Certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner Training
An Interview with Dr. Pieter Rossouw.
Jonathan Wills: Why certified training? What is the difference between this 3.5-day training and the workshops? And what are the practical benefits of the 3.5-day Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner training?
Pieter J Rossouw: I have been establishing neuropsychotherapy workshops since 2009, particularly focused on applied brain-based therapies for neuropsychotherapy in various domains. Since then, just over 10,000 clinicians from all over the world have attended. As we have progressed with the workshops, a constant need identified by clinicians has been, “How can I take the modality of neuropsychotherapy to my clinical practice?” Hence the need that has emerged over the years has been to understand the baseline of neuroscience in terms of various pathologies, to understand the neurobiological underpinnings. But the next big step is, “How do I apply this—how can I use this effectively when working with clients?” And over time this has led us towards the development of skills-based clinician training that focuses more on the modality of neuropsychotherapy than on familiarity with the neurobiological principles. So the difference between the workshops and the new 3.5-day certificate training is that the workshops were developed over time to provide a comprehensive understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of pathology and specific presentations.
Six years ago I developed the first workshop by understanding the basis of how the brain develops, and one of the “Holy Grails” in counselling and psychotherapy for many years has been how to understand memory—what is the neurobiological basis of memory?—because we are our memory systems: what we remember is “who we are”. And when those memory systems change, we become different. So understanding the neurobiology of memory is essential. And the flipside of this is when the brain gets compromised; that’s the essence if trauma. So the first workshop focuses on the developing brain, memory and trauma.
The second workshop that I’ve developed focuses on the neurobiological underpinnings of pathology, particularly of a condition called anxiety, which is not the same as anxiety disorders. Anxiety is when the brain experiences a certain level of distress, and certain neural patterns are activated—patterns of avoidance and dysfunction rather than patterns of wellness. That’s the onset of pathology. So the second workshop focuses on understanding anxiety in the brain.
The third workshop then focuses on one of the main pathologies of our time, which is depression—a very complex disorder, from a neurobiological perspective, to understand. Although a lot of people think about depression as something that everyone understands, the complexities are quite significant, because it’s a high-order dysfunction. It’s not a primary-order dysfunction, which means it’s closely linked to how the brain develops systems of unwellness in association with the environment. Our environment plays a big role in unwellness, hence the focus on the neuroscience of depression.
And the fourth in-depth workshop focuses on the interaction between ourselves, our environment and other people, and that’s the neuroscience of relationships, the social brain. So those are the key four workshops.
Then I developed a few specialised workshops: understanding the adolescent brain, understanding the ageing brain, understating the brain and pain, and the latest one is a workshop on the neuroscience of domestic violence. So all of these are specialised workshops focusing on aspects of pathology or dysfunction and understanding this from a neurobiological perspective.
Now we’re taking this in a totally new direction, one that looks in depth at the modality of neuropsychotherapy as a clinical model and how to become skilled using this model in various domains of psychopathology and apply it on a daily basis—hence the development of a Clinical Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner Certificate.
JW Great, well that was a very full answer. So I understand that the training will enable successful candidates to join the Association of Clinical Neuropsychotherapy, so what is required for a clinician to join the Association?
PJR Well the requirements are quite generic. Ideally—and it’s not a prerequisite, though that may change in future—a clinician should have attended one or more of the neuropsychotherapy workshops to have a good understanding of the neurobiological basis of pathologies. So I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in doing the Certificate to have attended at least one or more of the workshops, because the 3.5-day training will not focus so much on the principles of neurobiology; it will assume an understanding of this. It’s not compulsory, because some individuals will already have a good grounding from university studies, et cetera, but it is strongly suggested.
Secondly, a prerequisite is that a clinician will need to be part of an existing professional association—a counselling association, a psychological association—to be registered with a professional body, as opposed to a layperson who is not a member of a professional organisation. So it is a certificate that is only available for people who are already practitioners in a particular field. Those are the minimal requirements for this Certificate training.
We are in the final stages of establishing the Association of Clinical Neuropsychotherapy. This is the association that will oversee the registration process and ensure that minimum standards are met, as well as ensuring ongoing professional development in this area.
