A career-changing point: Summer School 2015

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. 

Milton Sattler
Brief Psychodynamic Therapy, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, CBT & Gender Sexuality and Relationship Diversities (GSRD) Therapy [MBACP Reg.] – Pronouns ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘his’ at Milton Sattler Therapy 
M +44 (0)7936898707  
E Info.sattherapy@gmail.com

Pink Therapy is (almost) Global

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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.

Class of 2012

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.

Graduates of the first European Sexual Diversity Training
Warsaw, November 2018

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.

Memorandum of Understanding
Version 2

On the second morning in Warsaw, I received an email from Anita Furlong (graduate of the class of 2012). Anita brought a variety of Pink Therapy faculty over to Dublin to deliver some training locally and has subsequently gone on to provide a fair amount of training herself. Anita is currently holding the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) to account and ‘encouraging’ them to adopt the recently updated Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy. This document has been signed by virtually all the leading British Psy/Therapy bodies

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

Anita Furlong Class of 2012

Anita Furlong

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.

Summer School 2012 Flyer

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!!

Our first training in Dublin 2013

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.

In my private practice, I specialise in working with GSD clients and deliver some in-house training.  I was honoured to be invited by Dominic to become a Clinical Associate of Pink Therapy when he expanded to include international therapists in this category and to be awarded Advanced Accredited status as a GSRD therapist.

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.

Anita Furlong  December 2018

https://www.oakleafcounselling.com/

BACP seen as flawed at home and abroad

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There continues to be a lot of support for my stance and criticism not only of BACP but the training organisations that are accredited by them:

 

I’m in my second year of a Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling with an Integrative approach in London. Your post about leaving the BACP over their LGBTQ diversity issues worries me as a trainee. As I’m told at every stage I need to be BACP registered and Accredited. I’m so glad I received today the link from you and a hard copy of Therapy Today on this issue. It is so true that there is a lack of training regarding this. In our institution we have had a days session and if it wasn’t delivered from my colleague who is Trans and myself and aware of your work and other material on Gay Affirmation therapy and how Counsellors / Therapists should work with clients presenting these issues. I would hate to think what would have been delivered. We only presented to one class of three! It really seems a token gesture and not taken seriously for those in current training to challenge their own views and prejudices! 

Not sure why the lecturers didn’t deliver it? Perhaps they aren’t trained or up to date with this??? Needs to be rolled out to all institutions!

Another counsellor responded:

This is so familiar, so many people here delivered the only LGBT component of their course, as students, often having to balance outing themselves with tackling prejudice and outdated notions

Another said:

I qualified as an Integrative Counsellor in 2008. We had no training whatsoever concerning LGBTQI clients. I researched myself and went on a couple of courses with Pink Therapy. Sad to hear it seems much the same in 2016!

Some international support

I read of your resignation from the BACP today. I think you are doing the right thing, and someone of your stature doing this may possibly effect some shift, certainly makes people take notice. I am a fellow psychologist; I resigned from APA years ago due to the terrible issues around torture, failure to take treatment efficacy seriously, and also the foolhardy drive to attain prescription privileges. Better to stand apart, in my opinion, than to be associated with an unethical herd. The issues around conversion therapy are quite serious and real, and no responsible psychologist should ignore it.

and this one:

This morning I read about your resignation from the BACP, and I just want to say thank you so much.

I am lucky to be a young queer woman in Boston, where the atmosphere of most places is somewhere between tolerant and accepting. But in my experiences of mental healthcare, I’ve seen a completely different world. So many psychologists and counsellors are uneducated and untrained about LGBT+ matters, and I’ve seen so much damage done to my queer community because of it. 

I am graduating from high school in a few months, and as I head into college to major in mental health counseling and social work, I feel like it’s important to have faith in the mental healthcare world that I want to work in. It’s really hard to have that faith when I’ve already seen so many problems with the system, especially in the treatment of LGBT+ people. But actions like yours give me hope– I read your statement and remembered that systems can be changed, and the people who choose to work in the counseling world do that work because they genuinely want to help others. 

Thank you so, so much for reaffirming that for me, and thank you for the work you’re doing. I imagine it’s not easy to speak out against a group like the BACP. The LGBT+ world is lucky to have you.

On the monopoly BACP seem to have with employers:

FFS. That leaves me in a very bad situation. It’s not like I have much choice of professional organisations to belong to.

And another:

I’m not sure where else I can go in terms of membership organisations. Makes me feel angry at the conservatism of the BACP.

And another:

I’m a referral counsellor for a therapy centre based on my BACP accreditation, it would mean losing my livelihood unless I could persuade the therapy centre to accept the National Counselling Society.

What could BACP be doing?

Some people have asked me what specifically could BACP be doing to support the LGBT communities better. Here are a few suggestions to be going on with:

  1. Develop some core competencies on Equality and Diversity related issues that take account of the complexity of intersectionality.
  2. Ensure therapists receive some basic sexuality awareness training so that they can discuss sexual issues with their clients.
  3. Ensure Gender and Sexual Diversity issues are woven throughout the therapy training and not just a tokenistic add on.
  4. Closely audit the courses BACP accredit to ensure they are meeting these requirements.
  5. The training should be delivered either by faculty if they feel competent, or by external trainers. Students enrolled in the programme should not be delivering this training.
  6. As the major UK therapy organisation and therefore the wealthiest, BACP could be funding a researcher to produce an FAQ on Conversion Therapy  and develop some training materials on this subject as a resource for all of the signatory organisations and their members.
  7. Actively support people from disadvantaged and underserved communities to train as therapists.  In particular, increase the availability of  therapy from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and Trans and Gender Diverse counsellors.  Both groups are significantly economically disadvantaged in society and yet also have poorer mental health and so we need to ensure training isn’t only affordable by wealthy people. This is why we’re offering a couple of training bursaries for our own two-year PG Diploma in Gender and Sexual Diversity Therapy to Trans and BAME therapists.  It’s estimated that basic therapy training costs between £20-£80k and for those people who then want to go on and specialise in working with Gender, Sexual and Relationship Diverse Clients it’s going to add another £5k.

In one of my earlier blogs I mentioned how both BAATN and ourselves have set up volunteer led mentoring schemes to support those members of our communities who are training to be therapists in what can be quite alienating and hostile environments.

Dominic Davies
22 Feb 2016