Lessons from a pre-teen

Posted: 28/11/2015 in Uncategorized

I spent my usual session with Shani today. She will be twelve just after Christmas and she ‘visits’ me because her dad feels I can help with her ADD (attention deficit disorder).  It took quite a few months before she accepted these visits and the turning point came after a chance response.

She had countered one of my questions with “It’s none of your business.” My answer to her was “Anything that makes you feel unhappy is my business.” She looked me up and down, and the penny dropped, albeit very quietly.

We sit in a room together every week for fifty minutes. There are no toys, games, books or screens. We talk about bits and pieces. I listen to every word she says. She brings me things to show me, a shiny ‘diamond’, a little folding secret box, a doll’s shoe found in the street.

She is seen, and heard. She doesn’t have to shout over the others in the classroom or her girlfriends in the playground. She doesn’t have to worry about whether she is saying the right thing, annoying her parents, winding up her big sister, or giving her classmates ammunition. She can just be.

She is still bouncing off the walls, but school doesn’t seem to be as hellish for her. She still runs her family ragged, but seems a tiny bit more convinced that she is loveable. She is still my most demanding appointment of the week.

But I like her, and she knows it. I’ve never said it, but she’s worked it out.


Sorting through ‘randomised’ or ‘blind’ clinical trials can be confusing and tiring, not to mention ‘meta-analyses’ and comparative data. I am wading through a backlog of research papers that relate to the effects of alcohol on the growing foetus (international spelling fetus) in utero. It makes depressing reading. So far one thing is clear; there is no guaranteed safe amount that a woman can drink, at any time during her pregnancy. So much depends on the mother’s overall health, metabolism, body mass, and personal sensitivity. The fact is, alcohol is a teratogen, a substance that can disrupt the normal development of a baby during pregnancy. The results can be devastating, and they last for life.

“In the absence of a developed blood filtration system, the fetus is totally unprotected from alcohol circulating in the blood system”. So says the British Medical Association in its guide for healthcare professionals. The researchers regularly publish conflicting reports. The trials continue (and this can only be a good thing) with one unable to replicate the data of another, others pointing out the deficiencies of earlier trials. The bottom line is that FASD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, is 100% preventable.

One fact needs no data, control group, meta analysis:  No alcohol, no risk!




Posted: 29/05/2012 in Uncategorized

Adrian is a research chemist. Well, he should be. He has one big obstacle to get himself over. Adrian is ABD, otherwise known in the academic world as ‘All But the Dissertation’. In other words he has done everything he needs to do, knows all the stuff, could give a lecture and probably even front a television programme on his topic, but he hasn’t submitted the big document that his university wants from him. He has deferred his completion date and viva twice.

He consulted me eighteen months ago about the intermediate paper that upgrades a post-grad student to full Phd candidate. EMDR is pretty good at helping with writer’s block, performance anxiety and serious procrastination. I thought he had left it far too late. Ideally you need at least three sessions well before you sit down to the gut-wrenching task of tackling a big project that has huge meaning for you. We had three weeks to submission day,  with only enough time for one EMDR session, and I honestly thought it wasn’t enough therapeutic time. I was wrong. He handed in bang on time, and did well.

The problem is that recently he came back to me for help with The-Big-One . . . and I said no. I know this probably cast me in the role of the withholding mother, the evil witch, perhaps even the wicked tease. But I knew his history. I knew he always asked someone to hold his hand to help him get through every challenge in his adult life. I also knew that everyone did rally round and help. He had been through multiple supervisors, had a very good therapist, and numerous friends had provided food, accommodation and a sympathetic ear since his undergraduate days (Adrian is now thirty-five). I could handle a bit of demonizing if it meant he would tackle the task unaided. I’m pretty sure he ‘hates’ me.

There comes a point where you have to assess whether help is disabling or enabling. I knew that just over a year ago Adrian had applied his rear end to a seat in front of a computer and written what was required of him. All the help and therapy and perhaps the EMDR session had helped him get to the seat, but he had written that document. My thinking was that the time had come for him to rely on himself, to remind himself that he had delivered before and could do it again. And time for him to take the credit.

I don’t know whether he has done that. I know that if he fails he will probably blame me. I’m hoping that he won’t, and he will submit his dissertation and finally be proud of himself. A stumbling block or stepping stone? Entirely Adrian’s choice. A turning point certainly.

Here endeth the fable.

Information integration

Posted: 17/05/2012 in Uncategorized

Moodswingscience is about you, your moods and what current research has to tell you about what is happening in your head and heart.

I am a psychotherapist and EMDR practitioner in private practice in London. My research regularly turns up fascinating information that is published in academic journals, or gets twisted into wild stories by lazy ‘health’ journalists. This is where I will be chewing over interesting information and sometimes giving you the links so you can read these things for yourself.

Along with facts there will also be fables; narratives from everyday life that turn up in the consulting room. You won’t recognise anyone here. Anyone who hasn’t volunteered their story is anonymised, even a little fictionalised. But you may recognise yourself.