Author Archives: Wendy Bramham Therapy

About Wendy Bramham Therapy

Specialising in talking therapies and integrated health in attractive and peaceful town-centre locations in Newbury, Berks and Marlborough, Wilts.

Working in Therapy with Adolescents and Young People: What is different? Key points of understanding.

On 25th April, a group of 16 therapists of varying disciplines and experience attended a seminar presented by Professor Stephen Briggs (whose books include: Working with Adolescents and Young Adults: A contemporary psychodynamic approach (2008).

We had had the opportunity to download 26 of his slides which offered a framework for the discussions.

In the process of working with this age group, we understand that we have to do things differently from our work with child and adult populations, outlined as follows:

THERAPEUTIC STANCE:

  • Providing a combined containing and exploring space..(containing anxieties and exploring meaning).   This combines taking in the feelings, making sense and feeding back whilst ‘holding’ urgency and anxiety.  Also, enabling the young person to tolerate the ups and downs, extremes of excitement and depression;  facilitating feelings of overwhelm and omnipotence, and taking these things seriously.
  • Being ‘adolescent-centred’..trying to understand the adolescent ‘world view’, without making assumptions about the adolescent’s knowledge or experience of the therapy process.  This includes noticing how quickly adolescents can change and how stuck they can be in the developmental process. The therapist is required to take on the ‘in-between-ness’ of the client, moving responsively between more adult/more childlike states as they occur.  Working with the ‘yes’ adolescent and the ‘no’ adolescent.

WORKING WITH DEPENDENCY:

  • Stephen Briggs explored the delicate issues around the adolescent’s potentially fragile sense of independence where the offer is to share with the therapist what is his, what can he share? What does the therapist need to know; what can be private and acknowledged as private?
  • The therapist needs to work out what the adolescent can and can’t bear, adapting to the fragile sense of separateness from parental figures, his aloneness in the world and the responsibility of his own thoughts and actions.

BECOMING A SUBJECT IN ADOLESCENCE:

  • ‘Being subject to’:  things happening, re-enactments and repeated patterns through change…(puberty, relationships, peer groups).
  • ‘Being subject of’: something that’s going on emotionally and rationally – relating to experience, learning from experience.
  • ‘Becoming a subject’ – the process of gaining ownership..new adult, sexual body, ownership of one’s own thoughts. Ownership of drives, sensations, impulses, feeling and powers. With ownership of bodily changes comes both power and the power to enact. Power relationships evoke different capacity to enact thoughts and feelings.
  • Increased separateness from parental figures at the above levels.
  • From neuroscience, we’re told that with brain development, the slowest capacity to develop is the capacity to reflect.
  • For Separation and Individuation at one end of the axis and Regression on the other, there are transverse opposites:

Self -esteem and competence.   Vs.  Fear of failure
States of mind (subject to).          Vs. Subject of
Power.                                              Vs. Dependence
Life.                                                   Vs. Death

So the binaries in the adolescent process are:
– Excitement v Loss
– Love v Hate
– Life v Death
– Online v Offline
– Powerful v Dependent
– Competence v Fear of Failure

The retreat from death can lead to omnipotence and/or the need not to fit in with convention.  Online/offline ambivalence engenders both omnipotence (with the provision of answers to problems) and the defeat of omnipotence (when the adolescent can’t solve the problem).

An example:
Exploring on line = securely attached
Looking for ‘belonging’ online = less securely attached.

These are part of the dichotomies to be held in mind through the therapeutic intervention in adolescent work.

We had a further three case studies to consider, discuss and apply the learning from the presentation as well as from our own experiences.

WORKING WITH TRANSFERENCE AND COUNTER-TRANSFERENCE:

In the transference:

  • drawing attention to connections between the social world and the therapeutic relationship.
  • making formulations about relatedness, maternal and paternal transference.

In the counter-transferential space:

  • what are we picking up as therapists of the adolescent feelings? What feelings are we evoking?
  • what about me is getting in the way of this work?

So what is both going on in the therapist and what from the adolescent is stirring up feelings in the therapist?  Much of the rich discussion from the case studies surfaced transference and counter-transference explorations.

Appropriately we talked of endings, particularly from the last case study where breaks in the therapy and missed sessions brought important material for therapeutic thought.

Stephen said ‘there is always something about separation with adolescents…in the therapeutic relationship, we replay through separation from the therapist, those other issues of separation’. ‘We are introducing the adolescent to him or herself’.

By: Angy Man, March 2017

Emma Taylor: the gift of undivided attention

Counsellor, Emma Taylor, writes about therapy as ‘the gift of undivided attention‘..

