Category Archives: Uncategorized

Diversity and Puberty and Shout outs, oh my!

Will Davies July 2021
Last month, I was lucky enough to attend the final ‘Gender, Sexual and Relationship Diversity Workshop’ of 2021 hosted by Meg-John Barker. The purpose of the workshop was for counsellors and other mental health professionals to expand, understand and challenge our awareness and assumptions of GSR characteristics in our clients.

One of the understandings which sits at the core of the workshop (and also Meg-John’s most excellent BACP resource) is the recognition that most of us will fall into ‘normative’, ‘marginalised’ or ‘invisible’ categories with regards to our GSR characteristics. ‘Normative’ is interpreted as being perceived to be ‘the norm’ by modern day Western society’s ‘standards’, ‘marginalised’ applies to characteristics that were perhaps ‘invisible’ but have now become more ‘acceptable’ to modern day Western society and ‘invisible’ relates to characteristics that generally are not recognised or do not have a distinctive presence in modern day Western society. In one of the workshop exercises participants were asked to identify which GSR characteristics aligned with which categories and what assumptions, awareness and understanding we had in relation to the experience of the world and specifically counselling, GSR clients may have. The learning for counsellors that evolves from this exercise is in my opinion invaluable and I urge you to take a look at Meg-John’s resource to develop your own understanding of this area too!   

You’re probably by now getting a clear sense that I am really passionate about the importance of GSRD awareness amongst counsellors and within the counselling profession and it may not surprise you that this was the second time in 2021 that I have attended this workshop, I love it that much. Second time round though, as well as building on my learning from the previous workshop; of how important GSRD awareness is (oh give it a rest Will – they’ve got the picture!), two other thoughts occurred to me.  


The first thought, which arose out of a discussion about how where we grow up, in my case Yorkshire, contributes to defining our relationship with GSRD and our own GSR characteristics, centres on puberty and the potential it has for being a great leveller or at least the memories of it.  

Whatever characteristics we demonstrate as adults and whatever category that puts us into, we are all likely to have experienced puberty and I would suggest that for the vast majority of us adults, the process was a tricky one, full of challenges and confusions. In fact I’d go as far as to say that everyone will have at least once felt like they have been marginalised, treated as invisible or distinctly not the norm (whatever that means when you’re a teenager) during this time. Of course, I don’t deny that some people’s experiences will be vastly more psychologically impacting than others but if we consider it as a spectrum of experience, we all fall somewhere on it and I think, that it’s likely we’re more clustered together than we’re ever aware of at the time. So whilst it’s often the last thing we want to remember, remembering this when someone is struggling with their GSR characteristics, understanding that we too will have had at least a moment of confusion or upset, could lead us all to demonstrate some unity and compassion when that person needs it the most.

The other thought that occurred to me, apart from how fascinating GSRD is (stop being such a Stan Will!), is my response to something Meg-John suggested when discussing how counsellors who primarily identify with the ‘normative’ category can support peer counsellors who primarily identify with the ‘marginalised’ and ‘invisible’ categories. They encouraged showing support through “solidarity and standing alongside”. This got me thinking about the practice run by Luan Baines-Ball, of which I have been an associate counsellor since March 2020.  Luan’s practice is synonymous with diversity, a very important consideration for me when I was looking to connect with peers and establish my private practice. When I reflect on Meg-John’s words, I reflect on how Luan and my peers have exemplified these words in the practice, in our professional development and in our commitment to supporting the needs of GSRD clients in Leicester and Leicestershire. I feel proud to show solidarity and stand alongside such a diverse team and look forward to continuing the learning and client work in this area for years to come.

And with that, I think it’s time to watch the Wizard of Oz…again.

