Thoughts from the PCSR Gathering November 2014 (written for Transformations)

Thoughts from the PCSR Gathering

How heartening to be in a room full of people gathered together for the sole reason that we believe that psychotherapy and counselling should have a political and socially responsible edge. With the recent dispiriting trends in these psychological therapies, most recently expressed in the latest BACP consultation on its new ethical framework – part of a disturbing move towards accountability and outcome orientated practice  – it is encouraging to know that one is not alone in swimming against the tide.

The PCSR event centred round four themes: political issues; ecopsychology; the therapy profession itself and underlying cultural trends. I chose to join the latter. The discussion was lively and sometimes impassioned, and at the half-way point where it became possible to change groups no one in this group wanted to move.

Over the past fifty years or so, the psychological therapies have exerted something of an influence on culture at large. We have seen changes in many fields of public and private life which reflect a growing awareness of the psychological impact of conditions and behavioural norms upon people. The education system has incorporated sensitivity to children’s emotional development as well as to their training in the basic skills of literacy, numeracy and citizenship. Public broadcasting and the mainstream press have removed the worst excesses of discriminatory language. Diversity awareness is enshrined in law. At the same time, our media have become more preoccupied with the personal and the psychological. We see behind the scenes of royalty and performers and are no longer content with a public face divorced from private angst and messiness. News stories centre on personal impact of events, giving fly on the wall accounts of ordinary people caught up in events. The cult of the celebrity raises the personal to ever more dizzying heights as foibles and silliness become the dominant idiom of mass entertainment.

Against this apparent trend towards a more expressive culture, however, other phenomena suggest that such offerings can really be seen as the product of a depersonalised commercialism. Emotional outbursts, tears and tantrums sell newspapers. With the growth of heart-on-sleeve revelations, the humanity presented to us on a daily basis becomes a caricature of itself, stripped of the subtleties of ambivalence and paradox which make up real human psychology. In particular, new forms of communication, with their reductive high speed immediacy, lead to more simplistic, knee-jerk responses and less considered, complex interactions. Even conversation becomes a packaged product when limited to 140 characters.

In the psychological professions, the move towards accountability, evidence-based practice and outcome orientated therapies is worrying not because we do not want to offer a something useful to our clients, or because we have bad-practice to hide, but because we need to be concerned about which outcomes are deemed important and whether they are measurable at all. If our intention is to encourage our clients into paid work and out of the unemployment figures, this is a measurable outcome. If our intention is to prevent clients using in-patient facilities, with all the costs involved, this also is a measurable outcome. If however, we see therapy as involving a more holistic process of self-discovery and growth, it become much harder to measure the results objectively. If we hope that our clients will become happier and more loving, this too is harder to quantify.

Of course even qualities which seem difficult to pin down have their measures. We have happiness and well-being scales, and the development of compassion, albeit largely self-orientated, is now offered as a therapy. Mindfulness is being taken out of its original context, losing its roots in spiritual practice and being taught by people with little training or experience of its background. Do such cross-overs of method enrich the culture of therapy or impoverish the culture religion and humanity?

There are hopeful signs. Around the edges of the therapy world, new growth in areas such as ecopsychology and some spiritually derived practices do seem to buck the trend to stream-lining and efficiency. At the same time, whilst diversity and good practice are enshrined in guidelines and frameworks, the danger is always that conformity to pressure of finance and the fear of litigation – bi-products of a consumer rights culture – subsume the idealism that they might have first represented.

The political edge of the therapeutic professions has a vital role to play in society. Just as psychological insight has reformed some of the more blatant discriminatory and abusive behaviours of the past, so too it can critique some of the current social trends. Whilst some of us may tend to drift towards the fringes for refuge from the onslaught of regulation and the possibility of government intervention in the profession, keeping a voice in the mainstream is important and may influence some of the decision making for the better.

This is a difficult position to hold however. Too often idealism creeps and morphs into pragmatism as we are subtly influenced by the arguments of the current social paradigm. Also, it can feel risky to dissent from ideas about things such as accountability (which I think none of us would see as a bad thing in itself) when a culture of whistle blowing and increased monitoring is developing around us. For this reason, gatherings such as the November one and collective sharing of ideals provide important anti-dotes to the isolation many of us feel when reading the epistles of our professional associations. Fears of the prevailing culture  should not prevent us from trying to hold onto those values which first inspired us, often in decades past, or from drawing on them to re-inject energy into a system which sometimes seems to be losing the energy to hold onto its own ideals.

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Besides offering training and retreats, Tariki Trust is involved in chaplaincy, environmental action and community support. No one in Tariki is salaried and all work including teaching is voluntary or offered at rates which are well below the professional norms.


Friends, family and loved ones: greetings, and thank you for joining us for this celebration of the life of Perry Isadore Igoe.

Though we gather here today, bound by sorrow and loss, we share a precious gift. We were all privileged to live a life that has been touched by Perry. He possessed a number of extraordinary gifts, which he shared with us freely. None of these gifts, however, are more remarkable than his capacity for love in its purest, most sincere, and honest form. Love for his adored wife, his beloved daughters, his precious friends, and for nature that surrounds us all, especially the life breathed into us by the trees.

Perry was born August 1st 1963 and was very premature so spent the first six weeks of his life in an incubator where he captured the hearts of the nurses and midwives with his cuteness. The trademark infectious Perry smile is well known by all his friends and family so without a doubt, even as a baby he could melt hearts.

