Tuesday, 1 September 2015

'paradigm shift? @CoyneoftheRealm: Yes to an epiphany' post: response from Mary MacCallum Sullivan

[25 July blog post: paradigm shift? @CoyneoftheRealm: Yes to an epiphany]

Mary MacCallum Sullivan: "Response to ‘a newly qualified clinical psychologist working with people who've experienced psychosis and I worry about being part of a system that, for some at least, seems to have been more abusive than therapeutic. I wonder what your thoughts are about what the profession needs to do differently to be part of the change in the system that you envision?’

I have no intention here to speak on behalf of Chrys, but from my own experience as a psychotherapist and a person.

Chrys points out that, if you don't know what it's like ‘to have your agency taken away’; if you haven’t experienced ‘an altered mind state’, you should be listening to and respecting the person who has. She remarkably reveals: ‘I trusted [mental health professionals] to take care of me as if they were my parents’. 

Is it so surprising that she should resent being forced to take medication which radically damaged and curtailed her sense of self?

She says ‘Yes to an epiphany and Yes to a paradigm shift that will mean treating a person in a psychiatric setting as an individual with the capacity to say No to forced drugging and invasion of personal space’.

Clinical psychologists, together with other mental health professionals, could usefully seek to not only listen, but actually hear and feel, what Chrys is saying. Recognise the need – and the opportunity - for the paradigm shift that Chrys calls for, so that the subjective experience of people suffering from the degree of distress that qualifies for a mental health diagnosis is fully respected.

Recognise also the trust that has been placed in you – we are in loco parentis. And especially when someone is so vulnerable, we must seek to honour that trust. We will fail, no doubt, but that failure should be acknowledged, and hopefully repaired if we open ourselves to learning from this other, this other that I am meeting here and now, this particular other. I should not base my thinking on what the books say, what the ‘evidence’ says, but on my attempt right now to just be with this person and pay close attention to what it is that they most strongly need from me in terms of my response and my action, hopefully in the service of their well-being – as defined by them.

There is an important question of social and interpersonal justice, and clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists are in the front line here." 



Cradling the Chrysalis: Teaching and Learning Psychotherapy: Revised Edition (The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy Series) by Mary MacCallum Sullivan (Author) and Harriett Goldenberg (Author) 

"This book addresses the ethical and philosophical basis for the teaching/learning involved in becoming a psychotherapist. How can training prepare prospective psychotherapists, counsellors, and counselling psychologists for a task whose practitioners cannot even agree as to whether it is an art or a science, an impersonal clinical interaction or a profoundly humane, even 'spiritual' encounter?

The authors believe they share with their students a passion about the possibilities inherent in this particular kind of conversation. Such a meeting demands a fully personal engagement and a profoundly ethical attitude towards the relationship with the Other; it is also potentially an important beginning in 'repairing the world'. ..."

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