Monthly Archives: October 2006

State Regulation of Psychological Therapies Opposition

We were sent an email from Denis Postle informing us that Professor Louis Appleby, director of Mental Health UK has asked the Independent Practitioners Network for feedback on the regulation of counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis which, worryingly, is being proposed by the Government’s Department of Health.

Denis has prepared a Statement of Opposition to State Regulation of Psychological Therapy, with a brief summary of the range of arguments against such regulation, which will be presented before November the 12th of this year – the deadline for feedback.

The most vital arguments in my mind include:

1) Regulation based on training falsely promises that training guarantees good practice, and reliance on this unwarranted view in turn misleads the public: the ability to achieve good results ultimately counts for more than the level of training achieved, and this can only be effectively monitored through client feedback, supervision, case seminars and ongoing peer review.

2) It is not the proper business of the state to control the provision of counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Such control can never be apolitical. State regulation of psychological therapies will compromise practitioner neutrality, lead to risk-averse practice and erode the client’s freedom of choice.

3) Existing research suggests a) that good therapeutic outcomes are not demonstrably related to levels or types of training; b) that good outcomes are strongly correlated with the successful creation of an effective helping relationship between practitioner and client.

4) No reputable or systematic research exists to demonstrate that counsellors, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts abuse or exploit clients on a scale that warrants the costs (financial, political, cultural and psychological) of state regulation.

MindFields College supports this Statement of Opposition wholeheartedly and we encourage anyone who feels the same to read the evidence (more to be found here) circulate these links and add themselves to the list of signatories (before Nov 10th) to oppose governmental regulation of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK.

Posted by: Eleanor


The power of Scott Adams’ optimism

An amazing entry from the blog of Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert cartoons, gives us an example of the tremendous power of expectation and the plasticity of the brain.
Adams had suffered for 18 months from Spasmodic Dysphonia, a disorder in which the part of the brain that controls speech essentially shuts down. Adams relates how he decided that just because no one else had recovered from this condition it didn’t mean that he shouldn’t – and in the process reminds us of how little we understand about the immense complexity of the brain and its relationship to the mind:

“I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there’s no cure, painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.

The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people.

To state the obvious, much of life’s pleasure is diminished when you can’t speak. It has been tough.

But have I mentioned I’m an optimist?

Just because no one has ever gotten better from Spasmodic Dysphonia before doesn’t mean I can’t be the first. So every day for months and months I tried new tricks to regain my voice. I visualized speaking correctly and repeatedly told myself I could (affirmations). I used self hypnosis. I used voice therapy exercises. I spoke in higher pitches, or changing pitches. I observed when my voice worked best and when it was worst and looked for patterns. I tried speaking in foreign accents. I tried “singing” some words that were especially hard.

My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normal speech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnected from the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That’s consistent with any expert’s best guess of what’s happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It’s somewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way to remap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speaking or context most similar – but still different enough – from normal speech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly different context, I would continue to close the gap between the different-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathways remapped. Well, that was my theory. But I’m no brain surgeon.

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.

When I say my brain remapped, that’s the best description I have. During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that I couldn’t get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connection between my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I felt the connection again. It wasn’t just being able to speak, it was KNOWING how. The knowing returned.

I still don’t know if this is permanent. But I do know that for one day I got to speak normally. And this is one of the happiest days of my life.”

Posted by: Eleanor

Review and feedback!

As of tomorrow, MindFields College has had this blog for a month.  We’ve had over 1500 hits in this time, and this is fantastic!

Feeling our way into the world of business orientated blogging has been a fascinating experience, we have learned a lot and reading feedback and making connections has been so exciting! I’ve loved tinkering with the layout, using the WordPress features and other little gizmos (I particularly like our little clustr map which shows where in the world we are getting visited from!) but of course it is the content that is the most important component.

Now we are considering what has worked, what we need to change and how this blog is going to go forward and grow further.

It would be very valuable to have some feedback on who is reading this blog, whether you return to see any updates, what you like about it, what you don’t like, whether you’d be interested in longer involved posts or whether you prefer shorter snippets or news and reviews, whether you’d like more information about the background to the human givens approach and MindFields College or more practical posts on good mental health or anything else you suggest.

