By Mike O’Halloran
There is much in the current IAHIP CPD requirements which I find illogical and out of keeping with the individual learning needs of psychotherapists, myself included, and also out of keeping with how practitioners learning needs can and do change as they move through their life/professional cycle.
Downgrading of Psychotherapy
I heard a long time ago one should never use arguments based on your own case when lobbying for change, as this will inevitably lead to allegations of special pleading. But my case is my case, and no one knows better than I how I access CPD and what works and doesn’t work for me. In this connection I am alternately angered, amused and baffled by the downgrading of individual psychotherapy which occurs under current CPD requirements.
Out of an onerous 50 hours requirement, participating in individual psychotherapy is entitled to a derisory maximum of 10 hours. In addition, the practitioners participation in individual psychotherapy is lumped in with a wide ranging mixture of other activities which can loosely be described as ‘self-care,’ and explicitly include such activities as meditation groups. Presumably similar activities such as yoga, tai chi and so on would also qualify under this heading, number 3 on the CPD form.
I attend 20 sessions of psychotherapy a year, for a total of 30 hours. It takes me 2 hours to make the round trip to my psychotherapist whether I come from my home or my consultation room. This equates to 70 hours in total in order to attend psychotherapy. The standard working week in the Republic is 35 hours. It follows that there are probably many psychotherapists who are spending two working weeks in accessing their own individual psychotherapy, a significant commitment which is unrecognised by the CPD policy. Can someone explain to me how a colleague who chooses to attend a yoga class or takes a weekend workshop in let us say, Using Meditation to Look After Yourself, can claim the same number of credits as the psychotherapist gets for going to regular psychotherapy for a year?
The fee for my own psychotherapy comes to €2600 per annum. A reasonable estimate of the travelling costs and car depreciation would be another €500, thus making a total of €3100, not to mention the time and income forgone as a result of participating in this activity. I don’t have a problem with this. It’s just that as a psychotherapist I cannot but believe that psychotherapy is a far more valuable and critical component of a psychotherapists continuing professional development than any of the activities with which it gets grouped with in the CPD document.
Is personal psychotherapy not the cornerstone on which this profession bases itself? Far more than it being a ‘self-care activity,’ I believe personal psychotherapy through expanding awareness and bringing about integration has a direct impact on the practitioner’s ability and level of skilfulness. Why has this central fact about psychotherapy been forgotten in the current policy?
Psychological Society of Ireland Honours Psychotherapy More than IAHIP.
Current CPD requirements for the Psychological Society of Ireland allow practitioners to claim as many CPD points as they wish by taking individual psychotherapy. In addition practitioners can write a statement showing how their attendance at psychotherapy has impacted positively on their ability as practitioners and receive another 10 points. As 30 points (hours) is the annual requirement for CPD for psychologists, the PSI member can attain re-accreditation solely by having 20 hours psychotherapy, and if she so wishes writing a statement showing how she has integrated her learning from the psychotherapy into her professional practice. A psychologist therefore can come to me or you and complete all her CPD requirements by so doing. But if I go to you (an IAHIP member) or you come to me, even for a year of regular therapy, neither of us can get more than a lousy 10 points out of 50. Some possible implications of the PSI attitude towards psychotherapy are:
1) Psychologists, registered members of PSI, have a greater respect for the efficacy of psychotherapy as a means of professional development than IAHIP.
2) Psychologists have an exaggerated belief in the efficacy of psychotherapy and we need to re-educate them and let them know they really would be better off going to more lectures and symposiums.
3) They’d need it anyway.
4) Psychologists are unusual in that they don’t try to make life harder for themselves.
The Return of the Dreaded Must.
There is a requirement that 30% of CPD must be made up of attendance at ‘shared learning environments.’ And that this 30% must be adhered to in each and every year. The types of ‘shared learning environment’s’ which are listed under this category are conferences, lectures, reading groups and so on. So, for example, a practitioner could get 40 CPD points from participating in a reading group, and provided they met the minimum supervision requirement of 10 points, the practitioner would meet the requirements for CPD.
Some peculiar implications of this for IAHIP are:
1) Reading books is more important than supervision. (Minimum supervision requirement per annum 10 hours. Minimum attendance at a ‘shared learning environment,’ 15 hours.).
2) Reading books is more important than personal psychotherapy.
3) Reading books is more important than writing a book (as point 6 on the CPD document allows a maximum of 10 points for the writing of same).
4) Reading books is more important than undertaking an advanced training programme in psychotherapy (point 6 on the document, 10 hours maximum).
5) If the practitioner signs up for an advanced training programme which let’s say takes place over 8 weekends, amounts to 120 contact hours, involves travel and accommodation costs as well as programme fees; the practitioner will still not be eligible for reaccreditation if he hasn’t read a book or participated in some other form of shared learning environment in every one of the five years prior to renewal of accreditation.
6) As all of the ‘shared learning environments’ referred to in the document are of the more discursive and intellectual type, and as meeting this requirement is the single most important demand made on practitioners, it would appear that IAHIP now values a more academic learning style over the experiential learning style which has always been a distinguishing feature of the humanistic approach. Perhaps the inclusion of the terms ‘symposium,’ and ‘seminars,’ can be interpreted more liberally to include experiential learning programmes, but this is certainly not at all clear from the document which essentially consists of an extreme overvaluation of the intellect. And if the more liberal interpretation can be made, then there is no need to have a special section (Section 4) for ‘Attendance at additional/advanced professional psychotherapy and related training courses’
Experience Matters in Psychotherapy. Experience Counts for Nothing.
In order to be accredited, a practitioner has to work with a supervisor and build up to the required number of hours supervised before applying for accreditation. In order to become a supervisor or trainer, the practitioner has to be accredited for at least 5 years. When a psychotherapist of whatever number of years experience or accreditation decides to find a psychotherapist or supervisor for herself she most always chooses someone who has more experience than herself. So, underlying the rules, regulations, and the daily experience of the profession is a profound visceral belief that experience matters.
However, IAHIP CPD requirements say experience counts for nothing. All practitioners, irrespective of their length of time working in the profession have to do the same amount of CPD, every year, and in the same prescriptive over controlled manner which the policy requires. No recognition is given to accumulated wisdom which comes from long years of practice, and no recognition is given to the individual differences in professional and personal development needs which arise over time.
For example one practitioner may be in the middle of a creative explosion which is leading him to think and write about his practice and this is what he currently has the energy for. Someone else has completed a Master’s in the field and doesn’t want to look at a book or go to a lecture for the foreseeable future and wants to participate in more meditative practices. Another practitioner is going through a relationship break-up and needs more psychotherapy than usual just to hold things together.
Irrespective of the differences in learning style of each individual and irrespective of their perceived different needs they all have to tick the right boxes on the CPD form if they want to keep their accreditation. As Henry Ford once put it, ‘They can have any colour car they want so long as it’s black.’ There seems to be no awareness that experienced psychotherapists use psychotherapy in a variety of other forae such as organisations, work teams, voluntary groups and so on. And this lends to the entire policy a somewhat quaint and old fashioned air.
The entire policy is a weird mixture of contradiction, illogicality, adulation of academic learning and debasement of the central role of psychotherapy as a learning tool. Instead of CPD being a joyful and autonomous creative process it resembles something more like the Cross of Calvary.
Mike O’Halloran MA, BA, H.Dip Ed. IAHIP & IACP works as a Psychotherapist, Supervisor, Gestalt Trainer, Business Coach & Business Coach Trainer. He is Joint Director of Galway Leadership Centre and Coach Institute of Ireland.