In this issue
Starting inside out
Isabel Clarke explores the relationship between psychosis, spirituality and therapy
The power of empathy
Roger Helyar talks to Jacqui Gray about his experience as a counsellor
The heart of silence (free article)
Alastair McNeilage discusses his views on silence in therapy
Supporting Church of England clergy through the provision of reflective practice groups
Peter Madsen Gubi and Jan Korris describe the experience of groupwork for clergy
Catholic exorcism: demonic possession or mental disorder?
Andrew Peden clarifies the role of the exorcist in the Catholic church
Welcome from the editor
During the 1980s, when I was an undergraduate student, I was very fortunate to see The Oresteia (a trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus, a fine example of Greek tragedy) at the National Theatre. It was one of the most incredible theatrical performances I’ve ever seen. My favourite characters were the ‘Furies’. I remember them coming onto the stage through the audience, accompanied by vigorous drumming, wearing their masks with streaming red hair.
In September this year I went to see the Almeida production of The Oresteia. The modern adaptation by Robert Icke included scenes with Orestes talking with a therapist-like figure (Orestes certainly experienced more than his fair share of trauma when growing up within a very dysfunctional family!). When I am challenged by incomprehensible aspects of life, I find visits to the theatre really resource me and help me to question some of the views I hold.
There are many areas of life where we need to come to terms with ‘not knowing’. Being comfortable with not knowing and uncertainty are necessary when working with the more challenging aspects of life. Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, gave the title Comfortable with Uncertainty to one of her books. Recently, I was given very wise advice and told I was trying to look too far ahead. I can be very uncomfortable with uncertainty. I watched Mark Rylance, a British actor, in an interview with Melvyn Bragg, talking about Hamlet’s line ‘To be or not to be’. He talked about how the delivery of those lines requires an actor to be with the experience of being confused and not to think ahead too much… to the next lines.1 I think great actors can teach therapists a lot about being with experiences.
Often when patients are given a diagnosis following a psychotic episode, they are told about the probable outcomes with some degree of certainty. There often does not seem to be much room for the mysterious, the unknown aspects of psychosis or the actual experience of ‘breakdown’. Psychosis can be a much-misunderstood experience, word and label. Isabel Clarke’s Special Focus article explores the limitations of language when dealing with the frightening experience of psychosis and how a scientific approach and a spiritual approach bring different qualities to an understanding of such an experience. Her article includes a fascinating account of some of the recent work being done to help patients going through the experience of breakdown. What factors lead to recovery? Why do some patients recover and others don’t?
The many creative approaches of counsellors and therapists are inspirational and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interview with Roger Helyar. He describes the challenges faced by counsellors with dyslexia and how these challenges led him to greater empathy with his clients. His work with groups of men, using outdoor therapy including a boat, provides a conducive therapeutic environment that sounds very appealing.
How do we as therapists communicate about silence or work with silence when with clients? Alastair McNeilage approaches this often unexplored area of therapy in his article ‘The heart of silence’. Are we comfortable with silence? Do we find silence resourcing? I’m very privileged to be training in a school of psychotherapy where silence is seen as a powerful ally.
Peter Gubi and Jan Korris’s research shows the value of coming together in groups to share experience and how this can alleviate isolation for clergy working in the CofE.
Exorcism may be a scary and mysterious concept to many of us. Andrew Peden’s description of the role of exorcism in the Catholic Church and its portrayal in cinema gives a fascinating insight into a challenging topic. He explores the various considerations needed before embarking on an exorcism and discusses the importance of awareness of mental health issues and discussion with mental health practitioners.
The BBC recently reported on a High Court ruling about the new religious studies GCSE. Mr Justice Warby described the education secretary as having made ‘an error of law’ in omitting ‘non-religious world views’ from the exam.2 This recent news reminds me that the UK is a pluralistic society and I would encourage articles from authors with non-religious worldviews. Spirituality is a very broad area and it would be good to see a wide range of approaches explored within Thresholds.
I wish all our readers a happy holiday season and all the best for 2016.
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HD33ORupypo (accessed 29 November 2015).
2. Richardson H. ‘Error of law’ in new religious studies GCSE. [Online.] BBC News 2015; 26 November. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34921857 (accessed 29 November 2015).