We Need Your Help!

As we currently work towards opening our first eating disorder service, we need your input to ensure we can offer the best care possible.

If you, or someone you care for, has had experience of either inpatient or community eating disorder services, or alternatively, has struggled with complex eating difficulties whilst being supported by specialist mental health services, then we would like to hear your opinions. Feedback from experts by experience (who are now in recovery) is the most valuable, and we hope that with your input on what was and was not helpful, we can create the most effective model to treat young people with complex eating difficulties.

As we continue to go through Covid-19 related restrictions, the focus group will be held over Zoom on 3rd February, 10:30 – 12. There will be breakout rooms during the session, to allow for smaller groups to discuss our proposed model and their personal experiences. The session will be led by Maggie Hopson, Dr. Rachel Scullion and Dr. David Kingsley. Due to the nature and purpose of the session, it is important that those in attendance are in recovery.

Our new service will provide specialist therapeutic residential support for young people with complex eating disorder presentations. Our model of care will provide 24/7 on-call and crisis interventions to support our young people in maintaining a community placement, avoiding readmission and progressing with their recovery.

The service will be aimed towards males and females between the ages of 16-25, who have complex mental health needs and disordered eating. This includes treatment-resistant Anorexia Nervosa, ARFID/ASC related dietary restriction, and Emerging/Borderline Personality Disorder & comorbid dietary restriction as form of self-punishment.

Young people may have a history of long-term or repeated hospital admissions and have struggled to maintain progress in the community. We will only be allowing young people who are of stable physical health and have managed 6+ weeks without tube feeding by admission. This is due to our least restrictive policy and ensuring that young people in the home are most likely to succeed through our pathway to independence.

In the focus group, you will receive a more detailed run-down of our proposed model of care, which we would like to subsequently hear your feedback on.

If you are interested in helping to sculpt our new eating disorder service for the benefit future young people, please contact: Maggie.Hopson@careinmind.com for more details about the focus group.

Celebrating Our Staff

Celebrating Our Staff

At the end of each year, we host a ‘Staff Awards’ celebration to recognise individuals who have gone above and beyond over the previous 12 months.

During 2020, we were especially impressed with the resilience and dedication of all our staff, in a year of unprecedented challenges. So, although we weren’t able to get together in person, our virtual awards ceremony on 17th December was a particularly special celebration of our staff team’s achievements.

Each category is carefully considered, and the finalists for each category were nominated by their colleagues, with the winner being carefully selected by our Executive Management Group. The ‘Young Person Award’ was particularly meaningful, as it was voted for by the young people we care for across Care in Mind.

Our Winners

Care in Mind Values Champion: Cara Godbold-Holmes (Residential Manager – Willowhurst), Danny Rawcliffe (Deputy Manager – Lyndhurst), Hannah Langton (People Services Manager)

This is for an individual who consistently demonstrates the Care in Mind values (Committed, Empowering, Collaborative, Innovative, Compassionate and Respectful) within their role.

Head Office Team of the Year: Service User Involvement Team

This award was for a Head Office team who consistently demonstrate good team working, to deliver an efficient and high performing service. They have successfully implemented change and/or improved services. This could include developing new ways of working and shared learning.

Residential Home of the Year: Lyndhurst

A residential team who consistently demonstrate good team working, to deliver an efficient and high performing service. They have successfully implemented change and/or improved services. This could include developing new ways of working and shared learning.

Residential Home of the Year: Lyndhurst

Clinician of the Year: Josef Comyn-Doyle (Clinical Nurse Specialist / Clinical Lead – Yorkshire)

An individual working in a clinical role who has made an exceptional contribution to Care in Mind and its services, but whose contribution and role often goes unrecognised. They show dedication and commitment to their role and make a genuine difference to others.

Manager/Leader of the Year: Danny Rawcliffe (Deputy Manager – Lyndhurst)

An individual with outstanding leadership skills who inspires people to go the extra mile. They are innovative and value their peers while actively mentoring and encouraging people they work with. Tireless in their efforts to change the system for the benefit of all.

