We’ve accumulated over the past couple of weeks a whole bunch of links of free things to do during Covid-19. Some might not be available in your area and some links might have expired. But hopefully there will be something of interest here to help you stay safely indoors.
Training to be a therapist takes between three-seven years depending on the programme you choose. It’s likely to cost you around £20-30k, in course fees, supervision, personal therapy not including textbooks, and any loss of earnings from taking time off from your day job.
There also isn’t a great deal of well paid work for most therapists and so recouping your financial investment will take a long while.
Most training courses are very heteronormative and cis-normative and so if you feel particularly called to work with LGBTQ+ people, you will probably need to add some additional training to supplement or address the gaps.
So before you leap, it’s worth doing some research. You might find these questions helpful to ask your potential training programme as you might prefer to invest your money in a course which represents the needs of the people you seek to serve by asking the course staff a few questions:
Do they have any ‘out’ LGBTQ+ Faculty?
How much will they be directly involved in teaching you?
How much specific input on gender, sex and relationship diversities (GSRD*) will the course be including (hours/days etc)? Will this be integrated throughout the curriculum as well as specific specialist input about GSRD identities, psychology, sexuality and lifestyles?
Who delivers this material? Course staff, external trainers or are YOU the students expected to deliver it?
Do they know how many GSRD folk are like to be in the next cohort?
Can they say how many GSRD folk have been in the last two cohorts (i.e. does the course attract GSRD people), is it possible to speak with them about their experience of the course?
How does the course challenge homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism when expressed or implied in the course?
What about when this might come for example from students as part of their deeply held religious or cultural beliefs?
These questions are motivated out of a primary concern for psychological safety – is this training place going to be an emotionally and psychologically safe place for you and will the course prepare you adequately for working with GSRD clients.
People identifying from gender, sex and relationship diverse communities are more likely to experience mental health challenges and have poorer mental health than those from outside those communities. This is due to something known as minority stress. It results in higher levels of depression, anxiety and self-harm and substance misuse. Also same-sex relationships often operate along different dynamics to different gender relationships. We might also experience different kinds of sexual difficulties and challenges regarding parenting, family relationships, ageing etc. Basically life is different for folk from GSRD communities/identities. Yet very few therapists trained on mainstream courses are taught anything much about all of this.
We think this is unacceptable and you deserve to be trained by knowledgeable people who can prepare you for working with the tremendous diversity present in today’s society.
Pink Therapy now offers a course endorsement scheme to help identify courses who have recognised the need to be inclusive and honour the promises made by the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy v2 which has been signed by all the major professional bodies including BPS, UKCP, BACP, NCS, COSRT and BABCP. Only one training currently has that endorsement.
* Gender, Sex and Relationship Diversities is our preferred more inclusive term for a wide range of gender identities and sexual orientations/practices which extend beyond LGBTIQ and include Asexualties, BDSM/Kink, various forms of consensual non-monogamies (polyamory, swingers, open relationships etc).
I’m just back from what was an absolute Peak Experience in taking a team of people to the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) 24th Congress in Mexico City. WAS happens every two years and moves around the world. This year 1500 people were attending from some 70 countries.
Pink Therapy is a member of WAS, and we were invited to submit a proposal for a symposium. I proposed, and was accepted for a six presentation (90 minutes) symposium entitled Reflections from the Rainbow. I chose a range of presenters from our faculty, alumni and students, and we had an incredible team.
The last time it happened you may recall, I was given just a four-minute Brief Communication in Prague. So it was with great delight that I got to programme a full 90 mins and expand my presentation time to 15 minutes.
I am incredibly grateful to so many generous colleagues, and friends who donated £2000 to my GoFundMe fundraiser to help me be able to afford to participate in this momentous event. Having previously self-funded all other conferences (national and international) it was an absolute joy to have such incredible support.
You can hear a practice recording of my own presentation here. We have put the rest of the presentation’s slides on the private Pink Therapy Group on Facebook. If you are a therapist and haven’t yet joined you’re missing out on some great information. You just need to answer some brief screening questions to join the other 1200 therapists around the world who got there before you!
