Every year I have to re register with UKCP through the Institute of family Therapy. Here’s my reflective statement for this year.
My clinical work over the last year had had two distinct threads to it.
I have continued working with a local voluntary organization, New Dawn Family Support Service. This works with families with children where there is a life threatening and/or life long condition/disorder. Most of the families using the service are referred by statutory services and a common story is of disillusion in them, with honourable exceptions.
I have been struck by the significant amount of spiritual/religious discourses in this work. Perhaps the sometimes life threatening/life changing nature of the illnesses might be a crucial context for people wondering about foundational questions – “the meaning of life”. This is the most challenging area of the GGRRAACCEESS for me, a struggle to develop curiosity sometimes. It was interesting to take part in a wide range of spiritual discussions at the AFT conference.
A growing amount has been from my independent practice. This had been increasingly with couples, which was more of what I expected when I started this work.
The framework of the Social GGRRAACCEESS helps to remind me of issues of diversity and power, to challenge complacency and to manage my responses.
I was able to attend a variety of training events during the year.
I went to the AFT national conference in Canterbury in September on the theme of “Peace and Values –connecting spirituality, systems thinking and activism”.
I was especially moved by Kim Pearce’s contribution, thinking about Barnett’s contribution to our work and to the meanings of his life and death.
I was also inspired by Satish Kumar’s presentation, his immense calmness and love of the world.
I thought that Kim and Satish’s contributions both carried this feeling of reverence for life and our lives, playful and good humoured and also serious. This has connected for me in some of my thoughts about the moral dimension of our work.
I went to Philippa Beale’s workshop: ‘Families in the Wild’
Having a great personal connection to wild places myself led me to choose this workshop, especially as I have usually seen ‘the wild’ as an escape from work, rather than part of it!
Philippa presented the ‘Families in the Wild’ project which she runs in partnership with Imayla, a local social enterprise offering ‘participatory arts and environmental activities within an intercultural context that seek to combine the traditional and the contemporary, and a rural, urban and global perspective’ and Westburghs City Farm, ‘a green oasis in the heart of Bristol’, for families whose children are in the local CAMHS in-patient unit.
Some of the influences on the project were ideas form Multi-Family Therapy, an Eia Asen workshop, Sure Start and Eco therapy Conference in 201.
I loved Mark Rivett’s story telling presentation. The hearing and telling of stories from many different cultures and perspectives was a real way of connected to diversity and multiplicity.
When he talked about the ‘Story telling world’, its mores and cultures I was reminded how many human worlds there are.
Chiara Santin’s workshop on political activism was a connection to both the spirit and pragmatics of activism. This was the weekend that Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party and for me some of my dusty old activism stirred into life.
The workshop was fun, creative and inspiring.
In January I went to an IFT workshop run by Renee Singh on ‘Finding a Writing Voice’.
The day covered:
Introductions and introductory exercises
What to write
How to find the right Journal/Publisher
The meaning of “rejection”
Inspiration and goal setting.
It was great to see old and new colleagues.
Writing more about my work has been a constant promise to myself so this was a well timed piece of input which covered the practical, emotional and relational aspects of getting down to producing written work.
I was left feeling energised, with some more definite ideas about what I want to do in this area in the coming year.
In May I went to a day conference run by Derbyshire AFT, focusing on Family Therapy and Systemic practice in relation to adult mental health.
I chose this because I have been struck by my practice shifting to pay a different kind of attention to the adults I work with. Many of them have some mental health difficulties and I wanted an arena to think about that and talk with others.
It was a useful and stimulating experience. The most interesting part was a joint presentation with ‘Experts by experience’ – the parents of a young man with a diagnosis of psychosis.
A lot of what they said echoed the input from the humanizing ideas of the ‘Social Therapeutics’ workshop I went to last year.
I re-read W. Barnett Pearce’s book “Making Social Worlds” following seeing his widow speak at the AFT conference. I was struck by its powerful ‘humanizing’ quality, in comparison to his earlier writings with Cronen which at times seemed coldly technical. This connected to the ideas of the Wilson and Holzman workshop earlier in the year.
I found the ideas of ‘critical moments’, and the challenges of acting wisely within them, particularly pertinent. It raised the questions of what ‘wisdom’ might look like and also what a systemic morality might look like. I made a connection here to Michael White’s ideas about restraint, inclusiveness, being generative.
It was also much better written that his earlier work which Kim Pearce had said was his aim, so it had a valedictory quality – someone bringing together their thoughts at the end.
A continuing feature of the year has been the training I have done for IFTs ABT programme which has continued to lead me to read and re read a wide range of often “foundational” articles. This has kept the real usefulness of some of the “old” ideas alive for me.
I also re-read Valeria Ugazio’s book “Semantic Polarities and Psychopathologies in the family” and this has been a stimulating and sometimes difficult text. It sees human interactions within four meaning contexts and within the polarities between them, exploring the contradictions, relational processes that position people in particular sets of meaning.
I liked the sophistication and diversity of these ideas and the strong sense of connection to other social constructionist ideas. I also liked the real sense of both the relational and intra psychic worlds of the people she writes about.
This year Carolyn Gavin has been my clinical supervisor for seven years. This is the longest supervisory relationship I have had and has become deeper and more sophisticated over time.
We share being Family Therapists and a long standing interest in work with Looked After Children and that connection is a strong foundation. I also appreciate the differences she brings, as a female worker and as a Nurse, which was her first qualification.
It has also been both reassuring and sometimes challenging to keep a supervisor through a number of work changes. There has been the stability of the relationship, enabling at times more personal and professional risk taking. There has also been much more “not knowing” as we find useful ways to talk about a variety of therapeutic settings.
We’ve talked about how easy it is for our conversations to dwell on particular aspects of the GGRRAACCEESS, such as gender, class, generation and have been working to think about other aspects such as sexuality and religion.
I’ve noticed how fluidly we’re able to discuss case issues, relating them to theoretical considerations, personal patterns etc. This has particularly helped in my thinking about my “rescuing” impulses, especially in relation to a new area of work with “New Dawn”, and working on recognising how that influences my practice and when it might be more useful to sit with discomfort.
The next year
I am going to be attending the AFT Annual Conference in Brighton for three days in September which this year is on the theme of ‘Diverse Conversations’.
I’m hoping this will challenge me to think more about the “GGRRAACCEESS which leave me cold”. We will also be continuing to think about these issues in supervision.
I will look for other training/CPD opportunities. In particular I’m planning to go to a Derbyshire AFT conference in the autumn on supporting, hearing and responding to the voices of “Experts by experience” – the people who use our services.
I am hoping to be able to use experiences like this to expand my sense of other’s stories. As I’ve said I’m interested in the role of spirituality and religion, generally but particularly in the realm of my work with New Dawn.
Peter Kenny 28/07/2016