Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Y'all can comment

I just realised that I had my blog set up not to allow anonymous comments. My apologies to those friends of mine who aren't registered with blogger. Now you can comment too. :D

I noticed a curious thing - someone has been reading my blog from my old university in Canterbury. Now I'm dying to know who you are - an old friend or someone random? So who are you then?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Therapeutic Space, Quaker Meetings and World Transformation

Rob recently wrote about the concept of therapeutic space - a place that psychotherapists propose enables people to learn, bump up against boundaries and grow.

I am growing increasingly critical of this notion that pervades mental health services that the problem is in the person, nor do I imagine that taking a person out of their situations will enable them to be cured and sent back to live as happy, 'normal' and 'adjusted people'. Abera-cad-abera.

Distress doesn't occur intrinsic to a person. It is more often the result of their social and cultural environment. Schizophrenia recovery rates correlate with employment rates. Poverty and mental illness go hand in hand. For Rob and I, working in mental health, I suspect we can only really make a difference and positively influence psychological wellbeing if we call for and help to implement change on a family, community and societal level. I'm still trying to work out what this means for me as I set my sights on a career in clinical psychology.

When I've talked to people with ADD/ADHD, often they talk about the positive aspects of it. Something, I've yet to see mentioned or acknowledged in mainstream literature. A few weeks ago I was talking to a psychologist who is doing work which is similar to mine, but instead of interviewing parents, she interviewed children (I wasn't allowed to interview children, or I would have if anyone is wondering why!)

Anyway - she found that kids with ADHD, talk up their hyperactivity and thorougly enjoy some aspects of it. I wonder, should society and schools change in order to welcome, accomodate and facilitate the growth, development and wellbeing of our kids (and indeed adults) with ADD and ADHD, and how could this practically happen?

Oddly, Rob's thoughts about his experience of church being a place of space, made me think of my experience of Quakerism. I have not found such an empty nor such as full a space as exists in meeting for worship. Sometimes the stillness seems to welcome me with the warmest embrace. Other times, I feel as though I cannot escape myself as my dreams, frustrations, tiredness, and joy make themselves known.

Not only that, but the whole world seems to unveil itself. Sometimes in so much beauty that I can only feel as though I am in love with the whole world. I love watching out the window, seeing the trees move in the breeze, birds landing on the edges of buildings, sometimes if its quiet enough you can hear birds singing, the wind blowing and gentle traffic noise in the background. Other times, it is as though the whole world is screaming from the pains of injustice, war and terror, asking what I as an individual, and perhaps also what we as a community are going to do to live faithfully within it, working towards a world where equality, peace, justice and compassion are not just an ideal that seems so far away but a living reality.

I have a suggestion. Instead of putting those we deem 'mentally ill' into therapy and expect them to change in therapeutic space. How about we all take some space, and begin to listen. We all need space, not just to change ourselves, but so that we can listen and dare to act on our world, to transform our communities and societies into places where all are accepted and valued, where all are given access to the basic needs of human beings and the opportunity of a real future of having relationships, and making a meaningful contribution to their community?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Summer Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!


'As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us;
As nature shows bounty and fertility,
Bless us;
Let all things live with loving intent,
And to fulfill their truest destiny.'

(Taken from a Wiccan blessing for Summer...but I took it from Pauls blog at Off the beaten Track)

Monday, June 20, 2005

On a happier note...

I am moving house in 11 days :) For 7 years I've lived in crappy student accomodation, sharing with lots of people. This year, my partner and I decided to take the plunge and rent a flat to ourselves. I'm embarrassingly excited about this...et viola...we have a countdown...goody goody!

Like the car? Its quite like mine :D.

So, for the next 11 days, I'll be packing up my room, cramming suitcases full of stuff and maybe I'll use it as an opportunity to reflect on the simplicity testimony. Every time I move house I'm more and more convinced that possessions are a burden!

That said, there are things I'm looking forward to buying. I've picked out a tablecloth. Pathetic isn't it, but I've never owned a tablecloth before, my housemates would only spill crap on it. Oh, and I'm going to buy a steam cleaner, and clean all the windows and upholstery so they're all fresh n clean and smell nice. I can leave my good wok (its a real proper one and I'm very precious about it) in the cupboard and not worry about it being abused by housemates. I'll buy a blender so I can cook to my hearts content, with the new Vonda Shepard CD I bought today blazing in the background - perfect Sunday afternoon cooking and entertaining music methinks. For the sake of my partner and our neighbours I shall refrain from singing along...maybe.

