Postmodern perspectives on the counselling process in the context of an ethical dilemma

Churchill, Peter (2004) Postmodern perspectives on the counselling process in the context of an ethical dilemma. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This internship report discusses the impact of postmodern thought on the counselling process, and some of its implications for ethics, theory, and practice. Postmodern thought rejects the dominant modernist paradigms of empiricism and of universal codes or meta-narratives. It challenges the objectivity of the diagnosing clinician, arguing that the practitioner decides what may qualify as significant in advance of the client's particular story. Client and their stories are interpreted as Texts; client and counsellor variously share the roles of Author and Reader in a collaborative process of disclosing or creating meaning. It is argued that this is undermined in traditional practice by the notion of therapeutic distance or professional boundaries, which describe and quantify power relationships. Postmodern thought is sufficiently congruent with certain counselling models that some writers have challenged its contributions and even its novelty. In particular, it emphasizes epistemological and ethical reasons for the counselling process to be respectful, collaborative, and non-hierarchical with regard to perceived power relationships. The report goes on to discuss, from a process perspective, the author's lived experience of an ethical dilemma as a novice counsellor. The author was faced with a conflict between various ethical directives in terms of how to address the problem; in addition, actual theoretical models appeared to diverge in their interpretation of whether the challenge existed within the purview of the counsellor or outside it. Arising from this is a discussion of the dilemma as consistent with modernist codes of practice. These codes appear to have certain blind spots. While literature exists that documents and quantifies violations of professional codes, there appear to be few fora in while ethical struggles may be discussed. Gender issues may impact this as well, as traditional roles appear to limit support and dialogue. The author was not able to access appropriate guidance or discussion to address this dilemma, in counselling literature or through peer consultation; it is not clear that plans for addressing such issues had been developed, or a need identified. This may suggest a vestigial modernist theme in how counsellor evaluate, characterize, and address their own struggles. One perspective on postmodern ethics suggests that self-examination is an appropriate ethical tool and stance, as opposed to a modernist adherence to any universal moral code.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10308
Item ID: 10308
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 53-56.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 2004
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Counseling--Moral and ethical aspects; Ethical problems; Postmodernism.

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