Before I became a therapist my professional background was in corporate life. Needless to say there are many differences between the two occupations, but one that now feels particularly striking is the difference in my own state of mind when I am working. In my previous career multitasking was essential and the merits of working in this way unquestioned. Concentration on any discrete task was always subject to the superseding demands of an email, phonecall or the appearance of an instant messenger conversation obscuring the work on my laptop screen. At meetings it was acceptable to respond to emails while simultaneously attempting to keep abreast of discussions.

Now however, when I am with a client, all intrusions – technological and otherwise – are silenced. For fifty minutes my entire focus is on the person with whom I am sitting and this is one of the many aspects of my work that I love.

This single-minded giving of attention has always been integral to therapy, but I wonder if at the present time it has a value that is of greater than ever significance. Certainly I am aware that when I am with clients, the uninterrupted nature of our time together is somewhat atypical of much of the rest of my life.

Given the ongoing questioning of the negative effects of ever-present smartphones on sleep quality, relationships and powers of concentration, to mention just a few areas of life, I wonder if therapy now offers something particularly pertinent. When sitting with a therapist, the client does not have to fear the competing demands of the enticing world of entertainment and information to which we now have almost constant access. By mutual agreement external distractions are set aside for the duration of the session, by client and therapist alike.

My training and work with clients have shown me the many benefits of therapy. However I wonder if its most fundamental characteristic, that it is a dialogue in which two people give one another their full attention, is significant at the present time to an extent that it has never been before. It seems to me that there can be something profoundly healing in this aspect of therapy alone.”

Contact Emma via the Clinic on 07468 573866 or directly on 07834 576853

Dr Hannah Farr, clinical psychologist, introduces herself…

Dr Hannah Farr

Clinical Psychologist, Dr Hannah Farr, writes about her therapy specialism…

“Hello Everyone, I have recently started running my practice from Wendy’s Clinic in Marlborough. I am a Chartered Clinical Psychologist working with adults, young people and couples who are experiencing life challenges and mental health difficulties.  I have worked for charities and universities, but primarily I have worked in the NHS until recently.  My experience has been with young people and adults who have experienced a brain injury and those with severe mental health challenges.  In my latter role I have worked with people with a diagnosis of psychosis, bipolar disorder and personality disorder.

Now I am practicing as an independent practitioner and I am enjoying meeting different people who are at different stages of their lives.  I am aware that there are a number of different types of therapists available to people, so I thought this might be a good place to explain what I do as a Clinical Psychologist.

I provide a confidential and safe space for people to share personal information about why they are seeking help.  When people contact me I spend some time speaking with them so I can understand a little more about why they have come to me.  If we then decide to meet in person, we spend time talking in more depth and I develop a detailed understanding of the person’s difficulties.  I do this by listening to the information I am given and drawing on different therapeutic models to develop an understanding of people’s problems.  These models are evidence-based psychological methods of assessment and treatment, which I have been trained to use to a high level.  This means that there has been a lot of research conducted on these models with people who experience similar problems to the ones people come to me with.

I use a number of therapeutic models to aid my thinking and develop an understanding of how people have come to the point in their lives where they feel they need psychological support.  I also use them to develop strategies with people to support them in managing the experiences they are having.   I use an integrative approach, which means I draw on a number of models to inform my thinking.  However one of the main models I use is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  In brief, this model allows us to think about how our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are linked to each other and how sometimes these can maintain unhelpful coping strategies.

People are individuals and although we can have similar experiences to each other, we often all understand those experiences in our own different ways.  This means that therapy needs to be flexible and able to change when new information is spoken about in the session, or if a person’s situation changes.  I think this is what makes my work so interesting and why I enjoy meeting everyone who comes to me.”

Contact Hannah via the Clinic on 07468 573866, or directly on 07767 879720

 

 

A different and effective method of helping clients with trauma

IMG_0918.JPGAt the Transforming Trauma: Energy Psychotherapy workshop on 25th February we were introduced to a way of bringing together traditional talking therapy and some of the techniques of energy psychology to alleviate distress and suffering.

Trauma was defined as any event which continues to evoke difficult feelings and/or physical symptoms. The emphasis was on there being no divide between mind and body, and that the body’s energy system can ‘know’ more accurately than the conscious mind what is at the root of an individual’s disturbance.

The seminar leaders, Sandra Figgess and Heather Redington presented case material to illustrate how energy techniques could be used in a psychotherapeutic process. We had the opportunity to try out some of these for ourselves, including muscle testing (kinesiology), a method for making enquiries of the energy system. As well as being fun to try, this also produced some interesting results: when responding to a particular enquiry, my conscious mind and my body response seemed to be at odds. As a psychodynamic therapist I am aware of the conflict between conscious and unconscious intention, so it was intriguing to see it demonstrated by the body. In energy psychotherapy this can be used to provide a working hypothesis on how to proceed.

Another point of cross over between psychoanalytic ideas and energy psychology was looked at in ‘reversals’, the issues that prevent a person achieving the desired change/healing. In energy psychology these are named and worked on using Emotional Freedom Technique. In psychoanalytic therapy they are referred to as resistances, and the work of therapy is often about bringing them into consciousness, where they are less likely to drive behaviour and prevent change.

It was a very thought-provoking workshop that has stimulated my interest in this area.

By Hannah Cowan, March 2017

For anyone wishing to pursue this method further, there will be a five day foundation course in Oxford in June and July 2017.  Please contact therapy@greenfig.org.uk or phone 01865 515156.  Or visit http://www.energypsychotherapyworks.co.uk

Energy Psychotherapy – article in BACP (children and young people) March 2017

Comments from participants: 

“Most interesting and thought-provoking”

“v nice venue, v professional, safe and respectful. V much valued the experiential elements”

“the trainers are excellent, clarifying as and when needed. I loved the experience of energy psychotherapy. Thank you”

“a very engaging day – contemplating an expansion of my practice and the possibility of integrating it”

“very supportive and valuable”

“extremely thought- and feeling-provoking”

“well presented – simplistic enough to stay conscious, complicated enough to know one couldn’t practise it without lots more training”

11 feedback forms gave the following average results:

1) overall assessment of event: 4.5 out of 5

2) speakers : 4.55 out of 5

3) value for money : 4.45 out of 5

By Wendy Bramham, March 2017

Learning to be a better parent

We were honoured that Suzie Hayman came to Marlborough last weekend to offer her pearls of wisdom and inspiration to small groups of parents as well as professionals.

Suzie is a parenting expert, Relate-trained counsellor, journalist, broadcaster and author of over 30 educational books about families.  As before, when we heard her speak in October 2016, Suzie was engaging and pragmatic, always offering us helpful comments to our questions without attempting to pretend that parenting is ever easy – and, of course, reminding us that there is no such thing as the perfect parent; only “good-enough”.

We discussed digital technology and step-families in detail in two separate seminars in small groups.  Suzie was keen for us to remember that, when facing any conflict or difficulty within our families, we can ACT:

A = Adult: ask ourselves “what is going on for me right now? Am I tired, stressed, sad, angry, etc?”

C = Child: ask ourselves “what is going on for my child right now” and be like a detective looking at all the variables that may be affecting your child’s emotional life.

T = Toolkit: what is in my toolkit so that I can deal with the situation in a constructive way, rather than REACT.  This may include for example “active listening” such as taking turns to talk and listen to one another.  Or remembering to use “I” statements (avoiding “you” blaming statements).  For example “When you….I feel….because…. What I would like it/What are we going to do about this?”

Following ACT gives us the opportunity to gain insight around the problem, why it’s happening and how to discuss it without reacting from an overly-emotional stance.

Suzie suggested we set family or house rules.  Every household has rules but usually they are not clear or agreed.  A key point here is to have a “Family Round Table” so that all members of the family – including the children even if they are young – can contribute to and “buy in to” the house rules. Appoint a note-taker, take it in turns to talk (perhaps using an object such as a wooden spoon, allowing each person holding the spoon to have their say without interruptions), have the note-taker write down everything.  Then revise these to allow for compromise and simplicity where necessary.

This task felt somewhat daunting to some of us, but Suzie gave us confidence and courage to think about it.  The earlier you start, the easier it will be get!  And children feel good about being heard and respected.

We were delighted with the level of engagement in both seminars.  I would like to thank everyone who attended and for sharing their experiences.  Many of us benefited from knowing we are not the only ones with our particular difficulties!    Thank you also to the White Horse Bookshop which gave a wonderful ambience to our day.

From 14 feedback forms we received the following scores which are fabulous:

Overall assessment of event: 5 out of 5
Speaker (Suzie Hayman):  4.93 out of 5
Helpfulness regarding learning new skills: 4.93 out of 5

Comments from participants:

  • “I’ve learned a lot both from Suzie and other participants and I value the way the group was facilitated to include everyone’s experience.”
  • “Really good to hear others’ views and experiences and having new techniques to try!”
  • “Suzie is great.  More please!”
  • “Very informative and relaxed”
  • “The group size was just right”
  • Thank you. I really enjoyed this and am going away feeling much more confident!”
  • “Good lively group with interesting discussion and feedback”
  • “Excellent, good venue, good size group”

By Wendy Bramham
February 2017

Benefits of the “Inner Smile” and other techniques we learned at our CPD event on meditation with Dr William Bloom

w-bloom-2016-seminar-edited

Seminar: “Meditation as a Therapeutic Strategy” with Dr William Bloom, organised by Wendy Bramham Therapy

The research into the beneficial effects of meditation on personal wellbeing and especially for depression and anxiety is compelling. Meditation as a concept is moving from the fringes into the boardroom, the classroom and the counselling room.

