Be the change you wish to see

i think I am probably going to do a couple of weeks on my experiences at the bapca conference. This one will be less about my personal experience and more about BAPCA.

Going back to ADPCA last year, I listened to some people say they didn’t feel safe with ‘some people’ at the conference. It seemed to be a long-standing thing and I had no idea who or what it referenced. As the ‘outsider’ (it was my first time) it engendered a feeling of unsafety for me, and also of rules that I didn’t know if I was breaking. I didn’t know if I was talking to the ‘wrong’ person, and I am concerned about my own safety with regards to who is safe or not to become close to.

At the BAPCA conference this year, someone was named in group as having had several inappropriate relationships where you might reasonably expect those not to happen (for example, as a counsellor, tutor, trainer, etc).  I have to be honest. My first two responses were a) relief that *something* was out in the open and b) a thought about whether that was (one of) who was being talked about last year. I don’t know the answer to that.

I saw the community rocked by this. It became clear that some people were on one side and some were on another. My question was about whether there was evidence- my concern was that as a ‘newbie’ I was listening to a narrative by one person about another person (who had chosen not to be present) involving other people (also not present) that I’d never met. It becomes difficult to make a judgement although I tend towards thinking that ‘a string’ of allegations leads to some important questions. I was told a statement was made by one person and that originally the BACP were approached with that. That’s enough for me. At that point, I have to say ‘I believe her’.

A different community I am part of had a similar conversation last year. A consent violation was alleged, and initially denied. Then, much like the Saville case (and seemingly every high profile case since), more and more people came out to say ‘me too’, over years, even (in my case) as the original victim was still being vilified publicly and privately. I know that because when I contacted them privately to say simply ‘I believe you’ that’s what I was told in return. Those consent violations had been happening for years. I had not known and I had been at very personal potential risk.

For me there is no fence to sit on. I must be on one side or the other, and it is unthinkable to me that I should be against a potential victim. It comes from personal experience. Seven years ago I experienced my own consent violation. Dealing with the aftermath literally nearly killed me- I was spiralling into suicide attempts, an eating disorder, a lot. I came out of it thanks to my family. My mum literally saved my life. But a few months later I started to hear rumours about myself from friends across the country (From Suffolk to Northamptonshire to the Midlands) that I was accusing the person of X and that I was lying. On finding the original source of the rumours, it was someone I had briefly met once and who after the fact had met him and they had become friends. And the reason I say ‘there is no fence’ is because the people who said to me ‘I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened, so I can’t say for sure’ essentially felt like they were saying ‘I don’t believe your experience is true’. For them, my aftermath meant nothing (I gave up my job, my home, my life and moved across the country to escape).

I cannot be that person. All the consent violations I have mentioned are different- I’m not equating any of them. But they are all deeply personal and involve a misuse of personal and structural power.

So, I was glad that the ‘rumour’ had names and dates. But it meant that BAPCA was now falling apart. I went to the ‘what’s next for BAPCA?’ meeting and also spoke to a few people and it was clear to me that there was some unease around the CG and processes. At the meeting, I was trying to decide whether or not to stand for the CG, when my friend spoke to stand. At that point I decided that I could too. I had not wanted to be the lone voice, but felt sure then, that on a lot of things I would not be the lone voice. So I have been co-opted on to the CG. I also know of one other person who definitely wants to be co-opted, and one who is saying she does (but I’ve had less specific conversation with her), and I think that the four of us are a) very different people to each other, but also b) very different people to many of the CG and I hope that it will provide a balance in processes.

I don’t know if this will be a long-term ‘staying’ for me or not. I am undecided on many things, but I also know that I do have a chance to change things- so I will take that opportunity up.


being in the ‘professional world’ as a trainee

Symbol of Confusion

Symbol of Confusion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Often I speak to trainees who wouldn’t consider going to a conference, or doing any other training as a trainee. This strikes me as a shame; although I can see many good reasons why someone *couldn’t* go (money, childcare, too many existing commitments, with clients and supervision etc), I’m not so sure on the reasons why people CHOOSE not to.


Some people of course, just don’t like to mingle (I’m an introvert – I feel that pain), but still more I think, feel that they would be ‘out of place’ or that it’s ‘not their place’ to do training as a trainee. So I thought I’d talk in general about my experience.


As a trainee, I’ve been to three conferences now, BAPCA 2013, ADPCA2014 and PinkTherapy2014. I also attend a regular ‘peer supervision’ group for therapists (and obviously trainees) working with clients (or identifying with) with particular interests. I’ve also done a level one focusing course, and am about to start levels 2-5. I also try and get to a regular person-centred skype group.


i have *never* been made to feel anything but welcomed, accepted, and treated as an equal when I’ve attended these events (although I am very aware that my knowledge of theory is far less than many other attendees). I’d like to say, for anyone who feels they aren’t yet qualified enough – YES YOU ARE!


Along with another counsellor, I’ve started a person-centred group locally to me. the other counsellor is fully-qualified and happy to work with me as a trainee.