JW How is the 3.5-day Certificate training different from the Mediros workshops in terms of presentation?
PJR Well, the entire presentation will be quite different from the workshops. The workshops are already very interactive; there’s a lot of discussion and time to enhance learning rather than just listening to me talking for three and a half days. Having said this, the focus in the Certificate training is quite different because it’s a longer training period running over three and a half days but it offers even greater opportunity for practical learning than a one- or two-day workshop. So the focus really is on experiential learning. And the emphasis is on the modality of neuropsychotherapy: there’s greater weight on how skills are applied in clinical settings, so there will be audio-visual resources where I demonstrate working with a client and how we facilitate outcomes with clients, and then using role plays as well as case discussions and interactive work. The entire training is much more experientially focused rather than just theoretical or cognitive-based learning.
JW Is the Association for Clinical Neuropsychotherapy linked with other associations or to any form of professional registration?
PJR The Certificate training is part of a professional development process and hence the Association for Clinical Neuropsychotherapy is an association for existing registered clinicians in different fields. So the training does not lead to a registration for a field of practice like counselling or psychotherapy more generally. But it’s a professional development process to enhance skills and to develop a particular set of skills in a particular modality.
JW More generally, what is the purpose of the Association for Clinical Neuropsychotherapy?
PJR The purpose of the Association is first of all to acknowledge people who are skilled in the field of neuropsychotherapy. Secondly it is to develop a register for clinicians who complete this Certificate training that can then be provided to referring doctors, NGOs, and other institutions who would like to refer a client to a skilled clinician in the practice of neuropsychotherapy. The register will be accessible through the website [currently under development]. Thirdly the purpose is to enhance professional development in the neuropsychotherapy field, so there will be ongoing development and offering of training in this field. Fourth is to increase availability of peer support within the field so that clinicians are aware of who else works within the neuropsychotherapy modality, who lives close by, so that peer support and peer supervision, peer group discussion can be facilitated. And finally it is to provide ongoing clinical supervision in this modality, when clinicians require this.
JW What are the requirements for ongoing registration, and what the costs involved?
PJR The requirements for ongoing registration reflect the fact that the register must be maintained and updated, but the costs will be kept to a minimum. We do not see the Association in any way to be a commercial enterprise [it is a not-for-profit association], so its purpose is for the members and for the benefit of the members. There has to be some minimum cost in order for funds to be available for our registrar to maintain the register and to work with members to promote the Association and its objectives, to collaborate and establish networks with other associations. At this stage we envision a cost of about $50 per annum, (slightly less for associates and students), with a requirement of attending or completing at least one workshop or two online modules per annum through the Neuropsychotherapy Institute.
JW And in relation to professional development, what is the link between the Neuropsychotherapy Institute and the Association of Clinical Neuropsychotherapy?
PJR The link between the Institute and the Association, and also for that matter the link with Mediros, is a professional one. Both Mediros and the Neuropsychotherapy Institute provide ongoing professional development training. The Institute provides training through online platforms and Mediros provides face-to-face training across Australia and the Asia Pacific region. So they’re two different platforms for Neuropsychotherapy training; both are acknowledged through the Association as training providers, and in future there may be more training organisations accredited as training members.
JW So, talking about costs and keeping costs low, if I were a student could I still join the Association?
PJR Yes, absolutely. Students and clinicians can join the Association, without having attended any of the workshops (although to progress to Associate they will need to complete at least one workshop). The cost for student members will be low, at $25 per annum, and they will then have free access to our e-Journal (the Mediros e-Journal) as well as being included on the register as student members. So they will have access via the register to other clinicians in the field to maximise their learning and will be able to participate in online training through the Institute.
JW Will there be Associate members as well as full members?
PJR Yes, there will be three membership levels. Full members will be those who have attended prior workshops and have attained the Certificate by fulfilling the requirements of the training. Associate members are those who have attended the workshops but not yet attended Certificate training or completed the assessment requirements (we expect the cost of Associate membership to be $35). Once assessment is successfully completed they will become a full member; however, if they are unable to complete the ongoing professional development requirement in a given year, they may drop down again to Associate member. And the third is Student membership, which in fact is not just for students, but for anyone who has not attended any workshops but who has completed at least one online professional development (PD) module through the Institute and who is interested in the resources, interested in discussions, and also wants to receive the free eJournal (Student membership comes at the minimum fee of $25 per annum).
