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Counselling – An Insecure Profession? A Sociological and Historical Analysis

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posted on 26.03.2012, 11:45 by Sally Aldridge
This thesis presents a sociological and historical analysis of the development of counselling in the United Kingdom over the period 1890-2010. It explores the origins, development and recognition of counselling and how counselling became enmeshed in the issues of professionalisation. The long perspective anchors counselling in the changing social, economic, cultural and political contexts; this is essential to understand the emerging role of counselling in the 20th and 21st centuries. Counselling has multiple pre-cursors, leading to incomplete boundary setting and inadequate definitions and therefore to weak jurisdictional claims. The thesis combines several theoretical concepts of professionalisation, in particular the concepts of jurisdictional systems of professions and the influence of patriarchy on professionalisation projects of female-dominated occupations. The combination of methodologies, documentary, interview, participative observation and case study with path dependency theory, is employed to explore the processes. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP, BAC up to 2000) provides a case study of the development of counselling and the processes of professionalisation. The thesis presents evidence that the model of professionalisation current in the United Kingdom is based on patriarchal assumptions and questions whether this is an appropriate model for counselling. The analysis identifies two self-reinforcing tendencies of inclusivity and self-effacement within BACP. These self-reinforcing tendencies have underpinned decisions, the unintended consequences of which have worked against the professionalisation of counselling. The status-seeking jurisdictional conflicts are set within the context of an insecure professional identity. The result has been to create and maintain this insecure professional identity.



Wheeler, Sue; Miller, Henry

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University of Leicester

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