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WORKSHOPS & FRINGE SESSIONS

There will be four workshop sessions during the conference, two on Thursday and two on Friday.  Each session will feature a selection of 8 workshops for you to choose from.  You will be able to choose one workshop per session.

 

Workshop pre-booking will open a little closer to the conference (likely mid-June) and once you have purchased your tickets, you will be sent an email when pre-booking opens to prompt you to pre-book your workshops (you will be provided full instructions on how to pre-book).  The workshop programme is still being finalised, so currently days and times of workshops are not listed.

Lunchtime Fringe Sessions (and Pre-Conference Fringe Sessions) are less formal options sessions that take place before the conference starts and also during lunch.  You do not need to book fringe sessions.

This icon means that the workshop is available to online attendees.

Workshops

Workshops

Workshop

Dismantling boundaries: A comprehensive dive into patriarchy's influence on clinical practice

Hendrix Hammond, Consultant Systemic Psychotherapist 

Derek Nasseri, Consultant Systemic Psychotherapist

In this presentation, we want to acknowledge the influence of patriarchy on our perceptions, beliefs and interactions. As cisgender males, we believe it is crucial to support the broadening discourse regarding patriarchy on clinical practice and improve the clinical perspective on the subject beyond the traditional focus on gender. We believe that patriarchy is a pervasive system that extends beyond just women's issues and gender. It influences discourse and relational dynamics on a broader scale, and various dimensions of patriarchy can often go overlooked.

Our aim is to examine how the paradigm of patriarchy fosters binaries and inadvertently perpetuates various forms of oppression, shaping our collective meaning making. We hope to empower workshop participants by fostering a more profound understanding of patriarchy, allowing them to navigate and challenge the underlying structures within themselves, clinically and in their various relationship encounters.

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Workshop

Paradox and process - coordinating reflexive rationalities with a monastery

Dr Christine Oliver, Systemic Psychotherapist, Organisational Consultant, Group Analyst, The Systemic Development Partnership and private practice

I intend to offer the notion of reflexive rationalities for systemic orientation, sense making and analysis, transcending the boundaries of rational/irrational; rational/emotional. In that overarching context I will explore the value of a paradoxical frame when engaging teams and organisations in consciously purposeful processes for organisational development. A paradox occurs where there are ‘contradictory but interrelated elements – elements that seem logical in isolation but absurd and irrational when appearing simultaneously’ (Miron-Spektor et al, 2022). Paradoxes can keep us stuck but by recognising, embracing and making sense of contradiction and tension, a paradoxical frame can help us coordinate our diverse voices. Stories from consultancy work with a marginal community of monks, illustrate the diverse humanity of any group and their struggles to belong and unite. I will share how the consultants experienced paradox in the process of engagement with serious conflict threatening the survival of community; and their attempts to design and engage in dialogue in a variety of ways that helped this monastic community enrich the meaning of membership. This work provokes me as a consultant, to reflect on and challenge established practices of participation in our over-instrumentalised teams and organisations.

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Workshop

Rebirth of Transgender Adolescent Mom - the phoenix rises from the ashes

Dr Psych Egita Plavina, Systemic Family Psychotherapist

The Workshop will be organised around my lived experience as Transgender Adolescent's mom and Systemic Family Therapist in one person. Inner journey of transformation within me as mom will be explored. Interaction between my daughters exploration of herself and recognition as transgender men and my as mom's inner perception of this process and how it relates to my previous inner future picture of my daughter. Previous expected future prognosis vs real future life prognosis will be explored. How system of child interacts with system of mother on all levels - school, peers, relatives, work collegues, perceived status. Does, and don'ts. Weakness and strenghts. Neglection, denial vs diversity, equality. Loss in the middle. Microagression from specialists. Suggestions to cure from collegues. Haoss and new order.

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The intergenerational effects of antisemitism and how it presents clinically

Chana Hughes, Family Therapist Conny Kerman, Family Therapist

Antisemitism has increased year on year and has an ancient and painful history. This workshop will explore how anti-Jewish racism is experienced by many Jewish people and some clinical resources to draw on for support with Jewish clients and colleagues

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Workshop

'Snakes and Ladders' - understanding Class as Systemic Psychotherapists

Danny McGowan, Principal Therapist, Wigan CAMHS

Following on from the April 2024 Context edition on Class this offers an experiential session for family therapists using the metaphor of 'snakes and ladders' to consider class in relation to themselves, their colleagues and clients. Whether you will be a winner or loser there will be something for everyone to take away with them from this original learning experience

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Workshop

Children’s, interpreters' and group members' voices and positioning in multilingual multi-family groups

Dr Natasha Nascimento, Family and Systemic Psychotherapist, Private Practice, Anna Freud

In this workshop I will share some of the findings from my process research on "group cohesion in multifamily groups with multilingual families". Multifamily therapy has been found to be an effective treatment for a significant variety of 'presenting problems' for all age groups and in different clinical settings (Lemmens, 2023). However, there has been very little process research to date. When MFT is run with members who speak different languages interactions are more complex. Focusing on group cohesion is essential, as research has shown that group cohesion has been associated with positive outcomes in groups.

I will primarily focus on sharing ideas for practitioners about working with multilingual children, their parents and interpreters in individual family therapy and multifamily groups. Describing my findings in relation to the positioning of children, interpreters and group members and their voices. Such as how some participants' voices can be unintentionally marginalised and how to avoid this and increase a sense of belonging/cohesion.

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Workshop

Loyalties that conduct, loyalties that divide

Dr Chris Ward, Independent Systemic Family Therapist

What holds people together and what pulls them apart? The question has many answers, but this workshop will explore a cluster of meanings centred on concepts such as loyalty and obligation. Cronen and Pearce’s Co-ordinated Management of Meaning will be one approach to the exploration of these issues. Other resources will be the work of the Hungarian-American family therapist Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, and Simone Weil's writing on the need for roots.

