Tag Archives: anxiety

The Psychology of Violent Extremism

Since the last newsletter where violent extremism was discussed, there have been a number of further acts of violence within the UK.  Thinking about what drives people to engage in such behaviour has become more pertinent.  Dr Hannah FarrAlongside this it also feels important that we think about how we talk to our young people about these acts, especially after the suicide bomber at the Ariana Grande concert, where many young people were involved.  At the end of this piece I will provide details outlining where to find information on trauma, how to support people who have been through a traumatic experience and how to talk to young people about what has been happening in their world.  However, I want to start by presenting some of the psychological research which has tried to develop a profile of someone who becomes involved in extremism.

Psychological research into those who carry out acts of violent extremism has been somewhat minimal to date.  However, there are some characteristics which have been identified and provide us with some insight into what drives a person to join these groups.  It is suggested that those young men (I will focus on men here as they are the majority in these groups) who feel marginalised and unrepresented in places of authority e.g. the government, and who perceive an injustice are more likely to join an extremist group.  They appear to be searching for a sense of belonging, connectedness and affiliation (Silke, 2008), which they don’t feel they get elsewhere in society or their community.  It is suggested that they feel uncertain about themselves and their world (Bonim, 2014) and seek danger and excitement as a way of giving their life meaning.  They feel they are unable to make changes in any other way than through extreme and unconventional means (Saucier et al., 2009).  They believe they represent a broader victimised group who need someone to stand up for them (Horgan, 2017).  Motivation, ideology and social process all come together to play a role in the radicalisation of men who join extremist groups.  Understanding this interplay is the first step towards developing policies to intervene (Kruglanski et al., 2014), it may also be important for society to understand and play a role in expressing concerns about possible extremism in their communities.

How communities can play a role in expressing concerns about suspicious behaviour has also been an ongoing discussion especially after an attack.  Dando (2017) stated that when it comes to ‘pointing the finger at a neighbour or friend’ when they are suspicious of their values/beliefs/behaviour the impact may be too great.  She considers the impact of a reduction in community police officers, as it may be that a rapport between communities and police could encourage people to have more of the difficult conversations.  ‘When people feel socially and economically excluded, and when groups feel marginalised they tend to look inwards rather than outwards’.

Violent extremism effects us all, either directly as a victim or family/friend member of a victim; even as a family member/friend of the perpetrator; as an observer and member of a community or as a parent (carer) trying to explain to a child what is happening in their world, whilst trying to make sense of it yourself.  These experiences are traumatic and leave us with questions and difficult emotions, so I have attached some links to websites which may help to provide some support.

By: Dr Hannah Farr, Clinical Psychologist
July 2017

Dr Hannah Farr works at Wendy Bramham Therapy on Thursday mornings in Marlborough.

Links

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/03/23/how-to-talk-to-children-about-terrorism_n_8580612.html

  • Helping children understand their responses to difficult news stories

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/13865002

 

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Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) – seminar update

Psychotherapist, Hannah Cowan, writes: “At our seminar on Saturday, Sarah House introduced us to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) by telling us how the founder, Francine Schapiro, noticed that after a walk in the park she felt more able to manage things that had been troubling her. She connected this to the frequent eye movements that occur when walking and went on to develop a system of therapy that used rapid movement of the eyes from left to right. The purpose of the eye movements is to keep a person anchored in the present whilst remembering a traumatic memory.  Additionally these movements help to connect the left and right sides of the brain which, following trauma, can become disconnected.”

Thank you to all who participated in the event, and for your feedback. Your average rating for both the event and the speaker was 4.5 out of 5!

Our next seminar, 13 June 2015, looks at the tricky issue of how to talk about sex in the therapy room. For more information on this and all forthcoming events, visit our website wendybramham.co.uk

Author:  Hannah Cowan
Editor: Wendy Bramham
April 2015

Sir Richard Bowlby – “a rare and special opportunity” in 2014

Rachel Cooper, psychotherapist at Wendy Bramham Therapy in Newbury, reviews our recent day on attachment theory with Sir Richard Bowlby:

“Hearing Sir Richard speak at the recent Wendy Bramham seminar in Newbury felt a rare and special opportunity to get up close and personal with his father, Sir John Bowlby’s, pioneering work.

Richard highlighted the significance of attachment theory by taking us back to the fright we each felt when we got lost (and separated from our caregiver) as a child, even though we were not in any danger; caused by the terror of separation from an attachment figure. He also reminded us of its ongoing impact on all relationships held as adults and explained how he himself developed a secure attachment as an adult through his relationship with his wife.

Sir Richard Bowlby and Wendy BramhamSir Richard with Wendy Bramham

Richard provided an updated slant with research and views, sparking stimulating debates that ranged from the science of epigenetics to the art of using attachment theory creatively and individually within psychotherapy. Also the despair caused by the lack of influence of attachment theory on politician’s agenda within schooling, versus the hope from a psychotherapist providing a reliable, responsive, helpful and empathic secure base from which clients can begin to explore in a way that has previously been too scary. I loved Richard’s description of a psychotherapist being, “someone to hold our hand while we go into scary places”.

Richard was such an engaging speaker through his warm, humorous and down to earth style. His sharing of personal experiences with his upbringing and own family really brought the theory to life. A really engaging, enlightening and informative event.”

newburytherapy.com/rachel-cooper-therapist-newbury.php

Attachment Theory – “The Science of Love”

Sir Richard Bowlby and Wendy Bramham

Sir Richard Bowlby and Wendy Bramham

 

Our public lecture and discussion on Attachment Theory on 7 November 2014 was a fantastic opportunity, here in Newbury, to gain Sir Richard Bowlby’s insight into his father John Bowlby’s famous life and work. 

 

 

 

 

Over 100 people attended the lecture, ranging from A level psychology students and teachers of children with learning difficulties to experienced counsellors, psychotherapists and complementary health practitioners.

John Bowlby was a medically trained doctor, psychoanalyst and psychologist, and was motivated 50 years ago to research and develop “Attachment Theory” in part because of his own losses in childhood – namely that of his nanny when he was 4 and then at age 8 attending boarding school.  This theory has since been a very important way of understanding what babies and small children need if they are to develop good mental health.  It has been – and still is –  a major feature of any psychology training in the UK.

Sir Richard Bowlby, internationally renowned for the lectures he gives about his father’s work, presented this topic in an engaging way.  He told our audience that Attachment Theory is the “science of love”.  It is what many of us know instinctively if we ourselves were able to form a secure attachment to a primary carer (such as mum) in early childhood.  This would happen for example if our parent responded to our emotions (fear, joy) in a reasonably attuned, consistent, predictable and frequent manner.  Sounds easy?  And yet statistics show that 40% of people in the UK are “insecurely attached”.  This might take the form of clinging to avoid any loss, or alternatively avoidance of attachments in the first place.

From 71 completed feedback forms from participants we scored an average rating of 4.48 out of 5 for overall assessment of the event.   Sir Richard Bowlby received 4.71 out of 5 as a speaker.  Fabulous scores!  Comments include:

“Fantastic opportunity, a very positive experience”
“With this knowledge I can help others in some small way”
“Fascinating and enlightening… really helped me for my work”
“Interesting subject – good to hear this from John Bowlby’s son”
“A charming and heartwarming man to listen to”
“Excellent speaker, very engaging”
“Wish I had learned this before I had children”

The first 20 minutes of this lecture can be viewed on our Youtube channel:

Please sign up to receive our quarterly newsletters or to hear about future seminars for therapists.

Wendy Bramham
12 November 2014

Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy – DIT: Seminar feedback, September 2014

At our seminar on Saturday Beni Woolmer presented a rich and stimulating presentation on DIT – a 16 week model of psychodynamic therapy, now used widely in the NHS for depression and anxiety.  It is great news that the medical profession are learning more widely about therapies in addition to CBT!  I personally have researched, learned about and used in my practice many different models of therapy over the past 20 years and I return over and over again to psychodynamic theory as incisive… and possibly the hardest to learn and use well as a practitioner.
DIT offers an intensive therapy that is highly focussed and structured.  It can illuminate how symptoms, interpersonal functioning, mood and behaviour can be driven by unconscious (and unexamined) psychic patterns.  In our seminar Beni – very capably and with great knowledge and experience – taught us how DIT develops a very focused strategy to help the client learn about and modify one central interpersonal problem which might be causing symptoms such as depression or anxiety. DIT helps the client think differently about themselves (their self image and their feelings/thought)s as well as how they view others, and to modify their interpersonal behaviour. The therapy aims to help clients become aware of his/her fears relating to unconscious feelings and feared consequences of change, and how s/he unconsciously manages these fears.
DIT is not suitable for all clients, and can be demanding for the client as well as the therapist. We learned about criteria for assessment, eg the client’s ability to be reflective (including his/her relationship with the therapist) and to tolerate a degree of mental pain.
We are delighted to have received very positive feedback from this seminar, with an average score from all participants of 4.75 out of 5 for the speaker, and 4.6 out of 5 as an overall assessment of the event. A big thank you to all who participated.
Our next event with William Bloom is sold old, but there are still tickets available for our day with Sir Richard Bowlby on Attachment Theory on 7 November in Newbury. See our website for more details: newburytherapy.com
Wendy Bramham
September 2014
Recommended reading:
Brief Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide
by Alessandra Lemma, Mary Target and Peter Fonagy
Oxford University Press, 2011

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is  paying attention, on purpose and with acceptance, to direct experience as it is.  It is not a concept but a practice, and its benefits can only be gained through regular, formal practice.  Mindfulness has always been a part of the ancient Buddhist meditation traditions, but has been developed recently into a more secular approach and used in various psychological therapies, for example to help with stress reduction.

Mindfulness is an important resource and life-skill for everyone because it helps regulate stress, promotes positive mood, supports the immune system and increases our ability to concentrate.  Above all, it helps us to accept “what is”, enabling us to become curious rather than anxious, and so enabling us to respond more creatively, rather than reacting or behaving in “auto pilot”, driven by old beliefs or habits.

We learned in our recent seminar with Margaret Landale that, as therapists, one of the best ways to “teach” clients is to model it through our own mindfulness practice – to “embody” mindfulness ourselves – which will then be communicated non-verbally to our clients.  Margaret says: “Communication is determined by sensory and felt experience.  The client will subconsciously respond to the therapist’s facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice and body posture/language. Language arises from a deep level of relational attunement”.

Margaret’s style, delivery and content were all excellent and we received extremely positive feedback from our attendees.  We all enjoyed her enthusiastic, informative and gentle approach to learning new techniques.  Best of all, I now have a much more accessible key to my own meditation practice which, prior to the workshop, had been tentative at best and quite often non-existent.  We look forward to part 2 when we will be applying mindfulness to helping our clients with complex trauma.

by: Wendy Bramham

Mind-Body Connection

We often talk about the mind and body as though they are completely separate – but they aren’t. The mind can’t function unless your body is working properly – but it also works the other way. The state of your mind affects your body. If you feel low, you tend to do less and be less active, which makes you feel worse – you can become more tired, feel more depressed and tense, plus you miss out on things you enjoy. So it can easily become a vicious cycle.

The Study of Psycho-Neuro-Immunology

This is the established scientific study of how the mind and body communicate, and how stress can affect our immune system and susceptibility to disease.

It is only since the advent of modern medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries that we seemed to lose the ancient wisdom of how illness and wellbeing are connected to the mind, society, morality and spirituality. However, in recent years the study of PNI reminds us that psychological states like chronic stress, depression, anxiety, fear produce profound effects on the body. Most of us will have our own experiences of how headaches or digestive problems can result from stress. But PNI has extended that to include the way in which genes express themselves in genetic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Over time, mental and emotional states take a heavy toll on the body and are a significant risk for illness.

The field of PNI has documented different physiological responses to stress. Various forms of stress management have been found to be helpful in modifying the body’s stress response. These include:

  • mindfulness meditation

  • yoga

  • counselling & psychotherapy

  • exercise

  • volunteering in the community

  • stream-of-consciousness writing

  • humour

  • music

  • nutrition, acupuncture and other complementary therapies

  • touch/massage

  • sunlight and nature

  • social connectedness.

Exercise  Until the last 100 years or so, you had to be quite active to just live your everyday life. Now, in modern Western societies, so much of what we used to do is done by machines.

Exercise doesn’t have to be about running around a track or working out in a gym. It can just be about being more active each day, and may include things like washing the car, gardening, strolling around the block etc. It is however, important to do something quickly enough so that you raise your heart rate (aerobic exercise), as it is then that the “happy” chemicals called endorphins are released into our body and make us feel good.

 If you keep active, you are:

  • less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense

  • more likely to feel good about yourself

  • more likely to concentrate and focus better

  • more likely to sleep better

  • more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit such as smoking or alcohol

  • more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older

  • possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia.

Tips on getting started:

  • It is vital to pick an activity that you ENJOY

  • any exercise is better than none.

  • BUT a moderate level of exercise seems to work best.

  • This is roughly equivalent to walking fast, but being able to talk to someone at the same time.

  • Don’t start suddenly – build more physical activity into your life gradually, in small steps.

How well does exercise work for depression?

For mild depression, physical activity can act as a natural anti-depressant, and be as (or more) effective for some people than medication. In some areas in the UK, GPs (family doctors) can prescribe exercise.

Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week can significantly improve depression symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — can make a difference. It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more-vigorous activities, such as running or bicycling. (Ref: Royal College of Psychiatrists).

The mental health benefits of exercise may last only if you stick with it over the long term — another good reason to focus on finding activities you enjoy.

Why does exercise work?

  • It helps to release feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) into the brain, which can ease depression. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking.

  • Exercise can stimulate other chemicals in the brain called “brain derived neurotrophic factors” (BDNF). These help new brain cells to grow and develop. Moderate exercise seems to work better than vigorous exercise. BDNF seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by extreme stress.

  • Harder exercise (perhaps needed to fight or flight from danger) can help to dispel the physical effects of a trauma, loss, shock or crises as it helps reduce adrenalin and produces endorphins. Animals in the wild naturally do this by fleeing from or fighting danger.

  • Exercise can also reduce risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.

Exercise can also help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence and help you to feel more in control.

  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.

  • Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others.

  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

How do I get started — and stay motivated?

Starting and sticking with an exercise routine can be a challenge. Here are some steps that can help. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program to make sure it’s safe for you.

  • Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of physical activities you’re most likely to do, and think about when and how you’d be most likely to follow through. Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.

  • Get your mental health provider’s support. Talk to your doctor or other mental health provider for guidance and support.

  • Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn’t have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think realistically about what you may be able to do. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet unrealistic guidelines that you’re unlikely to meet.

  • Don’t think of exercise as a chore. If exercise is just another “should” in your life that you don’t think you’re living up to, you’ll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

  • Address your barriers. Figure out what’s stopping you from exercising. If you feel self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise at home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don’t have money to spend on exercise gear, do something that’s virtually cost-free, such as walking. If you think about what’s stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.

  • Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain an exercise routine and may as well quit. Just try again the next day.