Location and timing of lectures

The Society, founded in 1998, sponsors lectures and seminars on all aspects of psychotherapy.  They normally take place at 7pm on the third Tuesday of each month during the academic year (October to July), in the Existential Academy at 61-63 Fortune Green Road, London NW6 1DR. £6 entry fee for if pre-booked via Meetup, or £8 payable at the door. All friends of psychotherapy welcome!

Tuesday 16/10/18 at 7pm Unintended harm (iatrogenesis) in the therapeutic space lecture by Phil Cox

Unintended harm (iatrogenesis) in the therapeutic space

Please note this is a fee paying event £6 if booked via Meetup and £8 on the door on the evening.

This talk focuses on the ethical and philosophical imperative ‘do no harm’ in psychotherapy, also known as unintended harm (iatrogenesis). Around 10% of the public say they feel harmed by attending psychotherapy. This significantly rises for marginalised groups. Between 27%-40% of therapist’s report experiencing their personal therapy as harmful. The trend of complaints to all professional registration bodies is upwards.

The practice of naming and shaming those who get the delicate balance of good
work vs making perceived errors wrong is causing distress, which risks driving an open and honest debate underground. This means the very ethical frameworks or codes of ethics meant to protect people could themselves have an unintended impact.

Philosophically, we are the good and bad therapist too: a practitioner involved in unintended harm in many ways harms theirselves. This talk considers the exploration of unintended harm as a sign of good rather than poor practice. Yet, the topic seems rarely discussed in trainings or openly amongst therapists. Here, we will create a safe space to explore what the public, therapists and complaint trends, seem to be telling us. We will also discuss the Psychotherapy & Counselling Union’s advice regarding what to, and not do, if you receive a complaint.

Dr Philip Cox (PsychD) is an HCPC registered Chartered Psychologist and BACP (Accred) member with over 20 years of clinical experience in Primary care, Secondary care and specialist services. Philip is a Psychotherapy & Counselling Union executive committee member, leading on professional complaints. He is also a BPS Psychotherapy Section executive committee member and the e-letter editor. His research publications, conference presentations and lectures focus on unintended harm within psychotherapy, and how to support professionals who seemingly misjudge the delicate balance between good and less helpful practice. Philip is a passionate advocate for social activism and supporting marginalised groups, which includes therapists who experience difficulties – Philip’s philosophy is that by supporting therapists, we support clients.


Poetry on the couch on Tuesday 17th of July

Poetry on the Couch
Please note this is a fee paying event £6 if booked via Meetup and £8 on the evening.
“When we share – that is poetry in the prose of life.” Sigmund Freud
Come to an interactive evening of poetry and sharing on Tuesday 17th July at 7pm at the Existential Academy 61-63 Fortune Green Road London NW6 1DR.
Together, we’ll read and listen to poems, and explore the connection between poetry and psychotherapy.
The evening will be hosted by Jon Sayers, poet and poetry therapy facilitator.  Jon will briefly share some of his poetry and experience before inviting readers from the floor.
Please bring some poems,whether written by you or other poets, and be ready to say a few words as to why you’ve chosen them. Your poems might be directly related to psychology or psychotherapy or might touch on some of the themes therapy works with, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, sexual issues, self awareness, loss and grief.
In discussion together, we’ll see what poetry might tell us about the human condition, and we’ll test Freud’s other assertion:  “Poets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind, because they drink at streams which we have not yet made accessible to science.”
At the end of the evening, Jon will also offer some links and recommendations to anyone who would like to take their explorations of poetry or poetry therapy further.
Please let us know if you would like to read. If you don’t wish to read but would prefer to listen or join in the discussion, you are also very welcome.


Jon Sayers is a poet and creative writing teacher. He has a certificate in counselling and is training as a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator with the National Association for Poetry Therapy in the USA.
Jon has used poetry therapeutically for many years, working with diverse population groups, from prisoners in HMP Pentonville and Barnardo’s care leavers to a church community in his local Lambeth and a group of older women carers through the charity Open Age.
He has had poems, translations and reviews published in leading literary journals in the UK and abroad, and his radio play, A World Full of Weeping, a supernatural thriller featuring the poetry of WB Yeats, was broadcast twice on Radio 4.
Jon is a former chair of Magma poetry magazine and vice chair of The Poetry Society. He regularly interviews leading poets, such as Christopher Reid, Jo Shapcott and Annie Freud, for the Winchester Poetry Festival. He has had a long career working with language, training initially as an actor and working as a copywriter and creative director in advertising and a verbal identity specialist in branding.

