I will be speaking on Coaching and Counselling Interventions for Eating Disorders (Trauma and Counselling Section) at The Health & Wellbeing at Work Conference: Birmingham NEC. March 7th & 8th 2017. Hope to see you there.

Surrey University Happy Cafe

Surrey University students can enjoy some down time at the new Happy cafe which runs every Wednesday afternoon during term time. Positive quotes are displayed on the walls, free tea and biscuits are provided, mindfulness colouring books and pens are available and only good news stories from the week are posted. After some well deserved chill out time students can get some fresh air by doing the Mindfulness walk around the lake.

University & college transition

Once the exams are over and a place at uni or college obtained its usually a time for celebration and a good summer break. However more and more teens are struggling to adjust to life at uni. It’s often the first time away from home, living independently and involves making new friends, adapting to different teaching formats and questioning whether the course is the right choice. Many teens drop out after the first term and during or at the end of year one. Anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, depression, insomnia, stress, not making friends, feeling isolated, homesickness and lack of confidence are some of the reasons. Psychological support (face to face or by phone) can make the difference between abandoning a course and academic life and successfully adpating to it.


Ghosting (Oct 2016) This is the act of suddenly ending friendships or relationships without warning or words. The ghosted person is often left wondering what has happened and when attempts at making contact continue to be ignored they may be concerned that their friend has been seriously injured or is dead. Depending on the length and nature of the relationship the ghosted person can enter into a process of confused and changing emotions which mimics grief. This can reactivate feelings from previous losses and bereavements. It may also confuse any other parties involved (for example family members, children who may wonder “why don’t we see so and so any more…?” even pets. The deathly silence IS a communication: it says “I don’t want to talk to you, I wish to end this friendship but I don’t know how to do it”. The ghoster may have built up resentment and have been unable to negotiate their way through difficult patches in the relationship. It is the ultimate form of avoidance and is disrespectful to both parties. The ghosted is rubbished and the ghoster is behaving in a manner which is disrespectful to themselves as a human being. They are not allowing themselves to develop as a person and learn more helpful ways of communication.

Creepy Clown Craze Oct 2016 Why are people frightened of clowns? There are several reasons why clowns are scary. Their FACES do not match what we know to be recognizable as human or friendly. They display stark colours in their faces (red exaggerated cheeks and lips against painted white skin for example) big wiry hair and fixed expressions which make it difficult to read their intentions. The clown with a sad face may be doing something funny and the clown with a permanent exaggerated smile may be menacing and neither looks normal or realistic. We know that when we interact with others their expressions change and if we smile they smile or if we notice they are upset or angry we can choose to change our conversation and interaction with them and when we can do this we feel in control of a situation. When expressions do not change, we find it unsettling and feel unsafe. The ability to recognize and read other people’s expressions enables us to predict others behaviour and is important for our survival.

Clown BEHAVIOUR is unpredictable. Their looks and actions are often out of sync. Even the friendly ones joke and laugh and then surprise us by throwing buckets of water over each other or land a pie in someones face. They make balloon animals for kids then suddenly pop the balloon. Therefore we know that if we are near a clown, it could be us who gets attacked with a pie in the face, a bucket of water… or something more sinister. Especially if we see a clown carrying a knife.

Clown DRESS: the way Clowns dress is odd. Their clothes do not fit and the bold and clashing colours do not “flow” or fit any known types. Our attention is drawn to them, and we are likely to keep looking to try and recognise “what type of person is this?” Age, culture and gender is effectively disguised and it makes us wonder what is behind these clothes? what is behind that makeup mask and costume?. If someone is in disguise we cannot “read” them or infer anything about them. This makes them unknown and therefore unsafe.

CULTURE we have friendly clowns in our culture (Ronald Macdonald, Crusty in The Simpsons) but also menacing types who have appeared in books (Stephen King’s IT) films (eg. Chucky) as threatening characters. The current trend for clown pranksters is further increasing the fear of them. People are reading that clowns are menacing and that they are scaring people and they are everywhere. This is likely to reinforce the menacing horror movie type of clown identity in our minds and diminish any friendly memories of them.

What is clown phobia? This type of phobia is part of a group of phobias of costumed characters. Clown phobia is known as Coulrophobia. It is an severe fear which can interfere with peoples lives and lead to nightmares, bad dreams, bed wetting in children, general increased anxiety and feeling unsettled, unsafe and hypervigilant.

How does Clown Phobia develop? The development of specific phobias is a unique process but usually develops in childhood and there are several elements involved: witnessing parents and others fears which may transfer to the child (if we see someone we value and perceive as important to us being frightened we are likely to copy and follow suit), general levels of anxiety at the time we are developing trust in adults / people other than our family, and the way clowns are introduced to us in childhood (we need to have information to rely on that they are fun and safe and OK, in the same way we may need help to understand that the family pet is safe and not menacing) and whether we have had a bad experience of a clown or watched a scary movie /  read a horror story about clowns at a time when we are vulnerable. All of these factors along with the unlikely looks and behaviours of clowns (as described above) contribute to the phobia. Phobic avoidance of the feared entity (Clowns) will further reinforce and consolidate the phobia. Phobias can be mild, moderate or severe and extreme.

