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One on one... with Peter Cummins

Consultant Clinical Psychologist/Psychotherapist, transitioning into retirement.

04 April 2019

One book
Stoner, by John Williams… the most wonderful portrayal of a life. You keep wanting him to change, but gradually grow to accept that he is as he is. As one of the back cover reviews says, ‘A book for everyone, democratic in how it breaks the heart’.

One exhibition
‘I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World’, at the British Museum, recommended to me by my older son. The level of detail in the carvings and the clay tablets of Ashurbanipal’s great library, ‘the first in the world to be created with the ambition of housing all knowledge under one roof’, were wonderful.

One moment that changed my career
Being told by the Bexley Unit General Manager in 1993 that my post as Director of Mental Health was being abolished. After the shock I came to realise that my core identity was as a psychologist. The contrast pole of General management stayed with me throughout my career in Coventry, and deepened my appreciation of being a psychologist.

One rewarding thing about my job
I only need a quiet room and myself to work with another in the creation of a therapeutic relationship. No other technology required!

One thing I would change
The domination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, given that most practitioners do not seek CBT for themselves!

One thing psychologists should be proud of
Carrying on the legacy of George Kelly in having coherent theory that sets out to describe the ways people actually function – rather than presuming that they are ill.

One piece from The Psychologist
George Kelly and the Garden of Eden, by Trevor Butt, in March 2012.

One inspiration
Actually two.

1. My mother was a teacher of emotionally disturbed children, and completed a London University External degree in Psychology while I was an undergraduate in the early 1970’s. The demands of her teaching job put me off that, but her interest in psychology facilitated my own.

2. Miller Mair, who showed me the true possibilities of Personal Construct Psychology when I was a probationer at The Crichton Royal, Dumfries. His inspiration has been central to my subsequent 43 years as a Clinical Psychologist, and led me to co-construct the Coventry Constructivist Group.

One place
The Blasket Islands, off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry, Ireland. I have been absorbed by the literature produced by the residents of the Islands, since childhood holidays in the 1960s, and finally managed to visit the islands about 10 years ago.

One thing about the Society
It protects my professional identity as a Clinical Psychologist… no easy task at present, given the pressure to reduce everything to a generic task.

One publication I am proud of
Working with Anger, which I edited for Wiley in 2006. My colleagues and I described a model that didn’t entail having your anger ‘managed’.

One thing that intrigues me
We have been able to fill the Coventry Foundation Course in Personal Construct Psychology for the last 15 years simply by word of mouth, despite the dominance of CBT.

One alternative career path
I spent two years in a Roman Catholic seminary training for the priesthood in the late 1960s. I later found out that this was quite a common pathway to clinical psychology!