Autogynephilia: Aroused by the Image of Yourself as the Opposite Sex

sexgenderSex and gender are topics that trainees often complain are insufficiently taught on counselling psychology programmes.  One remedy for this is to read widely – and first person accounts are a great way of doing this.  In this blog post, Joseph Burgo investigates a phenomenon where individuals take themselves as a particular gendered person, as their sexual object.  A kind of auto-erotic fetish of sorts.  Check out the post here.  For me, the very articulate comments that follow the post, are just as interesting, if not more so, than the post itself.

If you’re interested in a contemporary psychoanalytic exploration of (trans)gender, check out this book on the subject.  Or come and see me for supervision! 🙂

Dr Russel Ayling

“I’m a clinician, not a researcher!”

I hear this phrase a lot in my work as a research supervisor and director of studies.  Luckily, no-one’s (yet) been foolish enough to say it to me when I’ve been an examiner in a viva, but I’ve sensed it!

webIt’s a badly-kept secrets that many counselling psychology trainees (and some clinical psychology trainees too, oh yes!) want a therapy training that means they can call themselves a Doctor, and see the research as a necessary evil, to be given the minimum attention possible.  What they forget (or prefer not to remember) is that clinical and counselling psychologists used to be qualified at Masters level; indeed, this is still an option open to examiners at many universities when examining theses that aren’t good enough to meet doctoral level.  The hard reality is that it’s your thesis, and only your thesis, that allows you to call yourself a Doctor.  And don’t think your examiners, who are giving up a couple of days of their time, for not always much money, won’t believe that themselves, and look out for whether you do.

So, OK, you get my point, but you don’t like research, or you kind-of-do, but you’re scared of it.  There’s loads of free resources on the web to help you!  If you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook – you should see direct links to the right of this post.  We tweet and post daily with resources that we’ve personally checked to be relevant to doctoral study in counselling psychology.

Still too much?  People often ask me ‘if there was one book you could recommend?’ Obviously, my answer changes depending on their problem, but if you’re new to and/or nervous about research (or training students who are), you could do worse than to check out The Process of Research Writing by Steven D. Krause It’s a web-based research writing textbook (textweb?) suitable for teachers and students involved in research.  Have a look at it here and see what you think.

Maybe you’ve got a better favourite, or you’d like to write a review of it for this blog?  Comment on this post or drop us a line, and we’ll post up your scribblings!

Dr Russel Ayling

A meditation on free will and authority

kafkaFree will and authority are highly relevant and complex concepts in counselling psychology, but rarely discussed in any depth.  In my psychoanalytic training, one of the readings for a class before the summer break was ‘Before The Law’ by Kafka.  In essence, it’s about a man who comes to find the law, meets a gate and a (first) gatekeeper, and sits outside the gate with the gatekeeper, patiently, until he dies.  He found his own relationship with the law – unquestioning obedience.  But there are others to be found.  Who ‘has’ the law in this story?  Who has free will?  Check out this interesting commentary here and see how your thinking changes.

Dr Russel Ayling

Counselling Psychology Quarterly is up for some disclosure!

concealmentCounselling Psychology Quarterly are inviting submissions for a special issue on disclosure and concealment.  They are interested in research articles, literature reviews and theory papers on the subject, so this might be a great way to get your thesis published if you’re working in this area.

Check out for more details!

Inspiration, Innovation and Impact – the BPS Division of Counselling Psychology Conference, 2014

A newly qualified CoP’s reflections of the DCoP conference last month

Dr Sue Whitcombe

London, 10th July – the eve of my second Division of Counselling Psychology conference – my first as Dr Sue Whitcombe, no longer a trainee.  The pre-conference hype promised much.  A veritable feast of renowned keynote speakers, an enticing menu of topical research and some tasty workshops.

The buzz was already palpable in the balmy Summer evening.  An informal get-together at Tate Britain followed by some food and drink in a local hostelry provided a great opportunity to both re-acquaint and meet new colleagues before the formal conference opening.  Paul Gilbert’s keynote address was inspirational, striking a chord with my own personal philosophy.  A compassion focus seems so natural, so innate to me, in enabling the people I work with to address their self-blame, their helplessness.  Helping them to understand that much of what they think, do and feel is not their fault.  Empowering them to take responsibility to “be…

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Meetup group for Counselling and Psychotherapy students in London


meetup groupDid you know that there’s a group for Counselling and Psychotherapy students in London?


You can find details of the group at and follow them on Twitter @psycstudents!


What’s your position in the transference?

transferenceIn my own psychoanalytic training, this is a question that’s often been asked of me.  Psychoanalysts believe that transference is when the patient acts towards someone – often the therapist – as if they were a figure in the patient’s past.   So, when a patient feels unloved, criticised, intruded upon or neglected, we might ask ourselves ‘who am I to them?’.

Countertransference, is the therapist’s feelings about the patient.  Note that they can be responses to a perceived transference, and ways of defending against these – e.g. I feel inadequate when a patient feels criticised by me, so I try to make it up to them, to repair the ‘rupture’.

To our patient that tells us that they feel criticised, a more Kleinian approach would be to ‘tell’ the client what you think they’re doing.  Something like ‘you see me as your mother, who always used to criticise you, so when I point things out to you, you feel criticised like you used to then’.  A more contemporary approach would be to invite the patient to critique the beliefs that result in them feeling criticised.  Maybe like ‘what does it mean to you that you feel criticised?’.  The latter intervention avoids stepping into and elaborating the fantasy on behalf of the patient, and invites them instead to consider what the word means to them, and where there beliefs about it might come from.  Much less chance of the patient feeling criticised by this kind of response!

This illustrates two different positions in the transference – the Kleinian, where the therapist acts out the transference, then analyses it.  The contemporary, where the therapist uses the transference to analyse it as a symbolic ‘third term’, something about the patient’s mind (and the language they use to talk about it) that can be looked at by them both, rather than something ‘going on’ in the relationship between them.

Check out this handy webpage to read a little more about transference and working with it:

Dr Russel Ayling

A counselling psychology blog…

Hello, counselling psychologists and would-be CoPs!

We know how hard it is to find interesting content relevant to the profession.  Plenty of you follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds, but we wanted a space where it was possible to write more and comment more.

We’re particularly hoping that the clinical supervisors with listings in our directory will share some of their ideas and writing here, but if you have something you’d like to share with a wider audience, let us know!