In addition to the Symposium team, we were joined by two other colleagues connected to Pink Therapy, who presented posters at the conference: Claudio Martinez is currently on our Foundation programme and Tyler Thompson conducted some pioneering research into gay male therapists use of Grindr which I referred to in my own presentation.
Out of the eight of us, we had three full professors, two clinical psychologists, five sexologists, coming from six different countries (Chile, Colombia, Italy, Poland, UK and USA!) Having such a large team meant we weren’t all able to be together for social drinks and meals. Still, we did manage one’ family night’ where almost everyone came to either pre-dinner cocktails or dinner itself).
We presented during the Monday afternoon, and by then most of us had been hanging out for a few days. So there was an incredible camaraderie, and we were feeling pretty relaxed. The presentations all ran to time, and everyone presented some really excellent content. I was feeling incredibly proud of everyone’s hard work, and we were mobbed after the panel with people eager to make contact and ask questions.
While at WAS, Pink Therapy also launched a collaboration between The Harvey Institute and Pink Therapy, which Doug Braun-Harvey has written exclusively for Pink Therapy. This is an online study module on Treating Out of Control Sexual Behaviour based on a sexual health model which he and Michael Vigorito have written about in their best-selling book. The course features over 30 video lectures by Doug, presenting the theory, screening, assessment, and illustrating the whole protocol with a case example plus some guided reading. It also has AASECT CEU’s attached and will be available for purchase and download from 1st at November at https://pinktherapy.org/ocsb/
Collaboration is at the heart of so much that we do at Pink Therapy, and WAS demonstrated the amazing things we can achieve when we work together.
I’ve heard some strange and troubling things in my career from clients, and friends about their previous therapists, and a recent example from one middle-aged man that his former therapist didn’t think he was gay because he initiates sex with his wife! It prompted me to ask some of my colleagues about their experiences, and many of their examples alarmed me and redoubled my passion for training therapists to work more effectively with their Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diverse (GSRD) clients.
As readers of this blog will know, Pink Therapy has been an active member of a coalition working group of all the leading psy/therapy organisations discussing steps to bring about the end of Conversion Therapy for gender and sexual diversity. The Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy states:
To this end, we are running running three workshops around the country for therapy trainers to come and share what they’ve already been doing that works well and learn more about a four-stage training model I have developed over my almost 40-year career in delivering training to therapists in this area. We’re holding in London, Manchester and Glasgow because we think face-to-face contact will be more effective at creating the depth of discussion necessary and allowing networks to be built between cisgender heterosexual and LGBT trainers. three, two-day training workshops
But bookings so far have been light. We’ve plastered information all over the Facebook counselling groups, and LinkedIn, we’ve shared the information with the Coalition signatories. The National Counselling Society have told their members and accredited training courses about the workshop. We’ve directly emailed the BACP Accredited courses. I had hoped that by now, the London course would be full, as it is happening in the middle of next month. While we’re oversubscribed on requests from LGBT therapists to attend on training bursaries, so far, very few training courses have decided to send any of their staff (a notable exception being the Contemporary Institute for Clinical Sexology whose Director and GSRD Trainer have been active members on the Coalition working group representing COSRT).
I am still hopeful that we will get some more Counsellor Trainers eager to get a handle on how to embrace the training needs of their students in preparing them to work with GSRD clients, and to share their dilemmas and experience, but if I’m honest, I am not too optimistic.
What do you think is going on? Is it arrogance? Is it cisgender heteronormative prejudice? Is it ignorance? Is it naivety that people don’t know what they don’t know? Or that they don’t think their students need to know very much at all about working with GSRD people as we’re “all the same”? Even as I write this, I am aware it may come across as angry or off-putting. The dilemma of passionately knowing students are being let down, and clients are being harmed whilst trying to encourage those invested in the current system is one which I find myself having to navigate whenever I challenge the status quo.
