Domestic abuse: can ‘Drive’ change perpetrator behaviour?

imagesHere at The Terrace we have a focus on couples work, and were interested to hear reports yesterday that some men, deemed to pose a high risk of domestic violence, will be given therapy on a one to one basis in order to address their abusive behaviour. Called ‘Drive’, the initiative is currently restricted to three pilot areas – Essex, Sussex and South Wales – but if successful it will be rolled out across the country. It is estimated that 900 of the most ‘dangerous’ offenders (those deemed at risk of causing serious bodily harm, or committing murder) will be asked to take part in the scheme over the next three years.

At the moment, perpetrators are asked to take part in group work or family therapy. In the new scheme, they will be given bespoke one-to-one sessions, given support to tackle any alcohol, drug or mental health problems they experience and offered advice on employment, housing and parenting issues. If they refuse to take part they will be ‘closely monitored’ by police and any necessary legal steps take to prevent further offending behaviours.

It has been acknowledged that the most serious perpetrators need to be targeted to ensure they do not go from victim to victim without changing their behaviour. Domestic abuse charities Respect and SafeLives are supporting the initiative, whilst the charity Refuge has doubts, considering there to be no evidence that this type of therapy has any effect.

On the BBC website Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, is quoted as saying:

“On the face of it, it seems like a worthy thing to do. In an ideal world we would approach this from both sides. But we don’t live in an ideal world…..We live in a world where thousands and thousands of women and children are being terrorised and brutalised in their homes and they have nowhere to go. And sadly, finding a refuge space in this country is like finding gold dust.”

Her counterpart at SafeLives, Diana Barran, disagrees:

“Despite significant improvements for victim safety in the UK there are still 100,000 women who live with high-risk domestic abuse at any one time……If you do not hold perpetrators to account, we will continue to see the statistics at a standstill.

“Focusing on crisis management is of course vital but we want to help victims today and reduce the number of victims of tomorrow – and we can only do this by getting to the root and the cause of the problem – the perpetrator.”

Critics expressed concern that the most dangerous offenders are often the most manipulative, and will be able to convince professionals they are changing whilst continuing the abuse behind the closed doors of their homes, or will wait till they are deemed ‘safe’ and move on to another victim.

The issue of domestic abuse is one that we will follow closely here at The Terrace. It does not only affect adult relationships, but the future life hopes of any children of the relationship too, many of whom suffer lifelong trauma and are vulnerable to repeat behaviours.We would be interested to hear your views.

If you or anyone you know needs more information or support, the following links will take you through to people who can help.

Respect

Refuge

SafeLives

For BBC Report see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35591041

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Children’s Mental Health Week – why it is so important to listen & learn…

The Duchess of Cambridge launching Children's Mental Health Week 2015

The Duchess of Cambridge launching Children’s Mental Health Week 2015

Here at The Terrace we nominate a charity each year, to which we make donations from funds raised at our events and open days. We also raise awareness – which in many cases is more important than money. For the charity we have supported for the past two years – the NSPCC – that is especially important as only now is society beginning to recognise how mental health issues are affecting children and young people in the UK, and how services should be tailored to their needs, rather than tagged on to adult care.

Late last week the ChildLine Review was published, showing that four out of ten children contacting the Helpline are doing so because of a mental health issue. Two thirds of online counselling sessions offered by the charity relate to self-harm, suicidal feelings, low self-esteem, unhappiness and other mental health concerns. You can read the full report here. It makes for reading that should be of interest to parents and professionals alike.

Yesterday the Duchess of Cambridge released a video to mark the beginning of the very first Children’s Mental Health week. Filmed at the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School in Kent, it highlights the issues many children face as they grow up in a society that is ever more pressurised and which can leave them vulnerable to depression, anxiety and self-harm. It calls for the better provision of early intervention to ensure children get the support they need as a matter of urgency, that being the very best way to make sure they move into adulthood with the resilience they need to cope. You can watch it on the BBC News website here.