As for the peer group,  I started going before I had clients even – as a first year. It has been an amazing experience and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. At everything I’ve attended as a trainee, there have been other trainees. It was from meeting other trainees at events that led me to create the person-centred trainee email list and person-centred trainee facebook group. The email list has over 100 members and the facebook group has over 400 members.


I would go to each event I’ve attended before in a heartbeat. People have been united in being welcoming to the profession, and it’s been really nice to get encouragement from people further along than me (and also to be able to commiserate on the tribulations of being a trainee with others). Plus you get to learn about things ‘from the horses’ mouths’, so to speak. I’ve met and had conversations with many of the ‘big people’ in the (UK at least) person-centred world. They probably don’t remember me – they were mundane conversations, but it was lovely to be able to put faces to names, and to get a real feel for them in ways that their voices don’t always come across in books. You also get to hear some lovely snippets about things you’d never hear in a book and get to connect with a world you wouldn’t otherwise have access to – the living, breathing (in my case person-centred) community.


The same thing for training. I may be slightly reckless in taking on the focusing training at the same time as everything else, however, it feels like an excellent opportunity and my heart is drawn to it. If I wait, what then? I can scarcely afford it – the way my savings work out, I think I will graduate with moths in my bank account, however, I suspect that there will always be SOMETHING i can’t afford, and I would really like to know more about how to do focusing successfully. So – caution to the wind, and all of that!

I can’t afford to do further training at present, but if i DID have the money, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. I would also be MORE than happy to do additional training that was free, or conferences that are free. I’ve found that although most counselling-based conferences cost to attend, it’s possible to attend ‘client-related issues’ conferences for free – bereavement, sexuality, disability etc. If you work full time these often still necessitate a day off work, but the UKCP does some free conferences on a weekend, so it isn’t always a week day by any means.

Bottom line – if you see something that interests you – go for it. People will be supportive and welcoming. Check out my ‘spotlight‘ page for other things that I focus on specifically that might be of use.





ADPCA – the rest




People have been asking me to write the rest of the conference up, and I didn’t do that last week, as I wanted to write about my mid-training point. But this week’s post is about the rest of the conference.


I wasn’t able to go for the first day (my leave year runs August to August and my training takes a LOT of days), and that was the day that things were decided. I was only able to make Thursday, as fri-sun was a training weekend for me.


In some ways, I was disappointed. There was one workshop that i REALLY wanted to go to (with many others that I would have been happy to go to), and I emailed the person organising it to put in a request for that Thursday, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. It might not have happened if I’d been there anyway, but there was a disappointment for me.


So Thursday morning I turned up, met a few familiar faces from BAPCA last year, grabbed a coffee and headed in to community. Community was a bit ‘bitty’ – I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t been there the day before, so there were organisational things to share with the group, and feelings to be heard. Early on, someone came in with an idea that I understand didn’t come off, and I have THOUGHTS about (and from), which I’ll share probably next week.

After morning community I went to a workshop. I don’t actually remember which one it was. So I feel bad. I might actually have stayed in community to be honest – I have a memory of three lots of community, and it’s all a bit fuzzy!

After lunch however, there was nothing in particular that I wanted to do, and I ended up wandering around with another trainee (just finished!) and then we met someone else and the three of us sat and talked for a session. It was great. Hard work, but connection (or the attempt to connect) deeply with other people for an hour was good and nourishing. It made me realise that I had been missing something in the morning community, and that was what I had come to conference for. I also knew that there was one other workshop and then as a day participant, my time was up. So in the break I spoke to an organiser and asked if it would be ok if I stopped for dinner and evening community. They graciously agreed I could (I certainly wasn’t the only one, and even then the venue massively over-catered), so I headed to the last workshop, which was about fledgling counsellors and helpful advice. It was a great session and I enjoyed it a lot.


Then dinner, and I got speaking to someone who is local to me. We spent dinner talking over various future plans (more of those next week) and swapped details. Then we headed back to community. It was due to finish at 10, but I left at the end at 10.40. THAT was the thing I had been looking for – the connection. It was interesting; I shared something very personal to me, because it became very present and wouldn’t leave, and then I could feel myself disconnect from the group, and then suddenly reconnect some time later, but I felt part of something. I felt like a something that mattered. *this* was the community I was looking for. This was the bit I enjoyed.

ADPCA was a difficult conference for me, as I like to be told what I’m going to and when, and just go. It is an entirely different concept to think about a conference that’s based a) around community and b) that is self-directed. I am trying more and more to come to terms with it, and I think that I am and I think that I like it, but it is taking some getting used to.


A couple of future things have come out of it that I look like being involved in, and I will update with those next week 🙂






ADPCA Pre-conference




Today was the ADPCA pre-conference day. The conference is every other year and this year (for only the second time I believe) it’s in the UK. It happens to be in the same town as I train in, and whilst that means that training the same weekend as the conference means that I can make some of the conference with little hassle, it also means I have to miss most of the conference. Still, there is the pre-conference that was today, and I’ll be able to make Thursday also.


