IPSS was founded in 1978 as a training organisation for psychotherapists.
To get a comprehensive picture of the organisations' origins and early years, its founder members and the experience of training, please read the accounts of early IPSS members Anne Cussins and Sue Sünkel.
History: IPSS Origins, The Early Years
Looking back on the first years of the training whose home was in North London’s Hampstead, a sense of place and a unique time period are uppermost in one’s memories. Hampstead was a location which drew intellectuals, writers and artists to live in its environs and had a bohemian element that matched these activities, also stemming from a minority population of immigrants, often from eastern Europe. This central suburb attracted individuals who were ‘ progressive’ and enjoyed participation in alternative life styles; an influx of new ideas that ran counter to traditional, and sometimes restrictive principles, started in the sixties and here was a setting where refugees escaping from restriction on their freedoms could happily settle. The late 1970s and early ‘80s were years when individuals, joining together from varied backgrounds to embrace new cultural norms, created the basis for communities to thrive in an entirely new way. Here on the edge of the sprawling heath, Giora Doran, born in Transylvania/ Hungary, a professor of psychotherapy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and then in Goteberg, Sweden, and John Rowan, a psychologist, developed a programme for training psychotherapists, attracting students from Europe, the Middle East and many other parts of the UK.
Giora with a psychoanalytical background had met John Rowan, a highly creative individual who was able to communicate particularly well through his writing. The staff structure initially comprised a small group of individuals who practised modalities which would flourish and augment, in theoretical terms, greatly during the next forty years. These were Dina Glouberman, humanistic, Tom Feldberg, existential, and Oded a social worker from Israel who offered group analytical therapy.
In these early days of IPSS, before the UKCP and its development of training standards, and the beginning of conformity that ensued, the freedom to be oneself and to explore a number of different philosophies that informed new forms of practice in psychotherapy was still possible. John Rowan and Giora Doran were most inclined to teach in a workshop format where we learned existentially while participating in groups. While John explained his way of working with Gestalt or Transactional Analysis, humanistic therapies which were beginning to be popular, he would also teach on areas he was developing in his first books, and his work on subpersonalities was most probably an outgrowth from theoretical underpinnings of gestalt and TA. Later, there were trainees who also developed what they had studied, taking it a stage further, and becoming known in leading new therapies at centres across London. For instance bodywork, which was usually practised on an individual basis, was offered in group format and informed also by psychoanalysis. Although there were two strands of the training, the psychoanalytical and the humanistic, at times there was an interrelationship between the two that was either creative or, occasionally, muddled.
John Southgate, a teacher at IPSS who was concerned about the imbalance in power dynamics that pertained in the use of transference and countertransference methodology, took the work of John Bowlby and started a break-out training which became The Centre for Attachment Study and Training. Dina Glouberman and her Greek husband started the Skyros Centre which reflected the, then current, interest in self-development. The personal being political was an underpinning of the many developments in self-help therapy reflected in various movements such as natural birth, assertiveness training and feminist therapy. Social critiques were given much space for consideration and debate and reflected the political sensitivity and ethos that was unusually central in a psychotherapy training.
On the psychoanalytical side, the place of gender in Freudian narratives was critiqued in re-reading of case studies, for instance in The case of Dora where her subjectivity seemed to have been overlooked. Morty Shatzman, a supervisor at IPSS, reworked the case of Paul Shreber in his book Soul Murder, an explication of his theory that reading a document on Shreber’s father’s child rearing practises, that Freud had excluded in his case study, can lead to the conclusion that where there is persecution there may be schizophrenia and paranoia. The social dimension and the equal privileging of the external and internal worlds was taught via Giora’s research-based workbooks and group discussion of early development as seen in practicums conducted by him for parents and children. The family was seen as a microcosm of the social dimension and symptoms such as eating disorders could be understood as a response to distortions in family transactions. This led to some trainees working with groups and couples while also working individually with their training patients.
