P2P Psychotherapy

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Commentary by John Heron

Extracts from Chapter 14 "Forum of Voices: Rising to the Challenge" in Shouldn't I Be Feeling Better By Now: Client Views of Therapy, edited by Yvonne Bates, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.


Several leading writers and theorists in the field were invited to offer suggestions as to how a meaningful collaborative discussion about the future of therapy may be initiated, and how clients can become more involved in the shaping and development of therapeutic theory, practice and policy-making in general.


John Heron writes:

"I believe that clients have a fundamental human right to participate co-operatively in any process that purports to promote their mental well-being. This can best be done in psychotherapy if the therapy is reconstrued as training in emotional and interpersonal competence. And if:

- the principles on which the training is based are made explicit, and applied with the informed consent of the client;

- the client becomes appropriately and progressively more involved in decisions about the actual focus and structure of the training;

- the training extends into concurrent self-directed action research in the client's daily life;

- there are periodic sessions of client-practitioner `peer review' in which the client is encouraged to have somewhat more than equal status in raising issues both of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with what is going on; and in which attention is given to co-operative decisions about the termination or continuation of the sessions;

- the client has access, when the programme with the practitioner is finished, to trained peer self-help networks for continued emotional and interpersonal flour-ishing.

Particularly important in all this is that the dynamic of transference is demystified and made plain as the unaware projection onto others of unprocessed emotions, in ways that distort behaviour. The training offered makes available to the client practical principles of emotional self-management for dealing with these emotions, both within the sessions, and within daily life. And the dynamic of any transference from practitioner to client within the sessions is openly and appropriately addressed and managed. For an account of the kind of practitioner community consonant with this whole approach, see Heron (1997).

More Information

See our entries on the Independent Practitioners Network, a network of UK-practitioners and on the P2P self-help psychotherapy movement called Co-Counselling

Self-generating Practitioner Community: this is a very important article by John Heron, which applies not just to the constitution of peer-based professional communities of therapists, but generally to the governance of peer groups. Strongly recommended.

Heron, J. (1997) 'A self-generating practitioner community' in Implausible Professions: Arguments for Pluralism and Autonomy in Psychotherapy and Counselling, edited by Richard House and Nick Totton, Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books. (Other papers of interest in this anthology are Nick Totton, 'The Independent Practitioners' Network: A New Model of Accountability'; and John Heron, 'The Politics of Transference'.)

More Key Books to Read

  1. Forum of Voices: Rising to the Challenge" in Shouldn't I Be Feeling Better By Now: Client Views of Therapy, edited by Yvonne Bates, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

See commentary by John Heron above.

Ethically Challenged Professions

  1. Ethically Challenged Professions: Enabling Innovation and Diversity in Psychotherapy and Counselling, edited by Yvonne Bates and Richard House, Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, 2003.

An extract from the Foreword in which John Heron writes:

"An ethically questionable degree of control characterises the current dominant world order: the control of commodities and services by large corporations; the control of valid knowledge by academic establishments; the legitimization of professional practice by statutory regulation; and so on. Such control is out of tune with the emerging values of what seems to be a new kind of civilisation, one that is essentially peer to peer. Peer-to-peer developments are afoot, notably on the internet; but also in manufacturing, in politics and social change, in psychological growth, in spiritual unfoldment, and in research and knowledge generation.

In all of these emerging fields, the interdependent values of personal autonomy and social co-operation are paramount; and hierarchy - thinking on behalf of, and proposing social structures and standards for, other people - is validated solely by its ability to enhance these prior values. A key distinction here is between hierarchy that controls autonomy and co-operation in a restrictive way, and hierarchy that provides forms for their liberation and continuous development.

This forthright book is poised very precisely on the leading edge of that distinction, exploring issues where controlling hierarchy and empowering hierarchy confront each other in the field of psychotherapy and counselling. This field provides a crucial test-bed for clarifying and enacting ethically appropriate ways of exercising empowering hierarchy."