Exploring the dilemmas of disclosure in 'coming out' in family, couple relationships and in therapy - a TAP Talk by Dr Damian McCann
On 20 January, TAP Council member Andrew Wilcox welcomed fellow members and guests to the first talk of the New Year with the exciting news that tickets for the TAP Conference on 18 March at Taunton Racecourse were selling fast. Outlining the excellent speakers that are attending and the sumptuous lunch that will be provided, Andrew shared with the audience TAP’s Council’s belief that the conference was on track to be an outstanding occasion.
The evening’s presentation was given by Dr Damian McCann and was entitled `Exploring the dilemmas of disclosure in 'coming out' in family, couple relationships and in therapy` Damian is a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist working as Head of Clinical Services at the Tavistock Centre, London and works with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual clients. The audience heard how there is a clear distinction between `coming out` and `being out` but both positions can still carry social stigma which in turn can attract discrimination even from one’s own family.
With the aid of slides, Dr McCann explained that often an individual may have suffered so much anxiety, guilt and shame that they reach a breaking point where they no longer want to hide an essential part of themselves. `Coming out` is said to an evolutionary process and not a single goal oriented event and is considered a psychologically healthy state for individuals as well as an important developmental task for the well-being of the individual’s future relationships and the identity of the self.
Damian’s presentation moved into ethical dilemmas, which gave the audience the chance to think hard about what they would do in these situations and how they might be taken to supervision. This interesting and highly informative evening was rounded off by TAP’s council members serving hot beverages and biscuits.
The next TAP talk will take place on 17 February when Farhad Dalal presents `The relational and the analytic: an inquiry into Practice`. This talk will examine the two paradigms of ‘analytical’ and ‘relational’ and raise questions of `kind` and `degree`. All are very welcome.
David Trott, TAP Council Member
'The Phone Call From Hell` - the therapist’s reaction to when a sex offender calls - A TAP Talk by Juliet Grayson
Report by David Trott Tap Council Member.
On 14 October, TAP members and guests had another opportunity to expand their own Continuing Professional Development when Juliet Grayson presented her talk entitled `The Phone Call From Hell` - the title reflecting a Therapist’s possible reaction to when a sex offender calls.
Juliet is co-founder and chair of StopSo (Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending) which is a not for profit organisation that is working to stop sexual offending through therapy. StopSo has formed a nationwide network of therapists who are trained to work with anyone who is concerned about their sexual behaviour and feels that they may be at risk of committing a sexual offence, or re-offending.
Although hugely busy with StopSo, Juliet explained that her main work as a psychotherapist lies with couples who are experiencing sexual problems in their relationship. She is also an accomplished author and one of the most experienced practitioners of Pesso Boyden System Psychotherapy in the UK.
The evening commenced with some audience participation in the form of a quiz entitled `Sex, Statistics and the Law`. This gave participants the opportunity to test themselves in current law with regard to sexual offending in the UK. The cleverly compiled twenty questions produced some head scratching and a few surprises when the correct answers were revealed. This resulted in the mild suspicion that there were possibly some gaps in the audience’s knowledge.
Later a video of Dr James Cantor, who is a Canadian clinical psychologist and sexologist was shown. In this, he discusses the work which has been done to understand the minds of paedophiles as well as some common physical characteristics, such as lower IQ, left handedness and below average height.
Juliet revealed that there are only around 86,000 places in UK prisons and so it’s not possible to incarcerate every offender. This simple fact highlighted the value of the work of StopSo and other similar organisations in this field.
The slides from Juliet's presentation are available to download HERE.
Tea and coffee were served afterwards which gave everyone the chance to discuss and reflect on yet another superb presentation. The next TAP Talk is on18 November when Dr Sue Whitcombe presents Smoke Without Fire: The challenges of identifying and working with Parental Alienation. All are very welcome.
Extra chairs were needed on 16 September to accommodate a pleasing number of TAP members and guests to a presentation entitled `Understanding and Recognising Sex Addiction` by Nick Turner. Nick is a Sexual & Relationship Psychotherapist and Sex Addiction Therapist and explained that his work encompasses clients of all social differences, ages and genders.
The audience heard how sex addiction is defined as any sexual activity that is used to modulate emotion and which `feels` out of control with an inability to stop or stay stopped, despite significant harmful consequences. It’s also seen as an unhealthy relationship with a mood-altering experience, however it was stressed that it is not the activity that defines addiction but the dependency upon it.
Nick explained how our brains become addicted by the creation of Neural Pathways that `wire` the brain from sexual activity such as porn, which then becomes an optimum source of dopamine to the dependent person. This can lead to increased shame that increases the desire to escape painful feelings with more of the chosen activity.
The impact on partners was discussed and this included the damage to intimacy and the sexual relationship, the reigniting of old wounds, the compromising of parenting and the triggering of unwanted behaviours or other addictions within the partner. Unsurprisingly common reactions include shock, betrayal, disgust, isolation, despair and hopelessness, many of which closely resemble bereavement.
Thankfully, there are many treatment options for those considered to have a sex addiction and these include individual Counselling/Psychotherapy, Group Therapy, Group Support – 12 step or similar and Couples Counselling.