But more than all that, I am looking forward, with a mix of pure excitement and loving concern to sharing more of my life with partner dude (don't think I'll do names as I'm trying to be more anonymous on this blog). I guess moving in is a big thing, and although we live out of each others' pockets already. We cook together nearly every night, we spend most weekends together. But we don't yet wake up next to each other and we currently don't have to clean the same loo and that sort of thing. No doubt there will be some things to get used to, and many things to enjoy. I guess more than anything else, I'm looking forward to having a place we can share together, call home and welcome our friends and family into.

But I'm happy, if anyone wants to be happy with me, and/or share sage wisdom about living as partners...you'd be welcome to.


All this talk about the ex-gay movement, and homophobia has brought back some of the most pleasant and unpleasant memories I have.

In 2000 I met a guy. His name was Kostas, he was from Crete and he was very very gay. It was Kostas' first year at uni and he came out to just about everyone he met. Largely, I suspect, because he wasn't able to be out at home both due to Cretan/Greek attitudes to homosexuality and because of his family. Kostas was loud and flambouyant. Once I teased him that the whole university knew he was gay. He flatly denied it so I challenged him, 'Come on, your lecturers know, your tutors know, all your friends know, the cleaners know, the dining room staff know...come on, is there anyone you are not out to.' Kostas thought for a moment and replied, with utter sincerity, 'You exaggerate, I have not told the bus driver.'

He taught me to swear in Greek (which came in very useful once in a kebab shop...) and I helped ensure that his pronunciation of English expletives was perfectly intonated darling. Once, when a strange guy was following me around campus, Kostas pretended to be my boyfriend. He held my hand, he stroked my cheek, he stared longingly into my eyes and introduced himself to my stalker as my doting boyfriend. Much to my disappointment he stopped short of giving me a proper snog (it was worth a try...I've heard that Greek men are very good kissers). We drank lots of coffee, we lazed around in the university gardens on long Sunday afternoons.

In the summer, Kostas called me from Greece. His father had found out he was gay (from a former lover...both his former lover and Kostas's from the sounds of it.) Kostas wasn't sure if he would be able to go back to uni. Then in September 2001, Kostas didn't appear. For weeks, every time I saw a tall, stocky bloke with Kosta's hairstyle, my heart skipped a beat and I would rush to see if it was Kostas, returning to uni a few weeks late. But he didn't return. No-one heard from him again...until 2002 just before I graduated. Then, out of the blue, I got an email. Kostas was at another university, he had demostrated to his father he was straight (by dating a girl for a year) and was allowed back to England on the proviso that he didn't contact anyone. He contacted a few people, and by sheer fluke I had an interview for a job (which I didn't get) about half an hour away from where he was staying.

We met up and I stayed with him for a few days. We had a lot of fun in those few days, but afterwards I had a sense of foreboding. I don't know why, and I'm not into premonitions, I just didn't feel like all was going to be honky dory. We talked on the phone a few times, and emailled. But then, Kostas's phone no longer worked, emails got bounced back. I had a number for a guy he had been seeing, so I rang him on the off chance. The guy had no clue, said he hadn't seen him in months and seemed a tad peeved that I'd called.

Once again, Kostas had disappeared. This time, I've heard nothing. There is a chance that he was drafted into the Greek army - Greek men must do 2 years military service although they can be excused on the grounds of further education, insanity or homosexuality. However, I doubt Kostas would have done that, as apparently being gay and being insane in Greece are considered one and the same, and both severely limit future job opportunities.

I knew a lot of people at uni but I've kept in touch with relatively few very close friends. I barely give most people a second thought, unless I hear some news about them on the grapevine or they get jobs near where I live. But Kostas remains with me, in my thoughts, always wondering what happened and if maybe, by some chance, we might ever meet again.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Love In Action

Or should I say child abuse

Teenager held in ex-gay "treatment facility" against his will.

Reading the comments on Zach's latest blog post (made several days ago - I assume he's now in Love in Action) I have come across some of the most touching expressions of solidarity and support. I'd add my own but it won't let me register for some reason :(.
Kids forbidden to journal, speak to anyone and forced to make a moral inventory every week? How could it happen? So very very wrong.

Please consider adding a comment if you can - I'm sure such expressions of solidarity and support will mean the world to Zach when he gets out. Imagine - he knows nothing of the frenzy he has caused in the local media, now on the internet. Isn't the blogosphere amazing?!

And if you want to add your voice to the crowd - write to

Tommy Corman or John Smid

Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307

Or email: tommycorman@loveinaction.org.

I haven't done anything as yet (except post this obviously). Things like this make me want to shout and scream (a lot) but I'm not sure how productive or fruitful that would be. Does anyone have any thoughts on how these sorts of issues can be responded to effectively?

