professional organizations and the relevance of political correctness to the work of therapy.
Our Summer Issue will have as its theme Children and Psychotherapy. We hope that this topic will attract contributions on all aspects of the subject. We would also like to hear from you if you have attended an interesting or unusual workshop, or read a book which you would like to review for us. All contributions will be considered for publication by the Editorial Committee.
We shall also be including our listing of short courses in our Summer Issue, so details to us please, by 7th May 1998.