how to be happy find your flow - child blowing bubbles

Picture the scene.  A teenager opens their exam results: an A in Art, two Cs in English and French and an F in Maths. The response from their parent is likely to focus on either the good bits or the not so good bits.

For example, their response might be:

‘An F in Maths. What went wrong?  I know you struggle with numbers but that’s why I paid for Maths tutors to help you.’

Or alternatively: ‘An A in Art. That’s fantastic! I wonder if we can help you use all that creativity and imagination to improve in your other subjects…’

How to be happy: don’t focus on your weaknesses


Being honest, which option would have been your default response?

Most of us would probably have focused on the not so good bits. Humans are problem-solvers by nature and society has conditioned us to focus on the areas that need work. Anyone that has experienced an appraisal at work will know how obsessed we have become with weaknesses.

If you were more likely to focus on the success in Art, then you are in agreement with one of the newer branches of psychology: the field of positive psychology.

Positive psychology


Positive psychology suggests that you can improve yourself, become more satisfied with your life and increase your happiness by working on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

When Professor Martin Seligman became president of the American Psychological Association in 1998 he noted that much of the focus of psychology had been on mental ill health and diseases of the mind.  In fact, professionals in the field relied on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a comprehensive and regularly reviewed ‘bible’ for the diagnosis of mental illnesses, personality defects and behavioural difficulties.

Seligman’s view was that too little time had been spent looking at the positive side of human nature; its potential, talents and possibilities.  With colleagues, he resolved to fill this gap and in 2004 they published the seminal book, ‘Character Strengths and Virtues.’

You can find your own Character Strengths and Virtues by completing the questionnaires at authentichappiness.org).

How to be happy: develop your character


Commonly, we tend to think of character as something that is fixed and unchanging. For example, ‘he’s a shady character,’ or ‘she is always honest and straightforward’.  Positive psychologists view character in a different way.

Their perspective is that character and character virtues are something that can be worked on and improved.  Well-being can be promoted by working on 4 or 5 key strengths at any one time according to this nascent branch of psychology.

The following video by filmmaker, Tiffany Schlain, gives a little more detail on the science of character.

“The Science of Character” – new 8 min film from Let it Ripple on Vimeo.

How do we develop our character strengths and virtues?


Character is like a muscle; the more you use it the abler you become. Therefore by focusing on and enhancing your positive character traits, it is possible to further develop them.

Here are some examples taken from our own guide, ‘Relationship Tips for New Parents’ to illustrate positive character traits and ways to build upon them:

  • Take time to introduce children to their new sibling or step-sibling. (Fairness)
  • In the early days when you are both tired, take turns to look after your new baby. Give each other a break to sleep, shower, etc. (Kindness)
  • Be patient with each other and listen to each other’s perspective. (Perspective)
  • Talk about what you need to buy and what can be borrowed from friends and family. Talk about your finances and how you can realistically manage your budget. (Prudence)
  • There can be a change in the balance of your relationship if one person is staying at home to look after the baby. Be sensitive, talk about how this feels, and find ways to share responsibilities. (Teamwork)

 

How to be happy: find your flow


Jonathan Haidt, author of ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ gives his explanation of the link between exercising our strengths and happiness.  He suggests that using our strengths encourages us to immerse ourselves in the moment, in what we are doing right there and then. Eventually losing self-consciousness and achieving a feel-good factor that psychologists call ‘flow.’

Being in the ‘flow’ – whether that be in your work, in your hobbies or time with friends – can create feelings of happiness and joy that we struggle to find in our normal, everyday life. Ultimately by doing more of the things we are good at and enjoy doing, the more we will develop our positive character virtures and therefore experience feelings of happiness and joy more frequently.

Check out this excellent talk by leading positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on ‘flow’ and how to be happy.

 


The How to be Happy series

Catch up with part 1 of our How to be Happy series and find out how post-traumatic growth can be the key to a healthier, happier life.

Stand by Me Ben E. King

Songs for Sound Minds #27 – ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E. King


Today’s #SongsforSoundMinds entry – ‘Stand by Me’ – is a companion piece to one of our earlier picks.