Growing up, he went to school in Braintree in Essex, where he lived with his mum Carol, his younger sister Tracey, and older brother Wayne.

Perry was severely dyslexic, so, as a young man, in a very lean job market, he looked for a practical career. He joined the RAF at 16 and served with them for 17 years in Biggin Hill, Brize Norton, Germany, and the Falkland islands. Perry was a peace loving soul and had no desire to ever take up arms, harm, or kill anyone. Since however there had been no wars for a long time, it felt like a fairly safe career for a fit young man. It suited Perry who loved to be part of a team.

When he was 23, Perry managed to search for and finally find his father, Isadore Griffin, who was Black American, which led to several visits to his father in the USA.  Sadly his father also died at an early age a few years later. But Perry has continued to keep regularly in touch with the American side of his family – he was always telling Liz that one day soon they would go to visit, what he jokingly called, - ‘the dark side’!

Perry then worked in logistics and stores for the RAF and was promoted to corporal but, as the Cold War ended, promotions in the RAF were increasingly hard to come by. So after 17 years Perry took voluntary redundancy, left the RAF and went to work for Motorola in Swindon. He bought a house with his then wife, Carrie, and lived in it with his two daughters Sian & Kylie and rather a lot of strange pets. 

Perry was a great believer in investing in property and at one point when he found his work hours cut down, he took on two other jobs and bought a house in Avebury, which he rented out for a while. He later moved to Avebury with his wife Antoinette and ran a B&B there. 

Avebury was a spiritual home for Perry – he loved the standing stones and he enjoyed the succession of eccentric, visiting tourists interested in the stone circles as well as the many crop circles that pop up in Wiltshire fields in the spring and summer months. Whilst Perry was there he was a member of a Wiccan coven and later a shamanistic group.

In 2007 Perry decided to train as a counsellor with the Buddhist Organisation, the Amida Trust – now re-named - the Tariki Trust. This was where he met Liz and they became good friends.  In 2009 they both qualified as counsellors. In his usual ‘speedy’ fashion Perry had completed the course in record time – under 2 years. He went on to work for an organisation which helped educate young people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Perry worked as a counsellor for several years before he finally fulfilled a life-long dream of buying a property ‘somewhere warm’.

In 2013 Perry moved again, lock stock and barrel, to the Serra De Estrella Mountains in Portugal where he quickly made a lot of friends among the ex-pats from the UK and Europe, all busy restoring old buildings and farming the land.

Perry and Liz met again accidentally in 2014 at the Buddhist House. They fell in love during a marathon 17.5 hour dinner and talked through the night and most of the following day. Since then Perry and Liz have been busy restoring their house in Portugal, affectionately named ‘The Ranch’ and have gone from having baths by candlelight in the goat shed, to a beautiful home with 3 bathrooms. Perry was never happier than when he was walking around the land working out watering systems and making sure the 150 trees he’d planted were growing well. Indicative of his altruistic personality and philosophy of sustainability, all the trees he planted at ‘The Ranch’ have been selected to provide for the next generations. A fan of tree nursing myself, I would often ask him about his trees and we would share videos and ideas for them. On a specific topic of his latest project, the Pecan trees, he mentioned how the earliest the small, 1-inch saplings would grow to bear fruit in 10 years, and it might be a good 20 before they reach maturity. “Perry,” I said, “that's ...a really long time.” To which he replied: “They aren't for me.”

And this is the type of person Perry was - always thinking of others first. Planning for the long term, working for a sustainable world, a world that works with nature, not against it. To paraphrase an ancient Greek proverb, “a wise man plants trees in whose shade he knows he will never sit.”

Perry had a great love of nature and the natural world, which he attributed to his Native American ancestors. His great love was trees, which he believed really spoke to him. So Perry returned to the Buddhist house to train in eco-therapy and shortly thereafter Perry and Liz started running eco-therapy and tree planting holidays in Portugal. Alongside his projects in Portugal, Perry joined several local eco-projects in Bristol.

On the 10th of July 2016, Perry and Liz married at Tortworth Court in Gloucestershire in a beautiful hand-fasting ceremony with over a 100 family and friends. Neither of them stopped smiling and laughing all day long, and Perry tore up the dance floor in what seemed like a union of John Travolta and Patrick Swayze. Since then they have spent six months of every year at the Ranch in Portugal and have welcomed many family and friends as visitors there.

Perry loved life – he just loved being here on this earth. Many people on this Earth believe in a higher power or greater purpose. Perry was content being himself, in this world, right now, enjoying the greatest and the smallest life has to offer. A true “Zen master”, as I like to describe him to my friends.

Perry was the most gentle and kindest of men – a true gentleman. Perry never had a bad word to say about anyone – not a criticism or judgement ever passed his lips. He didn’t swear, he didn’t argue, and he also didn’t drink alcohol, smoke, or even take tea or coffee. That is one reason why his death has been such a shock for all of us. Perry’s life was about love, acceptance, and working with others as part of a team, and he lived that out with every breath he took.

We have been lucky to know Perry in this life, we regret his passing on so soon, and so young, but his spirit and his legacy will remain among us – youthful, lively, fun, and full of love, and that oh-so-special smile.  We honour him.   

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