Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Who Am I

 Within this Helical Blur...

I can list labels which might describe who I am; male, son, partner, father, sensei, healer, bipolar... I have sought to reject labels, for they can, I have found, be limiting even stigmatising. Am I simply the result of my genetics environment or both, the nature nurture debate continues like a merry-go-round while life quietly unfolds, unaware of my need to put everything into words and compartments. This leaves me musing, am I then the sum of my personality, values and the beliefs I hold about who I am and where I fit in this world. That definition would suggest that who I am is solely defined by me, which would not take into account the relationships I have with others and our interactions with each other, or even the different aspects of myself and how they also interact with each other and the world around me. It seems to me and I would like to add that this is a feeling experience not a thinking one, that who I perceive myself to be varies according to a vast variety of variables at any given point on any given day. This sense of self is then subject to my own physical health, environment, relationships, prevailing mood and the responses I have learned throughout my life. But who then am I? Am I simply a response to all that is and has been, coloured by my hopes of what may be? I would like to use the metaphor of a beautiful blue sky, this is truly who I am, clouds pass by obscuring its clarity and depth, yet slowly they pass and the sky remains untouched. I believe to get a deeper sense of self we must all learn to focus less on the clouds which in my metaphor are our hopes and concerns, which although important of course do not define us, and learn to focus instead on the infinite open blue expanse of possibility before us where we are already the best we can be, where our self is already actualised. For me, realisation of this is at the heart of life and the rift created by this dis-harmony can be a source of in congruence where head and heart are no longer in harmony, a state where one rings like a cracked bell.
  There is then a clear distinction between who I am and who I would like to be…. or is there? I am a strong believer in the actualising principle, I was aware of it before finding that the the humanist psychologists had gavin words to describe it, thank you Abraham and Carl. I was born knowing it and throughout my early life found guidance in eastern philosophies. I believe in the inherent goodness in all beings, yet I am often accused by those close to me that I am quite blind to my own goodness, which leads me to think I am not the best judge of who I am either.

 Simply put…. I am John

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Conditions of Worth

My mother instilled in me the ethic of good time keeping, like the manners which maketh the man, she promoted the belief that I would be judged negatively for poor time keeping and I have to this day lived by that tenet. However more recently I examined my own attitudes to time keeping, I am not harsh on poor time keeping in others, I do not judge them as less, though on occasion my voices insist that their lateness reflect their opinion and value of me. However I came to see that what my upbringing had created in me was an example of what some call a condition of worth. A convenient term for the power we give freely to those around us when our own sense of value depends on the views of another, whether they actually have an opinion or not! In other words one of the way others would see or value me is in my time keeping, this belief once adopted does not require the confirmation of another to be true for you, I came to see that it is simply my belief and as we believe so we create our reality....

 ...and so I came to challenge my extreme time keeping, or at least the 'extreme punctuality' style time keeping and somehow I found that a little understanding of the existence of these conditions of worth eased some of the pressure and stress I was literally creating for myself. I am still always early, but somehow the voice of my mother anxiously reminding me of all her conditions of worth, and there are many! disturb me less since I recognise it as what it is. I have also come to see how that same voice can impersonate others in my life, important people whose views are linked to my self worth, I have come to recognise the impostor within, and I acknowledge the paradoxical way this part of me seeks to keep me safe, safe from a scolding and that awful sense of being in trouble, with head bowed and neck bared.

  The challenge beyond this light bulb moment is to make our children aware of these types of unintended conditioning that we may ourselves imprint on them, whether educational, sporting or behavioural. I talk to my children as I learn about these things, schools as yet don’t seem to teach how to recognise thinking distortions and the terrible mental health challenges they can lead to.

...just let yourself be, without holding on to the constant reference points that mind manufactures 
From the book of Shambhala 

Image courtesy of Knowleswood Primary School and Nursery

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Therapeutic Engagement within Acute Inpatient services – A personal Interest

  Since 2003 I have been employed by the NHS on the strength of my ‘lived experience.’ An essential criteria of the role was an acute admission, a fact in my life which at the time felt like a barrier to ever working again. The Mental Health Trust in Leeds was forward thinking and my peer worker style role was really quite revolutionary. There were 12 of us who started together and we called Service User Development Workers, each of us was allocated to an acute ward. My role is now much broader but I am still privileged to work with people within acute wards and I facilitate a group within which people can discuss their experiences and beliefs in a non-judgmental environment. 

  When I was admitted in 2001, I was told, tomorrow you will see the psychiatrist. Naively this conjured up an image of a leather sofa, a highly trained listening ear with time to hear my story and help to confirm my theory about how a traumatic event early in my life had left me broken. No, that wasn’t what happened, I spent about 5 minutes in the company of this man, he handed me haloperidol and said I would be better if I took this. I asked what would happen if I did not and was told I would be restrained and forcibly medicated. Within only a few days I was experiencing the extreme end of too much haloperidol and no words can describe the terror of that. A state in which it is hard to speak let alone engage with the challenge to unravel your mystery. Simply put I was re-traumatised by the very service which claimed to be helping me. Everything I did or spoke about became a symptom.