In contrast to Chrissie Hynde’s assurance that, ‘I’ll Stand by You’, Ben E. King’s plea is ‘Stand by Me’.  Where The Pretenders are providing encouragement, Ben E. King is seeking the support of someone close, something we all need when times are tough.

Stand by Me: a song fit for a Royal wedding


‘Stand by Me’ was in the news recently as it received a soulful performance by Karen Gibson and the Gospel Choir during the Royal wedding.  Whatever your perspective on the Royals, the love between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was obvious for all to see and the Ben E King track provided a moving backdrop to the proceedings at Windsor Castle.

Stand by Me Ben E. King

Written in 1961 Ben E. King collaborated with the famous songwriting duo of Leiber and Stoller who have been responsible for over 70 chart hits including many for Elvis Presley (‘Hound Dog,’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and others).  ‘Stand by Me’ was the 4th most recorded song of the 20th century (according to BMI) and has appeared in films, TV commercials (Levi’s) and computer games (Final Fantasy XV sang by Florence and the Machine).

Remarkably it has been recorded by over 400 artists.

A rallying cry for the US black civil rights movement


It is a song that echoes through black culture and owes its routes to an early 20th-century gospel hymn which contained the words ‘will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.’  It was a rallying cry of the black civil rights movement in America during the 1960s and the US Library of Congress acknowledged it as ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’ in 2015.

The New York Times in its write up of the Royal wedding acknowledged the value of the song as a herald of a more inclusive Royal family with the biracial Meghan becoming Duchess of Sussex.

 

Will you stand by me forever?


For Harry and Meghan, is it too much of a stretch to see ‘Stand By Me’ as a musical equivalent of their wedding vows to ‘love, comfort, honour and protect, and, forsaking all others, be faithful as long as you both shall live’?  The song certainly worked its magic for Ben E. King who was married for over 50 years to his wife, Betty Nelson.

For us, the simple verses can symbolise the loyal and steadfast companionship that enables us to be strong even when times are troubled and turbulent.  See Verse 2 for a revision of the words of that early hymn.

‘If the sky we look upon

Should tumble and fall

And the mountains should crumble to the sea.

I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear

Just as long, as long as you stand by me.’


Songs For Sound Minds – music tracks written as an anthem for overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.

Find more Songs for Sound Minds or suggest a track on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #SongsForSoundMinds

Believe it or not, there are two words in every language that should be considered the most dangerous in the world. With just over 700,000 words in the English dictionary, there are plenty of potential suspects.

In the era of Trump and global warming you would be forgiven for thinking they might be ‘launch missiles’ or ‘climate change’. The reality is, however, that the two words in question are far simpler and seemingly insignificant.

Simple words with great power


Despite their simplicity, they possess profound power. They have the ability to inspire, to challenge and to catalyse positive change.

They are the essence of Martin Luther King Jnr’s earth-shaking ‘I have a dream’ speech. Every piece of great (and not so great) fictional writing, song-writing and movie-making started with them. They were the driving force behind the likes of Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill and Maya Angelou.

what if we were positive in life

However, as every superhero/comic book fan knows well, the power to do great things comes with a risk of them being used for something darker. That is the problem with these two words. And in case you have not worked it out yet, the two words are ‘what if’.

The darker side of ‘what if’


Imagine for a moment a ‘what if’ thought in the mind of a ‘born worrier’ or someone dealing with anxiety. For them, it will often turn towards something depressing.

‘What if’ accelerates the mind through multiple scenarios, decisions and outcomes; a single thought leading, almost endlessly, to successive bleak results. In their mind, a single thought can hurtle them hours, days, months and even years into an increasingly bleak future.

Consider this example of what happens in the mind of someone that struggles with anxious thoughts. Imagine for a moment that you are struggling with your workload in your job and have missed a deadline:

What if the boss thinks I’m rubbish at my job? What if they decide I can’t hack it? There were rumours recently about cutbacks – what if they use this to get rid of me? We can’t afford our mortgage payments if I lose my job. What if I can’t get a new job? What do I do when our savings are gone? What if my partner can’t handle it all? What if they leave me?

