Confer’s Annual Psychgeist Conference: Is Psychotherapy a Relationship or a Cure?
Saturday 21 September 2019 - London
With speakers Shoshi Asheri, Dr Anne Alvarez, Dr Richard Gipps, Professor Dany Nobus, Dr Jay Watts and Judy Yellin
Last year we asked the thought-provoking question What is Normal? as the topic for our think-tank conference to celebrate our 20 anniversary. Somewhat beyond our expectations, the question generated some brilliant, fresh and new perspectives about the therapy process. And so we have posed another challenging question for our speakers to answer: is psychotherapy a relationship or a treatment?READ MORE...
Our aim is to explore the dichotomy between the medical model of assessment, treatment, cure in contrast to its antithesis – a process of exploration between two people, one which focuses on the needs of one but in which each participant draws on their own subjectivities and histories.
Our starting point is that the solution-focused approach rests on the idea that someone enters therapy with a problem which can be assessed and for which a suitable treatment can be offered with specific goals leading, hopefully, to a cure. The latter suggests that the problem the client brings is only a starting point from which the therapeutic couple journey unfolds into a relationship of discovery about the patient’s inner life. These different stances come with quite different values, vocabularies and concepts about what makes therapy useful.
Each speaker will address the question through their own experiences of being in therapy, of being the therapist and of experiencing and witnessing change. We eagerly anticipate their thoughts and invite you to join the discussion.
Registration and coffee
Dr Richard Gipps
Psychotherapy as Internal Relation
Describing psychotherapy as a method of treatment is expedient in healthcare settings, but it would take a tin ear to not baulk at it as a characterisation of the therapeutic experience. To unpack our intuition that ‘treatment’ talk fails us, we may use Wittgenstein’s distinction between internal (constitutive) and external (two-part) relations. Psychotherapeutic work embodies, and develops the patient’s capacity to enter trustingly into, mutually implicating (i.e. internal) relations with others – whereas treatment goes on between merely externally related persons. Then again, psychotherapy is also in the business of helping patients separate out from others. This togetherness-in-difference has a name: it’s what we call ‘love’.
It’s Charged, it’s Liminal, it’s a ‘Now Moment’: Fluidifying Psychotherapy in ‘Post-Normal’ Times
In this talk I will argue that we live in a liminal time, similar to what Daniel Stern might call a ‘now moment’. The safety of known norms, roles, rules and power structures underpinning our theories and practices need to be rattled. If our profession is to remain current and socially responsible, we need to inhabit the discomfort of this liminal space, reconsider existing structures of dominance in our training institutions and practices, and allow new, creative, unbidden possibilities to emerge.
What can amoebas having sex teach our profession about fluidifying binaries and challenging existing hierarchies? What can it teach us about the intersubjective field as an ecology of relationship, adventure and cure, yearning to interconnect and co-create?
Prof Dany Nobus
Why Analysis Isn’t Therapy, or the Perils of Healing
When Freud exchanged the hypno-cathartic method for a technique based on free association, he decided to call his procedure ‘analysis’ (literally: ‘loosening up’) rather than ‘therapy’. In this talk, I shall critically unfold the significance and implications of this process of clinical de-composition in light of Freud’s psycho-geographical model of the human mind and his personal scepticism towards conventional approaches to healing. What will emerge is a conception of psychological treatment as an endlessly deferred ‘homecoming’, which allows for a certain degree of mental stability on account of what Harold Bloom has defined as a ratio of ‘apophrades’-the ghosts of the past being given the freedom to share their creative powers with the inhabitants of the present.
Dr Jay Watts
Dangerous Talk in Dangerous Times
Those of us who consider therapy an adventure – a bold, risky, unknowable, undertaking – find ourselves increasingly unpopular in a world where certitude rules. This fantasy of certitude revolves, certainly within the NHS, around the idea of knowable outcomes and ‘cure’ crystallised in the discourse of evidence-based medicine. To create space to allow therapy to be the more radical, relational experience so many of us consider it to be involves politicking outside the consulting room to ensure the discussions that we will have at this conference circulate around something for the many not for the few.
The Personal is Still Political: Therapy as Liberation
What is therapeutic about therapy? What are we hoping to offer to our clients when we engage in a therapeutic relationship with them? From a Relational or attachment perspective, therapist and client inevitably engage and re-enact old relational patterns and Internal Working Models, which often involve misuses and abuses of power in adult/child relations. These become a lasting source of pain, alienation and unmourned loss that prevent more vital possibilities in living and loving. But in engaging these patterns, we may also engage deeply embedded and culturally sanctioned structures of power involving internalisations of self-hatred and powerlessness in relation to gender, sexuality, race and class that may be mediated and transmitted via our early attachments. What is the therapist’s role here? I will suggest that the therapeutic process can be viewed as a kind of liberation struggle from internalised oppressions, and is thus potentially a political as well as a personal journey.
Dr Anne Alvarez
Levels of Analytic Work and Levels of Pathology: Three Types of Meaning-Making
This talk will emphasize the meaning-making element in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Anne shall suggest that attention to development – particularly the development of feelingful thinking – helps us to see that the dichotomy between cure and relationship is a false one; that it is possible to identify damage or deficit without denying the healing power of relationship. In elaborating this she will identify three points on a continuum of analytic work and levels of meaning which arises out of many years of work with autistic or borderline children.
Q&A with final speakers
End and Cocktail Reception