Thursday, July 30, 2009

Training the Trainers Research Summer School

Entry for 28 July 2009:

I’m on my way home from my two-day stint at the Second Training the Trainers Research Summer School at the University of Leicester. Last year’s summer school was so successful that we decided to repeat it, following roughly the same plan as last year: Two days on practice-based and case study research with Sue Wheeler and me, followed by another two days on using the research literature and doing qualitative research with John McLeod and Sue, and winding up with Sue and Kaye Richards talking about research supervision on Friday. This year, however, we also had our new draft trainer’s manual to test out.

Once again, the summer school attracted a diverse but passionate group of counselling trainers. Many were in various stages of rethinking their courses in anticipation of approaching changes in the form of the new BACP accreditation standards and the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy. Other were looking for support for their own MSc and PhD research projects, or simply trying to make their research inputs more effective.

After introductions and a helpful update from Sue, I launched into a shorter version on my professorial lecture from last month. The graphics in this talk make it quite appealing, I think. This was followed by the Outcome Monitoring input. After lunch we had the participants break into small groups to try out one of the exercises in the Trainer’s Manual. All of this appeared to go well indeed, and we had several very stimulating discussions along the way, contributed to by the diversity of theoretical orientations, types of training course, and backgrounds of the trainers present.

Today was Case Study Day, but to get there I first had to introduce qualitative change process measures, i.e., the Helpful Aspects of Therapy (HAT) Form and the Change Interview. The systematic case study presentation overwhelmed last year’s group, and I’d done a lot of work afterwards simplifying and clarifying the input so that it would be appropriate for diploma-level input. I discovered that it is still not simple and user-friendly enough, but it is definitely getting there: the presentation went much better than last year, and I was able to figure out how to make it even clearer. All this led to some very interesting discussions about what would be possible at the diploma level. Then, Sue, seeing that some of the participants were flagging, had them break up into small groups to discuss how to implement a student case study requirement. I love it when Sue does that.

So, once again the Training the Trainers Research Summer School was off to a good start. I was torn, as I left them: sorry to miss the energy they brought, but really looking forward to getting home and my upcoming vacation.

This time, on the first day, I made a point of talking about the fact that our site, Vaughan College, is built overlooking the ruins of the social nexus of the ancient Roman city of Ratae Corieltauvorum, today known as Leicester (=the fort on the river Ligore): the baths. These are overlooked by the Jewry Wall (the name is too difficult to explain but has nothing to do with Judaism), which originally separated the baths form the gymnasium next door. As a result, many of the participants made a point of exploring the ruins during breaks. This year, the juxtaposition of ancient Roman ruins and forward-looking practice-based research methods created a satisfying complement. After all, the Roman baths were quite high-tech for their time, and I think the ancient Romans would have appreciated our interest in quantitative and qualitative ways of knowing as well as case study methods. The Romans were nothing if not organized, while at the same time inheriting the Greek tradition of humanism. If summer schools could be dedicated to someone, I’d dedicate my two days to the ancient Roman-Briton city today known as Leicester.

Arran for Glasgow Fair Weekend

Entry for 28 July 2009:

After the EFT Level 1 4-day intensive course was over, I needed to collapse for a day, which is exactly what I did, taking advantage of the 4-day Glasgow Fair Weekend. The next morning, however, we got up early and caught the train to Adrossan for our next Saturday Adventure. From Adrossan, we took the ferry across the Firth of Clyde to Arran.

It was a lovely, mostly sunny morning as we approached Brodick, the main town on Arran. We could see Brodick castle sticking up through the forest on the north side of the bay, and above, Goat Fell disappearing into the low-hanging clouds. We’d been meaning to visit Arran for ages, but it is difficult to do much there in a day, we were unsure about where to stay and how best to get around etc etc. Thus, we went along primarily on a scouting expedition, with a contingency plan of seeing if we could find accommodation and extend our stay. Fortunately, the tourist information place was able to find a place on the other side of the island, possibly the last room for two on the island, which we’d be able to reach by the somewhat infrequent Arran bus service.

Having re-organized our Saturday Adventure into two days, we spent most of the first day at Brodick Castle, with it 47 heads of deer running up the stairwell, a ghastly sight that nearly put us off the whole thing. It’s another magnificently-furnished-originally-military-castle-converted-over-the-centuries-into-a-stately-mansion kind of castle. The Dukes of Hamiliton apparently strongly favoured hunting and sports, the theme of much of the art found within the place, but the kitchen does feature a nice collection of Victorian household gadgets, many of which I recognized from my mother’s kitchen. Brodick Castle also has very nice gardens, but unfortunately much of it is currently suffering from some kind of fungal blight, which put them off limits to our exploration.

