(The Conversation took place on a warm April day in the beautiful Georgian premises of The Outhouse in Capel Street, Dublin City.)
Sylvia: Thank you for meeting with me, José, on this lovely spring day in Dublin. Perhaps you might introduce yourself by saying something about your own professional background.
José: I am a member of the Irish Analytical Psychology Association (IAPA) which is part of the Psychoanalytic Section of ICP. We’re the official Jungian organisation in Ireland – recognised as such by the wider international Jungian community. I work, in English and Portuguese, in private practice with individual adults and couples and offering supervision as well. I also work part-time for the HSE with the Gay Men’s Health Service which provides short-term therapy for the LGBT community…most of the presenting issues would be related to sexuality, relationships and self-acceptance. I did my main training in the Irish Institute of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. I was brave then to be in the first intake of trainees (laughter).
Sylvia: When was that?
José: In 1993, and eventually the course became the MSc in Trinity. At that time, it included the three major tendencies in psychoanalysis: Jung, Klein and Freud. So we had a strong Jungian component but it was mostly object relations. We were also exposed to Winnicott, Bion and Lacan.
Sylvia: That evoked your interest in Jung?
José: I already had an interest in Jung’s ideas but for the first time I saw its application in clinical practice. My interest in Jung has a long thread going back to my late teens when my first dance teacher left to study at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. I was then curious and read Jung’s biography: Memories, Dreams, Reflections. My interest in the workings of the mind didn’t stop there. Years later I went to Trieste in Italy to work as a volunteer in a therapeutic community within the compounds of an ex-psychiatric hospital. It was in this hospital that the psychiatric reformer, Franco Basaglia, began challenging the logic and the rules that governed a psychiatric institution in the past. There were volunteers and students from all over the world and we shared the same living space with a few ex-patients. The ethos was very democratic. Daily meetings were attended by everyone present and it involved all the day-to-day issues of the centre. Although it was a model that conferred more importance on the individual life history rather than any pathology, at the time there was still heavy reliance on medication.
Sylvia: A lovely experience…challenging.
José: It was, yes. I was young and it was my first time outside Brazil. I think things have become more mainstream now, I practically didn’t recognise the place when I visited it a few years ago.
Sylvia: More bureaucracy now.
José: Not sure if that, but it is natural that it may have evolved in different ways…I was very lucky to be there at that point in time when it was a vibrant forum for different ideas. Equally, my arrival in Ireland coincided with the beginning of Mary Robinson’s presidency. It was very special to be here then. It gave me an opportunity to witness the many changes Ireland went through from the very beginning.
Sylvia: And you taught for a while, I think it was in Maynooth?
José: Yes, I did that. It was an ‘introduction to counselling skills’ course. I did teach as well in the professional course for counsellors that used to be in the Liberties College. I used to do a Jungian module there. I also gave some lectures in the MSc in Trinity. This was before I joined the ICP Board in 2011. It wasn’t then an easy time in ICP, there have been so many challenges… and I’m glad that I stayed with other colleagues and I think we can see the results now.
Sylvia: What drew you to the ICP Board?
José: It all happened when one of the Chairs of my organisation, the IAPA, Aileen Young, asked if I could be one of the representatives to the Psychoanalytical Section of ICP. The section comprises six organisations. The time came that I became vice-chair and I was then expected to attend the Psychological Therapies Forum meetings and the ICP Executive…it was really difficult to find my way around initially.
Sylvia: You stayed with it?
José: I stayed. There were a few directors leaving in a short span of time; only two of us stayed from the time that I joined the board. The following period was very challenging for all of us. For the lack of a better word, I’d say there was a ‘tension’ because we had some opposite views about different issues. However, we remained together and endured our differences. Jung said that when the psyche is faced with a polarised tension of opposites, it is important to stay with it. This tension then becomes a creative tension which will put pressure in the alchemical vessel…this pressure will bring a creative transmutation.
Sylvia: Something emerges.
José: Jung made the point that by not identifying with either side of the opposites we clear the space for the solution to emerge. I think we can make a parallel here with the outcome of the different phases of consultative process culminating with the work of the last working group. This process has made us aware that we, all modalities, share the same vision for ICP.
Sylvia: And now ICP is in quite a different place.