Workshop participants will be invited to contribute personal and therapeutic experiences, together with examples from dramas and novels, so as to develop ideas about loyalty and disloyalty together. The workshop will explore situations such as the commitments of step parents, adoptive parents, and life partners, and others such as cross-generational loyalties. Some loyalties are mutually exclusive, such as attachment to one life partner rather than another, but others are not; even when there are conflicts between the needs of children and of grandparents, for example, parents can often balance their conflicting loyalties. Time is a key dimension, since loyalty is a value sustained by tradition, and by habit, and also because loyalties are often inspired by idealised versions of the past.

Examples from therapeutic practice suggest that it might be therapeutically helpful to clarify loyalties when they are sources of conflict or uncertainty. Could social and political conflicts be lessened in a similar way? The workshop will conclude by considering whether social polarities such as sexism, racism and anti-woke sentiments are triggered primarily by defensive loyalties rather than by hostile impulses. Fear can create fierce loyalty to an imaginary past, a 'Ye Olde Englande', where diversity did not exist. Anxious, defensive loyalties are less likely to be expressed as hostility if their positive roots are recognised, without denying their very negative effects. This suggestion is inspired by the systemic approaches to conflict resolution of Sally Ann Roth, Kaethe Weingarten and others.

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Workshop

Making Sense of Making Sense in Neurodivergent Families

Sandy Burbach, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

The processes of interaction which make or break experiences of connectedness between family members involve all the intricacies and nuancing of any other social context. Effective communication within a family is underpinned by the ability to sustain social engagement with other people and the know-how to co-construct and adapt meaning between one another. Consequently, making sense of day-to-day family interactions and relationships demands the same social, executive and cognitive processes foundational to personal and social meaning-making in the world. This workshop examines the practical implications for therapists in the context of family therapy with neurodivergent families, with particular emphasis on complex families living with multiple forms of neurodivergence. The workshop takes a transdisciplinary perspective on neurodivergence, situated in Enactive Cognition, Personal Construct Psychology and current Neuroscience, and is presented by a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist with 35+ years of experience in the field of neurodivergence, social communication and family- based intervention approaches with children, adolescents and young adults. Participants will explore a range of neurodevelopmentally-informed strategies for directly supporting information processing, social interaction, problem-solving and participation in family therapy and have the opportunity to consider how they might be applied in their own clinical practice.

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Workshop

Relational Activism: Becoming a Systemic Nomad

Dr Karen Partridge, Chair of the Qualifying Level Course, Institute of Family Therapy 

Tim Fisher, Camden Social Care, Social worker and Specialist in facilitation and participatory methods.

This workshop will invite participants into becoming systemic nomads, embodying systemic theory as lived practice and practice as living theory, taking a systemic participatory action research approach to all our interactions. We have experienced significant changes over the past few years which have challenged us in many different ways, including shifting therapy, training and supervision to online platforms, to confronting the very basis of our thinking, thrusting our values to the fore and moving towards decolonising our practice. This new landscape requires us to be able to think on our feet and develop a dynamic degree of agility. As systemic therapists and supervisors we need to pack our provisions and be prepared to travel to find new ways to connect in these unknown, complex and changing times, prioritising agency and allyship and bringing relational activism into every encounter. By finding ways to be alongside our clients, colleagues and communities in creative ways we can make space for improvisation. Together we can create something new, through positioning and repositioning in a process of relational artistry, improvising and forging some useful tools and techniques along the way.

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Workshop

Community discourses about recovery from disaster: perspectives on recovery voiced by community members four and five years after the Grenfell fire

Dr Naureen Whittinger, AFT, Research Officer

Grenfell fundamentally changed my professional practice, alerting me to the critical significance of attending to inequality, insecurity, and injustice. As a volunteer in the days and months after the fire in 2017, I joined an emergent and dynamic community of bereaved, survivors, residents, helpers, and activists seeking healing and justice. As part of my studies in Systemic Psychotherapy in 2022, I employed Foucauldian discourse analysis to explore what discourses about mental health recovery were constructed by community members who were directly and indirectly impacted by the fire at Grenfell tower. I analysed transcribed film and speeches streamed on social media on the fourth and fifth anniversaries of the Grenfell tower fire. My analysis revealed that community members adopted three main discourses around their recovery: a relational discourse, action discourse and community discourse. These findings suggested social connectedness, being active participants in change-making, and community unity enabled people to adopt positions helpful for recovery. In my presentation, I will reflect on the context of ongoing social injustice for this community and my own personal learning from this experience. If professionals working in mental health settings desire to give voice to the people impacted by the consequences of disaster, it is imperative to attend to language and issues connected with power as well as the implications of social and political injustice for individuals and communities.

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Workshop

'IMAGINE': A Community Initiative To Rethink Our Practice

Dr Claire Stephens, Clinical Psychologist, Dundaloo Allied Health 

Matt Zarb, Dundaloo, Australian Children's Music Foundation, Family and Community Liaison

This workshop invites delegates to re- ‘imagine’ how we address and work with the mental health needs of our communities. It reflects on the experiences of one newly qualified Clinical Psychologist and (trainee) systemic practitioner, Dr. Claire Stephens and one established community family liaison officer, Matt Zarb. Together, they collaborated and received support from the State Government of Australia to design and implement several community initiatives and projects targeting the psychosocial wellbeing of a community marked by one of the highest rates of social deprivation in Australia as well as a community coming to terms with the environmental, psychological, and social impact of recent catastrophic bushfires. The ‘Imagine’ initiative aimed to amplify marginalised voices within this community including Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders and those with diagnosed disabilities, where this community has some of the poorest educational and health outcomes in Australia for both groups. The initiative aimed to utilise community paradigms which took account of multiple perspectives and required reflexive working where community members with differing degrees of power and influence worked together to design and implement specific projects. This workshop utilises creative methods and reflective and experiential exercises to examine the presenters and attendees’ perspectives on how we might challenge modernist public health frameworks to support the development of services that consider relational ethics, community-change processes, power, and contextualised needs. Stories, feedback from participants and live experiences will be represented as part of this workshop. Our hope is to inspire grassroots movements in local communities and to provide hope for delegates by making tangible how meaningful community collaboration can look and feel. Claire and Matt will also reflect on how they felt their actions, in a small way, may have made a difference. A discussion of outcomes and evaluation methods will also be discussed.

