Past winners

To inspire you, below are the abstracts from past winners.

‘Maybe you don’t actually exist’: containing shame, rage and self-harm in a school counselling service

By Jocelyn Catty

Abstract: In this paper, I consider the role of the counsellor within the culture of a school, arguing that the counselling service occupies a liminal position, both visible and invisible. It thus intrinsically reflects the paradoxical nature of shame, at once internal and external, hidden and viewed. Working with shame is integral to the role of a school counsellor; the case of an eleven-year-old boy struggling with projected parental shame is used to illustrate the ways in which shame expressed by students, parents and school must be contained in the counselling to enable change to take place. The paradoxical nature of shame also finds a counterpart in the ‘paradoxical gesture’ of self-harm, a simultaneously hidden and viewed act commonly found during adolescence, a time when shame has been seen as ‘developmentally appropriate’. Two self-harming students are considered here, both struggling with anxieties about the possible shame attendant upon identity and intimacy. In exploring the operation of shame in these students in the context of school culture, I focus on occasions where the privacy of the counselling work was uniquely challenged by student and counsellor coming face-to-face with each other in the external school world. I argue that projections about intimacy, intrusion and shame were particularly powerful at such times, requiring careful working through.

Catty, J. (2012) ‘Maybe you don’t actually exist’: containing shame and self-harm in a school counselling service. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 28 (1), 81-97.


‘Cutting away: some reflections on issues of separation and separateness in the psychotherapy of an adolescent who self-cuts’

By Kate Stratton

Abstract: This paper gives an account of the developments in the weekly psychotherapy of a sixteen year-old adolescent girl who was referred for self-cutting. Drawing on detailed clinical material from the therapy over a fifteen month period, the author discusses the contexts in which self-destructive thoughts and behaviours surfaced and considers the ways in which the patient used her body as both a target and a receptacle for unmanageable feelings. A central theme of the paper is the defensive function of a sado-masochistic relationship with the body. This is understood as an attempted solution to intense anxieties about separation and separateness. The author examines the ways in which sado-masochistic patterns of relating were enacted in the transference relationship. Some difficulties arising in the professional network in the course of the work are also discussed.

The Hamish Canham Essay Prize

Current and former students of M7, M9, M16, M33 & M34, and alumni are invited to submit a non-clinical paper or essay for The Hamish Canham...

Who was Hamish Canham?

Hamish Canham was an outstandingly gifted child psychotherapist. In his clinical work with severely disturbed children, in his role as a teacher...

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