Young people and mental health

When I was asked to write about teens and young people’s emotional and mental wellbeing I wasn’t sure where to start. It’s such a vast topic. Then I got thinking.  There is a quote that has stuck with me for the last 23 years, from an essay I wrote at university: “Childhood is a Cultural Invention” Discuss. (Kessen, 1979: from The American Child and Other Cultural Inventions). I was fascinated when I wrote this assignment.  I read studies on children as young as five years being left in charge of camp, fire, cooking and younger siblings whilst parents went off foraging and hunting. I read of three year olds using a machete to chop food and gut fish. Later I watched programmes where young kids swam in waters far deeper than them, hunting for fish: diving down to tie and untie nets.  It has always intrigued me; how different societies treat their young – and the correlation to wellbeing. 

Mental Health Crisis

In this country (and other Western countries) now, we are facing what is being termed a ‘mental health crisis’ in our youth (and all ages) and many people are asking why.  My thoughts are this: Life has become so fragmented. If we think about key things that we need to keep us sane and happy: a sense of community of purpose and of belonging are high up the list.  Yet we live lives where parents go off to work, kids to school and very often we have little time outside of that to spend together. We may be busy with clubs, activities, chores etc, but often our lives and those of our young are quite separate. Then there is pressure for ‘quality time’ which often, in a capitalist society, can be translated into day trips or restaurant visits.  The slow daily ‘togetherness’ is lost.  The doing chores together, teaching our young as they work alongside us, to cook, clean, care for animals, build, or just communicate is lost too.

Family Environment

An acquaintance was talking to me once about the ‘domestic load’ on them, alongside full-time work.  I suggested they get their teenager to cook a couple of times a week. They looked at me, bewildered and said that their teen couldn’t cook. They had ‘never had time’ to teach them.   So here we can see clearly defined ‘roles:’ Mum ‘cares’ for EVERYONE.  She is therefore exhausted and quite possibly resentful.  Teen, practically, has an easy life – but they don’t feel like a real PART of the family. They also don’t learn the responsibilities of adulthood in a safe and supported environment. Mum has little time for anything other than chores, because they do all the caring and organising: therefore there is no ‘together while we work’ time, OR much ‘quality time’ together. She possibly feels the anger of ‘I do everything for you. You do nothing.’

Involving children in daily activities

How can this model possibly work? And yet it runs throughout our society. Young people have few responsibilities, which can lead them to feeling a bit useless … which can eat into their self-esteem.  My suggestion: involve your kids. Enjoy the chores together. This gives you time together, just being. It gives them a sense of pride, community, belonging and of being a useful and important part of something bigger. They develop skills, they gain your respect (and you theirs) and they build their self-esteem. You can chat through your day – and build connection.  

In the early days – it can feel like hard work, yes, but I promise you the rewards are worth it. Kids are capable of far, far more than we give them credit for in our society. I truly believe that it is in holding them back, that frustrations arise. When kids are little, all they want to do is help their parents. Often we tell them no: it seems easier to do it yourself. But think on this: if you don’t let them hoover or wash up when they are 4 (and I know, it can be frustrating and they may break things) – well, how can you expect them to help when they are 14? (this was my mantra when mine were small – through gritted teeth sometimes, as jobs took hours and had to be re-done!) 

I recently had a week off work with my husband and we built a cabin in our garden.  My kids helped.  It took us longer, because we had to teach them how to use tools and work with wood; to follow instructions, but … we had fun and they learned. They hammered in floorboards, screwed in roof boards, laid roof tiles … and when one was feeling off-colour, she cooked the meals, kept us hydrated and walked the dogs. Now: every day we can look outside and see what we built, together. Remember the fun and the learning. Have a sense of achievement. Yes, it took longer to do it this way, but as well as saving a significant amount of money by doing it ourselves, we learned together, talked together, had fun together, achieved together and also saved money on ‘activity days out’ during half term.  We have a communal sense of achievement, togetherness and growth – and a daily visual reminder of that. This kind of togetherness: being together, doing together, achieving (and not) together is,  I believe, fundamentally important to the overall wellbeing of everyone, but particularly for young people who are just finding their way in the world. They may seem ‘grown up’ and they may push us away – but what they really need is to feel like they truly belong with us, so that they can venture out with confidence.