Calmer of the Storms Award: Jordan Griffiths (Deputy Manager – Brockenhurst)

The person who has the ability to show resilience when things are hectic. They remain calm in any situation and can be relied upon to get the job done and support their team in a time of crisis.

Best Newcomer: Carly Finch (Residential Manager – Elmhurst)

This is someone who has joined Care in Mind over the past 12 months and has already made an impact to the company, the lives of our young people or to the team they work in.

Extra Mile Award: Danny Rawcliffe (Deputy Manager – Lyndhurst)

An individual that goes beyond their job description to help Care in Mind deliver its objectives. They epitomise creative thinking, commitment, determination, and drive.

Covid Hero 2020 Award: Lauren Ugbode (Head of Service)

An individual or team has gone above and beyond to care for young people and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Where the nominee has made a ‘heroic’ effort on behalf of the young people or colleagues.

The Young Person Award: Rosemary Snow (Support Worker – Westfield)

This is an award nominated by our young people to an individual who they feel has enhanced their experience at Care in Mind and has had a real, positive influence in their journey.

Outstanding Achievement Award

This year also marked an important milestone for our Managing Director, Sharron Amri. Sharron has been with Care in Mind since the very beginning, and has consistently been a positive force throughout her 10 years. She played a key part in developing Care in Mind into who we are today, and has helped the lives are countless young people.

Outstanding Achievement Award: Sharron Amri

Here is what some of her colleagues and a former young person had to say:

“I have worked at Care In Mind for nearly 6 years and I can honestly say Sharron has been amazing… Compassion is the focus of all her decision making and she continues to strive to support the delivering of care for an amazing company.”Kelly Yates, Residential Services Manager

You helped me in every single area of my career from support worker skills to managerial skills and even my training skills… You are never afraid to put yourself out there if it means the young people would benefit or have a moment where they forgot their problems and felt truly happy… You are an amazing Managing Director… Care in Mind wouldn’t be what it is without you where you are now. On behalf of every single person you have ever met I want to say thank you.” Dominique Hooper, Best Practice Facilitator

Imagining how my life might have turned out without Sharron’s intervention is not worth thinking about… Sharron was not, and is not, just a nurse, she’s a person who puts her whole energy into helping those around her. Any current or future young persons Sharron has in her care are some of the luckiest people; they are getting a second chance at life, and although not at all easy, Sharron provides all the tools needed to persevere.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I am so indebted and grateful for you, Sharron. Care in Mind would not be Care in Mind without you and you are everything people should aspire to be.” – Former Care in Mind Young Person

Many congratulations to all who received awards this year! We are very proud of all Care in Mind staff for their hard work over a difficult year. We’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead, which is particularly special as we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary – watch this space for more details!

Our Commitment To People

At Care in Mind, we pride ourselves on our commitment to our employees, because it is our hardworking, passionate colleagues who make us what we are.

Therefore, when faced with the opportunity to step up our Investors in People (IIP) accreditation from the Standard First Time assessment to Silver or Gold, our People Services team decided that they wanted to quite literally, ‘go for gold’. Over many months, the team worked alongside IIP, with employees also getting involved through answering questionnaires and having interviews with an IIP representative.

The People Services team were keen to achieve Gold as a way of recognising and showing to others that we are truly committed and invested in our staff. Subsequently, on 19th November 2020, we received the news that we had been awarded the Gold level accreditation.

The CEO of IIP, Paul Devoy said of our achievement: “Gold accreditation on We invest in people is a fantastic effort for any organisation, and places Care in Mind in fine company with a host of organisations that understand the value of people.”

We could not agree more with his words, and with just 17% of accredited organisations managing to achieve the Gold level, we really believe this quite the accomplishment.

Here is what Sharron Amri, our Managing Director, had to say of our triumph: “Being awarded the Gold level accreditation by Investors in People is a huge achievement, and it could not have been done without our fantastic People Services team, as well as each and every Care in Mind employee who took part in making our dream becoming a reality.”

