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Seminars, conferences and online resources on psychotherapy and human relationships
The Impossible Profession?
A series of talks examining the experienced clinician's most difficult dilemmas

10 and 17 February, 3, 17, 24 and 31 March, 7 April 2014

Monday 10 February 2014
Dr Marie Adams

Work as a Refuge: therapists in pain
It is normal and inevitable that psychotherapists, like any other population, will face times of illness, loss and emotional difficulty. But how do therapists cope when facing such disruption in their lives and how do we know when these have started to impinge on the quality of our therapeutic work? Therapists often acknowledge they wait too long before admitting their vulnerability. These issues may be amplified when a therapist has found personal solace in the work but that this sense of comfort has turned into anxiety when their own needs and those of the client struggle for space. How will we know when it's time to seek help? How does the professional community relate to therapists in trouble?

Monday 17 February 2014
Dr Dianne Lefevre

Being on the receiving end of hatred
"Hatred", Panksepp says, is "more calculated, behaviourally constrained, and affectively 'colder' than the passionate 'heat' of rage". It is one of the most difficult states to deal with in the psychotherapeutic situation both for the patient and the therapist. It would omnipotent and naïve to think that we can satisfactorily deal with all negative situations that crop up in analysis but this is a chance to think together about where the line is drawn. We will ask how the underlying damage in the patient, that is expressed in hatred, can be reached by drawing on our unconscious, experiencing of it in our countertransference, retaining the capacity for "bare attention" and tolerating not knowing. When can animosity towards the therapist be turned into a therapeutic opportunity? When is it unacceptable?

Monday 3 March 2014
Adah Sachs

Innocent until proven guilty? On the vicissitudes of receiving a complaint
Receiving a complaint is a dreaded thought to any psychotherapist. Unlike the common law notion, which deems a person innocent until proven guilty, a complaint immediately raises doubts about the therapist's capacity or moral competence to practice, even when unfounded. A complaint is thus unevenly balanced in favour of the one making it: it automatically punishes, even when there was no misdeed. Furthermore, it shames, and the therapist who has faced a complaint tends to keep this private, with the result that we accumulate little wisdom about the process. Having recently been on the receiving end of a complaint it became apparent to me that the profession needs far deeper exploration of the interpersonal dynamics that can occur, and the role of the professional community in this constellation. Focusing, among other thorny issues, on the vulnerability of the therapist in the face of misguided or deliberately malicious complaints, I will share with you my own ethical, legal and personal discoveries.

Monday 17 March 2014
Professor Andrew Samuels

When your client complains: emotional and professional perspectives
Whether there are grounds for complaint or not, many profound anxieties arise when the notification arrives. What will happen to me? Will whoever hears the complaint really hear my side of it? Why has the client done this? Should I retaliate by saying how crazy she or he is, and hence not to be trusted? Or would immediate contrition and an expressed desire to learn from what happened be a better option (and what if I don't feel contrite but reckon it's a good tactic)? It is a cliché by now to say that we live in a litigious culture and that, as lists of competencies and occupational standards grow more detailed, an audit of anyone's practice is going to turn something up. But has complaint-itis infected the professions of psychotherapy and counselling these days, leading to an unnecessary but understandable turn to low-risk and 'safe' approaches to therapy? Is fear of the complaining client having too marked an effect on practice?

Monday 24 March 2014
Dr Valerie Sinason

Boundaries in ethical and sustainable practice
All psychotherapy and counselling utilise the concept of boundaries. But what is a boundary? How does the nature of the setting, the age or nature of the client group influence, dictate or compromise the boundaries of the practitioner? Who chose the boundaries? Length of session, length of treatment, place of treatment, gifts, touch, looks, words, dual processing, subtle alterations of the frame, emails, skype, facebook. All of these impact on us daily. An adult patient becomes physically ill and asks for a hospital visit, a child patient won't enter the therapy room, a patient's relative rings for help, an adolescent brings his dog, a truanting child brings his truanting friends...and then there is the boundary of what we don't say and do say. How can such complexity be ethically navigated to protect both the patient and the therapist's best interests?

Monday 31 March 2014
Annie Power

Reaching the limit: ethical negotiation of unendurable work
As we are the instruments by which we do the work, how compromised can we be before work becomes unethical? Sometimes when we face challenges in our life we can work well for limited periods - our empathy and acuteness even heightened by what we are facing in our daily lives. But what about more chronic states of physical pain, exhaustion, depression and grief? If we need time out but don't know when we will be strong again, what is the ethical way forward with long term patients? When it comes to age related changes, how bad do these need to be before we admit to them? How can we develop supervision which is sufficiently robust and empathic that it can be both a challenge and a support in such a crisis?

Monday 7 April 2014
Professor Karl Figlio

Confidentiality and Ethics – The Internal world of the Psychotherapist
Talking about one's patients presents a special problem and, to address it, one has to decide whether clinical evidence is needed to back up one's argument. This presentation will focus on the internal discussion in the mind of the psychotherapist in reaching this decision, both in relation to the need and to the legitimacy of sharing such material. Such a condition holds even in the case of presenting a qualifying paper, for which the professional organisation lays down the requirement and takes over the role of critic. In addition, this internal conversation points to a distinction between an ethical stance and a code of practice. We live and work in the former; our institutions prescribe the latter. Our decision whether and how to talk about our patients emerges from the former; we are held accountable by the latter. We need, therefore, consider the former before we settle the latter.


  • Whole series self-funded: £200
  • Whole series organisationally-funded: £300
  • Individual seminars: £40
CPD Hours

Certificates of Attendance for 2 hours will be provided at seminar

5th Floor Lecture Theatre
Tavistock Centre
120 Belsize Lane

Registration 19.00
Start 19.30
End 21.30

Monday 10 February 2014
Monday 17 February 2014
Monday 3 March 2014
Monday 17 March 2014
Monday 24 March 2014
Monday 31 March 2014
Monday 7 April 2014