Some thoughts and ideas.........
It’s July 2020 and the UK is slowly starting to emerge from the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic which has changed the way we all live our lives and which has brought suffering and misery to thousands. With the virus still out there in the community, people still becoming ill and many continuing to die every day from it, the powers that be deem it all right for certain businesses and services in England to open up and resume trading albeit in a careful and restricted way.
Among those itching to restart will be Face to Face Counsellors, Psychotherapists and many other types of practitioners who have been unable to work over the last few months. Those of us who already delivered therapy through other mediums like Skype, Zoom or even the humble telephone, were able to continue with client sessions while the remainder had the choice to move across into the new electronic world or just not practice at all.
So what are the implications of returning to face to face client sessions and what thoughts and feelings are going to be thrown up?
Firstly let’s look at the practicalities of resuming sessions and the measures that we can put in place to help client and therapist stay safe. To kick off here’s a few ideas I’ve had for my own counselling room:
So the practical side of resuming face to face work is relatively straight forward to put together and maintain, but what of the psychological aspect of it?
As we all know in counselling a key skill is active listening and this means really hearing what the client is saying, not just the words but the tone, inflections, the silences, the little nuances and of course body language. It’s hard work and to keep focused during the whole of the counselling hour can sometimes be a challenge. Most of us in our training will have worked with `blocks to communication` and high on the list of these is `distraction`. This can be the man outside with the pneumatic drill, the circling helicopter, the need to go to the loo, or illness among countless others. But we have a duty of care to our clients and the BACP code of ethics requires it’s members to put the wellbeing of their clients first by:‘making clients our primary concern while we are working with them.` The code also requires that members look after themselves and ensure `that our wellbeing is sufficient to sustain the quality of the work`. So there can be a balancing act going on between the client and therapist.
But we are all in unchartered territory with this pandemic which has killed thousands in the UK alone and it would be unusual not to have concerns about it. As therapists we usually strive for transparency and genuineness in our work with clients but how will this authenticity be affected or compromised if we have worries and concerns about the health of our clients? Furthermore will our underlying anxiety collide head on with any unease that our clients have for being there with us? Honesty and self disclosure will play a big part here. If we discover our client has fears and worries about coming back to face to face therapy and we have similar thoughts then share those concerns, after all you are both on this journey together.
No one has the definitive answer to how best to go back to face to face therapy – it’s just theories and guesswork with rules and advice changing almost daily. It’s likely that this will be one of those occasions when we must go with our instincts and examine the evidence. How well do we know our client? Is it likely they are being completely honest with us over their health? Are we confident that the measures that we have put in place to reduce the risk are adequate? We then need to balance all this with the evidence: How does the South West compare to other areas of the UK regarding the number of cases of Covid-19. What is the current `R` number for the region? Is this number rising or falling? While juggling all these ideas, facts and figures we still have to consider asymptomatic transmission where an infected person, who has not yet developed symptoms, is still able to transmit the virus. So in essence we have to make a judgement based on a whole raft of variables, many of which are out of our control. However, despite the bizarre old saying `ignorance is bliss` gen up on the virus and how it’s spread by visiting a reliable website like https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and use facts and evidence in making your decision.
David Trott © 2020 Council Member of Taunton Association for Psychotherapy (TAP)
Dear TAP Members,
This year’s AGM has been an opportunity to mark many changes, including the departure of Helena from the committee and the appointment of her successors,
Co-chairs: Steven Leather and Caroline Barrett. It was also a chance to acknowledge the likelihood of many more changes as we continue to grapple with the realities of Covid-19 on an individual and societal level.
One of the aspects which members have indicated as valuable is TAPs position as a local group which presents an opportunity to meet other practitioners. Clearly this aspect is more difficult to recreate in an online environment and the committee feels that currently the situation is too changeable to make any concrete plans for face-to-face meetings. As such, we have scheduled to review this again in September.
Additionally, because it is currently unclear what membership benefits TAP can offer or when, these will recommence the current suspension on membership will continue.
As ever, feedback from members is really important in helping us to continue to shape TAP to fit best the needs of its members so if you have any thoughts please do share them by emailing: email@example.com
We hope this finds you well and adapting to the interesting times we find ourselves in.