The unpleasant side of ‘what if’


This thought process can happen within a matter of minutes or even a few seconds and with it comes all the attendant emotions of what it would be like to be in each of those situations.

what if

A thought creates a feeling – good or bad – and that feeling is experienced even if it is a thought about something yet to happen. Though the body does not physically pass through these imagined scenarios in real time, both body and mind experience a sort of compressed reality. In this example, the emotions of several weeks/months are experienced in a matter of a few minutes.

Why ‘what if’ can be so exhausting


For mind and body that is an absolutely exhausting experience. We are not built to live through several hours – let alone days or weeks – of emotions in a matter of minutes. This is why anxiety has the potential to drain and, if left unchecked, debilitate an individual.

If you are experiencing anxiety and constant worry that is negatively impacting upon your health and wellbeing, it is important that you speak to your doctor. In the interim, there are some things you can do to reduce the impact of ‘what if’.

Focus on facts


The power of ‘what if’ comes partly from assuming thoughts to be true. This is often based on very little in the way of actual evidence. One way of reducing its impact is to focus your mind – and therefore your thoughts – on facts.

Using the example from earlier, the facts of the situation might be as follows:

  • Prior to this moment, you have been a model employee
  • Your boss has never raised any issues at appraisals in the past
  • There is nothing concrete to indicate job losses are going to happen
  • Right now you have a job, an income and savings in the bank.

Reviewing these truths compared to the assumptions of ‘what if’, the situation looks far more positive.  It can be helpful to write these truths down so you can refer back to them if/when ‘what if’ thoughts re-emerge.

Stay grounded in the present


Grounding, staying in the present and mindfulness are different ways to describe a simple concept: basically considering and thinking only of the things of the moment. Instead of beating yourself up over the past or worrying about the ‘what if’s of the future, focus on what is happening right now.

By staying focused on the present, another part of the power of ‘what if’ can be reduced. Returning to our earlier example, we cannot undo the missed deadline. Similarly, we cannot predict what tomorrow will bring or what our boss might decide.

We can, however, focus on today which might mean learning what we can about why we missed the deadline. Taking that and applying it to our work today, in order to do the best job you can.

what if

Mindfulness classes, meditation and guided meditation – audio tracks by the likes of Jon Kabat-Zinn – can be helpful in building your ability to stay grounded in the present.

Control what you can control


What gives anxiety its ‘punch’ so to speak are the associated feelings of helplessness and lack of control. When our focus is drawn to that – instead of what we can actually control – the feelings of worry intensify.

By focusing on what you can control, you take back control. Again using our earlier example, the individual can control what they learn from the situation. They can focus on the present, staying grounded in the facts of the present. Similarly, they can choose to be proactive and speak to their boss, rather than waiting for something that may never happen.

Start living for today instead of worrying about tomorrow


We spend a lot of time these days worrying about tomorrow, and when tomorrow comes, we are already worrying about the next day. Put simply, yesterday cannot be revisited or changed. Tomorrow does not exist beyond plans and intentions, therefore it is a waste of time, energy and creativity to try and second-guess it.

As Martin Luther King Jnr and Mother Theresa demonstrated, that time and energy could be much better spent looking at life positively and inspiring others.


Follow The Spark on Twitter and Facebook or find out more about The Spark Counselling.

The increasing pressures of modern life are resulting in a growing demand for counselling services in Scotland. The Spark – a leading provider of counselling for over 50 years – is expanding in Glasgow and Lanarkshire to help support those in need.

Since the start of this year, The Spark has seen a 27% increase in demand for counselling.

This has been reflected across the organisation’s range of counselling services which include couple and marriage counselling, but particularly in terms of individual counselling.

“In 2018 there are clearly many issues impacting upon individuals, couples and families. From financial worries caused by poor wage growth and austerity to mental health issues, people are seeking additional support to deal with these challenges”, explained The Spark’s CEO Stella Gibson.

The Spark expands in Glasgow and Lanarkshire


In response to this increased need, The Spark is expanding its counselling capacity in Glasgow. This comes shortly after the charity opened its 14th counselling location in Lanarkshire earlier in the year.

