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In A Paperweight Palatinate
Wesley Tantrum reports from the UKCP Court, Buxton, March 2008
THE MISSING REGISTRANTS AND A COURT JESTER
As any good guerrilla knows to confront power one must find a point of leverage. When Wesley showed up at the UKCP's 3 day AGM 2008 on day 2 which had been designated as "Registrants Day" that leverage was quickly evident. As the so-called delegates drifted into the cavernous weddingcake ballroom within the grandeur of The Palace Hotel, Buxton, there was barely a humble registrant to be seen. The figure Wesley was given was 4 out of 130 or so bods visible.
Delegates properly speaking are persons subject to right of recall by a broader constituency such as the mass of registrants that would not attend an event in person. Let's demystify. Delegates to Buxton meant representatives of the trainers club, the 80 plus training institutes that along with a few 'special' and 'institutional' members form the cartel that runs this dominator organisation. Therefore Wesley's invitation card was not sent to him in person (though they do have his address) it had to be forwarded on from his member organisation which anomalously but significantly has no training agenda, only an accrediting brief. The unspoken here is know your place in the hierarchical order. Thus in this political hall of mirrors Wesley was a "delegate" who was not a delegate who took it on himself to represent viewpoints from the "disenfranchised" registrants who the day was allegedly for but who were almost totally absent.
So why weren't there at least a few hundred out of the six thousand plus registrants there with Wesley in Buxton? The ballroom booked was big enough. As ever the UKCP could do with their money, say 200 peasants tithed at 50 quid a head, that's 10 grand. Perhaps the UKCP didn't really want them there anyway, at least not just yet. But it had, to use its favourite phrase, "to be seen to be" inviting them. Then with a blinding flash, Wesley remembered. As he prepared to enter his role as court jester to Prince James D'Antrican, Chair of the UKCP, knowing full well that he was not a member of the royal family nor in the role of loyal courtier dazzled by the sacrifice of milord and his appointed minions, it came to Wesley as he perplexed over those missing registrants. It must be the doing of that dastardly missing Vice Chair for Registrant Services. The suave aristocrat had been charged with mounting a charm offensive towards those selfsame registrants, now deemed necessary (after 15 years} to the survival of the UKCP post state regulation. Rumour had it that he had fallen from grace at court, nay even fallen on hard times and would have to withdraw from all committee work and retire to the manse. Wesley felt a wave of compassion at the thought that Sir Courtenay might join him among the decayed gentry, even as he breathed a sigh of relief over the failure of that charm offensive. Clearly the courtiers had been too busy with committee work to co-opt anyone to replace him and would be voting in a substitute tomorrow.
Within this grim, sacrificial and at the same time self-congratulatory atmosphere, the role of court jester acquires a certain potency. Prince James loomed up behind Wesley, he seemed to want to hear from him, did Wesley have the royal ear? D'Antrican must have realised that his independent voice had a power and authority that at least equals or may even exceed those of his servants. D'Antrican flattered him (Wesley was not deceived!), terming Wesley 'adversarial', the very same adjective the Prince was to use an hour later for D'Antrican's opponent in the Department of Health, the doughty Ros Mead. This civil servant had sussed that the PPC (Psychological Professions Council), now morphed into the PPAG (Psychological Professions Action Group - sounds stronger doesn't it - almost stormtrooper) was actually a front organisation for the trainers club and would have none of it as a substitute for the government's chosen instrument for regulation, the HPC (Health Professions Council). The state has little time for what it perceives as paperweight palatinates. And anyway the UKCP has imbibed the Noo Labour version of consensus, namely there is no place for a politics of confrontation.
It's as if the Confederation of British Industry had for years posed as representing everybody's interests. But then sensing hard times ahead, that its raison d'etre might be supplanted, that its very existence is in jeopardy, it attempts to reinvent itself as a trade union. This is a joke too far, a deception too much and the workers fail to show up to accept the privilege. If there are shades of class war in this guerrilla account, this is why. It's the economy, stoopid, the economy of the training market that's at stake behind all the antics that Wesley observed at the court of the UKCP. But this being psychotherapy, that can't be owned, as it can be by the CBI.
And why you might ask are the personages in this tale so repetitiously titled? The answer is simple. They are obsessed with title and status and have been for years but again, because they are psychotherapists, they can't acknowledge their neurosis. Wesley wonders whether at this eleventh hour by holding up this rear view mirror he can help them recognise their blind spots and truly see the trouble ahead as the juggernaut of state regulation bears down upon them.
