Updated: Aug 31, 2021
The relationship between counsellor and client is an intensely personal one. The client is revealing things about themselves that they may never have done before. They may be opening up parts of their life that are troubling, distressing, traumatic or even embarrassing. The counsellor's role is to be respectful, non-judgemental and try to see life through their clients' eyes.
For people that visit their counsellor regularly, this process is vital to their mental wellbeing. They hopefully feel they are not only heard but also understood, which can be of great benefit to those struggling with stress, anxiety, depression or despair and loneliness.
However, there is something unique when it comes to ex Jehovah's Witnesses in a counselling room. Things that a counsellor may take for granted with other clients cannot be assumed when speaking with ex JW's.
Take, for example, the concept of death. For most people death is inevitable. Some are fearful of it while others are accepting. Some believe that there is a heaven after death while others expect that after death there is nothing. Therefore, when talking with a client on the subject of death or mortality, once the counsellor understands the client's view, it is possible to see things from the person's perspective.
Now put yourself in a position of having to know what it is like to talk about mortality with someone that has no concept of death. How can you possibly see through the eyes of a person who believed they would never have to deal with losing a loved one because the world is about to end. Now try to imagine what it is like for that same person now confronted with the idea that they were wrong about it all their life.
This is just one example of how an ex Jehovah's Witness sees the wold completely differently, and it can lead to problems when it comes to getting effective therapy.
Ex Jehovah's Witnesses, or even current JW's, find that they have to spend an inordinate amount of their time in the counselling room explaining to the counsellor why they think certain ways or why particular things are happening. Some ex Jehovah's Witnesses wait for months for their NHS counselling, only to have to spend a majority of their time educating the counsellor, instead of working on their actual problems. Nice for the counsellor but not so good for the person who has waited so long for the help they desperately need.
When an ex Jehovah's Witness visits a counsellor with specialist knowledge, they are able to talk just as freely as a person should in sessions. They can reveal heir innermost thoughts and feelings but, crucially, knowing that the counsellor actually understands what is going on and why. They don't have to stop and teach, they can just work on themselves and figure out how to get their life back to a place where they want it to be.
Typically, ex Jehovah's Witnesses can be struggling with things like depression, loneliness, anxiety, fear, guilt, desperation, suicidal ideation or hopelessness.
Maybe they cannot cope with being shunned. Perhaps they have severe panic at all of the years they have lost. They could be confused about their identity and not able to figure out their place in the world.
These subject areas are all relatively commonplace in the counselling room but, crucially, they need to be viewed through an ex Jehovah's Witness lens and not the usual one, which explains why specialist ex Jehovah's Witness counselling is so vital.
According to JW.org, the Jehovah's Witness official website, there are in excess of 140,000 members across the UK. There are no figures showing how many former members there are but it would be reasonable to assume it would be many many thousands. a massive portion of these will be struggling with things as mentioned previously. Something else, experienced by most ex Jehovah's Witnesses, that causes great mental trauma is shunning, which you can read more about in another blog post here.
For now, there are just too few counsellors with the specialist knowledge to work most effectively with ex Jehovah's Witnesses. This, hopefully, will change and the first step in that process has to be raising awareness that the need is even there.
For more information on ex Jehovah's Witness counselling visit www.exjwcounselling.co.uk or call 07365115274.