Older Mind Matters

Wisdom from a DAFT conference

Last week I went to a one day conference on systemic therapy with older adults at the University of Derby. It was organised by DAFT (the Derbyshire Branch of The Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice). Their website is here. DAFT’s events have a reputation for quality, although I think I’ve only been to one earlier conference - they’re incredibly good value too.

There were two highlights for me. The morning highlight was that the facilitator had invited a family (mother and two daughters) who had experienced family therapy to come along, sit with us all, and talk about their experience. They were amazing, and it was both humbling and moving to hear them talk about what it had been like for them and what they had got out of therapy. I have tried all sorts of ways of getting formalised feedback from clients with mixed success, but hearing this family talk about experiencing family therapy was much more powerful than any questionnaire or online survey. I wonder how we might use feedback like this to support and develop services, and to influence commissioners?

The afternoon highlight was hearing the two afternoon facilitators talk about how systemic thinking influences their service more broadly. They both contributed to the book “Being with Older People: a systemic approach” – still available on Amazon (other websites are available), so many people probably knew of them already. In the conference they referred to a paper about a Council of Elders that influenced my own attempts to involve service users and carers in teaching, particularly when I was at Staffordshire University – scroll down the publications page for more details of my efforts. (I hope this is a link to the Council of Elders paper here.) It was great to hear about their Tree of Life Group and how service users have become embedded in their services and are valued for their contributions. Just as I was feeling increasingly inspired it was time to go… and that is the mark of a good conference.

So to those people who sadly missed this opportunity I have a message – our clients can be powerful supporters and advocates for systemic therapy, and opening up our services to involve them and their families more broadly benefits everyone.

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