Children’s Mental Health Week was launched by Place2Be, a wonderful charity that offers emotional support within schools. Their website offers some, frankly frightening. statistics:

  • 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health problem
  • Half of those with lifetime mental health issues first experience symptoms by the age of 14
  • Depression and anxiety amongst teenagers have increased by 75% in the past 25 years

iStock_000022060638SmallBut it can also say that more than 80% of parents felt their children’s problems were better after receiving counselling, and research suggests that children are less likely to experience mental health problems in adulthood if they get this early support. Here at The Terrace we offer counselling for children and teenagers with three of our most experienced psychotherapists. Find out more here.

We have written about issues facing our children many times on this blog. Sexting, abuse, exam pressures, FGM, the use of police cells to incarcerate young people – it seems there are so many new things for adults to worry about as their youngsters grow up. But we know from the terrible cases relating to historic sexual abuse that dangers have always been there, and can be countered if children are encouraged to speak out about things that concern them and are listened to. Properly listened to and believed.

Children’s Mental Health Week is a great idea. Let’s hope we can continue the conversation, and support, all year round.

Philotimo – ‘let’s talk!’ about a Greek word for our times…

thalesLast week we watched a video that really spoke to us here at The Terrace. Released by the Washington OxiDay Foundation it takes just 15 minutes to explain the Greek concept of Philotimo – something considered to be the highest of all Greek virtues and which determines and regulates how someone should behave in their family and social groups. It is a word that Greek children are still brought up to understand and an idea that they are taught to respect and use as a guide when making choices in their lives.

It is difficult to translate literally, but the very famous faces in the video describe how for the Greek people it means, broadly, ‘friend and honour’. It means duty, compassion, sacrifice. Doing what is right, even if it not in your own best interests. It means something larger than yourself and is about opening your heart and doing things for the good of your community. It has been credited with some of the greatest advances in culture, but with no direct English word to encapsulate its meaning the sens of the word has been lost to all but Greek speakers.

Here at The Terrace we would like to find a way to support what the Foundation seeks to achieve with this video. At a time when we seem to see nothing but horror and injustice in the world, this is a message to take forward to show how humanity can come together for the greater good. Do take a look and let us know how you feel when you have heard what everyone on this film has to say about ‘philotimo’. Since ancient times the Greeks have always been a very special people and despite recent economic struggles this concept remains a strength as the country rebuilds. Is this the time to learn from Greek philosophy once more?

Dealing with anger in angry times (2)

angerIn a previous post we looked at the ways in which we can cope with feelings of anger in a society that is increasingly prone to focus on the negative; stereotyping and reporting on issues that can make our blood boil. We looked at how we can focus on those issues that we can influence, and how certain coping strategies can increase our chances of remaining calm and ensuring relationships are not damaged by unexpressed, or hastily expressed, anger.

We mentioned at the end of the last post that this time we would examine who is responsible for our personal response to anger. Of course, the answer is ourselves. We can choose whether to act hastily or with a more measured tone. But we acknowledge that in some situations this is difficult, or impossible. So why do we get angry?

There are obvious causes: a threat to ourselves or the ones we love, being actually assaulted – verbally or physically, losing money, finding our property has been damaged. Then there are less obvious ones: hearing someone has acted against a principle we hold dear, being interrupted when something is important to us, feeling undermined or humiliated among our peers. If it seems we have been hurt deliberately it can make matters worse.

If we are in imminent danger, the anger can be productive and protective, but if the causes are less obvious, then our responses can affect the outcome for our health, and for our relationships.  If we are living in a state of constant tension we might snap, regretting it later when we find we have over-reacted and must build bridges. Or we might repress  our anger, only for it to surface days, weeks, months or years later.

Some anger can drive change for the better, lead us to campaign for what we believe to be right. But repressed anger, or long-term anger that is not expressed in a constructive way can lead to depression, anxiety and self-harm, alongside physical ill-health, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and gastric problems.

The Mental Health Foundation offers some great advice for those of us faced with a situation where we sense our blood is up. Where in our last post we offered some general advice, here are some specific exercises to adopt:

Count to ten before you act.
Drop your shoulders and breathe deeply to help you relax – your instincts may be telling your body to get ready to fight, but your rational self can reverse this message by telling your body to chill out.
If you feel the urge to throw something or hit out, remove yourself from the situation and try taking it out on something soft like a cushion that you won’t damage and which won’t hurt you.
Try screaming if it won’t disturb people near you or scream into a pillow to release your tension.
Talk yourself down – imagine what your calmest friend would say to you and give yourself the same advice
Imagine yourself in a relaxing scene.
Distract yourself or take yourself out of the situation that made you angry – read a magazine, do a crossword, listen to soothing music, go for a walk.
Pour out how you feel in writing or redirect your energy into another creative activity.
Offload to a friend who will help you get perspective on the situation.

