It’s often been said that the only certainty in life is that everything changes. Some changes we can see coming and are gradual, for example the demise of icons of the modern world such as Woolworths, Concorde, VHS Video Recorders, Floppy Disks and flared trousers. Others can be sudden and take us by surprise like bereavement, redundancy and relationship break-ups.
Nothing or no-one it seems is exempt from the march of change and by now Friends of TAP will know that TAP has reached the end of it’s long illustrious road and is closing it’s doors for good. The seeds of this ending were sown with the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic in early 2020, which has caused chaos and misery around the world. For our small organisation it meant that Talks had to cancelled along with the annual Conference, the latter of which generated much of the income for the work of TAP.
Unable to provide the type of presentations that TAP was famous for, the committee put membership on hold and looked at different ways that it might continue to exist but found little in the way of alternatives. With some of the committee now wishing to stand down and follow other paths an appeal was sent out to Friends of TAP for new committee members, however only one positive reply was received, which still left the Council shorthanded. (Thank you to that person, it was much appreciated). With TAP unable to operate and with little prospect of the situation improving, the decision was made by the majority to close TAP down permanently.
With any ending comes reflection and perhaps now is a good time to thank all the people who served on the TAP Council in the past. Their roles were varied from putting out chairs and making hot drinks to organising the conference and finding speakers and what speakers they found. It’s fair to say that almost every approach to therapy and it’s related subjects were examined over the years and presented by wonderful speakers, many of which were leaders in their field, so a big thank you to you all.
Many `Friends of TAP` will no doubt have fond memories of TAP’s previous venue of the United Reformed Church on the corner of Paul Street that served us well for many years. Later saw the move to the Friends Meeting House in Bath Place. It’s here that many will recall the social gatherings after the Talks where members and guests enjoyed a friendly chat accompanied by a hot drink and the now legendry biscuits. These events were so popular that often a committee member had to `call time` to end the evening.
As therapists we are accustomed to endings, however I anticipate the loss of TAP will have wider implications to it’s members and friends. For many it has been a valuable source of CPD, not only being of high quality but also being affordable. Another facet of TAP was the networking. For some the working life of a therapist can be quite solitary but TAP brought together an eclectic mix of people who shared one aim – to help others.
On behalf of the committee I would like to thank everyone past and present involved with TAP and wish you good health and good fortune.
The long awaited date of Monday 19th July 2021 came and went with very mixed reactions across England. Widely known as `Freedom Day`, it heralded the end of almost all legal restrictions on social contact. Instead, the emphasise now focuses on individual responsibility and common sense to keep people safe. But how will this freshly acquired liberty affect us after so many months of lockdown?
For a few, Freedom Day was purely academic as they never really adhered to the rules anyway as seen in news clips of hectic house parties, disorderly demonstrations, boisterous barbeques and riotous behaviour during political or sporting events. However, for the majority of the responsible populace it was a day when they could take back the freedoms that we have enjoyed and taken for granted since the end of WW2.
But how willing are we to completely abandon the safeguards and protective measures that were in place for so long? Most of us will be familiar with the Stockholm Syndrome, where a hostage forms a psychological bond with their captors. In the original situation that gave the syndrome it’s name back in 1973, hostages held during a bank raid defended their captors after being released and would not agree to testify against them. So, it’s possible that some of us will be reluctant to cast off the bonds that bound us during lockdown and continue in the ways that we have now come accustomed too.
Not inclined to wait any longer, were the clubbers who queued outside their favourite nightspots in anticipation of the clocks to turn midnight and for Freedom Day to begin. Film clips showed revellers packed tightly into venues across England with no sign of masks or social distancing. On leaving in the early hours some young customers described the occasion as the best experience of their lives.
Locally, we are still seeing the likes of coffee shops and retailers asking their staff to continue to wear masks. On shop floors we still see the footprints guiding us around the one way systems that most of us have tried to follow and of course the plastic screens that divide us and compound problems for those with hearing loss. Outside on the pavements, the sprayed on instructions to keep two metres apart now look worn and tired but still remind us of the sense of Disturbia that many of us felt on the street.
