Sunday, September 09, 2007

BAPCA Conference in Cirencester: Personal Highpoints

Entry for 9 September 2007:

I arrived at the BAPCA Conference with some apprehension: Would I know anybody? Would I be bored? Would anyone want to hear what I had to say about research (or process-guiding experiential therapies)? And, after my late night introduction, would anybody be sober?

However, the next morning at breakfast I found the atmosphere to be quite convivial, with people freely introducing themselves to one another. For example, I met an very interesting, 40-ish fellow named Krog who is on the Person-centred therapy course in Leeds and with whom I had quite a nice conversation.

The BAPCA large group ended up occupying a lot of my attention (and is covered in a separate entry), but it was by no means the main focus of my attention. In fact, the rest of the conference turned out to be quite enjoyable and productive. High points:

1. At Pete Sanders’ urging, I made contact with Isabel Gibbard, a person-centred counselor working in the NHS who has managed over the past 5 years to collect pre-post CORE data on some 800 complete cases of person-centred counselling in a Level 3 Stepped Care setting (i.e., between the graduate mental health worker/guided self-help and secondary care clinical psychology specialist levels). She was disappointed that only 6 people showed up to her workshop, but those of us who made it were impressed and there was a great discussion about where things are heading in the NHS. I hoping that we will be able to get access to her data set for the outcome meta-analysis that Beth and I are doing.

2. My workshop on Person-Centred Science was based on a paper I’ve recently written for the German-language journal Person. Because it was one of 7 parallel sessions, including Brian Thorne, I was expecting a small audience. However, in the end, there were 30-40 people in the session, and I was able to take the audience through the existing meta-analysis results and a stimulating discussion of quantitative research and evidence. I was very pleased with how it came out, and hopeful that something will come out of it, such as a BAPCA Practitioner Research Network or further plans for increasing the scientific literacy of Person-Centred counsellors and therapists.

3. On Saturday night, after the conference dinner, there was a “Barn Dance”, i.e., a dance in the Tithe Barn (a 19th century structure, presumably not a real tithe barn, a place for storing farmers’ payments of a 10th of their crop yields). This featured a band called the Bee’s Knees, playing traditional country dances, familiar to me from years of listening to Steeleye Span and the Albion Country Band. The dances themselves were great fun, and somewhat less vigorous and therefore more manageable than Scottish Ceilidh dancing (which helped as prior training, especially on Strip the Willow). I love it when a group of conference attendees is able to really have fun, and this group definitely passed the test, dancing on into the night even after the band went home (I left about 12:30 but Mick stayed to the bitter end about 2:30).

4. In general, however, my main impression of the conference is the openness and friendliness of the people, the emerging possibilities for research and looking more closely at each other’s work, the opening of dialogues, many of which are likely to last for years. In short, I felt welcomed, not as a visitor but as a meaningful part of a larger community. The BAPCA conference has expanded my community here in the UK, yet again, enabling me to feel more at home, and in some way larger. Thank you BAPCA!

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