Read about Peterson Toscano's (a former resident in the Love in Action program) recent chance meeting with John Smid (head of the teenager program) here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another year, another peace walk.

Lift my hands off you,
Stand back,
Not looking for the differences,
Or naming the similarities,
Not wedging my interpretation,
Between you and me
My friend.

I shall stand back,
Observe the wonder of you
Appreciating you,
Without question
Or presumption.

And hope that I
Might have the gift
Of sight
To see this
Thing of beauty.

Hope also to have ears
To hear
Your message

And love to join our hands together
The greatest gift of all,

Our friendship.

I did the interfaith peace walk again this year. This is an annual event where I live - each year we walk around the various sites of different religions in the city (the Gudwara, the synagogue, a church, a Hindu temple, a mosque etc. etc...) This means its been one year since I first experienced a taste of Quakerism in the meeting house on last year's walk. I think this year was even better for me. I think knowing a little helped me to relax and appreciate it more. I'm more comfortable with myself than I was a year ago, feeling able to bring my friends from work along with me (and come out as a Quaker ;).) I think last year, there was still something of the rebel in me and I was conscious that what I was doing went against my background. Now, it seems so natural to me, and I love it for its own sake.

From the tremendous hospitality of the Sikhs, to the Muslims' struggle to communicate the peaceful message of Islam in a suspicious world, to the Jewish sense of humour and the warmth and openess of the Hindus...I'm left with a wonderful sense of the fundamental goodness of humanity, our diversity and our togetherness.

Another year, another peace walk, another opportunity to love our neighbours and make friends out of strangers.

I am happy.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Chickpea curry...a recipe in the making

I've been experimenting with chickpeas. I rather like the odd little things, although the after effects are sometimes not so pleasant - at least for people around me :D. Hee hee hee.

Anyone got any more ideas to add to this rather yummy recipe...

You'll need

garlic (in large quantities - the original recipe said one piece, I use about 3, maybe even 4...:D)
1 heaped tsp all spice (although I ran out the other day I put Chinese 5 spice in without any ill effect)
1 heaped tsp cumin
Chilli powder to taste (some like it hot...)
Chickpeas (about 3 or 4 handfuls)
Vegetables (another 3 or full handfuls) - I've been using sweet potato, courgette (zucchini for American readers) and green peppers plus other random stuff in the fridge that looks like it could use eating (cooking a la studentville style).
About a mug of water or stock
The original recipe says a tin of chopped tomatoes - but I'm a snob so I use about 3 fresh ones (or 2 of the big juicy ones). Its better that way.

So...how to...

1. Fry onion & garlic til they look clear (but not burnt!)
2. Add spices
3. Add chickpeas
4. Add vegetables
5. Add tomatoes & water or stock
6. Simmer for about half and hour or so. Keep an eye on it, if it starts looking a bit dry add some more water.

Yeah - its a tough one this...thought I'd stick it on the blog, as the recipe is starting to look a bit tattered so at least this way I can refer back to it.

Any ideas on how to improve this delightful little number?

I have to say, having cooked very little when I lived in NY at the start of this year, I'm really getting into it these days. I've just ordered Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Bible. Mmmmm. When I move into my new flat (18 days and counting, tick tock tick tock) I plan to invest in some fun stuff like a food processor, maybe a juicer (as I do miss NYC smoothies a lot) and probably a steam cleaner because I am such a clean freak and I saw one on TV last week and it just looked like so much fun. (Apparently you can use it to clean carpets and furniture...and it works really well on windows!)

Therapeutic burn out

The top ten signsindicating therapeutic burnout

1. You think of the peaceful park you like as "your private therapeutic milieu."

2. You realize that your floridly psychotic patient, who is picking invisible flowers out of mid air, is probably having more fun in life than you are.

3. A grateful client, who thinks you walk on water, brings you a small gift and you end up having to debrief your feelings of unworthiness with a colleague.

4. You are watching a re-run of the Wizard of Oz and you start to categorize the types of delusions that Dorothy had.

5. Your best friend comes to you with severe relationship troubles, and you start trying to remember which cognitive behavioral technique has the most empirical validly for treating this problem.

6. You realize you actually have no friends, they have all become just one big case load.

7. A co-worker asks how you are doing and you reply that you are a bit "internally preoccupied" and "not able to interact with peers" today.

8. Your spouse asks you to set the table and you tell them that it would be "countertherapeutic to your current goals" to do that.

9. You tell your teenage daughter she is not going to start dating boys because she is "in denial," "lacks insight." and her "emotions are not congruent with her chronological age."

