So, we are in the café opposite the UKCP offices talking about Mandatory reporting, and Psychotherapy’s spikey relationship with IAPT; when Professor Del Loewenthal, looks up from his coffee. He smiles and he says, “The problem is ,that all this threatens the Project”.
‘The Project’ Del is talking about, is the one that you and I, dear reader, are engaged in. We are all part of the long history of ‘Psychotherapy’, and the Project is the way in which we have continually battled against those who wish to close down the conversation and/or to reduce the complexities of Psychotherapy to something simple, practical, and easily understandable.
‘The Project’ is the availability of a safe space in which anything, and I mean anything, can be discussed and that is always under threat. What’s more, the Project lives on the outskirts of society, it seldom flourishes at the center. As a force for social justice it’s concern has always been with those who somehow don’t really belong – as Roy Orbison sang – ‘The lost and the lonely’ – and so there is something unacceptable about the Project – it’s neither polite nor gentile. We are far from being clubbable.
It would be nice, would it not, if Psychotherapy really was an empirical science. Perhaps then we would have the status that we crave. Freud always hoped that it would be considered a science, but in seeking such recognition he seems to ignore the fact that he had based his own work in narrative and mythology – and although he won the Goethe prize and was made a foreign member of the Royal Society, – no proper scientific accolades came his way.
Jung was also keen on science but then he chose Alchemy as the basis for his work, for he wanted a science in which the state of the soul of the enquirer actually affected the outcome of the experiment. Later he came to see Alchemy, not as a science at all, but rather as a spiritual art, having as its aim the psychological transformation of the alchemist himself – a perfect model for Psychotherapy -or perhaps not, for the problem with the Psyche is that as soon as you think you have it – as soon as you have finally nailed down what Psychotherapy is all about, you find yourself back at square one again, feeling stupid, and wondering what happened.
Psyche’s symbol is a butterfly and here is ‘the butterfly dilemma’. If you wish to study a butterfly, first you have to capture it and kill it. The very thing you cherish dies and is no longer the thing you cherished. No wonder Freud called it ‘the impossible profession’.
The UKCP is at the heart of the Project or at least we try to be. And that is far from easy because we are also a Charity, and a company that has to cover its costs, obey the laws of employment, company law, charity law, health and safety, database law the vagaries of the Professional Standard Association ,ethical standards and the edicts of our landlords. (There is more but you get the picture). And that, even before we engage with the needs of the members, (organisational and individual), the Colleges, and Special Interest Groups and the Staff, oh, and did I mention the Public – we are Regulators – and we are there to protect the Public from potential abuse. I guess what I am trying to say is that – this is very, very, complex.
But back in the cafe, Professor Loewenthal is excited, he is telling me that he has enrolled in another Masters Degree – this time in photography. For one of his interests is in its therapeutic use. Now, I love photography, I always have done and there’s the two of us chatting happily about ‘back-in-the-day’ film with its wonderfully precise chemical processes but whatever scientific pretensions we may profess, we love both Photography and Psychotherapy as art forms, and we talk about how our best practitioners are Artists and how sometimes even us second leaguers sometimes hit the sublime. There are days when we knock the ball straight out of the park.
Wim Wenders – the film maker and photographer – has a great definition for Art. He said that, Art is something that you look at, and when you look away – the world is changed. And that for me sums up Psychotherapy. However good your technique – it does not always work – but when it does, my God it’s powerful – you take a look and then when you look away – your world has changed.
Every Psychotherapist who is reading this has had those experiences and has delivered those experiences to others. That’s the project we share. It’s the reason why we become psychotherapists. It’s the reason for the UKCP and it’s the reason why we put up with all the other nonsense