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Workshop

Softening our Systemic Edges: from Avoidance to Approach

Shilan Keskin, Trainee Clinical Psychologist, University of Bath 

Danielle Lucas, University of Bath, Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Who are the marginalised majority who remedy one-another in community just beyond the reaches of our angular brick NHS buildings and individualistic practices? The global ethnic majority (Black, Brown, Asian, dual-heritage, indigenous peoples) vastly and disproportionately under-attend health-care services in the UK. From ‘admission’ to ‘discharge’, systems that discuss the very intimate and intricate private worlds of people they care for rarely disclose or communicate the processes as transparently as is needed to built trust. Terms such as ‘therapy’, ‘referral’, and ‘mental health’ are often not commonly held or directly translated within these communities. The mechanical systemic cogs that turn, the 'professional' terminologies used, all function to create a safe distance between the system that serves and the people in need, leaving the many falling through the gaps. What’s intended to be a safe distancing mechanism, creates avoidance, and the system becomes an unsafe ‘other’ that cannot be relationally leant on (Bowlby, 1969), and creates unsteady feedback loops. This is an invitation for participants to lean into conversation, to uncover the intricacies of the un-ceremonious distancing strategies built into healthcare services in the UK, such as language, processes, and procedures. An invitation for participants to lean into conversation to uncover practical ways of creating ceremonies of closeness, such as safe and transparent systems, and contained trauma-informed spaces, to invite warm contexts that invite marginalised communities to show up authentically, to feel held, and to be helped. Drawing on White’s Reflecting Teamwork as Definitional Ceremony (1995) as a tangible example of this shift from distance to closeness, from power imbalance to power distribution, this workshop will structure an intimate conversation and space holding for these dialogues and ideas to emerge.

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Workshop

Systemic Responses to the Climate and Ecological Crises: The Resource of Community

Dr Chloe Constable, Clinical Psychologist and Systemic Psychotherapist, Grange Project 

Rob Moore, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Family Therapist

Earth’s ecosystem is our home, yet the ways many humans have come to relate with and within this rich community have led to the current climate and ecological crises. What role do we have as systemic psychotherapists in responding? How can systemic theory be a resource to us? What does all this look like in practice? We would like to invite you into a conversation about the climate and ecological crises. Using a range of systemic methods, we hope to explore with you possible responses to these crises, what responsibility we hold in our professional roles and how systemic thinking could be a resource to us in this time of both calamity and possibility. We will also hear stories from systemic psychotherapists who are making the conscious choice to act as ‘systemic activists’. What resources them and the hoped-for future they are working towards as they grow communities that make a difference through: rewilding, research, urging change in an NHS trust, and taking family therapy outdoors. Whether you are already engaged in ‘activism’ or wary about such labels or how this work might fit within your day job, we would love to welcome you into the conversation. Our intention is to generate a community for the climate concerned within AFT, so if you’re unable to attend the workshop but keen to be part of further discussion, please reach out to Chloe and join us.

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Workshop

Belonging, Place and Community in Residential Care for Children and Young People

Dr Deborah Judge, Therapeutic Programme Lead, Director, Birribi

Birribi is an innovative therapeutic residential care organisation founded in 2014 and working with Youthinc – a social enterprise. We set out to build an organisation from scratch, build and train staff teams and deliver an effective therapeutic approach for children with complex needs and backgrounds of severe adversity. Our core values embed the importance of building positive relationships, creating therapeutic group homes – a sense of ‘place’ and safety – and supporting and encouraging community living.

We aim to improve the outcomes for children in our care. Our presentation will include data over the last 5 years, from the ‘Outcome Star’ - the measure of progress that we utilise. The therapeutic approach includes integrated education provision and integrated therapy planning based in theories of childhood trauma, attachment relationships and social learning, underpinned by a systemic framework.

Birribi’s therapy team includes 3 systemic family therapists – so we are unique in embedding systemic practice within our work with children in our care. Birribi has established 4 small children's homes and a central office base, our community hub, based in Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Birribi also provides a fully registered independent school for children and young people who are unable to access mainstream education. The education facilities include a care farm which offers a range of opportunities for outdoor learning, play and nature therapy for young residents.

Birribi and Youthinc believe that their collaboration in developing a multi-systemic approach in this sector, will inspire and motivate significant change from the grass roots up, by demonstrating how the life trajectories for children with such backgrounds of severe adversity, can be transformed, and new narratives written within the framework of therapeutic communities and relational practice. It is imperative that systemic practitioners and organisations act to reshape the landscape of residential care practice into the future.

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Workshop

Centring Identities in Training: One LGBTQ+ Example

Dr Robert Allan, Senior Lecturer, University of Roehampton London 

Dr Sandra Taylor, Acre EFT Training, Certified Emotionally Focused Therapy Trainer

This presentation will report on research completed with participants in an LGBTQ+ Centred Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT) training. The training was a first of its kind globally and took place in London in 2022. The training centred LGBTQ+ relationships, video examples, and concepts throughout a four-day training that is the foundational entry into learning EFCT. Participants were invited to interview about their experience of the training and thematic analysis was used to review the data from the interviews. Two themes and five subthemes were identified in the data. The two main themes were: the personal and professional impacts of attending an LGBTQ + centred externship and identity in the context of an LGBTQ + centred training. The first theme had three subthemes, while the second theme had two subthemes. The overall findings highlight the role of conducting identity-centred therapy trainings and how one’s own level of identity development impacts one’s experience of an identity-centred training.

Results will be discussed in relation to working with empathy, compassion, the ability to connect and form networks, with an understanding that sustained change can happen through relationships, and communities of identity. The benefits and challenges that participants experienced will be explored in relation to how participants can experience their training in relation to their own relational activism and belonging across communities.