The TAP Committee
Find out more about BACP and their work on the website. Their Guidance and Resources regarding Coronavirus for members can be viewed here; www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/coronavirus/
TAP takes the safety of it's members and community extremely seriously and as such, in line with government guidance in relation to Covid-19, TAP will be suspending Talks and Workshops until further notice.
We will also be adding relevant news items here to help those suffering with anxiety and stress related to the difficult times that we are all experiencing.
Unfortunately, the original scheduled speaker for the evening (Mark Conway) was unable to attend the event. The evening was well attended and required extra seating, so luckily for us, TAP Council member Caroline Barrett
stepped into the breach and heroically presented `Physical Wellbeing & Mental Health` with just twenty minutes notice!
In a presentation that actively encouraged audience participation in a workshop style, Caroline firstly asked `What aspects of your physical wellbeing do you maintain, to support your mental health? Together with - Are we being negligent if we do not reference our client’s physical wellbeing and how it affects their mental health? Given a few minutes to work with people next to them, attendees soon shared interesting aspects of their own work and experiences around self care. The issue of clients actively perpetuating their problems such as anxiety by their own life style was addressed and further posed the question of therapists working with this in their sessions. An example might be the client staying up late playing computer games and not getting enough sleep or perhaps partaking of alcohol in the mornings. The audience was asked to reflect on how most therapists won’t gain any formal education in nutrition during their training and so their areas of expertise could be rather homespun.
With the aid of slides, Caroline offered more questions for the audience to work with including: `Are we working from a place of knowledge privilege` and `How did questions about your personal health choices and your practice make you feel? Do you think you could be asked about this topic in a way which doesn’t provoke an emotional response?` With no shortage of input from attendees the evening moved swiftly along and Caroline was thanked profusely for rescuing the evening in the vote of thanks.
However, the debate continued over hot beverages and biscuits, when in a conversation with TAP blog writer David Trott, Caroline explained a little about the rationale behind her presentation. `I think the key point I was trying to get across is that whilst therapists are aware of the impact of physical health on mental health, using it a lot in our own self-care practice, there is a lot of chat about promoting wellbeing by our professional bodies and theoretically there is a lot of research to say that improving physical health improves mental health but we are not trained in it and lack theoretical models in most common counselling disciplines therefore it is important we take opportunities to reflect on where it sits within our client work.`
The next TAP Talk takes place on Friday 21st February 2020, when Claire Plews presents 'Resilience in Therapy', which once again promises to be an informative and valuable Talk.
All are welcome.
Talk write- up provided by TAP Council member David Trott
Subject: Suicide Awareness & Response
Dr Andrew Tresidder & Alison van Laar
Participants of the latest TAP Saturday workshop braved a wet and cold wintry morning on the 9th Nov 2019 to attend a training day by Dr Andrew Tresidder, and Alison van Laar entitled `Suicide Awareness and Response`. Introduced by TAP chair Helena Trump, Andrew and Alison firstly established how the group would work together throughout the day including looking after each other and confidentiality on what can be a distressing and difficult subject. Expectations of the group were examined, which included learning more about suicide running in families, fear of using the word in therapy and therapist’s responsibilities among many others.
Setting the scene with some statistics, workshop participants heard that nationally, of those taking their own life only 30% had any contact with any Mental Health Services in the 12 months before their death. Research shows that 75% of suicides are male and the highest rate occurs in men aged between 30–59 years old although recently a rise in female rates of suicide has been recorded. In the UK it is said that 1 in 30 of us experience suicidal thoughts each year and that 1 in 10 act upon these thoughts. Suicide is the commonest cause of death in men and women aged 20-35, significantly above the rates for road traffic accidents, murder and heart disease.
No longer classed as a `crime` reports of suicide has seen the declining use of the verb `commit`, instead `complete` is more often used. This is in sharp contrast to England in the 13th Century where suicide was condemned as a mortal sin in the eyes of the Church and if proven the person would denied a proper burial and instead would be taken to a crossroads outside of the village in the dead of night and buried in a makeshift grave with no clergy or mourners. It was not until 1961 that suicide was decriminalised in the UK.
