Inside and outside: The evolution of systemic approaches in mental health

Event overview

Inside and outside: The evolution of systemic approaches in mental health

Join us for an exploration of historical and contemporary systemic psychotherapy with leading experts in the field

Gill Gorrell-Barnes will focus on how and why a systemic approach evolved from a framework that connected the well-being of individuals to the wider functioning of a healthy society through the Welfare state. She will introduce the discussion about the ways in which families as well as therapists themselves were changing in a post-world war global system with the ongoing development of social media. 

Sara Barratt will describe the evolution of the profession of family therapy at the Trust and will talk about the development within and outside of the clinic, to include systemic approaches to working in the GP surgery and the value of the relationship between GP and therapist in providing an effective and supporting environment for patients in crisis. 

Jenny Altschuler’s presentation will begin by discussing the establishment of a service for families facing life limiting medical conditions and disabilities at the Tavistock Clinic, the particular challenges posed by parental illness and the development of a multidisciplinary course on working with families for healthcare professionals. Particular attention will be paid to the current challenges that loss, trauma, migration, living apart from close family and experiences of ‘othering’ pose to caring and being cared for when unwell.

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Speaker biographies

GILL GORELL BARNES has been a family therapist since the 1960’s and was part of the first wave of trainees at the Tavistock Clinic when the Family Therapy fellowships were established in the 1970’s. She became Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Tavistock and was also the first Director of Training at the Institute of Family Therapy which she co-founded with others also in the 1970’s.

In her Tavistock role she represented the Clinic on the UK Council for Psychotherapy where she sat on Council and headed up the training committee. She has continued research into changing family forms and teaches and trains internationally. She worked as Expert Witness in the Family Court, bringing a systemic perspective to working with families alienated amongst themselves. She specialised in working with parents suffering a mental illness who wanted to regain contact with their children.

SARA BARRATT worked for many years as a Child Protection Social Worker and then in CAMHS, following which she was Director of Training at the Institute of Family Therapy from 1994-1996, when she moved to work at the Tavistock as Senior Clinical lecturer. She was part of the teaching team on the Introductory, Masters and Supervision level systemic trainings and was Head of Family Therapy, when the clinic recognised family therapy as a profession in 2002. Thereafter, she was the Team manager of the fostering, adoption and kinship care team in the Child and Family Department, a multidisciplinary team working with children, their parents and carers and developing collaborative projects with other organisations.

Alongside her passion for working in the field of fostering and adoption, Sara developed a particular interest in working in general practice. She was a member of the Thinking Families group of GP’s and Systemic psychotherapists formed in 1997 to develop collaborative ways of working in General Practice. She has worked as a systemic psychotherapist in general practice in Hertfordshire since 1988. She is also a volunteer with charities supporting refugees in the UK and in Calais.

JENNY ALTSHULER qualified as a Clinical Psychologist in South Africa in 1977 and migrated to the UK where she trained as a Systemic Family Psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic between 1984 and 1988. Her initial work in the UK was as part of the paediatric liaison team of the Royal Free Hospital, and as a trainer for the Institute of Family Therapy. In 1991, she joined the Child and Family Clinic of the Tavistock Clinic where her work included seeing families facing a wide range of issues, supervising and teaching systemic family psychotherapists, at one point running the Systemic Psychotherapy training, as well as supervising clinical psychology trainees and outreach work with a primary care team based in a deprived area of London.

Together with Barbara Dale and John Byng-Hall, she established a service for families facing life limiting medical conditions and disabilities, which was show cased in a BBC film about the Tavistock, the Talking Cure. Jenny went on to develop the first UK-based training for healthcare professionals working with families facing illness, disability and death, as well as offering consultation to GPs and other health care professionals, particularly those working in settings where a high percentage of the population were refugees and other migrants. On leaving the Tavistock in 2003, Jenny has continued working clinically with people facing a range of issues, but specializing in addressing the challenges illness, disability and death pose to individuals, their families and health care professionals. Particular attention is paid to added complexities posed by migration, trauma and racism and living in a country where ideas about experiences of family, illness and healthcare are very different to ‘back home’. This work is informed by personal experience as well as Jenny’s own research on illness and migration. Over the past year, Jenny’s work has included supporting front line professionals working with COVID-19 and post-COVID situations, as well as serving on the clinical governance committee of Project 5, a service for frontline HNS professionals.

For 100 years, the Tavistock and Portman has proudly been at the forefront of exploring mental health and wellbeing. From attachment theory and infant observation, to applying psychoanalytic and systemic approaches in varied settings, our ideas have led to changes in care, education, how organisations work and beyond.

Our Centenary Festival is celebrating our history and exploring contemporary issues in relation to identity, relationships and society. It is considering how we continue to draw on our heritage to provide valuable responses to contemporary and future problems from the perspective of equality and inclusion.

18 March 2021 18:00 to 18 March 2020 20:00