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Workshop

Multidynamic Relational Therapy

Dr Anthony Pennant Jr, Founder, Colibri Center for Systemic Training and Antioch University Seattle

This presentation will focus on centering a theoretical framework of clinical intervention that originates from same sex couples of colour. Historically, these relationships have shown a great deal of tenacity as they have dealt with issues of oppression such as homophobia, transphobia and racism yet they thrive and find harmony. This level of harmony and tenacity is found within two processes: 1) the acts of liberation and emancipation and 2) the flexibility of roles and adjusted expectations with regard to power. Research demonstrates that many same sex couples report higher levels of satisfaction (Garcia & Umberson, 2019) in their relationships and much of this is due to their ability to reimagine their roles within relationships over time.
This presentation is timely as couple and family therapy is in need of more culturally attuned models of intervention that are a direct reflection of an ever growing diverse and multifaceted population. This framework provides validation of these individuals and creates templates of wellness based on their identities. Lastly, this presentation will present qualitative and quantitative research highlighting client outcomes detailing their experience of the model.

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Workshop

Intercultural love: Workshop on cultural diversity in romantic relationships

Dr Ekaterina Yurtaeva, Counselling Psychologist, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, the Humber and North Yorkshire Resilience Hub Professor 

Professor Divine Charura, York St John University, Professor of Counselling Psychology

The modern world is becoming increasingly diverse and numbers of intercultural romantic couples and relationships are rising in the Western part of the world. Despite this, many intercultural couples report experiencing discrimination, and tensions from their diverse communities which contribute to the challenges within intercultural romantic relationships. The aim of this workshop is twofold: first, participants engaging in the workshop will enhance their understanding of the role of culture in relational experiences and dynamics of intercultural romantic relationships; second, our aim is to explore how systemic ideas can unite people within families and communities, and identify the practical skills and knowledge needed for culturally sensitive practice when working with intercultural couples.

Cross-cultural competencies are becoming increasingly recognised as fundamental to modern therapeutic relationships. Therefore, it is important for psychological professionals to understand how cultural and ethnic heritage can shape and influence worldviews and relational experiences. This workshop is built on the findings of the doctoral thesis research conducted by the authors where cultural differences were identified to meaningfully shape relational functioning of intercultural romantic partners by: introducing differences in attitudes, values and beliefs; influencing partners’ ability to communicate; impacting on availability of support from wider family and society; and finally by intersecting with other aspects of partners’ personal and social identity causing a shift in power dynamics between partners within the relationship. It was further found that to reconcile this additional layer of challenges and complexities, intercultural partners engage in a range of coping skills such as by creating the third culture that merges different cultural backgrounds into one coherent whole.

The first half of the workshop will include a presentation that will introduce the audience to the key literature in the field of intercultural relationship research as well as outline the findings of the doctoral thesis – the themes that reflect ways in which cultural background can introduce differences to the relationship while also prompting individuals to take action toward finding strategies to reconcile such differences. The second half of the workshop will be an interactive encounter that will offer delegates the opportunity to explore the impact of cultural differences on relational dynamics.

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Workshop

'Find your village' - culturally-coordinated understanding and action for families with ‘migrational heritage’

Dr Tom Allport, Consultant Paediatrician and Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol 

Samira Musse, Barton Hill Activity Club, Director, Barton Hill Activity Club

Migration to an urban, western environment may challenge families, especially coming from cultures where ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Children born in the UK to marginalised refugee or forced migrant families, after highly stressed pregnancies, often with poor housing, few resources, and a local environment that feels unsafe, without the cultural and social structures to support them learning through play and interaction, responsibility and boundaries, may miss out on key developmental opportunities. Stories of fear, uncertainty and isolation point to the cultural clash of moving from a communal to an individualistic society, along with multiple sources of stress, and impoverished, frightening environments [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.01.019]. In Bristol, local migrant children are referred with concerns about developmental difficulties more frequently than their white British peers [https://doi.org/10.1111/cch.13009]. These early developmental difficulties point towards adverse outcomes for education, employment and public safety. In contrast, strong, sustainable communities build wellbeing, security and social connections, which improve life chances.

The ideas and approaches for this workshop come from a ten-year collaboration between local people, community groups, voluntary and statutory organisations, and universities, that we have called ‘Find your village’. Our research aims to enable and support marginalised children and families with migrational heritage to thrive. We believe community groups, the voluntary sector and government agencies can all contribute to social and environmental change that builds a ‘village’. We believe they can achieve this by coordinating to activate ‘latent assets’ that will reduce inequality and marginalisation, and improve outcomes for children, families, communities and neighbourhoods.

In this workshop, we propose to present ideas and experiences about ‘Find your village’ peer support (see https://vimeo.com/374652881/79fae10d7e), and discuss:
Storying and framing issues in ways that engage and mobilise
Engaged, asset-based and co-produced research
Dialogic, relational system leadership
‘What matters?’ – interconnections between understanding and longer-term change/impact.

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Workshop

A whole-family approach to sibling sexual abuse assessment and intervention

Dorota Rospierska, Systemic Family Psychotherapist, NSPCC/Oxleas NHS Foundation Trsut 

Molly Develin, NSPCC, Children’s Services Practitioner (Social Worker)

Our service (National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service – an NSPCC/ OXLEAS NHS Foundation Trust partnership for children and young people displaying harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) is collaborating with another NSPCC service (Letting the Future In – therapeutic support for children who have been sexually harmed) to develop an integrated sibling sexual abuse service. We are developing a whole family approach and would like to put ourselves forward to present our thinking, dilemmas, and achievements to date. We are including all family members in this approach – harmed and harming children, parents, carers, and others. This is a project that will be ongoing over the next few years as we develop the work, deliver to pilot families, and evaluate the approach. We are utilising the HSB and emerging siblings sexual abuse (SSA) evidence base in our design of the service, as well as aiming to identify and contribute to gaps in evidence and practice knowledge. We are certainly keen to capture what we learn and share this with others, and to learn from others in the field.

- Whole family: SSA is a problem for the whole family; family members powerfully influence each other in their journeys on from the abuse. Taking a whole family approach means factoring in (and at times, balancing) each family member’s insights, views, feelings, needs and strengths at all stages.

- Assessment: the nature and impact of SSA and problematic sibling sexual behaviour is even more complex to assess given that factors that might help distinguish the two can be so hidden such as the feelings of both the children, the evolution of the behaviour, and any coercion or contingencies.

