Between Christianity and secularity: Counselling and psychotherapy provision in Scotland

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Counselling and psychotherapy services have become increasingly prominent within modern urban welfare. Although often perceived to be intrinsically secular, since psychoanalytic thinking and practice arrived in Scotland it has been shaped by the Christian culture it encountered. Early Scottish-born contributors to psychoanalytic theory, including Ian Suttie and W.R.D. Fairbairn, reframed Freud’s ideas in ways that incorporated Scottish Presbyterian understandings of what it is to be human. A form of Christian psychotherapy, supported by the Presbyterian, Catholic and Episcopal churches was being offered to members of the general public by the 1940s. Counselling provision expanded rapidly from the mid-1960s, with active church involvement. Tracing these developments via documentary sources and oral history testimony, I argue that counselling and psychotherapy in Scotland have never been secular. I illustrate evidence for “postsecular rapprochment” operating since the 1960s, characterised by faith-by-praxis and collaboration between those with and without religious faith. I explore the interplay between religious and secular spaces in the development of this element of modern urban welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-688
JournalSocial & cultural geography
Issue number6
Early online date8 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • counselling
  • psychotherapy
  • Scotland
  • secular
  • postsecular
  • Christian


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