Feb

3

2022

Professor Divine Charura Interview

Professor Divine Charura is a full Professor of Counselling Psychology and the Programme Director for the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at York St John University (York, UK).

He is a chartered psychologist and counselling psychologist, is registered as a chartered member with the BPS (British Psychological Society) and as a practitioner psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council, as well as being registered with the UKCP as an adult psychotherapist.

Divine has co-authored and edited numerous books in counselling and psychotherapy. His two latest co-edited books are Love and Therapy: In relationship (co-edited with Stephen Paul) and Black Identities + White Therapies: Race, Respect and Diversity (co-edited with Colin Lago).

Ahead of our *Love in Psychotherapy* conference which is our first in-person event of 2022 taking place on 5th March we have created a series of interviews with each of our expert speakers. This week Professor Divine Charura kindly took time to speak with us to give us a little more insight into his life and work…

Professor Divine Charura Interview

How did you start out in counselling and psychotherapy? 

 When I turned up for my first job interview in an old psychiatric asylum in Yorkshire where my undergraduate placements had been, the clinical lead said: “you are a big muscular Black guy; you should be alright on the psychiatric wards. Can you fight?”

I remember muttering, “I am not violent, sir“. I started as a mental health worker on the dormitory style psychiatric unit a few weeks later and started to witness practices including restraining patients in florid states of mental ill-health, injecting patients, or putting them in a seclusion rubber room.

One day, after escorting a patient to the electroconvulsive suite, a task I hated, I saw an advert for a seminar on psychotherapeutic perspectives. I attended and the rest is history. The talk drew from psychodynamic and humanistic perspectives of formulating the human person and psyche. I returned to the ward thinking, “this is not how I want to be with other human beings. I want to be a therapist”.

You edited a book a few years ago called *Love and Therapy* with Stephen Paul. How did the topic of love become such a big research focus for you? 

I realised that a lot of my work was with people, all of whom made reference to love across the lifespan in some way. For example, the disappointments through their family of origin, and parenting. Adoption, feeling unloved from childhood, narratives of abuse, trauma from relationships they had trusted, ending of a love relationship, and so on.

Furthermore, I also was deeply moved by the power of the therapeutic relationship and the transformative power of love through this relationship in which the ethics, and professional values are held whilst at the same time the client is contained, not judged, accepted in a deep, relational process and encounter.

Your most recent book, published in August 2021, is *Black Identities and White Therapies: Race, respect and diversity* co-edited with Colin Lago. You are trying to address the inadequacies of so many psychotherapy trainings to prepare therapists for working in a diverse multi-cultural and multi-racial society. This is a vital area of work. Can you tell us more about this? 

There were three main reasons I wanted to write this book with Colin. The first is very personal: having the lived experience as a member of British society and as a citizen of the world, around race discrimination and racism.

The second is having been a trainee many years ago, to now facilitating psychology training. Feedback from students – particularly from minority groups – has voiced the lack of inclusion of other theoretical perspectives that they can relate to, as our teaching curriculum is mainly a Eurocentric one. Yet in practice, when they go out in the world, they have to face a diverse society. My lived experiences as a student were the same: of having a ‘diversity weekend’ rather than that being threaded right through.

The final thing is just my real interest in diversity and equality, in different epistemologies and how they sit alongside each other. Witnessing the turmoil in the world… I remember being a young boy, my parents taking me to South Africa during the time of apartheid. And over the years, the many things that have happened: Nelson Mandela coming out of prison; the many genocides we’ve had globally; and more recently, the murder of Mr. George Floyd and what it sparked in the world.

You’ve been a lecturer in Higher Education for a long time now. What is it you love about teaching and training? 

As a black British man of African heritage, I draw from and am influenced partly by Ubuntu Philosophy, which at heart is about humanity, community, and belonging.

The golden thread running through teaching is Ubuntu Pedagogy. It is a humanistic approach focused on creating empowering learning spaces that affirm and treat students/learners as dignified persons regardless of their difference. It argues that all students and colleagues can excel if their humanity is placed at the centre of their learning and if they feel a sense of belonging. The bedrock of my teaching is this philosophical stance, I am because I belong.

In my teaching, there is a commitment to reducing potentially traumatic experiences of ‘not-belonging’. I integrate the following Ubuntu pedagogy components: fostering a safe learning environment and setting boundaries; introducing unifying activities; enabling collaboration and co-creative learning from a position of love, to meet diverse student needs (Ukpokodu, 2016).

If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be and why? 

I can’t ever see myself not being a therapist, but if that was the case, I would love to be an anthropologist. I would love to spend time living with different societies, tribes and communities. I think a lot can be learned through encounters with different others. On the other hand, I am a loved dad, so would love to spend as much time as I can at home with my children and give them all the love and play as much as we can.

What about your passions outside the therapy room and the lecture theatre? 

I am a lover of art, music, travelling and the outdoors. Many years ago, I went to music college to learn how to play Saxophone. I am not good at it but love it.

I’m really looking forward to our conference on *Love in Psychotherapy* with Tori and Robin! What would you say to therapists reading this about why they should come along to this CPD event? 

For thousands of years, musicians, artists, lovers from all walks of life have attempted to describe this thing called love. In addition, all of us have a love story to tell/or not!

The forerunners of psychotherapy all in some ways referred to the transformational power of love.  I think this conference will offer a space to encounter and explore ideas about love, and in particular our thoughts and experiences of love within psychotherapy and supervision. I am looking forward to it.

Where can people hear more from you? (E.g. your own blog, website, Twitter, email?) 

For more of my research please see https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/our-staff/staff-profiles/divine-charura.php and https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/profile/2104

 

If you would like the opportunity to attend our forthcoming *Love in Psychotherapy* conference, meet Professor Charura and our two other expert speakers Victoria Settle and Robin Shohet on Saturday 5th March, more information and booking details can be found following this link.

Feel free to share this information with your colleagues and peers. We always value any feedback so feel free to leave a comment below.

There are some affiliate links in the content of this interview, if you order a book via the link we receive just a small contribution. Every little helps – Thank you.

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