Nicola Sinclair 10 June 2021

Equality Inclusion & Diversity

I was talking recently with an organisation I provide professional support to about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) within the workplace. What struck us was that the one common thread on every single job description within this varied organisation was a sentence about EDI. However, none of the staff are ever questioned about EDI performance during their annual appraisal.

It’s got me thinking – how can we move from a position of tick box, mandatory training (that many don’t engage with) and automated assumptions to actual engagement, a desire to increase awareness because we want to rather than because we have to?

For me, this is about moving from a place of treating everyone as the same to treating everyone as different, unique and wanting to understand their place of difference rather than smooth it over and pretend it isn’t there. I see this as both an individual task and an organisational one. Then what about membership bodies such as BACP and UKCP? How can they, and should they, make EDI training mandatory and accountable? How do they/we balance freedom of speech with a profession of expected non-discrimination?

My membership is with BACP and for this I complete a training expectations and outcome document annually. I have added an element to mine so that EDI awareness is there as part of my ongoing continual professional development arrangements. I don’t lose sight of it this way. Each time I’m at the planning stage I ask myself which area I feel I need more awareness of, Whilst I need to keep up-to-date on gender, sexual and relationship diversity (one of my areas of expertise), I also need to make sure that my knowledge around race, disability or sex work, for example, doesn’t get left behind. I can’t know everything about everything but I invite myself to become better informed each year and therefore a better ally to those who are disadvantaged in different ways to me, both professionally and personally.  I actively want to know more and to understand more about the areas where I have an advantage, those areas I don’t have to think about every day.

Challenge

I have noticed that it can feel challenging and exposing to grapple with the idea that we have advantage over another. As therapists this can feel very uncomfortable and we can get defensive when questioned or invited to expand our thinking. I think it’s important to separate the ‘I wasn’t aware of that’ from ‘I am a bad person’. Once we have awareness we can chose to do something different. Similarly once we have awareness about a relationship or behaviour that isn’t helpful for us we can chose to respond differently. Once we have awareness that our inner critic is having a field day we can learn to be kinder to ourselves and others.  

Fear

Many therapists come from a place of early wounding, hence the phrase ‘wounded healer’. I wonder if we can learn to respond to EDI and inherent advantage/disadvantage from a place of curiosity rather than a place of fear?

Combatting your anxiety gremlin

Will Davies 15 Jan 2021

In the 1920’s, RAF pilots originated the word ‘gremlin’ to describe mythical creatures that cause malfunctions in aircraft or other machinery. Use of the word grew during W.W.2. and Roald Dahl even worked with Disney on creating an animated film featuring gremlins sabotaging pilots and their planes for their own nefarious purposes.

But what’s all this got to do with anxiety you might ask? Well for me, the experience of having anxiety can feel a little bit like being a pilot fending off a gremlin that is playing havoc with my plane and trying to knock me off course. If you experience anxiety too, maybe this is something that you can relate to?

So, if you find yourself under attack from an anxiety gremlin, how can you combat it?

Here are three suggestions that may point you in the right direction: 

Firstly, I think anxiety can often make us forget the past, specifically those times when we’ve over-come our anxiety or when things we were anxious about didn’t end up happening. At the moment when we could be drawing on these experiences, it’s as though the reset button gets hit and we feel like we’re starting from scratch. A way of combating this is to consciously remind ourselves of our achievements and past experiences of anxiety, perhaps through a diary or recounting affirmations. Don’t let the anxiety gremlin make you forget that you’ve got skills in this area and those skills can be put to good use again.    