JW For the full membership there’s an assessment component where an essay needs to be completed, can you tell me more about that?
PJR Yes, the purpose of the essay is not to make things hard; the purpose is to see to what extent a clinician has the capacity to apply some or a number of the principles that we discuss, explore and develop during the Certificate training—in a real life situation with one of their own clients. So clinicians will need to write up, in a non-scientific essay, a description of the specific issues their client presents with and how they address these in therapy, demonstrating how they have applied some of the skills they’ve learned in the Certificate training when working with their client. Very basic referencing will be required, but as I said, it’s not a scientific paper. The chapters in my book Neuropsychotherapy: Theoretical Underpinnings and Clinical Applications provide a good guide. The essay doesn’t need to be at the level of the chapters, but they are a helpful template that show how the principles can be applied in a practical way. There are sixteen chapters, so plenty of guidance there.
JW So the case studies in the book can be referred to in the essay? And would it be useful to have a copy of the book?
PJR Absolutely, clinicians can refer to the cases in their essays, “as in [this particular case study], for example, this is how I applied the tenets of ensuring safety, how I maintained the therapeutic alliance or demonstrated how a bottom up approach was used, or this is how I focused on attachment issues or control issues, etc.” The book will be part of the prescribed literature for the workshops and chapters of the book will be the key reading materials, because it provides us with the basis for the modality of neuropsychotherapy.
JW Now there’s also the matter of supervision you mentioned earlier; how do I arrange for supervision once I have completed the training and presented the case study—is there a requirement for ongoing supervision?
PJR The requirement for supervision for membership of the Association is limited, but it is important. We want to avoid the situation where a clinician changes their current supervision arrangements; however, in order to ensure that clinicians maintain a good understanding of neuropsychotherapy and its practical application, we’ve made it a requirement that there should be at least one supervision session each year with an accredited Neuropsychotherapy Supervisor. We have a shortlist of supervisors that includes myself and a group of other senior clinicians in the country, and these will be available to provide supervision via telephone or Skype or in person. The cost would be the normal supervision fees, and once a clinician has received supervision, the supervisor will confirm to the Association (with minimal information due to confidentiality obligations) that the ongoing membership requirement has been met.
JW Once I become a member of the Association of Clinical Neuropsychotherapy, is there a website that I’ll be able to look up?
PJR Yes, the registrar is working as we speak on coordinating the website, and as the Association proper is finalised, the website will be developed to provide all the details. You’ll get a login number and have access to more information through your personal login portal. So the Association will have its own dedicated website.
JW What is the level of interest in the Certificate training at the moment, Pieter?
PJR We’ve actually been quite surprised since we announced the Certificate training that the uptake has been substantial to the extent that some of the venues are almost booked out for next year. There will be training available next year in Perth (26–29 Oct), Adelaide (30 Nov–3 Dec), Melbourne (7–10 Sep), Sydney (8–11 Nov), and Brisbane (31 May–3 Jun). There is also training being run in beautiful Bali (13–16 Jun), and the uptake for Bali is high, so it will definitely go ahead, and in future we will look at other possible venues including Canberra, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Singapore. So there are potentially other venues within Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
JW By other professional certification standards, I understand the cost of this certificate training is quite reasonable, but it’s still significant at close to $1,500. Can clinicians spread the cost of this training—do they have to pay in full straight away, or are there other options?
PJR Yes, clinicians can spread the cost—instalment payments are available, so you can pay a minimum deposit of $300 to secure your place at any of the venues being offered and then make instalment payments as you choose to finalise the fee. There’s a discount for previous workshop attendees, of course, and the requirement is to have paid in full one calendar month prior to commencing your training. I’m really looking forward to the first Certificate training in Brisbane at the end of May next year. I’m also excited to be engaging with clinicians and hopefully improving their practical competency as the modality of neuropsychotherapy grows and spreads through our communities.
For more information visit mediros.com.au