The changing landscape of voluntary sector counselling in Scotland
In 1989 the Scottish Health Education Group and the Scottish Association for Counselling compiled a directory of counselling services in Scotland. When asked if they offered counselling, the great majority of voluntary sector organisations in the welfare field said that they did, and they were therefore included in the directory, generating over 500 entries in total, including, among others, all the Citizens Advice Bureaux in Scotland. In 2001, I was involved in the implementation of another survey of voluntary sector counselling, which provided an updated snapshot of provision across the whole of Scotland, and offered the possibility of examining how the availability of voluntary sector counselling had changed since the late 1980s (Bondi et al., 2003a). The 2001 survey solicited a rather different response from the earlier one. Several of the organisations listed in the 1989 directory responded to the 2001 survey by telephoning or writing to stress that they did not offer counselling. For example, a paid worker from Victim Support contacted us to ask us to ignore any returns from local Victims Support groups, insisting that any of them who claimed to offer counselling were wrong. A note from another agency manager stated that “X does not deliver counselling […] and no service user is ever given this impression”. In a similar vein when an interview was conducted with a member of the Samaritans, he began the interview by saying, “I must state now that Samaritans are not counsellors”. These responses provided graphic evidence of a substantial shift in the place of counselling within voluntary sector between the late 1980s, when it had been embraced as a description of a vast array of services designed to meet welfare needs, and the beginning of the twenty-first century when it was understood in much narrower terms from which many organisations actively sought to distance themselves.