Why are people joining in with the Clown Craze and scaring others like this? Reading about and seeing this trend has given people the idea “I could do that”. Because a clown is a disguise they are more likely to get away with it and be unrecognised. Even with CCTV in shopping centres and with dash cameras etc. how do you tell who it is? So it gives people who have a mind to scare others for fun or kicks or just because they want to join in the trend and say they have done it, freedom to do so. In a similar way the ice bucket challenge went viral and everyone wanted to do it (for a good cause) this is a trend (which is obviously not for a good cause) and people are curious about it. Scaring people and getting away with it gives an adrenaline rush, it gives a sense of control and power, it is something different to do. The fact so many others are doing it almost normalises it and makes it acceptable for those who would like to try it (if everyone / lots of people are doing it there is a crowd mentality of following along and making it OK : remember the looters who were looting in Croydon a few years ago?) If people see others doing this it gives them the go ahead. Psychological experimenters Milgram, Solomon Ash and others found that people will follow others and be compliant even if this initially appears to be something against their better judgement. The need to belong, comply and follow suit is part of our herding instinct and important for our natural survival. If everyone is doing something and we are not, then perhaps we could miss out, or not fit in and not be accepted and this could affect our survival because we are much more vulnerable if we are alone and there is safety in numbers and in a group So sometimes our need to fit into a group and do what so many others are doing takes over from our better judgement. We also get rewarded from the adrenaline “high” and have something to tell others and boast about (if we are so minded).

What psychological damage can be done? When we become scared, this fear and alert response means we do not think straight. Fear is our protector and when we are fearful we either run away (flee) or freeze (literally with fear). Small children & indeed adults could be running away in shock from a scary clown and run in to a busy road or oncoming traffic. Or they may already be crossing a road or driving and see a clown, become frightened and freeze (causing a road traffic accident). People will not function as well if they are living in fear or worried about the well-being of their children and loved ones. Children are more likely to wet beds, have night mares, not want to go out and socialise and can lose their confidence. They may be more prone to be taken advantage of when they are in shock. People can be traumatised and need psychological intervention to recover fully. Some research has found that it is common for children to be frightened of clowns and this is likely to be increased and possibly generalized to other costumed characters. We could end up with children frightened of Santa Claus or puppets and other regular characters in our culture.







June 2015: Mindfulness: From Buddhism to Business by Chloe Morris (Psychology Graduate) Mindfulness (bringing a wandering mind back to the present moment) originated from Buddhism and has been adapted into modern mental health practices: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy & Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to name a few. The beauty of Mindfulness is that it can be mastered by almost anyone. Once mastered it casn provide peace and clarity in our over stimulating world. The rise in popularity of Mindfulness in the 21st century has made it appealing to more than just the mental health sector – the business world is catching on too. Google, Ikea and Apple have all adopted Mindfulness programs. Mindfulness promotes mental well being and creativity which in the broad term can mean many things for example an increase in resilience, empathy and flexibility; strengths that can be appealing to businesses. Individuals who engage in Mindfulness may be able to make clear decisions, have more care and concern to make positive changes and generally show more ethical behaviour.

June 2015: Emotional Maturity? According to Dr Kolawoski if we are emotionally mature we treat others well, like who we are, are generally flexible, value our expereinces over posessions, have gratitude for our loved ones, are aware of our own emotions and have meaning and purpose in our lives.

May 2015: TV Portrayals: Are TV shows changing public perception? An article in the Guardian highlighted the current movement in TV representation of mental health. Historically TV and films mentally ill characters were depicted as dangerous, incompetent and violent. Time to change anti-stigma camapign encouraged TV producers to take repsonsibility by the way mental health is portrayed in their shows ensuring it is realistic and informed. For example East Enders’ storyline surrounded Ian Beale’s mental breakdown which was based on the experience of Kevin Shepherd, a man who suffered a similar crisis. Coronation street has depicted Steven McDonald’s experience of depression where viewers watched him visit his GP. The scene was described as “incredibly moving”. Other TV programmes such as Bedlam received a Bafta for the best documentary. On the other hand programmes such as “you’re back in the room” (a hypnosis game show) and Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners have been sited as trivialising serious conditions. This blog post was written by Chloe Morris (Assistant Psychologist).

I’m very pleased to launch my new website. Thank you Richard @ tigerpink for all his help.

Effect of Financial worries on relationships
A survey from Couples counselling organisation Relate shows that a major reason cited in couples splitting up is financial; factors such as increasing debts, arguments about what to spend money on, less disposable income, unemployment, and increased living costs all make for increased relationship stress.

American Study of Happiness:
A 70 year study from America has defined Happiness as a mixture of emotional management, skill at human relationships, joy, resilience & human connection. Those who had close human connections were more likely to live a longer life.