Stella Gibson said: “Expanding our services is a natural continuation of our ethos of providing support for all; irrespective of background or means.”

“We all face challenges in life at some point. Sometimes those issues can be too overwhelming to cope with on our own or with the help of family and friends. Organisations like The Spark are here to provide that support through counselling.”

More counselling appointments available


The Spark has already increased the number of available appointments for individual counselling in Glasgow. Additional capacity for couples and marriage counselling will be available from June 25th.

Bookings for individual, relationship and couples counselling at the Lanarkshire centre in Harthill, are now being taken.

Find out more about individual, couples and marriage counselling services from The Spark.

Alternatively, freephone 0808 802 0050 to discuss if counselling might be right for you or complete an online enquiry.


Follow The Spark on Twitter and Facebook.

confidential sign

We have reached the final part of our 4-part series looking at the most common counselling myths.

The Spark is busting the myths and misconceptions that can end up stopping people from considering counselling as a way to overcome the challenges and difficulties of life. By highlighting the truth about counselling we hope to offer a clearer picture of the ways counselling can help navigate the challenges of life.

Read on for part 4 of the series or catch up on part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Counselling myths no. 9: A counsellor will judge me or look down on me


There are many different types of counselling. There are also different types of counsellor, with unique approaches to therapy. But one thing unites them all: the desire to help others.

Individuals that become counsellors do not do so in order to look down on clients or to judge them. They do it to be able to provide assistance to those struggling with life or dealing with painful experiences.

In many cases, but not all, individuals decide to become counsellors because of experiences in their own lives. Influential psychoanalyst Carl Jung coined the phrase ‘wounded healer’ to explain this. Jung determined that a ‘healer’ (in this case a counsellor) is often compelled to do so because of their own difficult experiences in life.

Carl Jung
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung

Counselling myths no. 10: People will know I’m seeing a counsellor


Privacy is the cornerstone of counselling. Anything and everything you discuss with a counsellor is private and confidential.

A counsellor will never disclose information about you or your therapy sessions without your express permission.

There are some exceptions to this rule when there is a suspected risk to your own life or that of another person, which a counsellor will explain to you at your first appointment.

More detail on this is covered in The Spark’s privacy policy.


The truth about counselling

Heard a myth about counselling we haven’t covered? Send it to us on Twitter or Facebook and we will bust that one too!

Find out more about individual, couple, marriage or family counselling with The Spark or complete an informal enquiry form.

myths about counselling

Welcome to part 3 of our 4-part look at the most common myths about counselling.

At The Spark have been looking at the misconceptions that can end up discouraging people from considering counselling. We are busting the myths and highlighting the truth about how counselling can help navigate the challenges of life.

Read on for part 3 of the series or catch up on part 1 and part 2.

Myths about counselling no. 7: Counselling is only for really serious problems


Many individuals with really challenging issues like addiction or self-harm can benefit from counselling. This does not mean however that there is some sort of minimum criteria for counselling.

The vast majority of The Spark’s clients are dealing with issues and challenges that we all face from time-to-time. Relationship difficulties, stress, depression, parenthood and bereavement are just a few examples.

Couple counselling couple back together myths about counselling

Increasingly individuals and couples are viewing counselling – as we at The Spark do – as a normal part of managing the ups and downs of life. Often they will undertake a block of counselling sessions to deal with a new issue or life challenge as therapy is about developing strategies to deal with everyday issues.

Counselling is non-discriminatory in every sense of the phrase. There is no issue too small to be of concern and if it is of concern to you, a counsellor will be happy to help you with it.

Myths about counselling no. 8: Counsellors have it ‘all sorted’


Though it may come as a surprise, counsellors are human beings like you and me. They face the same challenges in life that we do and will go through the same emotions when it comes to loss, bereavement or relationship breakdown.

myths about counselling

Through their extensive training counsellors develop a skill called self-awareness, which allows them to leave any of their own ‘baggage’ at the door of the counselling room. Once a therapy session starts, the time is devoted to you and the challenges you are facing.