Working in pairs or triads, workshop participants were asked to consider when they have had someone concerned about suicidal thinking come and talk to them and to reflect on how it went and any risk factors identified. It was heard that `risk` is heightened by access to means, being bereaved, alcohol abuse, living alone and isolation, financial and legal problems, criminal proceedings, divorce, being bullied and unemployment among many other influences.
Andrew and Alison offered the view that suicidal thinking does not lead inevitably to the actual act and that suicidal thoughts occur in response to emotional or physical pain. It’s thought that most people just want to feel better in the present time and not end their life forever. Encouragingly the most powerful medicine for people with suicidal thoughts is `Hope`.
Andrew Tresidder is an accomplished author and copies of his book `Health and Self-Care` were on sale to participants of the workshop. For those keen to stay `paperless`, a free download of the book can be obtained here: www.healthandself.care
The day was punctuated with breaks for coffee, lunch and tea, which gave the group time to interact with each other, the presenters and to compare notes. By the end of the day it was clear that the workshop had been a great success and Alison and Andrew were thanked with a warm round of applause. Those interested in future TAP workshops are encouraged to regularly visit this website to view exciting new events for 2020. Remember, all welcome.
Workshop write-up provided by TAP Council Member David Trott
The talk subject: "Diversity in Practice"
Open to the general public as well as professionals, Taunton Association of Psychotherapists (TAP) hosted another interesting talk on Friday the 15th November at the Quaker meeting House in Taunton. The talk, ‘Diversity in Practice’ was given by Berkeley Wilde, founder and director of The Diversity Trust.
Berkeley has extensive experience within the field of diversity stretching back 30 years and encompassing a variety of settings including Relate, Terrence Higgins Trust, Department of Health, an All Parliamentary Group and with the European Men's Health Forum in Brussels. Berkeley also received the Ann Wood Award for making an Outstanding Contribution to Tackling Domestic Abuse in 2016.
The Diversity Trust, established in 2012, provides training and consultancy across a range of services; private, public sector and social purpose, to support and promote equality and inclusion. Berkeley describes the core tenets of the trust as research and evidence-based, this includes established links with higher and further education and researcher partnerships. The trust is also ethics led, this is clearly demonstrated by their policy of ‘open access’, making large amounts of research and materials freely accessible to the general public from their website www.diversitytrust.org.uk
Berkeley covered a huge amount of information, delivered in a relaxed and engaging way, which made a potentially challenging topic accessible to all. Not only was the historical and political context of gender and sexuality outlined, but also a critical eye was cast over the complexities and impact of language. In addition, how these and other barriers experienced by members of the LGBT+ community may prevent support seeking and inclusion and how services can make small alterations to indicate their recognition of diversity, making them a safe space.
Diversity and inclusion, whilst terms increasingly common, are arguably, nuanced concepts, the depths of which are not often explored. By using easy to understand models and case studies to help people visualize the concepts being discussed, interesting insights were gained by all who attended.
This talk also whets the appetite for TAP’s March conference ‘Exploring Gender Diversity and Bias in Therapeutic Settings’ with eminent speakers Dr Jay Stewart, MBE and Russell J. Thomas, which presents professionals and public alike the opportunity to gain a wealth of understanding about issues related to diversity, structural and unconscious bias.
Talk write-up provided by TAP Council Member - Caroline Barrett
The next TAP talk takes place on the 17th January 2020 with speaker Mark Conway on ‘Working with trauma and emotional dysregulation from a skills based perspective’.
All are welcome.
If you would like to attend the next talk, please register your interest on the form below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The talk subject: `The Long Goodbye:
With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, Rachel firstly
spoke of some assumptions relating to Psychiatric Diagnosis that
are commonly held and how she has questioned some aspects of
these beliefs over a long period of time. The assumptions are that a psychiatric diagnosis is similar to a diagnosis for a physical
health problem, a named medical condition and like a physical
health diagnosis, a psychiatric diagnosis is essential to decide
what treatment should given.
Welcome to the TAP blog. Here you will find articles of interest and write-ups of our TAP TALKS, including links and handouts where available
Black & Minority Ethnic Communities
First World War
Past Life Therapy