Secondly, when we experience anxiety we often start to feel that our lives have suddenly been knocked off course and that we are spiralling towards a new and often frightening future that is not of our choosing. Very little in life is pre-determined, so, to use another flight metaphor (I’m clearly craving some foreign travel right now!), try to see your anxiety as just a bit of turbulence that will pass eventually. Bring in your rational and soothing side as quickly as you can to assess the situation and calm you down. Practice controlled breathinggrounding techniquesmindfulness or meditation, whatever works best, to help you ride it out and reach your desired destination. 

Finally, when experiencing anxiety, we can often feel helpless and that things are suddenly out of our control. In these instances it’s a good idea to try and wrestle back some control and often the best place to start is with ourselves. For example, scheduling a time each day to practice self-care and ensuring it happens can reap numerous benefits in terms of both our mental and physical health. Even just admitting the existence of your anxiety and seeking ways in which to address it is a way of regaining control of your life.

More support

Here are some further suggestions of resources to help you armor up and go into battle with your anxiety gremlin:

High Court Ruling on Puberty Blockers

I have huge concerns over the recent High Court Ruling regarding puberty blockers for transgender young people. One person’s experience will set back transgender rights for all.

Keira Bell was assigned female at birth and following several appointments with the specialist services at the Tavistock clinic was offered puberty blockers and subsequently prescribed testosterone and then underwent top surgery. At this point Keira identified as male. Later, she made the unusual decision to de-transition and now lives and identifies as female.

The result of the court case is that now individuals aged 16 or under will no longer have access to puberty blockers without the intervention of a further court case. Anyone on the waiting list will be paused and those already taking blockers will have their medication reviewed.

The media have reported that booking an appointment with a gender clinic is as easy as booking a GP appointment; it really isn’t. They have also reported that clinics are actively encouraging young people to transition and that puberty blockers are prescribed at will. This is incorrect information. There’s a very rigorous process where individuals essentially have to prove to several practitioners that they are transgender before being offered any medication and/or surgical intervention. Assessments are carried out at every stage of the process so the individual has ample opportunity to reflect on the changes happening to them, their body and their identity. Over several years Keira had first puberty blockers, then testosterone and finally top surgery. At no stage did she raise concerns about the process or the ‘speed’ of the process. That she regrets her decision is heart-breaking and, as yet, it is unclear why she felt unable to raise concerns along the way but this one court case will now negatively impact many transgender individuals who are absolutely sure of their need for puberty blockers, hormone treatment and surgery.

The courts have given the impression that puberty blockers are new and dangerous. These drugs have been used for many years to stall early-onset puberty and are simply stopped once the child reaches the age when they would more naturally go through puberty. The only difference here is that puberty blockers are used to gain time for the individual to explore their identity before going through irreversible procedures. Going through a puberty out of alignment is traumatic beyond belief.

Anti-trans lobby now using Bell as a poster girl and, incidentally, I understand the entire case has been crowdfunded by anti-trans supporters.

Something that really concerns me is that, following this case, many will come away with the idea that somehow transitioning is a dangerous thing that should be put off into adulthood. There are some concerns here:

  1. Your child may not live to see adulthood if gender dysphoria is not recognised and treated
  2. The myth is that more people de-transition than they do and therefore we should prevent transition in the first place
  3. That therapists will, having read incorrect information in the media, support the idea that transition is wrong and will not provide the best care and support to their clients/patients.
  4. That not enough is being done within the NHS or private gender clinic arena to fully support those whose gender sits somewhere between the binary of male and female. See: https://bainesballcp.co.uk/uncategorized/thinking-outside-gender-binary/

This really useful link provides much needed information for people wanting to access gender clinic services.

Professional boundaries

Boundaries are really important to me both professionally and personally.

In my work as a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor I come across so many instances where professional boundaries have sadly been broken, often to the detriment of the client.

