Out of the mouth of babes

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Working in CAMHS and perhaps especially as a grandparent looking after small children I have a rich supply of new angles on relationships with children. I have more troubled sleep over both roles than ever before. Despite my grand old age there is no slacking in my seriousness and still want to work well both professionally and personally.

The joy of working with children is the honesty you often get in the moment. When you get things wrong you know about it – or if they wont tell you direct they know an adult who can.

Its not always so. A wise old owl once told me that good news finds you but you have to go hunting for bad. He was sort of right in that some children are so sensitive and take on so much responsibility for things going wrong that they think it must be something they’ve done despite some of the appalling errors I have made (I am human). Thus, bad feeling (and thoughts) get buried.

I am part blameworthy for this – my seriousness and wanting to do well is somehow conveyed. I suspect that empathy on their part enables them to spot brittleness and they bite their tongue rather than risk my feelings. They are then wrongfooted when I “go a hunting” and sometimes put my own foot in it: “Why ask me how therapy is going for me when I am not ready to be honest”.

At home, I have had some time to reflect on my own honesty as I strive to be a “good enough grandad”. So I mask my frustrations and my distaste for all manner of bodily fluids and try and communicate an unconditional love for children regardless of what they have done in their pants or demands on time and energy.

What I haven’t squared (just yet) is in hiding my feelings do I somehow communicate something else which can be interpreted in all manner of ways: “Being honest is wrong” “What I have done is so wrong that he cant find the right words to express his disgust”. Fascinating stuff, well to me it is.

I am hoping I might be more clear headed when I go and do my talk with a local charity where I share how working with children has improved my work with adults – which it indeed has. Its putting these learning moments into words which others can grasp rather than leaving them thinking “What an old fuddy duddy if he weren’t so old I might have understood a word of that”. Or, if I am feeling very brave I might go hunting for honest thoughts as to whether the talk did make sense – and they may give an honest reply or maybe quietly smile but think its time for me to hang my boots up.

Light holiday reading!

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Before you consider me a sad person indeed for taking textbooks on holiday, in my defense I did finish a cracking thriller written by Kate Atkinson and at least started (a potentially great read) Sally Rooney’s Normal People.

But the book I did find quite inspirational is about Integrating Contemplative Practices (into other psychological therapies) edited by Victoria M. Follette and others. When I picked it up, I knew that I needed the luxury of time to best appreciate it – and what a good book it is.

Many of the chapters explore the use of mindfulness as a way in to helping people with mental and physical trauma. I came away feeling my ambition tempered and perhaps less likely to rush the whole process – no bad thing.

It reminded me of the room where I first attended creative therapies in order to increase my own psychological insights. There on the wall was a postcard that had the simple yet profound extract: “Tread softly as you tread on my dreams” (WB Yeats).

How great to be reminded what a privilege it is to work with the minds of others.

Super Books

Two super books that I will be sharing with both clinical staff, and students in the universities I teach:

Doing CBT: A Comprehensive Guide to Working with Behaviours, Thoughts and Emotions (2016) by David F Tollin is one of the best basic books on CBT;

and:

CBT Strategies for Anxious and Depressed Children and Adolescents (2017) by Eduardo L. Bunge is a great resource book full of illustrations to share with older children.

My teaching session with staff will refer to this and other resources I have recently used.

Child Anxiety & Predicting Depression

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1 Podcast with Cathy Cresswell highlights that anxious children are not accessing evidence based treatment. Some promising work taking place on social anxiety and look forward to reading about the interventions that may work.

2 Predicting depression. Nice attempt in this to balance science and personal experience in this podcast from MQ Open Mind Podcasts.

Get offline and start talking

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A  super podcast from Australia’s All in the Mind with Dr Kerr confirming what I wrote about a few years ago that relationships provide the brain with a boost of “feel good” hormones. But of course, it has to be the right relationship.

Her report is full of exciting material – empathy reduces short termism and relationships offer the possibility of increasing the ability of “mind reading” in others through the boost in oxytocin. The report isn’t as well referenced to satisfy me, but a great read regardless.

 She observes that professionals (and others) have the opportunity to calm other people’s stressed brains (via the amygdala) using mirror neurons; so that anxious people become calm. What isn’t explained is whether it can also happen the other way: if others are anxious why don’t we just become anxious. Must look into that.

Great self help website for young people

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The Anna Freud Centre has a fabulous set of self help resources for us to view. It will be worth my time getting to know the material there and thinking how best to use it.

I don’t think I am naïve in considering the Anna Freud Centre as a great institution and I associate it with people I have long admired (Winnicott/Ainsworth etc) and who have shaped my work both with children and adults.

I am that stage in my life when I contemplate how I can indirectly shape the direction of young people in a helpful way (through influencing fellow professionals and trainees) as opposed to face to face work.

Some great listens out there

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Celebs talk about mental health. Brave Burnley FC footballer describes depression in this super, and tear jerking radio programme. Its full of great quotes especially from his supportive wife. My goodness he is a lucky chap! Lucky having a wife like that but also he survived being hit by a truck and perhaps more dangerous, as a Burnley FC footballer, he survived admission to a Blackburn Hospital Ward.

And young celebs talk about mental health. Not dissimilar, in that it involves celebs talking about mental health,  Loyle Carner talks to the Connor Brothers. Great to hear young men being encouraged to seek help. Although I do have some brave young blokes talking to me about emotional stuff, they are still in the minority.

… And talking about young mental health. Cant go myself but looks like I am missing a real treat at this conference on children’s mental health.


Food for thought: our genes aren’t the tight fit I thought

photo of a toast
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A very interesting couple of weeks in the media.I am forever grateful to Podcast Hour for continuing to give me interesting stuff to listen to.

All Hail Kale is just one of them. A podcast which provides a fairly robust look at the evidence behind various fads including some new perspectives on nutrition which, despite my years of experience in health, had many surprises for me.

This episode looks at neurofeedback which helps redirect attention away from unhealthy preoccupations such as porn. I also learnt that our genetic load is only part inherited and that most of it is acquired from such things as touch and mood! A listen that has that Wow factor.

The Observer Magazine last Sunday (10th March, 2019) had an interesting feature from Eva Wiseman which whilst being very thought provoking misfires by targeting the wrong elephant in the room. Anxiety is fundamentally good for us and the main damage is caused in trying to control it. #evawiseman #anxiety

But if anxiety is sky high if you can’t accept that this is a good thing then this website may help you get some temporary respite but I wouldn’t try to hard to totally get rid of such a natural emotion.

And as if we didn’t already know, this article adds to the growing interest in the piling pressure on our young students to perform perfectly.

Sleepless? Techniques for when counting sheep isn’t working

Sleeplessness is regarded as the most common mental health symptom experienced and these websites are a good source of information. One of these days I will get round to summarising the common threads.

Mathew Walker’s 2018 book on the science of sleep is frequently applauded although I found it a rather bleak read and short on what can help.

1 One for the teenagers from the NHS

2 The Royal College of Psychiatrists discuss sleep problems in childhood and adolescence: for parents and carers

3 Another helpful leaflet from the NHS on how to get to sleep

4 The Mental Health Foundation also offer some help on how to sleep better

5 Mind provide some good information in this leaflet.

Have a good nights sleep