Sunday, 5 February 2017

Old Paradigms Die Hard

We're living in one of those moments in history when things appear to turn on a sixpence while fringe voices have been wailing in the wilderness about the dangers they've been aware of for years.

At the same time as we watch ordinary people - our neighbours, friends, clients and family - respond to our own countries' rise in Authoritarianism and racism with varying degrees of denial and acceptance it's easy to ignore what's happening in our own professions. 

Isaac Cordal Follow The Leaders

The BACP sent out a questionnaire paving the way for supervisors to be required to report on supervisees (that's all of us). Therapy Today refused to print any letters on the subject and were forced to offer an apology after a number of therapists resigned, took debate to therapy fora and, since the official venues for debate were closed, wrote directly to the BACP Chair Andrew Reeves.

After looking for 10 minutes on the website I can't find that apology anywhere. 

There were a fair number of therapists who, before the BACP offered their sort-of apology, said "But why shouldn't we report on each other? Therapists are dangerous. Not you and I, of course, but Them." 

Apparently the fact that murder is illegal and people still murder each other, or that doctors may not sexually abuse patients but some still do, that dentists may not perform unnecessary work but some still do, that police may not harm innocent people but some still do hasn't reached them. The BACP properly sets standards against which clients may judge their counsellor and seek redress if necessary. How making us report on each other furthers that is beyond me.

Perhaps it's easier to understand what's happening in counselling and psychotherapy by hearing about what's happening in a closely allied profession.

"I was at the flagship clinical psychology event in the UK at a debate on the future of the profession. And all I could see around me were white faces, mainly – and I do hope they’ll forgive me for saying so – of a certain age. Now there were exceptions, of course. A few ethnics, some younger folk. But there were a lot of old people in suits. And even though I had been around these people – all decent people, I’m sure; some of whom I know, and none of whom I wish to denigrate – all day, it wasn’t until I saw them as a group that I realised how homogenous they appeared to be. And so I began to wonder why this might be.  
There are 12 000 clinical psychologists in the U.K., but only around 2-300 attend the conference. And, from the few I have attended, it’s often the great and the good who come; those who are established and respected and whatever else. I went because I was speaking, but otherwise I wouldn’t have (I’m not a huge fan of 3-day conferences, for many reasons and in any case, the sheer cost of it was prohibitive). But many of the clinical psychologists I know couldn’t give two hoots about it and that, I think, is concerning.  
Put bluntly, we had a debate about the future of the profession attended primarily by people who may well not even be practising in ten years’ time. Those people may know their stuff; they may have built careers and won awards and got tenure and have a publication list as long as your arm, but they are not the future. People who are barely-qualified are the future. People struggling to get onto training are the future. And the people who use our services are the future, because they know what our profession needs to do differently. And whilst there were one or two explicitly ‘service user’ voices, they were drowned out by the rest of us with our doctorates and our academic posts and our reputations and our egos.  
And as the panel stopped talking and the audience began to contribute I knew that nothing that anyone had said would make any difference in the real world and that many of the conceptual debates will go on for years to come and that although we might have clapped and patted each other on the back we need to start having radically different conversations with radically different people if we are ever to make any progress. "
As our grandmothers, alchemists, theologians and philosophers have been saying for centuries, "The Personal Is Political." The choices you and I make in every aspect of our lives have a political dimension. Organic food is cheaper now than it's ever been because a couple of generations of minorities spent huge amounts of their own income and time growing and buying it. Children are not expected to work up chimneys because a minority of people thought this was barbaric, even if it did increase the income of poor families and provide opportunities for employment.

 Carol Hanisch's essay that birthed the phrase "The Personal is Political." It's about therapy. 
If it's too strong for you, too radical, too Lefty Liberal then you might be the problem. 

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