In this essay I set out to explore meeting matters regarding diversity and multiculturalism, with regards to two legally protected characteristics, in the context of a counselling environment. In order to do this, I have chosen to position myself as a client exploring how aspects of identity can be met through counselling, the feelings that this triggers and how I feel to meet these feelings. The areas of my identity, with regards to multiculturalism and diversity, which I am focusing on, are the religious and ethnic aspects of coming from a Jewish family background, whilst also coming from a mixed background and how I would want to be met by a counsellor regarding this. Race and religion & belief are both characteristics protected under the Equality Act (2010) and from a Jewish perspective it is impossible to entirely separate the two. This matter is being considered with reference to Clarkson’s (2003) ideas regarding kinship, differences in worlds of experience, Clarkson (2001) and victimhood, Clarkson (2003), as well as other systemic integrative psychotherapeutic ideas regarding environmental variations, Dryden (1992),. In many ways, I have sought to consider meeting Jewish identity in this way as a problematic one, that is not as simple as it might initially appear. To seek to meet this problem, I consider Clarkson’s reparative relationship, Clarkson (2003) as a means of helping meet Jewish identity, within a counselling context, and Frankl’s logotherapy, Frankl (2004), as a means of empowering clients who are Jews.
Section one – nuts and bolts
I am starting with what I am calling the “nuts and bolts” of meeting race and religion & belief, within counselling, as I feel that having this clearly laid out will make what follows clearer. What I mean by “nuts and bolts” are the structures that are in place, in an organised sense, akin to how a car is a particular organisation of certain parts; and like how a mechanic will look at a car from a certain view point, I am seeking to look at this matter mechanically, before seeking to metaphorically drive away.
Legislation has a huge part to play, in the nuts and bolts of this counselling car, and has already briefly been mentioned within the introduction of this essay. The most immediately relevant piece of legislation is the 2010 Equality Act, which seeks to address socio-economic inequalities across a wide range of social situations (Equality Act, 2010). Within the Equality Act there are 9 protected characteristics; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion & belief, sex and sexual orientation, (Equality Act, 2010). All of these characteristics are considerations for counsellors to consider, which brings my attention to assumptions and biases that I might have regarding many of them. As well as the Equality Act 2010, two other relevant pieces of legislation are the 1998 Human Rights Act (Human Rights Act, 1998) and the 1965 Race Relations Act (Race Relations Act, 1965). While both of these acts have far broader implications than those I am focusing on here; I am referencing these with regards to their relevance for Jewish identity, given the human rights abuses and racism Jews have experienced and continue to experience. A 2020 survey regarding religion and crime found that hate crime had overall risen over the past few years, Elkin (2020), which Jews are in no way removed from the experience of for also being an ethnic group. So it seems, to me, poignant to bring these other areas of legislation here.
The British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) have two main documents that are relevant when considering the “nuts and bolts” of meeting race and religion & belief, as counsellors, which is pleasings to see. Within the document Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions, British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) (2018), the BACP lays out a great deal that I feel to reference here. The document states that the BACP ethics are based in 3 areas; values, principles and personal moral qualities. The values listed here are (BACP, 2018: p8)-
“• respecting human rights and dignity
- alleviating symptoms of personal distress and suffering
- enhancing people’s wellbeing and capabilities
- improving the quality of relationships between people
- increasing personal resilience and effectiveness
- facilitating a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned within their personal and cultural context
- appreciating the variety of human experience and culture
- protecting the safety of clients
- ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships
- enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application
- striving for the fair and adequate provision of services.”
The principles listed are (BACP, 2018: p9)-
“Being trustworthy: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner.
Autonomy: respect for the client’s right to be self-governing.
Beneficence: a commitment to promoting the client’s wellbeing.
Non-maleficence: a commitment to avoiding harm to the client.
Justice: the fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services.
Self-respect: fostering the practitioner’s self-knowledge, integrity and care for self.” 
The personal moral characteristic that the BACP encourages are: candour, care, courage, diligence, empathy, fairness, humility, identity, integrity, resilience, respect, sincerity and wisdom (BACP, 2018).
