Posted in Weekly Blog

Dealing With The Benefits System

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Today’s group focussed on how people deal with the benefit system and more specifically, ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews. At group sessions we often hear of how the current system invokes strong feelings of anxiety and  sheer terror. With this in mind we thought it would be good to have a look at the different processes involved and the options people have.

Below is an example of the different stages involved upon receiving assessment letter; 

  1. Attend ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interview
  2. You receive a letter from the DWP* informing you that you are not being awarded benefit.
  3. You disagree with their decision so respond by sending a ‘Mandatory consideration letter’ to inform the DWP* of your reasons for disagreeing with their decision to see if they will reconsider.
  4. If the response from the DWP* is that they are upholding their original decision you then have the option to appeal it and have your case taken to at an independent tribunal.                                                       

If you are feeling anxious it is so important to seek support.

Some of the suggested supports were,

Group members felt that having someone to help support them in filling in forms was extremely beneficial and relievied some of their anxiety. With no support it can literally feel like a real life or death situation with the looming uncertainty of having no income to survive. That is why it is so useful to have supportive people around you to help provide some hope for your future.

 

 

*’The Department of Work and Pensions* 

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Thinking about our Inner Child

Below is a small snap shot of how we used with Russian dolls to help us develop a better understand the dynamics of our ‘Inner child’

1. Inside the grown-up deep inside is the child just like these Russian dolls.
You might feel it a positive when you are playing with children. For example I feel it while playing football with my young nephews.

2. You might feel it in a negative way if you are waiting to go in for formal appointment and you start to feel as if you did when you were called to the headmaster’s office. (Or maybe you were all good kids and were never sent to the headmaster’s office!)

3. (Using an elastic band)
Like this band we are all big and stretched out, but certain events, circumstances or people could make us feel small again.

4. (Imagining all our younger selves)
Thinking about when you were at primary school what 3 words would you use to describe the wee person you were then?

5. (Pick an age between 5-10 years old)
– Thinking about you at the age you have chosen  we will ask a few questions if that is OK to that part of you, be it 5 or 7 or 10 years old- whatever age you have picked.
– Think about who was your teacher, your favourite toy or who were your friends then.
Ok so we are all focused in on an age and who we were then.
QUESTIONS-
If that child had something to say, to be heard what might it say?
What did it need?
What would you like to say to it?
How might you soothe it? (Note: Demonstrate by putting the little one in the big one.

6. We end by putting all the dolls back inside each other so there is just one big one. It demonstrates we are back in our adult place.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Are you a worrier?

Screenshot_20181123-135505_FirefoxThings by Fleur Adcock:

 

The following structure for this group’s discussion was taken from the following CBT book:

Corrie, S., Townend, M. and Cockx, A. (2016). Assessment and case formulation in cognitive behavioural therapy. Los Angeles: SAGE.

‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ (GAD) is characterised by “Excessive worry and preoccupation about a number of events and activities”.  The condition is diagnosed when this occurs most days; the feelings of anxiety causing restlessness, easily tired, finding it hard to concentrate, tense, disturbed sleep and affected functioning.

  • The belief about the worry is worse than the actual worry
  • Worrying is actually a way of coping
  • The worry thoughts can centre around ‘what if?’
  1. When did you first notice that worry was a problem?
  2. What were the circumstances when you first started worrying?
  3. Has the worry changed or developed over time?
  4. Are there any significant worriers in your family?
  5. Have there been times in your life when things were going really well and how did you cope with difficulties then?
  6. Is it important to you to know what is going on all the time?
  • Can we think about worry differently? As a process without getting dragged into the actual fear, rumination or content.
  • Can we alter the way we talk to ourselves about things? E.g. not be so critical, perfectionist or brutal to self, instead be kinder, caring and give yourself a break.
  • Can we discover coping strategies?

Some strategies that the group have amongst them were to set a worry time (although this doesn’t work for everyone), meditation, write down the worries and then throw them away.  Accept that life is imperfect and uncertain.  Actually facing that uncertainty head on rather than avoiding it will see the worry gradually decrease over time.  Other skills that the group already employ included the use of poetry, adding a little transition between the days events e.g. to sit in the car for a few minutes after a day at work and going home, and remember that although you may feel anxious, others cannot see your anxiety.


Posted in Weekly Blog

Decision making and responsibility

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Do you feel that you struggle to make decisions?  Do you feel defeated trying to choose a cereal in the supermarket, or tormented about whether to attend your niece’s wedding?  We make so many decisions daily, and life is scattered with huge life changing decisions with a myriad of implications.  Popping into Starbucks for a coffee alone offers you no less that 80,000 ways to take your caffeine, or maybe no caffeine, or milk, full fat, semi or skimmed, or soya, latte or americano, tall or grande…..you get the picture (!) So how do we cope with making decisions.  Or do we not?  Or is not making a decision actually making a decision?

