Tag Archives: counselling disabled people

Mind the gap: Exploring the creative intersections of disability studies and counselling (paper with Mèl Halacre, 2016)

Reeve, D. and Halacre, M. (2016) ‘Mind the gap: Exploring the creative intersections of disability studies and counselling’, paper presented at 2016 Lancaster Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster University, 6-8 September.


It has long been recognised that disability as a diversity issue is still largely absent from counselling theory, practice and training (McLeod, 2013). Similarly, disability studies has been reticent to engage with the psychological ramifications of living in a disabling world. One of the difficulties of bridging these two disciplines is that of bringing a social model view of disability to bear on what is often viewed as an individualised, personal experience of the world. This is particularly relevant when disabled clients bring issues to therapy which are a complex muddle of individual (impairment) and social (disability) effects. The relative absence of disability within counselling training means that counsellors are often ill-equipped to understand the complexity of these issues and their impact on the disabled person. Hence counselling may be at best ineffective, or at worst, yet another disabling experience for the client.

This intertwining of individual and social aspects of disability and impairment causes a theoretical challenge for counselling and disability studies theory alike, a tension which needs to be resolved if disabled people are to have access to effective counselling.

In this paper, we explore the potential of using Thomas’ extended social relational definition of disablism (2007) as a way of reducing the gap between these two disciplines – through a collaboration between an experienced counsellor who has worked with many disabled clients and a disability studies theorist with a life-long interest in this area. We consider the following questions:

  • How useful is the concept of psycho-emotional disablism for helping counsellors better understand the lived experience of disablism within contemporary UK society?
  • How does a counsellor support their client to make effective changes in the face of intertwined disabling barriers and impairment/impairment effects?
  • What challenges does this raise for disability studies and counselling practice alike?

DISsing the social GGRRAAACCEEESSS (paper with Victoria Jones, 2014)

Jones, V. and Reeve, D. (2014) ‘DISsing the social GGRRAAACCEEESSS’, paper presented at AFT Annual Conference: IRREVERENCE – (Dis)respect, freedoms, loyalty, ethics & survival, Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, 18-20 September.


The “Social GGRRAAACCEEESSS” developed by John Burnham and Alison Roper-Hall (Burnham 1992, 1993, 2011, Roper-Hall 1998, 2008) highlight the social factors that can influence both practitioners and clients. In this mnemonic disability and impairment effects are represented by ‘ability’.

Drawing on the field of Disability Studies and the social construction of disability this workshop will facilitate an exploration of the consequences of the omission of the ‘dis’ of disability. It will be proposed that ‘ability’ serves to deny the psycho-emotional dimensions of both disability and impairment effects that can influence the way disability, identities and roles are constructed by disabled and non-disabled therapists and clients.

Participants will apply the visible-invisible and voiced-unvoiced framework (Burnham, 2012), to disability and impairment and be invited to join a conversation exploring the utility of these ideas in practice and training.


Counselling and disabled people: Help or hindrance? (chapter, 2014)

Reeve, D. (2014) ‘Counselling and disabled people: Help or hindrance?’, in J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas (eds) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments, 3rd Edition, London: Sage, pp. 255-261.

This book chapter is an updated version of the chapter in the 2nd edition of this book.

A copy of this book chapter can be downloaded from here.

Psycho-emotional disablism: A neglected dimension of disability? (keynote, 2008)

Reeve, D. (2008) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism: A neglected dimension of disability?’, paper presented at 3rd Cornwall Disability Research Network, Cornwall College, 27 November (keynote).

This keynote was addressed to a room full of disability studies people and undergraduates training in a range of health-related fields. My aim was to introduce the students in particular to a form of disablism which can be present in the relationships between health professionals and the people they are supporting – not something that usually emerges clearly from social model definitions of disability.


Towards a psychology of disability: The emotional effects of living in a disabling society (chapter, 2006)

Reeve, D. (2006) ‘Towards a psychology of disability: The emotional effects of living in a disabling society’, in D. Goodley and R. Lawthom (eds) Disability and Psychology: Critical Introductions and Reflections, London: Palgrave, pp. 94-107.

This book chapter is my first publication which looked at how psycho-emotional disablism (referred to as psycho-emotional dimensions of disability) could impact on emotional well-being. It gives some useful examples of the different forms that psycho-emotional disablism can take and suggests that therapy/psychology need to be more aware of this ‘inner’ form of disablism, especially when it occurs as internalised oppression.



Counselling and disabled people: Help or hindrance? (chapter, 2004)

Reeve, D. (2004) ‘Counselling and disabled people: Help or hindrance?’, in J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas (eds) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments, 2nd Edition, London: Sage Publications, pp. 233-238.

A short chapter drawing on the themes raised in my article on disablism in the counselling room.

An updated version of this chapter appears in the 3rd edition of the book.


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’.