«Alicja Kargulowa University of Lower Silesia Why We Need Counsellogical Research: Towards an Anthropology of Counselling The article explores various ...»
the cultural “frame” of the situation can be indeed delineated; a general formula of a counselling relationship as “help provision through counselling/using counsellor’s help” could be indeed drawn up; and the particular stages in the provision and re‑ ception of help can be indeed distinguished. Yet neither the values brought into the counselling situation, nor the degree to which its participants invest their resources in it, nor the nuances of how the executors of the general formula will actually be‑ have or feel about it, nor the effects of the “help provision/reception in counsel‑ ling” can be codified and fully planed for an individual and for society, let alone for the whole globe. The relationships of this kind are as a rule considered unique and studied phenomenologically.
Counselling means still something else when it is identified with operations of institutions and facilities whose names feature “counselling” in them. The entirety of institutional activity, and not only the actions of particular counsellors, is called counselling. The term includes then all kinds of technical and bureaucratic solu‑ tions, which organise the social and psychological dimensions of everything that is going on at the facility (mainly advice‑giving, guidance‑provision, consultation, individual and group “mild therapy,” etc.). The counselling facility can be a state‑ managed institution or it can be set up by societies, foundations, political organisa‑ tions, etc. Democratisation of social relationships fosters proliferation of state and non‑state counselling centres. Their activities – counselling – become the target of social policies and are perceived largely as a political and economic phenomenon 263
I. Studies and Dissertationscharacteristic of a given country in which such centres are set up, professional counsellors are trained, tasks of particular counselling facilities are appointed and their performance assessed. Discussions are in progress on the ideological and con‑ ceptual aspects of counselling, its theoretical assumptions, expected outcomes and side‑effects, and about its real and desired organisational structures. The number of the centres, their diversity, availability, and degree to which they are furnished with the indispensable “resources” all seem to evidence the state’s care about the citizens and its effort to meet their needs. Such notion of counselling is meant when one speaks of Polish, French, German or Dutch counselling, of European, Canadian or North‑American counselling ideology, and of the career, family, medical or legal counselling systems (cf. Bilon, Kargul, 2012).
The aforementioned counselling boom encourages still another perspective in which to explore counselling. Counselling, namely, seems to be not only a social process made up of particular counsellors’ and counselees’ actions, but first and foremost a process of social life. Social life with its values and products, construct‑ ed in interpersonal relations, can be perpetuated and handed down in some actions or, conversely, destroyed and debased in other ones. Even preliminary observations and superficial analyses suffice to state that counselling is a reinforcing process of social life. By definition friendly, counselling is “an ethically engaged entity,” which seeks to be ethically effective.6 Counselling is a social practice, and as such it has long ceased to be the domain of specialists only. Practised not only by qualified counsellors or counselling researchers – counsellogists – and not only in its con‑ ventionalised, nearly ritualistic form, it is engaged with also by people who play various social role ‑, diverse professionals who interlace their non‑counselling vo‑ cational pursuits with counselling practices.
Counselling transgresses structural limits and boundaries, developing thereby into a network and, concomitantly, into a flow of knowledge and ideas, a stream of human problems, scientific discourses, helping practices, various supporting actions and material objects as well as appliances which transmit, select and store counselling texts (cf. Castells, 2007). To use Bruno Latour’s apt formulation, coun‑ selling is [r]eal as Nature, narrated as Discourse, collective as Society, existential as Being (Latour, 1993, p. 90). Arguably, counselling has become a discourse of ev‑ eryday life and, hence, is subject to all changes that have an effect on the everyday.
Counselling as a process of everyday social life is undeniably affected by the philos‑ ophy of individualism, globalisation, spreading digitisation and reflexive moderni‑ sation. We view it as an international grid of interrelated guidance‑provision/ re‑ ception on the Internet, in other media or in the real world (cf. Bilon, 2010, p. 58ff).
My major point in the foregoing was to show that, as research implies, coun‑ selling could be defined on the interdisciplinary and interparadigmatic basis, yet 6 This, however, does not mean that counselling is an invariably highly moral social entity and that all actions that counsellors undertake aim at common good.
264 Journal of Counsellogy 2013 to rule ultimately what would and what would not count as counselling in real life is a major difficulty. Most researchers believe that the final decision should be left to its “stakeholders,” i.e. participants of the counselling relationship, performers and recipients of particular counselling actions, employees of the counselling facilities.
Others postulate that the question should be settled by counselling researchers, es‑ pecially by counsellogists. So far, no consensus has been reached on this matter, and hence we need to accept the diversity of opinions on the scope of counselling, though some issues do call for a more general agreement.
It would seem from the remarks above that it is urgent to probe more deeply into counselling and provide scientific accounts of it which would show its affini‑ ties with and differences from other “formative” social phenomena and processes, e.g. socialisation and upbringing, teaching and learning, therapy and mediation, self‑education and rehabilitation, mentoring and coaching, or advertising and pro‑ paganda for that matter. Counsellogy strives to compile and systematise the multi‑ faceted research on counselling that has so far been undertaken by various scholars and diversely engaged participants of the “counselling micro‑world.”
The term “poradoznawstwo” (counsellogy) is the Polish name of a science of coun‑ selling, a social sub‑discipline with a specific object of research (counselling), an interdisciplinary theory of counselling, and a generalised reflection on counselling.
