Grief counsellors

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

Anyone with a passing interest in psychiatry or psychology knows that both fields of study are full of passing fads, seemingly good theories which simply did not pass the test of time. This is also true of the sub-field of “grief counselling,” a growing industry if there ever was one, full of all sorts of superficially good but untested, often untestable, ideas, often dreamed up by university professors eager to make a name for themselves. For example, “debriefing,” in which psychological trauma victims are urged, sometimes even coerced, to verbally and mentally revisit the trauma over and over again as a method of “healing” is being rejected by many therapists (and professors hoping that their new but untested ideas get accepted instead) because it is now believed that it does more harm than good.

The latest fad is a method called “psychological first aid,” which emphasizes giving patients space instead of pushing them to relive the event.

In a few years, of course, it will be displaced by some other technique.

I suppose many people will call me old fashioned (actually I am pretty old) but I simply reject the whole “grief counselling” business — and it actually is a profitable business for the growing number of people engaged in it — except in cases where there is no alternative.

For the grieving people of Fancy there are lots of alternatives. I don’t know Fancy well having visited the village briefly only three times in the past 40 years. But what I have always heard and am now being told by the media, following last week’s horrible tragedy, is that it is a close-knit community where everyone knows and is related to everyone else. If there ever was a place that has the strength, shared culture and history, resilience to adversity, and collective sense of identity to cope with this tragedy, that place is Fancy.

And who better to share their grief with and seek counselling from than loving family, best friends, good neighbours, caring teachers, and compassionate pastors, ministers, and other religious leaders?

But, no, this proven traditional form of grieving and healing is not good enough from the busybodies at the Ministry of Health who want to augment local “grievance counsellors” with foreign psychologists (See: Foreign psychologists to counsel persons affected by Rock Gutter tragedy)

Yes, let’s just send in a bunch of strangers from other lands with no knowledge of the people or their culture because the residents of Fancy are too mentally weak or too uneducated to heal with and on their own.

It is past time for all Vincentians to recognize that not every fad and idea coming from overseas is a good fad or idea. This is especially true of clinical psychology and psychiatry, two fields that have a long way to go before they can claim to have a precise, scientific understanding of the human condition.

There is an oft-repeated satirical expression that says it all: “Run, the grief counsellors are coming!ben-David

C. ben-David

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

8 replies on “‘Run, the grief counsellors are coming!’”

  1. I agree with C. ben David. We are now a nation that cannot do anything on our own. We need foreigners to console us when we face any trauma in our lives. We have to import chicken because we cant raise our own. We have to go to the Privy Council in England to tell us whether we can hang someone for a brutal murder. Our government refuses to join our own final court of final appeal and act like the independent nation that we are supposed to be. It would appear that the only thing we can do is kill each other and deal drugs. Just look at how many people are committing murder and getting away with on a technicality. Look at the man who go caught with over a million dollars worth of coke and was granted bail. Does any one really believe he is going to stick around for a trial? We have all these foreigners coming to our shores to influence our beliefs,values, and ideas and shove theirs down our throats and spy on us. One woman came all the way from Australia to tell us rape and ill-treatment of women is wrong. What happen to all the intelligent women born and raised in our country? I have been warning about these NGO’s for the longest time but we seem to think that foreign is better. May God have mercy on our country.
    Ivan Young

  2. I am not going to wholly reject the role and importance of “grief” Counsellors in assisting folks in overcoming their emotional or psychological trauma in the event of a tragedy.

    I think this unwillingness by C. ben-David, to accept the role of these professionals,stems from a combination of ignorance and antiquated attitudes.The very idea of “counselling” is a relatively new phenomenon in our Vincy society, truth be told, counselling is indeed a ‘foreign” dispensation in Vincyland. We are simply not “accustom” to expressing our most inner feelings to a complete stranger. But its just a matter of time before we accept these things as the norm, we are going through a generational transformation and “counselling” as a profession, is just one aspect of the societal changes that is taking place in Hairouna.

    What I do agree with in the above comments, is this knee jerk reaction of seeking”foreign” help with everything that happens in Vincyland. I can appreciate that we may not have the level of expertise in this field at the moment but I believe our home base Counsellors are sufficiently qualified to handle this situation.

