A Compassionate Approach – by Charlie Heriot-Maitland

A Compassionate Approach to mental health services is not just for the people using the services. Those of us working in mental health services know, as well as anyone, that life can be tough. Most of us face periods in our personal lives when we feel overwhelmed by work, relationships, sickness, or we experience losing someone close.

As mental health workers, we also spend most of our working lives as the constant witnesses of other people’s suffering. And, as if these experiences aren’t difficult enough, we also all have a tricky brain to contend with: a brain and mind that, through poor evolutionary design (and evolutionary trade-offs), tends to keep us stuck in problematic loops of worry, rumination or self-criticism, which adds another whole layer of suffering on top. Often it is hard to find the time to pause and reflect on ourselves, on our own problematic loops, and on what bearing this is having on our ability to help others. We plough on. And even if we are able to reflect, we don’t always know the best way to nurture ourselves towards more sustainable, fulfilling, and compassionate practice.

The emerging science and practice of Compassion-Focused Therapy , with its roots in evolutionary psychology, attachment theory, and neuroscience, offers a useful framework for approaching these basic psychological challenges at each of the personal, professional, and organisational levels.

In this approach, it helps to start with a basic understanding of what we all share (colleagues / clients / humanity) and therefore of what we are all up against. The reality is that we just find ourselves here, in the flow of life, with a ‘tricky’ brain, and we’re doing the best we can to deal with this suffering. A lot of what happens in our minds is not our fault, but it is still up to us what we want to do about it. From what we understand, our evolved minds can be organised in certain ways depending on our social motives, and research now consistently shows that orientating our minds towards compassion for self and others can bring a variety of positive mental and physical and health benefits.

Find out more..

Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland  will be speaking about Compassion Focused Therapy on November 18th in Cardiff at Compassionate Approaches to Mental Heath – a one day experiential event designed to inform, inspire and empower people living and working with mental health issues.

Please book now to join us in Cardiff. Limited £35 tickets – sponsored by Welsh mental health and wellbeing charity Gofal – are available for people with lived experience and their supporters.

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