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Counselling for Tolerance

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Tolerance is not neutrality, nor should tolerance in counselling be equated with a spiritual and emotional vacuum. Tolerance applies to style rather than stance, and a counsellor needs a conception of the ideal — broadly speaking, a moral position.

Originally proclaimed against religious and political tyranny, the political ideal of tolerance has in the twentieth century become confused with permissiveness, and is thus sometimes charged with generating many of the ills of modern society, including crime and family breakdown. Counselling has become the universal remedy, replacing punishment and compulsion.

The counsellor needs

(a) a view of human nature

(b) a conception of what is good for those possessing that nature.

Constants in the first mean there cannot be too much variation in the second. Society is varied and plural, so the counsellor must be non-judgemental, but while this means accepting the person, it does not necessarily mean endorsing the conduct.

A distinction is drawn between therapeutic and philosophical counselling; the latter considers a problem, where the former focusses on the client, but both may fall short of offering a holistic view. Counselling may also exacerbate some of the problems of modern life by too readily accepting the conditions which cause them. Some ethical problems raised by confidentiality and informed consent are discussed. It is concluded that the counsellor must be tolerant, but not morally ambivalent, nor a relativist.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK

Publication date: April 1, 1997


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