Giora’s perspective on the vicissitudes of the instinctual life of the individual did not include the Kleinian view that aggressive attacks on the breast were primary but, if they existed at all, were a function of deprivation and frustration. His understanding of art therapy and the importance of play was more attuned to the work of the Independent or Middle group in the Institute of Psychoanalysis; he was a little ahead of his time in foreshadowing the development of the importance of the relational dimension and he put emphasis on the working alliance and the ‘real relationship’ ie. transference was not all. Object relations in the work of Fairburn and Guntrip was taught with enthusiasm as was the playful and immensely creative D.W. Winnicott on The Piggle, transitional objects and the anti-social impulse where the environment mother is tested.
During the first stage of the training students participated in seminars on both sides of the divide but eventually chose a preferred route which they would follow for working with patients and for theoretical papers and final dissertations. Personal development groups were changed between humanistic and psychoanalytic models. Relationships between trainees and between trainees and teachers tended to be very natural and non-defensive. This was a training that exemplified the Jungian suggestion that a healthy modality is one in which there is an experiment with life; fear- based approval seeking was not required and the need for conformity was absent, though not perhaps always in one’s own mind.
Anne Marie Cussins
The History of IPSS began in a time that was very different from now...
The history of IPSS began in 1978, a time that was very different
from now in so many ways. I hope to give some kind of a snapshot of those early days of the IPSS, the people, the course itself and the atmosphere of the time.
This was before the internet, before computers, so books were the way to find things out, to research and to learn. In fact many seminars included one of us reading out a few pages from a book whilst the other students just listened. At that time our notes were typed up with a typewriter and sometimes with the help of a black copy paper and a lot of Tippex. Giora ( Dr. Giora Doron, one of the founders of IPSS) took his notes with large handwriting during seminars. He also offered us some of his own teaching materials, marked by his own annotations in the margins. Even into the middle 80ies teaching notes and course materials were typed, and for that purpose the IPSS had a running account with the Secretarial Bureau on Hampstead High Street.
Before mobiles existed, diaries were essential, since this is how we arranged meetings and session times. It happened rarely that somebody would not attend. Telephones were used for arrangements too, either from home or, in emergencies, from public coin phones in the street.
Giora ‘s flat in Lake House on South Hill Park in Hampstead, overlooking the heath, was the IPSS’s first home. We would sit mostly on floor cushions or low seating surrounded by Giora’s vivid tribal carpets, African masks and sculptures. Of course his main room, where we met, was also lined with bookshelves and books were everywhere piled up high. In the middle there was a low table always with bowls of fruit and biscuits. Before meetings we would automatically wander into his kitchen and help ourselves to tea and coffee. This natural intimacy would translate soon into conversations that were personal, direct, honest, and, since seminars overlapped with supervision and group therapy, all in the same space, we got to know each other very well.
The course was eventually divided into three year groups, but right at the start it was one diverse group of students, with some more advanced than others, but all learning from each other. Although unfortunately my memory is a bit patchy, I can name a few of my close contemporaries: Anne Cussins, Leslie Davidoff, Terry Rance, Antoinette Marshall, Uma ( sorry I cant remember her surname) Suzanne Michaux, Patricia Feinberg, Michael ( ?), Bernie ( Alex) Burns, Veronica Norburn, and Nadia Allawi.
The main difference amongst students was whether one was pre-clinical, i.e without a client, or if one had been given a referral and was practicing with a training client. To be offered a referral was a great honor and came with the responsibility of writing detailed, often verbatim, notes, which would then be read out to the group and discussed. We all knew each other’s clients well, and we learnt to think psychoanalytically especially regarding transference and countertransference, and the interpretation of unconscious processes. Giora always enquired after dreams and wrote them down meticulously, asking for every detail. It taught us to listen to the symbolic language of the Unconscious.
Giora knew all of us personally, our backgrounds, our living circumstances and he was interested in details of where we practiced, where we sat, the distances between the chairs and the position of the couch for the client to use. It was understood that we needed two chairs, a table and a couch as a minimum to practice. On a personal note I remember Giora’s ability to form mentoring relationships with some of us who welcomed his care and experience. In my case, one of his many practical tips concerned the purchase of a chair. He took me to Tottenham Court Rd to a furniture place where he persuaded me to buy a rather expensive green leather chair telling me that I needed a decent chair to sit in when working with patients. He was right, it was the perfect chair and has lasted me now for over 30 years.