The conference this year is run by ‘community organisation’. That means that tomorrow is the first day, and might (MIGHT!) be when decisions are made about the rest of the conference. But they may decide not to do that. I personally won’t be doing any of that deciding as I only had a finite amount of money and annual leave and simply couldn’t afford to take half a day of leave (and pay for a full day of conference) to help decide on a plan of events that will mostly happen when I’m NOT there.


The pre-conference had Jerold Bozarth speaking this morning and a panel this afternoon. Bit of this morning were extremely interesting. I very much liked some of the things that Jerold had to say about Rogers and his (Jerold’s) own ways of working. I made several notes that were really relevant to me as a practitioner. The event was streamed by online events and (i think) will be permanently available online later. There were moments in both the morning and the afternoon where I felt the same spark that started me on this journey, the spark that perhaps my fellow trainee would call ‘spirituality’. Bits of it ‘made sense’ to me in a way that I couldn’t quantify. By the same token, bits of it were more of a disappointment – I thought that I was getting something more.. decisive. But I think that it wasn’t helped by accesibility issues. Jerold had problems hearing questions form the audience, and in the moment we didn’t manage to find a really successful way to address that. I think that it was just one of those things, and I’m not attaching any blame anywhere. I could see lots of people including the ‘organisers’ were frustrated though, and it was a shame. It didn’t take away from some of the great things that were said – it was just a shame that it couldn’t have been the more interactive event it was intended to be.


I got to speak to other trainees and meet other trained therapists, as well as saying hello to lovely people I met last year at BAPCA and a group of trainees sat and had lunch together before the panel discussion in the afternoon. I found that interesting to a large degree – it was useful to see different viewpoints from various ‘professional’ therapists and to hear their reassurance (for anyone reading who was listening – I asked the question about being a trainee) and I was really drawn in by some parts of the discussion.   I’m back on Thursday for the only other day I can go to, but looking forward to whatever events are happening that day, and no doubt next week’s blog will also be on a related theme 🙂


The Asia-Pacific plenary session of the Intern...

The Asia-Pacific plenary session of the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to a conference this weekend  (Emerging trans* run by @pinktherapyUK for those who want to know and I’d recommend pinktherapy conferences to anyone – they aim to explore the full diversity of human sexual/relationship/gender/sexual diversity experience that we might encounter as therapists).


It can be a daunting thing to do as a trainee – last summer as a first year, I went to the BAPCA conference. I wasn’t going to go to the BAPCA one – it was expensive, and I was a student. I was worried that I would be out of my depth. But when i looked at the site, they had bursaries available and on a whim, I applied for one. They gave it to me. I was nothing short of amazed, and then of course, I had to go – someone else had paid for me.


What both of the conferences (with their very different themes) had in common was just how friendly they were. At the BAPCA conference I didn’t have a ‘trainee therapist’ label, (at the trans* conference I could choose to give myself a label and i chose that one), but I felt free to speak as myself, as a trainee, and give my own experiences, which were well-received and I was treated with kindness throughout. It was the same experience this weekend; I was much less daunted, and much more secure (in part because I do have actual clients, and some of them have fallen into the category that was the theme for the conference – hence the interest!).


As a trainee who pays out a horrendous amount each month for my training, the conference was on the high side for me, but the experience of the first conference taught me that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and so I asked if there was any way/concession for volunteers. Dominic kindly accepted me as a volunteer, and for half-price entry, all I needed to do at the weekend was to sell Pink Therapy’s 5GB memory sticks loaded with 400+ papers covering a range of sexual diversities (including LGBT, non-monogamy, BDSM and asexuality) to anyone who asked me for one. It wasn’t arduous – I have the memory stick already and have found it an invaluable resource. I got to see all of the seminars and missed nothing, whilst at the same time, having a great opportunity to talk to people from a variety of backgrounds about our shared trans-related interests, amongst other things.


People at conferences all seem to remember very well that they were trainees once, and they were absolutely kind. Both at this conference and at the BAPCA conference, I was able to meet people who had written text books that I own (in some cases my core texts) and have conversations with them ‘just like they were anyone else!’ (to quote myself last summer).


This summer is the ADPCA conference in Nottingham. I’m going. I also applied for one of the bursaries for that, and was successful. There is a pre-conference day, and then the conference itself. I shall be there for the pre-conference day, and the first full day of the conference, as it is my last training weekend of the year. Whilst sad that I will not get to attend all of it, I’m very grateful for the chance to attend those bits, and this time, I won’t be feeling so out of place as a student, as essentially, I know I’m guaranteed a warm welcome.


For anyone who wants to know what sorts of things happened at the BAPCA conference, check out the Online Events webpage. They filmed most, if not all of the keynotes from people like Gillian Proctor, Art Bohart, Stephen Joseph and Peter Schmid to name a few, and all of them are available in their library free to students. They have much more available than this and their library is well-worth a look.


Some of the other trainees I met at the BAPCA conference last year will be going to the ADPCA conference this year (the BAPCA conference will be on again in 2015 and I hope to be presenting – if you want to go, start looking out early for bursaries!), and we have – those of us still in contact – decided that we will meet and have dinner after the conference one night. If you’re a trainee and you want to join us, let me know!

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