It’s troubling, and I’m left wondering if we need an independent training route for people who want to specialise in working with GSRD clients because mainstream organisations are failing in their duty of care and responsibilities to prepare therapists adequately. This is something I’ve written about twice before (for Therapy Today and The Psychotherapist). Perhaps we need route that circumvents mainstream Diplomas in Counselling and Psychotherapy. However, given that the core of being person-centred is hope, a belief that positive change can occur, I cannot totally give up on my peers and contemporaries who in colleges, universities and training institutions across the land are educating the next generation of counsellors and psychotherapists. Indeed, I do not want to give up on them, these workshops are designed to support them in their work! Working as I have over the years with so many allies who have devoted their time and energy to improving the LGBT experience, I know that things can improve and have to believe that the GSRD aware trainers course can be part of that positive change and growth.
It’s been two decades since I returned from a nine-month sabbatical in Australia and settled in London and founded Pink Therapy. While away, Charles Neal and I worked on co-editing the last two volumes in the Pink Therapy Trilogy and I unexpectedly did some consultancy around sex and disability. Few people know this, but in the same year as the first Pink Therapy book was published, I had another arrive on the bookshelves. The Sexual Politics of Disability: untold desires was written mainly by my dear friend Tom Shakespeare with some assistance (and a fair amount of interviewing undertaken by Kath Gillespie-Sells and myself). Sydney was a much more progressive city in terms of support for disabled people to access sexual services than the UK and my ideas for Sex and Relationship Facilitation found some willing ears in particular amongst two passionate sex workers, Rachel Wotton and Saul Isbister and helped give birth to an incredible project called Touching Base. I also inspired Belinda Mason a talented photographer to create a beautiful art project Intimate Encounters.
So it was a challenge to return to a cold grey April in London in 1999 with no job and no home and just the support of my partner at the time and some wonderful friends and colleagues. Gail Simon – co-founder of The Pink Practice allowed me to rent their therapy space for a day a week and I slowly rebuilt a private practice, and when the two new books were published, I invited each of the chapter authors to present their ideas in a seminar and so was born Pink Therapy Seminars. We offered 20 separate sessions on a Friday lunchtime and slowly things grew from there.
Before long, I’d expanded my practice of renting from Gail, to a lease of my own in the same building and when that building was sold, I decided to put Pink Therapy on the street famous for private health care and moved us to Harley Street! It had been the site of Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists having tried to cure us for decades, and so it seemed appropriate to show up and reclaim the space! I also invited some colleagues (mostly London based contributors to the books) to formally become Clinical Associates (link shows the current team) a network of highly experienced practitioners who could take referrals and collaborate on projects and with whom we could share in peer supervision and training. We’d been running workshops at the Resource for London centre in Holloway Road for several years, and these slowly grew a wider network of LGBT friendly therapists who were eager for some specialist training and to break some of the isolation of working with our communities.
After three years in Harley Street and largely due to constantly rising rents and the desire to have our own training room, I moved us into a large flat in Soho (above a popular gay bar) where we stayed for four years. It was a wonderful period when people attending our training sessions could then go out and dine in gay restaurants and drink in gay pubs after class. We developed an extensive programme of over 50 training workshops and events, and we began the first one-year Certificate in Sexual Minority Therapy, later it developed into a Diploma in Gender and Sexual Minority Therapy. It was during this period that Olivier Cormier-Otaño who had graduated from our first Certificate course, came to work with me helping me with admin support. It was his idea to hold an annual International Summer School and to have some of our papers translated into other languages by volunteers to help spread our ideas further. You can read some first person accounts of how life-changing these Summer Schools were for the therapists who attended them.
Four years later, we moved to rent rooms at North London Group Therapy in Manor Gardens and continued to deliver a large programme of face-to-face training workshops and courses. In 2015 I decided to move the training courses online as a way of being able to reach a much wider audience. Lots of people had given feedback that they wanted to do some training with us, but getting to London was expensive and virtually impossible for those who worked abroad. So I developed the first online Diploma run over two years with sixteen modules and case discussion groups and an incredible residential intensive. In our first cohort, we had two psychologists from Australia, a psychologist from Germany, a social worker from Malta, a counsellor from the West Coast of Ireland and several therapists from across the UK. I also was able to recruit an incredible international faculty of highly experienced therapists.
