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THE SELSEY ACADEMY FIRE – Moving forward.
The 21st August 2016 was a sad day for Selsey. The Selsey Academy fire will go down in the history of the town.
It will be remembered in a similar way to the tornado that ripped through roofs in January 1998. After the tornado the stoical folks of Selsey pulled together. Yesterday, some 18 years later, the ‘Selsey Spirit’ rose again. Social media helped mobilise the ‘troops’ who organised themselves efficiently to supply food and drink to the firefighters. The smoke has cleared. The reality has begun to bite. Selsey has lost a focal point of the community.
Similar to Bereavement
The feelings that arise are similar to those of bereavement. Nobody has died yet a sense of loss hangs in the air.
There is initial shock. Statements are heard like ‘This can’t be true’, (Denial). Quite quickly awareness widens to acknowledgement. The Academy was destroyed by fire. It will leave a gap in the community. As the reality sets in, some people will express anger. Already and without concrete evidence there have been claims that the fire must have been started by an arson attack. When people feel helpless, the blame game is played. To play the blame game a ‘scapegoat’ is needed. You will hear questions like – Were the firefighters quick enough? and Were there sprinklers fitted in the building?
Each of these comments are normal when individuals feel powerless. The objective of the blame game is to feel less powerless. Try not to buy into it. It divides us and delays the process of moving forward. After this comes a sense of sadness for what was lost. Finally, acceptance will be reached and we will be able to move forward as a community.
The town is going through a process of disbelief, anger, blaming and sadness. All of this is normal and takes time until we reach acceptance
Possible effects on pupils
For students the process is more difficult. They need to adapt to the loss of their school. There is likely to be a period of anxiety about the future and about where they will go to school. They will also worry about their friendships.
Parents may notice a quietness in their children or an increase in teenage moodiness. They need time to adjust. This is big news to them. Their cognitive systems need time to process this knowledge. Children who have experienced a change in family situation in the last 12 months may feel the uncertainty more. Take time to listen to your child’s concerns and respond with the actual knowledge you have.
At present the precise arrangements for the children’s schooling is not clear, it can’t be as yet. It’s crucial that the children are supported at this time.
Parents can help by reassuring their child that clear plans are being made for their education. It may take a while to fine tune the details but what is certain is that a practical solution is being developed.
It is an unpleasant situation but if handled sensitively, your child will have developed important coping strategies and an ability to manage unexpected change. This lesson will be as important as any formal teaching of emotional intelligence.
Witten by Christine Tizzard Psychology
Exam results not good? Use the CALM approach to success.
Symptoms of stress emerge when we feel out of control – when the plan or road map suddenly does not work as expected.
When we do not have a Plan B, most of us feel LOST. To get back in control and kick the stress, we need a good strategy that won’t fail. A failure to achieve anticipated grades is one of these occasions. Right now you may feel lost and without hope.
It may feel like your future has just flushed down the pan. This is complete rubbish. It is an unpleasant feeling that you are registering. It is not a FACT. We are all liable to go into emotional reasoning rather than cognitive thought at times. The truth is emotional reasoning can sometimes be really painful and lead to depression.
Right now, you need a cognitive factual strategy to feel in control again. I use the acronym of CALM with my clients. It is not rocket science but it works.
Try this simple four point plan to get back in control and feel better fast.
Look at ALL options
Move forward from a power position
SO WHAT’S THE REAL DEAL?
When you find out that your grades were not what you wanted, try to stay calm. Emotions usually become far too heated. There is anger and then tears. Your tears and your parent’s tears. Remember, you are NOT your exam grades.
Try to chill out, do some exercise, rest, take a trip. Do something nice. Be calm. Don’t binge on alcohol or other substances, they only cloud thinking and invite depression.
Remember you may be upset but how real is that distress? How much is really your pain? The chances are that you have picked up on other people’s expectations of you; teachers and parents – both who have an interest in your results. Part of that interest is altruistic but some may really be more about them. If you get good grades, then they feel a great teacher or a proud parent with brilliant genes. The truth is what happens now is about YOU and YOU alone. Look after you, not other people’s egos.
Acting on impulse while stressed is a pretty sure-fire recipe that any decisions made will be all wrong. Sit with it. You can endure the distress; it will be temporary. It will pass.
Look at all the options
After you have had a period of calm. Possible courses of action will come to mind naturally. Far more easily than if you have tried to force the issue. The brain will be in a better position to construct a Solution Focussed Plan after a period of rest.
