Summertime Blue Skies for UKAGP
Dear <<First Name>>,
I hope everyone has been enjoying this remarkable summer of endless blue skies, warm sunny days and balmy evenings. Since returning from the UKAGP Conference at the beginning of the month, I have spent time sitting or working in my garden, reflecting on the past year, my first as Chair of UKAGP. I continue to be touched by a sense of gratitude for the support, energy and commitment of many, many people.
This year has been quite extra-ordinary for us as an organisation, and we are now firmly establishing ourselves as the national organisation for Gestalt practitioners. More detail is provided in the main body of the newsletter, but our blue skies headlines are:
It was a real privilege to welcome trainees from the Edinburgh Gestalt Institute, London Gestalt Centre, Scarborough Psychotherapy Training Institute and Metanoia. They all brought a vibrant, creative and sassy energy to the Conference, which was palpable and much appreciated.
- We have successfully negotiated a contract with EAGT, and will act as a gateway to EAGT membership for UKCP Registered Gestalt practitioners from January 2019.
- Membership joining and renewal processes have been streamlined and simplified, and this has resulted in doubling the number of fully paid up members of UKAGP over the past year.
- 65 people attended our one day conference in Birmingham, on the theme of Here and Now… What Next? We were delighted that 40 people chose to join us for a fun evening of contact, connection … and dinner the night before.
We are very grateful for the active involvement of trainees in all these initiatives.
- With the aim of promoting awareness of Gestalt as a relationally potent and effective therapy, the following initiatives emerged from the weekend:
- an enthusiastic Research Sub-Group,
- a vibrant Trainee group,
- a team of Gestalt Ambassadors, connected through, and active on What’s App.
- a daily #Gestalt_is contribution on Twitter,
- a plan for a national postcard campaign to raise awareness of Gestalt in public spaces, such as cafes & libraries, and a series of letters headed to the BGJ, BACP, UKCP, SPR…...
If you are interested in joining any of these initiatives, then, please get in touch, and we will connect you!
So many people have been involved in making all the above happen that it is impossible to name them all. However, I do want to personally thank the following people:
- Four new members have been elected onto our Organising Committee, which means we are now fully staffed, and also have an Honorary Treasurer – hooray!!
- A Bursary Fund has been set up to make conferences more affordable and accessible to those in need.
- New Gestalt Voices emerged from the UKAGP Community Day for trainees in 2016. Thanks to the hard work of John Gillespie and Dawn Gwilt, this online journal for new Gestalt writers continues to thrive. The third issue was published this week and contains an article by Dawn Gwilt on her experience of the Conference.
- Jacqui Lichtenstern, for leaving UKAGP in such great shape for me last year.
- Vicky Eugenio for so competently and collaboratively leading the Conference Organising Group. An amazing job!
- Rod London for volunteering to help us find the right venues for the Conference in Birmingham.
- Jack van Liesdonk, Renata Mizerska and Marga Berends for their patience and willingness to be flexible in negotiating the contract between UKAGP and EAGT
- Adam Smith and Liz Beauchamp for their steadfast support during the process of negotiating more than 5 versions of a draft contract with EAGT!
- Alec Parsons-Smith and Adam Smith for their transformative work on membership joining and renewal processes.
- Liz Beauchamp for her financial acumen, which made reduced cost conference places for trainees possible, and for setting up the Bursary Fund.
- Our membership, whose ongoing support has made this year so satisfying, rewarding and productive.
As UKAGP embarks on an exciting new stage in its evolution, it is important to honour the important work of Committee members who helped us reach this point, and who are now stepping down. I am particularly grateful to:
Adam Smith, our Secretary, whose vast experience as an administrator, forensic attention to detail, generosity of spirit, steadfast companionship and critical friendship for me as new Chair, have all been so influential on and supportive of, the work of the Organising Committee.
Rachael Kellett willingly took on a range of roles during her term of office. It was Rachael’s insight in her role as Membership Officer that forced us to seriously engage with the task of transforming our membership processes. More recently, Rachael led the programme planning team for the Conference, and did an amazing job! Rachael’s professionalism, warmth and humility have shone through in everything she has done.