It’s been difficult during lockdown; the way we work as a profession had to change overnight. Thankfully (for me) I was used to providing services via video and phone so that part didn’t stretch me so much personally. What did challenge me was that for several consecutive months I worked from my very compact home office, a place where I also do lots of other things. The once clear work/home lines felt well and truly blurred. It took a couple of occasions of noticing I had checked my work phone as I was heading to bed – something I don’t generally do – to compassionately challenge myself. I’m pleased I did. It made me think about other small changes that could have evolved into something more unhelpful if left unattended. I’m now back in my therapeutic space, albeit mostly online still, but that clear demarcation between work and other is back where it needs to be.

Maintaining boundaries is often crucial. We need to maintain professional boundaries to keep our clients (and ourselves) safe. It’s why we don’t become friends, socialise or engage in social media with our clients, irrespective of how drawn to them we are, how much we care about them, and how much we might feel pulled into rescuing them. It’s why we also maintain confidentiality. We don’t post anything about clients online; we don’t discuss clients with friends and family. A huge portion of complaints to BACP involve boundary/contract violations and it’s got me thinking again about why we might potentially get pulled out of shape.

Naturally, for most therapists, there’s an element of ‘wanting to help people’.  Left unchecked though this desire to help – often rooted in early complicated histories – can lead us into hot water. Many a time a supervisee has announced a change with their client and I’ll gently ask, ‘what brought that change about?’. ‘Because the client asked for it!’ is so often the reply. If the supervisee is willing, we explore this in more detail with some deeper questioning about how they might respond if this question were put to them in a law court or through the BACP complaints procedure. Then we start to see something different emerging…that they have responded from an emotional place rather than a professional, ethically-driven one. So, in terms of professional boundaries, it’s not enough to simply say yes because a client asked or to become friends with a client because we feel sorry for them or because we genuinely like them. How is that remaining professional? Each decision we make professionally needs to be backed up with a sound ethical decision-making process. The client asking for something simply isn’t enough.  

Equally, with friends and family, it’s not as easy as saying ‘they asked me to so I will’. We need to know 1) if we have the resources available to carry out the request, 2) has the other person actually asked or are we perceiving a request through emotional content, e.g, ‘I don’t have the bus fare!’  = ‘please lend/give me the money’ and 3) are we actively consenting to using those resources on this person, at this time and for this particular thing?

It might sound a bit laboured but by doing this we spend less time tangled up ‘on the drama triangle’ and more time in an adult-to-adult space = much healthier = more resources available.

It’s often when our resources are more depleted personally that we get pulled out of shape professionally. Clearly the pandemic has made us all change some of our behaviour. Seven months on, maybe it’s time to check-in with ourselves to ensure we have enough resources to remain professionally boundaried and ethically driven in our decisions.

Thinking Outside Gender Binary

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07kq5sv

This Radio 4 programme made me think about how very much we are still engaging from a binary perspective; that people are encouraged to decide either/or. In my experience as a psychotherapist, people tend to identify as male, female, both or neither; whilst this is oversimplifying that there are potentially as many genders as there are human beings.

From the moment a child is born they are presented to their parents as “it’s a boy/girl”. How can we know this until the child has told us how they feel about themselves? Babies are often put in gender binary clothing, given binary names, and expected to express the characteristics of their assigned gender. By the time they go to school they are conditioned as to what male and female roles ‘should’ look like. This is all based on what’s between their legs. No wonder there is so much confusion, fear, and shame.

Until we can simply allow children to express their gender identity as they are experiencing it, we are creating heartbreak. For an individual who identifies as trans, non-binary, gender fluid etc. it’s a very confusing world. For those that don’t identify in this way it can be equally confusing to relate to those that do. Couldn’t we help society as whole if we facilitated children just being that; to explore, to play, to express? This way each person could evolve naturally into who they are, male, female, both, neither and express themselves in a way that is natural for them. In the Radio 4 programme, one of the parents voiced that their child who was assigned female at birth had played with dolls, wore pink etc. so they had no idea that the child identified as a boy until a 12th birthday party ended in tears. 