On the way back from the castle, I found in one of our guidebooks that there are three standing stones between the castle and the town of Brodick. However, finding the Brodick Stones required some creative trail-following, and Diane expressed grave misgivings about the possibility of our getting lost on the way on a strange island. Fortunately, the standing stones turned out to be not far from the exit road from the castle, although they stood in the middle of a wheat field behind a hedge, making it difficult to get to them. (Scottish law on public access doesn’t give you permission to trample the farmer’s crops…) After that, as we walked into town, we spied a sign advertising meals at the Armadale Hotel, so we made a dinner detour, before continuing on to meet our bus.

The bus rumbled up over the centre of Arran on what the locals call the String road. We were heading for the little village Shiskine, so when we got there we stood up and moved to the front of bus, at which point the bus driver immediately stopped the bus to let us out. We got out, discovered no bus stop within sight, and watched the bus drive away through the rest of the village, which extended for half a mile in front of us. Later, we found out that unlike Glasgow buses, Arran buses stop pretty much wherever you want them, so the driver had just assumed that we wanted off at the near end rather than the far end of the town. We walked along the main road for about 10 minutes, until we came to the B&B that we had booked.

The owner, whose name was Derek, was glad to see us and showed us our room before going off for the evening to a folk music event. We went for a walk around the town, starting up a trail to a nearby iron age fort, but gave up because we were going to run out of light if we continued. We went back to the B&B, I watched the sunset, and then we pretty much collapsed.

The next morning, when we went out to the breakfast room, there was an early morning rainbow across the valley. Another couple, from Edinburgh, was staying at the B&B, and we ended up talking to them for quite a while, before they left; then we talked to Derek for a while, and he filled us in on local byways such as how the bus system works. Diane is a social tourist; for her, the people are at least as important as the sights along way.

After that, he kindly drove up the coast road a few miles and dropped us off at the trailhead for our real destination: The Machrie Moor Stone Circles.

A mile or two inland, and up the west coast of Arran a bit from Blackwaterfoot, the Machrie Moor Stone Circles are a major Neolithic/bronze age ritual site, as old as anything we’ve seen so far in Scotland. We climbed over the stile and followed the well-marked trail. First, there was well-manicured ancient site that was either a burial cairn or the remains of a stone circle. Then we passed a single standing stone on our left, and a bracken-covered tumbled-down cairn. Finally, coming over a low ridge we found before us an impressive stone circle, and to our left and a bit down the hill the ruins of an old farm. Then, to the right, we saw that there was another stone circle in the middle distance… and another … and another… and another: six stone circles in all. We stood there, amazed, pointing them out to each other. We had had no idea that there would be so many! We had been chasing single standing stones in farmers’ fields, after all, and now we were confronted by a plethora of stone circles, in various states, a mixture of standing stones and fallen, red sandstone (like our flat in Hyndland) and granite, some (“the Famous Three”) as much as 10 feet tall.

We spent a long time wandering around these 6 circles, studying the sign in order to place all of them, taking photos of them and of each other standing in front of or peeking out from behind them. There were other groups of visitors, not a lot, actually, given how spectacular the site is, but many of them came and went while we poked about, trying to absorb as much of the ancient vibe of the place. Finally, we tore ourselves away from the site and walked back out to the road.

Arran buses only come every 3 hours or so (they are coordinated with the ferries), and at this point we had a good 90 minutes to wait for the next bus. We walked north along the coast road a couple of miles, until we came the village of Machrie, which seemed to consist mostly of a golf course and a café. There we grabbed a quick, late lunch, spoke for a bit to a former EFT students named Pat (who later mailed us a recommendation for her favourite accomodation on the island) and were outside on the road when the 15.06 clockwise coast road bus trundled along. We got on, and the bus wound its way up the coast and around the top of the island.

When we arrived back in Brodick, the ferry back to the mainland was waiting. As we approached Adrossan, another rainbow appeared in front of us, a low, multicoloured arch. We slept very well that night, having travelled many miles and centuries, on one of our alltime best Saturday Adventures. We experienced only a small part of the island, but now have a pretty good idea of where to stay and how to find our way around. We are looking forward to taking visitors there for further exploration.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Strathclyde Emotion-Focused Therapy Level 1 Training 2009

Entry for 27 July 2009:

Last week was the 4th annual EFT Level 1 short course at Strathclyde.