Additionally, Julie Burton, People Director, said: “This is an amazing achievement for Care in Mind. To achieve Gold in only our second assessment makes us extremely proud. Over the past 3 years we have worked hard to aim for the Gold standard. There has been tremendous teamwork to ensure we have the right support in place for our staff and our management and leadership team have strived to embed our new core values. The healthcare sector has faced an extremely challenging time in 2020 and this award is a testament to of all of the excellent work our teams have done to ensure a safe environment for our young people. 2021 marks Care in Minds 10th Anniversary and achieving this recognition is the icing on the cake to what will be a very special year.

We received Investors in People Gold level accreditation!
So, why did IIP award us with Gold level accreditation?
  • We are effective communicators, which allows for better decision-making.
  • Our values are truly embedded in everything we do, with almost 100% of those surveyed agreeing that we have clear values.
  • Staff understand how to improve with the help of appropriate, in-depth auditing.
  • We are dedicated to recognising and rewarding our people, with 85.3% of those surveyed expressing that they contribution to the organisation is valued.
  • Staff are well-supported through regular supervisions, staff support groups and reflective practice sessions.
  • We are dedicated to collaboration across all teams.
Investors in People statistic: Almost 90% of employees surveyed feel that Care in Mind is a great place to work.
What else did our people have to say?
  • About management: “They are open and really motivating. They want everyone to work to the best of their ability and they push to be best that you can be. They are challenging in a really positive way.”
  • About our values: “It’s a positive culture. The thing that appeals to me about the organisation is that values are at the centre of what we do. It feels like an organisation that puts the young people we work with at the centre and at the heart of what we want to achieve. You see and feel it everywhere.”
  • About our culture: “It’s very warm and caring. I’ve worked for a number of companies and never found any as caring as here – there’s no blame culture, we thrive on lessons learned and genuinely listen to our young people.”
  • About being empowered: “We are empowered. Everyone is so open to suggestions and people have boundaries and frameworks and support to make decisions.”
Investors in People quote: “Care in Mind is one of best organisations I’ve worked for. There are lots of fun things and as much effort as possible is made to make sure staff are appreciated.”
  • About rewarding our staff: “We reward massively to be honest. Every month every house has an employee of the month and a budget for gifts and treats to use how we want. We get certificates for over 95% audit. We get thanks on the HR system. There’s loads.”
  • About progressing within the company: “We encourage people to progress and achieve – we recruit people with little or no experience and then progress them with NVQs. People are empowered by the fact that they can grow and progress and there is a process for that.”
  • About training opportunities: “I do feel very invested in personally. I’ve been doing training and was offered a lot of support with that, such as time off work to study. Training is really good here and the best I’ve had.”
  • About our auditing processes: “Any findings from audits are sent to the internal teams, then they are reported into monthly operations meeting, then they go into clinical audit committee. Escalations are fed into appropriate groups, any lessons learned recorded onto a log and actions plans compiled form audits and each action reviewed monthly. ”
  • About diversity and inclusion: “We are working on a big project in terms of inclusion and diversity. We are looking at diversity and how representative we are and looking at how this impacts on how we recruit and manage people.”

We are thrilled with our new Gold accreditation from Investors in People, and are looking forward to continuing to invest and empower our people going forward.

To Risk Or Not To Risk?

To Risk Or Not To Risk?

At Care in Mind, we work within a least restrictive model, with an emphasis on therapeutic risk management.

The dilemma of risking or restricting risk comes down weighing up long-term benefits with present day risks. So, why do we believe in long-term benefits and managing risk therapeutically and with the least restraint?

When a young person spends lots of time in a hospital, it can lead to a heavy reliance on others to protect them. Additionally, it can be easy for them to unlearn, or become fearful of, various normal areas of life, such as making a cup of tea or using metal cutlery. Essentially, it can significantly hinder their ability to learn the value in responsibility and independence. This is especially true of young people who may have been in and out of hospital during their early teenage years.

As well as a loss of independence and reliance on others, heavy restrictions can cause young people to feel out of control. Losing this control may lead them to take increased risks as time goes on, thus they find themselves in a dangerous cycle of risky behaviour.

