Blog LGBT Relationships

Chief Justice John Roberts’s dissent

An interesting read from on Chief Justice John Roberts‘s dissent to making gay marriage legal across the US.

IMHO, he has a point about acceptance through democratic process.

Here are some nonconsecutive excerpts from his dissent, which essentially argues that this was a matter for the states to sort out, and not for judges to decide:

“This Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

“Our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

“Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.”

“Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens – through the democratic process – to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept. “

“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not Celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

Couple Relationships

How I wrote to my MP regarding the British Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

On Thursday 24th January, 2013, the British government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales was officially introduced to the House of Commons by Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

Great – I thought – now things are progressing to address the unequal, two-tier situation regarding those who have access to civil-partnerships, and those who have access to marriage.

But my mind was bugging me a bit.  Although I am a public supporter of Equal Marriage, and I tweet and Facebook about it, and my counselling practice supports it, I haven’t actually taken any direct action with regards to getting the law changed.  

I know that writing to ones MP can be a common approach, and I had not done that.  Something was holding me back.

So, today, using good CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) skills, I went through a small project of breaking down a task into smaller, manageable chunks … and I thought I’d share my process in case it helps others who might also wish to write to their MPs … if only they knew how.

Step 1 – Who is my Member of Parliament?

This turned out to be easy – visit “They Work for You” at and pop in your postcode.

Voila – your MP!

Step 2 – What do I write?

I chose to take a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to my opening.  It’s something I learned ages ago when one needs to get someone’s attention at the beginning of a presentation.  So I opened by redefining what others are saying about redefining marriage 😉

Other than that, I choose to take an approach that communicated my professional beliefs as a couple counsellor, practising in Hampshire and on Skype.  (BACP members – pay attention that we must not use our membership of BACP to communicate or give the impression that BACP endorses us, or our beliefs or practice, in any way.   I included my membership as it was relevant to my position in my letter to my MP).

I’ve included my letter below in case it inspires you to write you own (please use your own words and write from your own points of view – it comes across lots better than a rubber-stamp letter).

[learn_more caption=”Here’s a copy of what I wrote to Mr George Hollingbery”]

Mr George Hollingbery, House of Commons London, SW1A 0AA.

Dear Mr Hollingbery

I URGE YOU NOT TO REDEFINE MARRIAGE … but, instead, to contribute to changing laws so that what marriage represents (the social union and establishment of rights and obligations between two adults who love each other) may be extended to adult couples of the same gender.

To clarify my point: I am for the equal marriage bill. I am for marriage to be available to couples of the same gender (including those who have transitioned gender) but who are currently denied marriage due to archaic (and now somewhat anti-social) laws.
I ask you to vote “yes” in the approaching bill for equal marriage.

As an accredited member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, working in my private Hampshire practice (and world-wide over Skype video) it had been my privilege to work with all sorts of adult couple-relationships: gay/lesbian, straight, mixed-sexuality, mixed-race, same-race, differing-age, same-age, even platonic/professional couple relationships. But especially with respect to intimately-involved couples, it makes no sense to me for British society to deny any two loving adults the institution of marriage. Whilst civil-partnerships were a sensible step forward, I have come to believe how that has also created a two-tier, unequal social-platform. I believe the bill for equal marriage addresses this too (and I would also support civil partnerships for heterosexual couples).

Forgive my slightly tongue-in-cheek opening! It is a little wearing to hear much unfounded “but redefining marriage will destroy the world!” paranoia in the news; it leaves one wondering if, historically, the same unfounded fear-fuelled messages were communicated when couples of different skin colours wished their partnerships to be socially & legally accepted.

I hope you will be a part of this courageous bill to redress the current inequality of marriage and I thank you for your attention to this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Dean A. Richardson, MBACP(accred)



Step 3 – How do I get my message to my MP?

Easy … in step 1 there’s a link to a page that allows you to send a message directly to your MP (via email I think).

Look for the link – write your message (politely and to the point) and send it off.

NB – I began using this form, but as I neared the end of my message I realised that I actually wanted to print my letter on quality paper, put into a nicely prepared envelope  and send it through the mail.  If I’m going to ask my MP to pay attention to how important this matter is, I wanted the quality of my message to get through in the best way as it could.  Just a personal thing 🙂

Step 4 – Send … and wait for a reply.

We’re not guaranteed to receive the reply we want from our MPs.

Many other people will have written with other views – and an MP must do his or her best to represent everyone (though, in reality  he/she may try to represent the majority as this is what got him/her into his job in the first place … and will likely put him/her back there in the next election).

But, if we remember that our MPs are in parliament to represent us, not to simply represent their own personal views, then the more people who support Equal Marriage who write to their MPs, the better the chances that laws will be changed for the better.


How to Find & Vet a Counsellor

How to Check if a Counsellor is Legitimate.

Counselling, Therapy & British Law.

A current problem (2011 when I wrote this article, and still current in 2014) in British Law is that counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, spiritual/religious counselling, alternative therapies (and so on) are not regulated by law. 

Anyone can set themselves up as a “therapist” or use the word “counsellor” without (legally) requiring any formal therapeutic qualifications to prove their ability to practice as a counsellor.

