Sunday, March 22, 2009

SPR-UK Ravenscar 2009 Meeting

Entry for 16/22 March, 2009:

Last weekend we went to the latest conference of the UK Chapter of SPR, the Society for Psychotherapy Research. SPR-UK has been struggling a bit to maintain itself over the past few years, and last year the annual conference had to be cancelled because of lack of interest. This year was difficult also, with many people hesitating or withdrawing because their employers were no longer willing pay their way; however, we did manage to put together a small meeting with about 20 participants, about the size of some of the Ohio SPR meetings (put together in the early 00's by Bill Stiles, Tim Anderson, me and our students). Nevertheless, the level of presentations and discussion was quite good, the scenery stunning, and the food excellent.

Having talked myself into doing 4 presentations, the pace of work was unrelenting. I started off with a presentation of Beth and my PCE meta-analysis, now well-honed. A bit more difficult was the workshop on research training that Sue Wheeler and I were set to do, but which I ended up doing on my own when Sue couldn’t make it in time due to a prior commitment. Fortunately, Sue sent a very helpful set of notes, which I followed. Particularly useful were the following questions, which the three participants explored:
-What has been your best research training experience? What made it the best?
-What has been your most unhelpful training experience?
These questions (which are really Change Interview questions applied to research training) produced some very useful comments, emphasizing the relational aspects of research training and the value of learning in collaborative research teams.

In fact, the experience left me thinking that it would be really interesting and useful to do a larger study on the topic of helpful and unhelpful factors in psychotherapy/counselling research training. If I could just find the time… maybe this could be a component of the next phase of the Researcher Development Initiative project that I'm involved with (see Blog entry:

After the first day of the two-day conference, I stayed up late trying to put together my presentations for day 2. I fell asleep halfway through the first of these, a paper outlining the experiential approach to research training; however, I was able to finish it the next morning in time for the presentation.

I managed to throw together enough bits and pieces to be able to give the final paper, a preliminary report on our Rasch analyses of the SCL90R, utilizing data from the Aberdeen group, but it was not one of my better presentations, and I was relieved when it was done.

The UK SPR group appears to be resolved to make another try at organizing a larger conference, and even to meet again at Ravenscar, isolated though it is. This was Thomas Schröder’s first local area chapter conference as president and I enjoyed his enthusiasm and positive energy. We don’t know exactly how things will unfold; the UK chapter has gotten pretty small, work demands have increased, making running a small scientific organization increasingly a leisure-time activity; also, money for conferences has become increasingly scarce. The openness, flexibility, colleagiality, and even the level of the presentations all indicate that there is a place for SPR in the UK counselling/psychotherapy research scene, even alongside the obvious success of the BACP annual research conference. The latter is much better funded and organized, but feels a bit too regimented, lacks flexibility in type of presentation, and ends up feeling not as open or inclusive. I keep thinking that the ideal would be something that incorporated the best qualities of both conferences. In the meantime, there appears to be new blood and new energy in the UK Chapter of SPR, and the BACP research conference is still evolving, so there is hope that we will end up with two premier events for promoting and encouraging the development of research on psychotherapy and counselling in the UK.

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