The weekend of March 6th saw Professor Mick Cooper visit IICP Education and Training. On Friday, he facilitated the Master’s programme in Pluralistic counselling and psychotherapy, an approach devised by Mick and his colleague Professor John McLeod. The pluralistic framework fits with the IICP ethos of an integrated approach to therapy, so I was very interested in hearing him speak. Friday was difficult for me. I am not on the Master’s programme (yet) so I spent the day working thought a haze of jealously as my friend and colleague David got to take his Master’s class with Mick at the helm! Anyway, I survived, and on Saturday, after being up a 5am, bursting with excitement, I got to go the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel and see the man himself in action.

It was super from start to finish. Mick’s style of teaching reminded me of the style I have experienced in IICP. Information was disseminated, discussed and debated so that we students might achieve an understanding of the pluralistic perspective and learn about ways in which we might work to achieve it in our practice with clients. Some of the core messages I took from the day fit within my own philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy. For example, within pluralism, counselling is seen as a process between two people, with one seeking to support the other in resolving and managing their experience of psychological distress. This process requires that the therapist respects the client as an equal and one who is capable of figuring out their own way through life and the difficulties they experience. A pluralistic framework also requires flexibility within the therapist to recognise that while each theory holds its own truth regarding human behaviour, there is no one truth. Additionally, while the therapist understands the importance of the depth of the therapeutic relationship as being very important, they are aware that this is not the case for every client. They are also aware that while most clients do best when they experience high degrees of empathy, some do not. From my understanding, two core messages in a pluralistic framework are the ethical consideration of equality and respect for the client’s capacity to know what is best for them in their life, and that the therapist listen, dialogue, listen, explore, work with the client to create the required change and then, listen some more. Mick quotes Buber and Levinas respectively, saying a pluralistic therapist meets “the face of the other” recognising and respecting that we are “each of us, encased in armour”.

They say, ‘never meet your heroes’. I think that is nonsense because I spent Saturday in the company of many, from students who I know are facing their own internal struggles, to the teaching staff of IICP whose mentoring and guidance have helped me become a more complete version of myself, and from Mick Cooper whose capacity to deconstruct the ‘models of therapy’ box, to my colleagues whose organisational skills and sense of fun, are nothing short of awe inspiring. It was wall to wall heroes and not one of them disappointing! For that I am grateful and for that I give thanks. So all there is left to say is, when is the next one?!

Pam Patchell