THANK YOU BOTH FOR BEING YOU AND BEING SUCH LOYAL COMMITTED COMMITTEE MEMBERS. YOU WILL BE MISSED! GOOD LUCK IN YOUR NEW VENTURES
We would also like to welcome four new members to the Organising Committee, and look forward to their involvement with UKAGP
Terri Windsor (Finance)
Sonia Johns (Trainee Member)
Chris O'Malley (Public Profile)
Faisal Mahmood (Secretary)
UKAGP Training - Making Connections
Meeting with trainees from all over the country at the UKAGP Conference was an encouraging experience. Creating the space for trainee voices to be heard is fundamental to the future of Gestalt in the UK - our current trainees are the future, as the practitioners, researchers, trainers and authors who will be taking Gestalt forward.
Our discussions at the conference were energetic to say the least, with the focus being commitment to and engagement with UKAGP, each other and the wider field. Ideas were abundant for both seeking and giving support and I am looking forward to ongoing contact with trainees from all institutes to explore these ideas further and bring them to fruition.
If you would like to know more or wish to get involved in some way, please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On behalf of the NGV team I am delighted to announce publication of the third edition of the international journal; available now to download as a PDF
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we've enjoyed working with the authors of the wonderful articles and poetry featured. One of the poems, by Thomas Ameel, is accompanied by a recording of him performing it, and another by Jan Ballx includes photos of his artwork.
Please feel free to forward this email to colleagues, friends, and students if you teach or work with trainees.
Any thoughts and responses to the articles are most welcome.
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Here and now....but what next?
Reflections on the conference
I came away from the conference feeling inspired and part of something special. This was my first experience of the UKAGP. I loved the warm welcome and the lack of hierarchy that I felt as I was invited in and supported as a trainee to participate in the conference and the organisational meeting.
The energy throughout the weekend was amazing and testament to the power of Gestalt as together we explored ideas for reinvigorating Gestalt within the sometimes-hostile fields of psychotherapy institutions in the UK. Amongst the many ideas explored around how to promote and share the power of Gestalt beyond the community, it was the power of research that became figural for me. … I can feel my past life as a literature researcher stirring within me as my passion for research and writing is reignited and merges with my passion for Gestalt and my desire for Gestalt to be recognised and treated as the powerful psychotherapy and life force that it is.
A recent weekend at our training institute in Scarborough, on Research, gave birth to an idea me and fellow trainee Liz Mellor accidentally developed as we used the gestalt therapeutic process to explore our ideas for research; 'how can we use Gestalt process to develop an embodied and dialogic approach to research and can this offer a means of bridging the gap that is often drawn between therapeutic practice and research'. It was great that when we offered our idea at the conference, lots of people joined us to share ideas in this area. Over the course of the weekend I was excited to find that a lot of others share my sense of the importance of Gestalt-Research.
During the open meeting some of us created a Research group to discuss how the UKAGP might be able to support the growth of Research, perhaps by enabling those interested to network and share ideas and resources, and by putting together frameworks that might help to support different kinds of Gestalt research. So, if you're excited about Research in Gestalt, or if you would like support in this area, or if you have experience you want to share, or if you have ideas about any of this, please get in touch with me so that together we can work out how to do this!
Dr. Ana Miller
SCPTI - 2nd year Trainee
“Gestalt is …… research”
So I’m just travelling home having attended my first UKAGP conference in Birmingham. I am sitting with something of my sense of the privilege and gratitude of being supported by UKAGP to attend with my fellow SCPTI trainee (Ana Miller) something of the value of sharing this experience with my trainers from SCPTI and a sense of belonging to something which feels fresh and enlivening. I’m also basking in the warmth of an inclusive welcome and some passion in my heart as we have been naming and responding to the perilous position of gestalt in the wider field of psychotherapeutic practice in the UK and generating dialogue within the community. In this precarious ‘Br-exit’ of times, I am deeply grateful to those on the UKAGP committee who have led a way forward to not only make a bridge to the EAGT, but also to offer a way for us as full members to be able to walk across this bridge in both directions between the UK and Europe in the near future.
