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Our Desire of Unrest

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Knowledge is never static. It is always open to revolutionary thinking or to evolving development. Similarly an individual's knowledge is always moving, and indeed if the ability to think about ideas is lost, an important part of the individual is also lost. In this book, a collection of some of the papers and lectures written by Michael Jacobs over a period of thirty or more years, the author shows his own thinking at work, as he challenges himself to look deeper at some important aspects of his discipline - principally psychodynamic psychotherapy, although always with reference to other forms of discourse such as literature and theology. Here the reader will find the writer behind those popular texts such as The Presenting Past, Psychodynamic Counselling in Action and Shakespeare on the Couch.

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CHAPTER ONE: Challenging the stereotype: the psychoanalytic therapist's use of self

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To begin a long way from the beginning …

The original papers that constitute this book illustrate aspects of an intellectual journey, but the paper that forms the basis for this chapter, although written far from the start of that journey, may usefully introduce the others. This is partly because it contains sufficient autobiographical references to introduce the writer, whose ideas form the substance of later chapters. It also challenges, as the title suggests, the prejudiced view that many counsellors and therapists, not of a psychodynamic persuasion, have of psychoanalytic and psychodynamic practitioners, perhaps thereby introducing further challenges to theory and practice to which subsequent chapters refer.

* * *

Two almost contemporaneous commissions some thirty years into my clinical practice encouraged me to take stock of what sort of person I am and the sort of therapist I am. One was a request to write a chapter in Spinelli and Marshall's book Embodied Theories (2001); the other was co-authoring The Therapist's Use of Self (2003) with John Rowan. The contributors to Embodied Theories, one of whom was also John Rowan, were asked by the editors to “write an account that attempts to examine those features and aspects of their chosen models which significantly inform and clarify their professional lives … as well as aspects of their more personal lives” (Spinelli & Marshall, 2001, p. 3). I call myself a psychodynamic therapist, for reasons that I explain below, but I draw upon psychoana lytic theory and practice as my main inspiration; and I found myself reviewing why I had been drawn to that particular model, and how my personality, insofar as I am in any position to assess it, matched my chosen theoretical position. Self-reflection and self-knowledge are an essential part of a therapist's training and ongoing development. But linking this to reflection upon the link between chosen theory and personal life was initially daunting, involving additionally the sort of self-disclosure which is often reckoned to be a thorny area for psychodynamic and psychoanalytic practitioners.

 

CHAPTER TWO: Our desire of unrest

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The influence and the ongoing relevance of some of my theological education become obvious in a number of the papers I have written. For those not familiar with the use of biblical sources, I do not regard the “truth”, whether historical or doctrinal, as important but, rather, the significance of the metaphor or the symbolic use of the language. This is especially true in reading the paper that forms the basis of this chapter, delivered first to a theological society at Manchester University, and published subsequently in the journal then titled The Modern Churchman (Jacobs, 1987). It is the theme that is important, whether addressed to theologians, therapists, or others. That the theme resonates for me many years on from its inception is instanced not only in taking the paper's title as the title of this book, but that it is explicitly or implicitly present in most of my papers.

* * *

Although there are some who live in apparent chaos, or whose lives appear chaotic, most people do not like too much disorder. Some (particularly those who are possessed of an obsessional personality) do not like it at all. This is not surprising, since from early infancy we seek a sense of security in a bewildering world and erect safe defences against what can be at times terrifying experiences that threaten to disrupt our equilibrium.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Naming and labelling