We know it is not easy to deal with anger, but most of us can learn to respond in a healthy way. Next time we will look at triggers; if we know in advance what ‘sets us off’ it can make us better able to cope with a situation before that moment of no return…..

The Terrace is hosting a ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop on 25th and 26th October. For more details go to What’s On.

So what is ’empty nest syndrome’? ‘let’s talk!’ on how to cope…

740_empty_nesters3It is that time of year again. Autumn, when many of our children fledge, leaving their homes to start a life apart from their parents at college or university. They will experience all sorts of new things; challenges aplenty and excitement, as well as the inevitable hangovers.

But what about the parents and carers they leave behind? Their lives go on, on the surface at least the same as before, but there will be something missing….

‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ can be defined as ‘feelings of depression, sadness, and even grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes.’ (Psychology Today). It is an inevitable step that we want our youngsters to take but that does not always help. For women, other life changes are often happening at the same time – the menopause can itself cause depression and feelings of loss so the lowering of mood is exacerbated and they may re-evaluate their relationship with a spouse or partner. Women are now likely to be working, rather than staying at home with a nurturing role, but that does not always help. Men are not immune, as they too feel a loss.  Even the knowledge that many young people return home for financial reasons doesn’t offer solace, as they come home changed, more independent and with the potential to cause greater friction in a household no longer run to suit their needs.

So is there anything we can do to avoid the grief at the gap the fledging of our children leaves in our lives? The answer is, of course, ‘yes’, but we must acknowledge first that it requires some effort from everyone involved. In this post we will look at how to make the step itself easier, and in the next post we will start looking forward and noticing how we can appreciate the benefits without losing that bond with our offspring.

Firstly, make the whole event something of an adventure. Acknowledge that the young person may be nervous and the parents worried, but that doesn’t mean the preparation can’t be fun. Shopping trips, preparing meals, washing, budgeting – all can involve the young person in those weeks up to the leaving date. There may not always be enthusiasm for the tasks, but having at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to look after themselves will help a child in the first weeks way and offer a crumb of comfort to a parent.

Then, if a child is unhappy at first, do not make it too easy to run home. This is a tough one, as secretly (and we have to admit this) many of us might be pleased to feel our child needs us again. But what they need is our support and encouragement, to know that they have our love; not the feeling that they needn’t try to manage for themselves. Home is always there for them, but not as a base to escape from responsibilities they have taken on.

kitThirdly, do have a strategy for keeping in touch. Mobile communication is so much easier now, and Skype allows us to keep in touch face to face. Arrange to chat once a week perhaps, with texts or emails as a stop-gap in between. If money allows, you can offer a decent Smart phone contract. Brief text chats can keep the emotion out of discussions and offer the opportunity just to send a quick tip to solve what might seem an insurmountable problem at the other end (the ‘Mum I put red pants in with my white t shirt’ call perhaps!)

Finally, recognise that you might feel teary and low, but if depression starts to affect your day-to-day living you should seek professional help, or at the very least open up to friends about how you are feeling. Similarly, you might also have to admit to feeling a little envy at the new opportunities opening up to your child, who may be posting lots of excited Facebook updates, making new mates and seemingly having the time of their lives away from home.

So next time, we will offer a few tips on how to make sure it is not only the kids who can take on a new stage in life and have a great time!

 

 

Dealing with anger in angry times (1)

angerDo you sometimes open a newspaper, or turn on the television and almost immediately feel your blood boil? Does the language used by politicians and presenters seem designed to raise your blood pressure? Does the shouting, drama and fear expressed in TV soaps or reality shows make you feel ‘on edge’?

