An article I wrote for Edinburgh Helping Hands
Mental health and wellbeing is a subject that is appearing in discussions more and more. Conversations are happening. From community hubs to cafes and classrooms, from shops, warehouses, offices and meeting rooms to playgrounds, parks and pubs – a topic (and I believe that we should be talking about it as one topic rather than separating mental and physical health) which is integral to every single human being in the world is appearing more regularly than ever before in one to one discussions, group chats, formal presentations, written articles, documentary films, drama productions and across social media output.
I am very much looking forward to speaking at Lets Talk: The Tweenage Years - Teenage Brain, Mental Health and Wellbeing at an event for parents, care givers, teachers, youth workers and anyone else in the lives of young people.
I will explore topics such as the various stages of development and the impact on young people and those around them, the additional impact of stress and any childhood trauma, and what can be done to support young people on their journey to adulthood.
The event will be held on November 23rd at Linlithgow Academy, West Lothian, Scotland and is part of the Scottish Book Trust's Scottish National Book Week.
For further information and to book tickets:
If you are not already aware, I am delighted to share with you that I recently joined the team at YouthLink Scotland, for 3 days per week. This will combine very well with my other work, which currently includes leading an internationally accredited Basic Intensive Workshop in the psychological model of Choice Theory and the application to counselling or counselling skills relationships (called Reality Therapy). The course also includes practical applications in education and leadership in the workplace (Lead Management). This is based in Midlothian, Scotland and I am also facilitating the follow on course, a Basic Practicum, with a group in Edinburgh. These are steps 1 and 2 of 5 in becoming a qualified practitioner.
I am also currently doing one to one counselling and one to one and group supervision work for counsellors and those who use counselling skills in their work, such as project workers, healthcare professionals, teachers and managers.
I am also very much enjoying leading a self care for mental health and wellbeing group for men at The Ripple Project in Edinburgh (@RippleRestalrig), as part of the NHS social prescribing Community Link Worker programme.
For further details of training, supervision, coaching and counselling options (all trauma informed and skilled) and availability or to make a booking with NowCounselling, please get in touch.
Another important area of my life that is giving me great enjoyment is being part of the team of volunteers at Edinburgh Helping Hands (@EdiHelpingHands). For more details of how to get involved by volunteering or supporting the work with a donation, for details of the variety of support on offer for people and communities, or all of the above - visit https://solidaritynotcharity.com/
Interested in learning more about self care for your mental health and wellbeing?
Ever tried mindfulness or meditation? If not, the first steps are easier than you think.
All you need is yourself!
Take just a few minutes - outside is ideal but not essential - where you feel comfortable and safe and where there is a good chance that you won't be disturbed.
Think about putting all of your thoughts on pause, other than those related to what is going on for you right now in the world around you. There is lots of information available to your senses right now, more than you may feel consciously aware of, and you can choose to observe some of it.
Choice Theory Basic Workshop running in Midlothian, Scotland - places available for September 2019
Plus Basic Practicum group places available and news about other courses and services:
Following the recent NowCounselling Basic Instensive Workshop in Edinburgh on the psychological model of Choice Theory (which is primarily about understanding self and self care), Reality Therapy (the application of this in a counselling setting) and Lead Management (the application of the psychology in a counselling skills setting such as support work, medical professions, teaching - indoors or outdoors, sports and management), I now have a course booked for September 2019 (Monday 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd) with places available - the cost is £350. If you would like to discuss further details or to register interest in a place then please get in touch.
This is an opportunity for a useful and valuable personal development experience, as well as continuous professional development should that apply to your situation. It is also step 1 of the UK and internationally recognised (https://www.wgi-uk.co.uk/ and http://www.wglasserinternational.org/) qualification as a Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management practitioner (denoted by the initials CTRTC after one's name).
Following the recent NowCounselling Basic Instensive Workshop in Edinburgh on the psychological model of Choice Theory (which is primarily about understanding self and self care), Reality Therapy (the application of this in a counselling setting) and Lead Management (the application of the psychology in a counselling skills setting such as support work, medical professions, teaching, sports and management), I now have a small but growing number of people - based in and around Edinburgh, Midlothian, West Lothian and East Lothian - who are interested in doing the course so I am planning to run another one towards the end of this summer, likely in September. If you would like to discuss further details or to register interest in a place then please get in touch.
