Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trip to London and IAPT Conference

Entries for 1 & 11 December, 2007

Last March at UK SPR in Ravenscar, I met Jeremy Clark, a London psychoanalyst who was organizing a conference to address the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative. His aim was and is to broaden the whole thing, in order to keep it from being totally hijacked by powerful CBT forces. We talked for a while, and I floated the possibility of my presenting the results of the person-centred/experiential meta-analysis, possibly the new updated version. In due course I sent him a copy of Elliott et al. (2004) and he invited me to take part.

So it was that, after teaching until 9pm on the last Wednesday of November, I found myself catching the Thursday 5.55am London train from Glasgow Central, in order to give my presentation on Friday. In the meantime, others had scheduled meetings around the IAPT Conference:

First, Sue Wheeler and Nancy Rowland had organized another meeting of the steering group for the ESRC-funded Researcher Development Initiative grant, which John McLeod and I are on. John couldn’t make it this time, so for my sins, I got myself volunteered to pull together an outline for a 5-day summer school on teaching introductory counselling research methods, plus an article for Counseling and Psychotherapy Research on the experiential model of research training. Both the summer school program and the article are to build on my 29 October blog entry from the last RDI meeting (“If I Ran the Zoo: A Modest Proposal for Training the Trainers”), which everyone involved with the project now appears to have read! I must confess that I feel somewhat intimidated by others’ support for this fairly radical approach. I’m not that used to groups of people going with my more radical ideas, so I certainly hope that my analysis of the issues in teaching counselling students about research and the likely useful strategies is correct. I wouldn’t want to lead all of us astray!

Second, Chris Evans and Tom Schroeder organized a meeting of the UK SPR Steering Committee over dinner at an Indian restaurant near Covent Garden. So I went from a long afternoon with my BACP friends to a long evening with my UK-SPR friends, which made for an extremely long day. The steering group has been struggling to get tasks done, and Chris was bemoaning this, so I suggested that part of the problem might be that we don’t really know each other that well and that we might very well spend some time “team building” by talking about ourselves, which we did to good effect. Apparently, my person-centred colleagues are wearing off on me! At any rate, we got through several important items and decided that it would be good idea to try to emphasize the positive aspects of the UK Regional chapter to the larger SPR executive committee and to our members. I was very grateful when I finally returned to my somewhat seedy hotel near King’s Cross train station and crashed.

Friday morning I woke up with the realization that my talk, scheduled for later that afternoon needed more work. After I grabbed breakfast, I made most of these changes and dashed off to find the meeting site, at Savoy Place near the Thames. This turned out to be the Institute for Electrical Engineering, and sported a statue of Dave Faraday outside and depictions of various important scientific figures around the inside of the building, including, I noted with pleasure, Lord Kelvin, a native Scot from the Glasgow area.

* * *
Coming back to this abandoned entry 10 days later (and after 25 hours of teaching last week), what stands out in my mind the most is the way in which the IAPT conference provided a total immersion experience in the multiple intercutting agendas of the major players in the IAPT debate and their impact on each other:
-Government officials smugly laying out the New World Order of IAPT, but coming across as overbearing and annoying, particularly to the…
-Mental health service users, invited but not entirely welcome guests at the party, who provided the major fire and interest with their anger and confrontation, annoying the government officials.
-Angry, defensive British psychoanalytic types (articulate but very little in the way of evidence).
-Entertaining American visitors (including my friend Jacques Barber), flown in for the occasion but somewhat above the fray and not entirely on the same planet as the rest of the crowd.
-Data mavens (like me) grinding through their research but not really part of the main action.
-The climatic Battle of the Professors (Michael Barkham & David Clarke, who managed to treat each other with considerable respect while still getting in lots of points for their side).
-Person-Centered and other counsellors (me, Mick, Sue Wheeler), scuttling about like early mammals in the late Jurassic, wondering who’s going to go extinct first.
-CBT folks silenced by the vocal criticisms of much of the crowd, hanging on the sidelines in what was supposed to be their moment of glory, visibly grinding their teeth.
In the end, it is obvious that the service users are a natural constituency for Person-Centred counselling and that we have totally missed the boat by not actively courting and collaborating with them.

It is equally obvious that the group dynamic by which the CBT folks were made to feel unwelcome and insulted at their own party is unhealthy and dangerous. In my opinion, this level of mistreatment and villification will only make them mean-spirited and more likely to feel justified in sticking it to everyone else. It is becoming very clear to me that dialogue among person-centred/experiential, psychodynamic and CBT folks is essential to our all moving forward. I have to confess to having engaged in a fair amount of CBT-bashing in the past, but I’m thinking that this is becoming increasingly counter-productive.

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