Many of our clients are dealing with conflict. The conflict can be external, internal or both. But wherever it is located, it takes its toll. There can be no peace if we are constantly at war with ourselves or others. What about the people caught in the crossfire? Even if they are not directly involved in the conflict, it can have an impact. If the people are children, the effects can be particularly damaging and long term.
So, it’s heartening to read about a mentalisation-based therapy that has been developed by Tavistock Relationships to help reduce friction in families. The intervention is offered to parents, whether together or separated, and is available through the government-funded ‘Reducing Parental Conflict’ (RPC) programme.
Sarah Ingram, who leads the RPC programme at Tavistock Relationships, describes how the intervention seeks to defuse heightened states of emotion by encouraging parents to think not only about their own thoughts and feelings, but also those of the other parent and the child. It supports them to be curious about differences and to consider their own and the other’s contribution to the relationship. And it works, at least according to the outcome measures.
I wonder if the tenets of the mentalisation- based therapy could be applied to other conflicts, with similar success. Surely a conflict, whether between parents, political factions or nations, can only be resolved if there is some understanding of the other’s point of view.
Julia Cole has recently retired after more than 30 years as a therapist. She has devoted much of her career to working with people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer – and I urge you to read her reflections.
The article is moving, compassionate and full of insight. Julia reminds us that a diagnosis means different things to different people, so responses vary. She also considers clients who seek therapy after treatment. Even if the treatment is successful, they can sometimes still feel anxious about the future and struggle to come to terms with the sense of loss.
The article also reminds us that the therapist must never make assumptions. It is the role of the clinician to accept, understand and adapt to the client and their needs. We are not leading our clients, but walking alongside them, even if the terrain is sometimes tricky.
We are surely justified in focusing on the individual with a cancer diagnosis, but we should perhaps also be attentive to the effect on the couple relationship. A cancer diagnosis can bring some couples closer together. It can also bring to the fore longstanding and ultimately irreconcilable differences. But whatever the impact on the couple, therapy can offer a safe space to explore the relationship.
So, SCoPEd. We’ve all heard about it, probably. But do we really know what it is and what it will mean for us and our work? BACP’s Matthew Smith-Lilley explains how the proposed framework will make it easier for employers to navigate the different modalities, trainings and qualifications in the profession, which will lead to more employment opportunities for counsellors and psychotherapists. If you put it like that, what’s not to like?
Naomi Caine, Editor