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«Alicja Kargulowa University of Lower Silesia Why We Need Counsellogical Research: Towards an Anthropology of Counselling The article explores various ...»

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individual engages in in his/her community. Guichard calls them identity struc‑ tures and believes that they are bound up with such social categories as gender, religion, sexual preferences, vocational interests, performed professions, etc. Indi‑ vidual cognitive identity structures are composed of sets of features which contain default values shaped by social stereotypes (e.g. the “masculine” default value is at‑ tributed to a set of features framing the gender dimensions of the vocation in the “engineer” identity, for example). In the minds of socially situated people, identity frames produce ordered systems which enable them to  situate others and them‑ selves both in relation to other people and in relation to the community. Identity self‑construction, according to Jean Guichard, consists in the internalisation of self‑ images or images of other people that are to be found in socialisation fields based on  a  selected identity framework (cf. Duarte, 2009; Guichard, 2010). Challenges to self‑construction can make one seek help, including a counsellor’s assistance.

The counselee could be called homo consultans, or homo sapiens consultans, in the semblance of coinages invented to  depict participants of other dimension of social life, e.g. homo faber (work), homo ludens (play), homo patiens (suffering), etc.

Yet, I would treat the label of homo consultans rather cautiously, without insisting that it encapsulates “generic” properties of each and every homo, which is what the terms homo sapiens sapiens and, as Huizinga argues, homo ludens convey. Homo consultans refers, namely, only to a “socialised” human being embedded in a com‑ munity. Rather than comprising any human creature simply by virtue of its being born, the term denotes an active human being who intentionally engages in (men‑ tal and/or physical) purposive activities in seeking others’ help upon encountering an obstacle s/he cannot overcome on his/her own. An inactive homo does not need counselling, and help/advice‑seeking is not an autonomous activity dissociated from all other types of activity. A  person seeks advice on  something, approaches somebody for help or provides guidance to somebody often in order to understand/ validate the sense of action, though sometimes in order to  facilitate and shorten independent problem‑solving. In the latter case, using (technological) counselling proves the person’s laziness, yet still advice/help‑seeking even here is not under‑ taken for the sake of advice/help‑seeking itself.

Mark Savickas argues that if a guidance‑seeking young person has a reflexive attitude to  his/her life, his/her career trajectory – and, we could add, his/her re‑ flexivity development – proceeds in three stages: an actor, who on the basis of ex‑ perience accumulated in socialisation reproduces a  social role heavily dependent upon the habitus; an agent, who seeks to individually meet social expectations and manifests his/her life potential; and an author, who consciously constructs his/her vocational career, which is also his/her life career (Savickas, 2011). And perhaps not all of these stages can be reached by all people, yet in each of them people may need and expect counselling support (Minta, 2012).

According to Lash, reflexivity passes through the “loop” of or is mediated by expertsystems (1994, p. 151). In all cases, however, reflexivity is bound up with “action.” It 272 Journal of Counsellogy 2013 is a result of an intellectual effort invested by a human being whom Bauman sees as homo eligens – “man choosing” (Bauman, 2011, p. 22); and as such it results from career‑related choice‑making and from decisions to use a counsellor’s help.

Given this, we cannot divide humankind into those who only seek others’ guidance and those who only provide guidance to others. Depending on particu‑ lar circumstances, the social roles of the parties to the counselling relationship can change, and a counselee can prove an expert (counsellor) in another matter. Gid‑ dens notices that the individual who consults an expert could have sat in that person’s place, had he or she concentrated on the same learning process (1994, p. 89). Concur‑ ring with Giddens, as we might, on this point, we need nevertheless remember that an expert‑counsellor must meet also other criteria beyond commanding a certain knowledge.

It needs to be emphasised that the term homo consultans denotes a person who is in a  sense uncertain/vulnerable and lacking in something (knowledge, skills, or inner strength) and, because of it, enters a relationship with another person – a counsellor. Thereby, the term captures both the counselee’s self‑attitude and his/ her participation in a social relationship.

