The Counselling Profession and Corporal Punishment

The Counselling Profession and Corporal Punishment
Tuesday February 07, 2006

From: Duncan Mcdermott

I use the term ‘counsellor’ quite loosely to include psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, psychotherapists and anyone else who takes money for ‘helping’ clients or patients with personal difficulties.

I’ve never met anyone around my age (55) who is not a Survivor of Corporal Punishment. I’ve also spoken with a number of people in their teens, aged fourteen or 16, who have suffered Corporal Punishment at the hands of their parents or other adults.
I always have to be very careful when raising this issue because people can so easily have their anger awakened, or they immediately cast me in the role of victim, expressing their regret at the terrible things I have suffered and what it has done to me, as if it hasn’t done that to them also. Sometimes people become really spiteful and scornful, telling me I am not manly, that I should grow up and ‘move on’, as they have done.
Its possible (but not easy) to overlook these emotional mistakes and lies in bus-drivers or shopkeepers, at least they do not take money for offering help and information about childrearing or mental health issues, and they are putty in the hands of the media and politicians. But over my life I have spent huge sums of money on counsellors and now I have come to realise they also are resistant to understanding and are inexcusably ignorant about Corporal Punishment. It is not possible to overlook the grotesque posturing and cowardice of the counselling profession.
I’ve never met a counsellor who was not a liar and an ignoramus in respect of Corporal Punishment (except Alice Miller and possibly Teresa Sheppard Alexander) and I have a strong feeling of having been lied to, of betrayal. The first requirement for the Corporal Punishment Survivor trying to live with what was done to them is for a counsellor who is unconditionally opposed to the hitting of children, who is prepared to say so in writing, and who has lear! ned and clearly understands Corporal Punishment as a pathology.Professional counsellors are sometimes consulted by the media and by government in developing policy. There is no clear and unified message coming from the counselling profession; it presents a fragmented and confused mess of ideas, superstitions and bald-faced lies in response to the issue of Corporal Punishment.
I try not to think about the thousands of clients or patients who must have presented with Corporal Punishment but have been lied to and had their mistaken beliefs more firmly set in place as a result of the expensive ‘help’ they have received.
There have been several major changes in the law in Europe but the criminalising of htting with an implement in Britain, for instance, has been brought about by European parliamentary pressure and changes in child-rearing fashion rather than growing understanding by lawyers, counsellors, or politicians. “I don’t think it did me any harm” Anthony Blair, the British prime Minister, has stated a number of times.
A visit to any public library or bookshop will demonstrate that while there are a large number of books and text books about sexual, physical and emotional abuse there is not one single book offering information about Corporal Punishment. (Alice Miller’s books are not text-books; they are not used or recommended on any counsellor-training courses so far as I am aware) I define Corporal Punishment as any hitting allowed by law, which necessitates a specialist understanding and technique in the counselling of those presenting with it because its legal status so hugely reinforces the lie. This powerful legal sanction is lacking for sexual abuse, for example, where the law massively supports the survivor instead of, as with Corporal Punishment, massively supporting the abuser and invalidating the victim.
I wonder if it would help inform the counselling profession if a Corporal Punishment text book, formatted along the lines of the many books available and recommended to students of counselling on a multitude of issues, were also available to counselling students? What basic information should such a text book include and how should that information be prioritised? Any ideas please, anyone?

AM: Thank you for your thoughtful letter. You ask for some ideas. Everything you have written here makes much sense to me, I made the same experience as you did, and I wonder what can be done to inform people, especially counselors about the destructive effects of corporal punishment, so widely denied all over the world. If you read “the truth will set you free” you will know that I explain this universal blindness by the barriers in the mind we required in early childhood. In my new entry to this site I try to say it more simply. But I must realize that the most active effect of being beaten is actually the fear of the beaten child that in most cases stays with us our whole lives and forces us to deny the truth. Therapists are no exceptions. Obviously you have the courage to see and feel what happened to you and maybe you can prepare such a book you have suggested here. Write us please how you would like to present the knowledge you have gained. Perhaps you can write to many different counselors and send them a questionnaire about their opinions on their childhood. Then you could publish them without names, of course, to show how the spirit of the poisonous pedagogy stays still undetected in these answers. As the big majority thinks in the same way, you would need to write a comment. You can use my FAQ list on this website (page “articles”) as inspiration for your questionnaire if you want to. How do you feel about my suggestions?