Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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Carl Berkeley Memorial Award 2009

Margaret Watchorn

Acceptance Speech

I feel somewhat of a fraud accepting this citation, some of this coming from a lively awareness of my own shortcomings and lacks, and some from a very deep sense that my therapeutic journey from isolation and neurosis into community and connectedness has been blessed by encounters with wonderful others – clients with courage and trust, colleagues with warmth and fellowship, supervisors with encouragement and challenge, and trainers with generosity and demand.

As this is in a sense a valedictory occasion for me (because I am in the process of retiring, and as Gilford said earlier, stepping aside is also good and timely) may I take the liberty of reminding us of some of the very important values and principles which underpin our work.

Carl Rogers put the Person-centred Principal into counselling and therapy, and challenges us towards real dialogue and engagement.

I have experienced that the Talking Cure works, not by one person having more experience, training, wisdom, education, intelligence than another, but by the living action of the reflective gaze, the empathic echo, the equal and respectful relationship. This engenders the possibility of self expansion, and the ability to experience oneself more deeply, to come home, to become at home, and to repair and maintain that inner home.

Real encounter between people cannot be programmatic and planned. Recollection without the affect connected with the memory almost invariably produces no result. Mirror reflection is passive, but a reflection in an eye penetrates inside and an image of the self and of the other takes shape. And Insight alone has no magic qualities, otherwise we could self-therapise alone! Mothering won’t do either, (hopefully our mothers, and ourselves were Good-enough mothers). They and we are too near to be able to maintain that stance of objectivity, , - its too hard not to intervene to make it better.

For the therapist this is the position where we can experience an affectionate respect for the struggle of the client to become more fully herself , to begin to cultivate the capacity to be alone in a creative solitude where more space for feeling and thinking is generated, where she or he can become more at home in the self . I want to remind us of the enormous significance and importance of our way of working. It is counter-cultural, potentially subversive, untidy, unpredictable in its outcome, boundaried in ways that can appear harsh, or illogical, or too precious.

It is not authoritative, but grounded in conviction born of reflection, struggle and the capacity to bear not-knowing and uncertainty. Our culture at this moment in our history reflects a pre-occupation with virtual reality, speed of communication, having all the answers, and the attitude that we can have it all if only……

Our work is a vital place for people to get off that whirling. busy roundabout, to take stock and stand still, to listen to the inner voice of the self, to reflect on our connectedness with others, on the existential questions that wont go away however we make ourselves busy in filling up the space as a way to prevent feeling, reflecting and thinking deeply.

We and our clients must fare forward in this, learning as we move through our lives, accepting the passage of time, putting meaning on the adventure, connecting and being alone, pausing and regressing, feeling and thinking, hoping and remembering.

Think with emotion, and feel thoughtfully.

My Heart-felt thanks to all the colleagues I have met along the way, by way of cooperation, or struggle or disagreement. To name just a few - BRIAN HOWLETT, ALISON DYE, AINE MCCARTHY, ANNE NOLAN.

Fare Well and Fare Forward.

© Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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