This is an opportunity for a useful and valuable personal development experience, as well as continuous professional development should that apply to your situaion. It is also step 1 of the UK and internationally recognised (https://www.wgi-uk.co.uk/ and http://www.wglasserinternational.org/) qualification as a Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management practitioner (denoted by the initials CTRTC after one's name).
Step 2 is the Basic Practicum: I am running a group with current students at the moment in and around Edinburgh, which involves a combination of approaches to study including distance learning, self study, set practical work, reading, other assignments and group meetings. Through a process of guided self evaluation, the students will progress on to the advanced stage of the programme (stages 3 and 4). If you would like some further information on this or to register interest in a place (entry requirment for this is completion of stage 1 - a Basic Intensive Workshop) then please get in touch.
These courses provide an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to develop the relationship with self. This is also the first step towards being in a position to connect more deeply with others, whether that be in working relationships or personal relationships. Self care is a key theme throughout and all NowCounselling courses and services involve the opportunity to learn important and useful mental health and wellbeing techniques and tools for self management from essential moment to moment self regulation to deal with the stress we can all face in every day life, to strategies to manage the impact of more complex difficulties caused by trauma, to important and easy to impliment steps towards feeling fitter, healthier and more energised.
I also offer one to one and group counselling, coaching or mentoring to support you with personal or professional issues and deliver one to one and group psychologically informed supervision if you are a counsellor or therapist or use counselling skills in your role - including if you work in a role that involves interacting with colleagues and the public and if you are a leader of a team, group or organisation.
Self Reliant Groups - Dream Big
'Would you like an alternative future compared to the life that you have now?
A future where you feel more empowered, in more control of your life and more connected to your community?
An SRG could be the next step for you.
Never Give UpPositive mental attitudeNever give up - I have got a target to hit so let't hit it.
Two incredibly powerful pieces of self talk. Mantras that we can all use to improve how we take care of ourselves for the purposes of mental health and wellbeing - self care. Words that can help us achieve what we want to achieve from moment to moment, that lead to us achieving what we want to achieve from day to day. Words that help us build a collection of days when we achieve the goals that we want to achieve, that lead to the weeks and the months that provide us with the feeling that all human beings strive for. Happiness, satisfaction, contentment? Choose your own word which best describes for you your mindset when you achieve your feeling that you derive from a sense of purpose.
They are the words of Andrew Jones (@Andy_Jonesy) who I interviewed recently in Edinburgh. One of his targets for that day was to complete the Cramond five kilometre Park Run (@parkrunUK). This was part of his training for his longer term goal of completing a half marathon, which he is set to do in Chester this weekend (@chestermarathon), all part of his overall goal of maintaining successful self care and living healthily. He has been training hard, eating and hydrating well and the results were clear to see in the slim and healthy looking figure I saw before me as he reflected on another successful run to take his weekly total comfortably above thirty kilometres whilst finishing his falafel and salad wrap, washed down with some more water.
For Andrew (37), a successful businessman from Ellesmere Port, this was another normal week. However, just over nine months ago, his normal was very different. He was around three and a half stone heavier and was much more likely to have been eating chips or a kebab, washed down with some more beer. He 'could not run a kilometre without stopping', and most significantly of all - he has been diagnosed with a kidney function of less than 16%. Such was the state of his health, he had reached the point where his target at that point had come down to, in his words; 'longevity of life'.
For the father of two (Rosalie 9 and Danielle 11) and husband to Stacey (@Stace_Jonesy - also 37), his life had reached a cross roads. He was faced with a clear choice. He could keep walking the path that he was walking, and stumble towards a bleak future, or he could start to take steps in a different direction and begin to walk a different path. The choice may sound like an obvious one, but obvious does not mean easy.
"The mind is what drives a human being, if you have that belief - pure belief in your heart - that you want to be successful then you can talk to your mind and your mind will control you to be successful.
"My mind is always free. My mind is flexible. That is why I wear this band on my wrist.
"I want to show the world that you can go beyond your thoughts, you can break more than you think you can break".