With regards to race and religion & belief, the BACP has a specific documentation titled Race, Religion and Belief Within the Counselling Professions (BACP, 2021). The document highlights the need for courage, humility, fairness and respect, when working with these areas of identity (BACP, 2021). Whilst I do wish the document contained more, I wonder if the lack of guidance and advisement is in some way both a challenge for counsellors, to find their own way to navigate this challenging terrain, and/or an admission that working with race and religion & belief is very difficult and the BACP doesn’t have any definite answers.
Bringing the “nuts and bolts” together, there seems to be five areas to turn to, with three clear main areas. The three main areas are the 2010 Equality Act, the BACP Ethical Framework and the BACP Race, Religion and Belief Within the Counselling Professions document. The two relevant, but not as immediately relevant, areas are the 1998 Human Rights Act and the 1965 Race Relations Act.
Section two: me, a Jewish client
I chose the title for the section header with an emotional energy of provocativeness within my body and a desire to consider working with Jewish identity as a somewhat problematic one, as I stated in the introduction to this essay. What I mean by problematic isn’t that Jews are a problem or an issue that counsellors must find a solution for, as in to “deal with” or “get rid of the Jewish problem”. What I mean by “problematic” is that working with Jewish identity isn’t as simple as it might seem, as it is highly complex, confusing and often paradoxical to have a Jewish identity – I have certainly found it to be complex, confusing and often paradoxical. This provocativeness is somethings that I am going to seek to meet through this essay and hope that any counsellor would seek to meet, with courage, humility, fairness and respect, as outlined within the aforementioned BACP documentation (BACP, 2021.
Who are Jews though? We are an ethno-religious group, meaning that being a Jew includes a racial and a religious aspect. The racial quality of Jewish identity can sometimes be confusing, I’ve certainly found it that way at points. This is due to a phenomenon that has been described as Schrodinger’s whites, Baddiel (2021), where Jews are included within the racial category of white and as having “white privilege” when being described as the evil rich ruling class, who secretly control everything, but are also considered non-white by many, usually as an exclusionary tactic and most significantly by white supremacists and others who seek to cast Jews as being “dirty vermin” or other subhuman categories. When positioned as white Jews are positioned as being unaffected by racism, due to white privilege, despite the fact that the idea of Jews being part of some evil ruling class, who secretly controls everything, plays directly into racist ideas. When being positioned as non-white and lesser, dirty, subhumans, Jews are obviously affected by racism, in a way that seems impossible to deny. Another important quality of Jewish experience is that of displacement and diaspora, meaning geographical separation of communities due to displacement, Shilhav (1993).
I am a mixed race Jew, with my mother’s family background being Italian American catholic, and my fathers family being patrilineal (as in, Jewish through my grandfather) Polish Jewish migrants. My great grandparents had to flee from Poland, leaving behind basically everything, first to Palestine and then to South Africa, to escape from persecution at the hands of USSR invaders; a processes involving a great deal of diaspora. Although I am mixed race Jewish, I have throughout my life continually felt closer to my Jewish identity, due to the abuse I experienced when living with my mothers parents, after my mother died when I was 7. Another aspect that I feel to bring forward here is that, whilst there is always a religious aspect to Jewish identity, my experience has always been far more racial than it has been religious, with my grandfather having been an atheistic Jew and my upbringing from my father being religiously far more oriented towards Buddhism.
My mixed race Jewish status introduces another Schrodinger’s identity paradox, as, within orthodox Jewish belief, Jewish identity is passed on through the mother’s side of the family. So, to an orthodox Jew, I am not a Jew, because I am not properly descended or pure blood and I’ve been told this by orthodox Jewish individuals. However, this wouldn’t protect me from being a target of racial hatred and those who see me as a “dirty Jew”, and I know this because I have experienced racism by those who know of my family background, see my dark hair, olive tinted skin colour, the shape of my nose, as well as other stereotypical characteristics, and recognise other stereotypical traits, such as me being bookish and nice. There is a degree to which both enframings of not being “pure blood” and of being “dirty” feel very racist, in a way that is upsetting.