Last year, I made a decision to split the two-year Diploma into a more manageable one-year Foundation Certificate with the option of a second year for those who want to specialise in working with Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diverse people and we finally managed to get our individual self-study modules online on a brand new training website. These units are ideal for people unable to commit to an ongoing in-depth training or who just want to learn something about a specific subject area from our carefully curated knowledge base.
You can see the reach of Pink Therapy on this map – and I’m incredibly proud to have built such an international network.
It’s been a busy two decades, an absolute labour of love and I’m not entirely sure at times where I found the energy to keep going. I’m largely working alone. My current PA and course administrator Anya Stang is now based in Berlin and works part-time three-days a week and her unerring professionalism and tidy mind keeps me on track.
It’s been a wonderful to be recognised for my work over the years by different organisations. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy made me a Fellow (I later renounced this and ended my membership due to utter frustration with them). The National Counselling Society also made me a Fellow, as well as their Ambassador for GSRD issues (and last December gave me the Elizabeth McElligot Award). Just recently, the National Council of Psychotherapists also decided to honour me by making me a Fellow!
Pink Therapy was shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards and the following year for the European Diversity Awards which as a fab chance to put on our best frocks!
I had a dream since university when I began my professional studies in psychology. That dream was about becoming a therapist and undertaking postgraduate studies in London. I did it! In 1998 I had the opportunity to go to London and start what was at that time, my first postgraduate course, not realising that it was a foundation course in the fundamentals of psychotherapy and counselling. Just two evenings a week, and the rest was, at least for me, a self-study process. I think I read every single article, chapter and book they recommended us at the School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, at Regent’s College.
One afternoon, I went to Regent’s College library just for a look. I enjoyed looking for books and counting every penny and (if I was lucky) pound that I had in my pocket, to purchase an interesting book. Whilst I saw searching, I saw the rainbow flag on the cover of a book. I won’t lie to you, my heart rate accelerated. I was very nervous, with the guy at the cash desk. I thought, “Oh God, is he looking at me? How can I take this book up there and pay for it?” I took a deep breath, took the book and shaking, walked directly to the guy. I hadn’t even read the title, the only thing that I saw was “Pink Therapy”. Afterwards, I saw the rest: “Working with gay, lesbian and bisexual clients”. When I gave this guy the book, I had to use my credit card – my father’s Colombian card, and I asked him. “Do you have credit card?” he looked at me and said with a smile, “Yes I do have a credit card.” He gently understood, that what I meant was if I could pay with my Credit Card. I bought it! And I devoured it. And sadly, I lost it on a double-decker bus. I bought it again.
Somewhere in the book was Dominic’s e-mail. I wasn’t that brave, how I could possibly think to write to “Dr Davies?” I was brave, and one year after I left England; back in Colombia I sent him an e-mail introducing myself and telling him about my job as a clinician in Bogotá.
Years past, and in 2009 he invited me to participate in a Pink Therapy conference in London. I was in my first year of my PhD in Colombia and my research was about the meaning of the sexual prejudice in gay, lesbians and bisexuals. Two years after that in 2011, I took the summer school course at the Pink Therapy.
Since then in 2012, I founded Pink Consultores in Bogotá – Colombia. Applying all I have learned throughout the years, hand by hand with Dominic Davies. Pink Consultores was an inspired by the Pink Therapy, it is on one hand a recognition of what I have developed as a therapist since I bought that first book, (I have the other two books as well, by the way) and, on the other hand, it is my way to contribute to Colombia. I don’t see myself as a saviour, I just realised, that I could develop a similar institution in Colombia, focused on gender, sexual and relationship diversity in South America.