Ahead of this year's London Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge talked about the importance of the power of the mind, and the connection between action and thought, as featured in this BBC article https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/48055305
Mental health and physical health are often discussed and dealt with almost as completely seperate components within a mechanical machine. As I have written about extensively in previous articles and as I cover in detail in the various NowCounselling training courses that I design and deliver, I believe that they are completely overlapping and interlinked. I believe that overall health and wellbeing is a complete machine, a machine which is more computer like than mechanical.
I very much enjoyed facilitating a Basic Intensive Training course in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management for a group of counsellors in Edinburgh recently at the St Mungo's Ministry Centre.
We began by exploring the components of the psycholgical model of Choice Theory - perception, Basic Needs, wants (Quality World) and Total Behaviour - before discussing how they combine to form a dynamic and simultaneously occurring behavioural system.
We then spent time exploring how this psychology can inform practice as a counsellor (Reality Therapy) and improve relationships as a manager, teacher, coach and also as family member or friend (Lead Management).
The group successfully completed the 3 day course which, as well as being a valuable self care and continuous professional development experience, is the first of 5 steps towards becoming a qualified Reality Therapy practitioner.
For further information on doing a course like this or to book a place with NowCounselling, we look forward to hearing from you.
Stay Steady Striving
This week's article is dedicated to the life of Bradley Welsh. I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to get to know him in recent years and observe the inspirational impact that he had on so many people, not least through the work he did at his community Holyrood Boxing Gym and the organisation that he co-founded - Edinburgh Helping Hands: https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/helping-hands-make-a-difference-1-4723317
Thousands of people shared tributes last week on social media, and this was mine on Twitter:
'Difficult to find words to express the sadness today. It was a privilege to work alongside him @EdiHelpingHands + enjoy so much time @holyroodboxing and just spend time with one of the kindest men I have had the fortune to know. The world has lost such a hero'.
A little over one week on, the sense of sadness and the impact of this loss continues to sink in.
Thinking about some personal development and self care for you or your team or organisation? Or some learning and development and CPD?
We currently have a variety of courses available, not only for counselors or people that use counselling skills in their role (including healthcare staff, teachers and managers) but for absolutely any team, organisation or person. NowCounselling courses provide knowledge and understanding and relevent skills to apply to your life and/or work or studies, or any challenge that you have ahead.
1 day introduction to Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management for practitioners or for self care. 3 day Basic Intensive workshop in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management (this is 3 days CPD and also the first of 5 steps towards qualification as a Reality Therapy practitioner if people choose to take it forwards)1 day course on understanding the impact of trauma and working with clients in a trauma informed manner 1 day introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Motivational Interviewing (also available as separate half days)1 day introduction to group work skills and training facilitation (similar to the courses called something like 'train the trainer'). 1 or half day course on alcohol awareness and working with clients who identify as having a problem with alcohol1 or half day course on drug awareness and working with clients who identify as having a problem with drug(s)1 day course - Working with others effectively as part of a team 1 day course - Developing yourself as a leader (with a small or capital L)
I can also develop a bespoke course to suit the needs of your team, group or you, including motivational talks and team development days.
You tell me what you need and I will write it and deliver it!
Become Trauma Informed with Choice Theory:
'The core belief in having to be strong enough, characteristic of many people who develop chronic illness, is a defence. The child who perceives that her parents cannot support her emotionally had better develop an attitude of 'I can handle everything myself'. Otherwise, she may feel rejected. One way not to feel rejected is to never ask for help, never admit 'weakness' - to believe that I am strong enough to withstand all my vicissitudes alone'.
The above quote is from When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Dr Gabor Mate. It was shared this week on Twitter by Tigers (@TIGERS_UK), the Scottish based training provider who are a key part of the movement to increase awareness of the impact of trauma on all of us and to provide information and teach skills to enable us to work and live with this new understanding at the heart of everything we do. Along with the Dundee based Connected Baby (@connectedbaby) they led on the organisation of the seminal 'Ace Aware Nation' (@AceAwareNation) conference in Glasgow last year which they are following up with an event this year on June 11th at the Royal Concert Hall in the same city which features contributions from across the justice, health, education and care sectors as well as from award winning author of Poverty Safari - Darren McGarvey, along with Mate. Thanks to this movement, information about the impact of the stress caused by the trauma of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) is gradually becoming more widely available for all of us.