Sometimes it seems we have become an angry nation. Some papers seem deliberately divisive; they blame immigrants, benefit claimants, bankers. At the weekend one paper used the headline  ‘NHS to fund sperm bank for lesbians: New generation of fatherless families… paid for by YOU’ above a piece that when read closely described a sperm bank that was also for heterosexual single women and couples. In fact it was a sperm bank for everyone to use, managed carefully to ensure those approaching it had thought carefully about starting a family, but the headline was deliberately inflammatory and designed to induce anger against a particular group. It is not a one off. Footballers get angry and bite other players; Jeremy Clarkson makes remarks about shooting striking nurses or uses racist language and claims his right of free speech; politicians continue to blame one another for the country’s problems and shout across the House at Prime Minister’s Question Time. Isn’t this all very unhealthy? What does it achieve and how does it spill over into our own lives?

We cannot necessarily influence what is said on the wider national stage, but we can ensure we deal with any feelings we have as individuals in a healthy way. We all have to deal with faceless call centre staff who seem to have gone on every ‘dealing with difficult people’ course available and are impervious to our frustration. Our friends and family don’t always agree with us, can hurt us:  bottling anger up can lead to explosive outbursts that can cause rifts in relationships, stress and feelings of guilt as we turn it in on ourselves.  So what should we do?

Psychotherapist Harriet Lerner has examined the impact of anger closely and has developed some key ‘do’s and don’ts’, and we particularly like the following coping strategies:

Speak up when an issue is important to you

People often say, when seeing someone in distress, to ‘let it go’. If someone says something hurtful, it is sometimes seen to be more mature to just let it be. But this is often the way bitterness and resentment sets in. In the long term it is better to make a stand when something is important to us.

Appreciate the fact that people are different

Different perspectives on an issue suggest there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the matter. People react in different ways, and to recognise that can be very liberating.

Don’t speak through a third party

‘So and so was upset when you didn’t turn up at her party’ could, if it has made you angry be phrased as ‘I was really unhappy that you didn’t find the time to come along, you were missed’. To use someone else’s assumed response is dishonest and avoids the real issues.

Next time we will look at who is actually responsible for the way we respond to an incident. Think about it – in the examples we started this piece with what should we do with our anger at casual rascism, the discrimination inherent in the sperm bank story or the behaviour of politicians? We can change our newspaper and turn off the television but avoiding the issues doesn’t make them disappear. If we are not dealing with our anger appropriately something else will inevitably take their place. …

The Terrace is hosting a ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop on 25th and 26th October. For more details go to What’s On.

The language of life: how simple words can change relationships…

SingThey-3As we read press reports of conflict across the world, or of disputes on home soil about who is responsible for the current state of the country’s finances, or apparent breakdown of society; it is easy to get caught up in that language of blame. This week on our Facebook page we have posted a few short status updates about how certain words, apparently simple and used all the time in general conversation, can have the power to change our perception of the world around us. We are also preparing to talk a little more about anger, and how we manage it, and the words we choose to use in our relationships with others can have a significant impact on the level of frustration we feel when we just can’t seem to get our point across.

Think about these simple words:

I

You

They

It

But

Yes

No

Always

Never

Should

We use these all the time, but they can be the cause of regular misunderstandings.  If we think about it – how often do we use ‘they say’. Who is your ‘they’? World renowned therapist Virginia Satir says:

The use of they is often an indirect way of talking about ‘you’……..How many times do we hear ‘They won’t let me’. ‘They will be upset’. ‘They don’t like what I am doing’. ‘They say’. ….

As she says, ‘they’ are nebulous and can seem threatening. Newspapers talk of a ‘they’ who come here and take ‘our’ jobs or a ‘they’ who will use technology to hack into our computers. And if we are honest, we also use this undefined ‘they’ as an excuse – ‘I am sorry I couldn’t make it for that drink after work, they wouldn’t let me leave before 6pm’.

On the world stage these ‘others,’ the ‘they’ of major conflicts, offer governments the opportunity to scapegoat whole communities. The language of blame and the refusal to take responsibility for our own part in any decision is essentially dishonest and can lead to unwanted repercussions as inaccurate information is passed on.

So identify your ‘they’ next time you are tempted to use the word in conversation. It can be difficult, but honesty is valued, and leads to greater security in all our relationships.