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The Philadelphia Association

The Philadelphia Association is a network of psychotherapists and others whose concern is mental illness and mental distress in its many forms. We share a belief in the idea that forms of mental illness and distress are meaningful and, given time and effort, comprehensible. Set up as a charity in 1965, the PA today runs a small number of therapeutic community households, a psychotherapy training and other public events such as lectures and conferences. An Introductory Course is open to those interested in the general field of psychotherapy, particularly from the standpoint of a philosophical and cultural critique of much that is elsewhere taken for granted.

The PA is not a school for psychoanalysis or psychotherapy and we do not promote any one theoretical model or subscribe to any dogma. Rather our approach invokes a thoughtfulness concerning human mental life, and a questioning of the cultural norms and assumptions that may be implicit in a personís suffering or accepted ways of understanding it. This includes putting into question the many theories, whether psychotherapeutic or psychiatric, commonly used to explain mental suffering.

We do not claim any particular treatment or type of therapy as being the correct or only way of dealing with mental or emotional distress. We do believe that psychotherapy offers a time and a place for a thoughtfulness that is often missing from peopleís lives, and that in the relationship that unfolds in psychotherapy individuals may gain perspective, insight and understanding.

Our approach is informed by debate and critique from the fields of psychotherapy and philosophy, in particular phenomenology, existentialism, the sceptical philosophies and psychoanalytic thought. Other influences have included Buddhism, anthropology, aesthetics and art. To be a part of contemporary debate in these fields is part of our ongoing practice of questioning what we presume to know.

Therapeutic households

The PA has run therapeutic communities sine 1965, the first being Kingsley Hall in Londonís East End. This was set up in a context where psychiatric treatment was relatively crude and often enforced with little thought for the rights and dignity of the patient. The social debate around psychiatric treatment that was sparked by the critique put forward by R D Laing, a founding figure of PA, and others, has wrought many changes and psychiatric practice has changed considerably.

However there is still a need for refugesí where there is an emphasis on living together in all its difficulty and richness, and where the members of a household can put in question the things that trouble them in places where solutions are neither too readily offered nor forced upon them.

The houses are open to those who have been through psychiatric treatment, or to those who have reached a point of crisis where ordinary living arrangements have become unbearable or untenable.

At present there are three houses, all in north London. They are low-cost, affordable by those eligible for housing benefit and most with modest private means. There are no staff in the houses and residents are responsible for their own day-to-day living arrangements and for managing the concerns of the house. Therapists attend house meetings several times a week. Individual residents are also encouraged to be in their own psychotherapy outside the house and are given some financial help towards this. There are no other formal expectations regarding therapy.

Selection of new residents is made by all the residents and therapists at the house meetings on the basis of a personís capacity to contribute to the ethos of the community, and the likelihood of benefiting from this venture.

Applicants can refer themselves directly to a house to be invited to one or a series of house meetings. Details of any vacancies in the houses can be obtained from the PA office.

Psychotherapy referral service

Philadelphia Association members provide psychotherapy to individuals, to couples and to families. We also run therapeutic groups.

People seeking psychotherapy should contact the PA office, either by telephone or in writing, and will be put in touch with the referrals co-ordinator to arrange an initial consultation before referral to a suitable therapist. Alternatively, if desired, a list of registered therapists and their practice addresses can be provided for direct contact for a consultation. (Philadelphia Association psychotherapists work in different parts of the country including London, Cambridge, Brighton and Bristol.)

A limited number of low cost spaces are available with psychotherapists who are training with the Philadelphia Association and who are in supervision with an experienced psychotherapists. Individuals seeking low-cost therapy should contact the PA office direct to arrange an initial consultation with a senior psychotherapist.

Public lectures

The PA holds regular public lectures and occasional conferences on matters connected with psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and philosophy. Please contact the PA office if you would like to be included on the mailing list for such events.

Training in psychotherapy

Since 1970 the PA has run its own training for people wishing to practise as psychotherapists. The PAís approach to psychotherapy is informed by an encounter with philosophy, particularly, phenomenology, and the relation of philosophy to the theory and practice of psychotherapy. The training offers trainees a contact for critical thinking and questioning. In addition to studying some of the principal thinkers in the psychoanalytic tradition, including Freud, Ferenczi, Klein, Winnicott, Bion and Lacan, the training also engages with the work of philosophers such as Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Blanchot, Foucault, Derrida and Wittgenstein. Attention is also paid to feminist and post-femminist thinkers including Jessica Benjamin, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray.

The PA training is regarded as an apprenticeship Ė trainees are required to be in their own psychotherapy before and during training and to be in supervision with an experienced psychotherapist. Trainees are also required to be involved in one of our therapeutic communities for a period during training. Trainees are encouraged to develop an individual approach to their work that is both thoughtful and rigorous. The training aims to prepare people to work as psychotherapists in a variety of settings. A brochure on training is available from the PA office.

The training is accredited by the Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Section of the UKCP.

Introductory Course

The PA runs a one-year course which offers an introduction to some of its main ideas. Each evening consists of a seminar followed by group discussion. In addition, students attend a weekly group in which the process of the group is explored. The introductory course is compulsory for anyone seeking to join the training programme but is open to people who have no intention of training. Attending the course is non guarantee for being accepted for training.



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