It has been quite a challenge to understand the Colombian political conflict, the war, trauma, and the LGBT+ victims, and at the same time developing a way to be an openly gay therapist with an organisation looking for the health of people in terms of their gender, sexual and relationship diversity.
I’ve started, with two colleagues in Santiago (Chile) an international research network mainly, Latin-American, to study and research psychotherapy and GSRD. We hopefully are going to be together in London, this year in July for the start of the Foundation Certificate programme.
I still think that I have a lot more to learn from Pink Therapy is giving to us as therapists. I want to share experiences with therapists from all over the world; I want us to learn from each other.
The Summer School was a life-changing experience, it was what I needed to start that dream that I had in the 90’. Good for you and for Dominic, the clinical associates and us! You are definitely changing this world. At least, mine changed.
At the beginning of 2015, I had started to look for a course on Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diversities (GSRD) as this material was not covered in my three-years Foundation Degree in Psychodynamic Counselling and CBT (FD) with a degree level. I found oon the internet Pink Therapy and its courses. I identified myself with the program. I thought it was a bit expensive for my student pocket but I could afford it if I save for the next six months to pay for it. I spoke proudly to my peers about the Summer School as it would be my next career move.
By July 2015, I had finished the FD and I felt fresh and empowered to start a new endeavour. The next career move would be specialising in what was more important for me and I felt not only my personal needs for a tailored LGBTIQ+ psychotherapy but also to work with my clients.
I read with enthusiasm the pre-reading texts and I found in them part of myself which I was still figuring out. I was taken by surprise by the structure of the course. I was expecting a lecture/slide structure which I could hide behind. However, it had an experiential part that freaked me out me out. I felt out of my comfort zone and challenged when we had our experiential exercises. My defence mechanisms started to act out in such a way that I resisted in accepting the process. I wanted to rebel against it but I allowed myself to be challenged. I did not give up.
I met a bunch of lovely people at the Summer School and each one of us brought something unique to shape our cohort. We were six people from Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, England, Spain and Brazil. We were avid to learn more about ourselves and the others. We formed a nice bond. It was not only the learning but also the experience of friendship which we formed. We met our trainers with enthusiasm but I would like to highlight the kindness and dedication of Olivier Cormier-Otaño and Pamela Gawler-Wright who had just come back from her honeymoon. Since then, I have more contact with Dominic who has also inspired me.
I left the Summer School with one aim: find a placement where I could practise those theories and have a better understanding of my clients. I applied straight away for placements on GSRD org and I secured a placement in two LGBTI+ organisations. The East London Out Project (ELOP) which is a holistic lesbian and gay centre that offers a range of social, emotional and support services to LGBT communities, and our core services include counselling and young people’s services and the Albany Trust which is one of the few specialist counselling and psychotherapy services based within South London that provides high quality professional support around gender, sexuality and relationship issues.
I have recently finished an MSc in Psychodynamic Counselling and Psychotherapy which had a psychosocial focus and I have used and developed further my knowledge acquired at the Summer School. I have been developing my private practice.
Our Annual Spring Conference this year is looking at how identities are not singular, but instead multiple and overlapping. Intersectionality explores the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, gender, faith and disability/health as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of privilege and disadvantage. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 although the dynamics she described, of course, predate this. The majority of the conference will comprise a series of panels which will explore some of the implicit and explicit intersectional issues inside and outside of the therapy room. .
The conference will look at how both as therapists, and as individuals who ourselves have intersectional identities we navigate the world, and our client relationships. The vital importance of understanding the context within which clients and therapists present, not as a single issue but as complex, multifaceted human beings is woven throughout the day.
We are excited to have Olukemi Amala as our keynote speaker. Olukemi has been a psychotherapist in private practice for over 18 years. She says that “Being a black, queer, disabled wheelchair using feminist”, offers her a view from multiple othered social positions which informs her personal and professional practices. and as you can see from the programme below we will be looking in depth at intersections of race, faith, disability, and gender.
This year we have partnered with OnlineEvents who have agreed to undertake the event administration and who will video the event for their extensive CPD library. You can book your tickets here for what we hope will be a challenging and ground breaking day.. We are using our usual venue – Resources for London, which is very close to Holloway Road Tube and is fully accessible.
