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The website Dictionary.com defines culture as, among other things:

Those reading this blog post in the U.K. may be familiar with the television adverts for the HSBC bank which speak of its desire to be "the world's local bank", and with that, an expert on cultural practices all over the globe.  The advertisements displayed by the bank explain that it is very rude, for example, to show the soles of one's feet in Thailand, whereas in other countries no-one would give such a display a second glance.  The way we perceive culture - or 'the way we do things around here' - is very important and can make all the difference between people feeling accepted and valued, or like outsiders and judged.

I am fascinated by different cultural practices, and have had the opportunity to spend extended periods of time in different countries, seeing beyond what the tourist would take in during a brief holiday.  I have come to appreciate that the need to be understood and to be heard is one common factor all peoples share.  Sometimes I am tempted to form an opinion of someone or something immediately, before I have had time to get to know the person or situation.  While I believe that to a degree this is a natural part of human behaviour, experience has taught me to hold those conclusions tentatively, and not to allow them to solidify.  That way, when new evidence presents itself as to a person or context it is easier to add that to my flexible viewpoint than it would be if I had already assessed them to be 'like this' or 'like that'.

In the counselling room, I am aware of my first impressions of a new client, but I am always sure to leave plenty of room for that image to change as I get to know the person.  If a person does something differently to the way I am used to, I aim to be accepting of their way of going about things, and above all I hold them in unconditional positive regard, with respect for their way of living and behaving.  I have found that in opening my mind to the other person's cultural practices and ways of doing things, I broaden my outlook and perspective on what it is to be a person living in our busy and often stressful world.  I have also learnt that in offering a client the chance to be themselves, they are much more likely to feel comfortable and able work on overcoming whatever issue has brought them to therapy.

If I find that I have limited knowledge of a subject which is quite pertinent to a client's situation, I make sure I find out a little more about that issue to plug the gap in my knowledge.  I am very conscious, however, that the client themselves is the real expert on their life and experiences, and that only they themselves truly know what it's like to walk in their shoes.  Through listening carefully and non-judgmentally, I can often support clients to become clearer not just on 'how they do things where they are', but also 'how they'd like to do things going forwards'.

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


The Way We Do Things Around Here

Culture | Ashwood Therapy Wellbeing Blog