In truth it was a symptom! A symptom of a broken system

  I had hoped that people would have time to talk to me, help me work out the mysteries life had hidden in the hand dealt to me, to unpick my metaphors and paradoxes, but what we find is a lack of Therapeutic Engagement which is widely acknowledged and documented. In 2011 Edwards said

'The culture of acute wards needs to be kept under constant scrutiny so that the notion of therapy rather than containment is the philosophy of care'
Edwards ‘What prevents one to one care?  Mental Health Nurses 10 January, 2011

  We can see from published literature that the importance of Therapeutic Engagement is not new, back in 1952 Peplau stated that

 ‘…the general conditions that are likely to lead to health always include the interpersonal environment’

Given how long this has been known, why then does it still not exist within present  Patient Experience, while service users have been asking for it for so long?

I would like to share some of the research I have made and would welcome any comments you may have to aid developing the understanding of this issue from both a service user and staff perspective. This isn't intended to become a stick to hit people over the head with. I would like to share what I have found to develop the understanding of all the issues involved and see how together as staff and service users we can begin to improve this situation.

What do we already know from published literature

  • In 2008 the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) recommended that all units with patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 should implement a system of  patient –protected time (MHAC 2008)
  • Research shows persistently that patients in mental health wards are deprived of therapeutic interaction (Sharac et al 2010) and this situation was highlighted by England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) (Dept. of Health 2006) 
  •  Moyle (2003) found a discrepancy between friendly relationships wanted by patients and the detached stance of nurses; while the patients expected psychiatrists to focus in illness and symptoms, they did not want this from nurses.
  •   Peplau (1952) states that the general conditions that are likely to lead to health always include the interpersonal environment
  •    According to a review of patient’s experiences on MH wards (Quirk and Lelliot 2001) the desired characteristics of nurses are empathy, listening, tolerance and knowing individual needs. However patients in the review often perceived custodial or punitive attitudes in nurses; patients also observed nurses lingering in the office.
  •   Importantly they note, ‘the mental health system often diverts nurses from individualised care towards procedural priorities and maintaining order and safety. A major issue for nurses therefore is role conflict between their dual responsibilities for care and control. ‘


  •   Goffman (1961) observed that nurses maintain a social distance from their ‘stigmatised’ patients
  • Peplau (1952) acknowledges that in general personal relationships with patients are taboo in nursing.
  •   Menzies (1960) identified unconscious defence mechanisms in nurses who protect themselves from anxiety by denying involvement in their work.
  •   Handy (1991) found despite potential satisfaction from interaction with patients, MH nurses derive comfort from order and thereby they maintain an impersonal regime that ultimately causes job dissatisfaction.
  •   Bowers et al 2009, Johnson et al 2011 recognise good morale among nursing staff in acute MH units but contributory factors for lack of nurse-patient contact are not difficult to find and include high acuity, an increasing proportion of patients detained under the mental health act 1983, understaffing and bureaucratic burden.
  •   Quirk and Elliot (2001) argue that the rapid patient through put in acute psychiatric units has an adverse effect on quality of care. Reduced hospital provision has led to a higher proportion of detained patients and reliance on pharmacological rather than interpersonal therapeutic interventions.  Patients are not always amenable to therapeutic interaction because of their condition or of the medication they receive.
  •   Edwards et al (2008) examined a PET scheme and found while nurses acknowledged their responsibilities in providing time for individual patients, staff shortages and other issues made it difficult to fulfil this expectation. Nurses observed some patients did not want one-to-one sessions, and there was a lack of supervision to support the practice.

Next Steps 
  • A first step would be to define Patient Engagement Time, purpose and scope Nolan (2013)
  • An important stage is defining who within the nursing team are appropriate for delivering patient engagement time. I.e. Peer Support Workers, Nurses, Health Support Workers, Occupational Therapists
  • The Productive Ward project also known as Releasing Time to Care, focused on improving ward processes and environments to help nurses and therapists spend more time on patient care. Perhaps it is an ideal time to rerun the process.
  • Guidance should be produced for therapeutic engagement sessions based on empirical evidence. Nolan (2013)
  • Access to training and supervision. Nolan (2013)
  • Staff supervision needs to be consistent, supportive and carried out by appropriately trained, competent and experienced staff. Edwards (2011)
  • Likely to fail if it becomes another task in the daily routine and if nurses and patients are insufficiently motivated to embrace the opportunity for better engagement. Nolan (2013)
  • Mental Health Nursing lacks a distinct theoretical framework.  Formulated by Hildegard Peplau in 1948, published in 1952.    
John Thorpe - Recoveryleeds.blogspot