Look at your options:
a) Is it a retake or a resit? How do you find out if this may be possible?
b) Is it a change of course? If so, what might be possible? Who do you need to speak to, email, telephone? Construct a simple flow chart and make that call.
c) Take positive action rather than dwelling on passive inaction.
d) Move forward. Now move confidently forward knowing that the plan is sustainable and achievable.
Remember the saying – ‘Good sailors don’t try to change the weather they simply adjust their sails’.
Benefits of failing
Being able to adjust to situations that were not planned can be a powerful lesson in developing coping strategies. Life rarely goes to plan. We need to be able to adapt and develop the ability to change direction when needed. This is how a robust character is formed.
It is stressful to fail one’s exams but it is not traumatic. There is a huge difference. Trauma does not offer a second chance but this set back is simply that. Life can and will go on. Dreams can still be achieved. When trauma strikes nothing will ever be the same. This is a bump in the road not a sink-hole.
It is important to note that the media have a vested interested in reporting sad stories. It sells. Most people who do not achieve expected grades do not self-harm or commit suicide, contrary to what is reported by the press. Those that do harm themselves usually already have a serious depression or other mental health disorder. However, media and social media focus on these stories without the necessary understanding of underlying issues.
Need more help?
If you can’t get rid of these negative feelings and most people will (once they have a new plan) you should: –
Talk to someone whose judgement you trust. He/she will give your perspective on the issue. If there is nobody you feel able to speak to try speaking to a counsellor or a youth service.
The important thing is to talk about your fears. Don’t bottle them up.
If you feel suicidal or have thoughts about harm you MUST speak to your GP.
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist and Chartered Scientist. www.ctpsy.co.uk
Autism: Avoiding holiday hell is something all parents want to do. When your child has a diagnosis of autism, holiday hell can come easily.
This is true whether it’s a pod in Padstow, a gite in Gironde or even staying at home.
The fact is children with autism find change overwhelming. Totally so. Feeling overwhelmed leads to meltdowns. Meltdowns lead to parental hell. Some of the pressure of holiday hell can be avoided through using Social Stories.TM
This is a specialist technique developed in the nineties by Carol Gray. www.carolgraystories.com.
The use of Social StoriesTM is a very specialised way of writing with or without illustrations to explain something that will happen in the future to a child. These can be easily written by parents. Writing a story should not be seen as a quick fix, but prepared carefully, a story can lessen a child’s sense of feeling overwhelmed.
For instance, a family plans a holiday to Cornwall. A story written several weeks before the trip begins can provide a secure base and a snippet of the future. This is soothing to your child. The story should include your child as it’s central character. The central character could even be your child’s current role model.
The story should describe the holiday place and what the accommodation will look like. If it seems a bit boring to you, chances are, it will contain sufficient detail to calm your child. (Spending time together on google earth is also a smart tip). The story should include a plan of the activities the family will do, the fun it’ll be and include your child’s desired behaviour.
Done well in advance of the holiday, it will allow your child to develop a mental map of the future. This will remove a large degree of sudden sensory information that often leads to overload.
Remember the three P’s – Preparation prevents panic!
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist and Chartered Scientist.
Is creativity boosted by depression or personality traits or both?
A Swedish study carried out in 2012 suggested depressed individuals might have the edge in the creativity stakes.
Great Poets such as Dickinson and Plath; seminal writers like Virginia Woolf and Hans Christian Anderson have been simultaneously lauded and devalued as being able to write better than most because of their poor mental health. A double edged sword perhaps.
The truth is creative writers are no more likely than the rest of the population to suffer from depression. The lived experience of depression is often a turning inwards on the self. It is a slowing of processes and a preoccupation. In a nutshell, a stuckness with one’s perception. This introspection and rumination can be a rich petrie dish environment in which to capture one’s deepest feelings, reflections and thoughts. If lucky these germs of creativity can develop into inspiring and poignant art, writing or poetry.
The cathartic outpouring or release from ‘the dark night of the soul’ can find its form in something of beauty. In others this outpouring of emotion can be destructive and ugly.
It is perhaps a journey down a different track to suggest that Dickinson’s ‘Hope is the thing with feathers on’, and Plath’s Daddy might each have been successfully birthed without a veil of depression. One might argue that both poet’s deep introspection and reflection added the extra quality of genius. Perhaps we come a little closer to reality when we explore another area of thought. Were these great contributors of literary legacy simply INFJ’s, (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judgement?) INFJ’s who at different times experienced poor mental health.
For those unfamiliar with Jungian theories and the Myers Briggs Personality Types. Different personality types/traits confer a distinct predisposition to certain behaviours. You can try the test at www. humanmetrics.com.