- Support: bespoke and modular - SSA defies easy understanding or easy answers. Complex thinking is required and holding both/and perspectives is vital.

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Workshop

Enhancing access and equity in mental health - systemic practice in faith and community settings

Heleni-Georgia Andreadi, Head of Family Therapy/Courses Director, South West London & St George's NHS Trust 

Sylvia Metzer, Prudence Skynner Family & Couple Therapy Clinic, South West London & St George's NHS Trust, Consultant family psychotherapist and CAMHS Systemic Lead

Our workshop aims at discussing how, within our South West London NHS service, we have trained many local faith leaders (predominantly Black pastors and Imams) and community leaders in systemic skills (foundation and intermediate level) as part of a joint project operating across the community and SW London NHS Trust. This collaboration started several years ago aiming to provide early stage support for local people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds experiencing mental health difficulties in a culturally appropriate way by drawing on existing strengths and relationships within faith communities. This initiative has evolved further across South London, into EMHIP (Ethnicity and Mental Health Improvement project), a locality-based service improvement programme aiming to reduce ethnic inequalities in access, experience and outcome of mental health care. We would like to showcase this work in dialogue with some of our key community stakeholders, current trainees and graduates, discuss the aims and challenges surrounding focus on faith-based training and anti-oppressive practice within systemic training and invite delegates at the AFT event to consider their own relationship with such issues.

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Workshop

It takes a village to raise a child: the role of communities in nurturing children's development and well-being

Charlotte Christiansen, Family Therapist, Child and Family Community Psychology, NHS 

Dr Rhiannon Cobner, Child and Family Community Psychology, NHS, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and manager of Child and Family Community Psychology 

Paul Price, Child and Family Community Psychology, NHS, Family Therapist

We believe that the Gwent Child and Family Community Psychology Team is the only one in the country based within an NHS Child and Family Psychology Service. The team comprises of Family Therapists, Clinical Psychologists, Psychology Practitioners and Assistant Psychologists and our focus is on working in and with communities, to include; professional communities, sports communities, geographical communities or communities within schools.

Gwent Child and Family Community Psychology is founded upon several core beliefs - one of which is that children and young people do not exist in isolation, they are part of a wider network of relationships and systems that create the context for their development. These relationships span across home, the extended family, school and the wider community, including sports clubs and youth services, charitable organisations and housing - amongst others. For some of our more vulnerable young people these relationships will further extend to organisations such as social care and the police.

Gwent Child and Family Community Psychology’s aim is to develop partnerships across the multiple levels of these systems in order build capacity within communities, so they are confident in being able to nurture children and young people’s well-being and can understand and relate to distress. We work outside of clinics and alongside communities to develop alternative systems of support ranging from universal provision to specifically targeting those who are more vulnerable and marginalised.

We seek to develop a relational, developmental and contextual understanding of distress and support community members to feel confident in sitting with this distress whilst creating the conditions necessary for change. Drawing upon systemic theories and models as well as a range of other psychological theories and evidence-based models, we work alongside communities to enable and support them to identify the needs of the children and young people and to develop and enact their own psychologically informed solutions.

In this workshop we will give a short outline of the work we do. We will then give an example of one of our projects that unite school communities before creating an opportunity for the attendees of the workshop to be think in groups about systemic ideas that are ideal for uniting communities.

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Workshop

Systemic Family Therapy in Adult Forensics

Dawn Thibert, Family Therapist, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, University of Bedfordshire

I am proposing a workshop to describe the work I have been doing in a South London adult forensic service. I will go through my journey into the forensic context, new for me, starting with gaining a position in a pilot project supporting those stuck in forensic services to help them get discharged into the community, where a psychology post was opened up for competence-based recruitment. Then I was involved in developing a forensic systemic family therapy service through a Quality Improvement pilot project which led to having a business case accepted to embed an expanded family therapy service. I was the only family therapist in adult forensic services in three partnership trusts for three years. At first it seemed like systemic ways of working might be too much of a difference, where the highest professional contexts are the medical model and risk management.

I have needed to be creative in making the service accessible, including developing an ethos of Nomadic Relational Support and ethical visiting rather than a hosting metaphor. A full range of family therapy services are now available, as well as co-production of conferences with service users and families.
I am conducting practitioner research as part of a professional doctorate in systemic practice and I will bring in some of the methodologies that I have been developing in my research and practice, including nomadic (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari) and diffractive (Karen Barad), which have helped me navigate the forensic settings.
I will offer some composite vignettes to show how persistence, being interested in families, curiosity and listening have helped to heal some rifts. I will go through the literature about systemic working in forensic services, recognising the early family therapist pioneers. I am hoping to generate discussion.

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Workshop

AFT DWP's Diverse Dialogues: Dialogues in Unity

Jennifer Achan & Shakira Maknoon, AFT DWP 'Race' Group

Linda Pow & Samuel Angus, AFT DWP Ableism Group 

Jennifer McKinney, AFT DWP Class Group

Daniel Blake  & Carol, AFT DWP Ageism Group

AFT Diversity Working Party (DWP groups) engage in an reflective dialogue which includes race, age, ableism, and class - delving deep into the intersections of these topics and other social identities. We consider how dominant discourses may often breed stereotypes and hinder intergenerational connections. Yet, within these discourses lies the potential for transformative connections and growth to open new spaces and opportunities. In our presentation, we lean into exploring narratives from diverse perspectives, taking relational risks to forge new pathways and narratives. Forming connections, to blossom and grow, we invite the pioneering spirt within each of us to take a relational risk. DWPs Groups call on all to venture into conversations that may seem daunting, to maneuver through “doors” and perceived barriers, to solidarity. Together, we'll cultivate a community that builds bridges and nurtures a sense of belonging - a safer space we can bring our whole selves and where we can truly embody the change we aspire to see.

