ACATnews: Impressions from the International CAT Conference in Finland, June 2003

Curran, A. and B. Kerr, I., 2003. ACATnews: Impressions from the International CAT Conference in Finland, June 2003. Reformulation, Autumn, p.7.


ACATnews

Impressions from the International CAT Conference in Finland, June 2003

I find it difficult to come up with a comprehensive picture of the five days spent at Valamon. For me, it is more of a speckled patchwork of impressions and memories like the light playing through the summer-green leaves of the birch trees…

...the birch trees were the background to all that happened along with the lake and the mosquitoes: a sense of growth having to happen over-conscientiously in the short summer months…

...it never got dark; this was a very new experience for me and created an almost surreal feel to the night; the birds stopped singing for about ten minutes as a token gesture to the passing from one day to the next; I managed to sleep by telling myself firmly that it was moonlight coming through the window…

...a midnight walk into the gloaming of the monastery cemetery which felt remarkably benign and intimate especially as we gathered into the little chapel, candles lit, and listened to Mikael and Riika and Willi singing Orthodox chants… followed by singing and laughing by all at the top of the hill standing in a small clearing between huge trees…

...the singing of the Russian quartet of Russian folk songs spontaneously in the refectory as we were having supper and, on another occasion, of sacred music more formally in the Church…

…Sari Kaasinen playing the Finnish zither in her red dress and bare feet and singing lullabies with her eyes closed—especially the lullaby for the Woman who has no child…

...Tony’s presence in his absence—made more real by the moving letter he sent to the conference…

...the monastery—like an oasis of calm on the edge of the world; welcoming, organised, friendly…

...reunions with colleagues from Finland, Eire, Spain and those from Britain I don’t get much chance to see; meetings and connections with new people, also from Australia and Greece…

...a sense of a real coming together of people using CAT around the globe, in different settings, facing different challenges and yet sharing a common language and common understanding of CAT’s fundamental principles and exciting possibilities…

Annalee Curran


This first international gathering of CAT practitioners from various countries and cultures finally took place in the unique setting of the Valamo Monastery in Finland. This was due in very large part to the enthusiasm and organisation of our Finnish colleagues, notably Mikael Leiman. The origins of this meeting lay, I think, in discussions between various people all gradually feeling that, given that so much CAT was being done in so many different places, it was long overdue that we all got together, firstly to meet and secondly to exchange ideas and experiences.

To be quite accurate, I think the idea for this particular conference arose in the back of a taxi following the London conference the year before when, in discussion with Mikael, we became very aware that over the years, many people had made the trek to London though many could not, and that perhaps some reciprocity was overdue. We are all greatly indebted to the Finns subsequently for making it happen.

In terms of the aim of the conference, I suppose the question as well as the anxiety was whether or not such an event was needed, whether it would be fruitful or whether it would simply fall on its face. My own view was that the time had indeed come for such a meeting and that, although only time will tell, it seems like some very fruitful encounters and discussions occurred catalysed by the very special setting of the Monastery.

As a member of the organising committee, it is always difficult of course to know how it felt to an unbiased participant, but I do have a strong feel now that it will prove to be something of a watershed in the evolution of Tony Ryle’s remarkable model and approach to psychotherapy. Sadly, of course, he was unable to be there himself, but there is no doubt that it is a mark of the strength and vitality of the model that such a full and vital conference could take place in his absence, even if he was felt to be looming helpfully, if perhaps also at times critically, as is his wont.

Perhaps the fact that at the final discussion it was agreed to attempt to put another international meeting on in three years time is the best testament to the success of this meeting. Our Irish colleagues have kindly agreed to take this on.

We look forward to the future to see what further effects the event may have had and also what various participants may have made of it. Personally speaking however, it was, at least in retrospect, a very special experience in itself, whatever its ultimate catalytic role. It does look to me as if ACAT International is on the move!

Ian B Kerr

Full Reference

Curran, A. and B. Kerr, I., 2003. ACATnews: Impressions from the International CAT Conference in Finland, June 2003. Reformulation, Autumn, p.7.

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