The End Of My Psychotherapy Training27 May 2013
After a long, drawn-out process, I’ve been officially told that I won’t be able to pass the year on my psychotherapy course. It’s more than just failing to make the grades, it’s a break up, we don’t see eye to eye, so that even if I were to change in a year or two they’d be reluctant to have me back. So inevitably I’ll present this as me in the right and them in the wrong — that’s worth bearing in mind as you read what follows.
For them, the nub of the disagreement seems to be about whether I actually want to be a psychotherapist. There is truth in this, I find a lot of the prevailing psychotherapeutic theory archaic and absurd. Crucially the dogmatic, reductionist fantasy that all human suffering can be traced back to past trauma. As a graduate of Religious Studies I have come across ‘god’ in many forms and historic trauma, certainly as presented on my training, effectively occupies the role of a single, omnipotent, unquestionable power. Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t believe that past events influence our current selves, far from it, nothing shapes us more. Rather it is that I am, like a good little postmodernist, extremely wary of absolutes. I have seen all too many times, how the noblest of beliefs end up being exploited, not for their liberating potential but for their oppressive, power regulating conservatism.
But psychotherapy is a broad church, the emphasis on historic trauma is really only the obsession of psychoanalysis (ie, Freud and his lineage) and its closest adherents. Contemporary psychotherapy has opened up significantly, to take influence and inspiration from such celebrated postmodern ideologies as phenomenology and existentialism. It is even in a increasingly serious relationship with mindfulness-based practices. Now, this is where I begin to see myself working, this is where I begin to see the pride in being able to call myself a psychotherapist. Where having an authentic encounter between two equally vulnerable human beings is more important than preserving a religion.
My course is a self-titled, ‘integrative’ training, meaning that it does not adhere to any one particular school, but integrates them all. I took a lot of solace in this. Was I really so rebellious that I can’t even fit into an integrative training? I think a lot of it comes down to bad lack. I don’t have a good relationship with my personal tutor, unfortunately we argue a lot. Of course she would say that it’s me projecting my frustrations with my own mother, which, in all seriousness, I must acknowledge certainly does play its part. However, there is a point at which this interpretation can be exploited to form a defense mechanism. I don’t feel that my tutor can handle me, I feel that she is threatened by me and that any deep communication is stifled by her resistance to questioning herself. A big part of me just feels that it’s unfortunate that our personal relationship should be the basis on which decisions concerning my future were made. That makes me angry.
Ultimately though I have no regrets, it doesn’t at all feel like a waste and I know that I’ve done my very best. It will however, be heartbreaking to leave my fellow trainees as they continue together deeper into the realms of the psyche. But I needed to make this journey and there’s just no substitute for getting out there and making the commitment to train. It will likely come as little surprise to many that I have had the exact same issues with Buddhism. I am not a card carrying Buddhist because deep down Buddhism suffers the same damaging inconsistencies as any other large institution professing the path to liberation. There are still parts of Buddhism which I adore, it is the vehicle which has made the most difference in my life and in many ways has actually made my life possible at all. As too are there parts of psychotherapy which I admire, for example its strict accreditation system and its assurance of accountability through democratic legal systems. Also the requirement for a therapist to receive ongoing supervision makes it very hard to have ‘enlightened’ practitioners beyond the reach of ethics.
Although I’m sure there are courses that would be a lot more sympathetic to my outlook, I have no plans in the near future to join them. I want to explore other things for the next few years, perhaps with an emphasis back on the path of meditation.