The Humanistic approach: Not what is wrong, but what happened?

Jane

Jane Gotto

The practice of Humanistic Psychotherapy has gained significant recognition in recent decades.   Having been a humanistic psychotherapist since the early 1990’s, Jane Gotto, Director of The Terrace, has noticed research and results have brought the humanistic approach – putting the person in the centre of the work – more mainstream. It is now challenging some of the more traditional ways of treating mental health, by working with the person not their symptoms. This piece links to  a letter sent by Terry Cooper, Founder Director of Spectrum Therapy, in which he talks about Richard Bentall’s response to Stephen Fry’s programme exploring manic depression, as part of the BBC’s In the Mind series.

In Terry’s piece, published by Spectrum Therapy, (http://www.spectrumtherapy.co.uk/images/resources/ALL_IN_THE_BRAIN_COMP_DOC.pdf), Bentall asks Fry to portray the conditions he is so keen to demystify and destigmatise – bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – in a way that does not, as much current thinking seems to do, decontextualize the disorders. Are they, as Fry maintains, based on ‘bad luck’ or ‘genetics’, striking the especially vulnerable and becoming a lifelong condition only treatable by medication or are there more complex conditions at work?

As Terry Cooper stresses, “any degree of self- influence is empowering and generates hope” and “trying to fix people -remove symptoms- rather than provide time for them….. creates a premature closure of underlying problems.”.

Eleanor Longdon’s moving TED Talk ‘Voices in my head’ (http://www.ted.com/talks/eleanor_longden_the_voices_in_my_head?language=en) is as chilling as it is eloquent and moving. Her description of the way in which the medicalisation of her mental health issues created a downward spiral from which she was lucky to escape offers an alternative to the conventional twenty-first century psychiatric response and asks the question in the title, focusing not on what others have said is wrong with the client, but on how the client really feels.

Eleanor Longden TED

Eleanor Longden

It takes in issues such as nurture versus nature.  Do we look at a client’s response as a consequence of the pre-wiring of their genetic make-up?  Or do we examine it as a result of external factors after conception? This includes environmental factors, life experience and the effect of learned responses.

Jane Gotto shares Bentall’s concerns that we should not be quick to assume that the hearing of voices is a dangerous medical condition only treatable by strong anti-psychotic drugs that, in their medical effects, mask the real problem rather than treat it.

‘I think it is important that, as professionals, we shift from looking at symptom based treatment to finding out about the person’s experience;  who they are, what their story is, and how did they get to the place they are in?’

Jane Gotto works with a formative perspective, developing an understanding of what the person wants for themselves, and addressing what would make them feel better in their life.

There is evidence that a genetic component to mental ill-health is likely, but it is not easily identifiable and can blur the distinction between recognised conditions, such as bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD and, as Bentall highlights, even Autism.  He points out that many psychiatric patients are deeply dissatisfied with what medicine alone can do for them. Why, when other conditions such as cancer, are seeing improving survival rates, is recovery in those with mental illness just as elusive as it was fifty years ago?

Jane Gotto says “The fact that Eleanor was dealing with voices in her head was the symptom, and what was healing was the experience of being listened to by others. But fundamentally and importantly she learnt to listen to herself. That’s a hopeful outcome.”

We would love to hear your views on this complex subject.

More poetry for Mindfulness – Horses at Midnight without a Moon – by Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

In the next few weeks we are migrating this blog over to our new website, so we have kept posts to a minimum. But as we head into our summer breaks  we are looking forward to taking time out, relaxing and working to ensure our energy levels are topped up for our autumn schedule.

To that end we thought we should address some of the issues we are facing at the moment, as human beings in a world that seems to present us with a new challenge, a new doubt or anxiety each day. David J Beauman, who blogs at the terrific The Dad Poet, posted a poem last week to offer some solace in these difficult times and we agree with him, this one is a poem to encourage mindfulness. We have written on the subject and posted poems previously and many people have enjoyed the opportunity to find words that support them after they have taken the first steps to mindfulness Take a breath, learn to be at peace with the world and enjoy those things immediately around you. It isn’t easy and it requires dedicated practice, something many of us find difficult in a world where the expectation is increasingly immediate gratification and instant fixes. But there is beauty in the smallest things and the most unlikely situations.

