Conference Blog

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Plenary Panel Speakers (Panel Titles to be confirmed):

Richard Wilkinson, Andrew Cooper, Rex Haigh on Mental Health, Inequalities and Society

Candy Yates, Paul Stenner on Cultural Transitions and Psychosocial Theory

Yasmin Gunaratnam and Rachel Thomas on Psychosocial Methodology

The title of this conference is psychosocial connections and one of the aims of the conference is to face outwards towards domains or communities of inquiry which are perhaps on the periphery of Psychosocial Studies, or among its potential constituents. Hence we intend to address fields of practice such as mental health and social work, and colleagues from cultural studies or the arts and humanities with whom we may share theoretical or methodological resources.

Among the connections we wish to develop are those between, theory, research and practice. We also wish to model a dialogic rather than agonistic form of presentation and discussion. We are trying therefore to reflect these principles in our plenary sessions. Three plenary sessions will together offer a stimulus or provocation to the conference and will hopefully help to develop these connections, though with different emphases.

We are encouraging speakers to be bold and use to identify arresting ideas and emergent lines of inquiry, rather than attempting to provide ‘finished’ theses or settled positions. Each panel will have a moderator whose task will be to draw out connections and this will be a significant contribution in its own right.

Watch this space ….

Here is a summary of the experiential events for the APS Conference. Exciting stuff!


An experiential event is an event that allows participants to learn from experience rather than through listening to presentations. The APS Conference, being held at UCLan and organised by the Psychosocial Research Unit, School of Social Work is organising a series of experiential events as part of the conference.

1. THE AXEMAN COMETH: Exploring the Impact of the Cuts, Economics and Money on Emotional Life and Therapy Work

Andrew Samuels

This will be a lecture/workshop linking ‘therapy thinking’ on economics and economic policy that will be both discursive and experiential.
The government’s cuts have started to impact on clinical work. Many clients are affected directly and even more will have an emotional response. Analysts and psychotherapists simply cannot stay outside this situation, the more so if they work in the NHS, public sector, or a voluntary agency. Yet lots of people feel all at sea when the emotional atmosphere or the clinical material turns economic and monetary.
We will begin by exploring participants’ emotional reactions to the economic situation, in terms of their personal histories. Then we will turn to the clinical dimension where issues such as competitiveness, greed and guilt are often prominent
The hope is to equip participants with specific psychological perspectives in the areas of economics and money and to deepen their experience as citizens in society.

2. Performing the psychosocial: An enquiry into forgetting

Myna Trustram

This will be an experimental and experiential session, which considers the potential contribution of performance to psychosocial studies. The session will consist of a performance, a commentary and a conversation with the audience.
The theme of the performance is forgetting; those tiny failures of the brain to remember the next word, but also the impossibility of forgetting trauma; the desire to forget, the haunting by the lost object, and the shame of being forgetful.
Performance shares concepts with the psychosocial most obviously the here and now, the relational and subjectivity.
The session will consider whether performance might be another method for researching the psychosocial field.

