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between”, the emphasis being on students engaging in the here and now with each other and with staff ; it reminded me of my own counselling training and some of what I missed on my family therapy training. Some of the questions Billy and Kieran

were grappling with and which formed part of the discussion, were about how systemic-counselling graduates fi t into the structure of AFT – could they be recognised, for example, as ‘systemic practitioners’? Would they be able to do the job of systemic psychotherapists (we were told that many of the students are already graduates and post-graduates, although I’m not sure in what areas of study) and, more fundamentally, what is the diff erence between counselling and psychotherapy? Do we form a community of practice or are we staring at each other across a great divide; BACP on one side; UKCP on the other? The experience of The Family Institute of BACP has been positive. Kieran and Billy described it as having “good structures” and they questioned whether AFT has, in fact, “hoisted its fl ag” under the wrong organisation. The discussion which ensued was lively

– people responded positively to the idea of spreading systemic ideas beyond the realm of family therapy; Billy and Kieran spoke pas- sionately about creating “contexts for learning about ideas”, reminding us that, in their time, Rogers and Bateson had had conversations! The presenters talked of how, by focusing on the creation of family therapists, AFT was in danger of potentially losing creative ground in terms of how systemic ideas could be spread further afi eld, in areas such as nursing and so- cial work for example. In response to this, there was a passionate plea from a participant not to “water down” the family therapy experience. About diff erentiating between counselling and psychotherapy, someone suggested per- haps an empirical research study could be the answer – if excerpts from sessions of both were examined, would the diff erences be apparent? Not surprisingly, more questions than

answers emerged from the discussion – I have to admit a lot of the more ‘political’ content went over my head but I was left with a sense of relief that discussions such as these take place and it is the similarities rather than diff erences between counselling and psychotherapy that are being explored.

Reference Rober, P. (1999) The therapist’s inner conversation in family therapy practice. Family Process, 38: 209-228.

Karen Allan, family therapist, CAMHS Tier 4, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust


Picnic among the Aspens I was totally taken aback when I arrived in

the Peveril room to discover a real life picnic laid out on a beautiful checked table cloth and people sit ing eating strawberries and chat ing amiably on chairs around the room! I had read ‘Picnic among the Aspens’ in the

AFT conference guide as something of a met- aphor/implication that we would be expecting an informal framework not actual, real food! A wonderful beginning to the workshop was set, creating an atmosphere of shared nurturing and camaraderie, both in the picnic arena as well as the shared work experiences which followed through our discussions. Food aside, the process of the workshop

was as I had anticipated, a layering of ideas and experiences developed through conversations in a highly systemic manner. T is was added to further by my fi rst experience of talking to a laptop screen and hearing voices of fellow systemic practitioners who were unable to at end the conference, coming through Skype! T is boosted our extraordinary number of people in at endance to approaching 50 in some form or another. Brief introductions were made and indicated that approximately two thirds of those at ending were in private practice, or looking towards this, with about one third in the charity and voluntary sector. T is was combined with work in the statutory sector for some of us. We had all travelled from a range of destinations and I was excited to discover I was sit ing next to a therapist who had recently moved to Cairo. T is enabled us all to take part in varied and interesting discussions about practicalities of working in private practice. Nick Child, Dana Mills Powell and Tessa

Jones lead the workshop by having an initial discussion about how AFSPinNSS (AFT Family and Systemic Psychotherapies in Non- Statutory Sectors, now known as ‘Aspens’) began less than a year ago and has involved their exploration of many ideas about private and voluntary practice. We then divided into small groups of about

fi ve to connect our experiences of working privately with each other and what we had just witnessed. When the whole group joined together, there was an interesting consistency in some of the themes that emerged. Examples include; • Advice/ideas about business models. Danger of uniformity; value in diff erence.

• How to organise professional role; build your own mix.

• How to protect against burnout/isolation • Money available for entrepreneurs – how to access this.

• Templates for websites, leafl ets and other marketing material that we can adapt for our own purposes.

• UKCP needs to be more widely known by GPs who refer to BACP-accredited services and therapists/counsellors.

• Supervision to be not just for clinical work but for guidance re business. Other knowledge needed. OK to change supervisors when context of work changes. Pat ern of supervision may change.

• More choice to follow passions without pressures of large organisations like the NHS.

• Freedom and fl exibility. • Not enough jobs in NHS. I was interested in how focused we became

on the practicalities and concerns which emerged and how helpful so many were in in- troducing ideas as to how to solve or approach dilemmas. T e positives were less named, which is interesting; was there an unsaid that we all ‘know’ we feel positive? I certainly love my private work; the freedom, fl exibility with days and hours and when I can choose to take holidays. T e lack of needing to at end the “boring” parts of organisations (my narrative, I hasten to add) and of course the continued excitement of being part of so much variety. T e session ended with discussion about how

to take our ideas forward. Examples included developing Skype groups; forming buddy relationships geographically or through similar interests and of set ing up a communication group. T is has already proved highly success- ful as an Aspens Google group was created almost immediately by a highly effi cient Nick Child! Many people have been communicating through that as a means of seeking advice and sharing ideas. T is includes not just those of us who at ended this workshop but other inter- ested therapists working in similar contexts. Aspens has begun an extraordinary journey

and, as an enthusiastic traveller, I am anticipat- ing the route ahead with great enthusiasm.

Michelle Newman Brown, systemic psychotherapist (mostly in the private sectors in Kent)

Context February 2012

AFT National Conference workshop reports

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