This blog has moved

New blog address!

Thank you for following ‘Let’s Talk!‘. Due to a new website, this blog has now moved and we would love for you to move with us, to keep up to date with our latest posts. Please follow us at:

http://www.the-terrace.co.uk/blog/

We have lots of new interesting and informative posts planned for the future!

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.

Teenage time-bomb: Why are our teens struggling with their mental health?

The Terrace head in handsIt has always been tough to be a teenager – it is a rite of passage; a period when wanting to be treated as an adult combines with the vulnerabilities of childhood to make an often confusing mix of emotions. But are 21st century pressures increasing the risks of long-term health issues?

News today suggests that a Department of Education survey of pupils  aged 14 and 15 has found that more than one in three of the teenage girls report symptoms of anxiety and depression. This equates to a rise of 10% over the past ten years and as such is clearly a major concern for parents, educators and society as a whole.

Girls reported  considerably higher levels of psychological distress than the boys – 37% having three or more symptoms compared to just 15%, and in boys the percentage has fallen since 2005.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Nick Harrop, of charity YoungMinds, who believes it has much to do with the way in which 21st century life impacts on young women:

“Teenage girls today face a huge range of pressures. Stress at school, body image worries, early sexualisation, bullying on and offline and uncertainty about the future after school are all piling on the stress,” he tells me. “Social media also puts pressure on girls to live their lives in the public domain, to present a personal ‘brand’ from a young age, and to seek reassurance in the form of likes and shares.”

Certainly, the rise of Instagram, Snapchat and the other image based social media channels has created more ways to challenge a girl’s image of herself compared to her peers, and sadly, to the photoshopped images of models and celebrites. Girls report issues with eating, with concentration and with anxiety, as they are constantly made aware of the importance of appearance in the media. Too little emphasis seems to be put on successful career women, perhaps, rather than those who model or walk the red carpet.

But others, such as former mental health tsar  Natasha Devon  think it is more to do with the kind of lives young people have to lead now, as parents work longer hours and success in life appears driven by higher salaries and working harder than ever to buy  those things, such as a home, that previous generations took for granted. In addition, all those subjects that supported good mental health are squeezed in the recent changes to the curriculum – music, art, sports and drama often provided a balance to the more academic subjects in which a young person felt more pressurised. Interestingly, those from a more affluent background were more likely to feel worried about achieving less than their parents hoped for them.

But Natasha Devon thinks the only difference between the sexes is how they deal with their mental health problems. She is quoted as saying:

“At an adult level, women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which makes them look like primarily female issues. But men are more likely to seek help for substance abuse and are far more likely to take their own lives. It suggests to me women seek help for anxiety and depression but men self-medicate and tend to wait before they reach crisis point.”

This tends to suggest that where girls might be more ready to seek help, in the longer term it is boys who need greater support.

So what can be done? Here at The Terrace we have a number of therapists skilled in working with children and young adults, and we know how complex an issue this is. A good place to start would be in schools, where changes in behaviour can be noticed early and elements put in place during the school day to support self-confidence and self-esteem.

What do you think would be a good first step?  We would love to hear your views on what could be a proverbial ‘time bomb’, as a generation struggles to come to terms with the every-increasing and pressurised pace of 21st century life.

Thin Slices of Anxiety: Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) illustrated…

300x600An article in The Guardian struck me quite forcefully today. It highlighted the value of a book that I have come across before – its pictures representing a personal struggle against anxiety in a way that speaks to me – and to many others who have to find ways to manage the feelings associated with those generalised anxiety disorder (or GAD). The lack of confidence, indecision and sheer panic. The inability to move forward, or to see a positive future.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage is highly recommended for those with direct experience, and those working with clients who exhibit ‘symptoms’. To have GAD is not simply to feel overwhelming anxiety and panic, but to feel guilty about having those feelings. Many with GAD feel judged – their lives, on the surface, can seem enviable; ‘What have you got to be anxious about?’ the question many fear. Rebecca Slater, in her Guardian article says:

Anxiety

Illustration by Catherine LePage: the Periodic Table of the Elements of Response. Photograph: Catherine Lepage/Chronicle Books

“It’s almost impossible to explain the pervasive feeling of all things – all decisions, all possible outcomes, past, present and future – cascading through my mind, folding into themselves, forming a tighter and tighter ball until it feels as though all room to move or act or breathe has been squeezed out.

