In the second of a series of video interviews, we chat with therapist, author & trainer Peter Philippson about what he’s looking forward to in this year’s UKAGP ‘Celebrating our Community’ conference.
In conversation with Belinda Harris, Peter shares what he finds fascinating about gestalt conferences, his ideal workshop, and the role of theory in everyday life.
Visit our dedicated conference page for more details and to book your ticket.
Belinda: We’re here to talk about the BGJ and UKAGP conference which is taking place at the end of June which has a very different format from a lot of other conferences. It’s based on a number of writings due to be published in the BGJ very soon, one of which is by you and I’m wondering what it is that excites you about this conference and this format…and how we’re doing it?
Peter: one is the usual thing of time talking to different people from different gestalt communities, finding out what they have to contribute to my ideas and what I have to contribute to their ideas. Somewhere where the format allows people to take part and to be active rather than passive receivers of our wisdom or otherwise. The BGJ is for me and has been for many years a place where quite a wide range of different viewpoints and national groupings and cultural differences have been able to be aired and I think it’s a good journal in that way. I want to be part of whatever is going on but don’t want to be part in a way that they stop speaking their own words and start listening to me and the other speakers involved so I’d like to play it by ear rather than assuming I’m going to be in everything.
Belinda: And we’re also hoping people are going to run workshops. If you were going to go to a workshop, right now, and I said peter you can choose any workshop you’d like to go to, what kind of workshop would you like to attend?
Peter: The thing I most like is where different people show how they work in practice. Obviously there’s something a bit artificial about doing it in a conference setting rather than in your own practice, but I remember doing that with Bob Resnick where we were both presenting at the same intensive training and we both offered to do a piece of live work each and then discuss with the group what we did, so I’d love to see more of that.
Belinda: I think that’s an interesting point, because even thought this conference is based or comes from the BGJ and the anniversary we’re celebrating as a national community and international community the conference is not necessarily a conference about theory, it’s not going to be a lot of dry sitting about talking about just theory but there’s a real emphasis on how theory translates in the world and what difference it makes to who we are and in our relationships with each other and with our clients.
Peter: I’d put that slightly differently, it’s all about theory, there’s an implicit or explicit theory in whatever we do, even if it’s that we do whatever we feel like. That’s also a theory that that has some kind of value, so in some ways it’s very difficult to make sense of a theory if it isn’t accompanied by some kind of practice. So when I do a training I will always do a demonstration or more than one demonstration, I will always want to have people practising skills coming from the theory to see how the theory works in practice. One of the things I’m aware of is that it’s fairly easy for somebody creative to produce a theory that sounds good and there’s been any number of those, and the warrant for that theory being meaningful rather than just nice to talk about is the practice that it supports. And if it isn’t supported by the practice then it’s just a set of words.
One of the things that’s in this for me is that we’re quite a strange community in that we’ve never had a central body. We’ve never had anybody with the authority to say this is where gestalt therapy begins and where it ends…and so there’s a very disparate range of things that are done which people would see as gestalt therapy, and no way of saying this is or this isn’t. But how to grow as a community from that and to learn from each other and interact with each other and see where these fit and don’t fit and maybe end up in a situation where people get more of a sense of what the different range of attitudes and theoretical approaches are within gestalt therapy which people have in psychoanalysis and have in transactional analysis but don’t tend to have in gestalt therapy. It becomes a real positive when people know what the issues are and have the support to voice those and to speak about them.
Belinda: So what do you get out of going to so many conferences?
Peter: I meet lots of interesting people, share ideas, eat different foods, work with different cultures which is so important to me because the English culture is the second culture for me as it is so I’m really interested in how gestalt therapy and training and being with each other is done differently in different cultures, I find that totally fascinating.
Belinda: Thank you very much.
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