Anniversary 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.

Pete Sanders (opening presentation)

Conference Power Point Presentations

Richard Bentall

Clare Shaw

Jacqui Dillon

Stephen Joseph

Mick Cooper

Joanna Moncrieff




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.

Pete Sanders (closing presentation)

Your Comments

Is this on a Wednesday? Huge Shame as we have to be in Uni on a Wed :0(

By Neroli on 03 05 2013

That is a shame. I wonder if a release day could be arranged if your tutors agreet to this being part of the course? I will be sending information on the conference to Keele.

By Heather on 05 05 2013

are there concessionary tickets available for students?

By Aidan on 09 05 2013

Hi Aiden. I’m afraid we don’t have a student rate. We are working as close to cost as we can, with the aim of keeping the price down for everyone. Any proceeds will go to Soteria UK.
Hope to see you there.

By Heather on 11 05 2013

Hi Heather, could you send me about 15 more leaflets please?

By Annie Thomspon on 23 05 2013

Hello. Very interesting and timely conference. Will there be a discount for unpaid carers of service users, please?

By J Clarke on 25 05 2013

Wish I could be there to celebrate your 50 years of listening and providing a forum for publishing and supporting non-invasive help! 😊

By Olga Runciman on 25 05 2013

Hi Annie. Yes of course! Thanks a lot for distributing them. See you soon, Heather

By Heather on 29 05 2013

Hello, and thanks for your query. We can have some carer places allocated at cost. Could you call the office on 01989 763900 or send and email to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we can sort it out. Can’t do it through the website I’m afraid. best wishes, Heather

By Heather on 29 05 2013

Hi Olga. Lovely to hear from you. So sorry you can’t make it - it would have been lovely to see you. Have you seen the film from Intervoice 2012 on the MadinAmerica website? Lovely clips of you. All the best, Heather

By Heather on 29 05 2013

What’s ‘pccs’ stand for? I cant find it anywhere on site?  Cheers

By sal on 30 08 2013

Hi Sal

The publishing business developed out of a training organisation called ‘Person-Centred Couselling Services’. It was a well established name and so it was used for the publishing arm. That’s the history. Thanks for asking. Heather

By Heather on 17 09 2013

Great Conference. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
When will the slides be available?

By Carl Stonier on 17 10 2013

Hi Carl. Glad you enjoyed it. We had a great day. The slides are all there. Go to the VIP are and use the password in your joining instructions. All the best, Heather

By Heather on 22 10 2013

I attended this conference last year and have been processing it all ever since. There was so much to digest and so many things that impacted on me. I would like to thank you for making it available for me to attend as it was the first conference regarding counselling that I have attended. I remain impressed by the evidence and passion of that day and am still distilling it down for the students that I work with on the PGDip in PCC at Aberdeen University. I agree with Pete that being kind and gentle with people in a fragile state is as true today as it has always been no matter what branch of caring you are involved in. No other service would deny this as an
important quality needed to be offered by the practitioner so why is it challenged by other counselling approaches. I guess is it sufficient is the question? I have been working in mental health provision of one kind or another for the past 40years and it has been my experience that the answer is definitely YES. Everything else that helps growth comes from this rich, fertile condition of nurturing the fragile and intrinsic good in people even when they have lost sight of it themselves. My final thought is this….we should not define ourselves by casting aspersions on Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, we don’t need to do that.

By susan on 06 03 2014

Hi Susan. Thanks for your feedback and thoughts. I agree with your final remarks, and I remember Pete concluding on the day that he too is tired of inter-professional mud slinging. Time for the like-minded within all professional groups and orientations to stand side by side with service users and ask for better.

By Heather on 13 03 2014

Add a comment