During a recent visit after July 19 to Seaton, East Devon, I witnessed family groups and couples wonderfully spaced out on the beach as if the wide gaps between them had been carefully measured. Queues for ice cream and fish and chips were socially distanced and good humoured and people were giving each other space on the pavements. So is it possible that the shift from the rule of law and regulation to one of individual responsibility and common sense actually might work or was I viewing mankind on a good day?
So, the question of whether people have the confidence to return to some kind of normal life still remains largely unanswered. If we are hesitant, I feel it’s not surprising in view of the devastation the pandemic has brought to thousands of families across the country. However, our road to complete freedom is not a straight one as it’s full of twists and turns in the form of misinformation, conspiracy theories, myths and superstition which hamper our journey. We have been urged to go with the science, which seems good advice on the surface except that science may be found to be the cause of this mess in the first place – we will see.
Why `Merdeka`? As many will know, Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language meaning `free` or `independent` and is derived from the Sanskrit `maharddik`. It sounds good to me.
© David Trott TAP Council Member
In a move away from our usual approach to a TAP blog which regularly discusses subjects related to our work as therapists, our offering this month is rather existential in it’s style and will discuss TAP’s place in our member’s world once the Covid-19 situation eases. We will cast out some thoughts and then look forward to receiving any feedback and responses.
Because of the Covid-19 situation, it’s been well over a year now since TAP was able to provide a Talk for it’s members and guests and it’s beginning to feel like an age since we enjoyed the networking and sociability elements of those occasions. Since then we have seen and felt all our lives turned upside down and uncertainty has become the new norm.
The TAP committee would love to hear how you, our members see Talks happening in the future and in what circumstances would you feel happy about attending. For example, is the venue still suitable, how do you see the seating being arranged, should numbers be limited, would pre-booking your ticket be a good idea. Also ,would you still stay and enjoy the hot beverages and biscuits afterwards at the `Après Talk` and even, weather permitting could we move outdoors?
Historically TAP’s Annual Conference has been very successful, with it’s blend of prominent speakers, networking opportunities and tasty lunches, brought together in an excellent venue set in the beautiful Somerset countryside. But how do we see Conferences in the future? In these uncertain times it’s probably difficult to visualise it but once again how many delegates should attend? How many tables should we have? How many people should sit at each one and how do we picture coffee and lunch times.
As you may know, the revenue from the Annual Conference is crucial in helping to finance the Talks that we enjoy throughout the year. Of course the Conference itself is costly to put on and so we rely on good attendance to make it viable. To this end, the subject matter is central to delegates wanting to attend. Therefore the committee would really appreciate any ideas about what subjects, attendees would like see presented. What would fire up your enthusiasm?
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has always been an important facet of TAP. The committee has prided itself through the years with providing the opportunity for good quality CPD at reasonable cost to it’s members and guests. With the current Covid situation it’s likely that most of us have had to look beyond our usual sources for CPD and so we would like to hear about what you are thinking about your own CPD. How you are filling the void left by the absence of TAP Talks at the moment, what excites you, what you need, what would help you develop and blossom?
It’s possible of course that members might consider that the prospect of Talks and Conferences as we know them to be out of the question altogether for the foreseeable future. If this is the case, could we adapt to virtual events via the likes of Zoom, Skype or some other application? How would you feel about this type of presentation?
We would value your thoughts about how we promote TAP and could we do it better? Does TAP come up in conversation your colleagues? Do you hear it mentioned in your work and do you visit and like the website? We are not thinking of advertising on the side of a bus but hearing of your ideas around the material we might use would be useful.
It’s probably a bit cliché to talk of TAP as a family, however the committee are members and members often join the committee so there’s a real closeness in the mix. Many of us have become firm friends and in times past it was always good to see the hugs and handshakes of attendees on arrival at the Friends Meeting House. Having members on board has always been important to the committee and we suppose never more so than now. So, when you can, let your creative juices flow and please tell us how you see TAP in times ahead and how we might handle the future.
