ACATnews: A Fellow Scandinavian's Experience of the CAT Conference in Finland

Burns-Ludgren, E., 2003. ACATnews: A Fellow Scandinavian's Experience of the CAT Conference in Finland. Reformulation, Autumn, p.8.


ACATnews

A Fellow Scandinavian's Experience of the CAT Conference in Finland

Eva Burns-Ludgren

Arrival in Joensuu, June 2003, and that initial sinking feeling of how similar it all looked to Sweden, when I thought I’d got away! Spread-out, empty, clean and eminently sensible. All very idyllic in the summer, but these Brits just don’t have a clue how oppressive it can become in the dark of winter! And I’d elected to go there for a whole week-end – with a bunch of psychotherapists!! Would I be able to get away from the centre if I felt trapped and with a need to break some rules?

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. There were many fellow souls who felt equally mischievous, the spirituality, peace and beauty of the surroundings worked their magic, and - most importantly - the warmth and openness of our Finnish CAT colleagues and our monastery hosts swept away all doubts. The presentations were varied and simulating, and I came away with a confirmed sense of the basic decency, openness and inquisitiveness of the community of CAT therapists, and with a sense of having shared a powerful, ‘bonding’ experience. For once we had time and space to be together properly and get to know one another better.

Why then have Mog and Serena had to nag me to write something about it, when I myself encouraged other participants to do so? It felt like in Finland we perhaps reached a ‘re-formulation’ stage – we even had a letter from Tony Ryle read out to us - confirming our present status as a truly international organisation and unique therapy, and making links with our therapeutic roots and origins in the process. So we have our new shared ‘understanding’, those of us who went enjoyed an intense new ‘experience’ in Finland, and we are now at a cross-roads, where it might all need to be translated into new ‘behaviour’.

But before we can do that, we have some important decisions to make, as one Finnish attender so pertinently raised at the final plenary. It’s to do with what kind of organisation we want to be/become and who/how we choose as our new source(s) of inspiration and challenge, as Tony continues to threaten to retire. Can we do it without too much of the splitting into competing factions, that often seems inevitable in such situations? And who is going to replace Steve Potter as indefatigable Chair of ACAT? Can we hang on to the spirit of collaboration, enthusiasm and commitment, without falling prey to exhaustion or rigidity, as ACAT grows and CAT becomes more established? Can we find a way of procuring the essential research base to underpin our claim for funds and recognition within an increasingly bureaucratic NHS with limited funding? Can we meet the demands for training and supervision that constantly increase, even without that base? Can we keep our belief in the value and power of our work, in spite of increasing stupidity and evil in the world, in the form of war and inequality?

Perhaps I had ‘writer’s block’ as a rebellion against all these demands, and the need to account for everything and pin it down? Perhaps I just needed to preserve the experience in Finland and the intimacy it created as something precious and as an ineffable source of joy and nourishment, much like the essence of good therapy, represented so well by James Low at the conference.

Thank you Steve, Ian and Mikael for making it happen. It was a great success, if for no other reason than that our Finnish colleagues achieved the feat of getting us, a group of therapists, to sit naked together in saunas, sing in the wood at midnight and hug trees, with hardly any self-consciousness!

Eva Burns-Lundgren
An Oxford CAT and Council member.

Full Reference

Burns-Ludgren, E., 2003. ACATnews: A Fellow Scandinavian's Experience of the CAT Conference in Finland. Reformulation, Autumn, p.8.

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