• Not a Tame Lion: Writings on therapy in its social and political context

Not a Tame Lion: Writings on therapy in its social and political context

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ISBN 978 1 906254 48 3 (2012)
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This volume brings together 24 of Nick Totton’s articles and book chapters from the last thirteen years, all exploring in different ways the relationship between therapy, the world and society. A central argument is that therapy, if it is to be effective, cannot and should not be risk-free or risk-averse. Among the themes addressed are professionalisation and regulation; the fetishisation of boundaries; democracy and therapy; intimacy; embodiment; overwhelm; and ecopsychology.

Throughout, there is a two-way dialogue between therapy and politics, with each enriching the other.  Nick Totton argues that therapy is intrinsically without goals, and therefore cannot usefully be harnessed to the task of relieving symptoms and getting people back to work. This also means that therapy offers a model for a different kind of politics based not on policies and demands, but on process.

Although regulation in the UK is temporarily halted, the long term battle over who controls psychotherapy and counselling is not over. So this collection of direct or implicit arguments about the wild nature of therapy, and its intrinsic unsuitability for domestication, is both relevant and urgent.


Part One: Professionalisation and regulation
1 The Baby and the Bathwater: ‘Professionalisation’ in Psychotherapy and
2 Munching Through the Rainforest: Expertise and its resistance
3 Looking Back
4 The Defeat of State Regulation in the UK

Part Two: The Nature of Therapy
5 The Battle for Reality
6 Two Ways of Being Helpful
7 Depending on Each Other
8 ‘Intimacy Took Place’
9 An Extraordinary Ordinariness
10 Both/And
11 Boundaries and Boundlessness
12 Not a Tame Lion: Psychotherapy in a safety- obsessed culture

Part Three: Therapy in the World
13 Upstream Runners and Instream Waders
14 Psychotherapy and Politics International: First Editorial
15 Psychotherapy and Politics: Is there an alternative?
16 Can Psychotherapy Help Make a Better Future?
17 Democracy and Therapy
18 In and Out of the Mainstream: Therapy in its social and political context
19 May ’68
20 Editing The Politics of Psychotherapy

Part Four: Ecopsychology and Embodiment
21 Embodied Relating
22 Overwhelm
23 Wild Therapy
24 The Body in the World, the World in the Body

How amazing it is for an ‘outsider’, a maverick even, to emerge from the margins as the agenda-setter for counselling and psychotherapy. For this is what Nick Totton has done in the past few years! His work on making body therapy relational, on politics and (and in) therapy, on ecopsychology, and on confronting our growth-restricting fears about ‘boundaries’ is, by now, required reading for all practitioners. I think I learn more from him than from anyone. Those in training or formation should get hold of this provocative, radical and erudite collection. It is where today’s excellence in practice lies. Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex

An inspiring collection of articles from one of the most radical therapy theorists in the UK. They range from imaginative pieces about possible futures (Looking back from 2023) to deep questioning of concepts like 'boundaries' and 'experts'. There is much food for thought here for practitioners, students and indeed everyone interested in inner and outer change. Jocelyn Chaplin, author of 'Deep Equality; Living in the Flow of Natural Rhythms' and 'Feminist Counselling in Action'

In this volume Totton has brought together 24 of his own papers, including two new papers on professionalisation and regulation, the nature of therapy, therapy in the world, and ecopsychology and embodiment, in a well-organised collection. The central thesis of the book, encapsulated in an eponymous article, is that therapy should not be “safe” and free of risk; in other words, it is not a tame lion. The main themes and strength’s of Totton’s work are all here: his detailed knowledge of the history of psychotherapy; his advocacy of the radical origins of therapy, and that the nature of therapy is political and radical; his emphasis on politics as power; his critical analysis of the power of the “psy’ professions and professionalisation; and his keen interest in embodiment and ecology. Readers familiar with Totton’s work will be grateful that he has collated and edited his key papers in one volume; readers unfamiliar with his work will find this a rich reader, which includes some personal history and backround to Totton’s interest in the interplay between psychotherapy and politics. This is a great collection of writings on psychotherapy and politics from a leading exponent in this field who himself is no tame lion, and is essential reading for anyone interested in therapy in its social and political contexts. Keith Tudor, Associate Professor at Auckland Institute of Technology, Aotearoa New Zealand, Editor of Psychotherapy and Politics International

Nick Totton

Nick Totton has been a body psychotherapist since 1981, and an ecopsychologist since 2004. He has previously authored 11 books, including Wild Therapy (now in its second edition), Body Psychotherapy for the 21st Century and Psychotherapy and Politics, and edited several others, including Vital Signs: Psychological responses to ecological crisis (with Mary-Jayne Rust). Nick has developed trainings in two new forms of therapy – Embodied-Relational Therapy and Wild Therapy, both of which are now being continued by other trainers. He has a grown-up daughter and two grandchildren, and lives in Sheffield with his partner.

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Nick Totton