I learnt interesting and sometimes challenging points from both Bob Harris and Dr. Judith Anderson’s talks and thoroughly enjoyed just how much they connected with each other and us even though none of us had never met before. The Actors, Cameron, Danielle and Olivia’s performance added a special, touching and thought-provoking moment to the day and their young energy was captivating. We knew it was a risk for us to include a ‘play’ within the Conference, but felt it worked and, therefore, wish to say a big ‘Thank You’ to Doris Prügel-Bennett who organised our drama interlude wonderfully. She also chaired the informative Q & A plenary with our speakers and actors well. For future events, we have realised that such Q & A plenaries need to be longer and actually the essence of them needs to be more woven into the day along with a longer lunch break to enhance the opportunities for networking and enjoying the company of others. And, in saying that, it was such a pleasure to have spent time with Kate Dawson-Taylor over lunch. To have her there, still as completely passionate about HACP and its work as she has always been symbolised for me the never-ending cycle of birth and rebirth of worthwhile organisations.
Jacqueline Holloway, HACP Co-ordinator
David Brown: “I enjoyed the contribution of the actors. Their youth and movement around the room were very welcome, and I thought their playlet was poignant. I also enjoyed both main speakers and particularly liked how Judith in the afternoon was able to pick up on what Bob had said in the morning. I liked Bob’s exploratory and honest way of working with the group, and his quiz questions – a delightfully “common touch.” It was challenging in the afternoon to hear about the environment and I wondered how that was generally received. It was personally relevant to me as I begin to travel more by train and bus, and become more and more concerned about the sea of plastic etc. I liked the use of language by both Bob and Judith too – careful and weighed. Not too many power-point slides either! I also appreciated the ending of the conference with the questions and answers., which seemed respectful to the speakers, actors and to the audience, but it could have been longer.”
Bob Harris: “I especially enjoyed the opportunity to announce the arrival of a new grandmother, the excellent involvement of the young dramatists evoking all sorts of feelings, and the revelation towards the end of the day that we had one of the Founders of HACP with us in the room. As you say, generations were unfolding in front to of our very eyes… HACP itself seems to be managing the often-awkward transition and transformation from ‘Founders’ to a new organisation located firmly in the present context. The attention and help of your team was really first class, and I hope that you can pass a sense of my appreciation to everyone involved”.
Doris Prügel-Bennett: “The conference’s theme “Life’s stages and what these may mean for clients and therapists” was a huge topic for a one-day conference. However, that allowed the speakers, Bob Harris and Dr Judith Anderson, to present their perspective, and the young performers to show how they see their reality. That meant that instead of listening to traditional clinical presentations exclusively focussing on the other/patient/client, we listened to the speakers’ concerns regarding the position of ourselves and our profession in challenging times. This required an openness to a wider perspective, including the philosophical, social anthropological, and social dimension. In order to not be complicit in today’s ideology our profession is at the perfect place for identifying where the individual feels inextricably entangled in impossibilities, a rose tinged outlook and false hopes and stay in the facts of life. Both, Bob and Judith presented us with their understanding and identification of society’s Shadow (Jung) and our profession’s potential to unearth denial, to generate responsibility for our actions and therefore expand the counselling/psychotherapeutic horizon from the micro to the macro level.
Bob’s theme of transformation and transitioning placed our society in a world where unhealthy narcissism is fostered with its lure to fill the inner void with material object projections, and “buying a better life”. Bob says: “Cultural, globalized, technological, age-set systems are dissolved.” Transitioning from one stage to another with its inherent transformation of individuals in the traditional sense do not exist any longer. Instead, insatiable consumptions of transitional objects have replaced resilience to life’s adversity and the necessary engagement with self and others. Transforming processes into something new and wiser individuals remain perpetually in the liminal space. Responsibility and considerations of consequences of actions seem to be of no importance any longer in a hedonistic world. In the counselling world, Bob refers to the counselling/psychotherapeutic dogma of “don’t blame yourself”, in order to alleviate possible infantile state of clients and in equal measure of society.
Judith took us deeper into reflections of life and as professionals. She reflects on existential quests within the flux of life with its arrivals and departures of external and internal aspects. She stated: “eldership does not develop automatically and because of aging”. On the contrary, young people can be acting as elders. Rather, a reflective propensity, an ability to face the facts and suffering and the ability to stay resilient is required for eldership. That is because, being stuck in denial, might cause complicity in irresponsible practices and outlooks. Judith also invited us to identify what “glows under the ashes” for us. With that task she invited us to shed light into our world of desire and hope. Judith contrasted that with a journey through evidence based consequences of climate change and the reaction to it by society as a whole. She contemplated ongoing practices that contribute to climate change, its denial and inaction. She identified that victims of catastrophic weather situations experience severe trauma and that our profession meet victims of those devastating experiences, also in the UK. She also classified the limiting situation of fear and phantasies about the consequences of climate change and the accompanying fatal belief that nothing can be done to rectify this threat as the state of pre-traumatic stress disorder. Judith says: “eldership is required in order to stay with the realities of our time.”
The content and details of both speakers is staple in our profession, the perspective and dimension are not. Both speakers work from a reflective stance of understanding of what part counselling/psychotherapy plays within the value system of postmodernity and neo-liberalism and what their trajectories are. Resilience, love, a realistically positive outlook and radical hope is required if counsellors/psychotherapists are not to collude with dissociation, denial and inaction. Bob points out that human creativity causes destruction and has its limits when it cannot repair serious damage it causes. Moreover, Bob and Judith agreed that healing, forgiveness and repair might not be able to happen if too much trauma and damage has occurred. Interestingly, the self-devised piece Starved” performed between the two presentations picked up the theme of young love between a young woman and man, the difficulty for men to fully be comfortable in a deeply involving emotional relationship. The character appears once alive – then clearly not-alive, suggesting that the character took his own life. The young woman is “widowed” and is trying to comprehend the situation. “Staved” is a piece depicting brutal finality without hope of repair. With the empathic albeit slightly disorganised character of the counsellor the piece bestowed the counselling situation as a safe and reliable space for contemplation, lament and deep listening and, not least, a relational space.
Unfortunately, the question and answer time was too short for further development of the dense content of the day. Furthermore, it would have been desirable to engage the audience more. My sense is that a debate would have stimulated an urgent discourse about counsellors’/psychotherapists’ tasks in the present and the future. Nevertheless, I regard this conference as a brave and cutting-edge offering by the HACP. Well done!”