Yesterday I attended a continuing personal development (CPD) training day in Stroud, an increasingly interesting and alternative town on the edge of old Gloucestershire, thirty miles or so north of Bristol. CPD is the umberella term for ongoing recognised counselling training that counsellors and psychotherapists undertake to to maintain their skills post qualifying. It is required by the accrediting bodies, such as the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), that systematize professional standards in the field of psychotherapy.
I find it a rich and enjoyable process to choose and attend courses, out of the many diverse trainings that are regularly on offer in and around Bristol. Trainings on Ecopsychotherapy, CBT, Mindfulness, EFT, trauma resolution and many more are high on my list, but on this occasion it was the topic of sex that came out on top. Indeed, the title of yesterday’s training was “Sex in the Consulting Room”. Despite the roots of psychology lying in Freud’s central theories about neurosis stemming from unresolved sexual tensions, it seems that there is precious little detailed talk of sex in the modern day consulting room. Even without subscribing to Freud’s arguments, which I don’t, sex is a massive topic and our relationship to it can hold precious information about they way we relate to life. Despite this it seems that non-psychoanalytic models of therapy often don’t arm the budding therapist with practice and training around speaking about it. Perhaps this is also a cultural – British – phenomenon and there’s plenty to be said about modern society’s conflicted, one might say addicted, relationship with sex. The long and the short of it is that, with these different considerations in mind, it seems important to be able to offer clients a welcoming space in which they can sense a therapist’s genuine capacity to talk to whatever level the client would like about sex.
David Slattery, an esteemed psychotherapist who has taught at Bath Centre of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BCPC) and works extensively with couples, was holding the training. His thoughtful facilitation and accepting style of interaction allowed for a day of contained, but nonetheless, candid exploration. Each therapist had the opportunity to look at their own relationship with sex, how comfortable or not they felt talking about it, and to move closer to understanding their own blocks and fears. It has left me considerably more aware of my own responses and reactions, and made it clear how different everyone’s needs are when talking about this subject. Some people might need an open enquiry, some people might find that intrusive and need a more gentle, empathic presence. It was encouraging to see how, when the therapist is able to offer the right conditions through sensitivity and transparency, the client tends to feel able to share what is helpful to them to share.
I come away from the training curious to explore more of my own relationship to this material and more confident to assist clients in their own journeys towards understanding themselves.