Why attend a counselling and psychotherapy conference? A personal view.

by Chris Colcomb

I have been a trainee at Ellesmere Counselling and Psychotherapy Training for three years and they have always suggested that we attend relevant conferences. As a very committed introvert, this is not an idea I have found at all appealing. I have dipped my toe in the water with online conferences and found them useful. This year, however, I decided it was time to take the plunge and attend a real-life conference.

For the last few days, I have been in Milton Keynes where I attended the UKATA conference (United Kingdom Association for Transactional Analysis). It has been a really rich learning experience for me, and I have attended a number of workshops on various subjects including core values, the menopause, autonomy, gender diversity, education and the role of the teacher, as well as inclusivity and exclusivity.

There is no doubt in my mind that my core training at The Ellesmere Centre is packed full of great theory and experiential material. This is the same at most training institutions. But it is also often the case, that as trainees (and beyond) we could become reliant solely on the training intuition’s, or the trainer’s, frame of reference. We may get stuck in a bubble.

In my view, it is really important that counsellors and psychotherapists, step out of their bubble, out of their comfort zone, and allow themselves to be challenged by new surroundings, new trainers and new co-trainees. By doing this, they may also be able to delve into new and more specialised subjects that are beyond the scope of core training.

As an illustration, one of the workshops I attended was about the menopause. This was presented by the wonderful Joanna Groves of the Affinity Centre in Manchester. As a man, I have never had to consider the implications of the menopause, let alone go through it. I was finding increasingly that clients were bringing the menopause into the therapy room, and that I had no way to talk about it, to the point where I was shying away from it and even steering the conversation away from it in the therapy room. I feel like I am now equipped with at least some of the language, information and tools that I may need to help my female clients. Interestingly, I was the only man on this workshop and I wondered how equipped other male therapists may be. I saw it almost as my duty to attend.

A second workshop was with Janine Piccirella from Becoming Ubuntu Training. She presented a provocatively entitled workshop called “Autonomy. How Dare You!” Janine discussed the idea of script backlash in the therapy room, and presented the idea that whilst a client can attend to and grow from their scripts, as they start to leave them behind there may a greater pull back to script. It may be experienced as the client almost punishing themselves for trying to change. How might we, as therapists deal with this? Janine’s ideas, alongside those of the group were really useful.

A third workshop was an exploration of our core values with Leilani Mitchell and Mark Head from The Link Centre. I have always struggled to get in touch with these deeply held values, and the workshop was a really interesting exploration of all of our values in the room, and what it might take for us all to breach them. Leilani is a superb trainer, who really engaged the participants and there was a real buzz around the room.

The other fantastic thing about conferences is that often, trainees get an opportunity to pitch and present for themselves. A number of trainees took their turn at this conference, and I was lucky to be part of some research in one of the workshops. I also got to meet a lot of the presenters socially, and I even met some legendary names from the TA world, such as Adrienne Lee and Enid Welford.

I appreciate that travelling to Milton Keynes represents quite an expense for many. So I was really keen to be a part of a organising brand-new local counselling and psychotherapy conference later in the year. The Humber Counselling and Psychotherapy Conference will be held on 22nd October 2022 at The Humber View Hotel, near the Humber Bridge just outside Hull. This is a one-day conference for anyone training or working in counselling and psychotherapy. Leilani, Mark and Janine will all be attending our conference, alongside some other inspirational teachers and trainees. Afterwards, there will be an opportunity for delegates to stay behind and meet the trainers – you can even stay at the hotel if you want to take a more relaxed approach.

As I have suggested in this article, I really hope you’ll agree that attending a conference is a great way to gain a fresh perspective on a range of relevant subjects. It’s a really great way to get some much-needed continuing professional development.

Tickets go on sale in May at a very competitive price of £85 which includes lunch and refreshments throughout the day.

More details can be found at www.humbertherapyconference.co.uk, where you can also find links to our social media.

The full line up of speakers will be announced very soon both on the website and on social media.

The Humber Counselling and Psychotherapy Conference is brought to you in partnership with Ellesmere Counselling and Psychotherapy Training

Written by Chris Colcomb on 26th April 2022.

Chris is a currently a third-year student at Ellesmere Counselling and Psychotherapy Training in Hull. Chris is studying an integrative therapeutic study path, but specialises in Transactional Analysis. Chris is a student member of UKATA and UKCP. He also runs a private practice Talking Works www.talkingworks.uk and is happy to be contacted if you wish to ask him anything about attending conferences.  chris@talkingworks.uk