Monday, February 14, 2011

Learner therapist - a proposition

Learner therapist - a proposition
Torrey Orton
Feb.14, 2011

Dear PsychologyMelbournePartners colleagues and others,

I want to talk to other therapists more than I can now. There are some opportunities at a clinic I share with 10+ other interestingly different psychs. I also share with them very restricted times of exposure to each other (scheduling) and small windows of engagement (diary again).From the two kinds of structured sharing events we have monthly – staff meetings and a couples therapy group – I have never failed to get useful prompts to my own perspectives and access to tools of our trade.

And, more important for me, this group in various configurations shows a consistent development in openness. Members both offer unsolicited, critical self revelations and respond supportively to others' revelations, while keeping the task(s) of the moment in view. For me, this group capacity is essential to engaging challenging therapy issues and cases.

But, it's still not enough, partly because I'm finding myself home to a bunch of somewhat developed insights and tools which need assessment of their real potential in the view of fellow practitioners. The other problem is limited access, so find a way to expand the group!! Now there's a problem. By what means should I try to do this? I know what a blog cannot do without massive efforts. There are a lot of activities competing for therapists' attention, including many mandated ones fulfilling professional development requirements whose attractiveness is compelling if not always entrancing.

In earlier lives of mine I've set about somewhat similar objectives by network building – looking up people I knew who 'should' have an interest in what I was proposing: an experimental school, a commune, a protest about some public issue, an alternative to a moribund union. This was actually community building since it was based in a small city where most of the players knew each other, or of each other, or could get a personal connection in two degrees to each other. That was then. A TV, telephone, radio and newspaper community.

I'm imagining potential participants in this exploration will be therapists who want more engaged, challenging peer reflection, who want more challenging perspectives on the purposes, processes and contexts of therapy, and who are computer comfortable but prefer face-to-face work…
For me writing is part of learning. As I build a picture of what I'm trying to understand, the process itself contributes new understanding. As well, written learning makes understanding open to critique, a necessary step for getting outside of myself!

So, I'll start with a few trial articles: my general objective is to identify and break through the black and white, either/or, and digital thinking patterns which abound in our trade. These areas of practice tend to summon up exclusive responses to proposed therapeutic interventions. In some cases I will be commending new competences as mandatory for effective therapeutic practice - e.g. intercultural competence and knowledge. Possible topics include:
  • Power in recovery from anxiety/depression – learning to convert anger into relevant power in appropriate relationships
  • Cause and patient injuries – a blame free world is a cause-free world; post-modern dilemmas
  • The world we are in as a background facilitator of injury – see eco-anxiety for instance.
  • Culture difference and therapeutic competence – a minimum requirement for a multi-cultural country
  • Commercialisation and bureaucratisation constraints and facilitation effects on practice - the Medicare 'service' conundrum
  • Couple conflict and shared 'facts' – finding things to agree on in areas of dispute
  • Competing therapeutic paradigms?? How do therapies relate to each other?
  • What research is really worthy of report? How to tell evidence from research.
  • The biopsychosocialcultural perspective in practice
  • Where do you stand on the boundaries of life – IVF, abortion, euthanasia, suicide??

I'll be inviting feedback from PMP colleagues in the following areas:
  • Interest of the topic itself?
  • Accessibility / clarity of the writing?
  • Suggestions re: topic/style improvements, extensions
  • Others who might be interested in such matters??
  • Venues for exploring / presenting such matters??

The invitation will be personal and declinable; if declined I will appreciate a few words of explanation since these may also help identify different approaches I might use to finding and connecting with therapists. If accepted, I expect the feedback process will take 10-20 mins. by phone; no writing required.


  1. Great list of topics, Torrey. Look forward to reading more.

  2. hadnt read this before - and now I have, it looks attractive and consider me a partner in this enterprise