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September 24, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Student Counselling

The politics within and of counselling

A number of students who I have met recently in counselling have been talking a lot about their dissatisfaction with the government of this country. They have in general been scathing and angry about issues that are going to/are impacting on themselves or their friends now, but also in the future. Some of these students are seriously considering the value of tertiary study under the context of this time in society and governmental policies.

Issues of real concern are the value of their degree; will it get me a career I value? Will it get me a career I can find meaningful? Can I afford to stay studying? What about postgrad now? Where are the jobs? Is the study really meaningful to me or have I been conned into its meaningfulness? What is the true value of a tertiary degree now in NZ? Clearly the answers to these questions will be unique to individuals and their personal situation however there is growing disquiet among the students I see dealing with these questions.

On the flip side I have other students questioning where the activism has gone from university politics and the student body. Clearly the lack of any real movement to challenge governmental policy within youth politics or educational politics is facing a similar crisis to the ‘student’. These students face the same questions around the value of a degree today and are angry and feel there is nowhere for them to take this anger other than into a counselling room.

Although counselling maybe helpful for some there is also the position that counselling can support institutional control of individuals by taking the discussions of intimate and personal issues out of the family and community and opening them up to external professional domination (McLeod 1998). The alternative to this position is that counselling helpfully addresses issues of power and control emphasising empowerment for individuals.

With all the above in mind and if counselling is an option for you McLeod suggests some useful reflection for individuals seeing a counsellor; what is your position when seeing a counsellor? How do you feel when you are there? Do you have a sense of being powerful and in control or do you have a sense of being in the hands of another? What are the behaviours that give you a feeling of being oppressed, or a sense of being empowered?

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