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Workshop

Co-production: the power of lived experience

Debbie Frances, Freelance carer consultant, trainer, and expert by experience

Relationships make the difference! Successful co-production relies on the strength of the relationships that build through that process, and change happens through relationships. In this workshop, I will share some of my experiences and challenges as a lived experience leader. I will also share reflections on a co-production project that I was recently involved in, both in terms of successes and achievements from that project, but also learning that will be of interest to others looking to implement best practice around lived experience involvement. Co-production can be understood as a transformative way of thinking about power, partnerships, and outcomes. It is integral to the provision of recovery-oriented and person-centred mental healthcare, and key to challenging the power differentials within traditional mental healthcare. Within the bio-medical paradigm of mental healthcare, clinical expertise and evidence-based medicine have been privileged, and as such frequently monopolise decision-making processes, service design and delivery. This has resulted in an imbalance of power between service providers and services users and carers, and in insights and knowledge gained through lived experience being marginalised and invalidated. Co-production creates a culture in which all knowledge and expertise is valued, particularly the knowledge and expertise of the people most affected by the problem and the potential solution.

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Workshop

Panel Discussion: Home and Belonging (working title)

Dr Tom Allport 

Samira Musse 

Dr Viola Sallay 

Prof Tamás Martos 

Prof Hannah Sherbersky

Workshop Description coming soon

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Workshop

Rewilding therapy and community building

Chiara Santin, Systemic and Family Psychotherapist, Rainbow Family Therapy Services ltd

This workshop will present some key ecosystemic ideas that can help us embrace the wildness in us and transform therapy outdoors and indoors. Connecting and reconnecting with Nature means reconnecting with ourselves as human beings and therapists, part of a complex web of relationships, the entangled web of life in all its forms at a time of ecological crisis, climate emergency and likely social collapse. The workshop will share some examples of ecotherapy projects that can promote community building and a restored sense of belonging to the Earth and to each other.

This dialogical and interactive space will invite systemic therapists to consider that we are Nature and Nature is us, therefore, we can no longer leave Nature outdoors. This also means reframing therapy as a safe space to promote ecological conversations, considering mental health as ecological wellbeing and focus on community building as a way to respond to the current ecological crisis.

This reflective space will encourage discussions about ways of engaging with the wild in us and rewilding systemic practice. It will help identify what to put in the ruck sack to start a new journey into the wild, explore new territories, find a new path without a map and the courage to take more risks as ecosystemic therapists/activists.

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Workshop

How Communities can Accompany Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

Dr Ana Draper, Consultant Systemic Psychotherapist, T&P Clinical Programme Team, NHS 

Elisa Marcellino, NHS, Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist 

Samantha Thomson, Highly Specialist Systemic Family and Psychotherapist

In this presentation, we will explore a way of being with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that supports our understanding of the different contexts from which meaning and actions are derived. We should work in a wider system as a community in which each aspect has a part to play in meeting the needs of each child. We are all part of the journey these children make; their voices and ours are learning from and with each other.

In this work, we started from our clinical practice and made links from practice to theories that inform us and the ethics that we are mindful to maintain. The relationship is with us, as presenters, and the children whose voices you will be hearing.
We will look at Micro, Meso and Macro levels of interactions from which ethics can be understood.

#actionresearch #community #asylumseekingchildren #humanrights #ethics

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Workshop

E/Merging Voices

Julie Oates, Director, Courage to Thrive CIC; Family and Systemic Psychotherapist, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Poverty Truth Commission 

Debbie James, Outsiders Project, Writer and Outsider Artist, Community Commissioner for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Poverty Truth Commission

Poverty Truth Commissions (PTC) live out the mantra ‘Nothing about us, without us, is for us’ by creating the conditions whereby those with lived experience of the struggle against poverty take a central role in conversations about the issues they face with those who traditionally make decisions on their behalf. 12 Community (Lived Experience) Commissioners get to know, in a meaningful way, 12 invited Civic and Business Commissioners over a period of 2 years, and begin to co create solutions to intractable problems.

Debbie James was a Community Commissioner with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole PTC from 2021 – 2023. Julie Oates is a Systemic Psychotherapist who is supporting the work of the PTC as a Director of the hosting Community Interest Company. Together we will provide a flavour of the ethos and the methods of a Poverty Truth Commission. Debbie will share something of her lived experience, both of poverty, and of being a part of the PTC process, and the difference that has made. Julie will link up the theory and practice that demonstrates that a PTC is an exciting example of relational activism that grows organically from local experience.

Inspired by liberation psychology, the work of Paulo Freire and Martin Baro, Taiwo Afuape and Vikki Reynolds, to name but a few sources of encouragement and solidarity, relational activism invites systemic therapists out of the clinic and into the community. Our hope is that our workshop will in turn inspire you to discover and work with the energy and grassroots power in your local area.

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Workshop

Intersex perspectives in systemic practice

Annette Strzedulla, Systemic Psychotherapist & Supervisor 

Amanda Middleton, The Pink Practice, Family and Systemic Psychotherapist and Supervisor

Intersex people/people with variations of sex characteristics (VSC) are part of our communities - as clients, colleagues and family members. Their/our lived experiences offer us all an invitation to explore biological and cultural ‘truths’ beyond the binary. This polyphonic positioning aids our systemic wisdom. Through examining dominant discourses of sex, gender and sexuality that shape lived experience, and in turn systemic concepts and theories, this workshop aims to shake up our understandings of biology, gender, sexuality, normativity, secrecy and bodily autonomy.

This workshop will combine a short presentation with experiential smaller group discussions and reflections. We have thought a lot about how lived experiences that are outside of someone’s own life can meaningfully connect and be a source of systemic knowing. We especially invite attendees to sit with a wider sense of gender, sex and sexuality and how this might inform their practice. Through raising their awareness of intersex people/people with VSC attendees will also be able to create more inclusive and supportive therapeutic environments.

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Workshop

Supporting Neurodiverse Families with a Neuro-affirmative Framework

Cindy Hsiang, PhD candidate/Clinical Supervisor, University of Newcastle/Aspiration Education and Development Clinic

Recognising the neurobiological basis of autism, research has emphasised the ‘mere-difference’ of information and sensory processing profiles among autistic people. In supporting neurodiverse families, family therapy has shown some effectiveness in improving relationships among family members. Grounded in the neurodiverse conceptualisation of autism, this workshop provides a neuro-affirmative framework, guiding family therapists to adapt to the needs of neurodiverse families.

