The journey to emotihealth

I’ve been creating events for clinicians to connect at since my first job after graduating, my unexpected side step from the Department of Experimental Psychology to Psychiatry at Oxford, I became a research assistant for a CBT treatment trial and secretary of the local branch of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy.  Workshops first, then conferences and trainings, for the last twenty years… for enthusiasts of CBT then the EDTs (experiential dynamic therapy or intensive short term dynamic therapy (ISTDP), it’s other name).

As a pragmatist and someone who detests the silo mentality that can be so common in academia and healthcare, I set up Maximising Therapeutic Effectiveness events for all of  those working within the field of psychotherapeutic change from any training, model or background.  The first event was last June (2017) was attended by psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, nurse psychotherapists, counsellors, mental health workers, students and others.

This event came about after years of pondering and day dreaming, then a fortuitous lunch with my husband and children in June 2016.   The lunch was in the cafe of a building my talented other half had been involved in building at his university.  ‘Involved’ being the operative word; just as I try to be an emotional midwife, he gave birth to this building during two tough years for him health wise, and it was our first visit as a family.  No students were around and the communal spaces in the building were almost empty so we had a full tour and I stared in wonder at the emotionally and psychologically connecting space he had co-created. “Perfect for an experiential learning event”, I shared idly over lunch, “imagine how well we could facilitate emotional learning in a place like this!”  The idea grew legs and collaborations with some well known presenters were set up.

The very core idea at the heart of Maximising Therapeutic Effectiveness was to provide experiential learning for psychotherapeutic professionals – to experience and to learn about the transformative factors in effective therapy.   To experience them would be to embed them, and an immersion – a four day long event – would ensure that the learning wasn’t pruned!

The other part of this core idea was to prioritise the therapist, not the theory, model or presenter!  The valuing of the experience of the participant led to an electrifying event, where clinicians told me they felt loved and deep connection.  An unforgettable experience, with profound learning experiences which touched participants and presenters alike.  A week in my professional life which I will treasure for ever, where hearts, minds, connection, spirituality and collaboration were all present and valued.

A treasure, but an experience that also taught me that I yearn for collaboration and connection, less so for selling and marketing.  So when the opportunity came for pausing ‘Maximising Therapeutic Effectiveness’ and putting on hold the next large event I had planned, and working out how to move these profound experiences forwards in ways that don’t burn me out… I needed to find courage, to hold my nerve, and face into my grief.

I relate the pause, the conversations I had to have cancelling wonderful presenters, and the emails I had to send about the event no longer going ahead to the burning of a field that will once again grow wonderful fruit, but hasn’t enough nutrients in the soil to do so without a huge expenditure of effort!   Getting the first event off the ground took an unprecedented amount of energy from me, and some unexpected difficulties after the event had depleted me further.   I didn’t want to do it again at the expense of my health.  Sitting back after pouring petrol on and setting fire to the remains from the past crop and seeing what seeds found their way to the replenished soil was not easy but the outcome is this collaboration with Ange Cooper.

Ange was one of the presenters at Maximising Therapeutic Effectiveness in June 2017.  With Georgie Oldfield of SIRPA, she and I facilitated the screening of All the Rage after the first day of the event.  Her humility and thoughtfulness, her light touch and in depth knowledge, her openness and honesty, were admirable.  Our connection and trust in each other has only grown since then, and in a common goal to bring emotional learning to the widest possible audience of healthcare professionals.

So from the ashes, came emotihealth.

– Supporting health professionals to harness their innate capacity to heal and heal others.

– Connecting with wholehearted humility, integrating research, theory and practice

– Aiming to never lose sight of the health care professional.

And from us pausing together now before we launch the resources and events we want to create, we create the opportunity for bottom up events and resources.  For the community we want to support to be at the heart of the decision making – not just in the priority you get in the events – but in sharing your ideas and opinions before the events are created – together let’s help more seeds find their way to the field.

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