And, the number one reason a therapist may be burning out....

10. You are packing for a trip to a large family holiday reunion and you take the DSM-IV with you just in case.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Do you wear contact lenses?

If so - please take part in my friend's online research study. She'll be very grateful

Click here

Thanks all!

Church in adulterous relationship with homosexuals

How's that for a blog title?

I am deeply moved by something a fellow-blogger posted. I can make no comment other than to say please read this.

The Affair

Monday, June 06, 2005

Spirituality vrs Religion

Mark Greer, a blog I occasionally sneak a peak at has just posted this on his blog. This evening UK TV's channel 4 will be airing a new series entitled "Spirituality Shopper" in which a high power career woman explores various spiritual practices. Giles Fraser of the Guardian had this to say about it. I'm not sure I share Giles Fraser's attitude on this one, particularly his comparison with BBC2's recent series, 'The Monastery'. Some are reluctant to remove priests and dogma and traditions - but this does not sound entirely unlike Quakerism to me, particularly his comparison to BBC2's recent series, The Monastery.

"The former (ie. Spirituality Shopper) offers religion as a subjective experience that fits around our desperate desire to defend our rights as a consumer. The latter (ie. The Monastery) describes religion as that place where our obligations to others are tracked by simplicity, constraint and duty. Without this, religion is nothing more than a last-gasp lucky dip for the feckless and the fickle." - Giles Fraser

Is that really so? I don't think spirituality is a commodity, but it is natural in a consumerist society to shop around. One positive aspect of this may be that people are willing to explore and try new things. It may be that a great openess to the philosophies, traditions and practices from many cultures will lead us to a more open, tolerant society - this can only be good. Religion locked up in churches, controlled by priests is far more dangerous than a few fickle butterflies darting around from place to place. Why is it that some people react so strongly against the uprise in spirituality - is it really shallow, or do people just fear the loss of control that seems to dissipate so readily when we do away with dogma and priestly authority? I could argue, that the monastery is secretive, secluded and altogether absent for vast swathes of the population. For me, true spirituality can never be found in retreat from the world, not even from the world of consumerism in which we live.

Are those open to exploring new frontiers, sampling a variety of taditions really reckless and fickle - or are they bold, adventurous and open? Is there hope for an organic evolution of faith, meaning and relationship freed from the contraints of church, dogma and religion? Every generation has had its reformers, and they have almost invariably had to create the revoluntion outside of and even in opposition to the mainstream institutions of today. I wonder if George Fox were around today and Quakerism started in contemporary Britain would Quakerism be Christian - or would it reflect the pluralism in our society?

I'm not a big fan of the "spirituality movement". I have exactly the same issues with it as I do with churches and monasteries. I worry about a faith or spiritual experience that occurs separately from every day life. New age spirituality can be esoteric, it can be escapist and it can be elitist. True spirituality is not for the erudite mystics amongst us, theology isn't done in the ivory towers of acadmia, faith doesn't grow in a cathedral and spirituality doesn't grow in the meditation centre. As the Quakers say, it 'is not a notion but a way.'

But is it possible to live deeply in the here and now? Is depth, meaning and spirit to be found in consumerist culture, in advertising, in psychology research? In so far as those spiritual types amongst us question the prevailing culture and forge new ways of relating to one another with depth, humity and genuine openess - maybe the revolution is here. A few weeks ago, many Christian bloggers raved about how amazing the monastery was and how much it had to teach contemporary society about every day living. Now here comes spiritual shopper. Will the monks learn as much from as as we did from then, or will they be too caught up in the monastery to notice? Will the Christian community take heed of spiritual shopper or will they be too busy and concerned to defend their own traditions and ways of doing this to open up, receive, grow and evolve?

Faculty conferences and Rufus Wainwright

I am sitting at my desk, having just submitted a presentation I will be giving tomorrow at the Faculty conference. I am concerned that I don't feel a tad nervous about this conference yet. That may all change tomorrow of course. I have everything to be nervous about...

I will be presenting to academics I don't know (and academics love to throw nasty questions to PhD students). I came up with a bright idea in bed last night (why do all the best ideas come in the middle of the night?) and ran some new analyses this morning that turned out to be very interesting. I now have a brand new sparkly result using some rather complex statistical analyses that I have never used before. My supervisor doesn't know I've done this (he's not here today) so I'm going to surprise him tomorrow afternoon in front of about 50 people (I really hope I did that analysis right or we'll both look silly...) Meh, I taught the stats course last year so they won't dare question my statistical prowess (or will they.... :S)

I've spent so much time on this presentation I realised this morning that I'm almost entirely out of clean clothes having not done any laundry for a while. I'm now at work, having nabbed a pair of my partner's trousers - it was either that or my going out clothes and I figured showing up to work on a rainy day in a halterneck and short skirt may not be such a good idea!

