T: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I want to start by explaining the reason for asking you. You made a brief speech at the re- launch of Inside Out recently. Your comments were interesting and, I felt, needed an opportunity for expansion. Could you do so now?
G: Yes. The reason I was speaking at all was that I was one of the founders of Inside Out in 1990. I joked at the re-launch that that gave me a grandfather role, and like grandparents, I had the honour or permission to give advice, whether it was taken or not, was another question. So the advice I gave Inside Out was two-fold. What it might do for itself and what it might do for the Association (I.A.H.I.P).
Firstly, I think Inside Out needs to clarify what niche in the market it is aiming to fill. I suggest that it is unlikely to become a weighty academic Journal. There were times in the past when this was seen as a draw-back or a lack, that Inside Out did not rank with say, the European Association for Psychotherapy Journal for the depth of its academic essays, research and referenced material. I suggest that while such a Journal is of great value and I congratulate Henedt Wilkinson, its editor on a fine job, there is an equally respectable and valuable niche which Inside Out can occupy. This could be categorised as it being a Journal of experience. In a sense, the name speaks to this quite well as it embodies the attempt to bring the Inside Out, to give a platform for articulating inner experience through language on the Journal’s pages. In that sense, I was suggesting that Inside Out was a reflective space rather than attempting to be a surveyor of knowledge.
T: If Inside Out took your advice, how might the Journal look?
G: Firstly, it would make no apology for not being an academic Journal and would sell itself as the voice for experience in the profession. It would then search out the experiences of members of the profession and those affected by it. For example, we would see articles on the experiences of clients, trainees, psychotherapist, supervisors, trainers, partners and children of practitioners. It would offer a platform for articulating the changing experience of those within it.
It would seek out the struggles and excitements of practitioners. It would ask simple questions like why someone becomes a humanistic and integrative psychotherapist rather than another kind of practitioner. Why a client comes to an I.A.H.I.P. practitioner, and how their experience as a client is different from being a client of say, a behaviourist or a psychoanalyst? How is supervision different and similar to other approaches? What are the professional pressures and opportunities for practitioners in this relatively young branch of the profession?
T: You seem to have a strong conviction that these are important questions to be asking and answering right now. Ger. can you say why?
G: Yes, I do. I see this branch of the psychotherapy profession to be in need of clearly stating its basic mission or value and I see the articulation of the questions I mentioned above to be of assistance in doing so.
The humanistic and integrative section was, from the beginning, in danger of being diffused and somewhat confusing boundaries. I was there in 1988 in the U.K.C.P. or Rugby Conference as it was then called when the title H.I.P. was coined. So it is only less then 20 years old. When we then started the Irish Council in 1990. we took over this section title. As the first Chairperson of I.A.H.I.P, I remember we struggled to define the term more clearly. We did not want it to become a catch-all for therapists who did not fit in elsewhere. The definition at the time was that it was a section for psychotherapists who practised one of the humanistic therapies, Gestalt, psychodrama, bioenergetics, etc. or who integrated one of these with another form of therapy. Thus, it could potentially exclude a practitioner whose integration was between, say, cognitive and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. This is what I think Inside Out can do for I.A.H.I.P. is to focus a lively debate that will help the organisation be clear on its boundaries and mandate.
T: Where do you stand now in this debate? Where do you place yourself?
G: I see myself as belonging in the Integrative Psychotherapy place I have been involved in the European Association tor Integrate Psychotherapy and I belong to I.A.H.I.P. It was interesting that many I.A.H.I.P. members named themselves as integrative in applying for the European Certificate in Psychotherapy whore they had to name a European-wide body to which they sought allegiance to support their application. As you know, there is no international body of Humanistic and Integrative; it is a hybrid which grew only in these islands.
T: What does Integrative Psychotherapy mean to you?
G: Now there is a question. Firstly, what it is not, for me, is integrated. It is not complete or formed. It is a fluid process. It is not eclectic. Eclectic psychotherapy is valid and useful but it is different. Eclectic is about combining whatever methods in one’s tool bag that will benefit a particular client at a given time. Integrative for me assumes a process which has constancy over time and is not activated by the individual client alone. Integrative is about a process of becoming which is intrinsic in nature and is a protection from a static form. In particular, this means that the therapist is helped to avoid knowing too much. Knowing too much is a danger in any profession. While it is essential to know and study at depth, it is also important to remain open, inquisitive, fluid and innocent. Freud’s original scheme for study had great value. He suggested that all psychotherapy trainings should cover, along with technique and applied theory, the study of myth, language, contemporary religions and classical literature. I would agree although I would add poetry and meditative practices, film and art.
Having absorbed all this knowledge and practice, the psychotherapist has to remain open. For me, integrative is about holding and living consciously in the place of paradox, knowing and not knowing free will and destiny.