HIGH VOLUME LOW INTENSITY LOW VOLUME HIGH INTENSITY - THE IAPT IMPACT AND A CHATSHOW
The delegates took their seats and Wesley's jaw dropped as he realised he was about to be treated to a concession to democracy, a chatshow. Onto the stage came a smiling Lady Jocelyn, no doubt delighted to be parading the conference circuit in the wake of her ex, Sir Andrew. Another missing one, could Sir Andrew be out of favour for his embarrassing duelling (NOT in the name of the UKCP!) with Sir David Veale of the Knights Behavioral of the Cognitive Temple?
Back to businesss. The microphone passed between Jocelyn and James, she the hostess sweetly prompting him to shed light on the regulatory future for the edification of the trainers club and their estate managers. Wesley raised his eyes to the ballroom ceiling and noted the crystal ball was missing. IAPT apparently was poised to extend its ominous influence over the psy field, now looking beyond the already sequestered pastures of anxiety and depression.
Prince James couldn't quite get his tongue round "the low volume high intensity" remainder after "the high volume low intensity" harvesters had been positioned to clean up the anxiety and depression pastures. He was obviously in a twist because what he so wanted to be able to say to the assembled owners and managers of the training estates was "high volume high intensity". But he knew in his heart that the state with its cunning formula had taken away his power to promise that. It's hard to keep your mind clear or your end up when you've been castrated. What with the BPS having long ago captured the placement market within the NHS and the BABCP in pole position to manage the extended IAPT initiatives (Oooh what a lot of government money!) and BACP poised to take over "the high volume low intensity" training market before long (way below UKCP gold standard of course!), what would be left for the estate managers? Of the PPAG 'partners' that leaves BPC, whose existence is premised on their psychoanalytic splintering/splitting off from the UKCP back in the nineties, too snooty to keep their snouts in the same trough as the UKCP. Hello! Where's private practice and its public in all this? Perhaps BPC would like to claim that as their domain. Wesley could see a lot of worried brows in the audience. There could soon be a few more decayed gentry.
OUTFLANKED BY THE MYRIAD GOVERNMENT BODIES
To return to the chatshow. Ros Mead, "she's everywhere", was "not a friend of the UKCP" because she had tried to get CBT prioritised as the lens through which all other modalities were to be looked at. Next it was Skills for Health who "have to work to a budget for developing National Occupational Standards". This quango was seen by D'Antrican as probably having the most integrity. Wesley glanced behind the chatshow to the power point presentation of the myriad government blessed bodies poised acronymically like vultures round the corpse of psychotherapy and noted that Skills for Business had been significantly misplaced, ranked at the bottom of the list on a level with Skills For Health, when in fact it presides over the Sector Skills Agency that in turn manages S4H. The mysteries of hierarchical power. The ordering of the free market. Integrity?
In a brief discussion of the revolving doors participants in the myriad blessed bodies (i.e. committees) there was gung-ho talk of getting someone on every committee "to surround her". It seemed more likely to Wesley that it was already the other way round; the psychotherapy posse has been encircled by the myriad bodies, is definitely on the back foot and its capture for state regulation on the state's terms is now almost in the bag. "Where is the powerhouse?" asked Lady Jocelyn, perhaps genuinely mystified. "The Health Professions Council is the final arbiter of the other's inputs" intoned Prince James.
December 13th 2007 was named as the date of a unique pronouncement by the HPC, that it would proactively pursue the regulation of the psychological therapies. All previous professional bodies already within its regulatory remit had had to apply for the privilege. Those who advise the HPC must be aware of the history of the psy field. They had no doubt heard the jokes about how many therapists it takes to change a light-bulb and concluded we don't have a budget that permits us to wait for you to agree amongst yourselves. Thus the proverbial saving grace of the psychotherapy world is binned, a shattered light-bulb.
Never mind. Enlightenment was not far away in the person of Bishop Heward no less, who happened to have sat himself next to Wesley. Was this the law of spiritual attraction or was he there as Wesley's minder? Predictably Heward invoked a prospect of salvation, a deus ex machina, through the advent, sometime in 2009 God willing, of a Tory government. Didn't it used to be said that The Church of England was the Tory party at prayer? Wesley had to quickly remind himself of his nonconformist principles before Heward could waft him away into fantasies of deregulation. Perhaps Heward had missed the obvious, that Noo Labour and the Tories would share a perception that regulating professionals, bringing them into a many-individuals-bound-to-the-One-agent-of-the-state-relationship, the HPC, was the perfect antidote to any left-leaning block-bargaining tendencies they might have, tendencies that might inconvenience the rightful onward thrust of the deregulated free market, whereby salaries can be cut so that profits can be assured..
