Thoughts from Merseyside AFT on the 2014 National Conference

AFT emailed me this today, so I thought I’d share it:

What does it mean to survive in these difficult times? How can we preserve our integrity in our professional and personal lives? Is it possible that one size fits all?

Planning this conference reminded one committee member of choosing a new pair of running shoes. So, what’s the difference between one pair and the next, you may ask? Surely, each pair does what they were designed to do? However, in choosing a new pair of running shoes, you may have to try out many different designs and styles before finding the one that fits – feels right at this time – or perhaps have different pairs for different conditions. Whatever fits for you may not be the same as someone else’s choice. However, like theories and ideas, shoes share something in common. Many may try to be ‘one size fits all’ but all borrow, learn, build on and continue to grow from what has gone before.

Increasingly, it seems further expectations are being placed upon us, particularly in times of diminishing resources. Pressures to find that one approach, idea or question that will prove to be the way all therapy should be conducted. The demands placed on services seem to privilege throughput over therapeutic process. Keeping creativity and curiosity alive in these ‘stormy seas’ of external societal and systemic pressures, is a difficult and demanding task.

Not surprisingly, then, we can all be tempted to avoid drowning by relying on our main theoretical ballast for floatation. What then happens to our creativity, playfulness, growth and the taking of the therapeutic risks families need from us, sometimes? Do we stick with the same old familiar shoes or embrace difference?

As Gianfranco Cecchin wrote,

“ … it is at the moment when the therapist begins to reflect upon the effect of his own attitude and presumptions that he acquires a position that is both ethical and therapeutic. In order to be able to attain this ability for self-reflexivity, we believe that it is necessary to have a certain level of irreverence and a sense of humour, which one acquires by maintaining a continuous conversation with colleagues, people outside the mental health field, students and patients alike” (Cecchin et al. (1992) Irreverence A Strategy for Therapists Survival. London: Karnac).

We hope to have lots of workshops and discussion forums, both large and small that encourage the trying out of many different pairs of shoes (something of a ‘Liverpool Fringe’! Take a chance on a workshop topic or speaker you know little about.). We hope to encourage discussions about the strengths and resourcefulness to be found in many different ways of working and thinking, without this being a search for ‘the answer’ – more one of discovering some answers amongst many possible answers that may be those you might want to try out to see how they fit.

We invite you to join us, try on a few different pairs of shoes, and see what might fit for you, or what you may want to consider incorporating in your own design for your own particular pairs of shoes, and together we may be able to build a life raft to survive these stormy seas.

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