all funned out? you need therapy

- to cure post-rave syndrome
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The Independent Culture
We must all have experienced that alienated end-of-disco feeling: alone among your peers, sore throat, headache, and only enough money for the night bus or a packet of chips. It used to be called the come-down or That Sunday Feeling; an inevitable consequence of lack of sleep, drugs, drink and - if you've been very lucky - a worthless sexual encounter.

Succour may be just around the corner, however, for Julia Franks - a young psychotherapist in the final throes of her training at the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education in London- is starting to specialise in the post-rave doldrums, and has just held her first workshop entitled Spirit in the House. With its promise of "exploring the rave culture", her task should perhaps be dubbed "post-fun stress counselling".

Why rave, specifically? "Sheer numbers," she says. "A million people go to raves every weekend. Every Tom, Dick and Harry's been to one." That's a million sore heads in the naked city for whom real life can never quite match up - and a huge raft of raw material for Franks. For her, rave is not just lurching around on drugs in time to metronomic music, but an expression of "shared vision", a "sense of community", and a way of "accessing deeper meaning in people's lives".

Ecstasy also arrived en masse at the end of the 1980s, leading to a generation that was phonily enlightened, then often disheartened - after all, daily life is a wet field in the Fens compared to the sparkling Matterhorn of an 180bpm-fuelled E rush. Franks has necked a few disco biccies in her time, but is careful to be neither advocate or antagonist. "I'm not wild about drugs, but it's not necessarily wrong to take them," she hedges.

Neither can she comment on the widely-held notion that Ecstasy use can set up depression and anxiety, though she cautiously admits to "knowing that syndrome", and says that one of the people who attended her recent workshop is suffering depression which may well be drug-related. "She wanted to know if her problems were from E, but she didn't want to go to a normal therapist as she would worry that she was being judged," says Franks.

Psychotherapy takes two approaches to drug use, she says. One, that it is an avoidance activity; two, that it is a radical means of opening locked doors in the psychic corridor. "Remember, Ecstasy was originally used for psychotherapy," she says, adding that her workshop has revealed that "women like to take a pill and get round a woman friend's house and have a deep chat". However, Franks is swift to point out that Ecstasy is not on the menu at Spirit in the House.

So what does happen at a rave workshop? "First there's a visualisation, like a Yoga relaxation," she says. "I talk them in, saying 'You're in a queue for a club... you're going into the club... who are you there with?... you're taking a pill...' Then they draw what they've seen." There is also much talking, guided by clubbing conflicts such as "intimacy versus pseudo- intimacy". "One woman said about raving: 'You collect 20 phone numbers and stick them in the bin the next day'," says Franks. "A couple of the others were shocked by that."

As in rave workshops, so in life, and Franks found gender differences lurking. "For women the process is around empowerment. For men, it's around intimacy and relationships." The lack of the latter could be a problem, for Franks says rave is "sensual but de-sexualised", more about people being "in their bodies", as opposed to being in anyone else's.

By the second day of the workshop, Franks's therapy rooms resemble a rave club. "Clients" play a favourite piece of music, and she guides them through an "Ecstasy process", with lots of dancing. "They say, 'I could feel the rush'," rhapsodises Franks, who set up an ad-hoc chill-out room behind the sofa. One woman podium-danced on a chair. "She wanted to connect with the joy of the experience, and find a place of empowerment."

She realises that reactions to her task may be cynical. "One of rave's attractions is its underground nature, so it might be difficult to admit to going to a workshop about it," she says, adding that she finds "some resistance to the deeper work". The use of the phrase "rave culture" doesn't help, a lumpy clod of Cultural Studies-speak. "It's like trying to describe sexuality," pleads Franks. "The right words just do not exist."

Franks stresses her authenticity, with years spent running and promoting clubs. She was, she says, the "acceptable face" of club culture; able to access those venues that the more glassy-eyed entrepreneurs couldn't touch, and she could be found handing out flyers at clubs across town. Another venture found Franks attempting to persuade foreign language students to attend London clubs under the banner "London Scene", for she is a sharing spirit.

But Franks "moved away from raving", saying that she "didn't want to be running clubs at the age of 30". Hence the psychotherapy, a profession in which she is young and specialised at 32. "The average age of psychotherapists is in the forties, and that's why I have the edge."

Though Franks has taken on one-to-one clients with post-rave crises, she has so far done just one workshop. Why not leaflet clubs? "Too much like giving out flyers," she says, which is what she used to do for a living.

Anyway, if the depressed ravers don't flock in, then Franks will move on to wider pastures; indeed, she already sees a rich seam in worried parents: "Concerned Jewish mothers who are trying to understand." For we all deserve to reach that special place called Deeply Sorted.

8 Julia Franks, 0171-482 5228.

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