Learning about the impact of stress resulting from trauma or 'becoming trauma informed' simply transforms our understanding of ourselves and has the potential to improve all of the relationships that we are in, whether that be our relationships in our personal lives or those that we have in work or in school or other educational environments or indeed any other setting. For people that work in some professions, such as support work, childcare, teaching, policing or social work to name a few - becoming trauma informed is absolutely essential. In some other professions, it is only essential! Awareness of the impact of trauma on human beings, both in the short and longer term, can literally be life saving, whatever we do. This of course extends to all settings that we find ourselves in on a day to day basis from home to the sports centre or bus stop or street or shops.
Physiotherapy helps to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. It can also help to reduce your risk of injury or illness in the future.
The above definition is from the NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/physiotherapy/. I believe that we can and should shift focus in health care to treating the human mind in the same as we do other parts of the body that are affected by injury, illness or disability, devoting care, attention and resource to rehabilitation. In practice this will enable people to develop the necessary skills to make the progress that they want to make and empower them with the confidence and self belief to sustain those changes.
A positive step forwards was announced by NHS England this week who plan to recruit 1,000 social prescribing 'link workers' into general practice by 2021, as discussed here in GP online.
Arguably, the main motivation is to reduce costs and reduce pressure on GP services, who regularly see patients who need more time and support than they are able to offer, to address the challenges that they face which may or may not be directly connected to existing medical conditions that need to be treated. However, regardless of the factors behind the decision, it is a hugely positive and progressive step which will lead to positive outcomes for patients which will result in improved health and wellbeing and overall quality of life.
For many people, the first two full weeks of the year represent a return to a routine, to regular commitments; to work, school or study. As we land on the Friday of the second of these weeks, perhaps you feel a sense of satisfaction at what you have already achieved this year, or at very least a sense of relief that early January has been negotiated successfully (or just negotiated?!).
As the weekend approaches, which may or may not include a break for you, it is an important time to pause and reflect on what you have done so far this year (which will be more than you think), and to make sure that you are weaving self care into your day regularly. For more on this, see an article from November on this website: Self Care Week 2018 - What Questions are you asking yourself?
Here at NowCounselling, we have been focused on continuing to plan for the year ahead. As well as counselling, coaching, mentoring and psychologically informed supervision, training and staff learning and development is also very high on the agenda. Health and wellbeing for staff should be a key priority for all organisations, self care should be promoted and supported at all times. As part of staff wellbeing and development, ensuring access to adequate training is crucial.
Whether you are an individual looking to develop yourself personally and professionally, or represent an organisation looking to review and update provision for your staff, what we can offer at NowCounselling is equally suitable. Our approach is to assess your needs and unique requirements, find a common language to communicate the learning and design a programme to suit.
Whether your learning preference appears to be Activist, Pragmatist, Theorist or Reflector (to use Honey and Mumford's model) or whether Affiliative, Visionary, Coaching, Coercive, Democratic or Pace Setting (Goleman) best describe your leadership preference, we will design a course which is enjoyable, relevant and full of techniques that you can apply immediately to benefit your work as you move forwards.
Late December is a significant period of time for many people. Some of us celebrate Christmas, some do not, some feel that they have a reason to celebrate and some do not - for a variety of reasons. Some people are faced with difficulties which means that this time of year is anything but a period for celebration and for enjoyment and for others, it feels no different to other months of the year whether that be for wanted or unwanted reasons. Perhaps none of what I have said so far reflects this moment for you? After all, we all know our own story better than we know anything else's.
However this period of time feels for you and whatever this month represents, as we approach the start of a new year I invite you to consider what you have done in the past year. For some, there will be many positive experiences and achievements and for some there will be periods of difficulty and even tragedy. For many, there will be combinations of all of this and more, as is the case in our unpredictable life journeys. Whatever your reality, I invite to consider your progress over the past year and to reflect on the strength that you have and the resilience that you have shown yourself and others. We all have different realities, but we all share a common innate capability for strength and resilience which allows us to grow and we all desire to be compassionate to others and connect in close relationships.
