Chair’s Update

Sunrise on Beltane. Photo by Kirsteen Anderssen,
healer and psychodramatic bodyworker.

As a student engaged in a yearlong study of the Irish Celtic Shamanic tradition, I am aware that we are poised at the mid-point between Spring and Summer, Beltane. This feels poignant as the UK begins to emerge from lockdown to embrace a degree of freedom and the possibility of more embodied contact and connection. In Shamanic terms we are moving from death to rebirth, as symbolised by the wise, healer Serpent shedding its skin, which it does in synchronicity with the phases of the moon.

This process of shedding involves the snake pushing itself between two rocks, or as we would say ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Shedding is not easy! When witing of the human predicament and dis-ease, DH Lawrence used the metaphor of a great tree with its’ roots up in the air. Whether shedding or replanting ourselves, the process involves embracing our vulnerability and letting go of what no longer serves us well, in order to come into more of our being, our bodies, hearts and spirit.

As Chair of UKAGP I notice myself being curious about:

– What is no longer serving us well as a community?
– What do we need to let in and do to grow into more of our potential as a national organisation serving the Gestalt Community of practitioners?

Our website states:
We are a professional, umbrella organisation…. aiming to represent, promote and support Gestalt Therapy in the UK’.

I have been mulling over how representative we are of the Gestalt community in the UK and
found myself wondering:

Who is/feels included, and who is/feels marginalised or excluded in or from our community?

I realise this issue has been percolating in my mind for a while! I recently attended the launch of Eugene Ellis’s book The Race Conversation. The event had been meticulously planned, and care was taken to welcome and ground the 430+ people present online. I immediately noticed how many of those present were Black and Asian therapists and started to wonder whether any of them were Gestaltists.

I noticed Carmen Joanne Ablack was there and wondered how different Carmen might feel as a member of BAATN than she does as a member of UKAGP. I felt my heart opening, to Carmen and every Black and Asian therapist present. I imagined that BAATN is a home, a refuge for Black and Asian therapists, away from the white dominance of many professional member organisations. I noticed the contrast with our own whiteness as a UKAGP community when we met online last year.

Our ‘Healing Dialogues’ conference takes place in London on 18 th September . This is a space in which we can explore together how we might heal relational ruptures in our own practice, in our community and in society. This is particularly important as these ruptures have deepened the pain of intergenerational trauma caused by white colonialism. Fear and pain abound from this legacy for both People of Colour and White people. This is why it needs to be acknowledged and worked with from a grounded place of embodied presence, with compassion and sensitivity. I trust that we are ready for this challenge as a community dedicated to inclusion and human flourishing.

I am delighted that the following people have agreed to work with me to develop the programme for the day: Sharon Beirne, who gave a powerful keynote on being white in a multi racial environment at the GPTI conference last October; Dawn Gwilt who has co- facilitated workshops on White Privilege with Gillian Downie, and Lucy Christopher, Metanoia tutor, and author of ‘Take No Shit’ in our Winter Newsletter. We know our starting point has to be with us. Whilst I acknowledge that the Beltane metaphor of shedding our collective skin is potentially controversial in this context, I believe there is much psychological shedding to be done. As we develop our capacity to stay present and connected with our vulnerability during race focused conversations, we increase the likelihood of learning how to have reparative, healing dialogues that move us closer to our Black and Asian brothers and sisters.

I am particularly thrilled that Carmen Joanne Ablack, Leadership Team member of BAATN and Eugene Ellis, Director of BAATN, have both agreed to engage in healing dialogues with us on the day. I am looking forward to discussions with both of them on how we can do this well together. Carmen’s expertise and insights were greatly appreciated by GPTI members when she led the keynote group facilitation at their conference last October. This is a unique and precious opportunity to do some deep, meaningful and potentially bridge-building work together. I am deeply grateful to Carmen, Eugene, Lucy, Sharon and Dawn for their generosity of spirit and support.

These are potent times for UKAGP as we plan for the future we want to build together.

Our AGM and Community Meeting will be held online on the morning of 18th July.

Please join us and help to shape the direction of UKAGP

I am delighted that our Gaggle group is up and running and am particularly grateful to Marc Williams for inviting people to join him in exploring group facilitation practices. It has been so heartening to witness such engagement and energy emerging from our community.

Thanks to Charlotte Hegley, our social media officer, our presence on social media, particularly Linkedin and Twitter is also generating a lot of footfall and interest. Please remember to click Like and where possible, Retweet, or Share to support our efforts to develop and appreciation of and interest in Gestalt in the mainstream. We have also planned some additional events for this year and more details will be circulated in the coming weeks.

1. A Sunday evening Facebook seminar in June/July (date to be confirmed):

Future sense for Education: What if …….?
Equipping schools/ Young people with the skills/capacities to respond to 21st Century challenges.

This is being co-hosted with New Gestalt Voices and will include speakers from the
UK, Europe and the USA, and spaces for people to connect and respond in small

2. A quarterly seminar series with individuals talking about their passions or new ideas/ books they are engaged with. The first one will be facilitated by Malcolm Parlett on the theme of citizenship, and will take place in June/July.

As usual, I’d like to end this update with my heartfelt appreciation for all the amazing contributors to this newsletter. This issue is rich with the spirit of Beltane. So many wonderful reflections on change, on our relationship to nature, spirit and sensuality, and to developing community. What a powerful and engaging read.

Thank you Piotr, for the way you bring yourself to the task of mobilising and engaging others to write and take photos for us. I am enjoying basking in the sensations and feelings evoked by the sun’s Beltane energy, as communicated through this rich tapestry of creative, heart-warming communication.

Thank you, Alec, for your patience and for all you do as our phenomenal administrator. Your creativity, relationality and calm presence bring out the best in me, and in all members of the UKAGP Organising Committee.

Belinda Harris PhD

UKAGP Newsletter – Spring 2021
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