from the British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies website, Adam and Patricia’s blog:
CBT is helping the jobless back to work – it’s therapy Jim but not as we know it.
In a fascinating article entitled, “ Ethical dialogue” Andy Rogers, a counselling service coordinator in a large college of further and higher education, and an active participant in the Alliance for Counselling & Psychotherapy discusses the possible tensions created for therapist, Izzy, who is running a small independent practice whilst also working part-time job as a mental health advisor in a Well-Being Hub located above a Jobcentre Plus. He outlines the conflict of feelings and loyalties between the two settings of Izzy’s working life.
The question is posed , ‘Do we as therapists need to think more like sociologists or political theorists– or at least apply our critical faculties not just to what happens “in the room” but to the relationships and structures beyond?”. ’
This question is timely not least because of the recent government reframing of joblessness as a mental health problem. The Joint Health and Work Unit aims to scrutinise government plans to help job centre clients who experience mental ill health. The BABCP have recently informed the membership of their decision to take part in policy discussions (together with the BPS, the BPC and the UK Council for Psychotherapy) regarding joblessness and have, we are now told, been in negotiations since August 2015 with the DWP to trial psychotherapy for job centre clients .
This development is one that should not proceed without resistance not least because these proposals do not appear to have included wider consultation with the very individuals they aim to target. One of the recurrent themes to emerge from this years diversity themed Spring Conference was the importance presenters placed on the need for service developers to ensure genuine engagement with service users. This was done collaboratively and with great understanding and sensitivity to the specific needs of diverse populations. Clearly the Joint Health & Work Initiative missed that memo and the BABCP whilst free to express support for particular policies which will contribute to the delivery of its own charitable purposes must take great care to maintain its independence. Our organisations assurances that the Government have ruled out the use of coercions and sanctions in relation to therapy simply cannot be taken at face value. There have been too many recent examples of subterfuge and when even the work and pensions secretary who has been accused of making a flawed system even worse resigns then you know you’re in shark infested waters.
Even worse is the news that G4S have been awarded a government contract and have advertised for CBT therapists in the SE of England to help people back in to work. Their track record of working with vulnerable people is dismal as demonstrated by a recent damning BBC Panorama report into systematic abuses in a child offenders unit in my local area of Rochester. As blogger Kitty Jones points out, this is just one example of a long list of alleged human rights abuses.
Putting these not insignificant concerns to one side for a moment you may be wondering about the possible benefits such an initiative might bring. Surely work per se is a good thing? Well, that depends. In his book , ‘Psychology and Capitalism, the manipulation of mind’, Roberts describes the Marxist theory of ‘alienation’ a term used to describe a, “ form of estrangement from our inherent human nature, a dislocation from the inherent life affirming possibilities of existence…..where the means of production lies in the hands of the one class- the capitalists- to the detriment of overwhelming majority of the population who were workers (actual or potential)”. The effects of alienation can be psychologically devastating . “Our capacity to act fully autonomously in accordance with our basic creative, loving nature is transformed under the conditions of the omnipresent market into programmed activity. This not only eats into the possibility of engaging with work in a way which is psychologically satisfying but separates us from any say in how the products of our labour are used”. (Roberts).