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Dissent and Collusion: therapy in an age of austerity

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REGENTS WHARF,8 All Saints Street

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N1 9RL

United Kingdom

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Photograph by Mark Lennihan

Conference programme

Workshops

Dissent and Collusion: therapy in an age of austerity


Although our professions are founded on a belief that people will find their own best ways forward in a trusting relationship, therapy itself is immersed in the dominant beliefs and attitudes of the cultures within which it functions. This conference will explore what these beliefs and attitudes may be and offer counter-narratives in an environment of curiosity and openness. In an era of increasing rigidity and conformity this is an opportunity to scrutinise, critique and develop what we offer clients, and why.

Speakers Jocelyn Chaplin, Dwight Turner, Seb Randall

Plus discussion groups, workshops and large group discussion.

Therapists and Equality

Jocelyn Chaplin

Therapists, like everybody else, are living in a world driven insane by the imbalances of late Capitalism. We are ruled by the prevailing paradigm of ruthless competition in which one person or group must win while another loses, one is superior while another is inferior. People are primarily valued as consumers rather than as human beings. The idea of endless economic growth at any cost, targets for everything and life as a series of ladders, pushes us ever upwards to some imagined rich heaven, with no counterbalancing.

We are faced with the disastrous results every day in our professional as well as personal lives. Depression is on the increase as some people find that more material wealth doesn’t make them happy. For others social and economic ‘failure’ is experienced as their personal fault.

Many of us feel frustrated by the limitations of the work we do, whether it’s private or public. All too often we are simply holding people in desperate situations largely created by the external structures of society. Or we are helping others through ‘quick fixes’ to return to ‘normality’ and be good consumers and workers.

Instead, we need to go to the very root of the paradigm/model that underlies it all and replace it with an alternative one. This means moving from hierarchy, competition and even aspiration to equality, co-operation and satisfaction. We all have both paradigms deeply embedded in our conscious and unconscious minds. Noticing the many complex, often subtle, hierarchies within and outside us, without shaming or blaming ourselves or others, is a start. Then we can promote the equality model as the heart of what we do. It can be in relationships with clients/people, as well as in our more overtly political activism outside.

Jocelyn Chaplin is a Feminist, Anarchist, Integrative Psychotherapist in Private Practice. She co-founded The Serpent Institute with John Rowan in 1989 to train therapists in both Humanistic and Psychodynamic approaches within a framework of Natural Spirituality. Her books include ‘Feminist Counselling in Action’, ‘Love in an Age of Uncertainty’ and ‘Deep Equality’. www.serpentinstitute.com

Untouchable: Privilege, Supremacy and Shame in Counselling and Psychotherapy

Dwight Turner

Since its inception, the major thinkers within the world of Counselling and Psychotherapy have regularly emerged from positions of privilege. More often than not, these great names, be they Freud, Jung, or Adler, were middle or upper class, white, heterosexual men. This also often meant that at varying times during its history our profession has itself medicalised and marginalised the other, be they women, gender minorities or of a different culture. This has led to a collective struggle for our differences to be seen and respected, actions which mimic society as a whole.

So, whilst the worlds of feminism, cultural and whiteness studies, and LGBTQ rights, to name a few, have often considered the positioning of privilege against the other, there has been little engagement within the counselling and psychotherapy mainstream as to what privilege actually is, how it creates and therefore oppresses the other, and how the difficult and often painful interaction of being othered for our clients appears within the consulting room.

Through the lenses of my own research and practice, this presentation considers how privilege has come into being, together with its deeper unconscious roots, before offering an exploration of how privilege and supremacy unconsciously form and interact within counselling and psychotherapy. This presentation then looks at how we can better recognise the inner oppressor within each of us, before offering a plea for counselling organisations to consider privilege studies as an integral aspect of their trainings, recognising that the decolonization and the decentralisation of the privileged then becomes a route towards greater engagement with the other both for ourselves as trainees and therefore for our future potential clients.