One sense of connection for me right now is also the way this weekend has supported dialogue on research. Following from a recent SCPTI training weekend this has been in the field for me and been part of my historical field for sometime. This conference has mobilised key questions as to how the UKAGP might contribute to developing the dialogue in research and in what ways and with whom. For example, I’m left with an excitement to follow and engage with the journey of the gestalt fidelity scale and how that might be useful to me in my final year of training to support reflection on practice for myself and with others, how this might support dialogue and deliberations with others within but particularly outside the gestalt community.
Another way I feel an increasing sense of connection is the way in which the research dialogue seems more open, inviting and outward facing, and which is folding in different and diverse experiences of research to meet in the UKAGP community. This weekend Ana and I stepped into the circle with some excitement to offer a discussion group on a ‘dialogic approach to research’. We were excited and encouraged in these responses which is spurring us on to both experiment with how this might be explored . We notice how this can split the field and we have we have heard and felt caution and fear- ‘I’m a practitioner, I don’t do research’ ; as well as curiousity and excitement - ‘I’m a researcher, what might it mean for me as a gestaltist?’ “Gestalt is ….” has been a headline for our conference. Gestalt is many things. Why not, ‘Gestalt is … research?
For myself and Ana who both have PhD’s in fields other than gestalt, we are exploring how we might bring our experience, and in particular explore and integrate this experience into the space ‘in-between’ research and gestalt practice. We are using our therapeutic skills and our research skills together to explore creatively a reflexive -process-dialogue to address this question. I feel excited in this ‘now- for- next’ moment.
A final thought in this moment is, if gestaltists need evidence to survive in the health-care system then connections, clarity and creative indifference seem so important right now to keep open and curious to the call to position research within practice and provide evidence –based accessible research. For me UKAGP has rung this bell and I feel energised within this shared space, which has been offered with inclusion and confirmation of developing steps to resource this journey as a community.
Dr. Liz Mellor
SCPTI - 4th Year Trainee
It is the day after the conference, and I am sitting with a sense of a significant shift within our community. I sense a sea-change, a movement, a collective push, a drive... A fire has been lit, or rather a series of small fires are aglow. This is an essential point – a series of small fires rather than one big collective fire is what makes this conference stand out from any other I have attended.
Yesterday many strands of interest/ passion/ excitement were encouraged, supported, and developed, as opposed to the in-fighting that has sometimes dominated our community’s discussions. Maybe it’s because of the larger number of trainees who attended, bringing their freshness, openness to change, and sense of social responsibility that are sometimes lacking at these events. I noticed a willingness to look in new directions, a discontent with our outmoded insular approach, and a palpable creative energy generating new ideas for how to engage outwardly, within our own communities, and into the wider world.
Here are my recollections from the day:
The conference was very ably organised by the UKAGP organising committee, chaired by Belinda Harris. Her opening remarks set the tone by asking questions such as: How do we have a dialogue across, within and around gestalt? What is our brand, our core mission, our reason to be, our position in the field? What are we not owning and projecting? What is our shadow side? Why are there so few black and Asian trainees? Have we lost our potent edge? How do we limit our potency? How do we use knowledge and power in the wider field? A great strength of gestalt is our honouring of resistance – where we meet someone where they are, move towards them, lean into our differences, and leave them feeling met.
In the keynote speech, Madeleine Fogarty explained the history and development of the Gestalt Therapy Fidelity Scale. She developed this scale at the end of 2014, and has devoted many years of passion and tenacity to researching its effectiveness, so she is well placed to tell us about the state of gestalt in the world today. The scale was designed to work within the limits of observability within a therapy session, and in 2016 it was tested through a Delphi Study, which is required for validation. After two rounds there was 80% agreement, which is very high. The stark facts are that without a Fidelity Scale you can’t get anything published in a journal outside of our own community, and that gestalt therapy is declining in the Anglo-sphere, although it is growing in South America, Mexico and some European countries.
The fishbowl that followed, led by Hugh Pidgeon, included these views:
From the fishbowl different strands emerged:
- Excitement at the use of the Fidelity Scale at the Edinburgh Gestalt Institute for skills practice and for final year assessments.