The experience of both being and not-being, through both of the Schrodinger’s identity aspects of my identity, is confusing and upsetting. While I generally meet them, as part of everyday discussion of these matters, by asserting that I consider myself non-white and Jewish, I know that it is often not as simple as that, not because of how I see myself, but because of how I know others do.
Section three: how I’d want to be helped, as a Jewish client
To try and meet myself, as a Jewish client, here, I am attempting to assume both positions of counsellor and client. As such, I am presenting both how I’d want to be helped and how I’d want to help. I feel that the BACP’s guidance of courage, humility, fairness and respect(/self-respect) are important for this, especially when considering Jewish identity as being potentially problematic, in the ways that I have described.
One of the main obstacles for working with a Jewish client, if the counsellor is not from a Jewish background, has little knowledge or experience of Jews, or has no knowledge or experience of Jews, relates to what Petrüska Clarkson calls “different worlds of experience”, Clarkson (2001). The world of experience of a Jew has aspects of it that are very different from most other racial or religious worlds of experience, mostly due to diaspora and the attempted systemic-annihilation of Jews, by the Nazis. What I mean by this is that the experience of being in the world that a Jew experiences is impacted by a huge amount of cultural, social and geographical factors, that are difficult for anyone who is not a Jew to really meet. What makes this difficult is how worlds of experience become impacted by what, in systemic integrative psychotherapy, are called the time and environmental variations, Dryden (1992). Jewish experience of being in the world, as well as other peoples perceptions of Jews, can change greatly and sometimes suddenly, particularly when racism towards Jews is prevalent in the media.
Another related potential challenge is the matter of victimhood. Jews have experienced a lot of historical abuse, much of which enframes current experiences of diaspora, Shilhav (1993). Equally, anti-Semitism is very much a present matter and active today, Baddiel (2021). This makes the experience of victimisation very much part of the Jewish world of experience. In The Therapeutic Relationship, Clarkson at several points identifies that victim identity and experience can affect therapeutic relationships, Clarkson (2003). It is a very tricky matter, which brings up a lot of feeling within my body when thinking about it.
In considering how I’d want to be met as a client and how as a counsellor I’d want to meet these problems, I feel a need to emphasise courage and humility, to show these matters respect. I think that the importance of the BACP value of seeking to improve relationships, BACP (2018), is also important to reflect upon at this point too. As such, my feeling is that the reparative relationship, Clarkson (2003), as described within Clarkson’s framework, as the therapist creating a space for the client to experience safety and empathy with being Jewish, is where to begin from. Clarkson places a great deal of value in the experience of “kinship”, Clarkson (2003), within her framework, and my feeling is that I need, and that it is likely other Jews would do too, an experience of a reparative relationship in order to experience kinship with a therapist who has a different world of experience.
Section four: more that reparations and kinship
Thus far, within this essay, I have considered Jews largely from the position and experience of victimisation, which is a very real and true experience for Jews, which racists will often seek to position us within, or Jews will choose to occupy. While victimhood is something I, personally, don’t want to actively embrace, it would be dishonest of me to suggest that I have not experienced victimisation for being a Jew. With this, I want to ask these questions. What comes after victimisation? What comes after reparations and kinship?
Counsellor and author Rebecca Mitchell has shared openly about therapy being an experience of empowerment, after her experiences of victimisation through incestual sexual abuse, Mitchell (2019). In the piece referenced above there is a definite point of movement from victimhood to survivorship and I feel like this might be the key when considering these questions. Jews are survivors of racial and religious abuse, and are surviving in a world that includes racialised and faith based abuses towards them. Empowerment feels like a desirable response to these questions.
When I searched for ideas on empowerment within the counselling books I have and in the journals available from the BACP website, I was disappointed to find very little on the subject. I managed to find a piece of writing by social worker and coach Dr Suzanne Triggs, in which she emphasises the role of coaching personal power to meet socially adverse situations, Triggs (2021), but while that might work within a social worker context, I am unsure if coaching is necessarily appropriate for a counselling context. Then I remembered Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning and the existential therapy model logotherapy, in which he draws from the philosopher Nietzsche’s position that an individual who has a reason to live for can bare almost any how, Frankl (2004). Nietzsche’s philosophy of empowerment has been close to my heart, in particular following my experiences as a cancer patient, so I have an intuitive feeling that the logotherapeutic search for meaning might well be a desirable route for empowerment, in response to victimisation.
