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Setting up a therapists' support group 1

Seven of us got together yesterday afternoon to talk about possibly setting up some kind of therapists' support group.  We're all therapists ourselves, and some of us are close to or on the mature side of 60.  All male therapists, so we're kind of "the Grizzlies".  Why do it?  It's mostly been me who has got this inital meeting to happen ... with some help from a friend.  Why the effort?  The email we sent out at the end of November was headed "Invitation to a therapists' support group" and it read:  


Recently two of us ... who have been involved with counselling/psychotherapy for many years, have been talking about some good things that might emerge from meeting up with other experienced therapists.  We've batted around a whole series of ideas and one that has emerged looks loosely like this:

That about five to eight experienced male counsellors/psychotherapists try getting together for an initial half dozen or so evenings spread over several months.  We see it as a support group where issues that emerge from our here-and-now interactions could be helpful for our work as therapists.  The blog post on a model for "meeting at relational depth" is a bit clunky but it's very relevant to this territory.  So four overlapping points:

1.)  The therapeutic relationships we establish with our clients are so central to our work.  Being together, "encountering" a group of other experienced therapists in the here-and-now, gives us an opportunity to explore our "in-tuness", our flexibility, the issues that support, or get in the way of being present, empathic, caring, authentic with our clients.  Yeats said "A friend is someone who sees the potential in you and helps you to live it".  This parallels what Buddhists talk about with the ‘Sangha', or Quakers with the Society of Friends.  In this sense we can be friends, or fellow travellers, using our evolving interactions in the group to challenge & care for & inspire each other to help our clients more fully and deeply.

2.)  Although it may be most useful to focus particularly on what we learn from our real time interactions in the group, we will also overlap a lot in issues that emerge when we're working with clients, in how we manage work/life balance, in how our earlier life experiences colour our work as therapists for better or for worse.  These seem areas we might also sometimes look at, although it may well be best to follow where the energy, the emotion is most charged.

3.)  Professionally, as this peer group is intended to nourish our work as therapists as well as our personal growth, it seems entirely appropriate (for those who want) to claim the time we spend as peer group CPD with any relevant therapy organisations that ask for this. 

4.)  And who knows ... maybe, for some of us, working together as "therapist friends" may also deepen our relationships with each other as friends more generally.  James has been involved in a Men's Peer Network for many years - see the Ravenstor blog posts - and possibly some people coming to this local therapists' group might later want to come to some of these residential meetings.

Do contact either ... (of us) ... if you'd like to talk more about this.  Otherwise please would you reply saying whether you're interested or not.  And if you know of other experienced male counsellors/psychotherapists in or around Edinburgh, who you think might like to be involved, do let us know.  The next step after that will be for us to mail all those who have expressed interest to give you a choice of evenings in January/February when we could get together to decide how we'd like to structure an initial series of meetings.

Sounds like it could be a fun initiative to try in the New Year!

With all best wishes

There was a good response.  I got to correspond with twenty or so experienced therapists who were interested to hear about the possible group.  I've been working in Edinburgh for nearly thirty years, but most of these people I had never come across or only knew vaguely by name.  What fun!  An excuse to reach out to "fellow travellers", to other guys who have been on journeys that, in some ways, parallel my own.  Why did I only invite men?  Partly it's because therapy tends to be quite a female affair.  Going to psychotherapy/counselling workshops & conferences, men tend to be in the minority ... often very much the minority.  This is a good chance to speak issues through with others in this minority.  It's also, for me, about friendship.  I'm blessed with what feels a great marriage and some lovely women friends, but my closest friends are mostly other guys.  And maybe another close friend or two might emerge from a group like this.  After all, what I look for in friends includes being very real/authentic, open-hearted, perceptive, psychologically-minded.  Other therapists are likely to honour these qualities too.

See tomorrow's post for what happened next!


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