- Disillusionment at not passing the dissertation – is this because of a pull between different criteria? A lack of consistency?
- The need to have a fidelity scale in order to get NICE evidencing
- NICE evidencing is not just about working within the NHS
- A question – should we as gestalt therapists try to get recognised by NICE guidelines?
- An answer - We need to be in and we need to be out
- Excitement and horror at having a manual of gestalt therapy
- The manual being drawn up by Phillip Brownell is a manual-less manual
- The biggest value of training was it was okay for me to be me. I don’t want to lose that.
- Sonia Nevis spoke of finding a balance between the strategic and the intimate, and we can only win if we move between the two
- There is already lots of manualised criteria being used in the UK – usually written by one or two people at each training institute, leading to the risk of abusing power
In small groups we asked: What steps can we take here and now, today? There was a commitment to action as we explored ideas for developing and growing gestalt, for making the most of what we have to offer, for serious strategic thinking about branding and promotion... all in order to be more effective, more inclusive, more accessible.
- How do we find a language that is accessible to all?
- How can we develop a training and assessment process that is creative and not just academic?
- How can we address the lack of accessibility for both clients and trainees?
- How can we integrate research and practice of gestalt therapy? How can we make research dialogic?
In the days following the conference a What’s App group of Gestalt Ambassadors has formed, looking into ways of promoting and making gestalt visible, there is a new sub-group for coordinating and promoting research. there is a group looking into how to develop both UKAGP and gestalt as a brand, starting a tag #gestaltis....
This is a start, a grass-roots building up of connections from the base, building on the energy and interest expressed and shared at the conference.
The essential follow-up question is: How do we build momentum and keep the conversation going?
Improving Access to Gestalt Therapy: an Emergent Interest Group
Our emergent interest group at the UKAGP conference formed to discuss issues around accessibility and Gestalt therapy. We were a mixed group of trainees, therapists and educators, all drawn to the topic for different reasons. What followed was an energetic and fruitful dialogue about how to tackle the structural inequalities that prevent people from accessing Gestalt therapy and/or therapy training.
I left the event feeling energised and inspired, with a hope to extend the dialogue into the wider Gestalt community. The following summary of our discussion (along with my personal reflections) is my attempt to do that. I hope it might inspire those of you who were unable to attend the conference to join this important conversation around improving access to Gestalt therapy. Your voices are needed and welcome.
Please do send your responses via email, join our dedicated WhatsApp discussion group, or volunteer to become ‘a Gestalt Ambassador’ (all will be revealed!). We would love to hear from you.
The Barriers to Gestalt Therapy
Our discussion started with the bleak acknowledgement that Gestalt therapy in the UK is an increasingly middle class pursuit for privileged people. The decimation of NHS psychotherapy services means that few economically disadvantaged clients can access Gestalt therapy, especially those living on benefits. Despite our sophisticated clinical skills and ability to work with complex relational trauma, Gestalt therapists are largely out of reach to the UK’s most vulnerable people – arguably those who need us most. Even in services where free or affordable Gestalt therapy is available, access for clients is often by chance rather than choice. Beyond paying for private treatment, there is no way for clients in the UK to proactively choose Gestalt therapy as their favoured psychological intervention.
Similar economic barriers apply to accessing Gestalt therapy training. In the UK, there are a range of (relatively) affordable counselling courses within further education colleges and at universities. These are the most accessible training routes for trainees from disadvantaged backgrounds because they often come with access to student loans, bursaries, hardship funds, fee reductions for those on benefits, childcare facilities, or a dedicated disability support team. Yet as a modality, Gestalt is poorly represented on these Further Education courses and even at University level. Many such courses only include a single session to cover Gestalt theory (often limited to empty chairs and the Gloria tapes!). In others, Gestalt therapy is never even mentioned.
For most UK trainees wanting to specialise in the Gestalt approach, their only option is via an independent training institute. These offer high-quality training, but are prohibitively expensive, especially for trainees from disadvantaged backgrounds or facing difficult life circumstances. To train as a Gestalt psychotherapist in the UK costs between £30,000 to £40,000 (including associated course costs) with no loans or significant bursaries available, especially as career development loans are due to be phased out in 2019. The small number of UK institutes means that often extensive travel is involved, and most institutes can only offer limited disability or childcare support. Because of these structural barriers, many prospective counselling or psychotherapy students simply cannot afford to train as Gestalt Therapists, even if they have the interest and academic ability to do so.