Ah no matter - I have Rufus Wainwright CDs for company. All that remains to do is to get my smart trousers dried and ironed by the morning. It'll all go well so long as I wear my new trousers from Macy*s. Maybe I'll even accessorise...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Worldviews, meaning, language and colluding with the medical establishment

You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.



Cultural Creative














What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

Yup, that sounds about right. I remember my first ever clinical interview with a psychologist. I was 19, in the second year of my psychology degree and trying to get some work experience. As I sat in his office - really rather niave about psychological concepts, postmodern philosophy and probably not having a great deal of self-awareness I found myself talking from what I think rather than from a psychology text book. He said something that rather freaked me out at the time. 'I can see that you're extremely postmodern in your approach'. Not being quite sure what that meant, I said, 'Er, yeah, absolutely, that's me'. Ho-hum.

Of course, I had been indoctrinated by church to believed that postmodernism with its moral relativism and the lack of absolute truth was causing the decline of Christianity and the moral decay of our society. To be told, by a psychologist no less, that I was quintessentially postmodern was something of a revelation, and as he gave me a job I decided he was a thoroughly decent psychologist and therefore probably had a point ;)!

Later, as I read more, studied more and talked to various people, I discovered that I really am heavily influenced (sometimes quite unconsciously) by the postmodern cultural revolution I have found myself in. In the final year of my degree I spent months analysing about 5 sentences spoken in a therapy session between mother and child - and I still had problems sticking to my 25 000 word limit. Language is very rich and works on so many levels - I find that whole system very very fascinating.

I then analysed an interview that I conducted with a man who has a learning disability. I should say, that on meeting this person, I found that he not only had a learning disability but a severe speech impairment so I spent 3 rather painful interviews trying to work out what he was saying. At the end of the series of interviews I went to my tutor and said, 'Look, there's nothing here, he barely said anything.' My tutor rather astutely pointed out that I had said quite a lot and suggested I analyse myself instead.

What followed was probably the most pivotal and intellectually stimulating time in my entire academic career (yes far more stimulating than anything I have done in my PhD). Maybe I'm just a narcissist and the idea of spending hours, days and weeks analysing myself was just too good an opportunity to waste. But actually, in grappling with my own use of language I gained so much awareness into my own assumptions about learning disabilities, about my role as a researcher and a psychologist....and in case you're wondering, I got a first-class mark for the project...;).

As I reflect back on my PhD I'm starting to see that I'm not working in those paradigms at the moment. I have accepted from the very beginning that medicating children is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Now don't get me wrong, I think it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do and indeed, will gladly explain to people why I think that to be the case. One of the biggest problem kids and parents face when they take medication is the stigma and prejudice associated with taking psychoactive medication, especially in childhood. No problem there, don't put my name down on the anti-meds campaigns just yet.

However, I've noticed that so much of what I do is focussed on reducing ADHD. I've been re-reading a lot of the research lately and noticing that so much of our intervention for ADHD is focussed on reducing hyperactivity and inattention. The fundamental assumption behind it all seems to scream, 'ADHD is not ok'. What's so bad about being hyperactive? I've yet to meet a kid with ADHD that I don't get on with - I click almost instantly with ADHD kids and generally our time together is something of a riot. Sometimes I find the older ones are a bit darker - perhaps its because they're constantly told they're 'not alright' - I'd be pretty fed up with life if I was always told there was something wrong with me too.

But I wonder how many teachers would say the same thing? Indeed, I've noticed that when I tell my teacher friends I work with ADHD kids they usually sigh and say, 'Oh no, those kids are so difficult....' Of course, when I'm with the kids they usually have me all to themselves and I don't have 29 other kids to contend with. I also don't mind running around the garden, putting the music on really loud and generally being very very lively.

I wonder how we can actually change or expand how we work with people so as to harness the positive aspects of their neurological/psychological make-up and support them in becoming themselves. Its not that I think medication prevents people from becoming themselves, lest I be misconstrued here. Kids with ADHD who take medication do considerably better than those who don't - they do better in work, in relationships and have less longer term problems - so like I said, I'm by no means anti-medication. However, I do wonder if this needs to be counter-balanced with recognising and encouraging kids with ADHD to be themselves, to be loud sometimes, to be energetic and to be the people they are. Just some thoughts - I know there are some people with ADHD who read my blog - if they have anything to say, I'd love to hear it.