2017: Nick Totton “Reclaiming the Heart of Psychotherapy”

The last few decades have seen a powerful movement within therapy to tighten its theoretical and institutional structures. It has set up processes of regulation and surveillance on every level to make psychotherapy and counselling conform to the model of a 21st century profession.

Nick Totton argued that this Procrustean approach – chopping bits off here and stretching bits painfully there – may have had a certain value.  It has forced us to attend to what it has failed to notice: that the values and attitudes at the core of our work are incompatible with defining ourselves as a conventional profession.  However, a powerful groundswell of opposition is now reclaiming the heart of psychotherapy, thus counter-balancing the movement towards regulation.

The lecture started with Nick considering how he sees this process of reaffirmation, and his own part in it. We then moved by stages into a collective process.  In pairs and small groups we asked ourselves: What is at the heart of my practice? How does this support me in joining hands with other therapists, so as to create the sort of environment where psychotherapy can flourish?

Photo of Nick Totton

Nick Totton is a therapist, trainer and author with over thirty years’ experience. He was originally a Reichian body therapist. Now his approach is broad based and open to the spontaneous and unexpected. He has an MA in Psychoanalytic Studies, has worked with Process Oriented Psychology and trained as a Craniosacral therapist.

Nick looks at the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles and hence climate change. He has written or edited books including Psychotherapy and Politics; The Politics of Psychotherapy; Not A Tame Lion –  Therapy in its Social and Political Contexts; Wild Therapy and Embodied Relating.  He has long been involved  in the politics of therapy. He edited the journal Psychotherapy and Politics International, was Chair of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, and is outgoing Chair of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union.

Nick has a grown-up daughter. He lives in Cornwall with his partner and grows vegetables.

Record of the lecture

Text of Nick’s lecture as .pdf

You can listen to a recording of the proceedings.

Introduction by Clive Oxford and Nick’s lecture up to the first group exploration (23:40 mins):

Second part of Nick’s lecture up to the second group exploration (11:46 mins):

Third part of Nick’s lecture and the questions and answers before lunch:

The briefing for the two afternoon explorations (6:28 mins):

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