We are not taught that boys and girls can wear whatever they like and be interested in whatever strikes a chord with them. Maybe parents who don’t see it are not looking for anything outside the small box that gets passed from one generation to the next? If we are told ‘this is a girl’ and have a fixed idea of what ‘girl’ means we project all this onto the child without asking them what their idea of being a girl might be. What feelings are evoked in us if we meet someone who identifies in a way that appears to challenge the male or female binary? Does this projection of gender binary expectation mean  some trans people think they need major surgery? Clearly, for many people, surgery is the only answer but I wonder if some feel they have to physically transition in order to be accepted, perhaps at the expense of being supported in discovery of their own unique gender identity. Maybe not all would need to if we embrace the idea of gender uniqueness.

Whilst sexuality is different to gender identity, there is a similarity here too with many lesbians being told they “don’t look gay” simply because they have long hair and are wearing a dress or no vest and tight trousers for gay men.

I wonder if the crux of this is fear. Historically, it was important to segregate men and women so they each knew who was the oppressed and who was the oppressor. This fear belongs to us all and it could help everyone if we could be brave and think it through in a safe, yet challenging, environment. 

In an educated world, I’d like to think that we could enable people to simply be people, wear whatever they feel comfortable wearing, using names and pronouns that they feel most comfortable with, doing jobs and hobbies that make them feel fulfilled, loving whoever they happen to love.

If you would like to explore your thoughts about gender identity in a safe environment please get in touch by whatever means is most comfortable for you. 

US Election 2016

As we woke up to the news that Donald Trump had become the next president of the United States of America, I thought about the impact on so many people across the world. For some, it will be a time for celebration. For others it will be a time of fear and despondency; not unlike post-Brexit here in the UK. One thing is certain for all of us; that we are living in a time of great uncertainty. America is a big place and has influence on the rest of the world.

Fear was already very present post-Brexit and now post-election. Both elections have been heavily influenced by fear of difference rather than consciously finding a path forward for everyone, irrespective of where they are born, what’s on their birth certificate and how much money they have.

Uncertainty brings with it anxiety and so I am mindful of the damage that can be caused when we act out that anxiety. We saw a rise in hate crime following the EU Referendum and much of this is about acting out those fears.

I wonder if we can all be more mindful of what we feel and why we feel it so that we can engage with people who hold different, sometimes opposing, views to ourselves. The more we can be aware of our place of privilege, the less hurt we cause to those oppressed by our privilege. For both the US Election and the EU Referendum, race has been at the heart of the results. The thing is that when we are in a place of privilege we are often not aware of it so it takes some honest thinking about. It takes putting ourselves in a vulnerable position.

So, following the US Election result, can we be more mindful of who will gain from the result and who will likely be negatively impacted? Can we find more compassion for those in need? Can we hold them in mind alongside thinking about our own needs? Can we make choices that enhance equality, inclusivity and diversity? Can we collectively focus on humanness rather than race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, wealth?

If you have been affected by the election and would like someone to talk to, please do get in touch.

Manchester Terror Attacks

Many of my clients (none are identifiable here) have voiced, since the recent attacks in Manchester and London, their concerns about being in a world where they feel under threat from terrorists’ actions. 

As news regarding the attacks unfolds I am mindful of how potentially unhelpful the gratuitous, detailed and repetitive reporting can be. I wonder what we can each do that would have a more helpful impact both on those immediately affected, those around us and ourselves. 

There are also many attacks that go virtually unreported in other territories; are their lives less important because they are not British or American, ?

Some of my clients are not British nationals and fear, even more post-Brexit, that they are no longer welcome here. It’s incredibly frightening to no longer feel welcome in a place you have lived and worked for many years and to live with uncertainty about whether you will be asked to leave.

Some of my clients are Muslim; a number of whom are now extremely anxious of being under attack themselves even though they have no affinity with the attackers. There has been an increase in hate crime post-Manchester attack and this saddens me greatly. Here in Leicester there are reports of heightened racist and homophobic incidents. Humanity and integrity seems to be difficult to hang onto whilst retaliation is so much at the forefront of the mind. 