What do these structural barriers say about our commitment to diversity and equality, or the sustainability of our approach for the future? Whilst Gestalt is far from the only therapeutic modality wrestling with issues of accessibility and diversity, I believe we still have a collective responsibility to take action, especially given our field theoretical approach and concern for social justice.
Gestalt & (In)visibility
We then reflected on how accessibility is linked to visibility – you can’t seek out a therapy that you don’t know exists!
If you were to stop 100 people on a British street, how many of them would have heard of Gestalt therapy, or be able to confidently tell you what it was? What about 100 mental health professionals? Or even 100 counsellors? Many current trainees have found themselves being interrogated about what on earth Gestalt therapy is by bewildered placement supervisors, peers and potential employers.
Surely this is a sign that something is not quite right in the way we are promoting our approach? That Gestalt might be facing some serious (in)visibility issues?
Fritz Perls has been heavily critiqued for his ‘roadshow’ years, how his showmanship and self-promotion had some negative consequences for Gestalt therapy, making us synonymous with the ‘empty chair technique’ or scaring away potential clients with his confrontational approach. Whilst these critiques are important, I wonder if we sometimes forget the immense value of all that publicity, how we still profit from Perls’ success at public outreach and the media attention he received.
Is there a danger that we have now swung too far to the other pole? For fear of being misrepresented, over-simplified or appearing too ‘egotistical’; are we hiding the light of Gestalt therapy under a bushel?
Raising Awareness of Gestalt Therapy
The essence of Gestalt therapy (even its name!) is frustratingly hard to articulate. A theme in the group was that many of us found it hard to describe what Gestalt therapy was: to peers, colleagues, clients, even to our close friends and family, without finding ourselves waffling, using confusing jargon, or feeling flustered. The ‘elevator pitch’ that neatly sums up the Gestalt approach seems ever elusive. Many of us dread the question: what is Gestalt therapy? Sadly, our communication difficulties mean that many people never hear about Gestalt, including those who could greatly benefit.
So how to become more visible? As a group we set about generating some practical solutions – and as we did so, our energy began to soar.
The conference had largely focused on research and the importance of improving Gestalt’s reputation in the academic / clinical world. When it comes to issues of accessibility and visibility, we agreed this was vital work. However, as a group we realised that research is not the only way to increase the visibility of Gestalt therapy.
In a capitalist society, our healthcare system is driven as much by consumer demand as it is by an ‘evidence base’ - the two are very much entwined. Given the reality of this situation, it would surely benefit us to take a leaf out of Perls’ book and learn to engage more effectively with the public. To not only become more skilled at undertaking research, but in our ability to share our findings in an exciting way that captures the imagination of the public.
It struck us that contemporary UK Gestaltists do not have the equivalent of Susie Orbach, Adam Phillips or Irvin Yalom. We don’t have representatives in the public eye who are media savvy, politically engaged or valued for their thoughtful social commentary that communicates the beauty of our ideas.
There really is no reason why this can’t happen. Maybe it is time that it did!
A Call for Gestalt Ambassadors
We ended our discussion by identifying a single action point. What could we do to help improve access to Gestalt therapy?
In order to raise the public profile of Gestalt, maybe the solution is not a single ‘guru’ figure to act as a spokesperson for the Gestalt community (with all the associated risks and division that could bring).
Instead, perhaps a more collective effort is needed? One which reflects the richness of the diverse perspectives within our community..
We wondered...what if there were a coordinated group of Gestalt practitioners across the UK who were committed to public outreach? Who could act as Gestalt Ambassadors, sharing a passion for our modality even if only in tiny, everyday ways.
- Having conversations with family and friends about why we are passionate about Gestalt therapy.
- Sharing articles and research findings on our social media feeds.
- Writing a brief introduction to Gestalt for our workplace/placement newsletter.
- Developing social media campaigns to promote Gestalt e.g. #Gestalt_is...