On the 11th November we had a workshop run by William Bloom, a leader in the field and author of books such as The Endorphin Effect, Meditation in a Changing World, and The Power of Modern Spirituality. Its aim was to support people from the helping professions in using meditation as a therapeutic strategy.

What struck me first was William’s passion for demystification. He wants people to understand how accessible it is: we can meditate anywhere. We don’t have to sit cross-legged. We can do it in the garden with a glass of wine (“but probably not three”), we can do it while we are dancing, or running or after yoga. We can make it fit us. We don’t have to bend ourselves out of shape.

The day was a mix of guided meditations, group exercises and theoretical underpinning. William introduced one beautiful exercise he called the ‘inner smile’ which harnessed our ability to feel compassion for a hurt child or a wounded bird and then turthe-inner-smilen the same ‘kind mind’ on our own failings and vulnerabilities. At another point he used participants to create a constellation of the competing aspects of one person’s personality, all calling out for attention, repeating core beliefs and yelling.  As an embodiment it was a powerful way of understanding the noise in our own heads that can make meditation, and sustaining that place of ‘quiet mind’, so challenging.  For me this was a key moment. As a psychotherapist I have many clients who find it almost impossible to be still and to be in contact with themselves. For them it can be an uncomfortable, even terrifying, experience. And yet we know that for people with a fragile self-process, meditation can help develop an ability to self-regulate and put the world into context. I found myself craving more at this point in terms of understanding how to create that safe bridge and safe container for my clients.

William Bloom brings a breadth and depth of understanding and a passionate commitment to his subject. This was not a workshop necessarily geared towards those who are already integrating a meditative practice. As an introduction to the field it was sustaining and enlivening.

By: Helen Franklin, MSc(psych) UKCP reg, Gestalt Psychotherapist
16th November 2016

Thank you to everyone for their feedback.  From 23 forms the average scores were excellent, as follows:

  • Speaker (William Bloom): 4.74 out of 5
  • Overall assessment of event: 4.61 out of 5
  • Value for money: 4.52 out of 5

Delegates written comments:

  • “The seminar achieved my expectations of the meditative state; ‘soaking in the hot tub of the goddess'”
  • “Thank you, very insightful”
  • “Engaging speaker.  I now understand that I need to be relaxed in body but aware in mind during meditation.  Great sandwiches!”
  • “Great presence.  Informative, experiential, transformative, focussed.  So much more to know.  Great sandwiches and brownies!”
  • “As usual, a WONDERFUL and hugely enlightening day”
  • “All excellent”
  • “Great space, excellent food and speaker”
  • “Great organisation”

Wendy Bramham MBACP (Snr Accred), Psychotherapist
16th November 2016

“A Must for any Parent”

The “Parents and Teens” talk, by parenting expert and agony aunt Suzie Hayman, followed by Q and A, at St John’s School, Marlborough on 22nd October 2016, was a must for any parent with children about to embark on their teenage years, or indeed any parent already in the midst of this often challenging and turbulent time. I only wish I had heard these words of wisdom long ago, both from Suzie herself, and also the teenagers contributing to the discussion.

Suzie has many years of experience counselling families and couples, and is also an agony aunt, broadcaster and author of 30 books on families, but most noticeably Parenting Teens 22 Oct 2016her own experience as a stepmother. She is a warm and wise soul, who brought clarity and calm to this topic without denying the challenges involved.

Suzie starts from the core view that the teenager’s main task is to separate from his/her birth family, while our job as parents is to manage these shifting boundaries while passing control over to the teen. And no, she does not say this is easy. Her approach is practical and pragmatic, and she makes you feel you too could manage this. She gives helpful hints for how to relate to your child in a way that enhances communication,  and on how you might approach such thorny subjects as alcohol use and pornography. She entreats us to remember that a problem might actually be our own, rather than theirs, such as our own expectations or dreams being acted out. She never pretends to have all the answers but offers a framework to work from.

The ensuing discussion brought enlightening tips from the teens present, whose overriding message was “please, just listen to us”, since we might not have any idea what our child is experiencing, as well as “be available”, in other words sometimes we need to wait until they are ready to talk rather than rushing in with our own agenda.  The wide-ranging questions and discussions from the audience could easily have gone on past the allotted time.

This well-organised seminar in congenial surroundings will, I hope, be the first of many such events. Highly recommended!

By: Anne Hutson (parent)
7th November 2016

 

img_2481