ACCREDITATION AND PROFESSIONALISM
Originally published in 2015. For those not in the know, back then we called our work Multi-Generational Psychotraumatology, and the method was known as The Constellaton of the Intention.
Some people who are considering joining the London training in Multi-Generational Psycho-Traumatology and The Constellation of the Intention are asking me more in depth questions about exams, qualifications, accreditation and professional organisations, so I thought I would write something about how I think about this topic.
Where we are right now:
At the present time this work is relatively new in the UK, and there are very few practitioners. Most of those practising this work are doing it under the guise of an already achieved professional psychotherapy qualification and governing body membership, such as BACP or UKCP. In effect most are working 'under-cover' so to speak, and not advertising themselves formally as practitioners of the Constellation of the Intention. Some consider themselves as psychotherapists who do ‘trauma constellations’. And some came to this work through Family Constellations and still regard themselves as Family Constellations practitioners who include ‘trauma work’. In my best estimate there are only three people in the UK at this time working completely within the frame of Franz Ruppert’s work, one of which is me. There are several others I know who I would define as ongoing students in the process of becoming trauma constellations therapists.
This gives some idea of the developmental phase of ‘trauma constellations’ in the UK at the moment. We are young, and well before any consideration of the construction of any such entities that accredit or provide overarching governing structures for a profession.
The psychotherapy profession today:
I have concerns about the general process of professionalisation that present day psychotherapy training institutes in the UK have embraced. Psychotherapy training today is very expensive, takes roughly 5 – 7 years, involves a high degree of academic achievement, written work and oral examinations in which students are assessed by their ‘superiors’ as to their competency and safety in relation to working with people. This assessment is always done by others, who are deemed as more experienced and to be further along the professional road.
Governing bodies, such as the UKCP and BACP, hold psychotherapy professionals in terms of ongoing assessment of competency and safety, providing codes of ethics and practice, and mediation services for when there are grievances, disputes and allegations of malpractice or abuse.
As a practitioner of the work developed by Franz Ruppert, I question psychotherapy’s reliance on examinations, ‘expert’ external assessment, and governing bodies’ claim to protect the public from incompetency and unethical practice. Certainly from my experience, membership of an organisation such as the UKCP is no guarantee against bad practice.
I question these kinds of accreditation structures. Do they fit with a form of work that has at its heart a respect for and support of personal autonomy, where the person’s internal ability to understand and assess themselves must take priority over any external ‘authority’? Where the reliance on the external as the authority for who I am and how good I am at anything is more likely to further entangle me into a dependence on others’ (usually traumatised others’) view of me? I don’t think they do.
How our underlying understanding of trauma affects these issues
If we are working with trauma, we come to understand autonomy better (see Symbiosis & Autonomy, Ruppert, 2012, and my blog on symbiosis and autonomy). The first thing we understand about autonomy is that trauma destroys autonomy. (I am talking about relational trauma here, not the trauma of natural events). Trauma, being a situation in which we have no control, no power, no authority, and in which we are physically and/or psychologically harmed by another to the extent that our psyche splits, means that our experience of being an autonomous person is severely ruptured, and even destroyed.
As we do our own personal work, and understand our own psychological splits and how our own autonomy was assaulted, we become more autonomous… and increasing autonomy means that we become clearer in our thinking and more able to trust ourselves and our judgement. At the same time we recognise the autonomy in others, in our clients, and as we do that we see that for us, as the trauma therapist, to make any decisions or assessments for another, to put ourselves as an authority in any way over another, immediately is a potential assault on that other, even a potential re-traumatisation of that other person. (I have had many people tell me, and also my own experience was the same, that their training and examination process as a student psychotherapist was traumatising; what they mean of course is that the experience re-stimulated their prior traumas.)
My view on assessment:
So my current view is that with growing clarity students are supported in the training to question themselves and their competency personally and in the presence of their peers in peer-groups, so that they remain the authority of their own ability to practice. I believe that as we as practitioners get clearer within ourselves, we become better at being honest with ourselves, trusting ourselves in our own assessment of our competence and ability to work with others. I think peer groups are a major resource that is available to students, and one-to-one mentoring is another resource, but in the end I believe that ongoing personal work is the best means of all for maintaining an ongoing determining of one's ability to practice.
So, to be clear, there is no form of accreditation for this training in London. If you participate you will receive an attendance certificate that will detail the hours completed during the training. No one will assess you, but you will be encouraged to meet with your peers to discuss your work and your personal journey.
I have no intention of changing this approach in the coming years as this training in London develops.
What happens in the future I do not know; that remains to be seen. But in my view if this 'profession' proceeds to an authorising culture, those who support this route do not really understand trauma and are more likely to be functioning from their survival instincts, thereby avoiding their own trauma. That isn't to say that we shouldn't have an 'association'... a loose holding for the growing community of practitioners to provide a forum for contact, communication and sharing of thoughts and ideas.
How long does it take to become competent at this work?
In answer to a question put to me recently by a potential student, I would say that the period of time it takes to become a good practitioner of this work is probably around ten years. For the serious student I would suggest at least two years of formal training, and many years of continuing practice and learning, being a member of a peer support and mentoring group, on-going contact with those who you estimate as being more experienced than you and having something more for you to learn. I am continually learning, and constantly finding new ideas and thoughts, and I continue to study Franz's progress with his thinking and practice. This work developed by Franz Ruppert is continually evolving... where we will be in ten years time we don't know; there is so much to understand about trauma and its impact on our lives and the lives of all around us.
And more than anything else, continuing personal exploration through doing your own constellations work… on and on and on.