WESLEY'S FIRST MANIFESTATION TO THE COLLABORATORS
Next the trainers club learnt of SRAG, "it sits over everything", i.e. a cluster of shadowy bodies currently determining standards, interfacing through revolving doors representations on all the other bodies (20+?) on that powerpoint presentation. With the mention of Lord Allthedice chairing SRAG, Wesley knew that the moment for his first manifestation had arrived. As the audience had been previously enjoined to distinguish with which voice they were speaking, as registrant or ex officio as Member Organisation delegate with the tacit assumption that these could be divergent, Wesley took this opportunity to introduce himself as Wesley Tantrum from the Mind, Body, Spirit Section. He nearly added that he was the missing hippy half-brother of Digby, former UKCP Chair, professor and psychiatrist, but guessed they mostly knew anyway. Harking back to Lord Allthedice's sneaky Private Member's Bill of 1992, a failed bid to privilege certain parts of the psy field (i.e. the BCP and the UKCP but only with parts of the latter had the wicked peer had his way), Wesley spoke of history's retrospective judgement upon this time since 1992 in which the UKCP had become a collaborator with the government to create an occupied territory.
Either the metaphor struck home or it was already in the matrix, as a UKCP office holder, whose name Wesley may have misheard, yet it sounded like Enervate, was later in the day to be heard speaking of Vichy and the tanks rolling in. In the tea break Wesley was approached by a series of courtiers expressing private agreement while two managers of training estates termed him respectively 'warrior' and 'showman', compliments Wesley graciously accepted.
Was it the content of Wesley's argument that after 1992 the UKCP should have backed off from all negotiations with the government and dropped its mission statement of pursuit of Statutory Registration, it's current plight now hinging on it being dragged backwards into state regulation, that was enhancing his credentials as a roving preacher? Or was it the manner of Wesley's intervention? For as a man of the people, or should we say a member of the decayed gentry, Wesley made contact with his audience by revolving as he spoke, turning his back on power, turning away from the Prince and the Lady on the platform. Hierarchies maintain themselves through control of space.
THE IDENTITY CRISIS
Oh how the mighty are fallen! Believe Wesley, there were actually concerns at Buxton with registrants' right to practice. Someone asked, what are the legal implications of finding I can no longer trade under a title I have used for twenty years? There was fear in the room. The fear the UKCP itself has systematically generated in the registrant base for the last 15 years. But let's set emotion aside for the moment. For here is the latent identity crisis. Perhaps the professional false self, generated to cope with the public's suspicion of psychotherapy and the government's bureaucratic mindset, has now grown to critical proportions. Evidence of this came late in the afternoon from the good Bishop Heward, who carefully prefaced his passionate self parody (indeed a selbsdarstellung of the first order, would he like private tuition in this fast track to ecstacy?) by terming it a 'process observation'. "Right now, I don't want anything to do with regulation! I want it shot like the albatross! I want to stay like we are! I don't want to manage efficiently in the modern world!" And then again in more measured tones came the voice of another estate manager, an apparatchnik who was to be heard making a peculiarly deferential reference to Wesley about "wanting to protest hugely at the moral bankruptcy but it's better to be inside the tent than outside it". Even Prince James, minding his Ps and Qs, said cryptically "there are ways and means", "there are people in the audience who can't be registered in good conscience", and "how to address the spirit and be adaptable". Indeed if we were to backtrack a year to the 2007 AGM we find D'Antrican in his Chairs Report of March 2008 writing:
A delegate questioned, if it becomes clear psychotherapists are being pushed into the HPC, how far will we carry resistance? The answer is that UKCP is still fighting to ensure that the place for psychotherapists is congruent with the values and beliefs that we hold. There may be some practitioners of psychotherapy that find that statutory regulation interferes with the values they hold as necessary to practice. The UKCP needs to evolve to hold diverse positions and maintain standards and accountability. If the majority of UKCP members wished to hold a position against statutory regulation, the UKCP would have to change its focus and organisation to accommodate that change in emphasis.
How much store to put by this? Don't hold your breath! The trainers club has its money on state regulation and it decides UKCP policy right up to State Regulation Day when the champagne corks will be popping. Two-faced statements are deemed necessary to pre-empt organisational haemorrhage. Certain estate managers affected hushed but knowing tones, as if they were in possession of some secret weapon they were just holding for release at the right moment that would soon confound the government. Wesley was not deceived.
THE BISHOP, THE PALATINATE AND LESSONS FROM HISTORY
Then again let's hear from the good Bishop who made it his business to out Wesley as a member of the sinister Independent Practitioners Network. IPN, pronounced Heward, by virtue of not entering into discussion with the government was not in a position to withdraw from discussion. His Episcopal pleasure in unleashing the remarkable paradox of this double negative appeared to have caused him to forget that in the temporal domain the threat of breaking off negotiations now at such an advanced stage was hardly likely to cut much ice with the state. The UKCP can huff and it can puff but government can blow its house down. Regulators regulate. They may for a while put on a show of negotiating and "Listening", given that Noo Labour repeatedly offers consultations as a means of co-option. But policy has already been decided elsewhere.