Of course, it is understandable that restrictive care has become the norm, as what is a natural reaction to someone hurting themselves? It is to take away that risk and stop them. However, at Care in Mind, we have intensive training in place for our residential staff so that this reaction can be challenged. Instead of restrictive care, we focus on assertive care and train our staff to support young people in keeping themselves safe. Our least restrictive model is very much based on the principles of Therapeutic Risk Management.

The Five Principles of Therapeutic Risk Managament
The Principles Of Therapeutic Risk Management

There are five principles of Therapeutic Risk Management and they each underlie our Therapeutic Risk model, which is paramount to successful risk management in a least restrictive manner.

The first principle is focused on collaboration, therapeutic rcaelationships and informed decision making on the young person’s part. Care in Mind young people are put at the forefront of their own care and work alongside our comprehensive MDT to ensure they receive care that is most helpful for them. Much of those relies on an open and honest relationship between staff and young people, which gives them the confidence to trust those who care for them.

The second principle is about creating a strength based, person-centred approach to recovery. This is done utilising the “Managing Mental Health Ladder” and the “Mental Health Recovery Star” (Recovery Star™ (4th Edition) – Triangle (outcomesstar.org.uk). The ladder is all about progressing how you manage your mental health issues. To assess how young people progress and to ensure we focus on the necessary areas of recovery, we utilise the “Mental Health Recovery Star”. These will be filled out on a regular basis throughout the young person’s time within the homes to document how they are doing.

The third principle is about effective team-working and building risk-sharing partnerships. This is about the way we always care for young people being understood and consistent, including when liaising with Emergency Services, Social Care and Safeguarding teams. Maintaining a stable level of least restrictive care is vital in minimising the risk of further setbacks into a risky cycle of behaviour.

The Mental Health Recovery Star & The Managing Mental Health Ladder

The fourth principle is providing a safe culture for both residential staff and the young people. A significant part of this is through reflective practice and a no blame culture. We try to take every opportunity to learn from where we may have gone wrong and improve upon our practice, both individually and as an organisation. Rather than having one way of doing things and strictly enforcing that, we encourage staff to bring forward any innovative ideas they may have.

The fifth and final principle is about providing least restrictive interventions. Rather than removing risks, using physical restraint, or conducting observations on people, we utilise less invasive ways to care for our young people.

Naturally, a least restrictive environment is not suited to every individual and their mental health journey. In cases where young people are actively suicidal, have a means to end their own life or lack capacity, we may not necessarily recommend a least restrictive model of care. It all comes down to assessing potential risks and weighing up the potential benefits for each unique individual.

For some young people, a least restrictive environment and therapeutically managed risks can allow them to gain the necessary independence to thrive once they leave residential care. It can help break the cycle of readmission and give them the self-belief that they can take responsibility for their own safety.

Therefore, we choose to risk (where appropriate), because it can help the young person learn to live their most safe, satisfying, and meaningful life.

The Importance of Clinical Audit

Clinical audit and quality assurance are an important part of any healthcare organisation.

Behind the scenes, Care in Mind is very much like a well-run machine with various vital components to keep things running smoothly. One component of our organisation that helps us to remain high-quality, compliant, and reflective is our Quality Assurance Department.

The White Paper “Working for Patients” introduced the audit of clinical care initiative in 1989. The purpose of the initiative was to improve the quality of patient care and to ensure best practice is being undertaken. Whilst this process originated within the NHS, it is now embedded across many healthcare organisations, including Care in Mind. Additionally, our auditing process does differ from that of the NHS as we have a unique model of care.

The auditing undertaken within Care in Mind is used to measure performance across all areas of the business:

Residential audits

  • Medication and physical health equipment audits are completed by the CQC champion of each home.
  • Health and safety audits are completed by the health and safety champion in each house.
  • File audits are completed, which review areas such as, care plans, risk management plans, daily notes, and incident reports.
  • We also have a Service user involvement audit completed by the service user involvement champion for each home.

