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How do we integrate scientific knowledge, training and application into our clinical work?


By Courtenay Young


My foundational theory and (literally) hands-on methodology (in Gerda Boyesen’s Biodynamic Psychotherapy) was / is now more than 30 years past. And I don’t work in anything like that way now – I have moved on: I hope that we all do.

The essence of any good professional work is a combination of: knowledge, skills and competence. This is true for a trainee coming out of a course and it is also true for the rest of one’s professional career. We all need to grow and move on.

The only way to gain new knowledge is: to read; to attend courses and conferences; and to ‘do’ the CPD. This wasn’t ‘taught’ 30 years ago, but it is now increasingly being required: probably at least 50 hours of CPD a year: and this should not all be with your ‘alma mater’, and it should not be just because it is required; there is a lot of good stuff out there – we need to go and find it; revel in it; bring it back home and see how it works – for me, for you.

Hopefully, with good work and practice, with learning ‘on the job’, with learning from one’s mistakes, and by doing some ‘outcome’ studies or research, and thus getting useful feed-back from our clients, our peers, our supervisors, our mentors, etc., we will improve our skill-set. Working in different places, under different conditions, with different client groups, and with people from different cultures, we are able to hone our basic training, natural abilities, our skills: this is the ‘craft’ component of our work. We can only get better by doing more.

From this basis of knowledge and skill, over time, one develops competence and competencies. Not much has been written about the competences of a Body Psychotherapist (click here for information); and this has not been tried and tested; there has been no critique or feed-back; it does not cover everything – but it is an excellent start.

Implicitly and specifically, in this area – and in any other psychotherapy competence – whatever the modality – is the ability to form a meaningful therapeutic relationship with the client; a ‘working alliance’; and not just with one client. It is necessary – to the professional therapist – to form such a good working alliance with all one’s clients (or nearly all: – some won’t, or can’t; and some won’t want to stay as our clients). This has to be the main psychotherapeutic (professional) ‘competence’ and essentially all else derives from this. It doesn’t mean that you have to like them all, or all of them like you; it doesn’t mean that they need to fit in with your methods; or that you need to fit in with their needs; it does mean that you need to be able to work with them, and for them: because … these are your clients. And – their particular problem may not fully fit your current knowledge and skills: so … if you are to work with them … you may have to get some homework done, pretty fast.

If you are a ‘proper’ professional, then you should also be able to demonstrate a knowledge of, and/or some skill in: having a professional, autonomous and accountable practice; using appropriate assessments, diagnoses and/or conceptualisations of their issues; developing goals, plans or strategies; managing their process of change, and being able to cope with the occasional crisis or being able to help with some trauma work; using various techniques and methods appropriately; applying appropriate professional ethics and cultural sensibilities; forming collegial and/or collaborative relationships with other professionals; completing a course of ‘treatment’ and/or evaluating any further needs; using supervision, peer-inter-vision and critical evaluation appropriately; managing a professional practice and case-load; being aware of new research and the implications of new developments; being able to help prevent further needs for treatment and providing some basic education in self-help and empowerment. (You can find more details about each of these “Core Psychotherapy Competencies” here. )

So – what advice would I have, as a practitioner, to others approaching the wide diversity in trainings and methods, and having to learn new ways to craft one’s own? Well … there are many different pathways up a mountain; no one path is “right”; you choose the path that is right for you – at this point in your career. The journey up the mountain is going to be “very interesting” in itself. So, I hope that you will learn to “travel well”. And … whilst the view from the top is pretty much the same: – pretty magnificent, when you get there – there’s room for lots more and there are other mountains to climb.