José: I believe so. It is a good time to be the Chair of ICP…there is a readiness, a mission and an enthusiasm to implement the recommendations from the last working group. We initiated this process by contracting the service of a CEO. We are delighted Jean Manahan took up this position. She has previous experience as a CEO with different non-profit organisations and she has a good knowledge of the field of psychotherapy. She is very aware of the challenges we face as we move towards statutory regulation of our profession. I am very confident she is going to be able to lead and represent us at this crucial time.
Sylvia: So an outward vision.
José: Representing all modalities in one voice.
Sylvia: As CEO, she’s not long in the role but it sounds like she’s right in the heart of it.
José: Perhaps this is due to ICP readiness to begin a different phase of its existence. The early years of ICP were about establishing structure, getting the standards of training agreed in Europe, and implementing them in Ireland. The energy was focused inside, in the development of the inner structures. We can say now we have developed a good ‘brand’ and we have to tell other people about it…I hope this doesn’t sound too crude. But going back to your question…yes, in her first month she met all the Chairs of sections to learn about their sections and their aspirations for ICP.
Sylvia: I understand that there will be some structural changes in ICP alongside this new role of CEO?
José: ICP could never remain as it was. The structural change also brings a level of flexibility so that we can change and develop as we move along. Currently, we are consulting the solicitors regarding the changes in the status of the company, and soon we will discuss the recommendations we received with the sections. As it stands, management and governance come under the auspices of the ICP Executive. In the new proposed organisational structure, the aim is to separate the two functions, an Executive team and a Governing Body. The Executive team will be composed of two representatives from each section and it will be led by the CEO…the function of chair and vice- chair will no longer exist at this level. The Governing Body will be composed of one representative of every section, the CEO, one rotating person from the Executive and two external directors, one of which will be the chairperson.
Sylvia: So the external directors would be non-psychotherapists?
José: Yes, ideally the external directors should have an organisational background or previous experience in leading boards. Sylvia: What will be the focus of the Governing Body?
José: I see the main function as overseeing the implementation of the strategic plan, the functions of the Executive and fulfilling our legal obligations.
Sylvia: And the Executive will be made up of registrants from the modalities?
José: Two representatives of each section or modality. One will be the chair or vice-chair of the section and the other a registrant selected by the registrants to represent their interests. The Executive will then cease to be directors but will support the CEO to manage the day-to-day running of the organisation. The recommendation is that the Executive will work within the parameters approved by the Board.
Sylvia: And in between the two layers of governance will be the CEO. José: Yes, the CEO is going to report to the Governing Body and it will be the CEO who is going to chair the Executive.
Sylvia: A lot of change.
José: Indeed…I think we all, the registrants, want ICP to represent us in the wider world and to promote the profession of psychotherapy. It proved impossible to fulfil this expectation, therefore the general dissatisfaction. With the new system, or with the Governing Body taking the role of overseeing governance and assessing any risks for the company, the Executive will then be able to develop and execute a strategic plan…the new structure also aims to be more transparent and democratic. I remember, before I joined the board of my section, I never felt any connection then, as a registrant, with ICP.
Sylvia: Great to hear you say that as I would have felt myself, years ago, that I didn’t have a relationship with ICP apart from paying a fee. Now, I understand, registrants will be invited to the AGM?
José: It is one of the recommendations. It will be an opportunity for the registrant to be more engaged with ICP. Change of structure won’t suffice if we don’t aim towards a more transparent and participative culture.
Sylvia: And we will have access to the CEO at those meetings?
José: I know Jean has been invited to address your annual conference next year in Cork. She has also been invited to attend and speak at different AGMs. I think this is part of developing a collaborative and unified culture; it is one of the responsibilities we expect from the CEO and it is consonant with navigating us through this quagmire of statutory regulation. And yes, of course it will be important to have open meetings and to hear from the registrants.
Sylvia: So this navigation is her main focus?
José: Well, I think statutory registration is our main concern…a delegation from ICP met with Minister Kathleen Lynch recently. We expressed our support towards the government commitment to statutory regulation. We also discussed important issues such as minimum standards of training, the protection of the public and the distinction between ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ as we proposed in our Position Paper (ICP, 2015). She seemed to understand the distinction between psychotherapy and counselling. The main difficulty for the government remains the disunity and lack of agreement in the sector.
Sylvia: The Position Paper is a comprehensive document.
