Looking back over my role within ACTO – Jan Stiff

I remember the first moment I was drawn into the “world” of ACTO and the Board of Directors.

I was already an ACTO member. Sarah Worley-James, who was then the ACTO Chair, gave a talk at an OCTIA conference explaining the purpose and aims of ACTO and asking that, if anyone were interested, they would be welcome to apply to become a Director

I remember feeling energised and interested after Sarah’s talk. That was the start!

At the time I was tutoring in the provision of online therapy as well as providing online supervision. I knew that online therapy was still viewed by many therapists as an “emerging” therapy and was “second best” to face to face therapy. I was still hearing therapists saying the words …

“… but it isn’t as good as face to face therapy is it!” and/or “ …it’s unsafe! – wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole!”

… and of course, it definitely won’t be successful or safe way if you “ … wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole!” You’d be likely to find that your clients wouldn’t either! I was keen to help change this pervasive message and it seemed that that ACTO’s aim was to do the same.

To cut a long story short I contacted Sarah and was welcomed into the Board. I  began to understand how warm and approachable “ACTO” was; It was not simply an organisation or those four capital  letters that people know so well … It was and is, so much more.

First steps – my passion for working with children and young people

My initial role was as Membership Director but, as membership levels increased this role became unsustainable and an administrator was required.

The role of CYP (Children and Young People) Director was then offered to me. I agreed with  a huge “YES, OF COURSE” – this is where my true passion lies; the mental health needs of children and young people and how remote therapy can be particularly effective especially when relating to working with shame-based issues. However, my knowledge and experience also informed me of the inherent complexities and, even, dangers of working with this age group in the absence of appropriate training and support for the therapist along with appropriate assessment of the young person’s needs.

If I have one regret it is that I was not able to achieve all that I would like to have achieved throughout the time I held as CYP Director. But I also know myself;  I don’t like waiting – I want to achieve everything now. (Not the healthiest of needs!) I do know that I can leave at this point when new, exciting developments are in progress when the present Board holds such a wealth of experience and information at its fingertips.

It is important to look at what has been achieved – along with my colleagues – within the Board, we have worked hard (often giving more hours than we could or should have spared) to achieve competences and guidelines. We have also worked hard to elevate the profile of ACTO and made changes to enable this to happen and, throughout this, the message that we were led by was “what is important for the members – what do they need?”.

Some final reflections…

If I could leave a gift to ACTO and the Board it would be the luxury of Time. Everyone has their own personal and work life commitments and brings themselves to ACTO on a voluntary basis and need to be respected for that.

I have loved my time as an ACTO Director – I have forged true friendships and have spent time with people with a shared passion. Shared knowledge and experiences have helped me in my professional development.

I am leaving with a heavy heart but hope to return in a couple of years. I can only hope that I have given as much as I have gained from my experience as a Director. If you are reading this and are interested or even energised by what I have said, then I strongly suggest that you put your name forward for a position on the BOD – everyone is an individual and, as such, will always bring something valuable to the table! You never know where it will take you … or ACTO!

Jan Stiff

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