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BSc (Hons) Critical Approaches to Counselling & Psychotherapy course preparation

To help you feel prepared for your BSc (Hons) Critical Approaches to Counselling & Psychotherapy studies, we’ve gathered together a range of course related activities including suggested reading, useful websites and some great things to do right now. Read on to find out more:

Suggested texts

These three books have been chosen as an interesting introduction to the three major schools of counselling and psychotherapy: the psychodynamic, the cognitive and the humanistic approaches.

  • BECK, A.T. 1991. Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. London: Penguin
  • GROSZ, S. 2014. The examined life: How we lose and find ourselves. London: Vintage
  • MEARNS, D. and THORNE, B. 2013. Person centred counselling in action. London: Sage.

Things to do now

The following four books are suggested with a few reflective questions for you to consider. You can access these resources here.

Paulo Friere – The Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Paulo Friere was a South American philosopher. His book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, challenges traditional education. He argues that traditional teaching methods turn us into pupils (the passive recipients of ‘knowledge’) and teachers (experts who dole out ‘knowledge’ whilst maintaining their own status and power).

This traditional approach to learning is found in most schools and colleges. On our programme, we hope to learn differently – sharing our experiences in a democratic community of learners.

Chapter two of The Pedagogy of the Oppressed is available within this Dropbox. It’s a difficult read, but well worth the effort.

Questions for Reflection

  • What’s my experience of education and learning been like so far?
  • How might learning be different at university?
  • What will I need to do differently to capitalise on this new way of learning?

Marilyn Barnett – What Brings You Here ?
Marilyn Barnett conducted an interesting piece of research exploring the different reasons why people become counsellors and psychotherapists. It’s a very interesting topic, since a person’s reasons for entering the profession need to be acknowledged if unconscious motivations are not to hinder the way a counsellor responds to their clients.

Don’t worry too much about the jargon used by Marilyn Barnett. Use the article to reflect on the deeper motivations you might have for training as a skilled helper, counsellor or psychotherapist.

Questions for Reflection

  • What deeper motivations might influence your desire to train as a therapist?
  • How might these reasons influence the way you work with clients?
  • What do we mean by empathy and what needs to happen so that your experiences and vulnerabilities can help you to empathise with others?

Stephen Grosz – The Examined Life
Stephen Grosz has written an insightful book about psychotherapy called The Examined Life. Full details of the book are on your suggested reading list.

Five of the chapters from the book were broadcast by the BBC and I have included them in this Dropbox for your enjoyment.

Read Grosz and listen to the book chapters because he’ll encourage you to look beyond the surface of individual behaviour and instead see the deeper meanings found in experience.

Questions for Reflection

  • What thoughts and feelings were evoked in you as you listened to Grosz’s studies?
  • What do you think the behaviours of his clients are communicating?
  • Which of your behaviours might also be hiding a deeper meaning?

Dave Mearns and Mick Cooper – Therapist’s Developmental Agenda
Dave Mearns and Mick Cooper write about the Therapist’s Developmental Agenda. Your developmental agenda will be the experiences and feelings – what Mearns and Cooper call existential touchstones – that need to be held in your awareness, explored and processed, to develop self-acceptance and a deeper connection with the client.

The chapter considers ways of furthering your developmental agenda, including personal therapy, encounter groups, training and supervision. This is a very important chapter because it helps to establish the importance of self-development on your degree and encourages you to begin your own journey of self-discovery.

Questions for Reflection

  • Can you identify your developmental touchstones?
  • What items are on your developmental agenda?
  • How do you intend to work on your developmental agenda?

Create a reflective journal

One of the ways you’ll work on your developmental agenda is by keeping a reflective journal. It’s recommended that you buy a hardback notebook, but you could also keep an electronic journal. Every few days or so you can capture your experiences and reflect on them as a way of increasing your self-awareness. You’ll learn a great deal more about the reflective process in the first semester of your course.

Meet your programme lead