Knowing the UKCP to be a palatinate of paperweights the government would also guess that, were the UKCP to create a vacuum by breaking off negotiations, the rival umbrella organisations (namely the BACP, BCP and BABCP) would rush to fill it. And that after all the years of infighting and faked cooperation to watch each other's moves (the justificatory "ringside view") to drop out would not be likely. There was a touching moment during Registrants Day when someone suggested UKCP fuse with BACP (Wesley recalled that UKCP was born out of BAC's facilitation at Rugby). Did she not know of the hard feelings left over from the Allthedice fiasco which would have left the BAC truly out in the cold had the wicked Lord been able to pull his swifto off? As it was, BAC promptly claimed psychotherapy as theirs too, and changed their name to BACP. Whereupon in the tit for tat trade war, UKCP decided it was time to annex counselling as 'psychotherapeutic counselling', taking a cue no doubt from the BPS claim on 'counselling psychology'.
One might guess who would be the junior partner in such a fantasy fusion. 27000 doesn't go into 6500.
THE LOST REGISTRANTS
The above brings Wesley to a further aspect of the numbers game. Despite the annual graduation of candidates from the training estates in recent years, overall registrant numbers have remained static, i.e. the UKCP is not quite what it might seem from the outside. Registrants for several years have been voting with their feet. Here Wesley must quote from the UKCP Registration Board's Annual Report for 2008, available at Buxton.
In the year 1-10-2005 to 30-9-2006 1,801 registrants failed to register of which 641 failed to submit their forms. 1160 were submitted with a reason as to their not re-registering. Thus 641 non-re-registers were unaccounted for.
In the year 1-10-2006 to 30-9-2007 1,007 registrants failed to register of which 785 failed to submit their forms. 292 were submitted with a reason as to their not re-registering. Thus 785 non-re-registers were unaccounted for. Although there are 6453 registrants the number of registrants not re-registering is a matter of considerable concern.
Now there are several intriguing aspects to these figures. The Registration Board remains coy about the reasons given by 1452 former registrants who did give a reason for not re-registering. Presumably too many were too unflattering to permit a percentage breakdown to be made public. But to lose over a seventh of one's membership for two years running remains quite an achievement. For want of access to the detail of this data Wesley might speculate that there is a well-grounded perception that the UKCP serves the interests of the Member Organisations (collectively the trainers club) and is no longer able to pull off a conflation of these interests with those of the registrants at large.
Within each training institute, teaching and supervision jobs for the girls and boys will be limited, those who have them will hold onto them, leaving being on the list of approved therapists for trainees as the remaining inducement (hardly tempting given that therapists are frequently the most difficult and least rewarding clients). Then there is the likely realisation that, despite it being touted as essential in the event of statutory registration, the register itself has very little pull as an advertising medium for the individual registrant (compared say to the BACP Directory) and worse still, notwithstanding 15 years of trumpeting, it's only a very limited public that takes any notice at all of the supposedly crucial letters after your name. UKCP has no USP. Next there is the likelihood that a high percentage of newly registered practitioners who fail to find a salaried position as a counsellor or psychotherapist within the NHS or voluntary sector, like butterflies released from the candidate chrysalis, enjoy a few months of life before their economic extinction. There is no pot of gold at the end of the training rainbow and the estate managers are known for being less than honest about this.
So far Wesley's speculations are mainly economic as they should be given the now massive financial commitment required to get to graduation. But perhaps there are other determinations at work, fuelling the lost registrant phenomenon, more interesting and subtle than administrative lapses and a failure to sell membership benefits, which would be the UKCP's preferred, because presumed to be remediable, analysis. Though last year the wastage rate was a third less, the number of registrants not even bothering to submit their forms was actually greater. There must be considerable disillusionment, bitterness and disgust out there amongst the practitioner base. Some might even find a home within the Independent Practitioners Network.
THE SHIPS WRECK
To return to Wesley's real time narrative at Buxton. Here he goes nautical. Admiral Sir Richard de Clemency, Chair of the SHIPS section, the largest in the UKCP but also the section most liable to wreck on the rock of standards, knows that currently his fleet is truly at sea. Like the good Bishop Heward, he time-travelled, projecting himself into the future so as to distract from the present. He looked lugubriously ahead and pondered aloud about "university courses for 21 year olds in search of a career path, desirous of earning money and having status". The estate managers, eager and academised, were hanging on his every word. But it was a feint, he reverted mournfully to the past, and went on to say, with just a touch of nostalgia, "I guess we all came in via our personal development and a sense of vocation".