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My first journal publication, which led to other invitations to write, appeared in 1976, in the journal Contact, which addressed the interface between pastoral care and counselling and disciplines such as the social sciences, psychology, and theology. I represented the then Association of Pastoral Care and Counselling on the journal's editorial board. I was working at that time in the Student Health service at the University of Leicester, where I was the sole therapist. My colleagues were doctors who, for the most part, were psychologically minded, and not usually as those described in this article. Nevertheless, the experience of being immersed in the medical world, and engaging in conversations which certainly did include technical terms that were sometimes foreign to me, no doubt forced me to think about the whole diagnostic process in medicine, and how it related to the work I was doing with the clients referred to me by the medical staff. It was, in one sense, not a very original idea, and I was soon to discover that there was plenty of criticism of the psychiatric medical model even within psychiatry itself. However, the concept of naming, which features in the second half of the chapter, was a more original idea, and it is that part of the original paper that I later expanded when asked to talk about the subject. Byatt's writing made a particular impression on me; and that part of the paper also formed a significant section of the second chapter of my book The Presenting Past (2006). Much has changed since the paper was first written— with many more general practices, or primary care as it is now known, including counsellors in the team. This has influenced my revision of the paper for publication here, although I suspect that some of the issues I raise in the first half are as relevant to those counsellors in their relationships with medical staff as they were for me when I started my career in counselling and psychotherapy.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Optimism and pessimism

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This chapter is based on a lecture first given to a day school on the theme “Optimism and pessimism: good and evil” at Vaughan College, Leicester, in 1979. It was subsequently published as an occasional paper by the British Association for Counselling, as it was known then. Although I do not quote from his book, I found Holbrook's Human Hope and the Death Instinct (1971) a mine of valuable references which indicated further reading that I do cite below. The theme is still relevant today, since practice-based evidence is demanded by funders deciding whether a particular therapeutic approach is effective. Does it enable change? There is, however, a prior question, and that is whether people can change, and how deep is that change. How might we understand human nature? As this chapter illustrates, such a question divides modalities.

Unlike some of the other papers in this book, the lecture was only given once, and not repeated with necessary revisions at a later date. Preparing it for publication, I have been aware of its length and its attempt to cover too much. Such optimism! This chapter is, therefore, much adapted from the original, in as much as I could do this while still remaining true to opinions that I held then and still hold now. There have been cuts, and a few additions that reflect changes in my thinking.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: The therapist's revenge: the law of talion as a motive for caring

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It is almost customary for therapists who write to thank their patients or clients—and rightly so, since the most stimulating learning (which with adaptation is often transferable to other client work) comes from insights or ideas that emerge in the material that clients bring to therapy. This paper was one such, solely brought to life by the case example of Brenda (not, of course, the client's name, although the details are factual). Brenda provided another example that I was able to use in teaching and in a different book, although one that taught me to take greater care in disguising client material so that even the client herself could not recognize it. I will say no more, except to say I was very grateful to a co-therapist who handled that situation so well that Brenda and I emerged on good terms. It was my mistake, but I wonder whether there was a type of revenge in the incident. On my part, of course, for being in debt to her for the idea she planted and that bore fruit in what at the time seemed (and perhaps is) original.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Parallel process: confirmation and critique

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Teaching one of the first British university courses in psycho-dynamic supervision in 1990, my wife and I developed several seminar topics, of which this chapter was my most far-reaching, since, as I explain below, I stood firm against the tide that was then sweeping the practice and teaching of supervision, which wanted to seek out parallel process, and to overtly display it to (and sometimes, it seemed, to dazzle) the supervisee. In 1996 my paper was published in the then Journal of Psychodynamic Counselling. It is seldom referred to in the literature, as if my critique fell on deaf ears. I still think parallel process needs qualification!

