Emotional barriers within the counselling room: the experiences of disabled clients (paper, 2002)

Reeve, D. (2002) ‘Emotional barriers within the counselling room: the experiences of disabled clients’, paper presented at Emotional Geographies, Lancaster University, 23-25 September.


The counselling room is intended to provide a space in which a client can explore and discover ways of living that are personally satisfying and resourceful. This paper explores the emotional experiences of disabled clients using interview data from my postgraduate research together with reflexive analysis from my personal experience as a disabled counsellor and client.

Counselling rooms, like many other public and private spaces, are often inaccessible for disabled people despite the implementation of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act. As a result disabled people are forced to accept counselling by telephone, at home or within an alternative ‘non-counselling’ space; each of these methods have potential problems that can adversely affect the nature of the counselling experience for the client. In addition to considering the emotional consequences of inaccessible counselling rooms, I will briefly discuss how current counselling theory and training contribute to the exclusion of disabled clients from counselling services.

I suggest that the counselling room can fail to provide the safe and supportive environment needed to facilitate the counselling process for disabled clients; consequently the counselling room may be experienced as a place of exclusion and oppression – further disabling, rather than enabling the client. This example of inaccessible counselling rooms indicates that in order to understand the complex nature of the experience of disability, it is necessary to consider both the structural and emotional ‘geographies of disability’.