Jeanne Watson was able to come along once again from Canada, arriving two days after we returned (at long last!) from our extended trip to Chile. On the Saturday before the training, we took her out to Helensburgh to see the Hill House and waterfront; it was a lovely day. Lorna Carrick had agreed to help us with the training and so on Sunday afternoon she came along for a bit so that we could make plans.

This year’s EFT-1 class of 16 was a bit smaller than last year’s; however, they made up for it with their enthusiasm, and included two women from the Netherlands and a fellow from Portugal, as well as several former Jordanhill students.

Each year we continue to fine tune the structure of the 4 days, and this year we made additional changes: First, we restructured the course to integrate the emotion theory more thoroughly with the tasks. Drawing on exercises I’d developed for the Bridge Pastoral Foundation conference in April, I had worked up small group exercises for the four different components of EFT emotion theory: (a) importance of emotion; (b) emotion schemes; (c) emotion response types; and (d) emotion regulation. This got the participants into small group work by mid-morning on Day 1, earlier than ever before. By Monday afternoon, we were using Clearing a Space and Focusing to illustrate moderating and accessing emotion respectively. By Tuesday, we were doing Unfolding and Chair work. It moved so quickly that it practically made our heads swim!

Another innovation (Jeanne’s idea) was covering Empty Chair before rather than after Two Chair work. I’ve been teaching EFT for more than 20 years, and have always assumed that it is best to leave Empty Chair for last, because it can be so intense and thus requires the maximum level of trust and safety. Interestingly, however, it worked just fine to introduce Empty Chair work before Two Chair Work. Why? Jeanne’s point is that Empty Chair Work, in which the client speaks to an important other person, imagined as sitting opposite them in the other chair, is more specific, less abstract, and less strange than speaking to another part of oneself imagined as sitting in the other chair. And that is basically what happened: The participants took to Empty Chair Work quite readily and managed their safety levels appropriately.

We took our group through Two Chair Work on Wednesday morning, and having done that, we had them practice “free form/find the task” for the rest of the time: That is, we had the person in the client role present whatever they wanted to work on, requiring the person in the therapist role to first figure whether it was one of the tasks they’d had, and if so what task it was. After a two half days of this, we thought they’d have had enough of it by Thursday afternoon. In this expectation, however, we were wrong, because most the groups wanted the chance to do one more practice session early Thursday afternoon. Interestingly, another one of my expectations was also confounded by this: in spite of working in relatively small groups of 4 (rather than 5) each, the groups did not run out of issues to work on.

The result was a training series in which we experimented successfully with some of our training practices, breathing new life into the structures we’ve been using for the past couple of years. In addition, the participants appeared to have gotten more time to practice in small groups than in previous years, but as far as we could tell without sacrificing quality or needed conceptual input. I’m not totally sure how we did it, or whether we just had a really great group of participants, but it was clear that the training had worked very well indeed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emotion-Focused Therapy: Level 3 Training 2009-10

Facilitated by Robert Elliott
Professor of Counselling, University of Strathclyde

Wednesdays, 6-9pm, 16 September 2009 – 2 June 2010
Sir Henry Wood Building
Jordanhill Campus
University Of Strathclyde
(Sponsored by the Professional Development Unit, University of Strathclyde)

The Counselling Unit at the University of Strathclyde are pleased to offer continuing training in Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) for counsellors and psychotherapists (Diploma level or above) who have completed Level Two training in EFT. This 12-session series will meet approximately every three weeks throughout the 2009-10 academic year, beginning in September. The format will primarily focus on supervision of recorded therapy sessions, supplemented as appropriate by viewing of archival video-recordings, brief lectures, experiential practice exercises in small groups, and discussion. Emphasis will be on putting EFT into practice and examining blocks to effective practice.

This series is scheduled for the following dates:
Autumn 2009:
16 September
7 October
28 October
18 November
9 December
Winter-Spring 2010:
13 January
3 February
24 February
17 March
21 April
12 May
2 June

• Enrolment is set for a maximum of 12.
• Course fee: Until 15 August: £345; after 15 August: £395.
• The course could be taken for continuing professional education credit.

