My Route into Family Therapy
This is a question I am asked many times, so I decided to tell you a little about my own training and to direct you to training establishments in the UK. The AFT (Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice in the UK) is the governing body for family therapy in the UK and hold a list of training establishments.
I took a degree in social science with a view to becoming a social worker. This was way back in the 1970’s. The degree gave me quite a broad knowledge of mental health, social policy and legislation and introduced me to social science philosophers such as Karl Marx, Durkheim, Malthus, John Stewart Mill and Freud. The course included quite a lot of psychology, economics and statistics. This was a time of radical thinking about social work and psychiatry and these ideas made me question social and medical models of good health and to explore issues of hierarchy and social injustice in society.
After the degree, I went off the idea of becoming a social worker and spent a few years developing my skills as a photographer and writer. Eventually, I became a professional advertising photographer. I enjoyed this very much. As time went by, I became involved in training junior photographers and enjoyed this so much that it made me reflect on whether or not to go back into social work.
My first job in ‘social work’ was on a government training scheme for young people called the ‘Youth Training Service’. This was working with teenagers who had left school and were unemployed. It involved social skills training and practical work assignments. I also did some voluntary work for a few months in a children's home. Having picked up some skills in these posts, I decided to do formal training in social work. I choose a course at Manchester University which combined a CQSW (certificate of qualification in social work) with a Diploma in Psychiatric Social Work. It included two placements in hospital settings and was a valuable learning experience.
After qualifying as a social worker, I had the choice of moving into mainstream social work or working with children in residential care. I chose residential care because I wanted to do direct therapeutic work with children. I gained a post as team leader in a residential school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. The work focussed on reintegrating children back into their families and mainstream school and included direct work with children and families.
Around about that time, I became aware of family therapy. I read Minuchin’s first book ‘Families of the Slums’ and was impressed with his ideas about family structure and how to implement change in families. The fact he had developed his theories whilst working with children in residential care in the United States was relevant too. I was also impressed by Virginia Satir's book, 'People Making' which is probably my favourite family therapy text.
I was so impressed with the ideas expressed in systemic family therapy that I took a Diploma in Family Therapy at Manchester University and introduced family therapy practice into the residential school I worked in at the time. It was a rich period of learning and this was aided by a generous allocation of time and resources by the school (Taxal Lodge School) for which I am indebted.
After ten years of residential work, I moved into the NHS (National Health Service). This was in a child and adolescent mental health clinic. I am still there and enjoying the therapeutic work as much now as I did when I first began.
Over the past few years I have enjoyed taking students and lecturing to social work students at Keele University about systemic therapy as a guest speaker.
Our CAMHS service has a multidisciplinary family therapy team which meets for one session a week. This team works with complex family therapy cases. We run a number of training workshops focussed on work with families to a range of professionals working with children and families. Family therapy thinking and practice has changed considerably since I qualified. The family therapy team is a forum for our own training and for keeping up with current ideas and practice in the world of family therapy.
I have recently begun a CYP-IAPT course to train as a family systemic practice supervisor. Things never stop changing and we have to adapt and grow.
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