As a Clinical Psychologist, Judith is concerned with all aspects of mental health, she keeps a hand in current research within the field and is trained in having a therapeutic role delivering therapies such as CBT, ACT, DBT and Mindfulness. Her main interest is in Stress, Anxiety and Health and how it affects people.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on how we think and how this impacts our behaviour. On recognising these aspects we can support people to spot ways in which they are thinking, that may not serve them in the best way.
CBT is very rapid and toolkit driven. The individual is encouraged to use and practice techniques between sessions such as recording how they feel or think in different situations which are important to them. It is also goal driven, where goals are set at the beginning of where they would like to be at the end.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Is about accepting where you are in life and committing to making changes to reach where you want to be. That could be overcoming some form of anxious thinking, or another situation which is causing you mental distress.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), looks at our dialect, what we are saying and how our behaviour interacts with that. It helps people develop techniques within their social relationships to regulate their emotions, so they have healthier coping mechanisms when they are faced with distressing situations.
The focus of a Clinical Psychologist is basing on research and evidence. They assess the individual, looking at their particular needs, their background, formulating what is going on for them and what could be contributing towards their problem. Then they look at ways that can help in the most effective way.
It can be quite confusing for someone suffering from anxiety or depression, to choose a professional to help them. It’s about how you feel about that person in the room. If you are going to be sharing some of your inner most fears and thinking with somebody, you have to feel comfortable with that person. So if you don’t click with that person – don’t give up – find the person you do click with.
The therapists or counsellors skill, is to ask the right questions to find out what is going on. If people are fixed in a certain way of thinking, or belief about themselves, they will communicate that… but they are not going to tell you all of the other things that are going on, or that are good that could support them. Part of getting to know someone is about unpacking things and looking at all of the good and bad stuff as a whole.
For Judith, ‘stress’ is an overused word as it is used within the context of a busy life. Stress has a far more serious side to it as well, so Judith likes to find out what being stressed means to the people she is working with.
“The concept of stress is somewhat like the illusive concept of love, everyone knows what the term means but no two people define it in the same way.” Quote by Philips Brice from his “Stress and health” book.
Judith’s belief of stress is that it is the perception we hold of our resources and coping skills, to deal with different events. No two people respond to the same thing in the same way. It is all down to our perception of how we look at the event and how we believe that we can cope. It is all about how we think about things.
The stress response gives us energy to do something … but it is what we do with this energy that counts.
We have this idea that all stress is bad which is not necessarily true. Sometimes stress can give us the energy to actually get things done. If a student is writing an essay with a deadline for 9am the next morning – they may be up until 2am writing this essay because they are stressed and don’t want to miss the deadline or have an unhappy lecturer – That stress pushes the student. If we have no stress then we might as well be sleeping as we wouldn’t have any energy to get up in the morning.
There is an optimal level of stress where we are performing well, we have the energy and we can get things done. But there is this sweet spot where if the stress becomes too much and if we become anxious, then our performance begins to decline. The anxiety takes over and in that state nothing gets done and then our anxiety gets worse and worse. This is where the emotional state of anxiety creeps up on people when they are not aware of their emotional reactions to things.
Anxiety is an apprehension about the future. It is the thinking about the future and being anxious about what is going to happen. Where as fear, is a response to an immediate threat, a very physical response… the fight or flight response.
Thinking about an event and how we perceive it can create dysfunctional assumptions, where we think about something in a way which does not serve us well. Fears can become phobias if you think about them in a particular way.
We get into patterns of thinking that are learnt or inherited, which may not be useful to us. There are very simple recoding exercised that we can use to help us even with the most significant fears and anxieties.
Therapy is all about being supportive, walking with somebody as they learn to look at things in a different way. It is not about telling people the answers to their problems or how to deal with things – but helping them explore other ways to think about things.
Things happen on a daily bases and daily hassles can mount up to have a huge impact on our wellbeing. Wellbeing is what helps us to tackle stressful events and be able to respond in the healthiest way for us. Wellbeing is very personal to that individual and what is important to them.
The World Health Organisation says that ‘Health is a state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity’. Psychological wellbeing consists of ‘positive relationships with others, personal mastery, autonomy and feeling of purpose and meaning in life and personal growth and development’.
5 ways to boost our mental wellbeing:
- Connecting, talking to people and being part of other peoples’ lives.
Unfortunately when we become stresses or depressed – the last thing we want to do is talk to people, we would rather hide ourselves away…. but this is the worst thing that we can do in terms of our social relationships and the support we get from them.
- Being active, we all know the benefits of physical exercise and the positive effects on our bodies. It also has a positive effect on our minds.
- Learning, keeping our mind active is such an important way of feeling that we have some meaning and are moving forward. We should never stop learning … even if someone is not an academic they can still learn a new hobby or craft.
- Giving to people, volunteering or simply knocking on the door of a neighbour and asking if they are OK. Helping or teaching others can also be a very positive thing for wellbeing.
- Being mindful, being in the moment as opposed to being scared of what will happen in the future or focusing on what has happened in the past. What is happening now – enjoy life for what it is now because it is actually happening.
So connecting in the here and now and connecting with others around you is very important.
Don’t lose sign of what you have in the pursuit of what you want.
Stress and Wellbeing are different for everybody so being open and feeling connected to people is a great way of realising that it is ok to talk about your feelings, that your feelings are natural and not wrong and you are not lacking…. we are just human.
Many Thanks Judith, for your insights into Stress and Wellbeing!
If you would like to listen to our podcast with Dr Judith Roberts you will find it here on our website