Many of the people I work with are very different to me. I may not share all or any of their beliefs but I only need to look into their eyes to see their pain. We connect on this most basic level even if our histories do not cross over in any other way.

I am mindful that in spite of intolerance and avoidance I stand firm in my belief that, as humans, we have far more in common with each other than we have differences. My belief, as a psychotherapist, is that talking about our experiences and our differences can give us much greater understanding both of ourselves and others, so that we can become more compassionate with those around us, whoever they are and whatever their beliefs. 

Tracey’s reflections on mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

The Oxford dictionary definition is:

“The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”

So why are Gwyneth Paltrow and Jonny Wilkinson interested in it?

There is a lot of evidence that mindfulness practice can

  • reduce pain;
  • improve sleep;
  • reduce the impact that stress has on the mind and body;
  • improve concentration; and
  • increase happiness.

So a lot of people are interested in at least one of those things for themselves.

How did you discover the practice of mindfulness?

I read a book to understand the science behind it and get familiar with the available evidence for its benefits (Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Piatkus 2013). I then went on an introductory course run by Shehzad Malik (mindful-monkey.com) and followed a six-week guided meditation programme of 45 mins per day, six days per week using Kabat-Zinn’s book and his Guided Mindfulness Meditation CD.

How difficult was it to begin with?

In some ways the guided meditation part was easy, all I had to do was sit with the CD and pay attention. In other ways it was tricky, my mind kept wandering off as human minds do. During one particular practice (the “body scan”) I would always fall asleep and I wondered whether I was getting any benefit from doing it. However, I found that this six week guided practice gave me a good grounding that allowed me to develop my mindfulness in everyday life.

What difference has it made for you?

The first thing I noticed was that my memory functioned more effectively. Instead of remembering that I “should have” brought something with me five minutes after leaving home, the item would pop into my mind in the moments before I left, so I had time to pick it up and bring it with me.

I no longer feel frustrated by short delays (in traffic, in a queue, waiting for someone) and I take the opportunity to use one of the practices that I have become familiar with.

I notice the difference most in conversations. I am better and more often able to take a “third position” where part of my brain can observe myself and others from outside myself and gain a different perspective than the one I have from inside me looking out.

A friend of mine believes that my reactions are quicker and I am better at catching things – but this hasn’t been scientifically proven!

And now?

I currently use guided meditation podcasts (such as marc.ucla.edu/meditation-at-the-hammer) which vary in length from 3 min to 30 min to fit in with the time I have available, such as while food is cooking or when I am a few minutes early for an appointment. I also practice while cleaning my teeth and washing up.

And what about the sleeping?

I have always slept well so mindfulness didn’t have any space to improve my sleep quality. However, the learning from falling asleep during every “body scan” has incentivised me to change my bedtime routine and I am now hardly ever tired.

Do you use mindfulness techniques within your work as a therapist?

The adoption of the “third position” fits well with my therapy training and supports my focus on the client within a therapy session. Part of the way I work is to try to help clients increase their awareness of their thoughts and feelings so this fits nicely too.

How do you see mindfulness benefiting clients, particularly those who experience anxiety and depression?

Some of my clients have discovered the benefits of mindfulness for themselves while others have tried it and it hasn’t made sense to them at the time. It can be helpful for people suffering from anxiety or depression as it can help them put their habitual thoughts into perspective. People suffering from panic attacks can find it particularly helpful in understanding their body sensations and giving them back a sense of control.

What do you feel are some of the contributory factors for needing mindfulness

Like drinking plenty of water, having sufficient sleep and taking regular exercise, I see mindfulness as helpful to everyone. It seems to be especially helpful to people who feel bombarded by the number of things coming at them in the modern world and who want to reduce the amount of stress that this induces in them.

How can I find out more?

Check out the NHS guide to mindfulness:https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/