Messages of 'peace and good will to all' are all around at the moment, which should be a message for now and for all seasons. And there is a part of that message that we should all remind ourselves to hold on to (because at times we need to) in this moment as much as ever, and that is the message of peace and good will to ourselves.The voice that we hear more than any others is our own, so whatever you are doing this late December, make sure you try your best to make sure that the words you say to yourself are kind ones. You are a strong and resilient and unique person, with so many qualities and so much to give. So remind yourself not to forget that.
#ItsOKNotToBeOK - and now we're starting to believe it.
It okay not to be okay. A message that is seen more and more regularly these days on social media and elsewhere, and one of such importance that it can never be repeated too many times. It also recently appeared at a club football stadium in Britain, when a large group of supporters wanted to give a wish of 'get well soon' to one of their heroes.
It was Leigh Griffiths, the 28 year old Celtic Football Club and Scotland striker. Sadly, just last week, it was announced by his employer that he would be taking some time off work due to some problems with his health and wellbeing. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46539911
"He's reached a point where it's a struggle for him. We are going to give him all the professional help he needs to get him back in a good place again."
The above quote is from his manager, which is one that is reasonable and what should be expected. However, in life and in particular on the issue of mental health and not least in young men, things are not always dealt with and responded to in a way which is reasonable and to be expected (as I discussed during in the article published on this website on November 9th - Talk Tonight: Mental Health is a daily priority for all of us).
Relationships last forever
'We had to face the wall the whole time Match of the Day was on. And the really cruel thing was that we could still hear everything. It was awful. I would cry myself to sleep whenever he did it'.
55 year old television presenter and ex-international football star Ian Wright this week shared some of his life experience in an interview for the Players' Tribune (https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/ian-wright-earning-my-smile) which was also reported on by the BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46357587).
He describes how, in the earlier years of his life in particular, he often struggled to manage his feelings and that this regularly led to him finding it difficult to negotiate the various challenges that he faced including his quest to progress through school and to finding employment, and with his football career. Anger and frustration and a lack of motivation and confidence regularly led to more challenges to negotiate. Fights were a regular part of life and he spent time in prison after not paying fines for driving offences.
As he reflects on his life now, enjoying a role as part of the presenting team for the famous weekly football show Match of the Day, he describes how the abuse he suffered as a child still affects him today. So much so that when he was first congratulated on securing the job by the lead presenter at the time, he stated that he 'nearly broke down crying'.
Friday 7th February 2018
1 day course: Introduction to Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management for self care and health and wellbeing.
Ideal for anyone with an interest in learning about this model of psychology and how it can be applied to help understand how we behave, and relate to others in all of the various relationships in our lives.
Venue: Stirling University, includes morning and afternoon refreshments (coffee, tea, water) and lunch.
'In short, trauma is about loss of connection - to ourselves, to our bodies, to others and to the world around us'. (Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, 1997).
Trauma comes in many different forms and affects human beings in a variety of different ways. Some of that depends on factors such as the life experience and coping strategies of the individual and also on factors related to environment. However, when faced with a traumatic situation, all human beings respond in a completely natural way. We respond by preparing as well as we can to face the situation with one sole purpose - to survive. The stress that we feel in this situation means that all of our focus is geared towards an inextricably linked psychological and physiological setting which is regularly described as fight, flight or freeze. By observing other animals in the natural world (something I have enjoyed doing recently on the BBC 'Dynasties' series https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06mvmmr ) we can see how effective this can be in terms of achieving the desired target.
When successful, this stress response not only keeps us alive in the moment but it can lead to us having a greater opportunity of surviving future trauma of a similar variety by leaving a psychological imprint. The experience is stored and echoes into the future so we are even better equipped to sense threat and danger and respond to it even more quickly and effectively. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective!), the variety of traumatic situations that we can face in life are more vast and complex compared to other animals and beyond the immediate situation, we have other goals as well as survival.
As well as the fact that all human beings share a physiological need for survival, we also strive to meet various psychological needs (how we do this depends on our perception), this plays out as a continuous battle and is the foundation of the struggle that we face when dealing with the impact of our stress response. When we are faced with a challenging situation in life, but one that is not a threat to our survival, we are capable of producing exactly the same stress response in both cases, and we often do.