David J Beauman reads the poem here, with the full text available HERE and below :

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

From Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert. Copyright © 2012

To find out more about mindfulness at The Terrace, see our website HERE 

More poetry as therapy- Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

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Image: Joe Ism (see below)

In therapy, many counsellors work with clients who perhaps feel ‘stuck’ in a pattern of recurring behaviours that prevent them from fulfilling dreams, pursuing healthy relationships, or coping with challenges and developing resilience. Reading inspirational quotes on social media highlights how many famous sayings there are on the subject of living a mindful life, of noticing and recognising the world around you and working to free yourself from a past that can hold you back, or a future you are fearful of.

However, there is one poem that seems to sum up this process in a way that perhaps only poetry can, in its ability to distil feelings to the minimum number of words necessary to express them. We have written quite a few ‘poetry for mindfulness pieces on ‘let’s talk’ – do take a look as you may find another that suits your mindfulness practice perfectly – but this popular piece, by Portia Nelson is one that requires little explanation.

Portia_Nelson

Portia nelson

Nelson was a popular singer, songwriter, actress, and author; a cancer survivor who  wrote a very popular  book called There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery, which she later turned into a musical that played off Broadway. From it comes this poem, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, which has been adopted by many as a as a self-help text. Its clear message is one of learning to take notice, recognise when you are repeating harmful behaviour and learn to move forward on to new paths of discovery…

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

We would love to know of any poetry that you find particularly inspirational, or especially helpful when you are practising mindfulness. Get in touch!

Image: Joe Ism on Flickr  Open Manhole Cover

‘Let’s talk!’ – about mens’ mental health

iStock_000029384684MediumWe have written before about the difficulties men face when they are experiencing mental health issues. It is nearly a year since we wrote of the Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation in Boys Don’t Cry and since then we have seen periodic moves to raise awareness of suicides amongst young men, for example. Yet the situation hardly seems to change.

So why do men find it harder to seek help when they are experiencing difficulties, often so serious that they are considering ending it all? Is it that their issues relate specifically to being male?

There is still, even in the 21st century, an expectation that the man is the one on whom others rely. He will sort out problems, practical or otherwise. From toddlerhood a boy is discouraged from expressing his emotions in a healthy way – ‘boys don’t cry” or ‘act like a man’ are phrases many still hear, and thus when they are faced with problems they can’t solve, perhaps in young adulthood, they are more likely to feel they have failed as a man. A culture of silence amongst their contemporaries means few of them realise how common these feelings are.

Jane Gotto, Director here at The Terrace, says:

“Yes, men are at a crossroads and the question of how to be a ‘good man’ has changed and the parameters are different.   Mainly our culture does still support the expectation that men should be strong, shouldn’t cry, nor share feelings of being vulnerable or having difficulty.    This leaves some men without a way to process their feelings, or even acknowledge what’s happening for them, which can create isolation and alienation.   From there, the difficulty can escalate with other behaviours to cover the difficult feelings – increased drinking, excessive work or exercise, sexualised behaviour, drugs etc…”

Research has suggested that men sometimes feel better taking part in active therapy, such as art, music or horticultural sessions rather than direct one to one therapy sessions. It was also deemed important to ensure men didn’t have to take time off work to attend sessions as work was something that held many together, and when working in a stereotypically macho atmosphere many were reluctant to express their feelings openly. Some felt that mental health services were geared around ‘women’s problems’ and whether true or not that has to be a perception that is changed if we are to see any progress.