Department of Health (2006) From values to action: The chief nursing officer’s review of mental health nursing. DH, London
Edwards K, Dhoopnarain.  A Fellows J et al (2008) Evaluating protected time in mental health acute care. Nursing Times 104, 36, 28-29
Edwards K (2011). What prevents one to one care?  Mental Health Nurses 10 January, 2011
Goffman. E 1961 Asylums: Essays on the social situation on mental patients and other inmates. Doubleday, New York NY.
Handy J (1991) Stress and contradiction in psychiatric nursing. Human  Relations. 44, 1, 39-53.
Menzies IEP (1960) The functioning of social systems as a defence against anxiety. Tavistock, London
Moyle W (2003) Nurse-patient relationship: a dichotomy of expectations. International journal of mental health nursing
Nolan F, An evaluation of protected engagement time on staff and patient outcomes in acute mental health inpatient wards in England. Presented at the 19th International Network for psychiatric nursing research. Royal College of nursing, Warwick
Peplau. H. (1988). Interpersonal Relations in Nursing. The Macmillan Press. London. First published 1952
Quirk A and Lelliot P (2001) What do we know about life on acute psychiatric wards in the UK? A review of the research evidence.  Social Science and medicine. 53, 1565 – 1574.
Sharac J, McCrone P, Sabes-Figuera R et al (2010) Nurse and patient activities and interaction on psychiatric inpatient wards: A literature review, International Journal of nursing studies, 47, 909-917

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Within you lies the way of growth

Post by John Thorpe
 I just re-read my last post, slightly startled how it kicks off with a list of what I don't do enough of, channelled, without doubt, by my inner critical parent, I can hear the voice now, I hear it everyday. I have over time learned to recognise, that that voice, is the voice of all who sought to teach me, both things I asked to learn and things they wanted me to learn, how I should be and what I shouldn't be. It speaks, almost always in my own voice, it is, I have no doubt, my own inner dialogue, ensuring I adhere to what I have been taught and what I have been shown to be important, whether I agree or not, one simply does not question the voice of experience and wisdom.

  From an early age I was uninspired with the experience of education and developmental emphasis, my free child knew of a world vast and exiting where within each moment the universe itself articulates, inspires and guides the open heart and mind to a place where miracles can happen. Unfortunately the free child is not welcome in this culture, it has to be controlled and subjugated, to conform and develop in line with what is acceptable and laid down by convention, for most this experience is not a positive one;

                  As soon as you're born they make you feel small,     
By giving you no time instead of it all
                  Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
                                                                                                                                John Lennon

  ...But where there is life there is the free child. My free child, I recognise, is more than a voice informed by last years convention in this infinite ocean. My free child holds a magnetic compass, which sits at the heart of my being, when I become aware of this polarity I am naturally drawn to people and things which resonate with this growing aspect of me, the world becomes interesting and I am naturally educated by it. 

  How then do I grow beyond the script I have been living, the impasse within which I have always remained bound? The answer lies not only in how we move beyond self limiting beliefs but in how much we desire it and what we have invested in staying the same, searching the same mistaken places, drawn to the same impossible relationships and situations. After all change is scary, right? Better the devil we know right? or so our self limiting and critical voices tell us but if like me you are tired of the limits, the fear and anxiety, you need look only to yourself, for within you is the way of growth.

  The journey has been hard, we have travelled long and only on occasion has our destination come into view, our belief in reaching that place tested daily. Look at how far you have travelled, where you have come from and what you have already been through, you have already garnered enough wisdom and experience to make real your hopes and dreams. When we try to move beyond the conditioning which our inner critics impart freely, ours is to challenge gently, after all we are only challenging our selves, and we are but weary of this inner and seemingly eternal tension. The wisdom of our inner child is eternal and boundless, the wisdom of the inner critic is rooted in fear and conformity, I stress that it does have its place, it is a protector after all, but ironically it protects us from the self realisation expressed in Eastern religion, spirituality and more recently psychology. To move toward our ultimate destiny then is a process of growth akin to unfolding and as our own protective responses voice their concerns ours is to recognise their origin, express our gratitude and compassion toward how they have served us thus far and all turn and take the out stretched hand of the inner child who has walked every step of this miraculous journey.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Autobigraphy of the Medication Trolley

 Poem by Terry Simpson

My ancestor was a wooden horse,
innocent on Troy’s hot plain,
deceptive and ambivalent.

I am a dream of science,
restless on a stormy, medieval night,
my mother a witch who must be tamed,
screaming down the hallway
at furious priests.

I am related to the drinks trolley
Edinburgh to London,
Hot tea and coffee,
crisps and Danish,
chocolate and Heineken,
need a receipt mate?

My arrival on the ward is the climax of the day.
They line up like penitents to Mass, 
craving forgiveness.
Nurses hand down the Holy Tablets,
(sometimes too the Syrup),
and the patients are redeemed.
They go back to doze before Deal or No Deal,
or to their beds to dream of Salvation,
(known as Discharge
in contemporary parlance).

My ancestor was a wooden horse.
Now I sit on the beige linoleum,
inside me psych-active warriors
Waiting their chance to subdue
The tiresome barbarians.