The Counsellor’s Creed, “I cannot be your parent…”

Thoughts on the Counsellor’s Creed, which has been making the rounds. Item 1: I will give you my undivided attention. However, I cannot be your parent, spouse, or lover, nor can I be master or servant. I’m just me, and I’ll be as real as I can.

The 12-point Counsellor’s Creed, by an unknown author, is circulating and recently came to my attention. I found it thought-provoking.

1. I will give you my undivided attention. However, I cannot be your parent, spouse, or lover, nor can I be master or servant. I’m just me, and I’ll be as real as I can.

First off, this sounds warm, honest and approachable to me. I find it interesting that parents, spouses, lovers, masters and servants are all people who are associated here by implication with giving undivided attention — as though the experience of being given undivided attention would be likely to trigger feelings of being in a parent-child or loving relationship. It seems to me that this is quite likely to be the case, reflecting the confusion in relationships and expectations that may drive someone to counselling. It is a short leap from undivided attention to love to master and servant for some!

I find the “I cannot be” quite strange. It is as if in an ideal world I could be that good, but in fact I am “just me”. It is almost a little apologetic — I’m sorry I can’t be what you want me to be (and here, a little presumptuous: many clients also do not come to a counsellor for a taste of infinite love but rather with very specific aims) but I will be as close to what you really need as I can.

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The counselling relationship isn’t second best. It is a very specific relationship, hard to define, but that shouldn’t stop us trying. At its most down to earth it is a co-operative relationship, teamwork, looking together for the story, for the answer, for what will move the client forward. The counsellor here is ‘just me’ with very specific, developed skills.

At its most essential and healing, moments arise which for some touch on the mystical, and they are the same moments of being accepted, understood, truly present and alive, which we seek with our parents, spouses, masters or servants, or, mistakenly, from them. Moments of awareness and connection, together. These moments and not any particular variant of the relationships which create or allow them, are, in this counsellor’s opinion, just what people need.

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