By  Dr Kate  Simpson MAPS

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 Lunch for us by Spanish colleagues
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 Visiting the Faculty of Psychology in Madrid

The APS tour of Spain with a Portuguese option in May-June, 2011 provided a wealth of knowledge on the culture, history, sovereignty and religious influences of Spain.  The group, led by Isabel Stepanik and Professor Trang Thomas, flew into Barcelona. On the 1st day of our tour, professional development began with Isabel giving a lesson in Spanish speaking - outlining some common phrases - and introduced the group to the history and culture of Spain.  An employee of the hotel provided an illustrative account of the current political climate in Spain and the push for Barcelona to achieve independence as Catalunya. The period in Barcelona gave an opportunity to visit art museums, Miro's, Picasso's and Gaudi's as well as Gaudi’s famous church, La Segrada Familia.

The fast train took us from Barcelona to Madrid, where we visited the Spanish Psychological Society. There Professor Berdullas and Anna Rabaso presented on Madrid’s comprehensive provision of mental health services. We visited the Centre for Addictions clinic and then the University of Madrid for a presentation on their contemporary research focus where lunch was provided. In Madrid the group went to the Royal Palace and Prado museum.

After Madrid we visited Segovia, a historic town built around one of the Romans’ impressive aqueducts. There we toured the castle and were informed of the changes in culture, architecture and the stresses that tourism has had and its economic affect.  Then to Salamanca and beautiful Cathedrals, University and their town square (a must to see at night). Cordoba, our next port of call, had a tour of the ancient city and our guide reviewed the historical and cultural effects of the transition of religions and their influence on the people and culture of Spain, from the Moors to Catholicism. 

The trip to Granada was a highlight. We visited the beautiful Allambra, where the Moors built an impressive retreat. Their engineering allowed for water to pass through the palatial gardens. In Granada we visited the enormous science museum. The displays included Escher's Art (90+ works of his Impossible Figures) highlighting gestalt perspectives. We completed Granada’s visit with a presentation by Dr Jimirez on psychological practice in Spain and his work with schizophrenics.

\Our next stop was Ronda where we learnt about the Arabic and Roman settlements, influences on Spanish culture, the impact of the inquisition and Catholicism's influence over society since 1492. We visited the famous bullring and its museums where Orson Welles and Ernest Hemmingway have their ashes. The city of Ronda, provided a beautiful backdrop to the culture of Spain and the importance of family. In the open square, three generations sit, eat and talk together over dinner late into the evening.

Finally, the last port of call for the Spanish group was Seville with guided tours to the Giraldo Tower, the former tobacco factory and  a visit to the University of Seville .

Our peer group seminar summarised our cultural learning and observations from the tour of Spain. A farewell dinner was organised for several of our colleagues who did not continue to Portugal. This tour provided an opportunity to network with psychologists from around Australia and the presentations on psychological practice provided information in speciality areas. Notably, Noni Dorell, spoke on Compassion Fatigue highlighting current practices and measures; Barbara Newton spoke of Hypnosis and gave a demonstration; Rosita spoke of Judaism’s way of life, the ceremonies, rites and history of the culture and traditions. In addition, Jeni Lee spoke on the legal perspective in relation to the elderly and their rights. She spoke of mediation possibilities for psychologists in family dispute resolution and Noelle spoke of her experience on being audited by Medicare, giving current requirements on practice. Trang Thomas led a Q & A session on APS, Medicare and the new Psychology Board.

Overall this experience facilitated a greater understanding of Spaniards and their culture, assisting in our professional development’s learning goals in the areas of cultural and religious awareness within an applied context.

Some comments from tour participants

“As a cultural awareness exercise, this tour was very useful. This is not my first APS tour. It provides significant benefits. I hope the tour program will continue” N.Morris, MAPS

“During my visit to Spain, I gained further knowledge about the Spanish culture, way of life , psychological and ecological and social issues. I do appreciate this great opportunity provided by APS.”  N. Christopher, MAPS

“I have been able to interact with peers in a much closer and more informative way than the usual participation in Australia-based experiences, which has been most relevant to my clinical practices.” R. Griffiths, MAPS

“I found the experience extremely beneficial in understanding cross cultural problems. I believe that in order to develop a firm understanding of the economic, cultural and psychological issues involving our clients, the best way is by visiting the country and observing these.” C.Hodges, MAPS

“This tour fitted with one of my learning objectives of the year i.e. expanding my understanding of cross cultural psychotherapy as it pertains to my own clinical practice. It was very valuable to learn from fellow colleagues on the tour, to compare notes, to do peer supervision. It stretched and deepened my experiences as a clinician.” S. Genot, MAPS

“Having been on several other APS tours, I know they are invaluable in assisting with CALD clients by providing me with a much greater understanding of human nature around the world. I look forward to the next APS tour.” N. Dorell, MAPS

“I continue to hold the view that these tours are extremely beneficial to psychologists in terms of gaining greater understanding of the various cultures representing the communities that we service, in terms of learning through seminars provided by colleagues, in terms of networking, and in terms of personal growth.” E. Hutchings, MAPS

Seminar program during the tour

Isabel Stepanik  Spanish culture and language
An alcohol addiction clinic
Psychology department of the University of Madrid
Noni Dorell Compassion fatigue
Barbara Newton Hypnotherapy
Rosita Armer
Jewish traditions and culture
Jeni lee Legal issues in aged care for psychologists.
Escher exhibition on Perceptual Illusion
Dr Juan Jemirez Clinical practice in Granada
Trang Thomas 
Discussion on issues related to APS, PBA and Medicare.


Peer consultations are organised everyday among members.