Psychotherapy and society

The word ‘psychotherapy’ probably brings to mind an image of a room with a therapist and client working through a problem, a table between them with a box of tissues.

But that’s only part of psychotherapy’s incredible potential to heal lives and empower us to unlock unrealised potential. Psychotherapeutic insights can inform many other areas of life beyond our immediate health, from the business sector, to education, to policy-making and even our climate.


Psychotherapy and business leadership

The most progressive organisations are stepping away from old fashioned management models towards psychotherapeutically-informed leadership. Psychotherapy provides us with a much-needed critical vocabulary for effective, impactful leadership whether in corporate settings or in not-for-profit sectors. It can help to bring about social justice and progressive social change by affirming our responsibility for ourselves and for others.

Organisations are damaged financially and reputationally by high staff turnover and sickness. Psychotherapeutically informed leadership and management serves to preserve and enrich a company’s greatest asset, its people. Self-reflective, values-based, socially conscious organisations are far more likely to attract and retain the best people and clients and make an impact on the world.

Psychotherapy and prejudice

Psychotherapy understands the profound unconscious processes which, when combined with structural inequality in the external world, fuel and sustain prejudice in society. These unconscious processes have extreme and lasting consequences for oppressed individuals and groups. Psychotherapy can shed light upon the causes in order to identify resonant solutions.

We’re working to make the psychological professions more reflective of the world of clients and service users. How we prepare the current and next generation of psychotherapists to recognise discrimination, harmful norms and stereotypes, and prejudice is a high priority for UKCP.

Psychotherapy and climate change 

The climate emergency is the most significant existential threat facing humanity, and it will put enormous pressure on our emotional and mental wellbeing. We have called on the UK government to recognise that our mental health is inextricably linked to our habitat and nature and radically increase access to psychotherapy for all who need it.  

Psychotherapy can engender hope and build resources at an individual level for children and adults, and help to create the resilience and innovation at a collective level which is vital for the regeneration of our ecology 

Read about our 2019 climate change conference held in partnership with Imperial College’s Grantham Institute. 

Psychotherapy and the urban environment 

While a study of 90,000 UK adults found, promisingly, general levels of anxiety and depression fell as COVID-19 lockdown measures were eased, the same was not true for city dwellers. It’s further compounded for those living in urban areas with lower income, children to care for, BAME community and those with pre-existing mental health conditions. 

It is clear that our cities are at a watershed moment if we are to improve our wellbeing and create a healthier, more resilient future. The cities that boldly tackle this issue head-on without delay and put mental health and resilience at their heart are the most likely to thrive. Local authorities and planners must build social support or connectedness among urban communities to improve mental health.  

We are working with agencies including Core Cities UK and University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute to influence the design of our urban environment. 

Creating the conditions for change 

Psychotherapy is foremost about relationship – with ourselves and with others. Psychotherapeutic thinking is relevant to and connected with our entire social sphere. In fact, it could be the missing link to progress in a whole range of areas of life, unlocking the potential for a deeper, more self aware and informed approach to our daily lives as workers, as leaders, as family, and as community members.   

Working at the intersection of our inner and outer worlds, the power of psychotherapy is that it offers us hope. Through the mechanism of self-exploration, questioning, accepting and envisioning, it offers us new frames through which to view ourselves and our relationship with the wider world. It helps individuals, couples, families and groups – young and old - to access our inner resources and agency to effect change. 

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