Leadership and Solidity in a Time of Crisis
Marcella Finnerty, College President, IICP
Core to our training as psychotherapists is to trust in the process, to sit with not knowing. To stay calm with the messy vulnerability and uncertainty of life. We are taught to meet and greet the most difficult of feelings, to walk with clients on their most painful of journeys. Now, more than ever before, these skills will serve us, our clients, and our communities well. We, more than most, are used to making friends with ambiguity, with confusion, with pain and loss. Usually we encounter these emotions in the relative safety of our therapy rooms. Suddenly, we are faced with them on a global scale. Fear reigns supreme at present; evidenced by masks on a train or plane, the obvious ‘flight or fight’ response when a colleague coughs, the terror of a child staring up at a parent asking if they’re going to ‘catch corona’? An air of anxiety is permeating society in a palpable manner. These dangers are very real; more than 4,300 people have lost their lives to date. We grieve and we mourn, we rage and are afraid – being a therapist does not protect us from being human.
We are wading through unchartered territory in an unprecedented global and rapidly changing situation. This brings with it inevitable and understandable anxieties. It is easy to see how overwhelm and panic could act to paralyze and isolate. We could fall prey to stigmatising and ostracizing those who are unwell. Fear can be our driver, or we can stop, breathe, and do what we do best. As we work with clients in our therapy rooms, and students in our training colleges, there is great potential for us to be the containers of that terror and panic. It is, after all, what we are trained to do. Now, more than ever, we are called upon to step up and offer leadership, politically and in a wider societal context; to challenge the status quo; to model calmness; to hear and hold anxieties, and also to offer hope and reason.
Pluralism in its broadest sense encourages us to recognise that multiple truths are present, that many positions exists, that there is no one way. In this moment, we are presented with the opportunity to demonstrate the leadership potential of a pluralistic perspective and to truly work together. How we respond may well determine the future of the pluralistic practice movement itself. Now is the time to engender confidence in our ability to lead from the front in a crisis-ridden, postmodern 2020. Regardless of our therapeutic orientation or philosophical home as therapists, we can engage in collaborative dialogue. We can support not only our clients and students, but the wider community, who are struggling with unpredictable events, and often overwhelming feelings.
We must ask ourselves how we, as pluralistic therapists, can work with others to stem not only the spread of this virus, but the pandemic of panic that accompanies it. Often we are called the healers of the mind, of the soul. Our society is suffering, and through dialogue, communication, collaboration, and empathy, pluralistic practice can act as a beacon of light in the darkness that stretches long into the distance.