Photo: Biographical counsellors gathering in 2016
Biographical Work began in the 1980s at the Centre for Social Development, an international centre established in 1975 to offer training, research and practice out of Anthroposophy. It was the initiative of Tijno Voors and Coenraad van Houten, which grew out of the research and study in Biography Work inspired in the mid-1970s by the Dutch psychologist, psychiatrist, social and curative educator, Bernard Lievegoed.
Lievegoed’s work arose from his lifelong study of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. He wrote extensively about human development, the rhythms and phases of biography and the crises arising out of the conditions of our time. He gave a basis for the development of biography work as adult education, and for a counselling and psychotherapy practice. He felt that such a couneselling approach needed to be grounded in an understanding of human biography and an awareness that people’s problems arise in the context of the whole of their biographical and phasic development.
From late 1980s to early 1990s the development of Biographical Counselling as a therapeutic modality was carried and developed by Margli Matthews and Anita Charton. The training in Biographical Counselling was cared for by the Biography and Social Development Trust untill 2016. Integral to its work and understanding was the acknowledgement that healing and self-development are profoundly linked to the social and therapeutic needs of our time. In 2009 a three-year Diploma Course in Biographical Counselling received its accredited status from BACP. The training took in its last cohort in 2011, who graduated in 2014.
In 2017, both the Trust and the diploma course came to an end, in part due to the decline in the number of applicants. In 2014, a small group of graduate biographical counsellors from the course maintained a commitment to colleagueship and formed the Professional Association of Biographical Counsellors.
In September 2022, a new course welcomed 16 participants. Although the course is not certified, nor can it offer a qualifying validation, it is able to offer social and health professionals skills for their personal and professional development. It aims to awaken a living imagination of what it means to be human and to bring an awareness of the laws and rhythms of biographical development. It stimulates the development of new social faculties, preparing participants with skills to offer helping conversations in their places of work, as well as their homes and communities.
Biographical Counselling as a therapeutic modality continues to develop and grow with thriving training programmes outside of the UK. Biography Work is offered throughout the world with many different training programmes in Europe and worldwide.