The framework encompasses: utilising autism-specific strengths and assisting families to make sense of the diagnosis; facilitating communication and understanding between family members with different neurotypes; fostering neurodivergent inclusive communities by working with the systems; reflecting continuously on own perceptions about neurodivergence throughout the process.

Leveraging autism-specific strengths involves both affirmative languages to empower individuals and tangible experiences during therapy. Affirmative language boosts competence, leading to greater exploration and utilisation of family resources. Additionally, engaging with sensory materials and genograms helps families organise thoughts and connect with emotions in a meaningful way.

Effective communication in neurodiverse families hinges on therapists embracing neurodiversity-informed thinking. This involves actively recognising and engaging with diverse ways of processing information, expressing ideas, and relating with each other. Throughout the process, therapists cultivate a reflective practice, constantly questioning our own perceptions about neurodivergence and assumptions, uncovering the resources within the family.

By understanding the unique needs of the autistic individuals, therapists can partner with their families to advocate for changes in their environment (e.g., classrooms, workplaces) and explore available resources within broader systems.
The essence of the neuro-affirmative framework lies in family therapists actively explore our own implicit assumptions and biases about autism and neurodivergence. These unconscious perceptions can impact therapy and interactions with the autistic person’s broader environment. By recognising and addressing these biased perceptions, therapists can support neurodiverse families more effectively and build more inclusive support systems.

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Workshop

The difference that makes the difference: witnessing authentic voices in open dialogue (working title)

Jasmin Izagaren, Systemic practitioner

Ramon Karamat-Ali, Couple and family therapist, supervisor

A workshop that brings either pre-set themes that have been difficult for the systemic community to engage with: lived experience of black, brown, queer systemic trainees and/or employees; trans debates - e.g. use of pronouns; Mid-East conflict etc or potential challenges or intersectional points of interest that are raised by the plenary speaks or by the conference itself (including anything that arises from what AFT board might want to discuss) . A conversation group; a group to have a reflective conversation about the conversation witnessed and an observer group who want to engage but may not feel 'safe', but want to partake in the experience and opportunity for learning and growth. Another format could take the form of a psychodynamic group session Ramon witnessed of an outer and inner circle formed to allow honest expression and, sometimes, unexpected support or 'information' in the system that can also create change and shift. Held and delivered as systemically as possible, of course The whole point is to have a transformative and creative experience.

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Workshop

Let Silences Speak: Practitioner as Researcher, using Situational Analysis

Dr Imogen Harries, Family Therapist, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Situational analysis (Clarke, Washburn & Friese, 2022) is a method that uses and extends qualitative grounded theory research methodology. It creates and works with analytic maps of social processes and relationships which recognise that there are many ways of knowing the world and many hierarchies of value. This workshop will give a brief introduction to situational analysis (SA) and will give participants the opportunity to learn how to create their own SA maps regarding their areas of interest and / or research. Imogen will be using illustrations from her PhD research on the supervision of experienced secondary school counsellors. She will also be looking at how she uses the SA research technique as a way to understand service user feedback and support in the development of services, and will be using illustrations from within the Adult Specialist Eating Disorder Service where she is a family therapist.

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Fringe Sessions

Fringe Sessions

Lunch Fringe Session

Explorations with the new Couples version of SCORE

Prof Peter Stratton, Emeritus Professor of Family Therapy, LFTRC University of Leeds, University College Dublin

AFT Prof Alan Carr, University College Dublin, Professor

Dr Naureen Whittinger, AFT, Research Officer

With Melanie Shepherd; Valeria Pomini; Yang Yang Teh; Hannah Sherbersky, Aideen Kieran and Christopher Cash;

The workshop will explore the current edition of the newly developed version of SCORE for use in couples therapy: the C-SCORE. There will be an interactive and challenging process in which the C-SCORE will be completed by participants from a variety of perspectives and differences between the versions that each generates will be energetically explored.

As SCORE-15 became widely taken up, translated and used in over 30 different countries, it became apparent that there were client groups for which the dominant focus on family was inappropriate. An early response was by Yang Yang Teh, Judith Lask and Peter Stratton who adapted the family SCORE-15 to an alternative relational SCORE-15 version. Minimal changes were made to the original 15 items to maintain the reliability and validity of the measure, yet fit the use with couples, particularly LGB people. Meanwhile several countries reported that couples without children might not see themselves as a family and could be uncomfortable with the family oriented wording of SCORE-15. Starting from the Relational SCORE-15 version and revisiting the original family SCORE-40 (where the family SCORE-15 originated) we re-viewed the items and identified several important aspects of couple relationships which had not been appropriate to include in a brief family measure. We published an invitation to create a version of SCORE for people in close adult relationships. The evolving team (current members listed above) has been working for the last 3 years. Alan Carr has been our leading researcher consolidating the ideas, obtaining ethical approval from UCD and managing small research grants from AFT and EFTA. Extensive clinical and research considerations generated a 26 item version C-SCORE-26 currently being piloting in a large non-clinical sample and then an international sample of clients at sessions 1 and 5 of couples therapy. The final part of the workshop will report on the findings so far.

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Lunch Fringe Session

Section 28 and Me: A Salon

Tom Marshman, Artist

Section 28 (Local Government Act 1988) stipulated that local authorities should not ‘intentionally promote homosexuality’. It was a key facet of Thatcher’s Britain - a context where HIV/AIDS was sometimes not only linked to but also blamed on gay men. Though repealed in 2003 in England and Wales (2000 in Scotland), the legacy of this legislation has arguably been long-lasting – it has shaped the stories that
people were able to tell about themselves at the time and it still shapes the stories that people can tell about themselves now.

Tom Marshman has been touring the UK with his Section 28 Tea Parties and Salons for several months. He is an established Bristol based artist and performer and will host a Salon within the AFT conference. These form part of a wider project called ‘Section 28 and Me’ that Tom is currently working on with law and history academics, several of whom are at the University of Bristol. More about the project can be found at www.tommarshman.com, including podcasts where Tom discusses with various people their Section 28 stories. 

