Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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Carl Berkeley Memorial Award 2019

 

Chris Murphy

Acceptance Speech

Thank you! Thank you very much indeed for this great honour. I feel quite undeserving of it but I am very happy to bow to the wisdom of those who have chosen to bestow it on me. I know that I have been working in the field of counselling and psychotherapy since the week of the first papal visit to Ireland, when John Paul 2 told us that he loved us. [I was one of the “young people of Ireland” then.] Later that week, I went to work in the Rutland Centre as a trainee addiction counsellor, graduating two years later after a training course with lectures and essays and exams.


Carl Berkeley was a counsellor who, if my memory serves me right, facilitated in the aftercare programme (in the Rutland Centre) which was attended by those who had made it through the programme along with their family members. Carl epitomised the Rogerian counsellor. Not only had he the same first name as Carl Rogers. He had a deep, soft voice and warm, non-judgemental eyes and a self-assured genuineness which did not tolerate crap, balanced by a gentleness which made him a great favourite with family members.


So it is with great affection that I accept this honour and award which keeps Carl Berkeley’s memory alive and his name on our lips. Carl had a great sense of humour and a mischievous chuckle; he enjoyed music and loved a party. Sadly, he died from cancer a few years later. As you can see, I am an ardent fan of his and I feel greatly honoured to receive this award which carries his name.


I’ve a soft spot for the other Carl too – Carl Rogers. I had the opportunity and the pleasure of lecturing about him to trainee counsellors last weekend and to watch the video of Rogers in counselling with Gloria. I never met Rogers in person, but a colleague of mine, David Coughlan, spent a week facilitating groups in the Stillorgan Park Hotel as it was then (now the Talbot Hotel). There were about 100 participants, counsellors, teachers and other interested parties. In the mornings, they met in groups of ten, facilitated by people like David Coughlan and in the afternoons Carl Rogers met in plenary session with the whole group. On the first afternoon, some of the teachers in the group asked Rogers how he might apply his ideas in the context of teaching in secondary schools. He naturally replied by asking them how they might do this. They said, well we came to hear you. So there was a bit of a stand-off. Needless to say, Carl Rogers didn’t give in.


It is an inaccurate stereotyping that depicts Rogers as a silent listener who just replies with “hmm” and a nod of the head. In fact, he was very active as a listener, asking questions, checking out that he is picking up what the client is saying, summarising, empathising in order to know what it is like to be this client. I met him recently in a dream and it was quite a surprise to me. I was preparing for last weekend’s workshop – the first time in ages that I have facilitated a full week-end workshop – so I was somewhat anxious about it. In my dream, Carl Rogers came over to me at a desk where I was getting myself organised for the lecture and he just put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a steady, encouraging look – no words.


When I began to think about whom I should thank for this award, it struck me that so many people have contributed to bringing me here that if I could depict a psychotherapeutic family tree, it would have more people in it than there are leaves on many of the real trees around here. There are the well-known and adventurous explorers who broke new ground like Carl Rogers and, before him, Carl Jung and Freud himself, William Glasser and the people who established new projects like the Rutland Centre, the IACP, ACI, IAHIP, BACP, the DAP in Crosscare where I worked, and Marcella Finnerty in IICP in Tallaght where I am delighted to make a contribution these days, and so on and so on; and then there are all the dedicated less-well-known people who have kept these projects going, the people like yourselves who pass on the wisdom and skills, and I see myself more in this light than as an adventurous ground-breaker. I haven’t mentioned the Lecturers and Facilitators, like Shane Butler and Robin Shohet, and William Miller, and John McLeod, Ursula O’Farrell, whom I – we – have been lucky to cross paths with, and of course there are our loved ones (like Florence, who is here) and supporters who have backed us up with meals and hugs and companionship. And our Supervisors. You see what I mean. It’s a massive network of branches.


If I have a wish today, it is that in a 21st century with limited resources of time and money, we would be able to resist the pressure to chop our therapeutic relationships down to the briefest of brief interventions and that we would continue to hold steadfastly to the vision of Carl Rogers where the most important ingredient in the therapy is the empathic presence of counsellor with the client in a congruent and non-judgemental relationship, based on the belief in the massive capacity of the client for self-actualisation. For the client and, indeed, for any of us, it is a rare and special privilege to have someone who listens to us, with empathy, without making any demands (except a modest fee which is agreed in advance!) and my hope is that we would continue to value this presence and to value ourselves in providing it.


My thanks to you all for being part of this tree of life. To those who initiated this presentation and who plotted secretly to get me here – Martina and others - thank you for nominating me and for choosing to honour me and our work with this award.


 

 

 

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