Other areas we audit

  • Medication management
  • External communications
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Quality audits set against the model of care
  • Annual young person feedback survey

Why is auditing so helpful?

  • Clinical audit provides the framework to improve the quality of patient care in a collaborative and systematic way.
  • Through Audit we can identify emerging trends, which enables us to identify risks and implement actions before it becomes a bigger issue.
  • Auditing allows us to identify which services are performing well and promote good practice, which improves the quality of the services and outcomes to users and similarly to identify where services require improvement.
  • During the pandemic, auditing has played an important part in protecting the physical health of our young people and residential staff.
  • Additionally, audits can help shed light on how young people cope with external factors (such as a pandemic). This allows us to be better prepared going forward and provide the best care.

To ensure we learn from audits they are reviewed across the organisation through our Audit Committee and Governance processes.  Data is scrutinised to ensure we gain all that we can from it and move forward making the necessary changes to support best practice.

Care in Mind: Our Values

As a mental health care provider, our values are immensely important in helping us to achieve our core mission.

With a strong set of values, we are able to ensure that as individuals, we can understand each other and work towards the same goal. This is particularly important when it comes to working within mental health care, as our collective goal is to help people, and the most effective way we can achieve this is together.

Below, we are going to share with you how our values came to be, based on the words of Sharron Amri, our Managing Director:

The Story of Our Values

The journey of creating the Care in Mind values was a process that took several months. It was important to get right as we knew that they would carve out the company culture and reflect who we are and what we care about to all our stakeholders. We also strongly felt that the values should be created collaboratively with the very staff that embody them, so our employee focus group was a key part of the process.

Firstly, the group looked at a number of visuals and everyone picked an image that they thought best described Care in Mind. Then, they reviewed the values of other companies, both big and small. After that, they discussed which images and words most related to the Care in Mind ethos.

Next, the group utilised Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model and considered what our ‘why’ is. Why do we do what we do and what is our purpose? The overwhelming consensus was that we do what we do to make a difference to the young people we support. The group then came up with several words that described how we do this, and it was discussed which values the group felt were a good fit with our ‘why’.

From the session, the group decided on several values, which had to be narrowed down to our core values. This was achieved by sending an online survey out to all staff giving everyone the option of voting on which they felt were the most relevant words to describe our values. From this feedback the Care in Mind values were formed!

Our values: Respectful, Compassionate, Innovative, Collaborative, Empowering and Committed.

Our six values are: Respectful, Compassionate, Innovative, Collaborative, Empowering and Committed. Each and every value plays a role in informing what we do on a daily basis. They play a part in guiding residential staff through caring for our young people, they help managers to make decisions and they allow us all to work towards the same goals.

To learn more about our values, click here.

The Truth Behind Mental Health Myths

Whilst mental health is more widely understood than it once was, there are still harmful myths and stigmas attached to it.   

Continuing to believe these myths, and the many others that exist, seriously hinders the excellent progress being made regarding understanding mental health. So, in honour of World Mental Health Day, we want to disprove just a few mental health myths.

MYTH: People with mental health issues are often violent and unpredictable.

This particular myth is, sadly, commonly believed, and may somewhat be attributed to the way in which TV and film portrays mental illness. However, the truth is that there no evidence to say that people with a mental health condition are more likely to commit violent crimes. In fact, it is far more likely that someone with mental illness will be victim to violence or harm themselves.

MYTH: Talking therapy either makes your condition worse, or doesn’t help at all.

The myths surrounding treatment of mental illness are aplenty, and people often have their own opinion on what does or doesn’t work. Unfortunately, there are often falsely believed ideas about the benefits of therapy, but the truth is that therapy is a helpful part of recovery for many people.

MYTH: People with a mental health condition cannot succeed professionally, romantically, or socially.

People with mental health conditions are not only capable of being successful in all areas of life, but they also very much deserve to be happy and achieve their goals. There are many highly successful people who also have experienced mental illness and have subsequently talked about their journey. For example, One Direction star Zayn Malik has openly discussed his battle with anxiety, and “Roar” singer Katy Perry has also shared her experience of depression and suicidal thoughts.

