Can a psychologist’s broad training help any client, regardless of their suffering?
Not necessarily. It is up to the client to decide. The client may remember when they didn’t know about the extent of industrialised animal cruelty and the extent to which societal norms and culture accept and endorse behaviours and actions that collude with animal use. Psychologists, like other human beings, have the capacity to empathise with another’s pain. Their training prepares them to be available to clients to help them understand themselves better and develop strategies to cope with the challenges of life. Research shows that quality of the relationship between the client and the psychologist, is the biggest determinant of whether clients feel better after treatment.
Thus, any client, in theory, is capable of being helped by a psychologist – it all depends on the quality of the relationship, not the intervention. Nevertheless, when a client’s beliefs about animal cruelty are so strong that they have made major and sometimes difficult and uncomfortable changes to their entire life choices, they may be more likely to feel understood by a psychologist who is also vegan.
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If my psychologist really understood my pain, they would be vegan!
Vegans often make similar observations about seeing a non-vegan psychologist. For instance, they tell the psychologist about the trauma and anger they feel in relation to the extent of animal abuse in society, including the areas of factory farming, retail and manufacturing.
The psychologist encourages them to explore their feelings and beliefs around the subject and offers strategies to help them overcome their related anxiety and trauma. Having told the psychologist the extent of animal cruelty, and explained that that if a person doesn’t choose veganism their daily choices involve using products and services that abuse animals, the clients then expect the psychologist to make the vegan choice.
If the psychologist doesn’t become a vegan, this is clear evidence that they can’t possibly understand the extent of the vegan’s distress.
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Veganism is a philosophy of the non-use and non-exploitation of animals. The vegan has learnt that animal cruelty is institutionalised in many industrial processes related to food production, clothing manufacture, furniture making, product testing and so on. Another person may disagree with animal cruelty yet not choose to be vegan, not considering that animal cruelty is inherent in the production of goods and services that they buy or they might not even know about it. Such a non-vegan psychologist is not knowingly colluding with animal cruelty, but is unwittingly colluding with it, until the vegan client advises them of it.
A client who, having explained these issues, tends to feel that the psychologist ‘doesn’t’ become vegan is agreeing with the cruelty, disbelieves what goes on, or is indifferent. In any case, the vegan client now knows that the psychologist now has the knowledge but chooses to continue with the collusion. This is why they say the psychologist doesn’t understand him. The vegan might believe the psychologist is demonstrating that:
- Cruelty and animal exploitation is acceptable.
- They don’t wish, or are unable, to empathise with the client’s trauma.
- They do not believe that animal cruelty is as far-reaching as the client reports.
A well-trained and experienced psychologist doesn’t need to experience everything a client has suffered in order to understand them. They can extend their skills to help all sorts of people work through their problems.
Consider a client suffering from grief related to death of a loved one or a traumatic experience. Knowledge of the presenting issue would not necessarily call upon the psychologist to change anything about her personal behaviour, because their non-experience of the issue isn’t directly or indirectly saying that the causes of the pain are acceptable. The psychologist doesn’t automatically collude with situation underpinning the pain. For example, a psychologist neither has to have to have been beaten as a child to understand child abuse; nor is she colluding with abusers if they don’t take political or personal action against child abuse.
Non-veganism however is different
Because of the extent of animal exploitation in the industrial process, vegans often believe that the non-vegan is unwittingly colluding with the cruelty every time they put milk in their coffee, eat meat, use cosmetics or household cleaning products that have not been labelled as cruelty free, sit on a leather couch or wear a wool jumper.
It is impossible for them not to collude with industrial cruelty unless they specifically choose the vegan option. This is why the vegan client is challenged and says that their non-vegan psychologist doesn’t understand them.
Vegans seeking the help of a psychologist must decide themselves whether or not they feel comfortable working with a non-vegan. Psychologists, like other human beings, have the capacity to empathise with another’s pain. Their training prepares them to help clients understand themselves better and develop strategies to cope with the challenges of life. Thus, any client with any presenting symptoms is capable of being helped by non-psychologists – it all depends on the quality of the relationship, not the intervention.
Nevertheless, when a client’s beliefs about animal cruelty are so strong that they have made major and sometimes difficult and uncomfortable changes to their entire life choices, they may be more likely to feel understood by a psychologist who is also vegan.
Where are you located?
My office is at Level 26, 44 Market Street, Sydney 2000. This is located on the corner of Market and York Streets. Sessions also available online via phone, skype or facetime.
What qualifications do you have?
- MA Existential Psychotherapy & Counselling,
- Post Graduate Diploma Counselling
- MSc Occupational Psychology
- BSc (Hons) Psychology
Can I apply for Medicare Rebates on my work with you?
I am registered for the Medicare Rebate Scheme. With a doctor’s referral letter for sessions under Medicare, you will be able to claim back a portion of the cost of each session from Medicare.
I ask that clients pay for each session and then claim back from Medicare upon receipt of my invoice. Refunds are usually given immediately in cash if you visit their offices, or paid into your account.
44 Market Street
Phone: 1300 788 031 (Local call in Australia)