Giora had immense capacity to offer relationships and in this he embodied his teachers, in particular Winnicott, Balint, and Ferenzci, and as group analyst he followed in particular one of his own teachers, Foulkes. His own background was Hungarian Jewish, and having taught psychoanalysis at Goteborg University in Sweden he was also European in his experience. He was well connected with the London psychoanalytic scene, i.e with members of the Institute of Psychoanalysis and the Institute of Group Analysis, but he could also be quite selective in his allegiances at times. Giora was very much settled in Hampstead with its many references to Middle European and Jewish life, especially around Swiss Cottage, where Freud had lived at the end of his life. Giora enjoyed dining at the traditional Austrian restaurant, the Cosmo, close to Maresfield Gardens, which had photos of psychoanalysts hanging on the walls. He was also friendly with Mr Karnak, who had a bookshop in Gloucester Road and also on Finchley Road, which was the most popular place for books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in North London.
The IPSS would have been a different institution altogether had it not been for the second leg it stood on, John Rowan. John was the joint founder of IPSS, together with Giora. He had already established himself as a leading light in the Humanistic alternative scene, but interestingly combined that with his background as academic psychologist, He also published numerous books on research and other topics. He was an exciting teacher since it was felt that he was discovering and experimenting with the ideas he talked about alongside us students. He was intellectually sharp and eccentric in a British, slightly remote, sort of way whilst Giora had a warm Israeli/ European/ Middle Eastern character, and although not identified with the alternative movement as such, he lived his life as a bohemian. One could say that Giora was maternal and John paternal in their presence.
It is worth remembering that the swinging 60ies were still beating in London’s heart, even in the late 70ies, with Camden nearby, and the ‘Compendium’, another rambling professional bookshop, near the market. Many changes would gradually shake up and affect the idealism of the time.
On the 8th Dec 1980 the world was shocked by the death of John Lennon. Giora would talk about it a lot. It obviously touched him deeply, in particular since he saw the assassination as a politically motivated act.
As part of his concern with the politics of power and its influence on then environment, Giora got quite involved with the anti-nuclear movement and encouraged us to be active, in fact he organized an outing to Greenham Common once.
Whilst there was a felt threat to the survival of the planet, other human tragedies hung heavily over his generation, i.e. the events of the Second World War and in particular the Holocaust. About that personal subject Giora spoke to people individually, in particular about his own history of loss. He never made it a specific topic of the course, but the sensitivities would be felt and understood and also shared by many.
What both these very different men shared was an interest, not only in authenticity, but, in particular, in the social context. John’s interest was informed by leftwing politics and the European academic critiques of positivism. He had previously worked as psychologist in the London Council along the Thames where I was in fact interviewed by him. He was keenly away of the problems with methodology and published widely on that topic. In later years John moved more and more into spiritual directions and became very keen on Ken Wilber. As he got older he remained active to the end, and his eyes still had the twinkle of youth when I saw him last, and by then he must have been in his 90ies.
For Giora psychoanalysis was the gold mine where he found his treasures, buried in the Unconscious, in dreams, in art and in prehistoric archeological findings, which he, like Freud, also collected and displayed in his flat. He disliked reductionist versions of Psychoanalysis and as such was critical of the Kleinian approach, nor did he appreciate ego-psychology, which to him had lost the dynamic unconscious that involved a struggle towards liberation.
It was Giora’s and John’s vision to create the IPSS as a community with the values of anti-authoritarianism. At the time anti-authoritarian education was pursued at the Summerhill School founded by A.S.Neill, and alternatives to the nuclear family were alive and kicking in the Findhorn community in Scotland. Bruno Bettelheim was, among others, setting up therapeutic communities to support those who had suffered trauma.