Senior Lecturer, University of Brighton

Psychotherapist and Supervisor in Private Practice

Lecturer at the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE) in London

www.dwightturnercounselling.co.uk

Pseudoscience and Psychotherapy – oppression by numbers

Dr Seb Randall

The privileging of evidence-based interventions for the rationing of therapy and justification of novel ‘branded’ methods is a form of oppression meted out to increasing numbers of therapists and their clients under the guise of empirical science.

Conjuring an illusion of certainty through an emphasis on measurement at the expense of meaning by attempting to represent human experience numerically contradicts genuine scientific scholarship. The commodification of therapy through the ‘payment by results’ scheme within IAPT is an example of this naïve doctrine in practice. Further concerns are the range of psychometric ‘tools’ used to assess subjective states of mind by following the epistemological contours of outdated psychologistic scientisms.

In this presentation I will argue that once these philosophically incoherent protocols are accepted and established they become ends in themselves – numerical methodologies predominate, and any notion of the client as humanly embedded within their social circumstances fades. Distressed people’s experiences are reduced to numbers, and the therapist-client relationship is reduced to ‘criterion adherence’. Under these oppressive, dehumanising and non-negotiable training and working conditions, it is unsurprising that there are high levels of therapist burnout in some therapy sectors.

This research-based presentation will illustrate the ways in which pseudoscience can tear the heart out of therapy – and offer some proposals for resistance.

Dr Seb Randall, heterodox psychotherapist, lecturer, sociologist

Biographical details of Dr Seb Randall

I started work in London as a labourer, followed by employment in Essex as a ship’s carpenter, joiner, windsurfing instructor, draughtsman, and house-builder. I have studied at King’s College in London, the Open University and the University of Essex. I have worked as a psychotherapist in private practice as well as in NHS settings for over twenty-five years and have taught on, and directed, a number of psychotherapy courses. My research and political activities include an exploration of the impact of authoritarian instrumentalism within prevailing representations of psychotherapy and counselling.


WORKSHOPS

1. Embodying Difference Arts Therapy Collective:

Paolo Plotegher, Savannah Theis, Matilda Tonkin Wells, Tamsin Curno, Susy Langsdale

In times of austerity, contradictory tensions of dissent and collusion constellate in the role of the therapy professional. The early inspiration of many of us to contribute to social change through this field becomes marginalised by the dominant structures within which we find ourselves inevitably entangled. Through the use of methods from the fields of art, movement, drama and processwork therapy, this workshop will take an interactive approach to identifying, inhabiting and exploring the roles underlying mainstream and marginalised societal experiences and the therapeutic profession. Every individual contains within them parts which are dominant and parts which are marginalised. By getting to know these parts in ourselves in more depth, our capacity to recognise wider social dynamics of marginalisation and how we are a part of these is deepened. Through deepening our understanding of these dynamics the intention of this workshop is to identify, through embodied exercises, how a mobilisation of the marginalised dissenting experience could be supported in the context of therapeutic practice.

Who We Are ‘Embodying Difference’ will be facilitated by members of an interdisciplinary arts therapy collective formed in 2018 by practitioners with backgrounds in Psychodynamic Art Therapy, Dance Movement Psychotherapy, Process-oriented Psychology (Processwork) and Drama Therapy. Coming together through a shared interest in practices of mutual support and social solidarity, the collective is an ongoing experiment in finding creative ways of working together, examining our privileges and learning with the various communities of which we are a part.

2. Ethical conflicts in organisations Gillian Proctor & Maeta Brown

Counselling has a culture of relational ethics where the unique person of the client and the therapy relationship are crucial. In our neo-liberal economic climate, many of us work in organisations where the cultural currency is numbers, with therapists and clients being treated as expendable. In our research, we interviewed relational counsellors who worked in IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), a case par excellence of the neoliberal climate. We will present how these counsellors negotiated the ethical conflicts they faced and their stories of resistance and survival (20 minutes).

