The quick fix
Wright, N. (2002) ‘The Quick Fix’, The Christian Counsellor, January-March, Issue 12, pp42-43.
There are a number of contextual influences within British culture that help to explain the increasing popularity of ‘quick fix’ approaches in counselling.
Counselling as problem-solving
There are strong historical associations between counselling and problem-solving. ‘Why go to a counsellor if you don’t have a problem that needs fixing?’ An emphasis within counselling on development rather than pure problem-solving would be, perhaps, a more healthy/Biblical outlook and should have a particular resonance with Christian pastoral disciplines here development and discipleship tend to be more closely intertwined.
The principal danger is that Christian counselling will be inadvertently driven by the need to demonstrate pragmatic ‘outcomes’ rather than by more holistic/theological concerns. The same dichotomy exists in the supervision field, too.
There is a strong current emphasis in British workplace culture on behavioural competence/capability that can be observed/measured/evaluated relatively easily in order to demonstrate correlation with performance and immediately-observable results. This emphasis has been reinforced in recent years by the increasingly pervasive influence of competency-based standards, including National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs – including in counselling practice) and Investors in People (IiP – including in counselling agencies).
Although emphasising helpfully the importance of specific behaviours, there is a danger that underlying reflective abilities will remain undeveloped.
There is a strong economic drive towards the most cost-effective methods in all areas of practice (including in public and voluntary sector agencies), which can demonstrate maximum impact for minimum investment. ‘Patch up the problem with this year’s budget and we’ll worry about future problems next year.’ The principal danger is that commitment to education and character development are longer-term processes which may be sacrificed for short-term returns on investment; especially in a competitive economic environment where individuals as well as organisations have increasingly high expectations about investment returns.
It will be especially interesting to see how disciplines such as psychotherapy (characteristically long-term and financially costly) will respond to this challenge.
We have an accelerated pace of life made possible and, conversely, driven by advances in technology – especially information technology. An example is email, which has both increased our capacity to communicate widely and relatively inexpensively but, at the same time, generated expectations that we will communicate/respond more quickly or even immediately.
This cultural emphasis on ‘the immediate’ seems to be influencing all aspects of our lives so that ‘quick-fix’ solutions (e.g. ‘Have your counselling problem answered on an internet website’) can appear more attractive than longer-term options such as engaging in in-depth interpersonal counselling.
These comments remind us that counsellors and clients live and work together within a broader contextual environment which exerts its own influences on what happens in the counselling room. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the various ‘-ics’ and ‘-ologies’ (e.g. hermeneutics, anthropology, harmartiology, soteriology) in the Christian counselling arena while there’s still opportunity to voice our concerns in this arena?