The point is when we try to reduce things to an absolute conclusion, we limit the lens of possibility. All things look the same. We foreclose. In narrowing the lens of possibility we risk killing our own creativity and intelligence and that of those around us. A growing of intelligence calls for an ability to consistently update hypotheses. More now than at any other time.
Novelist Virginia Woolf committed suicide by drowning.
Poet Silvia Plath committed suicide.
Poet Emily Dickinson suffered from depression.
Fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote The
Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid battled depression.
US author and journalist Ernest Hemingway, who wrote for Whom the Bell Tolls, had depression and killed himself with a shotgun
Author and playwright Graham Greene, who wrote the novel Brighton Rock, had bipolar disorder
The psychological needs of Syrian Refugee Children
The UK is committed to offering refuge to a number of Syrian child refugees. Some children are already being placed in foster care. This is the start of a process. To be effective refuge must also include an ability to provide clinically appropriate treatment to these children.
Many will arrive having complex psychological needs. These needs will not be assuaged simply by a warm and secure foster placement. To think this is the case is naive. It is a daily source of frustration to try to provide and source services for the mental health needs of UK children. We will struggle to find treatment resources to meet the increased need. Difficulty is no excuse not to rise to a challenge. It is critical that we do develop resources. It is also critical that every country accepting child refugees does the same.
Children under 18 account for over 50% of the displaced Syrian refugees with approximately 40% under 12 years old. Many will find themselves alone in a strange country. It is crucial to understand the impact of these children’s experiences on their mental health. It is also important to grasp that the impact of these experiences if left untreated or treated wrongly will have on them. These will be long term consequences on the children themselves and on wider society.
Many of the fleeing children have been caught in the crossfire of war. Most have seen death at close range. Some have seen a parent killed. Others have become permanently separated from parents usually in the chaos of fleeing conflict. In the UK it is hard to conceptualise this type of psychological trauma.
Research undertaken with refugee children identifies Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as by far the most prevalent condition that these children are coping with. PTSD requires timely diagnosis and specialist treatment. This is not merely a call for play therapy which in some cases may be extremely dangerous; cause escalating triggers and leave unaddressed the very nature of the trauma. Depression and behavioural problems, including aggression and other social affective disorders are the next most common consequences of the conflict seen in children. Responding to the psychological needs of refugee children calls for a necessary new and specialised paradigm in treatment.
There must be an emphasis placed on the early psychological assessment of children. This early screening is crucial to their immediate and ongoing needs. Professionals having a duty of care must be trained in identifying PTSD symptoms in children of a different culture. Recognising trauma in displaced child refugees is more difficult than the identification of PTSD in the indigenous UK population. There is an absolute requirement for clinically robust PTSD treatment which is provided in a culturally congruent narrative.
It is a genuine challenge to provide effective treatment and to deliver such interventions using the skills of an interpreter. Effective treatment incorporates the childrens existing cultural experiences while subtly introducing UK culture. It must be remembered that being suddenly immersed into another culture always causes difficulty for a child. Arriving traumatised and alone is another matter .
It is of paramount that psychologists skilled in treating child post-traumatic stress are involved at an early stage following a child’s arrival in the UK. Treating PTSD is a specialised intervention. It is imperative that there is a clear distinction made between psychological trauma and other emotional problems.
In addition to an emergency safe placement, child refugees require access to early specialised psychological screening and assessment protocols. They require an individualised statement of emotional needs.
This process should be followed by the provision of skilled PTSD and/or other relevant treatment tailored to the individual child. There should also be ongoing monitoring and review.
Anything less and the warm notion of ‘refuge’ is reduced to a hollow word.
Dr Chrissie Tizzard is a Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist who specialises in the assessment and treatment of Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder and vicarious traumatisation across the lifespan. She has developed and ran training workshops throughout Europe since 2000 and continues to be a speaker at trauma conferences throughout the world. She also acts as a consultant to several Local Authorities.
To praise or not to praise, that is the question.
Several research reports published recently have asserted that ‘overpraising’ children can actually set them up to fail. One such study carried out at Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that over exaggerated praise is well intended, but for. kids who have low self-esteem it can make them less confident. Eddie Brummelhein, a doctoral student at Utrecht, states that praise causes less confident children to believe that they must constantly achieve to a high level. Unfortunately, this belief actually stops those students trying new tasks in case they fail.
A similar study found that telling pupils they are clever before an examination can actually worsen their grades. The rationale is that in telling a student that they are bright can increase performance anxiety and fear of failure.