At an urgent moment when homophobia and transphobia is becoming increasingly emboldened, Tom’s ‘Section 28 and Me’ project explores how important it is to share, hear, perform, and reflect upon queer stories in the wake of repression. Tom’s Salon will involve an element of performance from him, drawing on his own experiences and those of participants within the project so far as well as academic research. He will host a space where, over tea and cake, workshop participants collaborate to consider their own stories alongside national and global political events, to think about the relationship between what was happening in people’s individual lives and what was happening elsewhere during the time of Section 28. By the end of the workshop these stories will be depicted by words and pictures on a giant tablecloth, physically punctuated by crumbs and mug stains.

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Lunch Fringe Session

Becoming a feral family therapist - rewilding your practice

Hugh Palmer, Systemic Practitioner, University of Hull, Independent Practitioner

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "feral" has three meanings: "existing in a wild or untamed state"; "having returned to an untamed state from domestication"; and "of, or suggestive of, a wild animal; savage". Importantly, the word is most commonly used in the second of those contexts, to describe domesticated animals that have left human society and control and now live on their own: we talk of populations of feral cats, for example.

This presentation is not about becoming a wild, savage animal in the therapy room or at MDT meetings (although there have been times when I’ve been tempted) but asks questions of what it means to work in ways that challenge the ‘domestication’ of our assumptions about our practice with clients; from working in a clinic rather than outdoors or in community settings to revisiting and embracing some radical ideas about ourselves in relation to others that our discipline disregarded in favour of strategic approaches.

Drawing on more recent ideas from posthumanism and new materialism as well as from earlier sources, particularly Gregory Bateson, we will discuss how participants might find ways to become a little more feral in their practices.

Psychotherapists and psychotherapy associations are now paying due attention to issues of the current ecological context, including climate change, as well as to social justice and other dimensions that no longer can be thought of as mere elements of the scenario in which psychotherapy is practiced. Rather they are dimensions that exert a strong influence on psychological well-being, and thus must be properly acknowledged and assessed to connect clinical work with the communities and ecological contexts in which people live.

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Lunch Fringe Session

Embracing the NVR principle of utilising “supporters” in Family Based Treatment for Eating Disorders

Luke Cousins, Family Therapist, NHS - South Gloucestershire CAMHS

Becky Midlane, NHS - South Gloucestershire CAMHS, Family Therapist

Presenters have advised it would be beneficial for attendees to have some pre-existing knowledge of NVR for this session due to time restrictions.

“In post-covid times we have seen growing presentations of atypical eating disorders, including increased rates of ARFID presentations well as co-morbidity with other mental health difficulties (Trafford et al, 2023). The lines between Eating Disorders and other presentations are increasingly blurry. Consequently, in a growing number of cases, parents report or demonstrate difficulty in implementing the approaches recommended in FBT. Frequently parents come into ED services feeling overwhelmed by trying to care for their child, who is struggling with a life threatening illness. Oftentimes, simultaneously trying to protect close friends and other family members by concealing the difficulties. This adds a layer of complexity, increases feelings of isolation and compounds stress levels that are already high.
In the resultant powerlessness and desperation to make things better, an understandable parental response is to increase attempts to control their child. The child, as they try to hold on to what little control they feel they have remaining, can often dig their heels in. A pattern of symmetrical escalation ensues. Alternatively, parents feel they “have tried everything” lose faith in the approach and back away from supporting their child for fear of harming the relationship. Treatment progress halts, whilst relationships suffer. Helping parents to regulate their own escalatory responses creates a home environment that is far more likely to support re-feeding. NVR can offer hope when parents feel like they have tried everything. In cases such as these, embracing the principles of NVR might offer an alternative approach that could increase: parental self-control, self-confidence, sense of efficacy and therefore action.” (Cousins, 2023)

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Lunch Fringe Session

Crime: ‘A Simple Blunder in Logical Typing’?

Becca Wellaway, Systemic Psychotherapist, Supervisor, Yoga Teacher

“We act as if crime could be extinguished by punishing parts of what we regard as criminal actions, as if "crime" were the name of a sort of action or of part of a sort of action. More correctly "crime," like "exploration," is the name of a way of organising actions. It is therefore unlikely that punishing the act will extinguish the crime. In several thousand years, the so-called science of criminology has not escaped from a simple blunder in logical typing.” (pp 137, Bateson 1979, Mind and Nature)

Drawing on case studies from a Devon-based Resettlement Project, examples will be shared of ways in which understanding of and discourses about ‘Crime’ can be more helpfully reframed by placing relationship building and community connections at the forefront of action.

The Project prioritises and values healthy relationships, developing community, independence, accountability, purpose and belonging, not only with those who have committed a criminal act but also with the systems around them (family, prison, probation, police, housing, addiction support, benefit claims, local employers and so on).

Offering help that is experienced as helpful and taking a relational approach to support people towards change has resulted in a reoffending rate under 6% and an employment rate of 94% (for those eligible).

We will consider how Bateson’s description of ‘a simple [typological] blunder’ in the relationship between social justice and criminal justice systems may both fuel and maintain criminal acts, creating a negative feedback loop.

Participants will be invited to reflect on their own personal/professional experiences of ‘crime’ and of criminal acts, considering ways in which their own systems might be influenced by consciously interrupting the negative loop between social and criminal justice - if our social aims are not to ‘extinguish crime’, what is it, instead, that we might be working towards?

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Lunch Fringe Session

Helping Ariel notice multiple stories.

Keith Oulton, Systemic therapist/Supervisor and advocate

This story is about 24 sessions of trauma informed therapy using a systemic/narrative lens that created space in which Ariel* was able to flourish and find her voice. It also demonstrates collaborative working and the power that can come from writing and sharing session notes. The presentation focuses on work done with Ariel who experienced childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence. Working together in this way helped her find her voice, create her own support team and allow her to be compassionate towards herself. This work was published in the August 2023 edition of Context and later in another therapy magazine. The presentation shares some of the article and some of the theory that has influenced the work. I will be showing actual case notes and sharing my experience of writing case notes in a way that notices and supports agency but also in a way that helps people bring the therapy home. My hope is that this presentation will inspire people being some of these ideas into their work.

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