Last meeting before the summer: Simon O’Donoghue on Humanist Pastoral Care, Tuesday 19th. June


Simon O’Donoghue is the Head of Pastoral Support at Humanists UK and he is responsible for the training, development, and management of a UK wide network of over 200 non-religious pastoral carers. Simon also sits on the board of European Humanist Professionals as their Quality Assurance Officer, and is the first non-religious person to chair the Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care Network in Health.

In his talk Simon will cover the development of non-religious pastoral care over the last ten years and the significant challenges encountered in establishing the Humanists UK’s Non-religious Pastoral Support Network in the UK. He will also look at how those challenges have been overcome and how non-religious pastoral support has now become an accepted part of the holistic care provision in hospitals, prisons, and universities.

Tuesday the 20th of March: The psychology of political failure lecture with Bob Haris

Why is it that, after thousands of years of philosophy, religion, economics, we still experience global gross poverty, massive inequality and endless wars. Why are people sleeping in shop doorways in the world’s wealthiest countries? Why is suicide the leading cause of death amongst young men in the UK? And why do we still continue with the same political behaviours, hoping that things will turn out different this time around?

Bob Harris will discuss these and other aspects of political failure. He is a group analyst, currently working in the UK, Russia, Albania, and Kalmykia, and recently led a year long Foundation Course in Group Analysis in Kazakhstan. He has a special interest in severe and enduring psychopathology, large groups, is a political activist and an ardent sailor.

Book and pay via our Meetup site for £6 or pay on the door on the evening £8.

Malcolm Peterson 17th of April “Taking Freud into rehab”

In this lecture, Malcolm Peterson will look at the similarities between psychotherapeutic thinking and that of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, firstly exploring some of the early contact between the founders of AA and early psychoanalytic thinkers. He will then look at the work of Winnicott, drawing links between some of his theories and their resonance with the principles of AA & NA. This will be followed by an exploration of further links between group analytic thinking and that of 12-Step Fellowships. He will explore how they could complement each other to help in the treatment

This a fee paying event £6 if booked via meetup or £8 on the door on the evening of the lecture.t of those suffering with addictive disorders.


Malcolm Peterson is a  UKCP registered group analytic psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. He has a background in working in addiction treatment services and specialist NHS personality disorder services.

20 February Book launch of The Interbrain. Lecture on the interbrain by Digby Tantam

This event is free, and preceded by a launch (starting at 6pm) of Digby’s new book, published by Jessica Kingsley.  Described by Steve Silberman, author of ‘NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism’ and ‘How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently as “a groundbreaking, wide-ranging, and endlessly fascinating meditation on our innate ability to feel ‘connected’ to other people — and on what can happen when that precious connection is diminished. It’s compelling reading for anyone interested in the subtle mechanisms at work behind the essential experiences that make us human”

20 January 2018 Stranger, other, outsider: Talk by Claire Marshall

Stranger, other, outsider: The conceptualization of forced migrants in contemporary culture.
Refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers are all legal terms for people who have been forced to leave their homes because of war, persecution or natural disaster. How forced migrants are conceptualized speaks of our own relationship with identity and community. This phenomenon will be examined in the context of geopolitical discourses, social narratives and humanitarian responses. The psychology of migration also raises issues of ethics and social justice, pertinent to any therapists working with ‘diversity and difference’.
Dr Claire Marshall is a Counselling Psychologist with 10 years of experience in private health care, third sector and management of organisations. She has previously managed a psychotherapy service in North London with key responsibility for overall service and operations, including recruitment, supervision, management of staff, clinical assessments, allocation decisions and evaluating treatment options within the service. She also ran groups and worked with people one to one, providing short and long term psychological interventions for adults with a range of issues.

Watch the video on Vimeo

19 November 2017 Shared values – Working together existential and cognitive therapy. Talk by Melvyn Flitman

Despite its effectiveness, cognitive-behaviour therapy has been criticised for its brevity, symptom-focused orientation, and application scope. Existential therapies tend to be longer and encourage overall meaning-making.

This talk presents valuable insights based 254 accredited cognitive theorists who were inquired about their views and attitudes regarding cognitive-behaviour therapy, existentialist therapies, and the integration of both modalities.

Results of the research showed that existentialist therapies could compensate for cognitive-behavioural therapies’ eventual lack of depth, fluidity, authenticity, humanity, and application scope. They were a more personalized approach, suitable and/or beneficial for certain therapists, clients, circumstances, and/or problems. They were sometimes utilized and unsystematically integrated with cognitive-behavioural therapies. Institutional power struggles, existentialist therapies’ limitations, and therapists’ lack of training and/or knowledge prevented their more extensive use. That is, compounding whatever familiarity issue was the hesitance to use such approaches, led in part by institutional biases in favour of cognitive-behaviour therapy and against approaches that are less easily measured. Nevertheless, their combination appeared as a promising endeavour that, if implemented properly, such as through training, could arguably marry the strengths of both approaches.