Rupert CounsellorFrom the articles and reports that have come out in recent months it is clear that there are specific issues men struggle with, including drinking increased amounts of alcohol and other addictive behaviours. The Charter for Sport and Recreation works to remove the stigma around men’s mental health by raising awareness of the problems well-known sports stars have faced. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff and footballer Clarke Carlisle have been frank about their problems, and now we regularly hear leaders in their sporting fields speaking about mental health. But there is still much work to be done. Jane Gotto says:

“22 years ago, when I founded The Terrace, very few men sought counselling support.  This has significantly changed with men seeking support for themselves and for their relationships in more recent years. Some men have been able to carve out a supportive network with mind liked men.     However encouraging this is, more needs to be provided and more needs to be said.”

In 2015, a documentary was shown on BBC3 in which Stephen Manderson, better known as British rap artist Professor Green, allowed cameras to follow him as he sought to find out why his father had committed suicide eight years ago.  Manderson said:

“At the end of the day suicide is a violent end. It’s the taking of a life……It’s violent, irrespective of the method, so it’s hard to talk about and it’s scary. Shying away from it is not going to do any good, though.”

He went on:

“The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it…. it is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard.”

Manderson (Professor Green) went on to make a second program, showing where people can get support, including the work of The Maytree, a centre where people can go when they have suicidal feelings.

In an article about the documentary, published in The Guardian on 27th October last year, Rory O’Connor, professor at Glasgow University, highlighted the deep-rooted nature of male suicide:

“The bottom line is, we as men, are not socialised to seek help. We are traditionally the breadwinner, we’re the rock for our family…..Currently services, arguably, are not set up for men to access them. Much better research needs to be done about why men clam up more and we need to go beyond the traditional cliches.”

If you would like more information about the support available to men, and women, with mental health issues, these links are a good place to start.

Many offer a helpline if you fear you are reaching a crisis point.

For young people: Young Minds

Mental health charity Mind, with local branch Mind in Taunton & West Somerset

SANE

The Mental Health Foundation

www.mankindcounselling.org.uk

There is also an excellent report, referred to in this article, which offers an overview of men’s mental health services. It is called Delivering Male and to download simply click on the link to download a copy.

The link to Professor Green’s program can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGjlPACQC6Y&app=desktop

Do also feel free to call us here at The Terrace on 01823 338968. We have a number of counsellors particularly skilled in dealing with the issues mentioned in this article and we would be pleased to discuss matters, in confidence of course.

Insomnia – How psychotherapeutic techniques can help.

images (11)Here at The Terrace we are lucky enough to have a group of therapists skilled at working with clients on specific issues. Today we are highlighting insomnia – an inability to sleep – that can affect any of us for brief periods (due to a short-term stressful situation for example). However, for some it can become deeply distressing and life-changing.

Helena Trump – Counsellor & Psychotherapist here at The Terrace writes:-

I recently seem to have had a plethora of clients, all with insomnia!! Insomnia, or the inability to sleep, “wakefulness”, as I like to call it, affects one in every three people in the UK. It can be occasional episodes, or for some people it can last months, even years. Wakefulness can take a serious toll on your quality of life, affecting moods, work and relationships.

How much sleep do we need ? It is thought,on average, that a normal adult needs 7-9 hours, older adults less. For me, when a person does not stay asleep long enough to awake feeling totally refreshed in the morning, then it really is a problem, and time to tackle it.

Initially it is not always clear what triggers insomnia. It is often associated with stress, anxiety, trauma, lifestyle factors or mental health conditions such as depression. I have found that clients who experience insomnia, often have a tendency to internalise their feelings. Counselling can help you to deal with, and so avoid, the thoughts and behaviours affecting your sleep patterns, steering you towards full expression of your feelings. That expression will often result in multifarious long term health and life benefits.

To book a free 20 minute appointment with Helena to discuss your “wakefulness”, just call the Terrace on 01823 338968, and to find out more see Helena’s page on our website over at www.the-terrace.co.uk

Switch off the email notifications, switch off the stress….

