“Drawing on Multiple Theories and Methods to Enhance Psychotherapy Practice and Research”

The 34th Annual Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) Conference was held from Thursday 31 May 2018 to Saturday 02 June 2018 in the Marriott Downtown Hotel, New York. Five representatives from IICP College attended and presented at this conference. These were Dr. Marcella Finnerty (College President), Professor John McLeod (MA Programme Leader), Frankie Brown (MA Graduate), Grainne Ward (MA Graduate) and Julie Kilkelly (MA Student).

See below individual reviews and pictures of this prestigious event.

IICP Student Reviews of SEPI 2018

Newbie in New York

by Frankie Brown (IICP College MA Graduate)

John McLeod asked if I would present my case study on a panel with him. It all sounded so exciting and glamorous, and of course that led me to commit myself to presenting in ‘The Big Apple’, before I really consciously considered it. I had never been to a conference before, that ‘stuff’ felt out of my league. However, upon completion of my Masters, doors were opening, my confidence had grown and I was really proud of my research…so, why not I thought?! I wrote back “Absolutely, and whilst I am at it I shall submit my research poster presentation too!”

It took a bit of hard work, and more than a few emails to John, to convert 10,000 words into a twelve-slide presentation. I am so glad I did. It has to be one of the highlights of my professional career. John and Marcella gently guided me through the formal procedures and Gráinne generously donated an hour of her time to letting me run through my work (at the eleventh hour – literally!). My nerves the next morning were relatively under control. Sitting with peers and more experienced colleagues on the panel was reassuring. At times, the belief I had in myself merely came from their belief in me, it was enough to get me through. The audience were receptive and interested, warm in their feedback, and nowhere near as scary as I had imagined these ‘big’ names to be. For example, and please excuse the name dropping, Dan Fishman was in the room. Imagine?! Me, presenting my work to Dan Fishman!

I had believed that coming from a small college in Ireland I would get lost in the professional world of America. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how IICP College had prepared us (for I include my peers and all of those who have come through IICP College) for the future. Our ability to enter into professional discourse, comprehend and disseminate new information and support each other as a cohesive unit was on par with anyone else I saw.

For that small window of time in New York, I felt I had reached the top. Of course, the top is only ever really a place to pause before climbing to the next ‘top’, otherwise we become stagnant. As I looked above me I realised new heights could lead me to publishing, presenting at further conferences and becoming an active voice in the psychotherapist community, as well as my social community.

I haven’t even touched upon the other amazing experiences I had, the usual New York sights, smells and sounds. Travelling for the first time without my family. My first experience of Jet-lag! Would I recommend it? Absolutely, maybe I’ll see you at the next conference?!

Bridging the Classroom to Conference

by Grainne Ward (IICP College MA Graduate)

Little did I know when I embarked on the MA in Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy at IICP College that I would be given the opportunity to present my work not only on a national stage but on an international stage. This year the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) conference took place in New York. The conference was a great opportunity to contribute and showcase my work in relation to this year’s theme ‘Drawing on Multiple Theories and Methods to Enhance Psychotherapy Practice and Research’. SEPI promotes the development of psychotherapies that integrate theoretical orientations, clinical practices, and diverse methods of inquiry and in this regard I relished the opportunity of engaging in dialogue with therapists of differing theoretical orientations. Through this experience, I came away with invaluable knowledge around my understanding of the sources of therapeutic change and how to meet the needs of the growing ranks of integrative therapists.

This platform gave me the opportunity to rub shoulders and learn from sages in the field such as Dr. Dan Fishman and Dr. Stanley Messer along with peers who travelled from all parts of the globe which enriched the whole experience from a multicultural perspective. The icing on the cake for me was the delivery of the Key-Note “How Systematic Case Studies Can Enhance Integration in Psychotherapy” delivered by our own Prof. John McLeod which left me bursting with pride.

This whole experience has added richness to my practice and an enthusiasm to engage in further research, therefore I cannot overstate the joy I feel about the opportunities that we can avail of at the IICP College in bridging the Classroom to Conference.

Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration

by Julie Kilkelly (IICP College MA Student)

I was lucky to be in New York for the recent SEPI conference. I was feeling a little nervous arriving alone, but I soon saw familiar faces and immediately felt welcomed by everyone. The following is a brief account of my experience at the conference. Despite listing only a few of the great lectures, there was so many talks, workshops and not to mention the poster presentations on offer.

Our own Professor John McLeod gave the keynote address, which was a most interesting presentation on systematic case studies and how they can enhance integration in psychotherapy. McLeod talked of research and considered the use of case studies as an invaluable resource to examine the causality, a theory he mentioned several times. He seemed to think that the case study provided a richness and wealth of knowledge that has not yet been maximised.

McLeod’s’ style of presenting incorporated images of art works and paintings from the old masters along with sculptors and one from his daughter, he used these as metaphors for his delivery. Looking at the old paintings the viewer can see a richness and take an interpretation from the imagery, what looks like a simple painting can be layered with meaning and significance. This approach brought a new dynamic to the presentation, one might even say ‘very pluralistic’!

I sensed that McLeod appreciated that the case studies were the purest forms of untainted real research; while informative, they were not enough. He wanted more details; the therapist’s voice along with the client’s, and the client’s cultural context, and how they responded to the therapy. This makes complete sense as it allows for individual differences from the perspective of the therapist and the client. But quite a logistical challenge to look at the therapy from a multitude of different lenses. This concept would surely make for interesting discussions.

Overall the Keynote address was very well received and followed with lots of Q&A’s.

The following day I managed to attend another case study symposium; Dr Marcella Finnerty presented preliminary findings from her joint work with Prof McLeod, looking at a meta-analysis of case studies, and focusing on the frameworks and strategies used for psychotherapy integration. This was a complex yet informative presentation, highlighting the value of the case study as an informative element in research. The findings from their research showed that there was little clear knowledge about how the therapist integrates counselling in their own clinical practice. They also posited that integrative therapy was used more and with greater effect in long-term therapy. They also seemed to advocate that reviewing case studies should form a greater part of the academic curriculum.

Fellow peers, Frankie and Grainne who presented were amazing; they both presented their research with different case studies. Their work was very well delivered and received by the audience. Frankie really gave her client’s voice to her work as she spoke of her inner witness and transferences that played out in her study. It was a most interesting and honest presentation.

Grainne explored art in therapy when working with adult children of alcoholics. She spoke of the benefits and how she was able to use it to access deeper, suppressed trauma. She eloquently conveyed her client’s experience of therapy at this conference, talking of how the use art as an adjunct to the therapy impacted on the client, allowing the process to go to a deeper level. She reported her client acknowledged it as a crucial turning point in the process of the therapy. I can only say it was an excellent account of the pluralistic approach.

On the last day I got to see a presentation on what brings about change in psychotherapy, another subject I find very interesting. There were a number of presenters but the one that I found most inspiring was Prof Del Loewenthal. He gave a riveting presentation on the use of photography in therapy; how he worked with the prison population using a set of photographs for them to choose from to tell their story. It seemed to be a very powerful intervention- something that I will be following up on later.

I enjoyed the dynamic discourse that followed as the good and the great of counselling and psychotherapy argued and discussed their views.

I am so glad I attended and am still savouring the learning. It was nice to think that I can belong to such an interesting bunch of people. There were so many engaging elements to the trip, including a few very high-brow lectures that left me feeling the jet lag! But it was really nice to see those presenting being available and approachable for a conversation afterwards.

I could not recommend this conference highly enough, sufficed to say I do hope to be in Lisbon for the next SEPI!

In summary, Going to SEPI was a wonderful experience, there was so much on offer topic-wise. There was a wealth of interesting lecturers, it was so enlightening, informative, even moving at times, listening to the presentations. I personally was interested to hear what the current thinking was around case studies and the results there were very interesting.

I am so glad I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to attend this event and would encourage anyone interested in the integrative process to try to get to the next SEPI.