Meet Barbara McKay: one of our new board members

Barbara has just joined the CMMI Board and will be with us at the Learning Exchange. Here she tells us about her professional background and how CMM has inspired her in her work and personal life.

Passion about CMM

I came upon CMM during my training as a psychotherapist with KCC in London when Barnett and Vernon were guest lecturers. I had the great pleasure of spending my ‘research’ week (preparation for MSc study) with Barnett who was accompanied at that time by Kim Walters. What Barnett did for me that week was inspire me to see myself not only as a potentially good therapist but a future researcher. Having come from a working class background from a coal mining community, this seemed beyond my imagination. The experience stayed with me and inspired me to go to further and study up to Doctoral level.

Having experienced the profound effect of CMM on my own life I have been occupied with making such ideas available to others either in my own therapeutic practice or with students on any of the courses that I teach. When offering consultations to professionals (often strategic leaders in social care), I work with them about forms of communication that start with the way they think about others in the world (relevant as it is common for social workers to problematize families) and consider more thoughtful and compassionate forms of communicating throughout the organisation. This is having a profound effect on services that is being recognised through the Governance inspection framework that monitors standards of practice in the UK. I have worked with over 20 local authorities during their improvement journey – which is the state of moving from being deemed ‘inadequate’ (such shaming language of the monitoring framework) towards ‘requires improvement to good’ and ‘good to outstanding.’

As Director of the Institute of Family Therapy I ensure that CMM is now firmly in the curriculum at all levels of our training of systemic therapists and supervisors.

In my personal life I am involved in my local Church. As a Christian I am motivated to live my life according to the principles of creating better social worlds. I have given a copy of Kim’s book – compassionate communicating to my Vicar as he is struggling with some of the more dogmatic people in the congregation and some of the structures that make his work to reach marginalized communities harder.

One idea that has stayed with me throughout my relationship with CMM when things get hard – is – change happens one conversation at a time.

I hope that by being part of the CMM Board I will be able to contribute my conversation to join others. Thank you for your invitation and I look forward to seeing everyone in October.

Professional background

Degrees / qualifications

  • BA (hons) in Sociology from the University of Warwick
  • MSc in Social Work / CQSW Social work from University of London
  • MSc in Systemic Psychotherapy from University of Luton
  • MA in Systemic Supervision from University of Northumbria
  • D-Psych – Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy from Birkbeck College, University of London

 Current and recent past employment

  • 2006- present, Director of the Institute of Family Therapy.
    This is a charity and a limited company that has existed for over 40 years with a simple and profound purpose: to disseminate, teach and influence others using systemic ideas. We teach systemic therapy courses from introductory level to MSc, offer low cost therapy so that our students can have practice experience on our premises with in a live supervision context. We offer supervision and consultations for professionals in all walks of public service such as health and social care.
  • 2000-2006, Head of training for a leading couples counselling charity, Relate
  • 1991-2000 clinical social worker in child and adolescent mental health service
  • Mid 1970’s to mid 1980’s range of social work posts with children and families as well as acute adult mental health services.

 Writing and publications

McKay, B. (1982). Research on Cottage Hospitals as a planned resource which could reduce the depression rates amongst carers of the elderly. Nursing Times

McKay, B. (2006) Couple Counselling. In C. Feltham & I. Horton, (Eds) The Sage Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Sage

McKay, B. (2014) Making the most of multiple opportunities in group supervision: using systemic and narrative practices to bring forth skilled clinical practice. In C. Lim & E. Sim (Eds) Clinical Supervision. Counselling and Care Centre

McKay, B. (2015) Systemic landscapes for thinking and acting in inter-agency meetings. Context 137:23-27

McKay, B. (2016) A systemic conceptualisation of the process of change in Local Authority Children’s Services.  Context December 2016

McKay, B. (2017) Moving with the times: responsive training for changing professional contexts. One institutions’ view of agency based foundation and intermediate training courses. Context 2017

(in press) coming out in December 2018 Context – 3 co-written articles that emerged from student essays submitted as part of a course that I taught on Systemic Leadership

  • Corrigan, C., & McKay, B. (2018) One Story of Partnership Working Context December
  • Edwards, G.E., & McKay, B. (2018) Using Systemic Frameworks and Language to Explore and Embed Safeguarding Practices within the GP Role. Context December 2018
  • Miles, J., & McKay, B. (2018) Is It Me, Is It You or Is It Us? Using Systemic Theory to Understand One Professional Dilemma. Context December 2018

2018 , Submitted article to the Journal of Family Therapy – awaiting response: Lead and Govern Excellent Practice: The relevance of systemic approaches to social care contexts

As you can see from the most recent titles of my writing I am interested in using a range of systemic (therapeutic) ideas to resource leaders, supervisors and practitioners in other fields. Because of my social work background I have been working in this field for the last 12 years in my role as Director of the Institute to train professionals in using more appreciative and respectful ways of working with families that harnesses their capacity for change through cooperation. All too often statutory services act coercively with families (with the good intention of protecting children) but this does not often foster the kinds of relationships in which change can occur, it usually creates suspicion and distrust. By using systemic approaches and specifically CMM with social workers and their managers my ambition is to create the context for more compassionate ways of talking and acting in this tough field of child protection.

Support the work of the CMM Institute!