_85489389_85489384Do you ever switch off? REALLY switch off?

Many of us take a break by going for a walk, chilling on the sofa with a box set of our favourite programme, or having a meal out with friends. But is it really relaxation if we take our phones with us and allow it to make endless ‘ping’ ‘ring’ and ‘whoosh’ noises at us?

We would say no. Turning off a mobile phone whilst in a therapy room is a must, but it should be silent at any time we like to call ‘ours’, otherwise that time can be eaten into by a relentless stream of updates.

So we were glad to see reports in the press today, highlighting a study undertaken by psychologists at the London-based Future Work Centre, exploring email pressure’ and how it affects work-life balance.

The study found that emails, although a brilliant way to communicate, are equally good at causing our stress levels to rise. Researchers found that the two most stressful habits were leaving email alerts on all day and checking emails as soon as one gets up or lay down to sleep at night. We would add the stress of notifications from social media accounts too – Facebook and twitter streams can contact us 24 hours of the day if we let them.

The study found that turning off email updates on mobiles and laptops (and tablets too surely) will help reduce stress levels. It can also affect our perceptions of stress, as it feels as if we never get a break, when actually we have control over how we interact with our technology.

The study also found, perhaps predictably, that those in managerial positions felt higher levels of email pressure than non-managers.

Figures given by Ofcom suggest there are 2.5 billion email users worldwide, with adults spending an average of over an hour of each day on emails.

So perhaps, as we head into another year, almost certainly offering us means of communication in easier and quicker ways, we take a step back and analyse, honestly, how our lives are affected by those endless little noises we seem so reluctant to ignore….

A Mindful New Year…..

new yearWell we are a week into 2016, so we thought we would repost a great piece by our own mindfulness expert, Miranda Bevis. How many of us are still keeping to those new year’s resolutions? Should we even be trying – adding additional pressures to our already stressful days? 

In days gone by, as the old year departed, I would enthusiastically construct a huge list of New Year’s Resolutions. This was it! I was at last going to get in control! Become thin and fit and popular, well read, up to date with current affairs and so, so organized. And for the first few days, I’d get up early, go for a run, read improving books and eat improving food. Hoover under the sofa, tidy my sock drawer and open brown envelopes immediately.

If I’d managed to carry all these good intentions through, by now I would be lean and fit, living a life that worked like clockwork, fluent in a number of foreign languages, with an In tray that was always empty, and an Out smugly full. But happier? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, not surprisingly, I rarely got beyond week one with any of them; certainly they never made it to February. Very quickly, exhaustion, apathy and chocolate would take over, and I would be back where I started.

Why do we do this? I suspect it’s got something to do with wanting getting to grips with life, and to feel more in control. Perhaps coming from a feeling of not really being in control.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve aspects of our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to these goals lightly, and understand that even if we achieved them, it wouldn’t necessarily make us happy or help us to navigate the pitfalls of life.

The truth is that we just aren’t fully in control of our lives. Difficult things are always going to happen. Mindfulness offers the possibility of being “in control of not being in control”. It helps us embrace both the pleasant and the unpleasant, the joys and the tragedies of life with equanimity. It’s not about trying to change things, but simply learning to be OK with being exactly where we are.

So these days, there’s only one item on the list, and that is to do as much Mindfulness as I possibly can. Over and over to come back to the present, to the simple breath, to an awareness of what I’m doing , while I’m doing it.

And strangely, the more I practice, I find that some of the things on the original list begin to come more naturally. By developing a kindly awareness towards myself, it becomes much easier to give myself what I truly need.

Still not great with brown envelopes though.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness GroupsMiranda is offering mindfulness taster sessions at The Terrace, Taunton in January 2016:


Taster Sessions:
Tuesday January 12th 6.30- 8.00pm
Wednesday January 13th 9.30- 11.00am
Cost £5

Eight week Mindfulness Courses
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March See the Events page of The Terrace website for full details.