The conference is open to counsellors and psychotherapists, clinical sexologists and psychosexual therapists, counselling and clinical psychologists, and those trained in somatic sexological bodywork and sex coaches.
Programme 09.00 Registration 09.30 Welcome and Announcements – Dominic Davies CEO Pink Therapy 10.00 Keynote: Intersectionality: Olukemi Amala 10.30 Q&A/Discussion 10.45 Coffee 11:15 Panel: Intersections of Faith Kathy Spooner Chair Association of Christian Counsellors Khakan Qureshi Birmingham South Asians LGBT Joel Korn Judaism 12.15 Panel: Intersections of Disability and Health/Wellness Rich Knight Lou Futcher Liz Day 13.15 Lunch 14.15 Panel: Intersections of Race & Ethnicity Zayna Ratty Sabah Choudrey Joel Simpson 15.15 Break 15:45 Panel: Intersections of Gender MJ Barker Ellis Johnson Leah Davidson 16.45 Conference Closing – and feedback 17.00 End
When you see the reach of Pink Therapy, we are almost global. This map shows the location of people who have either attended our Summer School or engaged in a deeper year or two-year-long training programme.
I was in Warsaw last November. Over the three days, I was there, I had a significant epiphany about the profound impact the International Summer Schools we used to run has had on many people’s lives.
The International Summer School was a five-day not-for-profit intense training and an idea suggested by our Clinical Associate Olivier Cormier-Otaño when he was involved in Pink Therapy’s administration. Olivier was a co-facilitator on each of the events and indeed, along with fellow Clinical Associate, Pamela Gawler-Wright (graduate of the class of 2012), took on the major facilitation roles of the School from 2013-2016 when I decided to launch a more substantive online training which itself has a week-long residential component.
The night I arrived in Warsaw, I had dinner with Dr Daniel Bąk (Daniel attended the second of our Summer Schools in 2011) he is a Gestalt psychologist and involved internationally with other LGBTQ+ Gestalt psychologists and along with my other dinner companion Dr Bartosz Grabski they are co-editors of the first Polish textbook on LGBT psychology. Bartosz attended the Summer School in 2014. He is a consultant psychiatrist and recently became a fellow of the European Society for Sexual Medicine. Bartosz’s primary area of particular interest is in working with trans people in Krakow. He also wrote the Mental Health modules for our online teaching programme.
I was in Warsaw to deliver a pioneering new training – the European Sexual Diversity Training (ESDT) – a three-day intensive course to help psychologists and clinical sexologists understand more about the sexual difficulties of gender, sexuality and relationship diverse populations. It’s a course that Bartosz, I and Dr Agata Loewe co-conceived and wrote. Agata is a graduate of the Class of 2013 and works as a psychologist, clinical sexologist, and she co-founded the Sex Positive Institute in Warsaw. The ESDT was one of my proudest achievements of 2018. To bring together a medically trained sexologist alongside two clinical sexologists working at the cutting edge of alternative and diverse sexualities was an incredible achievement. I think the course is a profoundly life-changing programme with a significant experiential component and the end of course evaluations was incredibly heartening.
One of ESDT participants, Marco Pilia, had travelled from London where he has a private practice and works for a Mental Health charity. Marco is also graduate of the class of 2013 and has gone onto pioneer the development of GSRD therapy for counsellors and hypnotherapists in Rome and is currently putting together a Master’s programme, the first of it’s kind in the world.
Earlier in the Summer, I had the pleasure of travelling to Edinburgh at the invitation of Jo Russell (class of 2013) who has now just graduated from our Diploma programme and joined the Faculty as one of our Clinical Case Discussion tutors (alongside, Daniel, Agata and Olivier). Jo had invited me to deliver a workshop for the ‘Rainbow Therapists’ a group she has set up for people north of the border. They will be hosting their first National Conference in May 2019.
