Heartfelt thanks to Alison Summers Outgoing Co-editor of the ISPS Book Series
From the previous series editor
I first got to know of Alison not long after I was appointed as a Consultant Psychiatrist to an Early Intervention in Psychosis service in 2005. I was very keen to meet her as before that I did not know of any other person beside myself in such a post who had a psychodynamic training. It was a great relief and very exciting to find such a fine colleague with similar interests and ‘beliefs’ in the importance and relevance of psychodynamic understanding to psychosis. I was immediately impressed by her and I think I introduced her to ISPS UK and before long she was putting on a small ISPS UK conference in the North West of England drawing together a number of people who subsequently played an important part in ISPS UK, family members and members with experience of psychosis as well as professionals from different disciplines.
She subsequently organised a really memorable day bringing over the very talented Danish Psychiatrist Lars Thorgaard, not long before he passed away. Lars was brilliant in conveying how to make a therapeutic relationship with people experiencing psychosis and use psychodynamic understanding using everyday words and with such empathy.
Alison and I had a lot of contact when she took the lead in trying to get off the ground a ISPS UK national research programme in supportive psychoanalytic psychotherapy for psychosis, this time using the research experience of another talented Danish psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Bent Rosenbaum who led the Danish research project to publication with its encouraging results I was very impressed with Alison’s organisational skills, her firm but so friendly handling of the group of interested persons and getting through a full agenda and how much energy she put into this project and capacity to attend to the tedious detail of the applications. It was a big disappointment to us all that we got knocked back for all kinds of seemingly spurious reasons by research allocation committees and in the end we gave up.
During this time I was the editor of the ISPS book series and I had no hesitation in Alison being at the top of my list when I felt the time was approaching for me to find a successor. I was, of course, delighted when she accepted and agreed to work alongside me for a year or so before I stepped back; it is such a source of satisfaction to me to have started a project such as the ISPS book series and to be able to hand it on with such confidence as I had in Alison and to see its continuing development. It is my impression that her rigour brought the quality of the books to a new high standard and furthermore she took important initiatives in the book series in a) making sure that there was no automatic use of the word schizophrenia and b) developing rigorous guidelines in making sure that if clinical work was described that any person mentioned gave their permission for publication. Amongst others, books published under Alison’s editorship include Art Therapy for Psychosis, edited by Katherine Killick, and a book on personal experiences (in press).
Alongside the responsibility for editor ship and co-editorship of the books, Alison, Bent and myself wrote what we regarded as a series of important articles for psychiatrists to help to know about the psychodynamics of psychosis, how to make a formulation of problems related to psychosis and to demonstrate a supportive psychotherapy for psychosis. (Advances in Psychosis Advances in psychiatric treatment (2013), vol. 19, 124–131 doi: 10.1192/apt.bp.111.009126, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b0c2/ae943e883cb3375c5f04816f024ab891ebb0.pdf https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/using-psychodynamic-principles-in-formulation-in-everyday-practice/9E26EFED1AEDB0228C0585DE98B71382
Alison realised that a psychodynamic formulation is of much greater value than attempting to be precise in psychiatric diagnosis. I remember the fun the two of us had at an ISPS International conference quite a few years ago, demonstrating the value of formulation utilising Freud’s Schreber case using masks for the key characters. How she had time to take on and be such an active leader of ISPS UK during this time is beyond imagination! More about this from Alf Gillham, below.
Last but not least, Alison took the lead in the organising committees for the ISPS international meeting in 2017 in Liverpool. My having had the similar role in 1997, the first time the UK organised an ISPS international meeting, I did not envy her taking on this role. The responsibility is enormous. Alison got a really good group to work together and ensure that the responsibilities were well shared out. I think an outstanding aspect of the organisation was the way in which Alison continued her determination to have experts by experience of psychosis and family members taking major areas of responsibility in the organisation and content of the meeting. For me this has been one of the biggest changes in ISPS in the last twenty years and in my view the Liverpool ISPS conference was the most successful yet in this respect.
Past Chair ISPS, previous ISPS book series editor
On behalf of the ISPS EC