To sum up, anthropologically speaking, persons that resort to counselling are perceived as “normal,” engaged, and active individuals who exercise reflexive self‑ control and seek to  understand themselves and the world, though at a  particular moment they cannot cope with certain problems. To use Beck’s formulation (1994, p. 14), they are viewed as involved in the manufacture, self-design and self-staging of not just [their] own biography, but also its commitments and networks, as preferences and life phases change. It is assumed that, generally, each human being is ca‑ pable of a cognitive effort (sibi consulere) which fosters self‑knowledge. With this, an individual can present his/her self and vocation, and engage in a personal task of identity self‑construction. This task is always embarked upon and performed in particular mental and socio‑cultural conditions.

Counsellogists specify that the situations perceived as difficult, new and/or un‑ certain require the greatest cognitive effort that engages biographical knowledge.

They believe this is the case even if experiencing such circumstances is not tanta‑ mount to facing a problem situation (cf. Szumigraj, 2009). And if a problem situa‑ tion does occur, they claim, people usually cope with it on their own at the begin‑ ning, only later seeking help in a relationship with the Other, with a consultor.

As a result, we could observe that irrespective of the outcomes of counselling and their assessment, the anthropological approach offers a multiperspectival view of counselling. It perceives counselling as an interpersonal relation, a  product of culture and a  process of social life. In their research, counselling anthropologists focus on the meanings of help provision in counselling as well as on the meanings of help reception in counselling (cf. Czerkawska, Drabik‑Podgórna, Teusz, Straś‑ Romanowska, in: Poradoznawstwo, 2009). The counsellor and the counselee enter a  relationship which is firmly located in cultural, social, political and economic 273

I. Studies and Dissertations

realities, and by participating reflexively in it they analyse the counselee’s heretofore life‑course, assess his/her biographical transitions, define the meaning of problems, construct projects of changes in his/her “being‑in‑the‑world” and form his/her life trajectory. At the same time, they make sense and meanings of the relationship itself, which is crucial from the counsellogical point of view. They prove that the counselling process is intrinsically ethical.

We could state, therefore, that the anthropological analysis of counselling seeks

to answer the following questions:

◆ which behaviours, sensations and experiences indicate how people cope with problems, particularly those pertaining to  their identities and being‑in‑the‑world?

◆ where, amidst these ways of coping, is counselling located?

◆ what facts, processes and events make up counselling?

◆ what are the basic laws of coping, guidance‑seeking and support‑provision?

Even though it is predominantly assumed that counselling is counselee‑friend‑ ly, counselling is neither consistently nor uniformly applauded. S. Lash is clearly averse to this form of help, noticing that: It is only when things have really broken down that we bring in the “expert-system”, either as a set of legitimating arguments for our side of the dispute, or, worse [my emphasis], as professionals in the flesh (1994, p. 163). Lash motivates his objections to counselling, pointing out that our tendency preventively to use expert-systems tends in anticipation to create a semantic deficit in intimate relationships (Ibid., p. 163), because it meets the deep human need of communicating with others. Close relationships, which have so far been made and sustained within families, are today rather easily made outside families due to, among others, widespread availability of expert help (offered by counsellors, psychotherapists, etc.).

This is not the only example of censure that the counsellogical literature of‑ fers in the face of unpredictable ramifications of counselling (cf. Holt, 1981; Kargul, 1985; Mielczarek, 2009; Zierkiewicz, 2004). The well‑known critical voices increase the complexity of accounts of homo sapiens consultans and of counselling help ef‑ fects. Equally importantly, they compel counsellogy to  go beyond reflection and engage in self‑reflexive practices.