Meanwhile far from Buxton a crisis is unfolding. There is a feverish fear in de Clemency's fleet that the SHIPS won't even make it to Dry Dock of State Regulation and will sink without a trace, let alone get a sliver of an IAPT contract. The estate managers are panicked, fearing they have invested in a South Sea Bubble. The cry has already been raised that mutineers like Wesley must be blamed for the failure to reach Dry Dock. Mutineers of The Mind Body Spirit Section are gathering allies for the body, the unconscious, the transpersonal, into an awareness of power relations, in short for everything left out of the S4H equations.
De Clemency's engineers are working overtime to plug the holes in the rotten SHIPS timbers, desperately searching for the evidence glue that will satisfy the quartermasters of S4H that the SHIPS are seaworthy. The search is on for that magic araldite, somewhere there must be a cache of research papers with which to wipe/lick the arse of the CBT scientist/researchers; or better still to stick it up their cannon so no further Evidence-Based shit can be fired over his SHIPS. That's the hole they really need to plug.
It gets worse. These scientist researchers are muttering that they just can't find a way to map the precise co-ordinates of the Integrative parts of the fleet, - we just don't know where they are and they are not able to tell us either in a language we understand. In fact we may have to prise them away from the Humanistic craft! HELP!!! To the rescue Sir Courtenay (oops), HELP Lady Kathleen please! Lady Jocelyn WHERE are you? Oh dear, oh dear! Dame Angela can't you conjugate with the SRAG?
Coolly the scientist/researchers consult the S4H quartermaster after which they announce the Integratives must be beached. If they can run their boats aground then they can be hauled in to join the 3 crowds of landlubbers already quarantined by S4H and waiting for their clean bill of health, a prelude to receiving NHS passports. As for the scurvied flaky Humanistics, let them sink.
AHOY THE SAVOY…SAVOIR LE LOI…SAVOIR LE ROI…SAV_ _OY
Here Wesley diverts again to explain that the aforesaid 3 crowds are now certificated fit for IAPT contracts. Sir David Veale's Knights Behavioral of The Cognitive Temple. Sir Peter Fony G Frontman Extraordinaire for the BPAS. And the more motley and faceless Family Systemic crowd. A word on each.
As the CBT mob set the whole exercise up and are the government's frontrunner favourites, their certificate was a foregone conclusion. Now here's where it gets interesting. The official BPAS psychoanalysts know full well how to keep a place for themselves in any scramble for government favours. Though Freud expressed a wish that at some future date psychoanalysis would achieve scientific validation, he would have turned in his grave had he been able to witness the antics at the December 2007 conference at The Savoy "PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIES IN THE NHS. SCIENCE, PRACTICE AND POLICY"; which might equally well have been straplined "Know Who Is In Charge And Make Sausagemeat Out Of Your Psychotherapy".
At this event attended by government representatives, the official psychoanalysts (there are many others who are aware of the betrayal of psychoanalysis by this crowd) embraced Randomised Control Trials, Statistical Meta Analysis, empirical psychological studies of child development and as befits a mob with neverending aspirations to be the Security Council for the entire psy field, - frustration of which caused them to break out of the UKCP and form the BPC, Panopticon Technology, equipment for the apparatus of surveillance. As for the third crowd, the Family Systemics Wesley hasn't got anything on them (yet) beyond a vague idea that S4H legitimation would be fairly automatic given how badly needed they must be to assist in the management and processing of 'problem families', none of which could have anything to do with government policy, except that social workers can't be trusted to fall in line, and psychotherapists can.
LOBBYISTS AND LEARNING CURVES
Let's get back to the court of Prince James. The totalising, if not totalitarian impact of the powerpoint presentation of the 20+ myriad bodies bearing down on the estate managers had to be addressed. Said the Prince, who had signed the Savoy Declaration in the name of the UKCP: "It's very difficult to hold the dualism". For a moment Wesley thought D'Antrican was following the Bishop into theology or the Admiral into the Beyond. But no, D'Antrican was having a brush with despair. "These meetings are not the easiest thing in the world to attend. Would the answer be to hire a political lobbyist?" As no one appeared to take him up on the idea his despair must have gone a notch deeper. For what policy objective someone might have asked. Wesley drifted off into visions of the UKCP's very own Derek Draper bending Gordon's ear…"Our client's estate managers have huge resources of expertise…these people really care…they're not political…they're on message…a contract would go a long way…they're cheap at the price…when's the next deal for the IAPT?"
