10th January 2023 Newsletter
Welcome to the first newsletter of 2023! To kick the year off, we’re delighted to announce the latest instalment of our hugely popular ‘Understanding…’ series: Understanding Fears and Phobias. Alongside the new guide, we’ve also got a handout for exploring the maintenance factors which act to prevent fears and phobias from getting better by themselves.
In our research roundup, we bring you a series of free video resources aimed at aiding understanding of PTSD in young people, and a paper exploring patients’ experiences of case formulations. Enjoy!
Understanding Fears And Phobias
Our ‘Understanding…’ series is a collection of psychoeducation guides for common mental health conditions. Concepts are explained in an easily digestible way, with plenty of case examples and accessible diagrams. Understanding Fears and Phobias is designed to help clients with fears and phobias understand more about their condition.
What Keeps Fears And Phobias Going?
The “What Keeps It Going?” series is a set of one-page diagrams explaining how common mental health conditions are maintained. Friendly and concise, they provide an easy way for clients to understand at a glance why their disorders persist, and how they might be interrupted. What Keeps Fears And Phobias Going? is designed to help clients with fears and phobias understand more about their condition.
New free resources to aid understanding of PTSD in young people
Launched by the UK Trauma Council, a project of the Anna Freud Centre, resources include a series of animations aimed at young people and training videos for professionals focusing on delivering trauma-focused cognitive therapy for PTSD, the best-evidenced treatment for childhood PTSD.
The animations explore what PTSD looks like, with useful advice for young people on how to cope with distressing memories, the science around best treatments and addresses potential concerns around getting support.
“We are pleased to launch these resources, free for all those who need them, which will help mental health professionals to supplement their own expertise in treating PTSD and give young people who have experienced trauma the vital message that they are not alone.”
Patients' experiences of case formulations
Case formulations synthesize personal experience with psychological theories and models. In early intervention in psychosis (EIP) services, case formulations are a key intervention, despite a relative lack of research. This fantastic study by Helen Spencer and colleagues from Newcastle University explored patient’s experiences of case formulation during a first episode of psychosis. There are too many useful insights in this paper to do justice to here, but one helpful section concerns the complexity of case formulations:
Theme 3 – Keep it simple: ‘Don't push it too far over the top in case it becomes like spaghetti'
This theme applied to both longitudinal and maintenance formulations. It was developed to highlight the personal impact of participants engaging in (and seeing) their case formulation written down in a simple, parsimonious diagram, which inadvertently facilitated change. In contrast, complex formulations, too inclusive of detail/information were seen as inhibiting change.
Pre-printed formulation diagram templates (with headings to guide formulation content, helped to provide organisation and structure. This also was particularly powerful in normalising psychosis, as the CF diagram/CBT model was seen as generalisable to others:
"Seeing it on paper...it makes me feel more norm [shy laugh] normal (...). Just not feel like the only one who has this problem (...) because you can design a formulation that people have similar...cos he [therapist] gave me the titles, which means that other people must have had the same sort of titles" (Tia).
Other participants implicitly advocated for keeping things simple. For example, the impact of seeing CF diagrams that were too inclusive of detail/information felt disorganised, chaotic and overwhelming. The implication of this was not conducive to understanding or change:
Interviewer: What did you think of doing a diagram like that?
Neil: I thought it was a bit “I'm confused” at the time (...) I couldn't cope with it. Too much information, you know?
Interviewer: OK, so would you say you understood the diagrams?
Neil: Some of them I didn't.
Spencer, H. M., Dudley, R., Johnston, L., Freeston, M. H., Turkington, D., & Tully, S. (2022). Case formulation—A vehicle for change? Exploring the impact of cognitive behavioural therapy formulation in first episode psychosis: A reflexive thematic analysis. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 00, 1– 19.