One of the other participants in Warsaw is the partner of Aleksi Jalava (Class of 2013), and you can read about how his career has developed here. Aleksi was the first of our graduates to respond to my invitation to share their lives since the Summer School with us and an enthusiastic supporter of Pink Therapy, having travelled from Finland for many of our training courses and conferences.
More blogs will be forthcoming from other Summer School Graduates.
When I think about what has been so profoundly inspiring about the International Summer Schools, I believe is the opportunity to share our life stories in a safe space where the whole person can be present, where the majority of the people attending identify as GSRD. Also the opportunity to meet and learn from people across the globe and who remain in touch with each other as part of an international support network is another important factor. Indeed, I’ve harnessed some of this incredible knowledge and energy by having some of the graduates join the faculty of our international online training courses.
Dominic Davies CEO – Pink Therapy January 1st 2019
In 2011 I was midway through my degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy and trying to come to terms with the fact that, despite the avowed inclusivity, the hours spent telling us how open we, as therapists, would need to be, how unbiased we should be, what actually existed were, at best giant blind spots and at worst implicit, (and on one occasion explicit) biases towards diversity is not just within the institution I studied but, from what I could see, the profession as a whole.
As the only ‘out’ student in my class, I spent an awful lot of time searching for something, anything at all I could relate to. I was searching for support for myself and also training and information about working with GSD clients, as I had decided that this was an area I wanted to specialise working in. I found little or nothing. I had support from friends in my class and as much understanding as they were capable of giving but I could see nothing either in my college or in the Counselling and Psychotherapeutic profession as a whole in Ireland, that I felt was supportive of me as a GSD identified therapist-in-training or pointing towards where I could get training and further education on working with GSD clients. I received many words of support in this search, many people who told me that yes there needed to be more (some! any!) training around working with GSD clients how important further education and specialist knowledge was, but there was nothing out there that I could find.
It wasn’t until I came across the Pink Therapy books, edited by Dominic Davies and Charles Neal that finally, I started to find the kind of information I was looking for. Through the Pink Therapy website, I discovered that they delivered training and one of the courses was a Summer School. Five days of intensive training in all the things I could not find here at home. As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to attend as this programme was just what I was looking for. The logistics of this were not going to be easy for me, a lone parent with a part-time job, already struggling to pay for my training but, I was lucky to qualify for a bursary, and in August 2012 I set off on what was to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life.
It is difficult to articulate just how deeply the Summer School affected me on both a personal and professional level. The generosity of both spirit and knowledge, of Dominic and his colleagues, most especially Olivier Cormier-Otaño and Pamela Gawler-Wright who both attended and assisted Dominic that year was wonderful to experience. Talking with the other attendees who came, quite literally from all over the world and hearing their experiences and exchanging knowledge was a wonderful experience. I acquired more reading material through that week and subsequently from Dominic than I think I could ever read. I later described the feeling there as ‘coming home’ it answered questions I did not even realise I was asking.
Their generosity also extended to evenings where volunteers took the time to show us some fascinating and relevant places in London, some of which was quite an eye opening experience!!
I am in no way overstating when I say this week and Dominic’s teaching set the course of my professional career. The following year I invited Dominic to deliver training here in Ireland which he very generously allowed me to co-train with him. He, Olivier and Amanda Middleton came over on other occasions to provide further training, and I also developed and delivered training over the next number of years here.
Towards the end of 2018, myself and some colleagues here in Ireland who have come together as a GSD Interest Group and who have also done some training with Pink Therapy, approached Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy who are the largest accrediting body here in Ireland, to formally prohibit the use of reparative or conversion therapy by any of its members. This was taken to their board of directors on 14th December, and we are waiting to hear the outcome of this. This would be another step forward in promoting best practice with GSD clients here in Ireland, and we hope from it more attention will be paid to training therapists in working with GSD clients.
When I look back at the journey I have taken in my career leading to this point, I can trace so much of it back to my experience of the Pink Therapy Summer School of 2012 and cannot thank Dominic and all the others involved in it enough.