Log in

An interview with
 Helen Davis

Ger Murphy

Helen Davis is a Director of the Minster Centre, a 
Psychotherapy Training Institute in London and 
incorporates Reichian and Transpersonal perspectives 
among others in her work.

Ger: You are over here, Helen, running a sexuality weekend as part of the 
Creative Counselling Centre Psychotherapy Training course. Could you say
 a bit about the sort of weekend you do?

HELEN: I don’t have a set schedule. I go in and find out how people are, what
 they might like to do , and go from there. I think my major focus would be 
adult sexuality. It’s a progressive process, the adult’s closest experience of intimacy.

Ger: What do you mean by ‘progressive’ there?

HELEN: Progressive rather than regressive. Unfortunately most relationships 
are to a greater or lesser extent regressive. Sexuality in particular seems to 
bring out the regressive aspects of relationships, the regression being to those
 unsatisfied or damaged early experiences. The reason why sexuality seems to 
be such a painful thing is that the adult re-enacts that early material – the
 very primal material that is the basic ground out of which sexuality flowers. It
 is the original experience of touch, nourishment, contact or the absence of
 same that matters.

Ger: Are you saying that meeting infantile needs in sexuality is not progressive?

Helen: Yes. It is not progressive. It is regressive. What we do is to use sex to
 fulfil infantile needs rather than to expand into a greater adult state. It can be 
a way of expanding the human potential as well. It’s not simply a mechanical
 sexual act. It’s the root of one’s whole libidinal state, which is how alive some
one can be at any particular time. A great many relationships seem to be
 fraught with the conflict between infantile needs being met and adult sexuali
ty, and of course adult sexuality never fulfills infantile needs – the only thing 
to do is to confront the original infantile states and define what happened and
 see how the early experience is being repeated by the adult.

GER: How do you see sex education?

HELEN: Sex education is important. What normally passes for sex education
 is a kind of diagram of physiology, and how a penis can penetrate a vagina
 which is about procreation but has not got a lot to do with the sexuality in its entirety. I would say that a great deal more education is required to under
stand the whole process of sexuality because people are very uneducated and 
it is kept mysterious when in fact it isn’t very mysterious at all.

GER: So how do you see the importance of sexuality in the training of psy

HELEN: I don’t see sexuality as being different from any other part of adult
 life. The way it is experienced is as relevant as any issues with food, work, or
 anything else. If it is not functioning to the degree it could be at a basic level,
 it is no different from any other state of distress, and if psychotherapists have 
not worked through their own process sexually as well as in all other areas,
 they are not going to be of much use to anyone else.

GER: Turning to another topic – how do you see the whole movement towards professionalisation in psychotherapy in Europe?

HELEN: For Europe as a whole I think it’s a very good thing because psychotherapy has always been a closed shop. In Europe psychotherapy is only
 officially practised by qualified doctors, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists -
 and they are basically untrained in the art or science of psychotherapy. This 
movement will create a profession in which it is recognised as something
 completely different from medicine and psychology, a profession in its own
 right which requires a very different type of training that can only be the
 province of psychotherapists. I’m talking specifically here about psychotherapy and not psychoanalysis.

GER: What is your attitude towards psychotherapy training being a post-
graduate level activity?

HELEN: I believe that it is a post-graduate profession. There is a clause insert
ed which states that a trainee must have a previous degree or equivalent. That 
needs to be read broadly. There are reasons why it should be a post-graduate
 training, and that has more to do with age and life experience than it has to
 do with whether you have a previous qualification or not. What they are
 trying to ensure, which I agree with, is that people should enter the process
 of training for psychotherapy at a later point where they have more life experience behind them, rather than when they have just been turned out from
 school. It is inappropriate for a person at that age level to enter into the field
 of psychotherapy. Previous qualifications ensure mental and cognitive abilities.

GER: When you talk of psychotherapy becoming a profession in its own 
right, do you see any difference between psychotherapy and counselling?

HELEN: There is a difference between psychotherapy and counselling but
 only in its extremes. It is a curious situation. I don’t know what goes on in the 
States, but in Europe they do not have a basic counselling profession. In
 Britain they do and it is a very old one. In Britain, it is considered a very good 
basis for entering into training in psychotherapy and is in fact the best basis
 for entering training.

GER: When you say it is the extremes where you see the difference, what do 
you mean?

HELEN: It would be more appropriate for someone to undergo counselling at
 a time of crisis and crisis counselling is much more structured to fulfil the
 needs of someone in crisis and with a specific problem to deal with than psy
chotherapy is. Generally speaking, psychotherapy is focused on a process 
rather than a product – a whole life process. Both are required at different 
times. In that respect I see a difference. It is not as though a psychotherapist 
is not going to be dealing with a client at a counselling level at various times
 during the process of psychotherapy, or vice versa.

Ger: What differences would you see between the training of a counsellor 
and a psychotherapist?