Then he was back in the ballroom. A voice was saying "there's a terrifying learning curve in a not very ethical world". It was Sir Christopher Heavens. "If we don't know about this world we're history." And there the session ended. As Wesley made his way out to tea he remembered why he would be writing up his visit to court, for the sake of the 200 or so who were missing. As for the other 6000 would any of them want to know?
UNGAGGED SECTIONS SPEAK
And so began another session with Section reps for modalities forming a panel on the platform, still with the myriad bodies hovering over them. "All of us or none of us!" was a motif. Wesley of course with his populist leanings did not misread this as meaning literally all practitioners in the psy field. However for the majority of the estate managers present this rallying cry meant we want S4H to give everyone in the UKCP the OK to enter the HPC pen.
But the Council for Psychoanalysis and Jungian Analysis [CPJA] did not seem to want to enter the pen. For the uninitiated, CPJA are unofficial analysts, one of many such groupings world wide who in their politics fall into the binary Sinn Fein model of the Official and the Provisionals, with comparable levels of infighting. From a straw poll of their members, their rep reported, many are quite strongly against the direction the UKCP is going in and are fundamentally against state regulation. Wesley's ears pricked up when the rep went on to add "And it's not just anxiety." Wesley recalled Freud's theory thereof, especially signal anxiety, and breathed a sigh of relief. There on the platform was an uncourtly human being, embodying the alerting mechanism which forewarns the ego of an impending threat to it's equilibrium and who at the same time was able to think. "What we sign up to now, what will it mean in 5 to 10 years time?" Music to Wesley's ears after the earlier telescopics from the sad and rather wet Admiral.
Alas it was SHIPS next and true to form she could be heard echoing the Admiral. "We have to think about those who will come after us". This aria almost reached the ballroom ceiling only to plunge towards the estate manager's bottom-line nightmare. "No marginalized group will be able to attract trainees." The SHIPS's rep was clearly struggling to compute the bitter truth that market deregulation is proceeding in tandem with the regulation of professionals. Wesley could almost feel sorry for her as she spoke enviously of the £60 million the government is providing to support innovation in industry. Perhaps psychotherapy trainings could re-brand themselves as an industry and attract government support by advertising behavior control services, first line of defence against civilian unrest. How about Secure Corps Psy Corps?
Wesley reminded himself to concentrate on what was in front of him. The Experiential Constructivist Section was now on with stirring stuff that was decidedly off -message. "We are not even represented at S4H, it has been a struggle to get our competencies accepted by the UKCP. The government has been able to split us and pick the topics. How sharp is the single point of your sword? We're equipped with the wrong weapons and we haven't chosen the territory on which the battle is being fought." Wesley warmed to this warrior orator but what exactly did he mean? Hotheads enjoy each other's rhetoric even if it verges on hot air.
HOIST ON THE COLLEGE PETARD
The UKCP is hoist on its own petard. Its gold standard claim for its trainings is problematic. The HPC is perceived as dumbing down to the lowest common standards. "We can only hope that they will ratchet them up later after getting everyone in." In the meantime "we must recreate ourselves as a College. Individual registrants need to be enfranchised for their wealth of talent" urged an estate manager. "On a par with the College of Psychiatrists" chimed in another excited voice. A lobbying role was proposed for this single unified College of Psychotherapists . Lady Celia, Countess MacNab, of the Gestalt psychotherapy estate, waxed on about how the government was afraid to bypass the Royal College of Nursing until the rep from the Royal College of Psychiatry brought her back to earth with the observation. "No. They are losing clout. Government quangos are taking over."
Wesley could not help noticing what a powerful mesmerising effect these supposed bastions of medical model power seemed to be having on the discussion. It was as though the idea already on the table of the Sections morphing into Colleges in the plural lacked some longed for mystique which might be restored through an imaginary merger into a single greater One. To be one or to be many? To anticipate the government, and do its work for it, or to hold back and draw a line?
Perhaps, thought Wesley, listening in to this agitated kite-flying, the real issue is who is scared of who and who accordingly needs a bigger champion entity to fight its corner. "With the herbalists" said the warrior from the EC Section in a private aside to Wesley, "the government had overreached themselves. The herbalists successfully challenged the St Johns Wort Directive because their patients were up in arms about it. Having banged everyone into a consultation the government had to be genuinely in consultative mode.
But with the Listening Events for psychotherapists they are not really going to be listening, they will be in dictating mode." Yes, thought Wesley, that's the point, the UKCP has barely engaged with its own registrants, never mind the public, who they do protest too much they are protecting. Just imagine that public eavesdropping on this court; the public would find it all quite barmy. Some might become so confused they might have a breakdown. So for sure there's no public that will come to the UKCP's rescue when the HPC brushes it aside. The government knows it's a paperweight palatinate.
