Saturday, July 12, 2008

Report on PCE Therapy Conference Norwich 2008

Entry for 10 July 2008:

For one reason or another, at this year’s PCE conference, I ended up doing five presentations and being a discussant on one other session. “Why do you do this?” Diane asked me, when she found out what I’d let myself in for. At one level, this is just an expression of my crazy life here in the UK and at Strathclyde, but at another level, the real answer is relational: my friends and colleagues asked me to, and I was pleased to contribute as an expression of our friendship and shared work.

Press coverage for the Four Professors Joint Statement. A couple of weeks before the PCE conference, working from a press release drafted by Judy Moore and Mick, I proposed the Mick, Art Bohart, Bill Stiles and I put out a joint statement in conjunction with the conference, arguing that the idea that CBT is more effective than other therapies is a myth. After some feedback and revision to my original draft of the joint statement, the others signed on. The press release (which I have previously posted as an entry on this blog) went out to the media a couple days before the conference, and just as I was arriving at the conference on Sunday afternoon, my mobile phone was ringing with someone form BBC Radio 5Live wanting to know if I’d be willing to speak on the morning sport talk program at 7am the following morning. I was dead tired and hadn’t yet finished the meta-analysis talk that Beth and I were to give first thing the next morning; however, I agreed to meet the University of East Anglia’s PR person at their sound studio to do this. Fortunately, for me in my sleep-deprived condition, the final game at Wimbledon turned out to be so exciting that they cancelled me (“It was one of the games of the century”, said the producer, trying to let me down gently), and I was able to get some sleep that night.

However, over the course of the next two days it appeared that our joint statement had made an impact, showing up in the Daily Mail under a lurid headline, as well as in the Independent and elsewhere. Gratifyingly, the most accurate account appeared in the Glasgow Herald, or at least in the on-line version, which was minus the large photos of JK Rowling and other celebrities giving testimony to the wonders of CBT. For reasons now obscure to me, I’d left Mick’s name stay first on the press release, even though I’d written most of it; this meant that he got the lion’s share of credit in Daily Mail and Independent stories, for which I discovered I was quite grateful. The news articles turned out to be rather thin in content, which was really our fault for emphasizing the logical argument rather than the meta-analysis data on which the claims were based.

As for the rest of the conference, here are some personal high points:

1. PCE Meta-analysis. The conference saw the roll out of the new, integrated version of the PCE outcome meta-analysis (with Beth), now with 77 new studies. We had a great turnout for this and an enthusiastic response, especially when the audience learned that we’d managed to demonstrate equivalence between CBT and “pure” Person-Centred therapy. More work remains to finetune the analysis, examine subgroups of clients and write-up various reports on it, but for now we have a nice feeling of accomplishment.

2. Workshop on PE-EFT tasks. This featured Systematic Evocative Unfolding (Jeanne), Focusing (me), and Two Chair Dialogue (Les). Again, turnout was quite good, especially given that there were 12 tracks running in parallel. I played a key moment from my first social anxiety client’s therapy, illustrating the power of focusing with this type of client presenting problem. Unfortunately, the nonnative English speakers couldn’t understand her Glaswegian Scots way of talking.

3. Social Anxiety panel. Mick and I came up with the idea of studying social anxiety two years ago, at the last PCE conference, in Potdam, Germany, so it felt very appropriate for us to be able to report on the project at Norwich. The panel featured examples from the clients being seen by Beth, Mick and I (Brian introduced and Tracey moderated; unfortunately, Lorna couldn’t make it for the session). Again, there were a lot of people in the audience, and it was lovely to for so many members of the team to be able to present. This time, I stayed up late the night before making a transcript of the 4-minute segment of Two Chair Work from my client, illustrating her social anxiety-critic process. I ran the transcript under the video, scrolling through a long, thin Word window by hand. In the discussion period, Pete Sanders accused us of harming clients by giving them a psychiatric diagnosis and developing theory and practice formulations specific to social anxiety.

