Monthly Archives: February 2016

Compassion Focussed Therapy

Compassion focussed therapy is becoming more and more popular, amongst therapists and clients. Compassion focussed therapy can help to deal with many issues affecting our lives: our relationships, any emotional distress we may be experiencing, anxiety, depression, self-harm and so on.

Compassion is considered to help free the mind from negative emotions such as jealousy and fear. In Buddhism, for example, compassion is viewed as loving-kindness, to relieve the suffering of the self and of others. Compassion acknowledges the suffering that we experience, alongside the suffering of others, and it is through this acknowledgement that perhaps we learn to tolerate distress and to better accept ourselves.

Compassion focussed therapy involves understanding how the brain works and developing a compassion focussed approach to the challenges of being human. Evolutionary science suggests that the human brain has evolved in such a way as to sometimes produce difficult emotions in humans, like anger or jealousy. Basically, there are three types of emotional regulatory systems in our bodies: a drive/excite/vitality system which involves wanting, pursuing and achieving; a content/safe/connected system that is experienced as soothing, and a threat focussed system that is about protection and safety seeking. Compassion focussed therapy raises awareness within individuals about the nature of their brains and bodies and how individuals’ threat systems can be over-stimulated. Techniques to encourage social safeness are promoted in order to encourage our soothing systems.

Breathing and mindfulness techniques comprise a significant aspect of compassion focussed therapy. Individuals are encouraged to learn and practise how to breath and then to practice mindful breathing, which is finding a pattern that feels natural and soothing. Compassion focussed therapy also encourages people to imagine images or events that help elciit compassionate feelings, for example, imagining an experience of kindness from another person. Safe space imagery is common, encouraging people to imagine a place that gives a feeling of safeness, calm and contentment. Compassion focussed therapy encourages compassion towards the self as much as towards others, and so through this people can start to view themselves from a position of understanding rather than self-criticism. Self-criticism is likely to be a major issue for clients. Stress, trauma, depression, these can all impact upon the body and the mind, influencing how individuals view themselves, with these conditions often involving people viewing themselves negatively. A core aspect to compassion focussed therapy is working with the ‘inner critical voice’, to become more compassionate and kind towards this as a way of self-acceptance.

PhD Opportunity

Named contact person – Professor Basia Spalek b.spalek@derby.ac.uk

 An Exploration of Trauma amongst Refugees in the East Midlands: Policy and Practice Implications

Project Outline

Background Context

Research shows that refugee populations have higher levels of mental health and trauma-related issues. A recent 2013 report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), highlights a number of research studies that illustrate the trauma-related consequences of conflict and displacement (UNHCR: 2013: 23). The impacts of trauma are far-reaching and can include: depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, panic attacks, personality and attachment disorders (a result of complex trauma that occurs early in childhood), risk taking behaviours, alcohol and drug dependency, and PTSD.

Aims and Objectives

This proposal aims to implement and then evaluate trauma-based screening tools and interventions, as recommended by NICE and WHO guidelines, for Syrian refugees arriving in Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.  The complexities of trauma are not widely understood by wide-ranging pubic sector and even medical professionals.  Additionally, trauma-based symptoms amongst minority refugee populations, who have different cultural, ethnic and religious identities, are poorly understood.

This project has the following objectives:

  • Raise awareness amongst, and educate, professionals coming into contact with Syrian/refugee populations (housing officers, social workers, General Practitioners etc.) about trauma and trauma-based symptoms.
  • Educate and train professionals coming into contact with Syrian/refugee populations into using an evidence-based trauma screening tool, so that individuals displaying PTSD and other significant trauma symptoms can be referred on to the appropriate services.
  • Implement trauma-focussed cognitive behavioural interventions with Syrian/refugee populations that are culturally sensitive.

See:

http://www.derby.ac.uk/research/degrees/apply/studentship-opportunity/healthandsocialcare/

Work Stress, Work Loss and Cruising like a Bird

Stress at work can sometimes be overwhelming. The body may go into overdrive and you may experience high levels of adrenalin-induced restlessness; you may have panic attacks and/or you may also feel completely exhausted. This is often when people take time out of work to try to calm down shattered minds and bodies.

Job loss can be devastating. A deep sense of anger at the lack of control over your own destiny, sometimes there can be a sense of shame where you blame yourself about becoming unemployed, and there can be a feeling of no longer being useful to anything or anybody. This is often when people can become depressed and anxious.

Mindfulness can help to calm distressing emotions, sensations and thoughts. I find that mindfully noticing birds can have a soothing and inspiring impact on me. I watch the large birds of prey cruising above my head, so gracefully and so calmly. They are in their own time, not in modern day human time. They have their own sense of purpose and they decide when they will accelerate towards planet Earth to catch their prey. I also watch the flocks of seagulls flying through ever-changing skies. They can be noisy in just being, for this is their nature – squawking, numerous and free. Birds can hop over manmade walls and barbed wire, something I ponder as I walk through some institutional settings where some people have been locked inside. Birds can teach us a lot.

Skype Counselling

In today’s society we have electronic communication possibilities that potentially are really exciting.  It is now possible to link up with a counsellor via Skype and to have counselling over Skype.  This can be advantageous because you do not have to travel to see a counsellor and you can sit from the comfort of your own home to have a session.  Skype enables you to see the counsellor and to interact with your counsellor and you can feel really supported and that you have found a safe space in which to explore things in your life. I enjoy working with Skype and have found that this does not interfere with any conversations that I may have.  I would recommend Skype for counselling and I am happy to provide this service.

Telephone Counselling

Telephone counselling offers people the opportunity to receive counselling even when they are not living in the same area as the counsellor.  Telephone counselling can have many benefits – being able to sit in a place where you feel comfortable, not having to travel to meet the counsellor and there is also more flexibility with the time that you schedule in for sessions.  Telephone counselling can really help to talk through what is happening currently for you and the counsellor can reflect back to you as well as suggest small changes you might like to incorporate into your daily life.  Speaking over the phone doesn’t interfere with building a positive connection between the client and the counsellor and can really help people feel supported.  If you have a lot of ongoing commitments in your life, or if you have found a counsellor that you would like to contact but live too far away from in order to go and see them directly, I would fully recommend trying out telephone counselling.