Workshop on Critical Psychotherapy

On 12 April Dinamika (Morana Trenta & myself) held a workshop on critical approaches to psychotherapy at the Centre for Women’s Studies in Zagreb, Croatia. We began with an exercise comparing the different levels at which people and their relations can be examined, such as intra- (examining interior experience), inter-personal (examining relations between people), collective, and systemic (examining how structures and systems act on people).

I then compared how psychotherapy and counselling is regulated drastically differently across Europe and the different challenges each system brings. In Germany, a four-year psychology degree is necessary for all who wish to work as psychotherapists. In the UK, there is a liberalized market whereby virtually anyone can advertise their services as a counsellor or psychotherapist. In Croatia, the state has started to regulate the labels of counsellor and psychotherapist, but not the practices offered. We discussed how conditions such as requiring a psychology degree, or a higher education degree in another subject, act as a form of gatekeeping and limit the diversity of perspectives present among therapists. We also discussed the good and bad points relating to professional accrediting organizations. In the UK therapists voluntarily sign up to the BACP, UKCP etc. Positively, this helps standardize the amount of experience necessary. Negatively, these organizations often depend on an “audit culture” (box-ticking), and that there is no guarantee that a person in crisis looking for these services will pay attention to professional accreditation and may not be aware of what training levels are proscribed.

We then discussed the new Croatian “Law on Psychotherapy” that has just been passed, restricting the label of psychotherapist to those trained in a small number of disciplines (psychology, medicine, social work etc.), and the label of counsellor to those who have completed a vocational training (“propedeutika”) in addition to their psychotherapeutic education. By comparing regulatory frameworks, the role and power of the state in shaping who can offer services was emphasized, and the especially medicalizing and pathologizing aspects of the new Croatian Law on Psychotherapy deconstructed. One of the conclusions was that a “social” training in basic critical sociology should also be necessary for those practicing.

To finish, Morana offered a socio-systemic understanding of the concept of trauma, and introduced the group to process work through an exercise in which participants came to confront particular everyday ranks and hierarchies they experience in daily interactions with others (e.g. men taking up extra room or space aggressively on public transport).