I attended an interesting presentation recently by Clinical Psychologist Dr Alexandra Lagaisse, who was introducing some of Gregory Bateson’s work on metalogues. A metalogue was defined as ‘a conversation about some problematic subject. This conversation should be such that not only do the participants discuss the problem but the structure of the conversation as a whole is also relevant to the same subject.’
Alexandra highlighted how Psychology traditionally was a study of the soul, and the impression given was that we seemed to have lost this. This led onto a discussion of the very concept of mental health and our views seemed inclined towards a person centered and social/systemic viewpoint. Alexandra asked why have we distanced ourselves from this and highlighted that rather than add to the problem narrative by focusing only on the mental health problem, we need to question the very cause of it in the first place.
At the end it was opened to questions, and I asked how we hold these discussions with those in power and those who provide the funding. I said how in my experience the palate is for a very medical and individual model, and that this easily boxed, accountable and measurable approach is what allures the funders. There were two aspects to her answer which I found important… one, that we have identified that the system currently isn’t working, something is wrong. In itself I guess this is a prelude to a metalogue. Secondly, we need to engage with people on a personal level. When she said this I couldn’t help but be reminded of how the IPAT program originated from a conversation from 2 people at a party.
I do think though that my very question itself perhaps missed the point, and the fact that we were actually having this conversation in the first place perhaps placed us in the realms of a metalogue. I think Alexandra’s whole point was not just to communicate that there is a problem in mental health practice, but that through this very event, we ourselves become part of the solution by engaging in a discussion around this.
Creating this bridge though to funders and policy makers is still a challenge, and part of Alexandra’s view was that this can be achieved by engaging with people at all levels of the social system. ‘Bridging’ events run by an inter-disciplinary student steering group, including trainee clinical psychologists, nursing, medical and social work students, is a great example, and attempts to engage with professionals from across all fields. At a different level, Mick Cooper discussed recently how social change should be embedded within the psychotherapeutic process itself, rather than being an activity that is separate and labored elsewhere.
These ideas appeal to me, and I do think that looking for engagement in metalogue in all levels of the social system is what will bring change in a positive direction. I would like to see more of this in the media. If there is little engagement or communication, then there will be little change.