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Comments and Reports: Inaugural Seminar

Psychoanalysis Ireland

 » Comments and Reports: Inaugural Seminar

The first business meeting of the College of Psychoanalysts in Ireland was held in the Irish Writers' Centre on Parnell Square, a venue which has since become synonymous with CPI events. The meeting took place on Saturday 25th February after a morning devoted to an Open Panel discussion with the participation of the audience on the politics, philosophy and clinic of psychoanalysis in Ireland. This accorded with one of the stated aims of the College of Psychoanalysts in Ireland – to encourage and facilitate open and free debate on topics of interest to the psychoanalytic community at large, from clinicians, to theoreticians, to the mildly curious. With this in mind our inaugural meeting aimed to set us off on that path. The event took the following as subject:
Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalysis! Wherefore art thou …
… (on the following questions)?
The aim was to address, insofar as time allowed, the following questions:
Where stands psychoanalysis in Ireland today?
Can different psychoanalytic approaches live together?
Can psychoanalysis speak to other psychotherapies, and can it listen?
What is a psychoanalytic training?
Who authorises the analytic position?
The panel which undertook to set the discussion rolling comprised Hugh Arthurs, Olga Cox-Cameron, Helena Texier, Rob Weatherill, with Patricia Stewart in the Chair.
In attendance, in addition to the above, were:
Peggy Deeny, Nessa Breen, Brendan Murphy, Carolkine Heanneu, Mary O Callaghan, Ann Cox, Elizabeth Monaghan, Gerry Murtagh, Harriet Parsons, Mary Flaherty, Eve Watson, Carol Owens, Nessa Childers, Colm Massey, Mary Arthurs, Sarah McAuley, Sheena Eustace, Stephen Byrne, Gabrielle O Kelly, Mary Brophy, Ingrid Masterson, Brian Howlett, Frances Sweetman, Conor Roley, Dermot Gough, Gerry French, Derval Ryan. (Apologies if we’ve left anyone out).
The debate was lively and set off on its own path as those in attendance availed of the opportunity to express their views of, and indeed their concerns for, psychoanalysis itself. Some also expressed concerns for the effects of the psychoanalytic institutions. It's remarkable now to consider how caught up in the moment everyone became, despite the fact that this, the inaugural event for our group, was taking place to the feisty sounds of a marching band of Lambeg drums; Only metres away from the hall door of the Irish Writers' Centre, in fact on the steps of another beautiful Georgian building to the right of us, Union Jacks waved in the breeze, as bus-loads of Orangemen gathered at the assembly point for the 'Love Ulster' march, an ironical title given the events that would follow in Dublin on that afternoon. From the windows of the room in which we had gathered for our own meeting, one had an uninterrupted view of the events unfolding as boiling point was reached. Geoffrey Donaldson, minus bowler-hat but sporting a most Orange lily in his button-hole, climbed the steps to advise his co-marchers that things had turned nasty and the march had been called off and they would have a Garda escort to safety. To safety? Straining one's neck to view matters unfolding to the left hand corner of Parnell Square Nth, one's gaze was met by a sea of Tri-colours waved by a sea of republicans, some in masks and military combat jackets. Later that day, all of Europe would be hearing about the 'Dublin Riots', the closure of O'Connell Street and the other prominent thoroughfares, normally thronging with Saturday shoppers, due to lootings and firebombs.
And yet, we carried on regardless, seeming like quite a genteel bunch of disparate souls, when set against the surreal atmosphere created by the intransigence of the parties to events unfolding outside. Union Jacks and massive yellow flowers to the right of us! Tricolours and terrorist attire to the left!
As our own proceedings unfolded we found that the morning panel discussion led seamlessly into the business meeting which followed in its wake. No riots then, (there were enough of those going on a few streets away) not even when we found that for lunch we had to be locked into the restaurant at the Irish Writers' Museum, a few doors away, for our own safety!