Professional Development Unit applications may be downloaded at (Note that that this course is not on the official list.)

Please direct enquiries to the PDU office (0141 950 3734) or Robert Elliott ( or ).

(version 21 July 2009)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emotion-Focused Therapy: Level 2 Workshop Series

Facilitated by Robert Elliott
Professor of Counselling, University of Strathclyde

Saturdays, 9.30-16.30pm, 19 September, 2009 – 22 May, 2010
Sir Henry Wood Building Room
Jordanhill Campus
University Of Strathclyde
(Sponsored by the Professional Development Unit,
University of Strathclyde)

The Counselling Unit at the University of Strathclyde is offering further training in Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) for counsellors and psychotherapists (Diploma level or above) who have completed Level One training in EFT or the equivalent. This series has been restructured from its previous evening format and will now meet on seven Saturdays throughout the 2009-10 academic year, beginning in September. The format will be a mixture of brief lectures, videos or demonstrations, experiential practice exercises in small groups, supervision of cases seen by course members, and discussion.

The specific topics to be covered are flexible based on participant interest, but will feature material not covered in the Level 1 course, such as
• Therapist experiential response modes
• Client modes of engagement
• Narrative Retelling of difficult/traumatic experiences
• Relational Dialogue for Alliance difficulties
• Creation of Meaning for meaning protests

In addition, the Focusing and different forms of Chairwork will be particularly emphasized:
• Focusing with difficult or painful experiences
• Clearing a Space for overwhelming or chaotic experiences
• Two chair enactment for Self-interruption splits
• Two chair conflict split work for depression, anxiety and self-harm behavior
• Empty chair work for unfinished business

This series is scheduled for the following dates:

Autumn 2009:
19 September
24 October
21 November
Winter-Spring 2010:
23 January
20 February
24 April
22 May

• Enrolment is set for a maximum of 20.

• Course fee: Until 15 August: £395; after 15 August: £445

• The course could be taken for continuing professional education credit.

Professional Development Unit applications may be downloaded at (Note that that this course is not on the official list.)

Please direct enquiries to the PDU office (0141 950 3734) or Robert Elliott ( or ).

(version: 20/07/09)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

There … and Back Again

Entry for 8 July 2009:

On Sunday, my 7-day H1N1 quarantine having finally expired, we had a Saturday Adventure in Santiago. La Moneda is the Chilean equivalent of the White House, except that there is a cultural museum underneath it. An ambitious exhibit about Rapa Nui (= Easter Island) had opened two days before, and we also discovered exhibits on the Mapuche Native American people of Chile as well as a show featuring the art, poetry and music of Violetta Parra. We happily spent the afternoon wandering through these three exhibits, covering diverse but essential elements of Chilean culture. Violetta Parra’s primitivist artworks are very colourful, some using the medium of yarn on burlap, others oil on board; almost all feature music in some way. In many of her pieces, birds emanate from fiddles, apparently representing the sound of the music. Much of her music uses the rocking 6/8 cueca rhythm of Chile’s national dance; she was one of the forerunners of the nueva cancion (new song) movement of the the 1960’s and ‘70’s.

The Mapuche exhibition featured different kinds of craft, but what most struck me was the information about Mapuche shamans and their accessories, including a special kind of drum, called a kultrung, and their totem, called a rewe, with 4 to 7 notches or levels, representing both the 7 levels of the Mapuche cosmology and the skill level of the shaman. Two weeks ago, when we went to the Precolumbian Museum in Santiago, I was also struck by the importance of the shaman in south and meso-american culture and made a point of taking lots of pictures of shaman paraphernalia. So once again I cross paths with my dad.

But the main attraction was the exhibit on Polynesian/Melanesian culture and art. I can remember being fascinated by the Polynesians when I was a kid, reading Thor Heyerdahl’s book Kon-tiki about his voyage by reed boat between Peru and Polynesia, and his later book Aku-Aku, about his expedition to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. Rapa Nui is of course famous for its Moai, the hundreds of huge carved stone heads that were carved centuries ago, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The exhibition had a couple of Moai, but covered broad range of Polynesia culture, including the mysterious and untranslatable writing found at Rapa Nui.

After that, there was nothing for it but to investigate the music of Rapa Nui and the Mapuche people, which occupied us for a good part of the next day. Once I’d tracked them down, I found that the music of Rapa Nui is much more melodic than that of the Mapuche. But I was pleased to discover several tracks of music for Kultrung, or Shamanic drum.

