I want to consider a view that may encourage us all to have a different perspective. I want to introduce the idea of a blue dot, a little blue dot which could potentially change the world. There is a spacecraft on the planet Mars which has a camera on it that took a photograph of the Earth, revealing a tiny blue dot in the sky, where we all live! This makes me wonder about my role as a therapist and what I am able to offer my clients. There are so many different therapies on this planet: is my approach effective enough?
In the counselling and psychotherapy world, the concept of pluralism may offer an opportunity for all the different schools of therapy to meet, have a dialogue, and begin to be in relationship. Cooper & McLeod (2011) explain the difference between pluralism as a perspective, and pluralism as a way of actual therapeutic practice. I am particularly interested in pluralism as a perspective and want to develop this further, as I believe the more I become aware of other therapeutic approaches and modalities, the more my understanding within the process of my own modality will be enhanced.
It may also be useful to consider the meaning of a pluralistic perspective in therapy by asking some questions of therapists. These are loosely based on Carl Rogers (1902-1987) writing in On Becoming a Person (1961).
Am I open to my experience?
Do I feel safe enough in my experience as a counsellor or psychotherapist?
Am I able to take in the evidence from different research rather than rigidly stick to my own experience?
Can I tolerate ambiguity?
Can I, by my own attitudes, create safety in my relationship with colleagues of other modalities to make communication possible?
The more I am open to the realities in me and the realities of the other can I extend the same attitude to other modalities?
Can I receive conflicting evidence without forcing closure on the situation?
Am I available not only to what can emerge in therapy but what is emerging in the therapeutic world at this time?
The relationship between therapist and client, and the desire and motivation to change can all come together, whatever the approach. I suggest a focus on being in relationship with our clients—not to ignore the differences between therapeutic approaches, but to explore the similarities and the shared goals. After all, we are all living on the same blue dot.
In research published in 1957, Carl Rogers reported that there were certain core conditions in the therapeutic relationship. He identified them as empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard. Rogers argued that these key elements were present whenever growth and positive change were experienced in therapy. They also highlighted the qualities offered by the therapist in their way of being with clients. It appeared that regardless of therapeutic approach, the interaction between therapist and client was important. I also think the core conditions are pluralistic: they aim to cover all aspects of personality change in the therapeutic relationship. I would also like to suggest that, as therapists, we utilise these core conditions as we work toward understanding and learning from each other.
The practice known as ‘dadirri’ (pronounced ‘da-did-ee’) from the Nganigikurunggurr tribe of Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region, Northern Territory, Australia, was offered to the world by Miriam Rose Ungunmerr (1988). She is an aboriginal elder who shares a way of learning by not asking questions, but by watching, listening and waiting before acting. She describes dadirri as an ‘inner deep listening’ and a ‘quiet still awareness’ which ‘taps into the deep spring’ within us that can make us whole again. I believe this is similar to the core conditions where the therapist offers empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard to help the client feel listened to, understood and accepted without judgement to create psychological change, healing and growth.
For many of the clients I have worked with, the notion of being made whole resonates deeply. They have experienced parts of themselves that feel empty and come to therapy to find wholeness or at least some understanding and meaning to cope better with their lives. I imagine this is also true for clients using other counselling or psychotherapeutic approaches that are different from my own. Perhaps it is possible to learn something new by also considering dadirri and exploring the ways this 40,000 year old concept could bring together different therapies in creating a meaningful dialogue where ‘all persons matter and all of us belong’.
In dadirri there is the belief that we are all connected in nature and in the universe, where everything is being attended to if we live in the right relation with ourselves, with others, and with the earth. Dadirri also encourages us to listen deeply and intensely to others’ stories with respect, while honouring ourselves and honouring the earth where it is believed we can begin our journey home and become whole again. I imagine this wholeness as freely being the person we have the potential to become or as a circle, an all embracing globe, perhaps, like a tiny blue dot.
I believe a pluralistic perspective in counselling and psychotherapy is primarily about learning from the client, learning from experience, and also by being in dialogue and relationship with our colleagues who use other approaches. Dadirri may also offer the possibility of learning from a deep spring inside ourselves. We all have something powerful inside, a flow of potential energy running right through us that we can tap into by being in right relations with ourselves, with others, and with the earth.
 Cooper & McLeod Pluralistic Counselling & Psychotherapy (2011)
 C.R. Rogers On Becoming a Person (1961) p35
 C.R. Rogers The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change (1957) Journal of Consulting Psychology 21 p96
 Miriam Rose Ungunmer.(1988) http://www.miriamrosefoundation.org.au/about-dadirri.
Mike Moss has 35 years’ experience working with Children and Families in Scotland and has published a number of articles and presented at national and international conferences. He is currently employed by West Lothian Council as a counsellor/psychotherapist for children & young people. He has a private practice offering workshops and clinical supervision and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Artwork by www.kateholford.com.