Anthropology of counselling is a new perspective and a new discipline within the counsellogical discourse. In the above, I could only outline it very briefly. I be‑ lieve that its essence is most aptly grasped by Prof. Jean Guichard, who in a footnote to his report on the inaugural conference of the UNESCO Chair of Lifelong Guid‑ ance and Counselling wrote: Counsellogy can be defined – in line with Alicja Kargulowa’s work – as an anthropology based on the insight that man is fundamentally a speaking being, able to look at things from the perspective of the other, and, in doing so, to give advice to other people or to him/herself as well as to receive advice from others or from him/herself (available at www.pedagogika.uni.wroc.pl/unesco). Further 274 Journal of Counsellogy 2013 research, analyses and discussions around this idea will undoubtedly contribute to development and advancement of anthropology of counselling.

–  –  –


Alheit P. (2011) “Podejścia biograficzne do  całożyciowego uczenia się,” Teraźniejszość – Człowiek – Edukacja, No 3(55).

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Babbie, E. (2011) The Basics of Social Research, 5th ed., Belmont, CA., Wadswoth Cenage Learning Bauman Z. (2012) O edukacji. Rozmowy z Riccardo Mazzeo, trans. P. Poniatowska, Wrocław, Wyd. Nauk. DSW.

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Beck U., Giddens A., Lash S. (1994) Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Stanford, Stanford UP.

Beck U. (1994) “The Reinvention of Politics: Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernity” [in:]

Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Stanford, Stanford UP.

Bilon A. (2010) “Poradoznawstwo wobec ogólnej refleksji nad poradnictwem,” Edukacja Dorosłych, No 1(82).

Bilon A., Kargul J. (2012) “Społeczno‑kulturowe konteksty definiowania roli doradcy,” Studia Poradoznawcze/Journal of Counselling, pp. 85‑109.

Brammer L. M. (1984) Kontakty służące pomaganiu. Procesy i umiejętności, trans. J. Mieścic‑ ki, M. Żardecka, Warsaw, PTP, Studium Pomocy Psychologicznej.

Brammer, L. M. (1973) The Helping Relationship: Process and Skills, Prentice‑Hall.

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I. Studies and Dissertations

Giddens A. (1994) “Living in a Post‑Traditional Society,” [in:] Beck U., Giddens A., Lash S.

Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Stanford, Stanford UP.

Gladding, S. (1992) Counseling: A Comprehensive Profession, Merill Counseling.

Grobler A. (2006) Metodologia nauk, Cracow, Wyd. Aureus – Wyd. Znak.

Guichard J. (2001) “Procesualne ramy i formy tożsamości a praktyka poradnicza”, [in:] Podejmowanie decyzji zawodowych przez młodzież i osoby dorosłe w nowej rzeczywistości społeczno-politycznej, B. Wojtasik (ed.), Wrocław–Radom, ITeE‑PIB.

Holt J. (1981) “O  ‘pomocy’ i  specjalistach od  pomagania,” [in:] Psychologia w  działaniu, K. Jankowski (ed.), Warsaw, Czytelnik.

Kargul J. (1985) “Kilka uwag o niebezpieczeństwach poradnictwa,” [in:] Teoretyczne i metodologiczne problemy poradoznawstwa, A. Kargulowa, M. Jędrzejczak (eds.), Wrocław, Wyd. UWr.

Kargulowa A. (2004) O teorii i praktyce poradnictwa. Odmiany poradoznawczego dyskursu, Warsaw, Wyd. Nauk. PWN.

Kargulowa A. (2012) “Poradnictwo ery komunikacji satelitarnej,” Studia Poradoznawcze/Journal of Counsellogy.

Kargulowa A. (2012) “Poradnictwo w perspektywie biograficznego uczenia się dorosłych,” Rocznik Lubuski, Vol. 38, part 2.

Konecki K. (2000) Studia z metodologii badań jakościowych. Teoria ugruntowana, Warsaw, Wyd. Nauk. PWN.

Lash S. (2009) “Reflexivity and its Doubles: Structure, Aesthetics, Community,” [in:] Beck U., Giddens A., Lash S. Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Stanford, Stanford UP.

Latour B. (2011) Nigdy nie byliśmy nowocześni. Studium z antropologii symetrycznej, trans.

M. Gdula, Warsaw, Oficyna Naukowa.

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