PAPER SHAPES PANTOMIME
It was lunchtime and Wesley took care to sit with a bod from the CPJA section on the premise that however indifferent the usual conference fare, at least with this luncher there would be food for thought.
The afternoon was mostly given over to an exercise in shape-shifting under the Registrants Day rubric of "Facing the Future". The hirsute Duke Mazure from the SHIPS section facilitated this gruesome pretend-experiential thing. The exercise appeared to be geared to herding the courtiers into one or other corner in preparation for voting on the morrow's AGM motions concerning the UKCP's internal reorganisation.
Steam having been let off in the morning sessions, the afternoon was the intermediate phase of regrouping the courtiers for the real business of forcing a choice (at least preserving a figleaf of democracy) between the options generated by the SPAG (the UKCP's Strategic Planning Action Group). To an registrant outsider like Wesley, the options were no more than a series of almost incomprehensible paper diagrams in flowchart form, replete with circles, arrows, squares and shadings. To an insider estate manager no doubt critical issues concerning the distribution of power within the UKCP were thereby reflected. To all options was appended the reminder line "The Health Professions Council (HPC) becomes the regulator for Psychotherapy and Counselling possibly as early as 2010". One might be forgiven for thinking that SPAG was working for the government every bit as much as SRAG. A party line in common no less.
THE BIG CON - THE NON DECISION
It would be easy to lose sight of the fact that this whole exercise of internal reorganisation was premised on what was NOT to be up for voting or a decision the following day, namely the external relations with the state and the myriad bodies it exerts itself through, crucially amongst these the HPC, the designated pen. Here again was the now familiar inevitability trance induction in operation, as it has been for the last 15 years. The estate managers had already given an implicit 'yes' to state regulation the day they enshrined the Holy Grail of Statutory Registration within the UKCP's mission statement. It was then assumed that this would be achieved through the successful passage of an Act of Parliament which granted control of title to a self-regulating profession or more accurately to self-selected parts of the psy field.
Refusal to make the crucial distinction between this now thankfully aborted project and the upcoming arrangements for direct state regulation of the entire psy field is the issue here. This refusal implies there is still some gain for the trainers club however reduced or else too great an economic penalty attached to giving a 'no' to state regulation. The old 'protection of the public against charlatans' myth still provides cover.
The UKCP follows the BPS in declining to contest the related, totalitarian and very contemporary myth that the state can, should and will remove all risks from its citizens lives. In fact the new myth could confer considerable economic benefits on any professional group that plays its cards right and appears to be on board for this government agenda. The shadow side of the new myth will be the gallows, stocks and shaming for the individual practitioner who is found not necessarily unethical - though for good measure this will be attached - but simply in error or not particularly competent on some occasion. In extreme situations the government will be well placed to scapegoat whole sectors of the psy field so the unspoken strategy of the trainers club could seriously backfire. But Wesley's focus here is on the unspoken at Buxton.
The careful avoidance of a line in the sand vote of YES or NO to entry into HPC was structured into the Buxton event, rendering it a non-event. This did not stop Lady Gladeana naively asking: "Would it be obligatory for registrants to join the HPC? Would it be required or could diversity be accommodated?" Prince James gave a shifty reply. "I would like for us to have that choice. At the moment we're discussing this." By 'we' he probably meant the inner cabal of the UKCP executive. The 6000+ registrants due to be dished would not be included in the deliberations of that royal we, they for sure are not to be given the choice to discuss such matters and heaven forbid vote on the matter. The estate managers will see to that. Yet, a large part of the shape-shifting exercise was presented as for the "enfranchisement" of registrants! But strictly and only post regulation. What a con!
So the potential at this juncture for an extended discussion of what after all will be the most definitive impact on the psy field in Britain in its 85 years or thereabouts history, the potential was then foreclosed, further discussion deflected by D'Antrican's sly reply to a further question. "What support can the UKCP give to those members who do not want to sign up?" Some say Prince D'Antrican is a Machiavelli, others that he flounders, out of his depth. "In practice our colleagues in the NHS will have to go into the HPC. The question is how to support them in a process that they know is wrong and damaging". As for what 'we' will actually do…..??? One guess only.
With hindsight it is clear that the much talked up NHS connection was a Trojan Horse for capturing the whole field of private practice within the citadel of state regulation. Wesley can recall the peculiar simultaneous elevation by the UKCP, yes they were made lifetime honorary members of the UKCP, of two figures from his own M.O. within the SHIPS section. The first one Lady Patricia Le Scout for selling the NHS as a sea for SHIPS to sail in; the second one, Sir John De Ruin, who must have known better, for keeping his mouth shut about that, for levitating and for forgetting his Red Therapy beginnings.