Counsellors also undertake something called supervision. This is where they use the services of a clinical supervisor to review their own work, how they are progressing professionally and also to deal with any issues in their own personal life.

This combined with self-awareness allows professional counsellors to be completely focused on each client during a therapy session.


Myths about counselling

Look out for part 4 coming up soon by following The Spark on Twitter or Facebook.

Catch up with part 1 and part 2 of our ‘Myths about counselling’ series.

Find out more about individual, couple, marriage or family counselling with The Spark or complete an informal enquiry form.

Heard a myth about counselling we haven’t covered? Send it to us on Twitter or Facebook and we will bust that one too!

myths about counselling

We are continuing to look at the most common myths about counselling in part 2 of our series.

These are the misconceptions that often discourage or prevent people from considering counselling. At The Spark, we are busting the myths to highlight the truth of counselling and its ability to help us deal with the challenges of life. Catch up with part 1 of the series.

Myths about counselling no. 4: Counselling will take forever


A common myth is that as a result of the counselling process, you will need to be in counselling (or therapy as it is often called) for a lengthy period of time.

The duration of your counselling depends on many factors. For some clients, it can be a process that takes half a dozen sessions, for others longer. In some cases, clients may come back to see a counsellor a couple of times a year to talk about new issues in their lives.

myths about counselling

Couples, in particular, are increasingly using counselling intermittently to help them tackle the natural challenges of life. Major life transitions like starting a family, career changes, periods of financial worry, or bereavement have a way of unsettling us.

Ultimately it is about what best fits your circumstances and your needs. By way of a rough guide, the majority of our clients typically see a counsellor for approximately 6 sessions.

Myths about counselling no. 5: Counselling is only for ‘weak’ people


The reality is quite the opposite. A decision by an individual or couple to seek counselling is actually a demonstration of strength and wisdom, not weakness.

It is an admission that the challenges faced have proven too great for an individual or couple to resolve on their own. That is a brave decision for anyone to make. And it is a decision which comes from a determination to protect the individual or the relationship in question.

myths about counselling - it is only for the weak

In our experience, people seeking counselling are often some of the bravest we have had the pleasure of meeting.

Myths about counselling no. 6: You can only receive counselling face-to-face


Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, counselling is no longer restrained by the confines of the therapy room.

While many clients prefer to see their counsellor face-to-face, The Spark provides counselling via telephone, online and video streaming. Meaning you can undertake your counselling session pretty much anywhere.


Myths about counselling

Look out for part 3 coming up soon by following The Spark on Twitter or Facebook. Catch up with part 1 of our ‘Myths about counselling’ series.

Find out more about individual, couple, marriage or family counselling with The Spark or complete an informal enquiry form.

Heard a myth about counselling we haven’t covered? Send it to us on Twitter or Facebook and we will bust that one too!

Old image of a counsellor with patient lying on a couch. Myths about counselling.

It is not uncommon for myths about counselling to discourage or even prevent people from trying therapy. Popular misconceptions – given credibility by people who have often never had counselling – can colour our opinions of counselling and talking therapies in general.

Rather than allowing these myths about counselling to remain unchallenged, at The Spark, we are tackling them head-on. And here is the result: part 1 of our guide to debunking 10 common myths about counselling.

Myths about counselling no. 1: A counsellor will tell me what to do


A counsellor never tells a client what to do or pushes them towards a certain conclusion. The role of a counsellor is to help you pinpoint the experiences and thought processes that result in behaviours that cause you unhappiness or distress.

A counsellor discussing myths about counselling
“This is what you will do …” said no counsellor, ever.

Once those are understood, counselling then aims to enable you – the client – to better cope with or (if you wish) to change those behaviours. Counsellors support clients in this process by providing insights and tools/techniques (sometimes called ‘coping mechanisms’).

For example, a counsellor might share techniques on how to prevent or cope with anxiety attacks or suggest better ways to communicate with your partner. But they will never tell you what to do.

Myths about counselling no. 2: I will have to lie on a couch


Thanks to countless cartoons, TV programmes and movies a lot of us wrongly believe that a counselling session involves lying down on a couch, staring at the ceiling.