Looking forward to your comments!


Posted by: Eleanor

The problem of addiction: Part 2 – ‘Cheating, dopamine soaked memories’

pete doherty

In last Thursday’s post we introduced how addiction occurs when natural pleasure response processes get out of control. [Sorry I’ve not had a chance to post the follow up until now – it’s been a busy few days!]

It is clear that intellectually, you can tell yourself shouldn’t be doing something bad for you as many times as you like, but for some reason, this is very difficult to turn into actions which actually change your behaviour. We have all experienced this, we KNOW that eating an entire easter egg in one go will make us feel sick, and we will regret it later, but the pleasure we get from eating and the taste of the chocolate is enough for most of us to do it anyway! When this gets out of control, and we are for example, eating entire easter eggs several times a day, this has become an addiction which needs to be addressed.

It’s crucial to understand how cheating memories and dopamine-influenced cravings can overcome your well intentioned will to change (dangerous in itself because the loss of control can lead to depression) and this knowledge leads to clear steps you can take to deal with this and get out of the addictive cycle.

The important thing to remember is that logic is not enough to cure addiction….

Continue reading

The problem of addiction: Part 1 – Brighton Rocks [of crack]

For the third consecutive year, Brighton and Hove has had the most drug related deaths anywhere in the UK.

24.2 per 100,000 people died from drug related deaths in the city (that’s 51 people in a single year period), compared with the second worst area, Dumbarton, which had only 13.4 per 100,000 people.

Living in the city myself, this does not surprise me. I have seen people injecting heroin in the park, I have tripped over used syringes in the streets and both me and pretty much every one of my friends in the area has been approached and offered drugs on the seafront (prevoking mild concern as to what this says about us….!)

I’m not going to try and explain why Brighton specifically has ended up this way, essentially because I have no idea, (although Dr Adenekan Oyefeso from the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths at St George’s University of London has offered some clues in this brief BBC article) instead I am going to consider, from the human givens approach, exactly how this process of addiction – which has ended at least 51 peoples lives in my city (if I make the assumption that the victims were addicted to the drugs rather than being unfortunate first-time or ‘responsible’ users) – actually works.

Continue reading

You’re only as old as you feel

Ivan Tyrrell (pictured rather shadily above), the co-author of this blog and Principal of MindFields College – is away this week teaching the human givens diploma course in London, but it’s his _ _rd birthday today so I thought I’d post a commemorative blog entry in his honour!


Posted by: Eleanor :p

What happens when you give Prozac to hamsters?

Juvenile hamsters on low doses of Prozac are more aggressive than adult hamsters.

In a study worth reading by Tavarosh-Lahn, Bastida and Deville at the University of Texas – it was noticed that rates of aggression in male golden hamsters decreased naturally throughout the juvenile stage of their development. Hamsters are often used in studies of this sort because they display clear stages in development from ‘youthful play fighting’ to full blown adult aggression.

The researchers hypothesied that serotonin levels as controlled by the hypothalamus were the cause of this change in aggression levels – so they decided to dose the hamsters with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor: fluoxetine (marketed as “Prozac”) to try and inhibit the aggressive behaviour and find out how serotonin levels differ between young and adult brains. However, results indicated that (in low doses of fluoxetine only) the juveniles aggressive behaviour was actually exacerbated.

Despite the controversial nature of generalising to humans from animal experiments, the neuroscientists suggested that this research could eventually help explain why human teenagers often experience higher levels of aggression and self destructive behaviour whilst on anti-depressants.

Tavarosh-Lahn states that the maturing brain “could possibly react to drugs given to adults in different and potentially negative ways. We need to understand how these drugs will affect the developing nervous system before giving them to children…It is unwise to expect a drug to work the same in juveniles as in adults.”

Considering that Prozac is the only medication approved to treat depression in children, the implications of studies like these are enormous and GP’s should be careful to use anti-depressants in only the most functionally impaired by depressive feelings, in order to render the patient more able to address the underlying problem and cure their depression.

Posted by: Eleanor