T: Could you give a practical example?
G: Yes, the practical example of myself as a psychotherapist is that I am a psychotherapist who uses physical touch in work, and who does not use physical touch but rather interprets the demand for that touch in terms of the client’s history. These are two antithetical positions in psychotherapy. One is seen as gratifying the demand for touch and as meeting the important developmental need in the client, while the other can be seen as either withholding or as helping the client understand themselves and not develop dependency.
T: Do you work out of a particular model of integrative psychotherapy?
G: Yes. A model that we at the Institute of Creative Counselling and Psychotherapy have developed over some years.
Forgive me needing a brief drawing here, hut it may help the reader to follow what I am saying.
|+ Knowing –||+
The practice of psychotherapy can be seen as comprising of endeavours made up from the joining of knowledge and action. Sometimes we know, sometimes we act, and sometimes we do not. This means that we can see there being four realms of activity in the practice, be that a session, a therapy or in our work generally. These are:
Knowing Action – Experiment
Unknowing Action – Routine
Unknowing Inaction – Chaos
Knowing Inaction – Presence
So all psychotherapists engage in the same area of routine, money, time, boundaries, etc. Some psychotherapists engage in the area of experiment, initiating with the client a particular body exercise, a piece of psychodramatic action, etc. Some psychotherapists engage in the area of chaos – where we consciously attempt to hold the disparate and at times, strong feelings we experience while with a client that may be understood as projective identification.
All psychotherapists engage, whether consciously or not in the area of presence, stillness, being spaciously there for the other. This is a core area. The difference in any craft between real creative excellence and adequate practice relates to how one meets the task from being. The creative person is “lost” in the task – the ego and personal trying are more absent and the work happens through the person. In the stillness, personal ownership is loosened.
My view of integrative psychotherapy is that an integrative person engages in all four activities. One of the key areas is in being able to experiment and hold. Many humanistic practitioners would be good at experiment but might not engage in holding chaos. Conversely, many analytic practitioners would be good at holding chaos but might not engage in experiment.
This then tells us that to train an integrative psychotherapist, you need to train them in being comfortable to use all four quadrants. They must be well able to manage the routines of psychotherapy. They must be able to work creatively with the creation of experiments which will assist clients. They must be able to work with, hold and think about strong emotion and they must be able to know themselves in their own being.
T: If all four are important, and if we are to follow your own advice and stay close to one’s own experience, where are you drawn to now?
G: Thank you for bringing me back to myself. For a good number of years, I was very interested in the area of what I called chaos. I studied a lot of object relations theory, especially the works of Guntrip, Fairbairn, Klein, Balint and also Lacan. I was also interested in routine. So I was very involved in supervision and clinical practice. I ran a supervision group on the training programme at the Institute for 15 years.
Now I am more interested in the area of knowing non action or presence. I see this as a key area now. Knowing who we are comes before doing. So I have become fascinated by the Advaita lineage from the Hindu tradition. Advaita meaning knowledge. I have been lucky to have been able to sit with a number of fine teachers in this tradition and to glimpse at who I am at essence. Such an awareness is key to deep work I believe, from whatever tradition it comes.
I am also very interested in the area of experiment or knowing action. So I am teaching body psychotherapy theory and technique to our trainees. I think the work of Reich is now much overlooked and his work on resistance, the necessity to work with resistance and how it is embodied in the character structure is fascinating and useful. It is also key to understand how the body acts as an unconscious and is so vividly an access point to our history or as Bollas would call “our unthought – known”. Finally, the recent works of Boadella and Smith are, I think, key for us in judging how to intervene with clients.
T: And where is your own work taking you now?
G: My eldest daughter will be 21 this year and like that, my own focus is moving out into the world more too, and paradoxically more into myself also. At the moment, my work is taking me to work in the broader systems more. I am fascinated how the principles of integrative psychotherapy can be applied to the world of broader systems such as the world of work.
I am doing a good deal of work with teams in businesses and organisations. Some of this has a starting point of some crisis such as team conflict and some is simply starting from team review and an urge to reflect and work more creatively.
I see a growing value in the development of emotional language and fluency in teams to solve problems and to create positive environments. Integrative psychotherapy with its understanding of thinking and feeling and the inter-play between them is very useful. Bringing my work to this field is an area that I have been finding fruitful and exciting. For example, I can see many parallels between the model of integrative psychotherapy I spoke of earlier and a map for good leadership, and in that I see parallels with the exciting work done by Bill Torbert on transformational leadership.
T: Unfortunately we need to finish now but I have no doubt there is more that could be said or elaborated on. Again, thank you for taking the time to speak with me – I have found it interesting, thought provoking and enjoyable.
G: I have enjoyed it and thank you.