You can message us through our Facebook page or direct email@example.com
The TAP Committee
In the brilliant cops and robbers classic film `The Italian Job` (1969) starring Michael Caine, there are many clever and memorable scenes involving the trio of red, white and blue Mini Coopers that whisk away stolen gold from under the noses of the Italian authorities. One of these scenes shows the minis being closely chased by the police around a large car sales site. To evade capture the minis race into a British sales area and quickly park amongst the other minis there. The hapless police pass close by without seeing our band of likeable rogues, who are hidden in plain sight.
In a recent re-run of a repeat of a previously shown episode of `New Tricks` our vintage detectives discuss where their dastardly villain might have hidden a valuable book. After careful consideration it was decided that the aforementioned book was probably hidden in the London Library with the other one million books.
On the same theme, if we were in the business of receiving a valuable stolen racehorse, where would we hide it? A fortified enclosure with `Keep Out` signs and CCTV might well attract unwanted attention, while renting a place at a reputable racing yard would require paperwork and some plausible answers to their questions. It’s possible that the best place might be in a farmer’s field with lots of other horses.
It’s often been said that if one is kitted out with a high visibility vest, hard hat and a clip board, one can wander around almost anywhere unchallenged. Similarly who would really notice someone in a white coat with a stethoscope around their neck and a sheaf of papers under their arm in a hospital?
Moving away from the fictitious world of Film, TV and imagined scenarios and into the sometimes harsh brutality of real life, we have seen examples of people in the public gaze leading a kind of Jekyll and Hyde double life. One such person of course was Jimmy Savile and although there were many allegations of his activities during his lifetime, these were largely dismissed and the accusers ignored. Hiding in plain sight, Savile was said to have been given an office in the grounds of Broadmoor Hospital where he worked along with a bedroom and a set of keys to the wards. Widely praised as a fundraiser of an estimated £40 Million during his lifetime and decorated by the Queen, Savile’s real legacy is far darker for his many victims.
Another person hiding in plain sight was Harold Shipman, the GP turned serial killer who was convicted of murdering 15 of his patients but was thought to have actually killed around 250. Seen as a respected member of the community but lacking the celebrity of Savile, Shipman was interviewed in 1983 for an edition of the Granada Television’s documentary World in Action on how the mentally ill should be treated in the community.
It’s widely recognized that a high percentage of murder victims know the perpetrator and this ties in with TV appearances by some people who know more about a crime than they are disclosing. In the past we have seen many relatives of victims on TV, apparently overwhelmed in grief, appealing for help and information regarding their loved one, only to be arrested and charged later in connection with it.
In 2002, the Nation watched as Ian Huntley a College caretaker in Soham, spoke to reporters on TV about missing school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. He put himself at the centre of the investigation by claiming to be the last person to see the girls and appeared to want to help by showing the police around the College and assisting in the search. He attempted to point the finger at others and away from himself and tried to build a relationship with the police to gain information about DNA. He seemed almost too helpful but his few minutes on TV went far and wide and soon reports about his history flooded in to an already suspicious investigative team. Following the discovery of items of the girls clothing at the College, Huntley was arrested and charged on suspicion of abduction and murder. Shortly after came the awful news that the bodies of Holly and Jessica had been found, which dashed the hopes of the nation that somehow a happy ending would transpire.
Many experts have dissected the film of Huntley frame by frame and have pointed to words and mannerism which indicate where this evil double child killer was lying. Huntley tried and failed to hide in plain sight and went down for a minimum of 40 years. In setting this minimum term of imprisonment, Mr Justice Moses stated: "The order I make offers little or no hope of the defendant's eventual release.