This situation leads to counsellors not being required have to have any insurance.  They don’t have to be answerable to a professional body to oversee their practice.  These therapists can advertise themselves as a “counsellor” without actually having any training, qualifications, nor any actual experience as a professional intended to help you therapeutically.

Some organisations use ‘counsellor’ in forms such as “Travel Counsellor” or a “Debt Counsellor” – and by the true definition of the word counsellor they’re not intending to mislead the public into thinking they’re offering a therapeutic approach to your mental well-being.

Unfortunately, by the lack of British law, that the responsibility lays on the client who is seeking counselling/therapy to find someone who is appropriate for their treatment.

Going through a GP may not be enough (limited to offering only NHS IAPT treatment … often with a waiting list) to gain access to suitable counsellor. 

All of this can leave a person at risk when trying to find a counsellor who is not an unqualified fake.

Help in Finding a “safe” counsellor.

There is good news, though.

Finding a qualified, experienced, professionally accredited and insured counsellor can be straightforward if you know some helpful things to look out for. This article describes how to find a suitable counsellor – and offers some topics to check out with your potential therapist.

At your first meeting with your counsellor, most – if not all – counsellors should not be phased by you asking about any of these topics (in later sessions, however, certain therapists may not answer questions about themselves, but be interested with you in the purpose of your question – keeping the focus upon you.  This is a legitimate approach to some forms of counsellor (i.e. psychodynamic / psychoanalytical) but I mention it here for your knowledge).

Search Counsellors’ Professional Bodies’ Online Directory.

An easy way to find a suitable therapist is to use a professional counsellors’ body that offers a “find a counsellor” type of service. The counsellors listed may have had to pay for an entry, but would also have had their qualifications checked before being allowed to pay for an entry in the list.

… however, if you wish to find your own counsellor – or you would like some advice on what to check out about your potential counsellor – then click the next page for…

“The iCounsellor’s Guide to Finding a Counsellor“.


How do I Find & Verify a Therapist?

Searching for a Therapist.

It’s an unfortunate truth with UK law that, presently, anyone can set themselves up and describe themselves as a “therapist” or a “counsellor”. They are not legally required to have to have any formal training, any qualifications, any experience, any insurance, nor do they need to be a member of a professional body that oversees & regulates their therapy practice.

People like these exist – some look quite legitimate – and they can make finding a properly-suitable therapist quite dangerous for the layman.

However, when you know what to look out for, professionally qualified therapists can be easily recognised.

Even if you are still unsure that a therapist/counsellor you’ve found is legitimate or not, the following questions put to the therapist will help you decide.  Do not be afraid to ask your potential therapist to proove their legitimacy!

Vetting Questions to ask a Potential Therapist.

Any of these questions would be appropriate to put to a therapist (private, NHS, charitable, spiritual, religious etc) during the first interview.

  • What are your formal qualifications to practice as a therapist – or are you still in training?
  • Who awarded you your qualification? (Check that the awarding body is also a suitable member of a recognised professional body) -or- who is overseeing your practice whilst in training?
  • If you have no formal qualifications, and are not in training, what is your rationale for offering me therapy?
  • What professional bodies are you a member of … and what is your membership number?
  • If you are not a member of a professional body, what are the circumstances around this?  Was it your decision not to be a member?
  • Does your professional have different levels of membership (e.g. member, accredited member, senior accredited member) – and, if so, what level of membership have you attained?  Are you aware of the next level, and are you working towards it?  If you are not working to the next level, what is your rationale?
  • How do you regularly ensure that are practising to your best (e.g. do you attend regular supervision, or are a member of a group supervision group)?
  • When was your last training course or self-directed learning (continued professional development/CPD)? (Check that the therapist stays up to date with current learning).
  • Do you have indemnity insurance – and who is it with? How does your insurance protect me as a potential client of yours?
  • (If appropriate…) … having learned of my/our needs for therapy, what will be your treatment plan for me/us?
  • Is your treatment suitable for my needs?
  • Have you offered this treatment before?

Trust your Instincts with the Answers.

How do you feel with the therapist’s responses to your questions?  Were the answers given freely?  Some therapists – later on in the therapy – will not immediately answer questions, preferring to investigate the nature of the question first (psychodynamic/psychoanalytic is a legitimate model of therapy, albeit different from other models), so it might be best to bare the therapist’s response with this in mind.

How does the therapist appear to you?  Does the therapist’s website and marketing material give the appearance of professionalism?  For example, does the website look healthily maintained, or is it a bit out-of-date/bedraggled?  Do the marketing materials look professionally produced, or kind of written on craps of paper in crayon?

Services such as VistaPrint can give a professional appearance to anyone in return for some money – but these services also produce rubber-stamp images (i.e. the choices of branding can be used by anyone, over and over again).  Looking professional is a good indicator of the professionalism of the therapist, but on its own it’s not an indication of the therapist’s qualifications, practice or experience.

In addition with the above questions information, if you meet with the therapist consider the following:-

  • Do you have a feeling that the therapist is someone you want to work with?  If not, don’t … and find someone else.
  • Does the therapist at least attempt to answer the questions helpfully, or evasively?
  • Do you know of anyone who has previously seen this therapist for treatment?

Bear in mind that there is no legal requirement for any of the above considerations to be set in place, so you are responsible to protecting your own well-being.

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