I originally wrote this article in January, when Katie Hopkins was making our toenails curl with her acerbic comments as she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. Since then, she has sunk to a new low, referring to refugees as “cockroaches” and saying “show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care”.
At one time she was saying things which were offensive, things like: ‘Nothing makes my buttocks clench tighter and my teeth itch more than ‘Full Time Mummy’. Full Time Mummy is not a job title. It is a biological status’ (Katie Hopkins). This might have made us feel angry, but somehow this pales in comparison with the comments about the tragic refugee crisis.
Hopkins would claim that she is speaking her ‘truth’, that she is describing the world as she sees it. She might even say that she is being congruent. Congruence is a term counsellors and psychotherapists often use in their work with clients. Carl Rogers considered it to be an essential component of the relationship between counsellor and client. To be congruent, the counsellor and client must relate to each other in a genuine and open way. But does this mean that the counsellor and client can interact in such an open way that feelings get hurt?
Some might argue that a therapist is not there to be a nodding dog of a friend, and perhaps Katie Hopkins justifies her acerbic comments along similar lines, but does this give people the freedom to offend others? This debate arose in relation to the cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, and amongst that debate was an important point: ‘With freedom comes great responsibility’ (Eleanor Roosevelt).
We cannot trample on someone else’s feelings simply in the name of freedom. We must use that freedom wisely, and so, as Nicola Davies pointed out in her article (Therapy Today, July 2014), congruence is not the only essential component of a relationship between a counsellor and a client. Carl Rogers also considered empathy and unconditional positive regard to be essential. We must understand accurately the feelings of the other person, and we must also remain accepting and caring. Two additional components that sadly someone like Katie Hopkins will never understand.
Chris Warren-Dickins, Founder of Explore & Transform
Counselling and coaching blog