Killing (your demons) with kindness

A recent study has found evidence to suggest that performing acts of kindness can reduce the degree to which people with social anxiety avoid situations they might find anxiety-provoking.

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On practicing what you preach

Sometimes in practice, I have found I feel somewhat hypocritical. An example of this was when I was a primary care mental health worker, helping people to work on their blood / needle / injury phobias.

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Screens – worthy addition or wasteful addiction?

I recently attended a seminar about screen addiction led by Dr Aric Sigman. I was intrigued by the information about how excessive recreational screen-use has a detrimental impact on people, and how each new generation seems to be increasingly glued to screens. I weighed this up against the research I have looked at which aims to develop touch-screen based interventions, some of which act as cognitive prostheses for people with dementia. I wondered where we can draw a line, however arbitrary, between the benefits and the costs of the screens we surround ourselves with.

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What about now?

It is customary, at least in the culture I grew up in, to look back over the past year, and think about the coming year on the last day of a given year. It is also customary to make resolutions, which in my experience can be summed up as “idealistic, knee-jerk plans founded on guilt about recent, primarily health related, shortcomings, which are almost certainly doomed to failure as one realises the financial impact of end-of-year related festivities”. Examples of resolutions might include giving up a certain kind of food, or health-damaging habit, or resolving to do something impressive, like doing a large amount of exercise in one go (and telling everyone about it on social media, of course). Amidst all of this looking to the past and the future, we lose sight of the here and now, which is something that proponents of mindfulness and related endeavours might frown upon. Of course, one might resolve to practice mindfulness more, which might alleviate their consternation.

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Parallels between psychology and fishkeeping

When I think about my hobbies, which include photography, cycling, motorcycling, hacking and fishkeeping, I sometimes think they’re quite diverse. After all, some of them usually take place outdoors, and others are very much indoor activities. They also seem like a diversion from the often overly cerebral world of clinical psychology. On further reflection however, there are parallels between all of them and psychology. In what might become a regular feature (at least until I run out of hobbies), I shall describe what I consider to be parallels between them and clinical psychology. The first hobby I shall consider is fishkeeping.

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Talking about ‘the gap’

In a previous post, I described the thoughts Clinical Psychology Forum 261 – a special about the gap between clinical psychology and psychiatry.  A letter summarising those thoughts was published along with other responses to CPF 261 in this month’s Forum, which is somewhat poignantly a special about ‘Remembering the bio in biopsychosocial’.

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Look into my eyes…

Therapeutic use of hypnosis is perhaps most commonly associated with the archetypal psychoanalyst, using it to unlock memories and associations that might be inaccessible when people are fully conscious. This is one possible therapeutic use, but there are other areas where hypnosis is being trialled.

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Psychologistes Sans Frontières – Can clinical psychologists perform aid work?

One of my colleagues recently spoke to the team about her experiences when she volunteered to help in a children’s hospital in Myanmar with the charity World Child Cancer. Her experiences sounded tough and inspiring, and conveyed a real sense of uncertainty about the role psychology might have in such settings. This included the feasibility of work with people who might have little chance of the stability that is often said to be necessary when working in standard Western therapeutic settings. There was also discussion about the ethics of imposing Western psychological ideology on cultures that might not be compatible or receptive to it, and the unintented potential damage that might be done in the process.

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Which came first, the sleepiness or the culture? Is there more narcolepsy in Japan?

I’ve been reacquainting myself with sleep-related issues of late, as half of my current placement is in a sleep disorders team. When looking into narcolepsy, I was intrigued to note that rates of narcolepsy are about four times higher in Japan according to self report than they tend to be elsewhere. This got me thinking about my sleep-related observations from the two years I spent there, and I wondered about differences in the way that sleep seems to be conceptualised in Japanese culture.
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Internal conflicts – on treating distress with electrodes

Part of my current placement involves working with children experiencing dystonia who are candidates for or who have had deep brain stimulation (DBS). Since I was relatively naive to the concepts, I have read up. DBS seems to be helpful to clients experiencing a range of motor-related physical problems, and is most commonly used with people experiencing Parkinson’s Disease, and more recently people experiencing various forms of dystonia. There are two main subtypes of dystonia: primary (a discrete condition) and secondary (resulting from other conditions such as brain injury). DBS seems to be more effective for people diagnosed with primary dystonia. This might be related to the heterogeneity of the secondary dystonia group. A paper by John Gardner about the history of DBS was helpful in positioning the treatment in a historical and sociocultural context, but some of the assertions in the paper concerned me.

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