It is understandable that some parents are left feeling a little confused. Mums and Dads are left thinking do I or do I not praise my child? What is helpful encouragement and what is potentially damaging? So should you praise your child?
The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. It is good to praise your child and to start praising them early. The guiding rule is that praise must be appropriate to the task accomplished. It must also be earned.
Exaggerated praise, however well-meaning is likely to eventually backfire. Too much praise and your child may acquire a tendency to give up early on tasks or to over inflate their skills. These behaviours could eventually result in underperformance, a lack of general efficacy and ultimately the Achilles syndrome, (the secret fear of failure.) Appropriate praise and encouragement on the other hand builds genuine self-esteem and self-confidence. Well-proportioned praise leads to self-belief.
The development of self-belief is essential for the concepts of stamina, perseverance and successful problem solving.
It is also the case that children are able to recognise when you are over egging the praise. When an adult gives exaggerated praise, children tend to think you are ‘bigging up’ their skills because they are really not good at something. Essentially praise that was meant to build esteem actually kills it stone dead. Some professionals assert that praise makes a child dependant on an adult and instead encourage parents to simply reflect back to the child what they have accomplished. ‘Oh you finished that puzzle’ rather than ‘well done for finishing the puzzle’. The belief being that the child will respond to ‘Oh you finished that puzzle’ with ‘I am clever’. This is potentially dangerous thinking. A young child needs to hear positive reinforcement to develop the ability to self-evaluate. They are unable to self-evaluate fully unless they are shown how to do this.
Many decades ago the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in his seminal work on child development spoke of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and the role that parents play in scaffolding or helping a child to extend their skills beyond their chronological age. Praise given correctly is a vital component in scaffolding a child’s emotional and physical development. This remains true.
The key is to provide appropriate and encouraging praise in a timely and proportioned manner. It is not overpraising every routine thing your child does. The most effective praise contains the message ‘you have done well and you have the potential to build on this’. Not, ‘you are fabulous’, the ‘cleverest’ and the ‘greatest star’, even if, like most parents you really believe they are.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner & E. Souberman., Eds.) (A. R. Luria, M. Lopez-Morillas & M. Cole [with J. V. Wertsch], Trans.) Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. (Original manuscripts [ca. 1930-1934])
Written by Dr Christine Tizzard Consultant Chartered Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychologist. Clinical Director Sheehan Brooke Psychology. Chichester. www.sheehanbrooke.org
The term ‘conscious uncoupling’ is everywhere since Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin decided to separate. But what does this trendy new term actually mean?
Many relationships end; it is a sad reality. Conscious uncoupling accepts a relationship has run its course. It accepts the myriad of difficult feelings that crash in at this time. In basic terms, conscious uncoupling simply means to practice emotional maturity and resilience.
To practice conscious uncoupling, couples make a positive commitment to close their relationship without causing further harm to each other, and especially to their children. This may not be easy – it takes genuine commitment and maturity. The following tips may help.
Five steps to achieve conscious uncoupling
1) Accept the relationship is over; do not dwell on who did what. If necessary, difficult feelings can be worked through in therapy. Adopt a helicopter stance – this means not descending into the territory of mudslinging. Instead, focus on the practicalities needed to design a new life for both of you. It is not about winning a war with your ex. It is about surviving now in order to thrive in future.
2) Be thankful for the positives that occurred in the relationship. The fact that it has gone sour does not remove or reduce the positive experiences that occurred along the way. Perhaps the end of the relationship is a sign that there are new challenges and opportunities for self-fulfilment ahead.
3) Make good decisions about the children, and don’t use the children to score points. When children are caught in the middle of a parental turf war, their emotional health is harmed, sometimes permanently. By consciously uncoupling, you are showing your children that difficult issues can be resolved without bitter dispute. This is very powerful modelling.
4) Accept that your relationship is over, but you remain parents to your children.
5) Consider using mediation and/or psychotherapy to enable progress when things get tough.
In essence, the term conscious uncoupling is an on-trend term for using emotional maturity during the divorce or separation process. The theory behind conscious uncoupling isn’t a passing fad – just a new description of the mature and emotionally intelligent way to work through the end of a relationship.
To find out more about family therapy with Christine Tizzard Psychology, click here.
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).
Has your relationship become boring? Is it a little staid? The truth is boredom happens from time to time even in the best of relationships. It does not necessarily mean it has to be over. This dull place could actually provide an opportunity to breathe life into it.
1) Talk about it
It’s time to be open with one another. Why not sit down with a glass of wine. Using open questions, take turns to ask each other what would make the relationship better.