MYTH: You can tell if someone has a mental illness.

One in four people will experience a mental health condition at some point during their life, and despite the myth, it can affect anyone, regardless of skin colour, age, gender, sexuality, or social class. People with a mental illness do not look, or necessarily act, a certain way, as it is truly something that could impact anyone.

Myths such as these cause a lack of understanding, which can result in heightened fear and stigma around mental illness. Fear and stigma can hinder individuals receiving the help they need or may even lead someone to feel that their mental health condition is something to be ashamed of.

Being aware of, and subsequently challenging mental health myths is an important step in educating ourselves about what mental illness is.

Cherryhurst Pride Celebration

As what would have been Manchester Pride 2020 rolled around, Cherryhurst Support Worker, Liam, was keen to create our very own Care in Mind Pride event.

Below, he shares how teamwork and kindness brought his idea into fruition, as well as details of the day itself:

Care in Mind consistently practice with inclusivity, which I feel particularly aware of as a transgender man. Therefore, when it came to planning Care in Mind Pride 2020, I was not surprised by the enthusiasm my colleagues and Residential Manager, Dominic, encountered my idea with. Every step of the way, Dominic has been incredibly supportive in bringing the idea to reality, ensuring we had enough budget for decorations and rainbow party food!

Additionally, we were met by extreme kindness from local businesses and charities who donated prizes and runway clothing for the day. Refuse To Conform clothing donated some prizes and gifts for the young people to thank them for their hard work towards making the day such a success. And, it was a local charity shop, West Kirby Cats Protection, that helped us pick out some amazingly fabulous runway outfits.

The big day itself was a complete success; from the planning to the main event, and finale, of the Runway Extravaganza, both staff and residents were completely enthralled. Fun and games were enjoyed throughout the day, even during a game of ‘throw wet sponges at management’! We also enjoyed a blindfolded mocktail game, which brought out everyone’s competitive side.

When it came to the finale, our Ru Paul Runway Extravaganza, everyone was utterly amazing and completely exceeded expectations. Residents strutted the runway, blossoming with confidence, and got completely into the spirit of the event.

Reflecting on the day, young people commented: “It was a great day”, and “let’s do it again next year!”

The event perfectly celebrated the diversity we have within the service, both amongst staff and young people. It was a lovely way to recognise how diversity promotes success and why we should all feel proud to embrace who we are. Everyone involved in the day seemed to take a lot from it and left with a smile, and many of those involved in the runway event even discovered a new hobby – dressing up in drag!

Talking About Suicide

Suicide is a taboo subject, however, talking about it in an appropriate and sensitive manner is hugely important.

Much alike the wider conversation around mental health, talking about suicide may help someone who feels isolated in their thoughts, feelings or experiences. Individuals suffering with suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt survivors and those bereaved by suicide could all benefit from the support talking can bring with it.

However, it can be a triggering topic, which is why it isn’t as simple as opening up the conversation – we must also get the dialogue right. Within our Model of Care, we focus a lot on the importance of the words we use and our body language.

Don’t be afraid to be direct

When it comes to talking about suicide, your instinct may be to tiptoe around the subject. However, it is better to ask simple, direct, but, still sensitively-worded questions. Through this method, the individual will be provided with the opportunity to share how they are feeling. In fact, according to Mind UK, research has actually shown that speaking openly about suicide can decrease the likelihood of the person acting on their feelings.

Practice active listening

Active listening is almost like an enhanced way of doing what we all do every day, it’s a way of using techniques to give someone the space and time needed to open up.  Once someone starts to be honest with you about their feelings, it’s important to listen carefully and refrain from making the conversation about yourself. The Samaritans utilise the acronym ‘SHUSH’ to remember key tips for active listening (see below, or read more here).

Be mindful and kind

Whilst it is important to be direct, as we have already mentioned, it is still vital that you are mindful of what you say. For example, if you are talking to a survivor of suicide or someone who has been bereaved through suicide, be mindful of asking about potentially triggering details. Instead, focus on how the individual is feeling, actively listen and provide emotional support for them. 