 

And on top of it all, that paralysing guilt of being anxious, being miserable and wanting, despite my privilege and comfort in life. Explaining that is hard. But somehow, through her simple words and pictures, LePage has found a way.”

Sometimes those with anxiety just need to feel the solidarity of knowing others have the same thoughts whirling through their minds, often at the worst possible times. GAD can isolate people socially, lower self esteem and confidence and put up a wall between a person and their loved ones.

Do take a look at Catherine’s book if you get the chance. Her imagery captures her own experience, and she offers the comfort that, ‘thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest.’

 

Managing stress – Men’s Health Week 2016

Rupert Counsellor

Today – Monday 13th June – marks the beginning of Men’s Health Week . This year the theme is stress, and the Men’s Health Forum which promotes the week in the UK asks: ‘We all get stressed. The question is: what do you do about it?’.

Statistics show that

  • 76% of suicides are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 (ONS)
  • 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
  • Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women – Health and Social Care Information Centre)
  • Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men.

The forum compares the chances of a man experiencing mental health problems is 3/1, similar to those offered against France or Germany winning the Euro 2016 football tournament. “In other words, it’s likely to happen sooner or later if we let stress build.”

This action against stress is reinforced by a lot of useful information on the Men’s Health Week web page. You can also download a ‘toolbox talk’ on beating stress HERE.

mhw_2016logoWe have written about men’s mental health in the past a number of times. The key to success seems to be the encouragement to talk about the stress, depression and anxiety many experience but find it hard to describe, or open up about to friends or colleagues. It is really important to recognise the stress you are under, and take steps to address it. After all, statistics suggest:

  • Men are less able to recognise warning signs, or to act on them, and are therefore less likely to contact support services. This is very similar to the male response to physical symptoms.
  • There is an increased reliance on self-management or medication using alcohol or drug abuse which can wreak havoc on their own lives and those of their family and friends.

So if you are concerned about your own mental health, or that of someone you know, visit the Men’s Health Forum website and start the conversation now.

Here at The Terrace we have a number of counsellors skilled in the mental health needs of both sexes. Please do contact us for a no-obligation initial discussion  – we are keen to help.

Infant Mental Health Week – let’s start as we mean to go on….

UK days IMHAW16 EnglandThis week marks the first UK Infant Mental Health Week, with the aim ‘to open up the conversation about the importance of the first 1001 days: conception to age 2 period’.

Many therapists are now looking at the importance of a child’s mental health from as early as conception, and certainly there is already evidence about the impact of a traumatic birth on the long-term mental health of a child. Resilience, intelligence, confidence – all those things we would wish for all children can be influenced in those very first days.

So this is an important first step in recognising, nationally, the importance of pre and post-natal care of mother and baby. The Infant Mental Health Awareness week is supported by a number of important organisations, each of whom can offer support and more information about the needs of babies and toddlers in those earliest days. These include (with their websites):

The Association for Infant Mental Health UK (AIMH UK)

The Institute of Health Visiting (IHV)

Parent Infant Partnership UK (PIP)

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

Zero to Three

1001 Critical Days

Public Health England and the union Unite are also involved in this new partnership, which we hope will continue to highlight these issues and ensure there is a seamless chain of support for children and parents from the very earliest moments of life.

We have therapists here at The Terrace who are skilled at working with mothers and babies to support those first critical weeks and months. Do contact us on 01823 338968 for more details, or see our website, www.the-terrace.co.uk.

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.