Mary Arthurs agreed to chair the meeting and Helena Texier agreed to take minutes.
After opening the meeting with a brief history of how the CPI came into being out of a feeling amongst the members of a reading group that there was no real open forum for psychoanalysis in its own name, it was suggested, and agreed upon, to draw an agenda for the day from a number of propositions put to the group on the day.
Items proposed for discussion included:
Statutory Regulation;
the working structure of CPI for the year ahead (should Steering Committee be elected?);
website content and format (history of website construction, cost, content);
the demographics of the group (who is here?);
the name of the group (should it be changed?.
Amongst those present were members of virtually all of the separate strands of the psychoanalysis/psychotherapy community in Ireland, including:
the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland,
the Irish Forum for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy,
the Irish Association for Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy 
the Irish Council for Psychotherapy
the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
the Psychological Society of Ireland
the Irish Group Analytic Society
the Irish Psychoanalytic Association
The fact that this broad spread was the case, and that all strands from across the psychoanalytic community seemed to be represented, was met with warmth and enthusiasm by those present. It was an encouraging sign to those present that a collegiality was indeed possible across the community.
There was concern expressed about the explicit use of the word 'psychoanalysts' in naming the group. As discussion continued it emerged that the word had some negative connotations possibly due to the manner in which psychoanalysis had represented itself, or failed to represent itself, in Ireland. Some practitioners felt that psychoanalysts appeared to be arrogant and also appeared to have opinions and attitudes which intended to make other psychotherapists appear to be 'less than'. However, the suggestion that the word 'psychoanalyst' be dropped was met with very strong opposition. One member reminded the group that the initial impetus for creating CPI was one which fully recognised the problems underlined during the meeting and which sought a remedy for that situation, our presence here together today constituting a real beginning. Also psychoanalysis needed a presence of its own to make a case for itself in its own name, one which didn't 'tag on' to other more powerful discourses, which perhaps used words more acceptable to the culture: medicine, university, psychotherapy, psychology.......  It was agreed by the meeting that the name College of Psychoanalysts in Ireland (CPI) should remain as it is.
One after the other, those present began to talk of the interests in other fields of knowledge in respect of mind which they felt were ignored in general by psychoanalysts but which they felt sure would yield sources of interest for practitioners. There appeared to be a great diversity within the group present. It was agreed that the CPI should reflect that as much as possible in the direction it took. For example, wherever possible a diversity of positions would be reflected at events which were organized under the CPI banner. It might happen that respondents from outside the field of psychoanalysis would be invited, or that different viewpoints from within the field might be juxtaposed. This would help prevent and guard against ideological closures.
The view was also expressed that usually psychoanalytic groups and practitioners stuck to 'doing our own little thing in our own little corner', as if we had something to fear by exposure to public scrutiny. Why such docility? Another said that what was needed were Irish Voices, plurality, within a lively psychoanalytic debate, where we might all hear something differently.
Another member wondered whether CPI might envisage undertaking providing a training. It should perhaps be borne in mind for future discussions. The same speaker was wholly in favour of any action which would encourage a positive interface with the public, so that it could address itself to psychoanalysts directly when troubled times arose.
Some concern was expressed by one member at the lack of representatives of psychoanalysis on the board which was meeting to put in train the statutory regulation of therapists in Ireland. Even though some submissions had been made by psychoanalytic therapists over the year, apart from Derval Ryan there were no psychoanalysts actually taking part in the discussions at board level and the Bill concerning regulation had already been published although many seemed to be oblivious of this fact. One member recommended a very close reading of pages 9 & 10 of the bill. Her own reading suggested that it was not true to suggest that one would be able to practice psychoanalysis without being on the State register. It was suggested that psychoanalysis needs stronger voices at board level. "Time is of the essence".
It was agreed that a fuller discussion should be undertaken by CPI after we made ourselves familiar with sections of the Bill which would concern us in our capacity as practitioners.
Members were asked to consider providing material content for the website, since it is to be seen as a project in development. The initial cost of setting it up and developing it to go online was borne by a few people and did not impact on CPI funds, which is just as well considering we operate on a tighter than tight budget. The idea is to produce only as much funds as the administration of CPI and its projects demands. The idea of a message board (for CPI members? for general interface with anyone interested?) was put forward.
Mary brought the meeting to a close, thanking all for their participation and energy over the course of the day, and expressing the wish that we would all meet again soon or over the course of the years events.
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