José: It’s a good piece of work, and we are very thankful to Ann Murphy of the Psychoanalytic Section for leading this task.
Sylvia: I see it is available on both the ICP website and on the IAHIP website, or anyone who wishes to read it. That is going to be a challenge for us, isn’t it, getting the title ‘psychotherapist’ registered?
José: We emphasised to the Minister the need to protect the ‘title’ and maintain high standards of training and practice for the protection of the public. The Minister indicated she shares the same concerns.
Sylvia: And as the Position Paper states, if the titles we have here are not ‘psychotherapist’ and ‘counsellor’, this will be confusing in Europe where they use those titles in the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP) and the European Association for Counselling.
José: It has no historical precedent…it would put us in a different situation here whereas countries like Belgium, for instance, last year passed legislation, the Psychotherapy Bill, to protect the title and to establish the status of the practice of psychotherapy. Our Belgian colleagues, members of the Belgian national umbrella organisation of EAP, worked with their lawmakers in the preparation of this legislation. It has been signed by the king and is going to be implemented by September of next year. Also, recently, the government of Malta published two pieces of legislation, one for the professional recognition of ‘psychotherapy’ and another one for ‘counselling’. I know in the UK they didn’t go for statutory regulation. However, the NHS distinguishes between ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ in documentations related to treatment of choice. The British Royal College of Psychiatrists say that about ‘counselling’ in their website:
This is often provided in primary care, at your GP’s surgery. It is usually fairly short, and aims to help you to be clearer about your problems – and by being clearer, to come up with your own answers. It is often used to help someone cope with recent events they have found difficult. It does not aim to help you change as a person, as most of the other therapies described here.
(Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2014)
Sylvia: It’s good to have these precedents for having both titles recognised.
José: Yes. It’s good to remind the government of the European dimension because more and more we work in a European context. We cannot be totally insular and ignoring what’s happening outside or inventing a wheel that’s not going to be turning in other countries.
Sylvia: You say that the main focus for Jean Manahan will be navigating us through the conundrum of regulation. At IAHIP meetings, members regularly ask about the raising of public awareness around psychotherapy. Do you see her having a role in that?
José: I think it is an expectation we all have from ICP, to be a unified voice to represent and promote psychotherapy in the public arena. In fact, it is part of the role of the CEO to raise the profile of psychotherapy in the public domain, to keep abreast of developments in the media relevant to psychotherapy and make our position known, to represent and increase the profile of ICP at those events relevant to mental health, and to promote psychotherapy to the general public. Also, Jean is working with the Media and PR subcommittee to improve our website and to develop our presence in social media…we already have an approved budget for that.
Sylvia: I was going to finish by coming back to you and your role as Chair. What are your own priorities for your two-year tenure?
José: I think my responsibility and that of the other current directors is to oversee and implement the recommendations for change, as they are agreed and formalised, as well as to make sure we are at the front of all negotiations towards statutory registration. Once we implement the changes in the structure there will be no chair and vice-chair in the executive, so it may be a shorter tenure than usual. An important part of my role and that of Anne Colgan, our vice-chair, is to support Jean Manahan in the development of her role as the CEO.
Sylvia: Before we end, is there anything else you want to include in our conversation that hasn’t been mentioned?
José: I would like to show my appreciation for the opportunity to talk to Inside Out and also for the invitation I received from IAHIP to attend a ‘Q and A’ session in your evening gathering before your last AGM. I think this is about developing a different culture of communication which is to collaborate through dialogue towards our vision for ICP. This is not just for the office holders, it is important that registrants don’t miss the opportunities to participate in AGMs or meetings where they can express their views about this process.
Sylvia: That sounds like a good note for us to finish on. Thank you for meeting with me today. I have enjoyed our conversation.
José: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much.
Irish Council for Psychotherapy (2015). Position paper on statutory registration and the distinction between the related professions of counselling and psychotherapy. Accessed 9 April 2015 at https://www.iahip.org/main_content/uploads/2015/02/ICP-Position-Paper- January-2015-1.pdf.
Jung, C.G. (1995/1961). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Transl. by R. & C. Winston. London: Fontana.
Royal College of Psychiatrists (2014). Psychotherapies. Accessed on 9 April 2015 at http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/treatmentswellbeing/psychotherapies.aspx.