Because the name usually not only denotes a thing (an entity/being), but also means something (since formulating a notion entails including some of its features and relations), counsellogy means knowledge of a specific social practice, i.e. counsel‑ ling. I coined the term and introduced it into the humanities to distinguish various practical helping actions and activities performed by counselling from a reflection on them. Consequently, on the one hand counsellogy studies the often closely in‑ terrelated real personal (psychological) and social facts, events and processes whose essence lies in providing help by some people to others through a counselling re‑ lationship jointly constructed and developed by them. And on the other, counsell‑ ogy explores typologies, interpretations, explanations and personal as well as social meanings of a counselling relationship provided by many scholars, and on this ba‑ sis draws conclusions, infers laws and makes generalisations.
In broad lines, counselling is supposed to be counselee‑friendly and aim to help him/her. However, to capture the entirety of counselling is a serious chal‑ lenge because, as intimated above, it is an extremely complex process/fact/event which has its diversified and often subjectively perceived nature, dramaturgy and dynamics.7 In a very narrow sense, counselling practically comprises consciously 7 L. Brammer (1973) distinguishes eight stages of a counselling encounter: entry, clarification, struc‑ ture, relationship, exploration, consolidation, planning, termination.
I. Studies and Dissertationsundertaken actions, social processes and personal feelings of both parties (indi‑ viduals or groups) to the relationship, which are oriented first of all toward solv‑ ing the problem faced by the counselee/s. These include the prospective counselee’s attempts to define the problem, efforts to cope with it independently, endeavours to find an appropriate counsellor; later, relation‑constructing and sustaining by the counsellor and the counselee; the counsellor’s activities commonly dubbed as “de‑ vising and transmission of guidance”; the counselee’s experiences upon the recep‑ tion of guidance, advice, and instructions; and finally other related events such as counselees’, counsellors’ and advice‑givers’ participation in other events, including both everyday relationships as well as mediations, consultations or negotiations.8 Counsellogy as a theory is supposed to systematise and order reflection on counselling as practice which materialises in the aforementioned social behav‑ iours and actions, that is on counselling as an interpersonal relationship, a purpo‑ sive social action, an organised institutional, local or global activity, and an un‑ planned, occasional incident. Counsellogy is supposed to deliver a scientific ac‑ count of them, present their various understandings and provide an opportunity to inquire into them.
In social reality, the “presence” of counsellogy can become manifest in:
1) operations of institutions involved in research on counselling, which pro‑ duce and legitimise counsellogy;
2) publication of books and journals devoted to counsellogy‑related issues;
3) scholarly and common knowledge of counselling compiled in the specialist literature and/or in social consciousness;
4) primarily, the development of theory; in assuming a research perspective and looking into the social reality through “culture‑tinted lenses” producti‑ ve of descriptive, interpretive, emancipatory and critical scientific knowled‑ ge, a perspective which provides a framework for exploring the meanings of “counselling micro‑worlds” (Kargulowa, 2004). As the British methodo‑ logist David Silverman (2009) claims, the point in constructing a theory‑ ‑providing knowledge is not so much to explain the phenomenon it ad‑ dresses itself, but to determine the relationship between the theory and this phenomenon, reality or practice, and to establish in how far the theory is instrumental in finding out about and/or understanding of these “objects,” often not through analysing them in the available reality but sometimes through deconstructing the “object of research.” Following his assumptions, as I have already discussed elsewhere (Kargulowa, 2012a), we could state that counsellogy as a mature science/theory of counselling intends to be (1) a set of premises, (2) a system which compiles and systematises acco‑ unts of facts, processes or events and/or (3) a result of generalisations and 8 The term “counsellor” usually denotes a person who provides guidance on professional basis and is obliged to observe a code of professional ethics. An “advice‑giver” is not bound by any formal obli‑ gations or rules and provides advice to meet the advisee’s needs or to serve his/her own interests.
266 Journal of Counsellogy 2013 predictions. Having achieved a degree of maturity but remaining constantly open to development, change and new findings, by provoking ideas about the presently unknown, theories provide the impetus for research (Silverman, 2010, p. 110).
Currently, all three types of theory‑oriented inclinations are observable in counsellogy. For many researchers of counselling, counsellogy is slowly becoming shared knowledge comprised of previous findings, erected upon methodological tenets (paradigms, as Thomas Kuhn  has taught us to think), but provid‑ ing a basis for new discoveries and new practical solutions. Anna Bilon, who has thoroughly analysed the literature aimed to develop such a theory and generalise knowledge on counselling, observes, among others, that McLeod, similarly to Polish researchers, claims that given the contemporary state of counselling psychology and theory, it makes more sense to speak of approaches to rather than theories of counselling in analyses of counselling practice (Bilon, 2010, p. 65). The British researcher believes that currently there are many more ways of “doing counselling” than there are sets of ideas applied to counselling. To give up on speaking about the theory of coun‑ selling seems all the more proper as an approach (conception) includes philosophical statements, styles, traditions, tacit knowledge and methodical knowledge (McLeod, 2003; in: Bilon, ibid.), and not only abstracted ideas, defined notions, laws or regu‑ larities which make up a clear structure. This is what theories on the whole, and theories of exact sciences in particular, are commonly supposed to deliver. That is why, counsellogy, a still germinating and highly “imperfect” theory, should perhaps be rendered in a metaphor not of glasses or lenses, but rather of a flickering ka‑ leidoscope that we raise to our eyes to look at the world through and search for – to use Earl Babbie’s phrase (2011, p. 15) – the relationship between attributes and variables of counselling with its multiple practices, contexts and implications.
The Nature of Counsellogical Knowledge