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.

The Brain with David Eagleman -What is reality?

TheBrainHere at The Terrace we like to keep up with the latest thinking, especially when it comes to matters relating to the way we think and act, and what makes us, us.

Earlier this year we saw a documentary in a series that explored how the brain, ‘locked in silence and darkness without direct access to the world, conjures up the rich and beautiful world we all take for granted.’ In other words, reality is what our brain tells us it is; it is our brain that sees and hears, not our eyes and ears.

We are fascinated by new developments in neuroscience, and David Eagleman’s series, and the book that accompanies it, offer an accessible way into what is a complex subject.

If you didn’t get a chance to see it, do take a look at David’s website HERE and if you get the chance, take some time out to watch him explain his work  in this video. You can also access more of his work via YouTube.

And let us know what you think – we would love to hear your views.

 

A moment’s madness…Preventing Road Traffic Accidents affecting young people

L2LHere at The Terrace we are always keen to promote campaigns that support young people as they take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Pressures on them are numerous, and it is important to ensure there is the proper education in place to ensure they have all the information they need to make healthy decisions.

One such campaign is Learn2Live, or L2L, a partnership including representatives from Local Authority Road Safety Teams, Fire & Rescue Service, Police, Paramedics, Family Liaison Officers, Consultants as well as families themselves. Rosemary Pell, Manager of the Road User Support Service (RUSS) and a great friend of The Terrace has been involved in the work of L2L and we have been deeply impressed with the impact of the work of the team behind the charity in neighbouring Devon. So much so in fact, that this blog is by way of calling for the programme to be started in Somerset as soon as possible.

Statistics relating to young drivers are terrifying. One in five wil have an accident within six months of passing their test and L2L says young drivers (aged 17-24 years) are overrepresented in road collisions compared with other road users:

  • Young male drivers are more prone to being involved in collisions compared with young female drivers
  • Speeding is a key contributory factor to collision involvement including exceeding the speed limit and driving too fast for the conditions
  • Collisions involving young drivers are more likely to occur during night-time hours, on rural roads and involve a single vehicle, predominantly on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Young drivers are often involved in collisions where they have failed ot cope with unexpected situations due to their inexperience.
  • Young drivers are 50% more likely to crash in their first year
  • In 2012 approximately 31% of all KSI’s (Killed and Seriously Injured) collisions involved young people

Many of the figures relate to drivers of course, but L2L says that statistically the most dangerous seat in a vehicle is the front passenger seat, predominantly occupied by young females.

At L2L events, young people aged 16 – 19 are shown a DVD featuring a mock up of a fatal road traffic collision. They then hear the true life stories of emergency service personnel who have attended such incidents involving young drivers. Family members who’s loved ones have been killed or have received life-changing injuries tell their personal stories
too, finishing with an offending driver who has killed someone as a consequence of their driving. These are highly emotive presentations – the strap-line for the charity is ‘A moment’s madness – a lifetime of sadness….’

The L2L presentations started in Devon in 2008. Devon County Council and Devon & Cornwall Police stats for 2009 – 2013 show an overall 30% drop in the numbers of young drivers (17 -24 year olds) killed or seriously injured (KSI’s) in that time. The drop from 2013 – 2014 alone was 11%.  Although we cannot assume this news is wholly attributable to the L2L project, there is no doubt that it is having a massive impact on those young people who attend the event, with plenty of evidence on social media to support it.

Rosemary Pell says

It always seems such a tragic waste of life when a young person dies on our roads and I am saddened when I hear the harrowing stories at the ‘Learn2Live’ events, particularly those relayed by family members who have been devastated by their loss. There is no doubt that young drivers’ behaviour is being impacted by these hard hitting presentations, as indicated by the reduction in the numbers of drivers and passengers being killed or seriously injured in road traffic incidents in Devon. I feel pleased and privileged to be involved with such a worthwhile project.

ThinkAmyIn Somerset, the charity Think Amy was established to promote safe driving. Amy was a lovely Somerset 13 year old killed on 15 June 2011 by two car drivers racing each other at motorway speeds along a residential road in Taunton, Somerset. Amy was cycling along a cycle path with an adult on a clear sunny evening when the driver of the lead car lost control on a bend. The car became airborne and struck Amy. She died instantly.

Jane Hofmeister, Amy’s mother and founder of Think Amy told us:

I was delighted to be asked to be a guest speaker at two of the Learn2Live presentations (South Devon College and Plymouth Pavilion). I was very impressed with how the presentations were put together and delivered, and with the level of support that was offered both to speakers and importantly to students who attended who were affected by what they heard.

