Counselling

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
Working with young people is not all doom and gloom. Working with young people is not all . . ." Repeat the mantra often enough, and you might just overcome the depression that can be generated by reading books about counselling.

Clinical Counselling in Schools edited by Nick Barwick (Routledge pound;14.99) introduces us (in a contribution by Florence Heller) to 15-year-old Marie, who dreads the weekends she has to spend with her father.

"Formerly a professional boxer, he collected old weapons and had an obsessive belief that he must stand guard over her, waiting at the school gate and questioning other girls about her."

In the same book, Sarah Adams describes Daniel, rejected by his mother. "Daniel's means of coping with the pain in his life was to keep moving, to jump, run, somersault, anything which would stop him from feeling the hurt or thinking about it."

Then there's Nick Luxmoore's book Listening to Young People in School, Youth Work and Counselling (Jessica Kingsley pound;12.95), in which we meet Levi. "Levi's dad isn't allowed near the family any more after attacking them in the street and at home."

Barwick's book is the more academic of these two, more likely to use the jargon and yet perhaps necessary reading for the serious student of counselling. Luxmoore's is more reflective, warmer, as likely to quote a rock lyric (if Fairport Convention can be thus classified) as to refer to an academic paper. It's shorter, too. Perhaps they're best taken together, the one illuminating the other.

Another approach is described by Helen Cowie and Patti Wallace in Peer Support in Action (Sage, pound;50 hbk, pound;15.99 pbk). The book describes the many ways by which children and older students can support each other, starting with well known and relatively common techniques such as circle time and moving on to full-blown peer mentoring schemes. This is required reading for the many teachers who are interested in thi kind of work.

As the authors emphasise, however, it's important to know what you are getting into. Peer support isn't a bolt-on: "It requires, in particular, a shift towards a more democratic, participatory style of teaching and facilitation. Some adults and young people find it challenging, some are inspired, some become discouraged and others are impelled to sabotage the process."

A disturbed young person invariably displays faulty logic. In Nick Barwick's book, Jane blames herself for her parents' separation: "It must be my fault. I was too naughty. I wasn't good enough." If children are to achieve clarity of thought, then arguably their teachers ought to get there ahead of them, which brings us to John Shand's Arguing Well (Routledge pound;7.99). After the messy world of counselling, it's a relief to enter a cooler, more ordered universe.

What does this little excerpt from Arguing Well say to you? "All philosophers are thoughtful. Pascal is a philosopher. Pascal is thoughtful." It takes me straight back to 1972 and the Open University arts foundation course summer school in Exeter. The day we arrived we had to sit down and do a compulsory exam in formal logic - to remind us, presumably, that we weren't just there for the beer. The arts foundation course then contained a strong dose of formal logic - someone, somewhere on the academic board clearly felt that we should not proceed until we had learned how to distinguish faulty reasoning from sound.

John Shand (himself an OU philosophy lecturer) presumably has much the same aim. His book is a basic course in logic - the art of arguing well. It's clearly set out, it assumes no prior knowledge, and it would make good background reading for anyone embarking on, say, Ofsted training or a headteachers' management course - or, conceivably, someone about to tackle the illogicalities that come through the door of the school counsellor.

GERALD HAIGH


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