The power-critical systemic approach to consulting can be understood as an experiment in bringing together two systems of thought, attitudes and ways of working. It is an approach that has evolved in glokal’s practice and that we are constantly developing and refining. While systemic counseling does not have a decided view of social power relations and thus often disregards or even denies central causes and effects of problems, the power-critical approach is in practice very much limited to educational work. A power-critical approach to consulting is still little tested. Here, however, we can make experiences from systemic consulting fruitful for us.
Underlying both the power-critical and systemic approaches is the notion that the world is socially constructed, subjectively perceived, and reality is constantly being recreated. People’s thoughts, feelings and actions are shaped by their socialization and by their social positioning. Systemic thinking invites you to approach questions holistically and to think outside the box. The power-critical approach complements this by pointing out structural aspects of inequalities and their historical development. The counseling attitude that emerges from the combination of the two approaches is resource-oriented and appreciative. At the same time, it is also linked to our emancipatory values and the vision of a power-sensitive and discrimination-free society, and is thus not value-neutral.
In practice, our power-critical systemic consulting is characterized by questions instead of answers and by openness to process instead of advice. The goal is to let the participants explore their integration into larger systems (e.g. organizations, family, etc.) as well as into social power and dominance relations (e.g. gender relations) and to develop solutions for their concerns and challenges within these systems. In the consulting practice, equal emphasis is placed on understanding (retrospection and analysis) and reorientation (outlook and development of possible courses of action).
In our work as consultants we do not see ourselves as experts who have the task to evaluate. Instead, we take on the important function of designing the framework and, if desired, also providing expert input. Essentially, we are concerned with empowering those being counseled to make their own changes in thinking, attitude and action. In such a process, the external support has the possibility to release the people to be advised from their habitual patterns of thinking. Irritation and uncertainty can play an important role and are essential components of change processes, especially when working with people privileged by inequality. It is precisely these moments that require emotional support, for which space is also created in the counseling work.