* * *

Erik Erikson is reputed to have said that in his early days he cautiously put it to young people that they might hate their parents. Later, when his ideas had caught on, he had to suggest to young people that they might also like them! His experience illustrates the pendulum swing of ideas, where a particular concept becomes so fashionable that an alternative and more original concept appears to become redundant. This has clearly happened, at least in common usage, to other psychodynamic concepts. Countertransference, for example, was once felt to be a block to understanding, for which personal therapy was needed. It then (rightly although confusingly) became defined as a means of identifying, through the therapist's reactions, what the client might be projecting (although “projective identification” is also used, and is more readily distinguishable from the original meaning of countertransference). The danger is then that countertransference in its original meaning as a possible blind spot gets forgotten, in favour of everything being the client's unconscious doing. The pendulum may need to swing back again to restore the importance of the original meaning.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Seeing and being seen

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This chapter was originally a lecture delivered at the request of the Bath Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy, at a time when I was their external moderator. Subsequently, I was made an emeritus life member, and have valued the link with that prestigious training centre. The subject was requested, and like all such requests, entailed some research into the literature on what emerged as a fascinating topic. It subsequently appeared as an article in the European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health. I delivered the paper to one or two other groups, and, like all such occasions in my experience, generated interesting conversations afterwards that added considerably to my own understanding of the subject. As acknowledged in the original paper when published, I am grateful to Ruth Jones, a registered art therapist, for permission to use her observations and analysis of the stages of seeing and being seen, and to colleagues and supervisees for permission to use examples from their practice.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: The significance of fame

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In 1992 I was asked to give the Frank Lake Memorial Lecture, and I chose Fame as my subject since to my audience Frank Lake was a famous person. Most of my present readers will not have heard of him, so it is right to recall that he was a psychiatrist who had worked with a missionary society in India before returning to Britain and founding the Clinical Theology movement, which, in the 1960s and 1970s, especially trained a large number of clergy in pastoral counselling. I had edited one of his books (Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling) and knew him from our joint membership of the Contact Editorial Board. The lecture gave me an opportunity to explore the subject, and later led to taking part in a research project with the late Petrushka Clarkson, who interviewed a number of relatively well-known therapists to ascertain what influence their “fame” had on their work with clients. Thus, the subject turned back on me, although I had not seen myself that way when working on the lecture.

* * *

 

CHAPTER NINE: Have we lost fate?

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Having some years before delivered the lecture from which the previous chapter is taken, it was a surprise when I found myself honoured in a similar way, although it was quite clear this was not to be an annual memorial lecture since I was asked to deliver the first Michael Jacobs lecture myself at the University of Leicester in 2006! Nevertheless, it was a strange experience, and remains so when more distinguished people than myself deliver the lecture in subsequent years. Why did I choose Fate? Perhaps because, as I suggest in the previous chapter, any fame I might have achieved is only partly of my doing. Opportunities have come my way, Fate has played its hand; and although I might have taken those opportunities, nevertheless I would not have got anywhere without others opening doors that enabled me to find more of myself, and therefore have the privilege of following through my ideas in a more public arena than most people can. The subject also appealed because it enabled me to dig around in some of the earlier psychoanalytic literature, and to examine what others, similarly interested in the topic, had made of it. I seldom write anything new; I do, perhaps, bring the old to life.

 

CHAPTER TEN: Amaturing professional approach

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The paper that has been adapted for this chapter was published in 1990. Coming back to it after all this time, I find that some of what I was writing in the lecture that is reproduced in Chapter One is very much the same. Does that mean I have not moved on? I think not, since my desire of unrest in 1990 with the way I perceived some training for counselling and psychotherapy, and my desire of unrest years later in that lecture are the same. However, there were points where I felt less bold in 1990, and I have found myself revising those in editing the paper for this book.

What interests me further about this paper is that the marks of the mature practitioner predate a few of the definitions of how a mature practitioner might be defined, which appeared in a summary I wrote of discussions of a BACP working party on the difference between counselling and psychotherapy. The working party agreed that the key differences were not so much in the names themselves, but in the quality of the practitioner, which could mean a mature counsellor worked at a higher (deeper?) level than a new psychotherapist. Training and supervision do make a difference, of course, but the labels were less important than the standards of practice (or, as we called them, the standards of excellence) that practitioners had reached. In a short article for BACP, I concluded with the working party's definition of a mature practitioner, as someone who shows:

 

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