4. PE-EFT in Australia. For Les, Jeanne, Rhonda and I, one of the most interesting and heartening developments at the conference was the presence of a very visible (by virtue of their energy and enthusiasm) Australian group of PE-EFT therapists centred around La Trobe University (where my family and I visited for 6 weeks in 1999). Melissa Harte, Zoe Krupka and Stan Korosi were at PCE Norwich representing a group of PE-EFT therapists trained by George Wills, whom Les and I met 11 years ago at the PCE conference in Lisbon. They presented an ambitious series of workshops emphasizing their innovative work on PE-EFT models of training and supervision. I missed Melissa’s talk, but the live demonstration of task-focused PE-EFT supervision was useful, powerful and thought provoking. Les and I were then asked to join an open discussion of the presentations we’d seen. Curiously, this discussion had a bigger turn out than the sessions we were supposed to be discussing, which meant that most of the people there hadn’t seen the sessions being discussed. I am certainly going to have to think about testing something like their “in mode” supervision approach out in the EFT-3 supervision group this fall; I will try to find time to write about their list of PE-EFT supervision tasks in a later entry. George should be proud of what his group have been able to accomplish!

5. Relationship Panel. However, the most fun I had at the conference occurred in the panel Beth put together with Art Bohart, Bill Stiles and me. By this time we are really getting to be the Old Same Crew. The topic was, loosely, “Client Deference, Corrective Experience, and Emotional Processing”. I had outlined most of my talk during an earlier keynote speech during the conference, working it into a set of Powerpoint slides the previous evening. The topic felt like a minefield, running right through the central faultline in the PCE movement, so I was fairly nervous about my presentation.

To further complicate matters, the room was pretty packed; several prominent nondirectivists were present; Bill and Art had decided to talk about the Gloria-Rogers film (because they are working on a book chapter using it as material); and Gloria’s daughter Pamela Burry (at the conference to talk about her new PCCS book on the subject) was in the audience. I was speaking last, after Art; Beth and Bill had both loaded their talks onto my laptop to reduce swap-over issues with the projector. As it happened, both Beth and Bill used transcripts with examples of deference-related processes in them: Beth’s from one of her Social Anxiety project clients, Art’s from the Gloria-Rogers film. While Art was talking (without Powerpoint), I unplugged the projector lead cord to avoid distracting the audience with the end of Bill’s talk, then suddenly realized that this would allow me to make a few last-minute revisions to my talk. I quickly copies the relevant transcript slides from Beth’s and Bill’s talks, highlighted the deference-related passages and finished by adding some transition language, just as Art was finishing. I plugged the projector cable back in and was off.

In the talk I put forward the propositions that deference is not necessarily bad; that we need to be much more differentiated in our thinking about deference; that nondirectivity can itself paradoxically generate client deference; and that the critical thing is to differentiate harmful and facilitative deference. This felt like walking into the lion’s den, and I was aware of how anxious I was as I started talking. However, the talk turned out to have a big impact on various of the people there, including Pete Sanders, who startled himself by agreeing with everything I’d said, and Beth. Even Lisbeth Somerbeck, one of the strongest of advocates for nondirectivity, owned that her ability to maintain this stance with hospitalized clients was made possible by the support of social workers who provided practical guidance for clients.

6. IPEPPT Practice-Based Research Panel. Nele Stinckens, one of my KU Leuven colleagues has developed a passion for practice-based research and implementing systematic case studies in therapy training. This year, she organized a session with Alberto Zucconi and me to report on our progress in implementing aspects of the IPEPPT (International Project on the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy and Psychotherapy Training). This was in the last timeslot of the conference, a terrible time to present, but we did have a reasonable group of hardy souls in attendence. As I got ready to present, the cumulative weight of the month’s presentations finally hit me like a lead weight, and I felt a moment of dizziness, as it all caught up with me. Then I pulled myself together and went on with this final presentation, once more into the breach, and I presented the research protocol Julie Folkes-Skinner and I are using for the Diploma course evaluation study.

At the end of it, I felt I’d well and truly earned the next couple of days off.

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