However, before the shopping trip, for our last day in Santiago before returning to Scotland, Diane took me to the Sculpture Park that the stretches along the River Mapoche not far form our hotel in the Providencia neighborhood. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny winter’s day, as we wandered through the park, created in the 1980’s, looking at the sculptures and taking pictures.

Finally, we got up on Tuesday morning, packed, ate breakfast, paid our bill (quite large by this time) and said goodbye to the staff at the hotel. Cecilia, Gloria’s cousin, drove us to the airport, where we began our long journey back to Scotland, via Madrid and London. We arrived at our flat in Hyndland about 4:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, 18 days after we’d left.

I had lain awake for a long time the night before we left to return home, restless and a bit anxious after being away for so long, but determined to do a better job taking care of myself and to avoid running myself down so much, under the pressure of work. It wasn’t fun being stuck in Santiago under quarantine, unable to go out, but at some level it’s quite clear that I really needed the down time, to recover from the intense pressure of work.

When I woke up this morning at 4.30 am, finally back in my own bed, there was again that delicious moment of disorientation: “Why is it so light outside? Why is the door to this room open?” And then I remembered: No longer in that hotel room in Santiago, in the dead of winter, far away, but back in Scotland, where it is still summer, in its own way: home.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Pre-Poem for Pat on her Leaving

Entry for 21 June 2009:

Pat Butson, one of the parttime tutors, has been teaching on the Monday Parttime course for some time now, but has decided that the stress of the commute from Edinburgh and the pressures on the course from the University, were too much. As a result, she has decided to retire from the course. This past Friday was her last day of work with us, so Thursday night, after my Professorial lecture, we had a leaving function for her at our old Jorndanhill hangout, the Three Craws (= Crows in Scots). We got her a piece of jewelry (Kathleen picked it out), as well as a collection of Spanish music and an earthernware bowl by a local potter (picked out by me).

I seem to have inherited the role of speaking at these functions, so I had the honor of making a little speech for her, composing a short piece I referred to as a “pre-poem” – meaning that it wasn’t polished and was partly improvished.

Afterwards, Pat and, along with two of her fellow former course tutors, Dot Clark and Margaret Harkness, sat and talked and talked until the pub closed and they threw us out. It was a lovely evening, and I will miss her sorely.

* * *

Here is a representation of Pat’s leaving piece:

Wise one, carrier of tradition
Holder of the Process,
I’ve looked to you –
Not for direction,
But for possibility.

Travellor in places
Both rainy and sunny,
You went many places
And were many things
Before you came to us.

You have laboured
In our vineyards,
Long and hard:
Emotional labour.
Generations of students
Have you imprinted
On their souls.

Now you are going –
We wish you could stay! –
But your process
Needs to go on.

So we will bless you
On your way, trusting that
Your process and ours
Will meet again.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Voyage to Chile

Entry for 21 June 2009: [Continuing my out of order Blog catch-up]

After a blow-out of a week, I had a hard time getting myself ready to leave for our trip to Chile on Saturday morning. Fortunately, out flight was at midday on Saturday, which enabled us to get ready without too much additional sleep deprivation. The flights from Glasgow to London and from London to Madrid weren’t too bad, but the Santiago flight eventually ended up being delayed overnight until Sunday afternoon, almost 18 hours late. At 2 am Sunday morning we were made to get off the plane and after being herded through the enormous, virtually empty airport in the middle of the night, we were taken to a very nice hotel near the airport for 5 hours of sleep.

We return to the airport around noon on Sunday. Iberia airlines were not very transparent about what was going on, and rumors abounded: e.g., the aircraft was unsafe and the crew were refusing to fly it. While we sat on the plane for several hours, first on Saturday night and then again on Sunday afternoon, we were forced to listen to the same annoying jazz pieces (e.g., “Your feet’s too big”; Norah Jones, etc) again and again, until many of us wanted to cry or scream or both. The Madrid airport is huge, monumental really, a kind of Euro-giganticism, with high, sweeping roofs reminiscent of the Barcelona style of Gaudi, but bigger and without the charm, mostly glass and steel girders, and very little concrete. (Diane said it looked like someone had been let lose with a giant erector set.) The 300+ passengers became more restive as the delay continued and rumors circulated that we might be delayed for yet another day. Somewhat sinisterly, three armed police showed up at the gate on Sunday afternoon, apparently to deal with potential passenger unrest. A few people angrily demanded their luggage and money back. Others burst into tears, like one young Scottish violinist on her way to perform a Shostakovich opera with the Santiago Philharmonic. Over the hours, however, a comraderie developed among many of the passengers, and when we were herded back onto the plane on Sunday afternoon about 4pm, it was a strange experience to recognize the faces of so many people. Eventually, they finished completely replacing the computer system in the aging Airbus, and we were able to take off.