We will then use our research methodology of the Voice Relational Method (VRM, Brown & Gilligan 1978), a methodology focused on relationships and voices that resist the dominant discourses. We will focus in particular on the second ‘I’ reading, where we listened for how participants talked about themselves. We then invite participants in pairs to talk about the ethical conflicts they face in their workplaces and the listener will note all ‘I’ statements. We will then create ‘I poems’ for each other (1 hour). There will be opportunity to discuss the process and reflect on the impact of the exercise.

Gillian Proctor is the programme leader of the MA in psychotherapy and counselling at the University of Leeds and an independent clinical psychologist. She has a particular interest in ethics, power and politics. She is author of two books (‘The dynamics of power in counselling and psychotherapy’ 2017: PCCS Books and ‘Values and ethics in counselling and psychotherapy’ 2014: Sage) and co-editor of two more on feminism and politics and the person-centred approach (PCCS books). She is the editor of Self & Society, the journal of the Association of Humanistic Psychology.

Maeta Brown is a student on the MA in psychotherapy and counselling at The University of Leeds and has a background in radical, person-centred crisis work. She is currently a psychotherapist in the charity sector and involved in coordinating a new crisis service for young people in the Leeds area. Her MA research aims to explore the pernicious and often re-traumatising impact of receiving a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis and the marginalisation, oppression and mistrust of the female voice.


3. Figments of Emancipation: Therapy in a Tragic Key Manu Bazzano

‘Presence of mind is a political category’ (Walter Benjamin)

Margaret Thatcher’s demented maxim ‘There’s no such thing as a society’ was farsighted. We are now a non-society of isolated monads amused by a 24/7 system of surveillance that feeds on our narcissism. Our everyday is plundered for profit; we are no longer even material for a society. Therapy across all orientations is complicit to this monstrous sell out, not only when it bends over backwards trying to please the Powers, but also when it wears the garments of utopianism and social change. We daydream of a fairer world, while closing our eyes to the horrors of modern history and to global failure of the political project of a largely invertebrate Left.

Therapy in a tragic key means (individually and collectively) looking at the horrors and failures of the present and turning individual crises into tentative projects of emancipation.

This workshop is both experiential and theoretical. After a brief presentation, we will explore some of the material via creative writing and group work.

Manu Bazzano is a psychotherapist, supervisor, visiting lecturer at Roehampton University. He facilitates men’s groups as well as workshops on Zen and Phenomenology in the UK and abroad. He has a background in philosophy and rock music and is the author and editor of several books, including Haiku for Lovers (Ed); The Speed of Angels; Zen Poems (Ed);; Re-visioning Person-centred Therapy (Ed); Zen and Therapy: Heretical Perspectives; Therapy and the Counter-tradition (co-editor), Nietzsche and Psychotherapy and the forthcoming Re-visioning Existential Therapy He has been editor of Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, and is associate editor for Self & Society. He studied Eastern contemplative practices since 1980 and in 2004 was ordained in the Soto and Rinzai traditions of Zen Buddhism. www.manubazzano.com.

4. Reclaiming Menopause from the medics: An embodied exploration using dance and movement Paula Maddison and Lizzie Cummings

For a profession that is 84% female, it is remarkable that such a profound biopsychosocial experience as menopause is largely missing from professional discourse. The Psychotherapy profession colludes with the societal assumption that since menopause is a medical problem, the Doctors can handle menopause issues while therapists will ‘‘stick with depression and anxiety’’[i]. Rubenstein, a psychology researcher at Cambridge University, refers to the lack of discussion on menopause as “a conspiracy of silence” [ii]. We would like to offer the radical vision of menopause as a transition of self, moving beyond a narrow focus on ‘symptoms’.