In his vote of thanks, TAP council member Ian Stevenson said that this is what TAP is all about i.e. the provision of quality speakers, who in turn provide useful and long lasting information for people to take away with them and use in their work. A very sociable tea and coffee time concluded the evening.
Nick Turner's presentation is available to download HERE
The next TAP Talk takes place on October 14th 2016 when JULIET GRAYSON presents `The phone call from hell: What do we do as a therapist when a sex offender calls? ` All are welcome. David Trott TAP Council Member
On January 24th TAP welcomed their council member Ian Stevenson to talk about the Context of Management and the impact on therapy in clients referred through Employee Assistant Programmes (EAPs). He spoke about common concerns these clients present with, concerns that leave him wondering about the influence of constant changes in management and economics. With key performance indicators, management by target, as well as fear and loss of work stability for employees, it is more difficult to prevent mental health issues.
The main pressures on clients are constant change to zero hour and/or short term contracts which cause anxiety. Micro management with constant auditing, fear of sanctions and less creativity, build resentment and this fear can affect self-esteem. An increased workload with reduced staffing and a lack of dialogue with management at all levels leads to increased stress levels and an impact on home life, so people learn to stay silent or risk losing their job.
Richard Murphy’s book The Joy of Tax highlights how some large well-known companies avoid tax, a subject which has recently been in the media. These companies’ actions increase the sense of unfairness for the majority of the workforce. Paul Hogget writes of the increased paperwork, care plans, assessments and standardisation in all areas of life that lead to lack of personal encounter between two separate people. For client work this may mean being shown how to be ‘bullet proof’ to survive. Our dilemma is ‘What should our response be?’ do we ‘patch ‘em up and send ‘em back’, trying to cope in this ever changing world; or should we challenge the pathology of the system rather than the person? We are left to debate this statement.
Our next talk is 19th February 2016 when Matthew Appleton will talk about the Life Long Consequences of Obstetric Interventions at Birth. The talk will start at 7.45pm at Taunton United Reform Church, Paul Street. All welcome
We were interested to read in the press today that those supposedly 'inspirational' quotes that suggest you should cut people in a negative mood out of your life to support your own well-being are, mercifully, wrong.
Researchers at the universities of Manchester and Warwick studied 2,000 teenagers and found that having happy friends improved the mood of those experiencing a period of depression, but depressed friends did not have an impact on the mood of those they were with,
The researchers used social media trends to monitor mood across social networks over the period of one year.
The Daily Telegraph commented:
"The results show that being friends with someone who is depressed does not put a person at risk of becoming depressed themselves, but it will be beneficial to a glum mate."
The report says:
"Having sufficient friends with healthy mood can halve the probability of developing, or double the probability of recovering from, depression over a 6–12-month period on an adolescent social network."
Dr Thomas House, senior lecturer in applied mathematics from the University of Manchester said:
“We know social factors, for example living alone or having experienced abuse in childhood, influences whether someone becomes depressed.... We also know that social support is important for recovery from depression, for example having people to talk to. Our study is slightly different as it looks at the effect of being friends with people on whether you are likely to develop or recover from being depressed."
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society and the link to the full report can be found HERE.
On 19th June Alison Chown gave TAP members an informative talk about Play Therapy in the Outdoors to accompany her book on the subject. Alison works with children aged 3-16 who have complex behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. She spoke about her path to taking the children outdoors for play therapy, the ethical struggles in the early days and the benefits to the children when they use the outdoor spaces.
Outdoor Play Therapy and the Forest School principals are very closely aligned. Sue Jennings devised the development 'Embodiment - Projection - Role' or EPR Paradigm: Embodiment – which is is the physical sensory aspect for the child, where they develop their 'body-self'; Projection – which is where the child responds to things outside of their body and make them have a personal meaning; and Role play. These are all used in outdoor play therapy where development may have been interrupted or damaged by the child’s early experiences.
Working outdoors draws on the Reggio Emilia Approach when the outdoor space becomes the third teacher, with the adult as mentor/guide and the children using their different languages to make sense of the world. Children have a huge capacity for physicality; to keep them confined within four walls is not always conducive to effective therapy. The therapist needs to hold symbolic walls in the outdoor space. The child needs to learn about risk without anxious adult interference.
Alison left us with a quote:
'There are two gifts we should give our children, one is roots, the other is wings'.
TAP’s next talk is on 18th September when Maria Byrne speaks about The Journey of the Prisoner. The talk will start at 7.45pm at Taunton United Reform Church, Paul Street. All welcome.
A Sexual Taboo: working with Sexually Harmful (Perpetrator) behaviour in people who have experienced Sexual Abuse -A TAP Talk by Angela McCormack
On 20th February TAP welcomed Angela McCormack to talk on A Sexual Taboo: working with Sexually Harmful (Perpetrator) behaviour in people who have experienced Sexual Abuse. This difficult topic explored what can happen when a personal experience leads to repetition in some form towards others. Throughout the talk Angela asked us to have a moment of reflection, to pay attention to our bodies and feelings. This is essential when working with this client group who often use disassociation to survive their own experiences.
