Interview with Maggie Turp

Dr Maggie Turp

In the third and final interview with our speakers from the upcoming conference, What Makes a Good Intervention in Therapy?, we spoke to Maggie Turp. Maggie Turp is our only returning speaker of the conference – a bit of a Brighton Therapy Partnership veteran having spoken previously on the topics of self-harm and self-care, as well as running workshops on body storylines.

Maggie’s talk ‘The chilli in the curry? Finding a balance between transference interpretation and narrative repair in psychodynamic psychotherapy’. As it says on the tin, Maggie will weave together schools of thought around the transference/countertransference dynamic and self-narratives, illustrating her approach through clinical examples.

In this interview with Dr Maggie Turp, we explore Maggie’s life as a therapist, an accomplished writer, and where her future is headed.

Interview with Maggie Turp

1. How did you start out in counselling & psychotherapy?

My own childhood was, to say the least, difficult. The problems that arose out of that led me to therapy, first of all to encounter groups in the 1970s, then later to psychoanalysis. My interest in training developed out of my experience as a patient.

2. As a therapist and researcher you have a broad range of interests, including self-harm, psychosomatics, trauma, and climate change. What has drawn you to these areas of interest?

I have always been interested in bodily self-expression. My personal experience is that I need to use my body to properly live in it and feel fully alive. Yoga and hiking, especially wilderness hiking, have been very important to me. I am drawn to Winnicott’s view of psychosomatics, where the symptom is seen as a source of information and an attempt to bring the body back into the picture when something troubling – whether an earlier trauma or another kind of difficulty – is being kept out of mind. Self-harm, in my view, is one such symptom.

I don’t think we need a special reason to be interested in climate change, given the level of threat to our families and communities, especially those who are children now. I hope my work can help people to think about something that is difficult to think about – partly because we don’t know in detail what the consequences of climate change will be in any particular place or at any particular time and partly because the subject stirs up so much anxiety. Avoiding thinking about it is an entirely understandable defence but one with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The threat of climate change cannot be ignored, which also makes it cause for concern in psychotherapy.

3. You have written two books on Hidden Self Harm and Psychosomatics, and I understand you are writing a third book on the concept of ‘the skin around the self’. Can you tell us a little bit about the importance of the ‘skin around the self’?

I have always felt drawn to theories that are not too abstract, that can be seen in action. I did a lot of baby observation when I was at the Tavistock and Esther Bick’s work on skin boundaries and skin defences made perfect sense in the light of what I observed. Psychic skin theory is not often covered in psychotherapy and counselling courses that train people to work with adults – but I have found it entirely relevant to my work with adult patients. So the book would be to fill a gap and make the work available to those who haven’t come across it in their training.

4. You’ve also contributed chapters to many books, written dozens of journal articles, and written up a PhD. So, do you enjoy writing?!

I have always loved writing. At the end of 2016, I will be stopping seeing patients in order to have more time to write.

5. What got you interested in delivering training?

Giving lectures and presenting workshops use many of the same skills are writing – the desire to carve form out of chaos and to communicate understandings are common to both – and I will be continuing with that work, at least for the time being.

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

From the time I was six, I dreamed of writing novels. Now I am writing one, although it is very much ‘work in progress’. So if I weren’t a psychotherapist, I would hope to be a novelist.

7. Where can people hear more from you? (eg, your own Blog, Website, Twitter, Email?)

I have a website at

A big thanks to Maggie for taking part in this interview. We hope to see you all at the inaugural BTP conference this November, where Maggie will be speaking alongside Dr Aaron Balick and Patrick Casement.

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