3. Work Reflection Group

Group Analysis North (GAN).
The session will be facilitated as a Work Reflection Group, discussing those issues brought by group attendees. This experiential exercise is offered as an opportunity to directly experience how groups form and function and to give attention to the unspoken factors that play a powerful part in shaping group process. These unspoken factors, which include stereotyping and assumptions about the ‘other’ are replicated in all arenas of work and life, influencing decision-making and hindering the ability of different groups to relate to each other. Assumptions about race, ethnicity, culture or age all impact on the dynamics between and within groups and on their ability to function well within a system. Left unvoiced and ignored, our ability to deal with, and manage, difference decreases, potentially leading to a breakdown of trust and communication, to discrimination and competition. Some understanding of these group dynamics can enhance sensitivity to the situational contexts within which we live and work, as members of our various groups.
4. Experiential Workshop: An immersive psychosocial experience
Andy Brooker , Jo Thompson, Rex Haigh
This event is an immersive psychosocial experience. It will be an example of co-production to explore and expose the tensions between the social construction of professionalism and the imposed identity of ‘experts by experience’. By directly conveying the lived experience of the continuum between ‘mad’ and ‘not mad’, the workshop will examine how these dimensions of experience are denied or reframed in the westernised medicalisation of distress. It will include elements of psychogeography – perhaps seen as the exploration of the dimensions of inner and outer space – and will involve a literal exploration of these though a playful exercise involving a treasure hunt and ‘magical mystery tour’.
5. Data analysis panel: Why the Warning? Exploring audience reactions to stories of sudden, unexpected child death
Denise Turner
Beginning with the presenter’s own experience of sudden, unexpected child death, the session will describe her subsequent research with other parents whose children had died suddenly and unexpectedly. The heightened and often unexpected emotions which occurred during data analysis panels will be discussed, together with those arising from more general dissemination and audience reactions. Following this initial presentation, the workshop will invite participants to form an impromptu data analysis panel working with parts of one parent’s narrative describing the sudden, unexpected death of their child. Participants will be asked to examine and share their own emotional reactions to the story. The emphasis throughout both the presentation and the workshop will be on the potential sequestration of emotionally charged material from knowledge construction and on finding progressive ways to counter this.
6. Social Dreaming Matrix and Visual Matrix
Julian Manley, Lynn Froggett, Alastair Roy, Ellen Ramvi and Birgitta Haga Gripsrud
These two sessions provide an opportunity to compare two similar but different methods of using the ‘associative unconscious’: the sharing of dreams, on the one hand, and associations, on the other. There will also be a parallel Social Dreaming session for comparison running at the International Studying Leadership Conference (ISLC), Copenhagen 14-16 December 2014. The Social Dreaming Matrix will explore what it means to share dreams and associations, with a view to questions of research method and practice, in the unconscious associations of the community of conference participants. The purpose of social dreaming is to note the imagery and themes which are present in the dreams. The focus is not on the individual dreamer, but on how the images and feelings expressed in the dreams might inform us all of unrecognised aspects of experience within our academic or practice communities, as represented at this conference. We will invite all conference participants to consider their dreams as information relevant to the work of the conference.
The Visual Matrix has been developed by the Psychsocial Research Unit at UCLan as a research tool that uses the visual imagination and associative thinking. Conference delegates will be asked to participate in a Visual Matrix related to a research project carried out at Stavanger University Hospital, Norway, on women’s reactions to breast cancer. Highly emotional issues around femininity, breastfeeding and sexuality are explored in the study. The visual matrix offers a method led by imagery and visualisation that aims to capture the interwoven social and psychic complexity, and rich cultural intertextuality surrounding the breast as symbol, spectacular object and valuable jewel, as well as a life-giving and life-taking organ, and existential question in the lives of women with breast cancer. The research project has already conducted Visual Matrices with member of the general public and with professionals working in the field (oncology nurses, breast cancer surgeons) where it has offered new perspectives on the meaning of breast amputation and reconstruction and pathways to imaginative identification with patients. Out this work we expect to develop better understanding of patients’ support needs and indications for further research.
7. Large Group
John Adlam
The Large Group experience proposes an exploration of the experiences of the relations created between the delegates who form part of the group within the context of the Conference. It is an opportunity for delegates to explore the dynamics that shape these relations. The event takes place in the ‘here and now’, which aims to explore the experience of what occurs between participants in the present experience of the group.
8. Workshop. Surviving Work: trade union/activist education and mental health
Elizabeth Cotton
Elizabeth Cotton will present a workshop based on some work she’s doing for Human Relations on the link between trade union/activist education and mental health – which is the framework she uses for the Surviving Work activities that form part of her research. There will be a workshop introducing the methods and practical experience of doing some of the activities that are employed in the research, followed up by a reflection on the methods in the group, (a practical and theoretical session).

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