    C. ben-David, I was at a soccer game last summer, and there was this vendor coming around doing his thing, a patron shouted out, hey! Is the beer free?…the vendor without missing a beat, shouted back, nothing is free in this world except STD!!…the surrounding crowd roared with laughter including my self….I say this to say- well I just wanted to share that joke..lol- that everything is “business”, as much as you may despised this class of professionals, they like, doctors, lawyers, teachers etc spend time and money to get their qualifications…you got to show some respect if not for the individual, at least for the profession.

    You know, back in the day, when I was a youth man in Vincyland, there was a ton load of “crazy” people on the streets of Kingstown…and its only when I got older and got some “education” that it dawned on me, maybe if some of those folks had someone to talk to-a “grief” Counsellor if you may, it probably would have made a world of difference to them and their families. There were some folks in Vincyland that were labelled “crazy” but I was never convinced at all…I suspect some of these folks just gave up on life because our society gave up on them. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. And in the grand scheme of living, letting go of all that built up emotional baggage can contribute to a great well being.

    Never underestimate the power of LISTENING…it could be the difference between life and death.

    .

  3. Sir, you perpetuate a dangerous, negative stereotype about seeking professional help when needed. It is attitudes like yours that prevents some people from seeking out ALL the mental support that they can receive. Turning to professional help does not mean scorning the support of family, friends, and religious leaders. As a Vincentian who had the love and support of all three, but still sought additional professional help, I am saddened by the fact that you have been provided a platform to share your ignorant, judgmental, and backward views. I hope that anyone who has been affected by this tragedy is given the freedom to prioritize their own self-care, rather than bending to societal pressures and automatically rejecting a form of healing that could have potentially worked for them.

      1. Nope, not even working for the Government. I hope that you did actually read what I wrote though. Even if I did work for the MoH (which I don’t), it’s a personal perspective on grief and counselling that deserves its fair hearing.

  4. Since I am getting licks (see below) for the above piece on the grief-counselling industry, let me be clear that what I wrote not just my own view based on personal experience, it is the view of the scientific community (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/head-games/201305/does-grief-counseling-cause-more-harm-good).

    There are three questions that need to be clearly answered.

    (1) Is professional “grief counselling” actually needed in most or even many cases of grief caused by bereavement?

    (2) Does professional “grief counselling” actually work?

    (3) does professional “grief counselling” cause more harm than good?

    If you look at the above summary of the literature from the respected journal Psychology Today you will find at least partial answers to these questions. (Fuller anwers will be available when better, more detailed research is done.) You will also find support for my skeptical, indeed cynical, views stated above about grief counselling, a form of treatment that comes directly from the discredited or otherwise useless work of Sigmund Freud.

  5. Both C. Ben-David and Ivan Young, not all of the Counselors are foreigners. Do a little research before you speak. Also, maybe if those of you who know about the raping of women will take a stand instead of keeping your mouth shut, we may not need to have some foreign individual come into St. Vincent to tell us that rape and violence against women is wrong. Men are suppose to protect their women and children. If the government of SVG and I don’t care what party is in power would take a strong stand on all the importation of guns and drugs the murder rate in SVG will decline. ALL THIS TALK AND NO ACTION WILL NOT SOLVE ANY OF OUR PROBLEMS

  6. Let me be clear, I have nothing against counseling. I believing that we have Vincentians qualified enough to counsel those in need of it. I believe we have Vincentians qualified to speak out about the rape and mistreatment of women. The government can certainly pass laws with severe penalties for rapes, abuse of men, women, and children, drugs, illegal guns, etc. Why cant we raise our own chickens instead of importing foreign chickens loaded with chemicals, steroids, etc.? We are allowing foreigners to tell us that hanging is wrong and our government refuses to join the Caribbean final appeals court instead relying on our colonial master to make the decision for us. Look at the murder rate in our country, our government don’t seem to give a damn about it. It is time we start believing in our people that a bunch of people who don’t care about us. Hey, if Vincentians love the current situation, them more power to you.
    Ivan Young

Comments are closed.