Using movement, dance and imagery we will explore menopause as a rite of passage into the autumn years of a woman’s life. We will begin with a group warm up to prepare the body and mind for the main theme, and as we move deeper into the dance we will introduce some relevant imagery to support the process. The questions we will consider are, how might you experience/think about The Change as a psychobiological transition; what might be lost or grieved and what might be gained or celebrated, as you or your clients move into this next phase of womanhood. There will be time for some verbal reflection towards the end of the session.

[1] Wilk, C. A. and Kirk, M. A. (1995). ‘Menopause: A developmental stage, not a deficiency disease.’, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 32(2): 233–241

[1] Rubenstein, H. (2013) The Meanings of Menopause: Identifying the Bio-Psycho-Social Predictors of the Propensity for Treatment at Menopause. Thesis, Lucy Cavendish College, The University of Cambridge.

Lizzie is a qualified drama and movement therapist (MA) and has worked with groups and individuals in NHS adult mental health, schools and private practice for 18 years. Much of her work takes into consideration the connection between body and mind, the causes and effects of what happens when body and mind dis-connect and how to bring them back into healthy communion. By working with movement and imagination she encourages people to not only understand but to embody and feel the meaning of their personal process. She is currently going through the menopause and finds this rite of passage a rocky and fruitful endeavour.

Paula is an Integrative Psychotherapist and works with clients in Oxfordshire. She is also an experienced facilitator of courses and workshops and in 2017 completed her MA research into women's experience of the menopause. Carrying out the research has highlighted for Paula how silence about menopause in society is a real issue for many women. This discovery has inspired her to join with Lizzie to work with therapists and other professionals in caring professions to be able to support menopausal women with the complex physiological, psychological, emotional and spiritual challenges they can face at this time of life.

5. Movement as freedom and resistance Ros Howell

The practice of non-functional, creative movement that is participatory, doesn’t produce anything and has no audience to consume whatever may be ‘made’ by the bodies in motion in the room, and aims to be pleasurable, can be thought of as a kind of radical political act. Cornel West’s concept of the activist as a kind of Jazz Freedom Fighter reminds us that the capacity to respond to changes in the internal and external environment, to improvise with what may be thrown our way can keep us light on our feet and stronger in our ability to act on the impulse to move towards a better future.

This workshop requires no special dance or movement skills or experience. We will start with the functional activity of walking and then explore solo and collective movement with the aim of finding out what is pleasurable, what we can do when we encounter an obstacle, what feels familiar, and what happens when together we try making it up.

There will also be the opportunity to experiment with the use of props as something we may be able to move/play/work with to either extend our reach so to speak or provide support if we feel a bit stuck. As Sara Ahmed puts it on the importance of the feminist having a literal and metaphorical toolkit for her work, “when encountering an obstruction to her resistance she can pick herself up by picking something up”

There will be nothing to get right, nothing to get wrong and everyone with a body is welcome.

Ros Howell has been a registered Dance Movement Psychotherapist since 2008 and currently works with people living with dementia. She runs movement and writing workshops for the charity Mothers Uncovered and is the book reviews editor for Transformations. She has practised improvised creative movement for 20 years and is interested in how non-trained dancers (like herself) can be encouraged to move a little less functionally, and a little less predictably.



Conference programme


9.00am Register and refreshments

9.30 Welcome

9.40 -10.10 Jocelyn Chaplin Therapists and Equality

10 10 -10.20 Comments and questions

10.25 - 11.05 Dwight Turner Untouchable: Privilege, Supremacy and Shame

11.05 - 11.15 Comments and questions

11.15 - 11.30 Refreshment break

11.30 - 12.45 Reflection Groups

12.45 - 1.45 LUNCH

1.45 - 1.50 Welcome back

1.50 - 2.20 Seb Randall Pseudoscience and Psychotherapy: oppression by numbers

2.20 - 2.30 Comments and questions

2.30 - 4.00 Workshops

4.00 - 4.15 Refreshment break

4.15 - 5.00 Large group discussion




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Location

NCVO

REGENTS WHARF,8 All Saints Street

London

N1 9RL

United Kingdom

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Refunds up to 30 days before event

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