Cross-cultural inter-personal space in assumed counselling relationships with same and opposite sex pairs, and counsellors' perspectives on proxemics
Regardingt he main title of this project, the term "inter-personal" refers to the inter-active relationship between people, as in: a psychotherapeutic counselling encounter. Deliberations with relatives, friends and colleagues who disclosed that they had been through similar situations as my own concerning inter-personal experiences with regard to proxemics, fired my aspiration to bring into relief the thread of proximity when relating inter-personally. It also fuelled my wondering about which factors led to healthy inter-personal relating, and whether proxemics played a role in this. The dimension I therefore explore in the current research is the non-verbal one of distance. Within the scope of this project, human relating is investigated while focusing on proxernics. When we know what emotion we are experiencing at a moment in time, we relate with ourselves on an intrapersonal level, which has various other dimensions. I have experienced this while listening to my own self. When we engage in a dialogue with another human being, we relate on an inter-personal level, which also has other dimensions. I have experienced this myself while communicating with another person. When we experience being an integral part of what we experience as our world, we transcend our immediate situation and sense a connection to a greater whole; we relate on a transpersonal level. Personally, I have experienced this, for example: while walking with my family. I mention the three different types of relating here (intra, inter and trans-personal relating) in order to put this research project on inter-personal relating regarding proxemics, into a certain perspective. In this work I have endeavoured to entwine three threads from my life: Firstly, the thread of my professional experiences with the second thread of my studies and the final thread of my teaching work, in the hope of offering a key to psychological therapists for facilitating the unlocking of some positive potential in their clients. I aspire to interface research with practical ways of puffing theory into practice, without preaching a particular psychotherapeutic model. I have yearned to produce a project like this for over a decade, and I am thrilled to be doing it. Many aspects of my life have facilitated the process of this work. Firstly, my cultural transplant from the Mediterranean to England when I was five years old. This experience gave me a sense of having a front row seat in the new culture and perhaps lay the foundation for my search concerning the understanding of cultural influences. Also, when I entered junior school after my seventh birthday, a teacher read to my class for ten minutes near the end of each school day, and this sparked my enthusiasm for reading. Before the age of twelve I went to what was purported to be the first comprehensive school built in London. That school's library seemed well-stocked and I read every book on psychology that I could find, during my teen years. This is how my love for psychology was born. When I left school, I trained to act professionally, later I qualified to be a teacher and later still I studied to be a mime artist. A passion for understanding the meaning of non-verbal communication has thrived within me for thirty years. After acting professionally for some years I ran a theatre school in London. It was there that my practical therapeutic work unwittingly started, initially with children, when the local Social Services department paid for the "difficult" children in their care, to attend my drama school. I remember with warmth, not only the dedicated hard work which thrived there, but also the fun which my students and I had. Yet my heart and mind yearned towards training to be a psychologist. So I did, when the opportunity came, taking my first psychology degree as a mature student with the Open University. The eventual combination of post-graduate studies, clinical work, experience within the performing arts, teaching and the passion within me, provided me with the necessary equipment for the present project. Now that I have gleaned a certain amount of knowledge for interfacing my leaming of psychology, dramatic art and teaching, I have undertaken to produce this work. The text that follows is a research project investigating distance within counselling relationships. It is not only an empirical exploration of factors within purported counselling relationships which may influence proxemics, between counsellors and their clients, but also a qualitative exploration. The chief aims of the research are seven-fold: Firstly, to offer a ground-work of data on proxemics regarding counselling relationships with English speaking adult natives from England, Gibraltar and the USA, from which further research may grow from. Secondly, to add to the area of understanding non-verbal communication (NVC) between individuals who make up the members of counselling dyads. Thirdly, to add to the field of literature on NVC, the specific dimension of proxemics, an aspect which has been under represented. Fourthly, to develop ideas on facilitating awareness in NVC, especially proxernics for people involved with counselling. Fifthly, to ascertain areas of awareness concerning NVC with regard to at least proxemics, in psychological counselling practitioners. Sixthly, to offer a few new ideas to not only psychological counsellors but also perhaps individuals that teach who may need to use counselling skills in order to support their work. These new ideas take the form of balancing proximity with the factors of culture, familiarity and gender (see study 1 in the main body of the text); and whatever themes emerge (see study 2 in the main body of the text). Finally, I aspire to bring more fun and heart to join the head of the body of my profession. Indeed, during the first international conference on counselling psychology in 1997, the chair of the division, Professor Mary Wafts, during her closing address, said that what the British Psychological Society's (BPS) Division of Counselling Psychology needed was more fun and heart to join the head. It is important to note that although this research spotlights proxemics, the investigation initially deliberates on the wider aspect of non-verbal communication, due to not only the fact that proxernics is part of NVC, but also because of the meagre amount of investigations found which mainly focus on proxemics. This research involved visiting three English speaking countries and using a tape measure to see how far away purported clients chose to sit from me, the assumed counsellor; as well as interviewing individuals who practise counselling in order to ascertain their awareness regarding proxernics. In this way, the research focuses on proxernics. Within this work, the term "it" or "one" is used when referring to an objective reality, such as external criteria used as a yardstick. For instance, the measurement in inches (which would be constant, who-ever measures the same place). The term "we" or "our" is used when there is a shared understanding between people, such as the language used between members of a counselling dyad (unless an interpreter is used). And the term "I" or "my" is used when I deliberate on my personal experience. Wilber (1998) has a similar usage of the terms "it", "we" and "I". My experience with working on this project is multi-faceted. It has been both very challenging and extremely rewarding. At times I have cried over this project: for instance when my computer crashed so my doctorate work in it, vanished. At other times I have had fun and laughter: for instance while sifting and deliberating on the research, during a meal, with my counselling psychologist friend Anne. It is not the intention of this work to investigate the meanings behind the words "counsellor", "psycho-therapist", "psychological practitioner"," counselling psychological and "psychological counsellor"; although these words are used interchangeably throughout the text. The past, present and future tenses are used to illustrate: a situation that has happened in the past such as a clinical experience (past tense); a situation which is current such as a piece of literature (present tense) or a situation which may be possible (future tense).