INTRODUCTION TO ‘SHARED PRACTICE IN NON-MEDICALISED MENTAL HEALTH CARE’ CONFERENCE
I’ve been involved on way or another with the whole field of mental health since I was 17 or so. One of the first summer jobs I ever had was as nursing assistant at Highcroft Hospital here in Birmingham. I only went back for a second day because I feared my dad more than the terrible sights, sounds and smells that greeted me as I walked in. On my second day, the charge nurse, an ex-army gentle giant of a man, turned to the day room full of patients and said, ‘Hey look who’s back!’ Young and naïve though I was, I was sure that there must be a better way of looking after people.
In the early 1970s I completed a psychology degree which had so little to do with human beings that, along with others, I helped organise alternative lectures, films, seminars and trips to anti-psychiatry events in London and Birmingham. I then went to the University of Aston to do a full-time post-graduate course, where I found hope in the form of the person-centred approach to counselling and psychotherapy.
And over 40 years later, I still wheel out my soap-box and can be guaranteed to rattle on and on. Today, however, by dint of phenomenal good luck, patience, wheedling, begging and downright stalking, I find myself introducing a dream team of presenters all of whom are more clever and better qualified to talk about non-medicalised healthcare than I am. I am particularly proud to note that, were it not for PCCS Books, I can say with some certainty that these folk would otherwise never have been presenting at the same conference and may even have never found themselves in the same room. This event is unique, and I hope it is the first of many times when these professors, authors and experts will get together to promote good practice in mental health. One of the problems of the fields of critical psychology and psychiatry and the survivor movement is that they have tended to be fragmented. I hope that is a further step in helping people work together.
Conference Power Point Presentations
CONFERENCE CLOSING REMARKS
BEFORE PETE SANDERS’ FINAL PRESENTATION
At this stage in a conference, it’s often said as a joke that it’s impossible to follow the previous speaker, but coming at the end of a day packed with such erudite, compassionate, thought-provoking presentations, I really do think I should just get my coat.
However, I’m driven on to my soap-box again by a feeling of deep, possibly diagnosable, anger. I’m angry firstly because over and over again at events like this, between the lines I hear people effectively saying the same thing. They are saying that if it is chemicals in your brain that are out of balance, then they’ve been thrown out of balance by bad things happening to you. They then go on to say that two irritating things keep popping up in the experience of distressed people and the research on what works when trying to heal distress. The two things are the incredible inbuilt resilience of people, and the healing power of good human relationships.
Then secondly I’m angry because over the years the very ideas that human beings are fantastically resilient and that good relationships are therapeutic in and of themselves have had the mickey taken out of them relentlessly since I qualified as a person-centred therapist. One fellow professional thought that it was a noteworthy criticism of the person-centred approach to say (incorrectly, since such critics rarely know what they are talking about) that Carl Rogers said all we had to do to help distressed people was to be nice to them. Well, let me ask that even if Carl Rogers ever did say that, what was so laughably wrong and ridiculous in it? And before anyone say anything about ‘evidence’, I would like to paraphrase a hero of mine, John Shlien, and say sometimes it is not enough to do only what works, we also have to do what is right.
So with my remaining 15 minutes of fame I’m going to tell you a few things that Carl Rogers really did say. I’ll leave it up to you if you think they are still relevant. If you do, there are thousands of service users, social workers, nurses, clinical psychologists and doctors who agree with you. Many of them cannot speak up because being nice is not an approved treatment and you can get struck off in some countries for practicing person-centred therapy. I’ll finish up with a few words which bring everything together for me. You will all make your own minds up of course.