But, as psychotherapy trainings were concerned, it was extremely unusual to pursue the spirit of inclusivity and non-dogma. It was the chemistry between John and Giora that allowed an organization to flourish, where psychoanalysis was taught alongside the critiques of humanistic and existential philosophies, whilst also including the social context. Within the domains of political sociology and philosophy John and Giora found a shared space that allowed both to express their own ideas in a creative way. They offered us what they were passionate about and we were allowed to participate in their growth as they were encouraging us to learn and grow ourselves. The teachings at IPSS allowed us to cross various disciplines effortlessly, in particular the arts and politics.
Once we started having our first referrals, the students of IPSS loosely aligned themselves behind either Giora or John since we had to choose a supervisor. I managed to have both of them supervising me for a while, although my practice was more aligned to Giora. With the advent of the Rugby Conference, which later became UKCP, the IPSS was confronted with a painful decision, i.e. which section did we want to belong to? John was in fact on the founding committee of the Rugby conference and with his influence, the IPSS became the only training organization that was allowed to belong to two sections, Psychoanalytic and Humanistic. Eventually this became difficult, and it was the Psychoanalytic section the majority of us opted for, although there were lingering resentments amongst some for having to join a tribe they didn’t want to belong to. The specialization of psychotherapy into different modalities was not a neat process, but under the growing pressure to form a national register for psychotherapy, training criteria came under close scrutiny, with the aim of protecting the title ‘Psychotherapist’ legally. As it happens, nearly 40 years later, regulation and registration is still voluntary… it’s a long story.
It is worth mentioning some training organizations that the IPSS had close links to, either because of their similar approach or through staff who would cross over between the IPSS and other institutes. In the 80ies those were in particular Arbours, founded by Joe Berke and Morty Schatzman, who later also became our ‘landlord’ at Laurier road, and the Philadelphia Association, founded by R.D.Laing. The IPSS, with its strong affinity to Winnicott and the Independent School of Psychoanalysis, participated in events of the Squiggle Foundation where Masud Khan would lecture, later joined by our own IPSS graduate, Val Richards. In even earlier days, so rumor has it, Susie Orbach was part of IPSS before forming the Women’s Therapy Centre together with other feminists. One enterprising humanistic practitioner and teacher at IPSS , Dina Glouberman, founded Skyros, a therapy centre on a Greek island, which welcomed people to explore themselves in a communal holiday setting. Then there was the Bowlby Centre, the Attachment based therapy training, founded by John Southgate, a longstanding friend and neighbor of Giora’s who was frequently found smoking his pipe in the local pub, the Magdala Tavern, down the South Hill Park Road. As an aside, this pub became notorious since it was here where Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, shot her lover.
One of the longstanding regrets, and maybe missed opportunities, was the fact that IPSS did not own its own premises. So we were nomads moving between Giora’s home, where we started and still met for group therapy, initially to a large rambling Hampstead house at the corner of Pilgrims Lane and Willow Rd, and later to the other side of the heath.
Across the road from Willow Road, in Pilgrims Lane, lived Michael Foot who was seen frequently ambling along taking his dog to the heath. This was of course a welcome sight for our leftwing teachers and colleagues. Our new IPSS premises had various eccentricities such as the ‘big room’ having a kind of scaffolding in the middle, which divided it into two halves. Obviously somebody had tried to take the wall out but it was probably against safety regulations so it was just left. It meant that our groups were held there with us peering through the lattice, but we got so used to it that it simply did not matter! As it happens I moved into the basement in Willow road at some point and lived there for about two years. The madness of the place was also its charm, with Janet Balaskas, the founder of the Active Birth Movement, practicing on the first floor, the IPSS below, and an interesting landlord, Simon Meyerson, living in the attic overlooking the heath. At some point a white grand piano appeared in the ‘big room’, which was played by RD Laing, Ronnie to us.
Apart from the training, quite a few IPSS parties also took place in Willow road, and in 1982 we staged a summer course, which brought a number of leading lights together. Many experiential events were on offer elsewhere to try out different types of therapies. The Open Centre, a therapeutic space in Old Street had Guy Gladstone, one of our IPSS students, practicing there for many years. Like many of us, Guy grew from being a student to become a seasoned practitioner with his own style and influence in his field.
