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Recognising prior learning in psychotherapy training:

A critical appraisal

Author - Aine O’Reilly


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Not accrediting psychotherapy training: a critical perspective

A critical perspective on standing separate to academic regimes of truth would see this stance as obscuring connections between meaning-making in psychotherapy and the social world in which it is embedded and that we have helped to create. Psychotherapy has no more claim to truth and rightness, freedom and empowerment than anyone else. Non-formal training also occurs in a socially constructed world; is also embedded in social worlds that reflect and re-create social norms and values, and in hierarchies of meaning-making and valuing that are external to the person being judged. To reify and mystify therapeutic knowledge as outside of the social world is also to challenge where our theories lead us; to where all knowledges are problematic (though some are more problematic than others). To place non-accredited training as being ‘more-free’ to practice, more liberating and empowering is in itself a construction that obscures its own complicity with social discourses psychotherapy seeks to challenge.

To be trained as a family therapist, through formal or non-formal learning is to become a part of a web of loyalty, meaning-making, truth construction. The psy professions – that set of professions dealing with the psyche (Rose 1996) – as Rose points out:

give form to a whole variety of beliefs, aspirations, dreams, hopes and fears. They have been enmeshed within the diverse norms that have been elaborated by moralists and pedagogues for the evaluation of the capacities and conduct of the self. They have been bound up with the programmes, projects and techniques though which authorities have sought to shape and reform selves. They underpin the regimes of judgment and calculation through which persons understand and act upon themselves and their lives. And they have helped compose a body of critical reflections on the problems of governing persons that would simultaneously satisfy the demands of social order, harmony, tranquility and well-being and accord with their true nature as human beings.

(Rose 1991)

As a part of its negotiated move towards accreditation, the CWI considered staying outside of academic higher education discourses through not seeking accreditation and not engaging in academic practices of assessment, recognition of prior leaning, judging trainee therapist performance by externally imposed standards, and so on. All of these tasks, as our prior training demonstrates, can be carried out in different ways. These ways may not fit with academically constructed views on the appropriateness of teaching and learning practices, but then academic process can be in opposition to the tenents of psychotherapy! Part of the reason for not taking this route was not dissimilar to the managerialism/human capitalism discourse that Harris (2000) associates with national standards: the psychotherapy profession, and the training to survive it needs external recognition, for why else would a trainee invest large sums of money and years of their life in undergoing such strenuous training? And if not recognised why would clients pay for such services? There are other arguments too, but these are perhaps more acceptable and more widely discussed – protection of clients, maintaining standards of the profession, accountability (Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office 2005). Moving outside of other regulatory frameworks does not help us sidestep our own regime of truth and does not avoid the part self-interest may play in our choices. But then in the manner the profession of psychotherapy is described by Rose (1985, 1991, 1996, 1999) nothing can really make a difference, and that is perhaps the limitation of his exploration. Such deconstruction does not lead to reconstruction, and therapeutic training and practice requires reconstruction as well as deconstruction, position-taking and action as well as critique (Parker 1990).

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