Report: Finding Common Ground

A Report on the IAHIP Training workshop held at All Hallows Conference Centre on Saturday 8 November 1997.

By Alan A Mooney

In the past five or six years a great deal of work has been done by the membership of IAHIP to explore, develop and understand many different aspects of Humanistic 
& Integrative psychotherapy. Standards for accreditation for individuals have been developed that try to give us an idea about what a humanistic and integrative psychotherapist should look like. A code of ethics and practice has been developed to guide the work of members of the association. Over the years it has taken a great deal of openness to come understand these areas better. The work continues.

A fundamental area where work has been going on in the background but not explicitly among the general membership is the area of training. The workshop at All Hallows set out to begin to redress that. Barbara Fitzgerald, current chair of IAHIP introduced the format for the day and situated the work within the recent history of the association. Geraldine Grindly, convenor of the sub-committee on training, together with other members of this committee looked after the nuts and bolts dimension.

There were about fifty people at the workshop. There were trainers, accredited members and associate members, particularly trainees, present. This meant that a good range of current and past experience was available to the discussion. We spent the morning reflecting on our own experience of training, having been gently brought into that space by Ray Martin who guided us in a short visualisation.

It seemed clear from the plenary feedback that there was a great deal of common ground in the thinking of the various groups. Very few people had any real difficulty with the theoretical elements of their training. Most thought these elements were assessed reasonably by whatever ‘exam’ procedures their course used. The qualitative dimension was more problematic. Assessing personal development and readiness to practice was the one where ethical issues raised their head. Issues like trainers also being therapists (one-to-one or group) to trainees, personality conflicts between trainers and trainees without clear resolution procedures. There were other issues raised and they will be written up by the organising committee and published in the IAHIP newsletter, here I simply want to give a flavour of the remembering. Needless to say there were anecdotal memories shared in the groups (at least in my group) that spiced our recollections.

After a hot lunch there were three main areas identified for discussion:

Course Content.

Professional standards for trainers.

Ethical standards for trainers and training courses.

Three groups were set up to deal with each of these and over a hour was spent in discussion. In all areas quantitative items were obviously easiest to talk about but even there the less definable qualitative dimension came into play. For example in skills training and practice; how many clients is it reasonable for trainees to be expected to see and what should be the level of supervision?

While the European Association for Psychotherapy leans toward the idea that a pre-
requisite for entry into a psychotherapy training should include an appropriate third level qualification, there was a strong feeling that the qualification of ‘equivalent life experience’ should not be lost.

Where ongoing self, peer and trainer assessment was to be part of the qualitative content of courses it was strongly felt that some training in how to give feedback and to assess self and others should be a component of course learning and that the same model be used by all in a particular training.

Nobody wanted to be over rigid about what qualifies a trainer except to ensure that they had a broad range of experience as psychotherapists, and supervisors and be committed to their own professional development. Most thought that boundary issues especially in the area of personal interaction between students and trainers was an important consideration, e.g. Should trainers socialise with trainees? One’s therapist should not be one’s trainer at the same time. There were many other subtleties mentioned.

Trainees should be given as much information as possible about their course and the various expectations and limits at the beginning. This would include such things as information about trainers qualifications and professional background, copies of appropriate codes of ethics, appeals procedures in case of conflict etc.

Volunteers were sought to augment the sub-committee to continue the work. Apparently, according to the constitution of IAHIP, only accredited members can serve on committees, this excludes associates who are also trainees and the immediacy of their experience is, therefore, sidelined. The meeting resolved to find a way clarify this and to ensure such people and their experience could be co-opted for the future.

The meeting ended at 5.00pm with a sense of having done good work and a sense of broad common ground in understanding what we expected from a humanistic & 
integrative training. More thought needs to be given to the question about what we mean when we use the terms humanistic and integrative.