I was going to say that after all that, the flight to Santiago was an anti-climax, but actually there were a couple of bad moments: First, it took forever for our old, heavily-loaded plane to lift off the runway and finally reach cruising altitude. Then, as we approached the coast of Brazil, where another, newer Airbus had gone down 3 weeks earlier, we hit severe turbulence, and another anxious time.

[Footnote, July 6: Together with the difficulty they gave us rebooking to go home, we both vowed never the fly on Iberia again. “Next time, take LAN Chile,” our Chilean friends told us.]

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Freedom on the 4th of July

Entry for 4 July 2009:

It’s been a long week of sitting around my hotel room waiting for my 7-day quarantine to run out. The Tamiflu did away with most of the flu that I’d been so miserable with when I first came down with it. After the first day on it, all I had left was a bit of a cough. As the days passed, we developed a routine: We’d get up about 8am, after 8 hours of sleep. Diane would go down for breakfast, and bring me back a bowl with a bit of fruit at the bottom, to which I’d add granola and yoghurt. After breakfast, I’d do email for a couple of hours, trying to staunch for great gouts of messages that assailed me once I started answering people. (In spite of having a lot of time to do email, I barely managed to hold my own for the week, still a bit over 1000 messages in my inbox.) Then, we’d have lunch, cobbled to together with bits from breakfast and that Diane picked up at the grocery store. After that, I’d write for 4 or 5 hours, with a nap somewhere in the middle, until about 8pm, when we’d stop for dinner. Finally, we’d watch In Treatment on Spanish-language HBO, the hit psychotherapy drama that the US graduate students at the SPR conference were raving about as their main source of information about what really goes on in therapy. (A rather troubling thought, but that’s the subject for another blog…)

As I said, after lunch each day, I’d work on my Distinguished Career Award paper for Psychotherapy Research, now a month overdue. Paulo Machado has been nagging me about it for a year, since I got the award in Barcelona, and once against reminded me about how much he needed it when I saw him last week at the conference. I’d spent months trying to figure out what to do it on. It felts like I had to write something important, summing up the accumulated wisdom of decades of doing psychotherapy research. A tall order!, especially when I don’t feel particularly wise… Finally, I hit upon “Psychotherapy Change Process Research” as a suitable topic. Building off my 2007 paper for the German-language Person-Centred journal, Person, six weeks of 15 min per day plus several hours on the plane coming to Chile got me about 2/3 of the way through the paper. It’s not clear how many more weeks it would have taken if I hadn’t come done with the flu, but a week’s enforced bed-rest was enough to buy me the time to finish the paper, which I finally submitted last night. It was a challenging paper to write, an appraisal of what I see as the main methodological approaches to studying what makes therapy work, really a methodological tour de force. I spent a day at the end just filling in and checking my references. I hope that it will inspire others to use a broader range of methods more effectively.

I decided that I would count today, the 4th of July, as the end of my 7-day quarantine and proposed that we go out to dinner to celebrate. I spent the afternoon checking the proofs for the Adjudicated HSCED paper, which I’d finally manage to get revised last January. Then, a bit after 8pm tonight, I put on my shoes and jacket for the first time since last Sunday, and went down stairs. It felt strange to be outside of my room.

I’d passed a Mexican restaurant on Avenida Manuel Montt, around the corner from Gloria’s flat, so I dragged Diane there. Mexican food is what I miss most in Scotland. They’d toned the spiciness way down for Chilean tastes, but it was close enough to remind me of home, and we celebrated freedom, both personal and national. As Diane noted, it was much nicer than having to worry about the neighbors burning the place down with illegal fireworks. A man and a woman were playing Mariachi music, also toned down for Chilean tastes but still colourful and entertaining. I miss the US, I miss Scotland, I miss my Northern hemisphere summer, but it felt very good to finally get out for a few hours, to resume what will have to do for a normal life until we can get back to Scotland.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Professorial Lecture

Entry for 19 June 2009:

When the current Dean of Strathclyde’s Faculty of Education arrived 2.5 years ago, she proposed a series of professional lectures. Mine took place this past Thursday, during the Parttime course’s final intensive week, and served as my inaugural lecture. I debated for months about what to pick for my topic, until I heard Tom Bryce’s lecture in March, on science education. I said to myself, “That’s interesting – I’m doing science education, too. Why don’t I piggy back on Tom’s presentation, and talk about the research methods curriculum development work I’ve been doing over the past three years.”

