Intensive Home Treatment Plans in Scotland

The link above takes you to an audio file hosted by BBC News – I’m very interested to see how these home treatment plans progress. Any comments?

A good article by Dani Garavelli on mental health and stigma

Anxiety Control Audio Track

Another good track for you to download. This is aimed at individuals looking to gain some practical skills to counterattack the physical effects of anxiety. Please click on the link below to download the MP3. Again, I ask that this track be used for personal use only and not distributed to others.

Anxiety Control Track

Information and resources for clients and practitioners

I regularly use the following websites for information and resources regarding common and more complex mental health problems. They are well worth checking out. Click on the links below to be taken directly to the homepage:

Good Medicine

Get Self Help

Living Life to the Full

Psychology Tools

Free downloadable deep muscle relaxation track

I am attaching an MP3 track to this blog that you are welcome to download. I would be grateful if this track be used solely for personal use and not copied or distributed to others.

Relaxation is often a key part of cognitive behavioural therapy. It is certainly relevant to individuals experiencing anxiety and stress. The link between our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and our psychical health is often misunderstood. Many people visiting their GP with complaints such as aches and pains, poor sleep patterns, and difficulty relaxing, often discover that these can be traced back to ongoing problems in their lives.

It is advisable to practice the relaxation techniques on this track at least once a day. Often people will choose to listen to the track before bed if getting to sleep has become a problem. In cases of acute anxiety or stress, it can be helpful to practice a number of times during the day. Avoid using the track whilst driving or operating machinery as the effects can have a sedative effect.

Make sure you find a quiet space at a time when you will not be disturbed by the phone or other people. In order to achieve the full effects of deep muscle relaxation , this exercise should be practiced on an ongoing basis. Just like any form of exercise, practice does pay off.

If you do suffer from physical problems, be sure to consult your GP in advance of using this exercise.

Please click on the link below to access the track from DropBox:

Deep Muscle Relaxation Track

Shame and Mental Health

Why is it that when we feel down we often take that one step further and blame ourselves for feeling like this in the first place? We know that this additional self-punishment doesn’t do anything to make us feel better, but it seems to be something innate to human beings. You certainly don’t see cats berating themselves!

So why the need to self-chastise? I fear there are many factors involved, some of which lie below;

  • Unrelenting standards – where empathy for others does not extend to ourselves. It’s OK for others to fail from time to time, but it is not acceptable for this to happen to me.
  • Comments from family and friends – if only the words ‘pull yourself together’ helped!
  • Social and cultural factors – pressures to appear happy and content seem to be everywhere don’t they…
  • Unhelpful comparisons to others – why should I feel so hard done by when there are people starving in the world?
  • Personality factors – I should be able to manage without the help of others, I must be the best I can be…

There are no doubt countless other deeply ingrained human traits that lead us to ruminate and self-loathe but all seem pretty unhelpful from where I am sitting.

So how about we give ourselves a break. We all need time to feel sorry for ourselves and although we may not be good at it, there are ways treat ourselves with a little more kindness.

  • Ask yourself; would I be so hard on a friend if they were standing in my shoes? No? Well why the double standard?
  • If others close by don’t understand, could you reach out to someone who will? Often speaking to a stranger can be helpful. This might be a therapist / counselor or a Samaritan (tel. 08457 90 90 90). There is support available and it is surprising how much of a relief it can be to get things off your chest without judgment.
  • Cut out the shoulds and musts. Not only are they unhelpful, but they are unrealistic. We don’t live in a perfect world so why expect perfection from yourself?
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. It is not what happens to us in life that defines our happiness but the beliefs we have about these events. Some of the happiest people in the world do not strive for 10 out of 10. 8 or 9 is fine for them and good enough is good enough.


Choosing the Right Therapist for You

This blog is aimed specifically at individuals seeking help for common mental health problems in the private sector. However, I would also suggest individuals bear in mind their right to request an alternative practitioner should they be receiving help via the NHS mental health teams.

Having worked in both the NHS and private practice, I am all too aware of the high demand for talking therapies. The world appears to be getting more and more demanding of people’s time and energies. Keeping on top of financial responsibilities in a time when jobs are scarce and money is tight, is a significant factor. Social media can become a demanding past-time, especially for young people who may use this as an essential means of maintaining friendships and self-esteem.
The demand for psychological support via the NHS has meant that waiting lists are inevitable and in many cases there is a time limit on how many sessions an individual may be offered. Private treatment does not come cheap and for many people this is a last resort. As a private practitioner, specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I see many individuals who have not had the opportunity to fully address issues via the NHS or have been dissatisfied by the support received. This dissatisfaction is not restricted to NHS treatment, as many people have received a variety of therapies from a number of different services.

A significant part of any mental health practitioner’s training is the importance of developing and maintaining a strong therapeutic alliance. In layman’s terms, this means ensuring clients feel that they have a positive rapport with their therapist. This involves cultivating trust and ensuring that clients feels listened to, understood and free to disclose without judgment.
I will always stress that the client assess this alliance following the first session and continue to do so throughout treatment. Thankfully, the days when psychotherapists were viewed as ‘experts’ are long gone, and clients’ are now asked to co-create a treatment plan and are viewed as the experts of their world. The therapist is a facilitator, whose role it is to draw clients’ attention to the effect of their particular world view on their general wellbeing.

In my view, therapists are no different from any other tradespersons. I would not think twice about ditching a hairdresser or financial advisor should they fail to meet my standards as a customer. There are good hairdressers and there are bad hairdressers and therapists are no different.

So how do you assess whether your particular therapist is a good’n? The pointers below may be of help:
• Make sure your therapist has covered all aspects relevant to your problems at assessment. Assessments can take more than one session, but ideally your therapist should ask if there is anything else of relevance that hasn’t been covered.
• Ask yourself the following questions; do I feel listened to? Do I feel judgment is being passed or blame apportioned? Am I holding back out of fear of being judged?
• You should feel able to question the therapist’s rationale for treatment and challenge any assumptions they may be making that do not fit with your view of the situation.
• Are you getting your money’s worth? Therapists can charge anything from £30 to in excess of £100 for a one hour session. It’s a significant investment for anyone, and the more money you pay does not necessarily equate to better treatment.
• Ask yourself; do I understand the treatment plan? If not, this is because your therapist has not explained things enough. Do not feel embarrassed to ask for further explanation, it is vital for you to feel you understand the rationale behind treatment whether it is counseling, CBT, or otherwise.
• And remember, just because your therapist may have a long list of qualifications alongside their name, this should not bamboozle you into persevering with therapy should you feel it is not heading in the right direction. However, choosing an accredited therapist is often advisable in the first instance as they are held to account for their practice by their accrediting body and must adhere to specific guidelines and ethical procedures.