Rethink and a whole host of other leading Mental Health charities and organizations have launched a campaign to try and persuade the NHS to offer Talking Therapies to those diagnosed with severe mental illness within 28 days. You can read the We Still Need To Talk Report here.
I’d like to tell you a little about my journey with Talking Therapies in the past.
I have been through various rounds of talking therapy, most of the time (I am ashamed to say) I was so “out of it” to understand that I was having talking therapy to start with let alone get anything lasting and meaningful from the process. It wasn’t until I was taken off of over half of my medication that I started again with eyes more open and a clearer sense of what I was heading into.
Looking back, the times that I engaged with talking therapies before my move South, I found that formal group CBT was next to useless for me. It could have been the way the group was poorly managed and disjointed in that there was never three consecutive weeks of treatment, or it could have been the wide range of disorders that were mixed in the group. The group CBT dynamic in that case just didn’t work for me. This isn’t to say that it couldn’t work for me now. As you’ll read further on, I discovered something interesting about “Talking” therapies
When I took part in more informal therapy away from a hospital arena, things did improve. I had one to one sessions with a trained mental health worker who would have no preconceived plan to get me discharged or on a certain amount of drugs all she was concerned with was getting my issues resolved in a reasonable amount of time. Whilst there was a set amount of sessions allotted to me by the NHS, the service that I went to had groups that ran outside of the one to one sessions that could be used to infill when I needed a little extra support. In the northern therapy time, that was the most helpful talking therapy. Alas, I fear that service is probably crippled beyond all good value now due to radical and inhumane cuts that have fallen on the Mental Health sector in the past three years.
After the Move
Once I moved into a different NHS area my treatment plan changed totally. I was comfortable in my treatment in Northamptonshire. I knew no different. There had been rocky times when Psychiatrists would change weekly (locum doctors), and there would be weeks when phone calls would go unanswered, but for the most part things seemed to be working for me.
When I finally got to see someone here in Kent, I was assessed during my first visit by a senior CPN, and was put into what was called “The Recovery Group”. Within my CMHT there were two bands Recovery and Access. There was also the usual Crisis and CAHMS services, but for adults referred to the CMHT, if you were taken on by them it was under either The Recovery Group for those with more long term needs and more severe Mental Health issues or the Access Team who deal with the rest.
Once place into the Recovery Group I was given an appointment to see my Psychiatrist. At this point in time I was woefully over medicated and REALLY over OVER weight.
My Psychiatrist had started to remove the surplus medications and for the first time in quite some time I was starting to feel a spark of humanity in my life again. I was starting to feel again.
I had been used to my treatment being guided by me and the consultant or CPN. In this case, there was a road map already laid out before I had been seen. It was VERY vague, but it was there, and I think, looking back, they had some kind of a time limit to get me discharged again, but conspiracy theories aside, the Recovery Group lead me to the ingeniously titled Recovery Group sessions.
When I started attending the Recovery Group Sessions it was a little mishmash of what I had been exposed to back in Northants. It was a group no bigger than 12 people at its busiest. The group was well facilitated and was informal and whilst it was only for two hours per week, it had one very definite purpose in its operation. It was there to show what treatments were available out there. Obviously you don’t get the detailed information on Mindfulness in 2 hours and 2 hours of CBT isn’t going to do a great deal. I found that by being part of this group, I grew into myself a little more and started to live life off of so much medication, and I engaged with people on a different level. I found that regardless of what the week’s topic was, I enjoyed the social aspect of the group much more.
12 weeks for any kind of therapy on the NHS is pretty generous, and I had certainly never heard of anything that long back up in Northants. Whilst my visits to the Bungalow were over an extended period of time, they were often mixed with other groups offered within the Bungalow “services”.
After the Recovery Group sessions, I was left with minimal contact with the CMHT. During the Recovery Group Sessions I had been introduced to the local Rethink co-ordinatorand we had briefly discussed my getting involved in helping out with their Newsletter. Unfortunately, after the group had finished and I had come down from the post group hyper things got awkward for me and I started to introvert again and things were slowly going back to square one again.
After some time, my CPN offered me a chance to take part in an Art Group being run by one of the Occupational Therapists within the CMHT. Whilst this isn’t a Talking Therapy, it is that social inclusion aspect again that drew me in and helped me greatly. That course was shorter at only 8 weeks, but after that the big one was to come.
At some point in the melee of life and Doctors’ appointments my diagnosis was placed under review and for some unexplainable reason, the psychiatrist decided that rather than having Bipolar I had Borderline Personality Disorder. Of course I called bullshit and ranted and raved. There are posts around here somewhere that chronicle the situation.
Because of the BPD diagnosis I was offered the STEPPS course. This was a 16 week intensive course designed mainly for people with BPD. I had to actually have an interview to get on this course. I was found to be so close to the “borderline” for NOT getting on the course that I am pretty sure that the Occupational Therapist who assessed me probably cheated to get me on the course. I had made it very clear that I didn’t think I had BPD as soon as it was mentioned that the course was aimed at BPD. My reasoning for this is in a previous post. I was angry as hell that I had been sent to be assessed for this course with no pre-warning that it was designed and aimed at BPD sufferers. It would later turn out that I wasn’t the only person who had been sent to the course after a Diagnosis change.
The course, whilst not aimed at bipolar sufferers, has a lot to offer anyone with Mental Health problems. It offers coping strategies and forces you to look at your daily/weekly patterns to learn and recognise the way your moods are affected and can cycle. Again I found the Group Dynamic excellent, but this time, the fact that there were 2 hours of semi-formal structure to the group where each week we had certain things we had to get done as well as the week’s activities. The group was smaller than any previous group I had been previously, just 6 of us and again not a traditional Talking Therapy, but it goes to prove a point that, if you can get out and talk to different people, even for just 2 hours a week, you can get some improvement in your life and things can get better.
After the STEPPS group finished, I was deemed well enough to be discharged from The Recovery group. Whether this was the correct thing for me at that time, who knows? I have been pretty much stable since discharge. I have had one or two pretty scary moment, and things right now aren’t much a laugh, but hey… It’s Just a Ride after all eh?
You can read the We Still Need To Talk report here on the Rethink website
You can also join the campaign by visiting the Rethink Campaigns area –
Until Next Time…Photo Credits
Image 1 – Edmondo Dantes
Image 2 – Matthains