We were encouraged to take therapeutic risks, not directly with clients or patients, but as part of our own personal growth. With Giora as analysts/ group analyst it was centered on one’s own psychoanalytic therapy and participating in his group therapy where we shared our pains and fears and expressed our feelings and needs in the safe circle of cushions.
With John those therapeutic risks came with bodywork, regression work such as primal integration, trust exercises, encounter group style confrontations, and making noises and generally letting our hair down. The roots John brought to the IPSS were political and spiritual, and he had his finger in many pies across the Humanistic scene. He believed in catharsis in his own way and I remember shedding many tears in his supervision group.
After Willow Rd the IPSS moved to Laurier Rd, one of Morty Schatzman’s houses in the Dartmouth Park area. One of the early IPSS teachers, Tom Feldberg, also lived close by, in Tufnell Park. Tom, like so many, cannot be easily categorized, but would probably identify most with existentialism. The training at Regents College, which was set up by Emmy Van Deurzen, drew on teachings from existential philosophy, that also informed some of our teachers. One of the IPSS trainees and later one of its teachers, June Roberts, got strongly involved with the training at Regents, and I also ended up teaching and supervising there later in the 90ies.
In the 90ies there emerged a growing trend that affected all small training organizations, i.e. to get our courses accredited by Universities. It was partly a question of survival, since clinical psychologists began to be increasingly employed within the NHS, using CBT, and of course they were university educated and often seamlessly did their PhDs, without ever having been required to attend personal therapy. Consequently small private trainings suffered a loss of applicants. Private trainings were often very time consuming and expensive due to the need for twice weekly psychotherapy during a pre-clinical year and of course during the length of the training. With training patients also needing to stay on for a minimum of 18 months twice weekly, it was not unusual for a training to take 4 or 5 years.
To remain somewhat competitive in the field, to gain a University accreditation was seen as a logical next step for many organizations, warts and all. IPSS decided for London Metropolitan University and, with this, the course had to be changed radically, i.e. modularized. The aim was to offer our trainees an MA on completion.
For the IPSS Executive, which was, at that time, Veronica Norburn, Alex Burns and myself, who attended many meetings at LMU, it meant learning a new language as we struggled and wrestled with LMU to find ways of integrating those qualitative aspects that could not be assessed formally and easily. We had to now align ourselves with the culture of academia, and the new training guidelines would talk about modules, learning objectives, learning outcomes, assessment criteria etc. The bureaucratization did hurt many of us but there were also some aspects, such as accountability and transparency, that were welcome to many.
Since the early 80ies many generations of students were trained and qualified, with many joining the staff team, contributing to the council, and other aspects of IPSS. In my own memory the different years groups tend to merge, and, although I have a vivid memory of many students and colleagues, I cannot recall the chronology of the different generations. Although I have taught seminars, and supervised many over many years, what has emerged to this day is a network of colleagues and friends, like it would happen naturally in a community or family.
The ‘Forum’ which is still held regularly today, was historically the place where all students and often staff would come together and where students would present their final qualifying case or dissertation. In line with the ethos of IPSS this final oral presentation was not assessed in the Forum but the written version was always already passed beforehand. So this allowed the Forum to be a place of welcoming a new colleague into the community of IPSS.
I am reminded of the old IPSS logo, which Giora had chosen, of a rider on a horse, symbolizing the Ego and the Id. This logo was quite fiddly to reproduce, and often came out smudged on our photocopies. So it was decided back in the 80ies that the logo had to change and it was eventually simplified to its current design. However, as I hope to have shown, the history of IPSS was far from simple.
It is definitely worth reflecting on the IPSS ‘s complex roots, both in terms of its people as well as its teachings. By gathering various pieces of the puzzle we may re-create the rich and long history of the IPSS. As I was writing this, many memories started bubbling up again, so I wonder if other colleagues will also find they can remember more than they thought.