HELEN: There are some differences. We do expect psychotherapists and 
counsellors to have the same education. No-one has defined the differences
 precisely. I think we will reach a point where the distinctions will be abandoned, so they will just be seen as different ways of relating to the client. The 
points of likeness are many and obvious, but the main points of difference
 would be in the time frame: counselling as short term. Counselling has a very
specific structure with goals to be met. In psychotherapy the goals are changing constantly. I am referring to psychotherapy and counselling training as
 practised by the Minster Centre.

GER: You are aware of the move over recent years towards psychotherapy in
tegration. What kind of response does that draw from you?

Helen: I do not find it very interesting to spend much time concerning
 myself with how you would combine the work of a Gestaltist with an Analyst 
or a Behaviourist with someone who practices Transactional Analysis or
 whatever aspect of psychotherapy – and a lot of the organisations that have
 sprung up have been concerned with combining theoretical or philosophical
 perspectives or skills, which I suppose are interesting in one way, but I see as 
irrelevant actually. I believe in an all-round education. I don’t believe in children going to school and learning only how to write, they should learn 
everything they can in every possible area, for as long as possible. In the same 
way, I am concerned that there is not enough learning that comes from natu
ral life experience. Essentially what the human being is doing naturally is 
trying to integrate themselves in the world and integrate their experiences in
 themselves, and so therapy should be a reflection, and all the methods and
 philosophies should be a reflection of what the human being needs in the
 world and is trying to integrate in themselves. So psychotherapy is the study 
of disintegration and the study of ambivalence and of impossible situations 
things which we will never have, and how we cope with that. For me, the 
methods used are irrelevant because every method has a different time and 
place when it can be appropriate in an individual’s life. They are all of use, so 
to make comparisons is stupid, but to know them all well is good.

GER: So you see integration as within the person?

HELEN: Yes. So in training the therapist has to go through the process of 
their own integration, which means disintegration and reintegration, as much
 as they can handle.

Ger: When you say they need to go through disintegration and then reintegration, could you explain that?

HELEN: Life does not give everyone what they need, and if it did we would 
have a very dull situation anyway as there would be no motivation to func
tion, because it is basically the trials of life that are the impetus to reach and
 fulfil our potential. I don’t say all the trials of life will do this – some are so
 harsh that they destroy aspects of the individual and much healing is required 
and may never be fully achieved. In this case learning to survive, cope and
 manage is probably good enough. It is arrogant for any therapist to assume 
that they can fulfil human needs. As often as not, they can’t, and that’s another thing that has to be lived with and is part of learning to cope with the

GER: That is almost a theme, as we’ve spoken in relation to sexuality and 
now, in that you wouldn’t see the psychotherapist’s task as providing for inner 
needs, infantile needs?

HELEN: No, never; it is never to do that, to meet inner, infantile needs, because it is not possible. Only the child’s original parent could have provided 
for that child’s infantile needs and no-one else is ever going to replace that.
 That’s part of the disintegration and ambivalence that we are constantly 
having to handle. What we have to do is find our own resources from within
 and assume we have these resources. I think the therapist is there to offer
 presence and a degree of staying power to stay with the client in their exposure of those unmet needs, and provide some kind of staying with, while they 
recognise the fact that they actually survived and do have resources of their 
own which can fill that particular gap. The experience itself offers one some
thing. It has potential, the experience of loss or damage. Actually I see the 
psychotherapist who attempts to supply the meeting of the client’s needs as 
being dishonest and behaving omnipotently, because they are kidding themselves and the client into believing they can do something they actually
 cannot do. It is usually a projection of unmet needs in the therapist which
 they are acting out. I don’t believe in re-parenting – I’ve seen a lot of programmes of reparenting, mainly in the 70s where for some years, people went 
on residential workshops and did regression work and were completely and
 perfectly reparented – supposedly – but it never worked.

GER: So would you see that as collusion?

Helen: It is a collusion which does the client and the therapist no good.
 When the therapist and client can recognise their own depression, their own 
problem of unsatisfied needs, then there’s movement.

GER: Are you saying that for you, motivation comes mainly out of unsatisfied

Helen: Yes, and Winnicott would say the same thing, I think. I think he’s
 quite right from what I have seen. I think it depends on the degree of
 damage: in other words, normally unsatisfied need pushes us to meet the
 need. What they have undoubtedly proved is that the ideal situation/ideal
 parenting seems to produce unmotivated and very selfish people who don’t
 go out and offer anything in the world. Those people who have had “good
 enough” parenting are more likely to achieve. Those people who are so dam
aged might provide a great deal in this world but will always suffer at some 
level, but therapy can help them put it into realms with which they can cope
 and use their experience to help them.

The Irish Association of Humanistic
& Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP) CLG.

Cumann na hÉireann um Shíciteiripe Dhaonnachaíoch agus Chomhtháiteach

9.00am - 5.30pm Mon - Fri
+353 (0) 1 284 1665

email: admin@iahip.org

Copyright © IAHIP CLG. All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy