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.
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