IPSIG Committee Members Adam May and Patricia Murphy reflect on a CPD event with a novel approach to learning.
With more than 30 years’ clinical experience as CBT therapists between us, we have clocked up an enormous number of CPD hours. But we had become bored by the standard CPD format.
Instead we craved to be part of something new and experimental.
Traditional CPD events, with experts disseminating information to a generally less knowledgeable audience, are essential for therapists pursuing BABCP Accreditation.
Clinical skills workshops provide participants with the opportunity to share relevant experience with peers and refine existing skill sets.
Whilst skilled presenters will often invite the group to collaborate on a learning agenda, it is more likely that the presenter does most of the work.
By contrast, when we work in therapy, we suspect insufficient collaboration and engagement when the therapist does most of the work. If the commitment to working collaboratively with clients is promoted in the practice of CBT, should it not also be the central component of training events aimed at professional development?
This question led us to consider whether there was sufficient interest in a CPD event which was not ‘expert led’, but rather one which encouraged participants to take greater ownership of their own learning by reading suggested materials beforehand and meeting their own learning needs on the day.
We wanted to experiment with peer-resourced learning, drawing parallels between this experience and the process of therapy.
The Sudbury school model is a form of democratic education in which students individually decide what to do with their time and take responsibility for their own education, and where students and staff are equals. Learning is seen as a process you do rather than a process which is done to you.
The theme of taking ownership is one we felt that IPSIG members would be receptive to. They have either established an independent practice or have intentions to do so. This indicates an appreciation of self-governance, while many have to self-fund their CPD. We hoped that the autonomy this afforded would encourage participation in trying out a different approach.
The decision to organise our event around the clinical issue of managing resistance in CBT sprang out of our common experience that resistance issues present the biggest challenge in our work.
The publicity for the event made it clear that delegates would be expected to undertake some preparatory reading from Robert Leahy’s 2001 book “Resistance in Cognitive Therapy” as well as complete the Leahy Therapist Schema Questionnaire.
As the self-nominated facilitators, we took responsibility for establishing ground rules for the group, maintaining boundaries of time and appropriateness, suggesting topics for guided discussion, writing up feedback notes on a flip chart, sourcing relevant video material, and providing the evaluation sheets and CPD attendance certificates.
We asked participants to form three groups and for each group to take responsibility for organising a third of the day. We encouraged each group to base their discussions around the recommended reading, but left the decision about the format with them.
Aside from discharging the responsibilities we had set ourselves, we joined the activities along with the other participants.
Participant feedback was very positive. There was an energetic exchange of ideas, with a combination of both personal experiences and references to research and academic materials.
All the groups chose to use the same learning format, of a small group discussion followed by feedback to the larger group. Some changes to the discussion topic were needed to avoid repetition.
Being good therapists meant that participants rose to the challenge of a changing situation.
Overall the model worked well and ought to be transferable to other training events. That is not to say that a participatory model like this is a replacement for the didactic teaching model we are all used to.
But it does have the potential to work as an occasional alternative, especially for more established practitioners. It would work even better if all participants were willing to invest more time in preparing for the event beforehand, but this may not be realistic.
Although the process of socialising people to the model is itself a useful learning experience, it might be helpful to establish a regular core group which knows what to expect. To this end, we are considering whether to offer loyalty incentives, such as reduced rates for those who have previously attended.
If the traditional teaching style of CPD could be said to be like protocol-driven therapy, then our model takes an individualised case conceptualisation approach. The facilitators (there should be two) need to keep in focus the topic of the day, the territory and the general direction of travel, but not necessarily constrain the group process along a specific route.
We suggest that the facilitators should not pay the event fee since they are being asked to take greater responsibility than other group members. We felt justified in awarding ourselves attendance certificates because we learnt a great deal!
IPSIG is pursuing a number of initiatives designed around the general principle that independent practitioners can pursue their best interests as individuals through cooperation and sharing resources. Our event was an example of that principle in action. We are also pooling forms and policies we have each developed and hope to publish these on the IPSIG website soon.
Liz Jones and Joanne Roberts, who participated in the peer-resourced event on “Resistance in Cognitive Therapy”, write:
Rather than the traditional mix of PowerPoint and experiential exercises, this event was mostly peer led and resourced. It was interesting to note that true to CBT, most of us did our preparatory homework!
On the day itself we had a slight steer from our able facilitators with a suggestion that we divide into three groups, with each group choosing an aspect of resistance, and then leading the larger group for part of the day.
Although we may not have covered the topic systematically, it was useful to be able to tap into so many diverse opinions, theoretical understandings and practical experiences.
Faithful to the Cognitive Behavioural approach, we were encouraged to treat the day as a behavioural experiment in itself and there was a good opportunity for live feedback on our experience of both context and process.
This peer-resourced style of CPD event could be an effective way to meet CPD needs both in terms of learning and cost. A number of suggestions were made regarding future topics and there seemed to be particular interest in discovering more about the possible uses and effects of technology and social networking in the CBT community.
In all, the event was an effective way to meet CPD needs both in terms of learning and cost.
If you would like to offer peer-resourced CPD for your group, or would like to help run an IPSIG event on a topic which interests you, please send a message to Adam and Patricia via our contact form here.