Try to see the relationship as something that you can both improve. Something that can be worked on and something than can be great in the future.
It’s funny, many people spend hours of their time improving their home or honing skills, few spend any serious time thinking about growing a relationship.
2) Prioritise Sex
Schedule time for sex. When there is emotional distance or friction in a relationship, there is usually less intimacy. This distance often escalates, it becomes very difficult to reconnect.
Making love leads to an increase in oxytocin. This is the hormone associated with bonding. Communication will become easier. It may seem very unromantic scheduling time for sex into your diary but it is important.
3) Restart old habits. What did you used to do when love was new? Why not revisit those old habits. It will make you both feel good and alive again.
4) Schedule regular dates or short breaks away
Often relationships begin to fail through boredom. Life often becomes a routine of juggling work, paying bills and caring for the kids. Demands on time have never been higher. Relationships inevitably take a backseat. This is usually not through laziness, but simply due to the demands of 21st century living.
Scheduling regular time together, free from distractions is an investment in yourselves. That investment will pay dividends getting you through the tough times and leading to exciting times ahead.
5) Begin a new hobby together
It is a well-known fact that learning a new skill together creates intimacy, deepens friendship and generally puts back the zing into a relationship. Choosing a new interest is the beginning of the fun.
6) Design a future together
Psychologists will tell you that people who are successful usually visualise their success. They spend time thinking what success will look and feel like. These people follow thoughts of success by putting steps into place that will allow them to reach their goals. A relationship can be treated in the same manner. The first step is constructing a flexible blueprint. This will serve as a map to creating the relationship you want.
Written by Sheehan Brooke Psychology providers of psychological well-being services throughout the UK. We are able to provide a full range of psychological services including couple and family therapy.
Mindfulness and its role in reducing inflammation in auto immune disease.
A recent research study carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a link between the practice of mindfulness and reduced inflammation in auto immune disease.
Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sarcoidosis and asthma all feature increased inflammation causing pain and distress. In some cases disease activity results in disability, organ malfunction and a marked deterioration in quality of life.
At an intuitive level people who practice mindfulness report that it reduces their stress and pain levels.
Less stress in the system is believed to result in a decrease in the production of the stress hormone, Cortisol. Less Cortisol production, it seems may contribute to reduced inflammation. Less inflammation in chronic disease is very welcome news.
As an example, perhaps you have noticed that after a few days on vacation your pain level seems lower. You may have also recognised that soon after you return home you start to feel worse again. It is well known that pain and anxiety levels seem to increase during stressful periods.
The practice of mindfulness can help you accomplish what is important and necessary to you without increasing your stress levels. Living fully in the present moment has a positive effect on general wellbeing.
Increasingly, it is also believed that meditation has a positive effect on disease activity. This is particularly so when mindfulness is combined with a diet rich in antioxidants and appropriate exercise is taken. It is crucial to state that before starting an exercise routine you must seek medical advice. More research is needed to fully understand the positive effects of mindfulness on inflammation
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), originally designed for patients with chronic pain, consists of continuously focusing attention on the breath, bodily sensations and mental content while seated, walking or practicing yoga.
Sheehan Brooke Psychology is undertaking a research pilot study which will attempt to investigate the effects of Mindfulness on wellbeing in patients having a diagnosis of auto immune disease.
To achieve their objective the organisation is running the 8 week MBCT/MBSR programme specifically for people who have a diagnosis of auto immune illness. It will commence at the beginning of March 2014.
The only requirement is that participants agree to have their inflammatory markers tested by their GP. This involves a simple blood test at the beginning of the study and again six months later. Full information is available from Sheehan Brooke Psychology.
The MBSR programme will take place at the Sheehan Brooke Clinic Nr Chichester, West Sussex. The eight week programme is completely free to participants who agree to take part in the pilot study.
Sheehan Brooke also welcome enquiries from chartered psychologists having a research background and training in mindfulness who are interested in conducting the research in other locations in the UK and US
If you are interested in learning the practice of mindfulness and have been diagnosed with an auto immune illness please do get in touch.
The research study will be led by consultant chartered psychologist Chrissie Tizzard.
Chrissie is also chartered scientist who has undergone training in mindfulness and has completed a research doctorate using quantative and qualitative methods at Roehampton University.
Sheehan Brooke provide a range of Mindfulness courses and longer retreats in the UK and Cyprus.
Sheehan Brooke Psychology 9, The Courtyard, Trident Business Park, Selsey, Chichester, West Sussex PO20 9TY. Telephone 01243 775055