The Speakmans are Nik and Eva Speakman and their new television show named.."The Speakmans" started today on ITV. They are both regular guests on This Morning and sit on the sofa with Phil and Holly helping people to overcome phobias.
This Television show is telling us that they are allowing cameras into their therapy sessions for the first time. As a Clinical Hypnotherapist it is always interesting to see the techniques that other therapists are using. We can all learn from other people and everyone has a different experience.
This episode featured Becky who suffers from emetophobia, or a fear of being sick. This first happened at a horse riding show according to her mother. Now eight years later she told us that she thinks about being sick from the moment she wakes up to the moment she goes to sleep. She takes laxatives and has even burnt herself from having a hot water bottle against her. She finds it hard to hold down a job. Her older sister Charlotte wanted her to be a maid of honour at her wedding and yet she was unable to even put her bags in the car on the day. She simply could not make it to the wedding. This of course also created a problem in their relationship. Not having her sister with her on her big day was the final straw. After years of watching Becky get all the support she has come to the end of her tether. Now the sisters are finding that their relationship is at risk.
Another person who suffers is her soldier boyfriend Chris. He lives in a house that was bought for them and yet Becky needs to live with her mother. She listed all the different therapies that she has undergone and says that none of them has worked. As a therapist I am always aware that the relationship with the therapist is so very important. The wrong therapist could make the issue worse. Now that she is seeing another therapist, or a pair in this case, then it is very interesting to see what approach they will take.
The Speakmans travel to Suffolk to help Becky overcome her emetophobia.
The Speakmans had to travel to their client as Becky would not normally leave the house. She explained to them how her phobia has taken over her life. She stated that she began having panic attacks from the age of 18. They asked her about what could have happened to start this fear off. Becky explained that she drank a bottle of medicine at the age of three and had to go to hospital and was made to throw up. Her mother recalled that she had to drive her to hospital quickly and that she had to hold on to her leg as she drove because she did not want her to go to sleep. Becky said that she can see herself being sick at the time. When she has panic attacks then the feeling also seems similar. She can have several attacks a day so she will now not leave the house.
Her mother Susan said that she has been through so many emotions that one time she even slapped her daughter around the face to shock her into snapping out of it. She said that she feels disappointed and hurt. She was also upset that Becky did not go to her father's funeral. She said "I don't expect anything of her". In many ways as an observer it did seem that this emotional meeting was the first time that the mother and daughter had spoken together and to each other. Of course, we only see an edited version.
Nik Speakman pointed out that the mother said that it was ok for her not to get better. Her mother is in fact helping the situation to continue by putting the idea in her head that if she doesn't change that is ok. Of course it isn't ok for it to continue for Becky. Like many relatives it can become easy to help someone you love suffer by reinforcing the problem. Her mother did admit that it was the first time she had thought of it like that. I often find with clients that they start to see situations differently when they are challenged on their thinking and these small changes can really help people to move forward.
Her mother still feels guilty even though of course it was an accident.
The Speakmans then met with her sister Charlotte alongside Becky and Her mother. It was clear that Charlotte feels that she has not had her fair share of attention from her mother because of the situation. Becky spoke about her boyfriend Chris and how she moved in for two weeks and then came back home to where her comfort zone is. She was challenged as to whether the real comfort is her mother and that her mother is the thing that has become a habit.
What seemed to be appearing was that her mother is still taking the guilt about what happened and with the best intentions letting it rule the lives of everyone in the family.
Having the whole family together is a very interesting approach and does seem to mean that the therapy advances more quickly than it would do otherwise. Often when you speak to those who are around you can start to see their feelings and how they are changing the situation.
Becky and her family were asked to write down how they feel and then read the letter to each other. I was interested to see that Becky was quite closed and detached when listening and I am unsure as to why the Speakmans did not challenge her or ask her how she felt about this. Perhaps we just didn't have time to see this within the framework of the programme.
They also played a video message from her boyfriend Chris in Afghanistan. This seemed to affect Becky a little more. She stated that she wanted to be fine by the time that he came back.
"Are you ready to change?"
So, emotional mediation over it was time for the rest of the family to leave and Becky was left with Nik and Eva Speakman to continue the therapy. It seemed that finally the mother was able to see that she was the one who was making it worse. Becky was given a gift box which represented the choices that she had made in her life. There was a picture of her and Chris ripped down the middle. There was a picture of her sister's wedding where of course she did not attend. She talked through how she knew she had affected everyone by not attending. It was clear that she had never really spoken to her sister about it and cleared the air. There was a card with "sorry Grandad" written in it by the Speakmans. This clearly designed to get Becky talking about not attending her Grandad's funeral. and then a box with some medicine like that she swallowed, a pair of handcuffs to obviously symbolise how she is chained to the past, and some baby clothes.
There was also an alternative box..this was the way that things could be. Becky said that she didn't want the other box around. She said "I've never seen it like that" This is one of the things that happens all of the time with clients. Sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees and we need someone else to help open our eyes to what is happening. This second box had a horseshoe and pictures of her showjumping. These brought back happy memories of her life and the freedom that she used to have.
After talking about panic attacks the Speakmans challenged Becky to have a panic attack. She of course was not able to do this. I find a similar thing happens when I help work with clients who suffer panic attacks. Once we have been through processes which change the way that you see a panic attack then they become harder to have. That familiarity of having a panic attack and practice can be let go. Your body and mind won't allow you to panic any more once you realise that you don't need to have them.
In the box was a photo of her and her boyfriend cut into a heart shape which she liked. They then asked her which box she would choose.
She chose the box full of the positives and the pictures about the positive future rather than holding onto the negative past.
Life gets easy
Next they took Becky to the front door and handcuffed her to it. Yes, really! They asked if she wanted to be released. Once they explained that at the hospital the medicine saved her life. She started that "I've never thought about it like that". Again this is something that therapists see all the time. They asked her if she would like to go and see her horses. The also told us there was another surprise waiting for her. Having watched a lot of television it may have been clear what that surprise would be to me, but clearly not to Becky yet!
They took Becky out to the stables to see the horse. She sat in the car holding Nik Speakman's hand as they arrived. Clearly she was still a little nervous but bearing in mind that the therapy only started that morning it was hardly surprising. Her mother and sister were waiting for her and we saw the touching moment where they embraced. We watched Becky riding her horse and being so happy. Then of course the final surprise which was that her boyfriend Chris was there too.
It's hard not to get misty eyed at the reunion of the couple.
It is really great to see the changes that can be made to the lives of people who think that things cannot change. I love it when the media cover issues and show that we can all learn and benefit. Well done to the Speakmans and to ITV for showing the programme. I am already looking forward to the next episode. If you have a fear or a phobia then you don't need to suffer alone. Never be afraid to ask for help.