So, how do we relate the concept of `Hiding in Plain Sight` to our work as therapists? I believe it’s subjective and that there’s no one single answer, which leaves you the reader to make up your own minds. However, we are all aware that very often a client’s presenting issue is not the real one and that something else lies at the root of their distress. I guess it’s all about being vigilant, watchful and alert in our work and staying aware of what could be behind the mask. `Hindsight` as they say `is a wonderful thing` and it’s easy to look back at events retrospectively and see where mistakes have been made. The usefulness of this of course is the learning we get from it and also it’s application in the present. ©David Trott 2021
The first signs of the New Year that most of us see is often the fireworks over Sydney Harbour in Australia that illuminate the iconic Bridge and Opera House a good ten hours before we celebrate the occasion here in the UK and this year has been no exception albeit slightly muted. It’s likely that people will not mourn the passing of 2020 too much with memories of the Covid-19 epidemic reeking chaos and misery across the world. However with all of our own country now in total lockdown and huge numbers of the new variant of Covid-19 cases every day I guess there’s little enthusiasm for celebrating the arrival of 2021 except for the promise of the vaccines.
For many people, the New Year can bring about ideas of making changes to their lives in the form of Resolutions. In years past it was not unusual for people to draw up lists of these pledges, which might have included: to stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, lose weight, get a better job or take the dog out more often. However, unfortunately New Year Resolutions are seldom kept and this can bring about feelings of disappointment in us and so we feel worse. The main reason for the lack of success of these promises is that they are often unrealistic and also unachievable without outside support.
As therapists of course, we are in an excellent position to provide this support and that is why at this time of year our counselling and psychotherapy world is usually extra busy. Depending on our modality, we might employ the S.M.A.R.T. approach: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed.
For example Specific might be going cycling to keep fit. Measurable - deciding how often and how far one might go. Achievable - confirming one is up to the task – are there any reasons why this can’t be done, health etc? Relevant – will this help to keep fit? Timed – when will it start, how long, when will progress be reviewed?
As therapists we can work with our clients to decide if the changes they want to make are achievable. In my work with clients I sometimes use John Bird, the founder of The Big Issue magazine as an example of how to break down a problem into manageable chucks. In his book ‘Change Your Life – 10 steps to get what you want` (2008 Vermilion Publishing) he writes of his chaotic younger years days of shoplifting, burglary and homelessness and how he was imprisoned in a young offenders’ institution at the age of fifteen where he was locked in a cell for 23 hours each day. He had been abandoned by his family and felt hated by everyone. At one point he ran away from the institution but was caught and taken back. As a punishment he was instructed to dig over a huge field with a spade and a pitchfork. The size of the task was meant to overwhelm and defeat him but he was determined not to let that happen. Mentally, John divided the field into small squares of 3% which straight away made the task more manageable and also meant that he could measure his progress. Every time he dug over a square he felt he had achieved something and this made it easier to keep going. By breaking down this huge job into small steps, it was no longer daunting. This was the birth of his now legendary 3% rule.
Breaking down the problem with baby steps, small steps, little victories or the 3 % rule will almost certainly make the issue in question more manageable but we still need to decide together if the ultimate goal of the client is actually achievable. Clients wanting to be CEO of M&S by Easter, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World by the end of the summer or an Astronaut by Christmas will need all of our helping skills if they are to avoid a feeling of disappointment. Here the application of a Force Field Analysis might be useful to identify Hindering Forces and Facilitating Forces, allowing the clients to build a tangible picture of the pros and cons of their wishes. As discussed in TAP’s Christmas blog, those of us that have reasonable expectations of what we are able to achieve will often surpass those expectations and in doing so will improve our self esteem.
When a new client arrives at our counselling room and after the pleasantries and admin are over, one of the first things we might ask is `So, what brings you here?` and later `What are your expectations of counselling?` or `What are you hoping to achieve?` And however cloudy, vague or guarded the answers might be, we then tease out what their goal really is. But there’s a huge underlying factor here and that is hope. Our client has singled us out from the possibly dozens of therapists in our area. They have probably trawled the Internet for some time, reading profile after profile, studying picture after picture and comparing qualifications and modalities and after all that they have chosen us. They have chosen us because they believe we offer hope, hope that we can help them get from where they are now to the place they want to be. And there’s the balance isn’t it? Optimism and hope for change within achievability and realism.