The team of presenters included members of the fire, ambulance and police services and a victim’s family member. They each recalled their personal experience of dealing with the consequences of a road traffic collision in a very moving and powerful way. It highlights very effectively the impact dangerous driving has on so many people and educates students in what they can do to help prevent other tragedies in the future.

The feedback I received from the two Learn2Live presentations I took part in was tremendous. Not just in terms of the volume of comments and replies but in the strength of support and commitment shown by the students in wanting to promote safe driving and change behaviour for the better.

In my opinion the Learn2Live presentations are a very effective way of educating students about making better choices when driving or as a passenger.

All the evidence suggests that young people who take part in the L2L events experience a real change in attitudes towards driving. With the statistics indicating a real benefit and a reduction in those horrifying figures quoted earlier, we are calling for the campaign to spread wider and into Somerset, where narrow country roads and winding faster A roads offer tempting opportunities to drive fast and dangerously.

 

 

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….

Prescribing nature? ‘Ecotherapy’ in the news again….

download (2)We are always keen to promote mindfulness here on this blog, especially mindfulness outside in nature. You don’t need to live in the middle of the countryside, simply taking a walk in the park can still the mind and offer relief from the stresses of the day.

If you need scientific evidence to convince you of the value of nature to our emotional well-being, then the BBC reported last week on work done by a team at Stanford University  which found that being close to the natural world can help us avoid the feeling when negative thoughts seem to be ‘stuck on repeat’.

Experiments compared the brain’s responses to walking beside a busy road with those experienced when amongst oaks, birds and squirrels, and showed decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to risk of mental illness when walking away from the stresses of urban life. Gregory Batman, a researcher on the study, said:

“There’s an increasing body of evidence showing that natural versus urban areas benefit us at least emotionally with our mood and possibly also our cognitive development too,”

Bearing in mind that more than 50% of the world’s population live in towns and cities, this is a really important finding. Batman again:

“Here’s your prescription, walk in the forest five times a week for an hour.”

Furthermore, at the Hampton Court Flower Show last week the Royal Horticultural Society was encouraging us to bring nature into our gardens by reducing the amount of hard landscaping, such as concrete paving.

The ‘Greening Grey Britain’ campaign showcased ways to make urban environments rich in both vegetation and nature.

Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design at the University of Sheffield, was behind the garden.

“We evolved with nature and it’s completely unnatural for us to be separated from it”.

We are to benefit from his work  here in the south-west, as plants from the garden are coming to Bristol to green-up areas which include St Mungo’s hostel for the homeless.

This is really nothing terrible new, as the value of ‘ecotherapy’ and the connection between humans and the land has been understood by practitioners for years. But is always good to have the issue highlighted once more.

So do you think ‘green prescriptions’ are a valuable complement to the range of treatments available for emotional distress? Would it be more effective that medication in your view?

We would love to know what you think…

Measuring well-being – why is Britain’s ranking lower than it should be?

benefitshealthcare-370x229What does ‘well-being’ mean to you? How would you measure it? Can we even try? Well, a study, called the ‘2014 Country Well-being Rankings Report’, has been carried out by researchers at Gallup and Healthways, (a US natural foods chain) which brings together more than 146,000 surveys in 145 countries in an attempt to do just that – create an index whereby we can measure a country’s well-being and rank them against each other. Here in Britain we didn’t do nearly as well as might be expected.

One particular category that dragged our overall score down is called ‘social’, which measures how supportive and loving our relationships are, but we were also less positive than many poorer countries, particularly in the Americas. We were also only 67th when it comes to physical well-being. This is a little disturbing, not least because we know that those in supportive relationships are less stressed, feel more respected and are more likely to be willing to help others.

Perhaps it is not surprising that in a country so dependent on financial services we scored best in the ‘financial’ category – how we manage our finances to reduce stress in our life – but even then we only came 20th.

Panama was, for the second consecutive year, top of the well-being league followed by Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Guatemala, Austria and Mexico.The five countries with the lowest levels of well-being are Tunisia, Togo, Cameroon, Bhutan and Afghanistan.

What do statistics like this indicate about the society we live in? It certainly suggests that it is not financial affluence that makes us happiest. Supportive networks in close communities, extended families living nearby and a willingness to engage and work with others to create an overall sense of well-being override material possessions. Whilst we are encouraged to want more and more; to work harder and harder to buy technology that seems to take us further from physical interaction with those we love, we are losing sight of those things that nurture us mentally and physically.

Statistics can’t always be relied upon to tell us the truth of a given situation, but surely this is one of those occasions when data is sending us a message we would do well to take notice of?