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.