©David Trott 2021
A personal view by David Trott
It’s often been said that once the world famous Bridgwater Carnival is over, the clubs and organisers immediately start working towards the following year’s fantastic event. Sometimes I feel Christmas is little like that. From late summer or early autumn we witness the shops hauling out their Christmas stock and we once again listen to a festive loop of music which encourages us to wish that it could be Christmas every day.
I don’t intend to drift into a Dickensian `Bah-Humbug` theme around the festering festive season, however there are aspects of Christmas that I have found unsettling and troubling in the past. Most of this disquiet revolved around perfectionism and the portrayal of the perfect family enjoying the perfect Christmas.
This image was often brought into our homes by advertisers on the TV where we saw a sort of annual competition by the major retailers to produce the most idealistic and romantic picture of the season. In these near epic productions we observed Mum and Dad in their Christmas togs providing lunch for their happy smiling children and the cheerful, clean and tidy grandparents. The magnificent meal was often prepared in an ultra modern kitchen the size of an aircraft hanger, where the happy couple stopped work occasionally for an adoring kiss under the mistletoe. These small screen Christmas offerings usually unfolded in a superior residence at the end of a chipping drive with manicured lawns, where a twelve stone Labrador ran free.
Those of us who work with clients who lean towards perfectionism will know the pitfalls of this pattern of thought, with the constant struggle to achieve and obtain the often unachievable and unobtainable. For example not being content with our efforts to lay the perfect lawn, paint the perfect picture or raise the perfect children can be at the root of many psychological issues and our work is often to address those hazy origins and the resulting negative thoughts. I’ve frequently worked with clients who needed to achieve perfection in everything they did and I well remember the breakthroughs when they realised that sometimes `good enough` is ok. Linked closely to this is the belief that those of us that have reasonable expectations of what we are able to achieve will often surpass those expectations and in doing so will improve our self esteem and as a result, our wellbeing. However, this view of things might flounder when we consider Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel ceiling, Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa and perhaps Antonio Canova and his Three Graces. Did they reach perfection with their work or were they just `good enough`?
So, what’s Christmas going to be like on the small screen this year? Well, already we are seeing advertisers acknowledging that it will be different because of the Covid-19 situation. I’m guessing images of glossy cocktail parties, families of forty-seven around a dining table and a million people in the fountain in Trafalgar Square at New Year will have to be consigned to the store cupboard for the moment, but how will that be for the perfectionists in our midst? There’s an old Somerset saying that states `Life is not all beer and skittles` and however rustic and bucolic that may sound, it does have some truth in it. Those of us that accept that life can be sometimes be flawed and unfair may well journey through the festive season slightly better than the perfectionists who are still trying and failing to achieve perfection in these strange and often distressing times. Less than perfect times were often examined musically by the early American blues players and more recently by Ralph McTel with his haunting `Streets of London`, Phil Collins with `Another day in paradise` and of course the Pogues with `Fairytale of New York`. So if Christmas this year isn’t perfect, could it be `good enough`? Let’s wait and see.
© 2020 David Trott - TAP Council member
It's a pleasure to introduce our new talk by Rachel Freeth - 'Who are mental health services for? A Psychiatrist’s perspective', which explores the current context of mental health services and some of the implications of this. We have used Facebook to host the video but don't worry, you don't have to be signed up to Facebook to see it on the platform!
If this talk has peaked your interest, Rachel's book - 'Psychiatry and mental health, a guide for counsellors and psychotherapists', is currently available at an introductory price on PCCS Books website by clicking here:
Psychiatry and Mental Health: a guide for counsellors and psychotherapists
or join her at her next Online Conference here
It’s October 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to devastate families across the world. Here in the UK most shops and facilities have reopened but we are witnessing an increase in cases again. However we now see people in conversation on the street, seemingly more relaxed about meeting others but still mainly social distancing.
From my own experience one of the first question asked on meeting someone is `How are you?` This might be genuine concern for the other’s well being or a testing of the water as to whether it’s safe to converse with this individual or should we leap five paces back and put on our space helmet.
How are you? Is a question that is used by millions of people every day since King Arthur enquired about Guinevere’s headache? However it’s often asked in a superficial, shallow way just as a means of breaking the ice in a conversation. In the counselling world it’s a genuine and meaningful question that provides an insight to the client’s world but often the reply is guarded, stilted and vague. Here are some examples of how we might reply to `How are you?` and what actually might be being said.
If you had just had a meal at a restaurant or pub and someone asked how you enjoyed it and you said it was `ok` what would that say about the meal? `I’m ok` often shuts down further enquiries.
You have just had your living room decorated and your friend asks if you are pleased with the result, to which you say `it’s alright`. `I’m alright can also shut down further dialog on the subject of `you`.
Short sharp response to a question about your wellbeing. Discourages any further discussion about how you are. Can be used to cover up one’s real feelings. FINE is a well known light hearted acronym in the counselling world, often seen as - Feeling Insecure, Neurotic and Excitable or similar.
Apples sometimes go` bad` so you’re saying that you’re not mouldering like overripe fruit. Some honesty here.
Crossing the Irish Sea can cause seasickness when it’s rough. Other times it can be `pretty good` but still a little choppy. `Pretty Good` is better than it could be but not as good as one may like it to be.
`I’ve been better`
There’s honesty here and invites the listener to enquire further as to what might be wrong.
`Rubbing along` or `I’m hanging in there`
This answer once again reveals that the speaker is having a rough time and invites the listener to ask for clarification.
`I’m not good`. `I feel awful.` `Things are terrible`. `I’m so miserable`. `I’m really sad`.
Real honesty and openness. Saying how it really is. Encourages the listener to enquire more.
Fishermen are hardy souls, sitting by lakes and canals for hours on end, seemingly impervious to our sometimes inclement weather. However, have you noticed how often you see fishermen wearing sunglasses even on dull and overcast days? No? Well they do. And this is not some vain attempt to look like Tom Cruise in Topgun but a calculated use of technology to outwit those shrewd and cunning fish. For those sunglasses are polarised which allows the wearer to see below the surface of the water to those crafty creatures below.
As therapists we do this all the time, deciphering what lies below the surface of our clients, only we don’t need to wear sunglasses or have polarised ears to do it, we just do it. So next time we hear someone on the street asking another how they are, loiter slightly and hear what they say. Are they ok, alright, fine or something else? Are they guarded or open? Vague or specific? It’s an interesting exercise.
© 2020 David Trott – TAP Council Member
We are delighted to be able to resume our talks with the help of the Brewhouse venue in Taunton. This first talk is by Julia Samual about her new book "This Too Shall Pass" and will be taking place at;
6.30PM - Tuesday 22nd September 2020
Venue: Brewhouse Theatre, Coal Orchard, Taunton TA1 1JL
About the talk
We live in a culture of limitless choice - and life is now more complex than ever. In This Too Shall Pass, acclaimed psychotherapist Julia Samuel draws on hours of conversations with her patients to show how we can learn to adapt and thrive during our most difficult and transformative experiences.
Tickets: £9.50 from Brendon Books
Call 01823-337742 or www.brendonbooks.co.uk
Beth Livingston presented a popular talk at TAP 'Perspectives on Fibromyalgia' alongside Maddy Newson in 2019. The landscape of Counselling and Psychotherapy has been through an upheaval since then, prompting questions for many about how we practice within current and potentially ongoing restrictions. For some therapists this may have led them to consider the option of working outside. As such this timely talk from Beth examines Ecotherapy and the act of moving psychotherapy outside. Beth is relatively new to Ecotherapy and does not present herself as an expert but, as someone who has started down this path, is able to bring insight from her experiences and learning.
Whilst this format of talk prevents the usual Q&A and networking we all associate with a TAP talk, Beth has invited anyone with further questions to contact her directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Further details about Beth and the therapy she offers, are available from her website http://www.bethlivingston.co.uk/
Finally on behalf of it's members, TAP would like to thank Beth for her generosity in providing this talk.
Without further ado and a virtual round of applause we are pleased to present;
Beth Livingston - Ecotherapy and the act of moving psychotherapy outside.
Click on this link to view the presentation;