Use the correct terminology

Some of the terminology we use today originates in the days when suicide was viewed as a criminal act. These days, our understanding of mental health conditions has changed, and thus, it’s important that we steer away from using both ancient and harmful words/phrases. Take a look at the image below for ideas of the what you shouldn’t say, and what you could say instead.

These tips have been based on professional advice, and will not only help you in speaking to someone who has suicidal thoughts, but help to also break the stigma still attached to it. By opening up the lines of communication and being sensitive about the subject, we can give more people the space needed to be honest in times of need.

For more suggestions and resources, whether you’re worried about someone else or yourself, click here.

What is Dissociation?

Our brain has various methods for coping with trauma and stress, one of these methods is dissociation.

When someone dissociates, their thoughts, feelings, behaviours, how they see their environment, memory, how present they are, and how they view the world disconnects. Their mind no longer works in harmony, and instead becomes separated. There are many theories of dissociation, but one is the idea that dissociation is a continuum, and that symptoms can range from mild to severe. In fact, for many of us, it may be a surprise to realise that we often mildly dissociate in our day-to-day life.

Dissociation for some may mean ‘zoning out’ or ‘daydreaming’ – it may present itself as missing your exit on the motorway or losing track of time during in a dull meeting. However, for someone who has experienced trauma, dissociation can show itself in a more pronounced way. It may impact their memory, sense of who they are, and how they perceive the world.

Severe dissociation may occur in many ways, such as forgetting past experiences, depersonalisation (feeling detached from yourself), or unusual experiences such as seeing/hearing things other people cannot. It may also cause vivid and realistic flashbacks to past trauma, whereby you feel like you’re ‘reliving’ a past experience. This can be a very frightening experience for the individual.

Dissociation is not a necessarily a bad thing though; it actually provides the individual with a psychological escape. It allows those who have experienced trauma to go about their normal daily living whilst coping with emotional distress. For some, many aspects of dissociating is a comforting, positive experience but it can also be a frightening reminder of upsetting experiences, causing your brain to jump into ‘panic mode’.

Caring for someone with dissociation, whether in a personal or professional capacity, may feel daunting. However, with understanding, you learn that they have simply found their own way to survive. Sometimes individuals get stuck an unhealthy habit to survive, which challenges their ability to recover from whatever they were trying to survive in the first place. Therefore, paying attention to dissociation is an important part of recovery.

At Care in Mind, we use evidence-based methods for helping our young people in the most effective way. One of these methods is a three-step technique, based on regulating, relating, and reasoning. This can especially help during a flashback.

For regulation, the purpose is to help the individual to manage their response to the flashback. This may be done through encouraging grounding techniques. A comforting smell, relaxing song or hot drink may help assist someone in their grounding. It is also helpful to remind the individual that they are safe, and that the flashback will pass. Additionally, it is also important to promote self-care and soothing methods at this stage.

The second step, relating, is about connecting to the individual by being sensitive to their needs. We do this primarily through validation, which is a key element of our model of care. Validation is all about recognising someone’s feelings and allowing them to feel heard. However, it goes beyond words – it’s also about seeing and hearing the young person and connecting with them and their distress. For more help on validating statements and behaviour, click here.

Finally, it is important to help the individual reflect on what just happened. It is at this point that, together, you can both reflect on what happened and what may help going forward. It can be useful to make a note of triggers and consider why your brain had the response that it did. At Care in Mind, it would be the young person’s assigned therapy session where they may do further reflecting on the incident, and thus find methods to avoid future episodes.

Dissociation is a normal and understandable coping response but if you find that it is causing you distress, please seek support. There are also ways in which you can care yourself. The mental health charity, Mind, has several helpful suggestions and information about coping with dissociation.

The content of this blog post is a summary of a recent webinar facilitated by Dr Lena Marden and Dr Christy Laganis, Clinical Psychologists at Care in Mind.