Old image of a counsellor with patient lying on a couch. Myths about counselling.

Counselling is an active process that requires the client to be just as engaged as the counsellor. Rather than being a passive action – something that ‘happens’ – counselling requires the client to commit to being involved.

Sitting in a comfortable chair or on a sofa is a more appropriate position and is adopted by the vast majority of clients. A counsellor will typically sit opposite their client in a similar way.

Myths about counselling no. 3: Counselling offers a ‘quick fix’ for your problems

In some cases, counselling may help a client deal with a very specific issue in a short space of time. However, as counselling deals with experiences from the past, present circumstances and our deepest emotions, it often takes time to fully understand them.

This, in turn, means the process of dealing with those experiences and modifying their impact on you can rarely be achieved quickly. For some clients, past experiences over an extended period of time have contributed to their current difficulties.

Much like a house that has experienced many years of neglect, helping a client rebuild typically takes more than just a couple of counselling sessions.


Myths about counselling

Look out for part 2 coming up soon by following The Spark on Twitter or Facebook.

Find out more about individual, couple, marriage or family counselling with The Spark or complete an informal enquiry form.

exam myths fail

Exams are on the horizon for young people up and down the country. So we decided it was time to bust a few exam myths which can create unnecessary stress and anxiety before exams.

Exam myths busted #1: poor exam results will ruin your life


Exams are a part of your development and growth as an individual. They are a way to assess whether you have retained what your lovely teachers have been trying to teach you.

They are important but they are unlikely to ruin your life. Here are a few reasons why.

By the end of your education, the idea is that you walk out as a well-rounded individual, not just an exam passing machine. Therefore skills you develop from part-time jobs, school/uni clubs or voluntary work are just as vital as exam results.

What comes after these exams?

Secondly, consider the fact that exams tend to be followed by, well, more exams.

Of course, that means going through the emotional wringer more than once but it also means poor results can be overcome.

Next time you might need to take a few more classes or do some additional study but it is possible to recover from poor exam results.

Exam myths busted #2: your parents will be ashamed by your poor results


This is one of the exam myths that cause many young people to carry a crippling level of expectation upon their shoulders.

What we might interpret as pressure to avoid the shame of poor results, is often well-intentioned encouragement from our parents.

They just sometimes do it really badly.

We believe in you

Your parents want you to realise your potential because – and sit down for this one – they believe in you more than you probably believe in yourself.

Though it might not seem like it at times, your parents love you no matter what. And the possibility that you might not get straight A’s in all your exams is nothing compared to what you’ve already put them through.

They loved you then and will still love you now

They loved you when all you would do is poop, cry and throw up. They loved you when you rolled around in the muddy grass all day and then sat on their new cream sofa. Or that time you threw the mother of all tantrums in Asda.

I could go on but you get the picture. When it comes to something as tough as high school or university exams, does it seem likely that they will disown you if results don’t go your way?

Rest easy and know that your parents want you to do well for yourself, not because they want to boast about you on Facebook.

Exam myths busted #3: failing exams makes you a failure in life


Exams are important but their ability to ‘make or break’ your life is another one of the most damaging exam myths.

It is easy to lose sight of one simple truth: your life is yours to live. Therefore what are you looking for in your life?

What will success look like for you based on your perspective and not the opinions of your parents, friends or society?

Getting into the toughest university courses and becoming a brain surgeon might be what you want to achieve. Or it might not.

How do you define ‘success’?

From that truth, a logical conclusion follows: what constitutes ‘success’ is defined by literally thousands of decisions and experiences over the course of your life.

Exams are a part of that process but not the be all and end all. For example, if you don’t get the grades needed for your chosen university course, you might wrongly assume that is it. Game over.

exam myths fail

There are plenty of alternative options: start a related course and transfer across later; retake classes at college to bag the results you wanted; find a company that takes on school leavers as apprentices/trainees. The list goes on.

Ultimately what you want to do in your life is up to you. Exams will form part of that journey but they certainly will not mark the end of it.

Don’t let exam myths stop you in your tracks.