ABORTED ICO - WESLEY'S PARTING PROVOCATION
When the call went out to choose your shape, as the courtiers shuffled across the ballroom, Wesley was picking up a mood of boredom, reluctance and frustration, signs of a subliminal sense of being manipulated, of having a substitute focus laid upon them, indicating a guerrilla moment was at hand.
Wesley joined the abstainers who appeared equal in number to the only other shape being chosen, hardly a vote of confidence. This had to be the occasion for Wesley's final manifestation. The topic was internal reorganisation. Two months earlier Prince D'Antrican had announced in an anodyne letter to the estate managers (it would be up to them when or if they informed the registrants) that the UKCP's brainchild, The Independent Complaints Organisation (designed to pre-empt an anticipated charge from the government of corrupt and collusive management of complaints by the profession itself) was to be aborted. Or as he put it in his letter: "The UKCP Board of Trustees came to the view that it is not appropriate in the current climate to launch the ICO into independent life."
Now Wesley had pre-manifested at the October 2007 London presentation to the registrants of the soon-to-be-delivered brainchild and had pointed out its probable redundancy in view of the HPC's plans for the psy field but his warning had been met with denial. Sure enough D'Antrican's letter spoke of the HPC's Chief Executive ruling out any rival or alternate complaints agencies. But this letter also made no mention of the deep disquiet within the UKCP over the imposition of the ICO. In fact, to Prince D'Antrican's fury, a certain nosy parker intruded on to his pitch at the November EGM by distributing a paper for reflection which led to 7 Member Organisations within the CPJA section issuing a statement of refusal to sign up to the ICO. Worse for the UKCP, a reading of that statement reveals views that would require extraordinary feats of mental gymnastics for these organisations to accommodate their registrants within the HPC.
It was with this background in mind and in the context of a further organisational brainchild being launched from the backrooms, that Wesley, in court jester mode, expressed feigned perplexity over the unmourned demise of the ICO. This must have stung the Prince, as he retorted that Wesley was trying to destroy the UKCP, a surefire rallying call to the estate managers one of whom later made a determined bid to get Wesley to confirm this. Of course mourning in the psy field is a prized area of expertise in 'working through' and its due process deemed a necessity, so to remark it's absence was both a quip and a slap. If one organisation, the brainchild, can be disappeared like this, then maybe another, the mother of it, could also be ready for auto-destruct. And who would mourn its passing?
RETURN OF THE BISHOP
Back again came the Bishop's universalising voice, as if he had all the spiritual force of The One, the established Anglican Church behind him. "We've already given ground to the government by allowing them to divide us up into modalities, we need to go forward on a training standards model rather than a modality model, as a single profession of psychotherapy!" For a moment one might have forgotten that psychotherapists have been dividing themselves into modalities for years before the state was in the least interested. Heward, a master of paradox, had rhetorically collapsed all tensions between the training standards of different modalities. You could almost hear the psychoperistalsis of relief amongst the estate managers.
BATHOS, HUBRIS AND THE DIM LIGHT-BULB
The discussion continued as courtiers stood restlessly, having shape-shifted. It would soon be time for tea and perhaps some conspiracy. Lady Celia, Countess MacNab, opined that there just weren't large numbers of registrants rearing to come in, exercise influence and get involved and asked why not? By now Wesley could hardly believe his ears. Lady Jocelyn, estate manager for training therapists to work with children, had the answer. From within her parent-child paradigm she spoke of "not sharing power with the children. But they have a lot to offer us." By now it was becoming clear that the quality of contributions was really falling off. The explicit mapping of a parent-child model onto the estate managers and their graduates (yes, the graduates, not the trainees had become the children in her metaphor, it was nicely indicative of the hubris that afflicts the trainers club). As with the clients, so with the therapists, some were in the present, some were in the past. Which time band were they speaking from as their future bore down on them?
The day had worn on, regression was now more evident. The therapeutic light-bulb was dimming as the sun was going down over the Peak district. The question of how many therapists would be needed to change that light-bulb was as topical as ever. Wesley decided not to stay on for dinner. It would be mean, even churlish to make a scene at the table, to upset the foreseeable speeches of self-congratulation and back-scratching, the essential mood engineering and cultivation of bonhomie, even collegiality, before the next day's power plays within AGM format. As Wesley stepped out of the Palace Hotel, back into the real world, the electric rhythms of Riff Raff and the Transylvanians rang out from its mock gothic towers:
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely
Not for very much longer
I've got to keep control
I remember doing the timewarp.
The Rocky Horror Show