First of all in the group we looked at what is it about making a decision that can feel difficult? People said not knowing the outcome, the fear that if it goes wrong it’s all your fault.  People also said that a history of making bad decisions makes it hard to trust yourself and so decreases confidence.  Overthinking and rumination over the potential ‘what if’s’ of a decision provokes anxiety and procrastination.  And a final difficulty cited is that once a decision has been made you may then be tied to the consequences of it, and that is scary.

So, the second part of our discussion was around responsibility-the level at which we are able to accept responsibility probably promotes our decision making abilities.

Taking no responsibility leads to blaming everyone else, whereas taking all the responsibility is blaming yourself for everything.

We had a think about what these two elements look like: Not taking any responsibility manifests in procrastination, always letting others decide, not paying bills, not contributing, not thinking of others, avoidance, not willing to look at oneself, unhealthy coping mechanisms [to escape e.g. alcohol or sleep], and blaming others.  Taking all the responsibility conversely involves always making decisions for others, taking the blame for everything, putting others before self, only seeing the negative in yourself, dis empowering others, not trusting others which can lead to micromanagement and bullying. Another direction of over responsibility is taking so much care of others that it can lead to obsessive compulsive behaviours trying to protect everything.

The question was posed to the group ‘Do you actually know what decision is best to make, but fear and doubt are what comes in creating confusion and reluctance to decide’.  Interestingly people mostly did seem to concur that they did in fact know what to do, so it isn’t the not knowing that creates a barrier to deciding but rather the implications of the made decisions.  People did chat too that as well as not making or avoiding decisions, sometimes they just make very impulsive choices, we talked about whether at times these were self-sabotaging behaviours.

There are some things we can do to help in combating decision fatigue.  A study of an Israeli prison parole board showed that prisoners appearing earlier in the day were more likely to receive parole for no other reason than by the end of the day the judges were tired and less likely to have the mental energy to make a decision regarding a prisoner’s release.  This study is cited in the New York Times in an article about decision fatigue. 

It is no different for us, when we are tired, hungry or it’s the end of the day having already made thousands of decisions, it becomes more difficult to decide.  So sometimes putting an important decision off until the morning may be wise, and planning and organising can significantly reduce the pressure of having to make extra decisions.

9 tips here to make better choices.

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Strengths

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“I don’t see what others see in me”.  This is a saying that we can hear a lot of in society throughout all walks of life. Is this a default position we go to or are there cultural reasons for it? Certainly here in Scotland and the rest of the U.K. there does seem to be more of a tendency to play down our strengths as to do otherwise could leave you feeling uncomfortable. Is there a fear that by acknowledging our strengths we may be seen by others as ‘getting too big for your boots’ or ‘playing your own trumpet’. Does finding the fine line between confidence and arrogance play a part in our fear? You only have to look at celebrities who are universally loved by people all over the world who also can struggle and use self-depreciating comments such as; “What if I get found out, and am not as good as people seem to think I am?” This may seem like a silly thing to say given all the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that  they are only human and can have insecurities like anyone.

Group members shared their own experiences of how they found acknowledging their strengths. Some people actually felt that it would be much easier to list their short comings.  We then did an exercise where we asked people to write down the strengths and qualities they saw in one other and pass it back to the person so they could see the qualities others saw in them.  While people found it nice doing this they still found it a challenge to take in and believe what people saw in them.

Today’s subject felt very relevant as this group is very much based on helping people build up their sense of worth.  The hope being that through doing this it can play a part in being able to acknowledge their strengths without totally dismissing them.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Fear Of Failure

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At today’s group we looked at the fear of failure.  Although our fears come from a protective place they can ultimately leave us feeling stuck and unfulfilled in parts of our life. If you’ve suffered disappointments in life it feel such a risk to try something new and it not working out. To avoid these disappointing feelings people may decide it safer to stay in the situation they know. In this case the fear of failure can feel more powerful than the possibility of success. It can feel so scary to take that leap of faith into the unknown. Group members gave examples of how they overcame fears and how it became the making of them. The thing to remember is that even if you try something and it does not work out you can always try something else. This of course does not take away the feelings of disappointment but it certainly does not make you a failure. We are learning all the time, particularly in the hard times.  If we think back to being a toddler and learning to walk we do fall at times but we get back up and gradually learn to walk. Below is an inspiring video of people who have faced disappointments but managed to keep on trying new things.