People Not Pathology: Humanising Counselling and Psychotherapy

2nd May 2020 @ 9:30 am – 3rd May 2020 @ 3:00 pm
BVSC, The Centre for Voluntary Action
138 Digbeth Birmingham B5 6DR
Free Psychotherapy Network & Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility
Time to take a collective stand against the colonisation of therapy by ideologies and practices that put markets before people.

About this Event

A two day conference in Birmingham for therapists and psy activists

Psychotherapy and counselling in the UK is alive and well. The demand for therapy and the supply of therapists have both been growing steadily for decades. But how well are we doing as a vocation of the heart and soul?

For the last two decades at least, the humanity of our profession has been under attack from the state, the ideologies of the market and our own professional bodies. So, for example:

‣ the dominance of the medical model of mental health, psychiatric diagnosis and treatment plans

‣ the short-term utilitarianism of “evidence-based” CBT and CBT-like state therapy – eg IAPT

‣ the emphasis on individual responsibility over social responsibility

‣ our professional bodies have become state regulators of therapy and gatekeepers of training and employability – eg SCoPEd

‣ the growing homogenisation of therapeutic practice and the human spirit

‣ Dept of Work and Pension’s use of therapy as psycho-compulsion of benefit claimants

‣ the ubiquity of unpaid work by counsellors, psychotherapists, art therapists & group therapists.

‣ the growth of an underpaid, overworked, deskilled gig economy for psy workers in the public and voluntary sector

‣ open-ended client-led relational therapy increasingly the domain of the well off.

It’s time to take a stand and start to turn the tide. How do we stand together to humanise our profession and play our part in transforming neoliberal narratives about mental health into a vision of society organised around people’s needs?

Most of us are versed in the arguments and the experience of how relational client-led and client-paced therapy has been undermined over the last couple of decades, to the detriment of clients and therapists alike.

We want this to be a conference focusing on action over analysis. What are we doing, what can we be doing to take a stand and turn the tide?

The conference will be as participatory and “bottom up” as possible, putting the emphasis on small group discussion in workshops alongside relatively brief contributions from inspirational speakers. We hope the priorities for action will emerge from the workshops on Saturday morning and will be developed as decisions for action and networking throughout the weekend.

Here are a few themes that come to mind:

How do we campaign for the social model of MH; through what kinds of collective political action can we challenge the undermining of relational therapy and community-based therapy; climate emergency psychotherapy; how do we build alliances with service users and support user-led initiatives; campaigning against unpaid work; boycotting DWP psy work; organising our own bottom-up democratic professional organisations and trainings; working as therapists in communities; respecting, restoring and facilitating the psycommons; open-ended relational therapy for everyone, not just the well off.

We will be showing Denis Postle’s new movie “The Climate Tsunami” on Sunday morning.


Outline of the conference PROGRAMME here. It is still evolving so check for updates.

Saturday is a process day with emphasis on themes for action workshops decided from and developed by the conference floor. On Sunday groups that want to carry on talking and planning will have space to meet. At the same time we are organising parallel workshops on aspects of progressive therapy projects and political campaigning.

Conference practicalities

Details about workshop facilitation, finding the venue location, where to eat, where to stay will be posted shortly – here on Eventbrite, and by email to ticket holders.

Organised by:

Free Psychotherapy Network

Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility

Supported by:

Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy

College of Psychoanalysts