Clinical Counselling in Voluntary and Community Settings

By Quentin Stimpson | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The nature of counselling in voluntary and community settings

Nicholas Tyndall

The tradition of voluntary work in Britain stems from Victorian philanthropy and developed throughout the 20th century. It is deeply embedded in the social services. Indeed it has been estimated that almost a third of the population gives some time every month to one or other voluntary body (Smith 1997). This tradition has included the setting up of voluntary organisations to meet specific perceived needs. Samaritans, for instance, began out of concern about rising rates of suicide. Cruse started as small self-help groups of widows, the name drawn from the Old Testament story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17).

Victim Support arose out of a sense that the criminal justice system lacked understanding of the plight of victims and neglected their needs. Large numbers of other voluntary agencies have been formed to address the needs of groups with particular physical or medical conditions. A characteristic of such bodies is that they have a strong sense of mission, with their motivation often generated by people who have personal experience of the needs being addressed, either in their own lives or through close friends or family members. Many of these bodies start as self-help groups formed by sufferers. Others are set up by doctors, ministers of religion or other professionals who are confronted with gaps in service provision for those they are trying to help.

Whatever the starting point, there is an acute awareness of the importance of having a place or person available for people with specific concerns to turn to, and this ensures a focus for clients and workers alike. Clients select an agency for its perceived experience and competence in their type of need. They are likely to perceive a voluntary organisation as having expertise in its own subject, a recognised public presence and a care and concern which is free of commercial considerations or statutory control. As for the workers, they volunteer because at some emotional

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