Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Report on UK-SPR/Ravenscar 2007

Entry for 13 March 2007:

Journey. This year’s UK-SPR meeting in Ravenscar, North Yorkshire, was my third (see previous blog entry). We left Sunday morning from Glasgow by train, catching the 9:30 train out of Queen Street, after we determined that another rail strike was not likely to happen before next weekend. I had finished one of my presentations, my main one, but I found that I needed an expanded version for the workshop that was to follow the main presentation. I was travelled first to Edinburgh and then to York, I created an elaborated presentation on the Hermeneutic Single Case Efficacy Design (HSCED) validity threats, copying and revising material from my old Word OHP slides into a Powerpoint presentation. (In the event, I didn’t actually give the longer presentation, but it turned out to be very useful to have the elaborated material to draw on in response to questions from the workshop audience.)

We met Thomas Schroeder in York, waited for Sue Wheeler to arrive, then motored through North Yorkshire toward the sea on a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon. The daffodils were already fully in bloom here and trees the hawthorn and cherry trees were white and pink with petals. Thomas and Sue had plenty to talk about, catching up, so Diane and I mostly listened from the back seat. They had no problem with Soti and I joining CRN and working on new versions of the main CRN questionnaire.

Arrival. The hotel was much as remembered it from 10 years ago, the last time I attended UK-SPR. The big bay window in our room commanded a view across the sweep of the coastal bay toward Robin Hood’s Cove in the distance, the rocky beach mostly covered at high tide.

Steering Group. I was immediately plunged into the steering group meeting for UK-SPR, to which I have been “co-opted” as the price for support for our bid to start a Scottish Local Area Group of SPR. Chris Evans, currently UK Regional Vice President, was running the meeting in a somewhat free flowing manner, weaving between a set related topics including where to have next year’s meeting, how to attract more members to the UK chapter, relations with the parent organization, the international SPR, and what the goals and purposes of the UK chapter are. I made myself somewhat unpopular by expressing the long-held view that the UK chapter might better to a Local Area Group within the European Chapter, but as expected this was not met with enthusiasm, presumably for many the same reasons as proposals for the UK to adopt the Euro! For my sins, I felt obligated to volunteer to try to liase with the British Association for the Person-Centred Approach about possible collaborations/joint meetings etc.

Food. The food at Ravenscar was as amazing as I remembered it, starting with the full breakfasts (except for the missing kipper from 1985), the cream tea and scones, and the three course dinners. We tried not to overeat, but it was a constant struggle. (Tonight, on the way home, it’s sandwich wraps on the train…)

Scottish SPR. This year’s meeting was smaller than previous meetings I remembered; with about 40 attendees, but the presentations were generally interesting, stimulating, and nicely offered. We connected with a substantial group of psychodynamically-oriented personality/ trauma researchers from Aberdeen, and spent part of Saturday evening watching the sun go down between the cliffs and discussing possibilities for Scottish SPR and ScotCon. The Aberdeen contingent, although larger than the Central Scotland group, is happy for now for us to organize monthly meetings in the Glasgow City Centre, and we promised to invite them down in the Fall to present on their research. We have agreed to set up an email list and keep them informed of developments, including the possibility of additional meetings that might be easier for them to attend. For their part, they invited us to join their personality disorders group that meets periodically in Glasgow. (That might be a difficult sell for some of my more classical person-centred colleagues…) So we took another step toward a Scottish SPR.

My presentations. My main presentation, early Monday afternoon, turned out well. As a political/scientific statement, I chosen to show a couple of video clips from the case study I was presenting. I find that this grounds the discussion on the actually therapy process, and I believe that more SPR presentations should feature “the real stuff”. However, doing this does tend to attract interesting comments from audiences, and in this instance I was not surprised when several audience members thought I should have been offering my client psychodynamic interpretations! One, an enthusiastic anglo-asian clinical psychologist named Zaman Kapur, who works in Northern Ireland, tried to convince me that I should given a transference interpretation in the first minute of session one! Out of curiosity, I attended his presentation this morning to see what he was talking about, only to be struck by how much his interpretations sounded like emapathic exploratory reflections of implied relational challenges! This is of course why it is so important for us to look at what we are actually doing rather to the labels that we attach to what we are doing…

The workshop also worked out very well, with some of the most thoughtful and creative responses to the HSCED method I have yet heard. Glenys Parry offered to assemble a jury of lay people, including service users (=mental health consumers). Mick got excited and proposed having all of our students do HSCED studies for their masters’ degrees. We talked about burden of proof, when the full method would be most useful, the value of the affirmative and skeptic summary narratives (“closing arguments”), the acceptability and political utility of HSCED studies, and so on. It was proposed that one affirmative verdict HSCED is enough to establish a treatment as “possibly efficacious”; while three affirmative verdict HSCED cases might be enough to establish a firm prececent. And so on... A fun time was had by all, it seems.

Politics. Mick and I received a briefing from Jeremy Clarke about developments in the proposal to make CBT the preferred treatment for anxiety and depression throughout England (the Leyard Report). Jeremy is working for one of the psychoanalytic organizations (I can’t keep them all straight) as a kind of lobbyist to somehow head off the total hegemony of CBT in Brittain. He wants UK-SPR and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) to put together a national research agenda endorsed by a variety of relevant scientists as an alternative to the current RCT (=randomized clinical trials) rules all position. I took advantage of the situation to bring him up to speed on the results of the experiential/ person-centred therapy meta-analysis; on my ideas for defending Stiles, Barkham et al.’s big practice-based studies as “functionally equivalent to RCTs” (fRCTs); and on the scientific necessity of multiple lines of evidence. Jeremy is trying to organize a conference in the Autumn to bring all the main players in the debate together. Stay tuned for further developments…

In all, a substantive, enjoyable conference, but I missed David Shapiro’s presence. (David has officially retired from psychotherapy research in order to pursue a new career as a photographer; maybe we should invite him next year to take pictures…).

I was sorry to have to leave early, but duty calls; I have supervision tomorrow (Wednesday) and another conference in Yorkshire next week (BPS).

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