Having been in lockdown for a few weeks, I found myself reconnecting with family members I had not spoken to in a long time, and with friends I had lost contact with.

Suddenly, I had time and space, to pause, to reflect, to connect. I began reaching out, talking for an hour, or so, really listening and wanting to know were they all safe, well, healthy, really okay?

And knowing this, really mattered to me because of the current global pandemic, because of the pain and suffering, because of the fear, because we are all in this together.

I also found myself beginning my telephone conversations and emails by hoping they and their families were keeping safe and well, and ending by asking them to look after themselves, stay safe and well.

Going out for my daily walk, I began to notice that we were greeting one another, people I did not know: we were saying ‘good morning’ and ‘hello’, and ‘thank you’ as one of us made space for the other to pass; or we were simply smiling, acknowledging each another.

This had led me to ask myself why have I not shown more care and compassion, been more thoughtful, more observant? What excuses have I used: that I am too busy; that I don’t have the time or the energy and that of course everyone is fine - surely ‘no news is good news’.

And do I want to return to how I used to be? Definitely not! Having had the time and space to reflect, to notice, to do things differently, I like it. I like the connections, the sincerity and genuineness, listening to and reading the words of others, their meaning, the pauses and sitting comfortably with the silent spaces in between.

It feels good, refreshing, kind and beautiful - a way forward in these uncertain times - a way to be connected with myself, with you and the world.

The concept of ‘Safe Uncertainty’

 I recently read Barry Mason’s concept of safe uncertainty which he initially coined as a systematic family therapist. He used a four-quadrant model to describe the concepts of unsafe uncertainty, safe uncertainty, safe certainty, and safe uncertainty within a therapeutic model. Having read his paper, it has made me consider how this applies to my counselling practice and where in general terms do my clients ‘sit’ within this model.

When I consider a client, who is mostly in ‘safe certainty’, I imagine that they would inhabit a narrow viewpoint, be inflexible, in denial and defensive, feel safe holding such a position and certain that they are right.

I have seen this in certain people where they are 100% sure they are in the ‘right’, that only their position is the one and where they defend it unequivocally.

A client who is mostly in ‘unsafe certainty’, is likely to step to blame others, feel and be helpless, is reactive and struggles to deal with the unexpected.

Such people are more likely to step into ‘victim’ role and feel sorry for themselves.

A client who presents mostly as ‘unsafe uncertain’ lacks direction, is fearful, wants to control everything, micromanage, not change, and do nothing. For such people, the world is very scary and unsafe; they feel out of control and thus have to be in charge of everything.

A client who is mostly in the ‘safe uncertain’ quadrant, is confident, hopeful, open to personal growth and learning and shows resilience.

Mason suggests that the two type of clients who seek therapeutic support fall into the categories of ‘unsafe certainty’ and ‘unsafe uncertainty’; surely, we also see clients who present as ‘safe uncertain’, the ones who readily soak up the therapeutic process, are fully engaged and motivated, take self-responsibility and ‘heal’.

Furthermore, is not my aim as a counsellor to also empower my clients to move from ‘unsafe certainty’ and ‘unsafe uncertainty’ to ‘safe uncertainly’ whilst I too continually ensure that I work from this position, where within a therapeutic safe space I am curious and open to possibilities; and surely, this represents Carl Rogers’ core conditions of unconditional positive regard, congruence and empathy.