Because it was a mixed audience, and my topic – not just research methods, but teaching research methods – was potentially quite dry, I spent a lot of time dressing it up with graphics and jokes. I worked pretty hard on it. In the end, the Powerpoint slides amount to 16 MB, too big to email or upload onto our research community’s Google Group site. (Too many high rez photos...)

I was delighted that representatives showed up from all four of the courses that I teach research methods to: PGDip Counselling, MSc, Counselling Psychology, and PhDs. There was also a scattering of colleagues, and the Dean, the Vice-Dean for Research, and some lecturers/professors from elsewhere in the Faculty. Diane and Lorna both reported that the last group were taking notes; afterwards, they said they were pleased and envisaged further discussions of the issues I’d raised.

I’d been quite anxious about the presentation, because of the unknown, mixed nature of the audience, so I felt much lighter afterwards. I’d developed a new, more entertaining style of Powerpoint presentation, and said some provocative and rather challenging things, which appeared to have been well-received. John McLeod came down from Dundee especially for the occasion, and did an inspired job of introducing me and saying how wonderful I was. While this sort of this is always good for the ego, mostly I felt touched by his going to the effort and how carefully he tried to support me. Finally, I felt inspired by how many of my students showed up, and they also felt inspired to be recognized and to see the overall framework into which their respective inputs fit, along with the philosophy behind it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Monday Parttime Course Finishes

Entry for 21 June 2009:

Like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, I’ve come unstuck in time, at least as far as my blog goes, and am only now getting to material that I wrote down in my Pukka Pad on the flight from Spain to Chile. So be it!

* * *
An exhausting final week of the Monday PT course, in which we met every day. Many tears shed; one of my students said that they’d cried more this week than the entire two years preceding. Meeting for this 5-day intensive raised the course to a level of intensity that seemed to facilitate the process of clarifying progress in development as a counsellor. Students read each other’s self-appraisal statements describing their journey and current levels of functioning, and met with their PPD groups on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was a very long day of presenting their decisions about whether to take the diploma (the course uses a self-assessment process). For me this was the emotional pivot of the week, powerful and moving. Thursday was a long large group in which the students each took 10 min to present and get feedback on their decision. This was more contained but had many powerful moments, especially when individual students broke out of the mold to present their decisions in creative ways. Friday began with a final unstructured large group that addressed some long-standing one running issues and provided one last opportunity to practice resolving relational ruptures. We worked right to the end, before breaking for a final party/celebration of the two years of the course and its conclusion. This week-long intensive format seemed to work quite well; I would recommend it as a format for ending a parttime course.

This was the second diploma course I’ve seen through to completion since coming to Strathclyde. I was personally very pleased with how the course turned out and feel that I’ve learned a lot about the training process and how to facilitate it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I Become a Statistic in the Worldwide H1N1 Pandemic

Entry for 1 July 2009:

The yearly international SPR conferences end with a banquet at some interesting and characteristic local site. This year the banquet was also a costume party in a rustic restaurant along one of Santiago's little rivers. (From sheer overwhelm, I decided I would just have to pass as myself: black hat and pony tail: not totally in the spirit but generally acceptable.) I’d had a nice time talking to Clara Hill and Leigh McCullough and visiting with Leigh’s Norwegian grad students. However, as the evening went on, the cough I’d had since I woke up that morning got worse, my head started to ache and I felt very tired and unwell. I lined up with the crowd waiting for the first bus back, then had to wait get a taxi back to my hotel. By the time I got back to my hotel it was 2am and I felt chilled to the bone.

