Canadian Counselling Psychology: From Defining Moments to Ways Forward

By Young, Richard A.; Lalande, Vivian | Canadian Psychology, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Canadian Counselling Psychology: From Defining Moments to Ways Forward


Young, Richard A., Lalande, Vivian, Canadian Psychology


Counselling psychology in Canada is a distinct and vibrant professional area representing the contributions of many people and events within a unique context. This article elaborates a number of defining moments or actions that reveal the distinct nature of this professional area through a recursive and interactive process with the social context. A number of ways forward are proposed as specific professional developments, as well as the resolution of a number of substantive issues identified within the recently adopted definition of counselling psychology. Moving forward as a discipline and a practice will actualize the potential of counselling psychology as both world and life enhancing.

Keywords: counselling psychology, Canada, history, future

The counselling psychology field in Canada has a rich history contributing to a prospering and dynamic professional area with a promising future. This article begins with a description of the defining moments within Canadian counselling psychology that contributed to a distinct and vibrant professional field. These defining moments represent the efforts and achievements of many people over the years who shaped counselling psychology within the unique Canadian context, which itself also influenced the defining process. One particularly important defining moment was the definition of counselling psychology in Canada, discussed in this article. This definition implicitly identifies a number of substantial issues that will contribute to the ways to move forward for counselling psychology in Canada. These issues include counselling as a practice with its emphasis on empathy and emotion; the social context in which lives are lived which includes culture, indigenity and social justice; and the conceptual and research frameworks, including qualitative research.

Our conceptualisation of defining moments and possible future directions for this professional area, draws from contextual action theory and sociological theory of professions. From contextual action theory, as described by Young and Valach (2004) and Young (2009), defining activities are complex, interacting with each other and with the context in which they take place. The sociology of professions, also conceptualizes the process of defining professional identities as a recursive and interactive process (Brock, 2006; Morell, 2007), involving individuals, groups and organisations that influence the nature of the field in everyday actions. Counselling psychology is, therefore, influenced by the social context in which it is enacted, but also has an influence on Canadian society and culture. This active process creates the potential for future developments in counselling psychology to have a significant impact locally and internationally.

Defining Moments in Canadian Counselling Psychology

Selecting and describing the defining moments within the professional area of Canadian counselling psychology will be guided by the meaning of the word "defining" (Merriam- Webster, 2011). Defining refers to acts of identifying the essential qualities of something, clarifying its limits, and detailing what is distinctive about it. It involves taking action to discover and manifest the essence of what is being created in the moment. However, defining moments are considered to mean more than the simple act of defining. Defining moments are particular points in time during which the essential nature of something is revealed, each of which is "an occurrence that typifies or determines all related events that follow" (Dictionary.com, n.d.). It is presumptive of us to choose defining moments within the professional area of counselling psychology, because we are not able to predict the future and know with any certainty that these defining acts will be essential to the meaning of this professional area. We also realise that the day-today practices of individual counselling psychologists comprise defining moments as each one individually interprets and creates the meaning of counselling psychology within a unique context. …

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