Vera Zeleyeva (Tatarstan). The Institute Twenty Years Past… Or Twenty Years with the Institute
On September 5-7, 2016, the town of Birštonas housed the ninth conference of the Institute of Existential Therapy “Existential Dimension in Consulting and Psychotherapy” dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of the Institute’s existence.
People and relations – this is an essential component of the unique phenomenon of our institute! These people form the Birštonas school of existential therapy.
In particular, the professors can be sketched as: Rimas Kočiūnas – charismatic, understanding, accepting and strict; Leonas Judelevičjus – always elegant, aristocratic, close and distant, sensitive; Rimvydas Budrys – mysterious, mythologic, hospitable and home-minded; Kristina Ona Polukordienė – wise, attentive, resistant and magically creative; Aleksandras Kučinskas – romantic, wandering, passionate and friendly… Aleksandr Efimovich Alekseičik – a person, a Personality that eludes description and epithets.
I will not list here all professors of the institute. Those mentioned are the ones who stood at the source. Now, there are many who have completed their education at the Institute and also became professors and supervisors there: Olga Vasilyeva, Natalya Ivanova, Dace Purena, Tatyana Ivanova, Yulia Kočiūnienė, Tamara Sikorskaya, Ginta Ratniece, Liliya Reinholde and many others.
How shall I describe the Institute in the first years of our studies? The words “my home”, “my family”, “my pack”, or “the resource of power” come to mind… It is not always because the institute was different, but also because we were different, and our perception was different. But today, twenty years later, in many ways the sense of “home”, “family”, “pack” remains, only the quality of the attitudes changed, and now, there is a sense that we have grown out of the home, out of the family, yet the sense of “a pack” and “the resource of power” calls to Birštonas and makes one warmer till this day.
A pre-conference plenary, ‘The Basic Principles of Existential Therapy’ by Prof Ernesto Spinelli (UK) opened the work of the conference. Meeting Ernesto is always a festive occasion. His metaphoric exposition is combined with precise definitions.
The discussion that unfurled after a supervision demonstration showed that understanding between people is built not on the verbal level. The paradox is that, as soon as we try to translate the description of the process of existential therapy in concrete terms, we immediately lose the phenomena themselves and the context of the events. Although we are one school and ‘one herd’, it was the discussion that showed the experience of shared existence in the existential given of colleagues with different experience.
Two days later, our September conference was opened. It was not an ordinary occasion, but an anniversary. Why was it unusual? The Institute was represented in the reports both by the ‘older’ professors of the institute and by the ‘young generation’ of the teaching staff. There were interesting, substantial reports on practical work and philosophic summaries of personal professional practice, as well as bright examples of consultations and supervision. I do not want to single out anyone in particular. All reports were different in their content and presentation, but remarkable, deep and substantial.
Indeed, the conference gathered many graduates of the Institute’s professional level, in addition to the institute’s guests engaged in individual study programmes or guest seminars. This is why it was a joy to meet the people you came across during various projects of the Institute, and it was interesting to get introduced to the people you did not know. These continuous, re-discovered and new relations revealed much vulnerability and required courage for openness. As in a film, relations were constituted and emerged not only through their pleasant manifestations, but the effect of durability was achieved by the wish to meet each other. As in a film, to enter a new level of relations, the characters had to overcome their internal prejudices.
The time of the conference was busy, intense and somewhat in contrast to the unhurried flow of time in Birštonas itself. On the other hand, it was evident how these two flows of time echo each other and have much in common. Their symphony is hard to describe, and it is difficult to find words to communicate this experience.
The streets of Birštonas are all familiar, but every time, at different seasons, they amaze in various ways. The photo album of Natalya Ivanova Birštonas – a special place… it is shown through the eyes of a talented artist and photographer, who is also sensitive to what is unique in the everyday life of a person.
Today, new programmes appear in the Institute. Study groups follow one another. But this does not lower the quality of the study programmes and the preparation of practical psychologists working in the existential vein. The requirements of the Institute to the certification of psychotherapists are high, and the same high requirements are applied to the professors and supervisors of the Institute. New specialists are joining the teaching staff of the Institute, as well as new generations of those who have chosen existential therapy as the field of their work.
I have described everything that took place at the conference as an eyewitness, and this is how I experienced the spirit of the conference; I wanted also to see and to single out the unifying themes that permeated all the events that took place. These important unifying themes were: Dialogue, Symphony, Unity, Community, Mutual Relation, Mutual Completion, Openness, Wonder, Direction, Liveliness, Vulnerability, Consciousness, Sensitivity and sensibility to the unrevealed, the Healing nature of relations, Self-Discovery… The list is open/ All these themes are the values of the experience gained at the conference and at HEPI. If anyone saw it differently, he or she could change or continue the list.
I am grateful to the Institute and to everyone who one way or another, by coming in contact with the Institute, became part of it, for the fact that there is this place that brought us up, and, although we are moving along different roads now, at different speeds and to different goals, we have one Way – to try and make the world friendlier and to protect the life world of the people who are like – or unlike – us.