Angela covered understanding ‘Sexually Harmful Behaviour’, various theoretical frameworks and working with this client group using case studies. Different definitions are available and age appropriate. We must always consider the following: consent including age and level of understanding, equality, power, authority/control, coercion/co-operation, compliance, and criminal offence.
Statistics provided by the NSPCC and Radford et al. dispelled some of the myths in the media. 66% of children who experience sexually harmful behaviour experience at the hands of other children. 80% of 11-17 year olds have not told anyone about their experiences from a peer. Over 86% of children who display sexually harmful behaviour and receive treatment are unlikely to go onto to sexually offend in adult life.
There is a fine line between good and evil as shown in all cultures throughout history and this cuts through us all. We were shown a mandala of angels and demons highlighting that we can see both and were asked what defines our identity.
Working in this area we need to be aware of the legal, ethical and moral frameworks, safeguarding and resourcing, effective supervision, a strong ethical framework, CPD, work life balance, personal and professional support and healthy boundaries. This is a complex subject and Angela is an experienced and enlightening speaker and she has kindly made the slides from her talk available HERE
Our next talk is on April 17th when Matthew Neave will talk about PTSD experiences by ex-servicemen. The talk will start at 7.45pm at Taunton United Reform Church, Paul Street. All welcome
On Friday 17th October, the members of the Taunton Association for Psychotherapy (TAP) welcomed Dr Damian McCann, an analytical Psychotherapist from St Albans, to speak about the complex subject of responding to the needs of lesbians, gay men, bisexual (LGB), trans-sexual, and inter-sex clients in the counselling room.
Dr McCann began with a brief history of how anyone who was not heterosexual was considered in need of a ‘cure’ until relatively recently. Surgery was also used from time to time “to remove the offending part of the brain”. Aversion therapy was thought to be the way forward to “put someone right”. We were shocked to discover that even as recently as 2009 a number of UK therapists would have referred someone for “reparative” therapy.
The talk was a sensitive consideration of how to listen to such a client who might be struggling with their sexual identity. The attitudes, knowledge, and practice of a counsellor or psychotherapist were shown to be more important than their own sexual orientation. Clients from this group may already be coming to us out of a hostile environment. By simply listening, we can provide an environment of safety within which someone might explore whatever issue they have brought. Many LGB clients often don’t talk to a therapist about their sexual orientation because of the fear of misunderstanding. What Dr McCann described as ‘heterosexual privilege’ has limited, shaped, and invalidated the experience of LGB and transgender people.
Gender identity brings with it a set of 3 complicated issues: Chromosomal – where the sex of an individual is been determined by physiology; Gender Identity – relating to how the individual Feels; and Gender Role – determined by how a gender is played out in life. A counsellor must look closely at their own thoughts and questions about the client in the room and determine how much we judge someone according to preconceived stereotypical notions.
Intersex – where an individual is born with a unique set of chromosomes producing a diversity of sexual development- is a condition can challenge all of our assumptions, producing an anatomy that is not standard male or female.
It was clear by the end of the talk that there is an enormous amount to be learned from thinking about this group of individuals when working with them in the counselling room. BACP’s Ethical Framework describes the following: BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual. That sounds like a fundamental human right.
The next meeting is on Friday 14th November, when Suzie Grogan will talk about Shell Shocked Britain, the Great War`s legacy for Britain`s mental health. The Talk starts at 7.45 pm in Taunton United Reformed Church, Paul Street. All welcome.
On Friday 19th September we were delighted to welcome Ranju Roy, a local yoga teacher, to talk about Patanjali’s Yoga and how this is relevant to therapy today. Ranju set Yoga in its historical context, he took us back 2500 years to the original form which was a meditative tradition, closely linked to Buddism. The ancients say the body is the mind made concrete. Neither Yoga nor Buddhism being religions or requiring any sort of belief, the invitation is only to practice. At the heart of Yoga are the four noble truths: what is the problem, what is maintaining the problem, what is the realistic resolution, what are the means to get to the solution.
Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras, in 195 short statements, these being easier to memorise for the aural tradition. Chapters 1, 3 and 4 are for those in advanced practice of yoga so Ranju concentrated on Chapter 2 for those with distracted minds. He spoke of the problem ( duhkha) as being the bad (negative or painful) space in the mind and the feelings of oppression, suffocation in the heart. The Indian traditions of duhkha cover suffering as: that done by other beings, by the supernatural world and what we do to oneself. He went on to talk about our constructed sense of self and how this can either be a bridge or a barrier in relationships. There are 8 practices (yama) used to show us how to live in relationship with others. This closely links to the therapeutic relationship. Ahimsa – to create a space where another can be without fear, Satya – to step into that space and be authentic, Asteya – to not take advantage, Brahmacarya - to retain our priorities and move in the direction of truth, and Aparigraha – not accumulate or to let go. Yama is the freedom in relationships. Yoga is about being free within the body and not to being an award winning gymnast.
Ranju was warmly thanked and much appreciated by those in the audience.
The next TAP talk is by Dr Damian McCann on ‘Gender and Sexuality Revisited’ held at the United Reformed Church, Taunton starting at 7:45pm on 17th October 2014. All are very welcome.