Diane and Nancy had gone south to Chillan with Gloria and weren’t due back until early Sunday afternoon, so I slept in, got up, ate breakfast, and went back to bed and slept another three hours. It was clear to me by this time that I’d come down with the flu: fever, cough, headache, and aching muscles. When the others arrived about 2pm, I warned them off. After some discussion, Gloria and Juan (her husband) took us to a fancy new medical clinic. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, and the place was packed with people, young and old, mostly miserable. It could have been an emergency room in the US. We were told that it would be a four-hour wait, so Gloria and Juan left us to it. We put on our face masks and settled in with our reading material. We were surrounded by suffering people -- a large number of them children -- and those who were there comforting them. We were witnessing the universal language of distress, support and soothing. At least half of us were wearing face masks, put on with varying degrees of care, and were doing our best to cough discretely behind them.

Eventually, after about three hours, they called us and a nurse took my vital signs. We then waited another hour for the doctor. The doctor, who spoke no English, was the most gentle, mild, humble doctor I have ever met in my life. He asked about my symptoms, and with Diane’s translations and my two years of high school Spanish as well as frequent gestures, we managed to communicate this information to him. We explained that we were scheduled to fly back to Scotland tomorrow and that we didn’t think I was healthy enough to do that. He agreed with this assessment and said he would give both of us medicine for the flu and a form for the airline to allow us to reschedule our return. He disappeared and came back with the medicine, which was two 5-day doses of Tamiflu (Diane's prophylactic because of her probably exposure) and a form filled out (of course) in Spanish, much of it handwritten. We asked when he thought we would be able to travel back to Scotland, and he said “Martes, Miercoles, o Jueves”, that is, “Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday”. This seemed almost too good to believe so we questioned him, and he reaffirmed this view. After completing the papers, he bowed to us and left. We gathered up our staff, went out to pay our bill (US$80, no charge for the Tamiflu), and had Gloria call us a taxi to take us back to the hotel, where I took my Tamiflu and went to bed.

Then next day was a holiday, the feast of San Pedro I think. The Tamiflu was amazing: my fever and aches went away, and, most surprisingly, my cough didn’t get worse. Just to be on the safe side, we decided it would be a good idea to wait until Wednesday for our return flight. When the Iberia folks didn’t answer their phone, Diane and Gloria went to the airport to try to book our return flight; however, they said we’d have to wait until Tuesday when their office in the city center was open. Then Nancy left to go back to the US, Gloria and Juan went back to Chillan, and I slept quite a bit. Gloria, who is a bit of a micro-manager (I think that comes from teaching pre-school teachers for 30 years), got her cousin Cecilia to get in touch to help Diane with the rebooking.

On Tuesday, Diane got up early and went with Cecilia to the Iberia office to be there when it opened. The person told them they had no flights until 15 July. Cecilia took Diane out for a cup of chocolate, then went to LAN Chile ($3300 each for one-way back to London), and finally back to the Iberia office. By this time the man there had read the paperwork completed by the doctor, and pointed out that the paperwork was actually a 7-day H1N1 quarantine order. Instead of leaving Chile tomorrow, we were going to be stuck here for another week! He then booked us on the first available flight after the quarantine expired, for the 7th of July.

Once we got over the shock, we tried to figure out what had gone wrong. First, there is a difference in Spanish between “el martes que viene” (the coming Tuesday) and “el martes proxima” (Tuesday of next week); the doctor had meant the latter, but we had heard him as referring to the former. Second, we were both anxious and desperate to get home, both which interfered with our competence in Spanish. Third, we had interpreted the doctor not testing me for swine/novel H1N1 as a good sign, but it turned out that I am part of a tidal wave of H1N1 cases that hit Chile this past weekend, a mixture of seasonal (it's winter here) and "novel" (H1N1) strains; at this point health authorities have given up testing.

As a result, I am restricted to my hotel room for seven days. I have a somewhat spotty wireless connection in my hotel room and so I am able to work some. It is now Wednesday. The Tamiflu continues to work wonders, I have been getting plenty of sleep, we are watching In Treatment every evening on HBO en Español, and I’ve spent much of my time so far rearranging (and in some cases re-rearranging) appointments for the rest of this week and most of next week. I haven’t been able to reduce the 1000+ pile in my inbox so far but at least it’s no longer growing so quickly. Diane is trying to keep from going insane from boredom. And I’m trying to finish a very late manuscript for Psychotherapy Research. It’s a weird kind of half-sick, half-work, half-vacation. Right now it feels like it will never end. And after all the hassle, inconvenience and expense, the worst thing is that it may not be swine/novel H1N1 and I may have to go through the whole thing all over again when the pandemic really hits Scotland. But I'm sure I'm in the count already!