- Designing Gestalt T shirts to help start conversations, or taking a Gestalt mug to work.
- Holding free introductory events in our workplaces and communities.
- Volunteering as guest lecturers in further education colleges to improve awareness of Gestalt therapy in earlier stages of training.
- Distributing posters / leaflets around our local community.
- Creating street art and theatre.
- Writing blog articles for audiences not familiar with Gestalt therapy.
- Speaking at conferences or public events which are outside the Gestalt community.
These are only embryonic ideas, and we’re in the process of refining them. But at the end of the conference, 14 people stepped forward with an interest to become Gestalt Ambassadors, and the creative energy around the idea is exploding!
We need more people to join us for this initiative to have real impact. So if you feel inspired, or have some ideas of your own, maybe you could join us?
To do so, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org sharing your ideas and responses, and let us know if you’re interested in becoming a Gestalt Ambassador - we’ll keep you in the loop.
If you want to be part of the WhatsApp discussion group, please include your mobile number and a request to join in your email and we’ll add you to the conversation.
We look forward to hearing your ideas, and hope to see you at the next conference for more cake and plotting!
Keep up to date with the Here & Now and see 'what's next' by following UKAGP on Twitter
UKAGP has successfully negotiated a contract with EAGT, which enables us to act as a gateway to EAGT Membership for members who:
a) meet EAGT Criteria for Ordinary, Associate and Associate Student Membership, and
b) wish to be connected to Europe in this way post Brexit.
The contract takes effect from 1st January 2019, and we will send out a bulletin with more detailed information regarding the criteria with the application process later in the Autumn.
This is a major achievement for UKAGP, which is committed to inclusivity and has a broad membership base. Similar organisations in other European countries focus their membership more closely on practising psychotherapists and/or gestalt practitioners in organisations.
After lengthy negotiations we finally won the argument for a 'special deal', which gives those members who meet the EAGT criteria, the right to opt into dual membership of UKAGP and EAGT.
Given the start-up and admin costs involved, this is unlikely to be a cheaper option for UK applicants than if you applyied directly to EAGT, but it will be much more straightforward, less bureaucratic and hopefully quicker.
In January 2018, the Organising Committee decided to donate an additional 10% levy to the EAGT Ethical and Social Fund, in order to support the humanitarian aid work undertaken by the EAGT Human Rights and Social Responsibility Committee:
'The mission of the Human Rights and Social Responsibility Committee is to contribute to the improvement of mental health, quality of life and psychological growth and specific for vulnerable societies, groups and communities to strengthen their capacities for the adjustment to the rapidly changing society.
Our focus is to strengthen the self-organization and self-responsibility of societies and to empower them with necessary skills’.
Current humanitarian aid projects are located in the Ukraine, to support mental health workers engaged in trauma work, and in Greece, to support refugees from Syria and North Africa. Additionally The Human Rights and Social Responsibility Committee is hosting its second conference:
'Supporting human dignity in a collapsing field.
Giving voice to those rarely heard'
Berlin 26-28th October 2018
2019 EAGT Conference - Budapest, 19th -22nd September
"An exploration of the fertile void and creative indifference"
The ability to stay in a state of not knowing, and to trust in the flow of life is fundamental to Gestalt theory and practice, as is a belief that creative energy flows from experiencing the emptiness of being, and that new understanding manifests continuously.
The fertile void is the undifferentiated field from which everything emerges. Emergent figures take shape and begin to evolve through a dance between the polarities. When balanced, feelings of separation become illusory, and it becomes possible to gain deeper insight into the process of the organism, and for new, previously invisible opportunities to become manifest.
The conference will give space to explore the fertile void and creative indifference from scientific, methodological, social, political and existential perspectives.The aim is to offer a lively and congruent representation of contemporary Gestalt therapy theory and praxis.
Keynote speakers include:
Gordon Wheeler, Lynne Jacobs, John Leary-Joyce, Kathleen Höll, Nancy Amendt-Lyon.
Bursaries are available, so if interested and needing support from the bursary fund, please register your interest soon!
Events - CPD - Training
Engage with Gestalt Events, CPD and training opportunities via UKAGP: