Why I Recommend Attending Regional Group Meetings

by Katherine Crampton

I am a pre-accredited psychotherapist. I qualified from the Tivoli Institute in 2012 and aim to be able to apply for accreditation next year. I live in Enniscorthy in Co. Wexford and work full time in education in Kilkenny. I see four to six clients weekly in a local Rape Crisis Centre. I am still in my thirties (just!).

I did not know a lot about psychotherapy before I started my primary training. Doing a year’s ‘Introduction to Counselling’ through NUI, Maynooth, I discovered that the process of listening seemed to fit for me, both in starting to look after myself and in enhancing the caring and pastoral role I was doing professionally. I embarked on the Professional Diploma in the Tivoli Institute with the excitement of this felt experience and the anticipation of the journey it was going to lead me on personally and professionally.

But I was very green. I focused on my training with the process foremost and all that it was bringing up for me. I didn’t even really consider the bigger picture of professional bodies, differing modalities or the notion of being part of a wider framework as a practitioner, particularly whilst being a student.

I hadn’t been aware that one could join IAHIP or any other body as a student member. I baulk to think now that it took me over six months after qualifying, while seeing clients, to seek pre-accredited associate membership with IAHIP. Even when I did this, I saw it more as ticking a box rather than fully grasping the importance of being part of something that has standards and ethics set out. I didn’t really appreciate what I was signing up for other than getting a journal in the post a few times a year. The organisation as a body was alien and meaningless to me. Boards and committees of faceless people whose names I didn’t know.

Then something happened – two of my own peers from my class in the Tivoli, responded to the need to set up a Regional IAHIP Group in the South East and organised one! I have been attending South East Regional Group meetings since they started in May 2014. I will be perfectly honest in saying I probably wouldn’t have attended in the first place had I not known Liz and Finbarr who were now faces and names I knew representing IAHIP. Until I started to attend these group meetings I felt like a very small, inexperienced fish in a rather intimidating ocean. I got, as I still do, periodic emails from IAHIP relating to AGMs, policy papers, bulletins and job advertisements for fully accredited members but the reality is that I didn’t think any of it was relevant to me. It all seemed so formal and inaccessible.

The South East Regional Group has been and continues to be a really important part of my being a psychotherapist – on many different levels. In the first instance it has been lovely to meet with other therapists and supervisors in my general locality who have a whole range of trainings, qualifications and experience. When it started I was one of at least six pre-accredited associate members sitting in a room with people who have had over 20 years’ experience working in the field and everything in between. I’m nearly the only one left now still to be accredited. There is a great pool of wisdom and support.

What is central to the importance of our meetings is the opportunity for student associates, pre-accredited associates, accredited members and supervisors to be able to meet together, talk out, discuss, ask questions, air concerns about issues to do with the practice of psychotherapy and its standards and the role of IAHIP and then be able to feed this back to HQ so to speak. Minutes are kept, letters, requests, suggestions and submissions can and have been made. And so I find that I am not an island. I am part of something bigger and I have a voice and a means to raise it. The group provides a comfortable, welcoming, space where it is possible to do the necessary untangling and clarification of issues and topics that affect all of us but which could remain a memo in one’s inbox without such group exploration.

Another aspect the group sees as central to our ‘raison d’etre’ is to accommodate professional development and self-care training outside of Dublin so as to be more accessible to the IAHIP members in the region. In February of this year the South East Regional Group organised a full day ‘Workshop on Child Protection’ which was run by One in Four. It was full to capacity. At our most recent meeting on 5th September an afternoon workshop in Music Therapy followed the morning meeting. We have also agreed to include an hour’s discussion time on a pre-agreed topic at each meeting. This month members spoke about how the current Refugee Crisis is impacting on them and their work. Narcissism and Suicide are the scheduled topics for discussion in December and February.

It is important to enjoy the social gathering and have fun too. Last year for our December meeting, as a means to raise some funds and as a token festive notion, I suggested that whoever was coming to the meeting would bring a pot of jam or a bun or whatever and we had a bit of a ‘Bring and Buy’ event which provided an enjoyable end to our meeting and it provided an opening balance at least for our fund. The same idea is being run with for this year ‒ so do come along on 5th December if you are in the New Ross area. Information is emailed out to all members and associate members in the South East prior to each meeting.

Katherine Crampton, pre-accredited associate, is based in Kilkenny and Enniscorthy, and may be contacted at email address: katherine.crampton@ gmail.com.