Counselling is a process of constructing meaning within the ‘real world’ conditions in which we live, a reinterpreting of how things are for each and every client. In an increasingly available world of great diversity, we can hardly expect any one map to fit every client; we need many metaphors and vocabularies, perhaps many theories.There is a growing awareness that there has, perhaps, been too much focus on pathology: ‘Psychology is also about strength and potential’ (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), and how to understand and mobilise these qualities in clients. Those authors say that counselling is not just about fixing what is broken; it is about nurturing what is best: opportunity development. Assessment is therefore, at least in part, working out with the client what needs to be made better and how best that can be done, but also looking at what is going well and at how the client does that. But as no theory is a transcript of reality, even though it has something useful to say, no assessment can write the ‘truth’ about another person’s problems; only, at best, a storied version of things that may be useful in making progress. It may summarise old ‘facts’ or lead to new ones. We need, therefore, to focus on what will work for the client, not on explaining the world — however interesting that might for the counsellor, it is an unnecessary intellectual excursion.
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