Coping with exam stress

To help students and parents navigate the difficult time before, during and after exams, The Spark has produced a series of articles.

These cover our tips on how to approach exams and ways to manage and reduce the stress and anxiety you might be feeling.

Exam stress: tips for parents and students

Exam stress tips for students

Do exam results define your future?

Tips for parents during exam time

Exam results: a young persons’ guide

Parents’ guide to exam results day

The Spark is one of Scotland’s leading providers of counselling services. We provide youth and family counselling, alongside our couples and individual counselling.

If you need support with issues in life – exams, relationships or just the challenges of growing up – we are here to help.

Find out more about counselling or talk to a member of our team on freephone 0808 802 0050 during our opening hours.

Alternatively, complete an online enquiry.

You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tips and advice.

CAMHS

Data released last month again highlighted the scale of the challenge Scotland faces as it seeks to improve youth mental health.

Waiting times for young people to be assessed by their local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) grabbed the headlines once more.

In some regions over 80% of referrals are seen within the Government’s stated 18 week limit for referrals. However in many it is as low as just 20%.

CAMHS youth mental health

The data also highlighted the number of ‘rejections’ within each NHS board area. These are the children and young people deemed unsuitable for support through the current system.

CAMHS services are not the problem


The current model of treatment was intended to route all forms of mental health issue – low and high tariff cases – to CAMHS. However in reality CAMHS is now restricted – by various factors – to helping the most vulnerable young people.

Even the terminology – rejections – implies CAMHS services are not interested in helping. The truth is they simply cannot.

And this rather than the headline grabbing statistics on waiting times and rejection rates is where solutions to the problem lie.

What needs to change?


As Scotland’s largest provider of school-based counselling services, The Spark is well placed to understand the realities of the current youth mental health system.

CAMHS self-harm unhappy teenager

The present model – which allows personal issues to escalate into full-blown mental health problems before children are seen by a professional – needs to be turned on its head.

50% of all diagnosable mental health issues in children begin before they reach the age of 14. Scotland therefore needs to break new ground by focusing on prevention first and foremost.

Making early-intervention a priority


Taking an early intervention approach – as The Spark does with our school-based counselling and education programmes – offers a more efficient and effective solution. By focusing on preventing minor issues from becoming major problems we can achieve a step-change in how we tackle youth mental health.

Expanding the current model of youth mental health care


The current model of care is based on a restrictive set of options for young people struggling with mental health issues. Through the NHS model – irrespective of severity – a young person attends their GP and if they cannot resolve the issue the final step is a CAMHS referral.

This ignores the highly skilled youth mental health practitioners’ operating out with NHS infrastructure. Directing young people to third sector providers like The Spark could provide a more inclusive approach.

For those who do not meet criteria for CAMHS support, third sector providers could offer an effective alternative. Thus reducing pressure on CAMHS services and cutting waiting times/rejection rates without the need for huge investment.

Utilising the third sector in support of CAMHS


To achieve this there needs to be better understanding of available services for those on the frontline. GPs, parents, carers, CAMHS themselves need to be equipped with better knowledge of the services available.

CAMHS youth mental health new direction

And more importantly they need to be given permission to signpost and recommend services that sit outside the NHS infrastructure.

Time to move on from the NHS-only model


We owe it to current and future generations of young people to get a better system in place. In order to do so we must no longer be slavish to the old ‘NHS-only’ models of provision.

Joining up services from both the public and third sectors can fill the gaps in the current model. CAMHS should still have a vital role to play but alongside additional support services.

Indeed this something specifically referred to in the Scottish Government’s own 2017-2027 mental health strategy.

Using the skills and expertise available Scotland can create a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to youth mental health.


School based counselling, education programmes and support

The Spark is Scotland’s largest supplier of school based counselling and support services.

Our specialist Children and Young People counsellors are embedded within the school community, working in partnership with teachers, support staff and families.

Find out more about our school based counselling for Primary and Secondary schools and our dedicated training for teachers.

If your child has been rejected by CAMHS, we may be able to support them with youth counselling. To find out more make an enquiry online or freephone 0808 802 0050.