No quick fix for the soul

This week I was at the House of Commons, chairing a meeting for The Maya Centre, an Islington based multi ethnic voluntary organisation that offers psychodynamic therapy to women on low incomes, work that is clearly making a huge difference. Despite its reputation as home of the rich and cool, Islington has many pockets of extreme deprivation, and associated ill health, including poor mental health; the Maya Centre’s work is crucial to helping large numbers of women move on with their lives.

But the House of Commons meeting, an act of bold political vision by the Maya Centre, had a wider political aim; to try and persuade policy makers and opinion formers of the huge benefit of psychodynamic therapy in this age of CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – particularly given the government’s recent announcement of extension of funds for the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies ( !APT) programme.

Three speakers, Lisa Baraitser, an academic from Birkbeck University of London, Catherine Crowther, a Jungian analyst who has worked mostly in the NHS, and Margot Waddell, a psychoanalyst and child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Tavistock Institute, gave really thoughtful and moving papers on the impact and clear benefit of long term therapy on womens’ lives and the lives of their families and so on wider society.

In essence, the argument of the meeting was that that while there may sometimes be a place for short term behavioural approaches, we must not lose sight of the immense value of slower, long term therapies that can really help people to think about their difficulties and find a way through.

The meeting was well attended by MP’s, therapists, regional health officials, figures in the therapy world, campaigners and journalists. Everyone was delighted that Sarah Brown was able to come for some of the meeting; in her influential role as first political lady, she has done important work on post natal and maternal health.

It was agreed by all there that we need take the campaign on, particularly in regard to those all crucial policy makers and funders, some of whom have been rather seduced by the economic benefits of CBT approaches to mental illness.

Anyone interested in discovering more about this debate, would do well to start with a very thoughtful article by writer and analyst Darian Leader in Guardian G2 a while ago in which he memorably describes the government’s promotion of CBT as a cure all for society’s unhappiness as a ‘triumph of a market driven view of the human psyche.’

One Response to No quick fix for the soul

  1. The Government’s adoption of CBT as the ‘wonder cure’ is not the only threat to the provision of counselling or therapy, particularly to the majority of people seeking support, ie women. The forthcoming Government regulation (via Health Professionals Council) of Counsellors and Psychotherapists will in a very short time create a situation where such people will be dramatically constrained in how they can work. The CEO of HPC has been heard to express his view that all such work should be ‘outcome based’. The majority of counsellors and therapists are women whose work and civil liberties are also threatened by the HPC regulation.

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