I want to consider this for myself. Why do I, a Jew who lives in a world that includes anti-Semitism, continue? What reason or meaning is there for me in this? The answers that come to me are ones like, to care for those I love, because I want to live and experience life, and, if honest, out of spite towards those who would seek to victimise me, because I don’t want them to have anything of me. For other Jewish clients there will be different answers.
It seems to me that, while there are potentially a lot of challenges to working with Jewish identity within a counselling context, both as an ethnic group and as a religious one, there is also great opportunity here as well. One of the wonderful aspects of this is how much this work is supported by the BACP ethical framework and, to a lesser extent, the BACP guidance for working with race, religion and belief. That reparation, kinship and meaning-making are already aspects of counselling theory and guidance is also wonderful, though I would like to find more counselling practices and ideas that draw on the experience of empowerment, as I feel that that is what’s really needed here.
Researching and writing this has certainly been an emotional and challenging process, which has impacted on other areas of my life; an example of this being that I have spoken to the head of English in the SEND school I work at and asked her to consider the appropriateness of books with illustrations of villains who have stereotypically Jewish features, such as Roald Dahl books, within the school, given the understanding capabilities of many of the students(, which I am pleased to say was received very warmly). With regards to Schrodinger’s identity and my desire to empower myself so as to not be dependent upon other individuals, particularly racist individuals, opinions, I feel to state that I am a mixed race Jew and that I am not white; a Jew who survives with a world of experience that includes anti-Semitism. With regards to my being a counsellor in training, I feel a strong desire to help individuals find self-empowerment, whatever their identity, and hope to eventually be able to do this.
Some areas that I would have liked to have considered further include the potential for working with clients who hold anti-Semitic beliefs, as well as Jewish counsellors working with Jewish clients with different worlds of experience of being Jewish. If I had a larger world count available and more time to consider this, I would have liked to have gone into these in more detail. I am referencing them here to reflect that they are part of my awareness and matters that I’d like to consider at other opportunities within my counselling journey.
Baddiel, D. (2021) Jews Don’t Count, London, Times Literary Suppliement
British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (2018) Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions. Available at: https://www.bacp.co.uk/media/3103/bacp-ethical-framework-for-the-counselling-professions-2018.pdf [Accessed 6/2/22].
British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (2021) Race, religion and belief within the counselling professions. Available at: https://www.bacp.co.uk/media/12498/bacp-race-religion-and-belief-crfp-gpia101-jul21.pdf [Accessed 6/2/22]
Clarkson, P. (2001) On Psychotherapy 2: Including the 7-Level Model, Hoboken, John Wiley & Sons
Clarkson, P. (2003) The Therapeutic Relationship, London, Whurr Publishers Limited
Dryden, W. (1992) Integrative and Eclectic Therapy A Handbook, Buckingham, Open University Press
Elkin, M. (2020) Religion and Crime in England and Whales 2020. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/religion/articles/religionandcrimeinenglandandwales/february2020 [Accessed 6/2/22].
Equality Act 2010, Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents [Accessed: 6/2/22].
Frankl, V. (2004) Man’s Search For Meaning, London, Penguin Random House.
Human Rights Act 1998,, Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents [Accessed: 6/2/22].
Mitchell, R. (2019) From taboo to empowerment. Available at https://www.bacp.co.uk/bacp-journals/private-practice/june-2019/from-taboo-to-empowerment/ [Accessed 6/2/22]
Race Relations Act 1965, Available at: https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/relationships/collections1/race-relations-act-1965/race-relations-act-1965/ [Accessed: 6/2/22].
Shilhav, Y. (1993) Ethnicity and Geography in Jewish Perspectives. In GeoJournal, July 1993, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 273-277
Triggs, S. (2021) Power from within: a coaching approach to social work. Available at https://www.bacp.co.uk/bacp-journals/coaching-today/october-2021/articles/power-from-within/ [Accessed 6/2/22]