Yesterday the Speakmans new TV show began on ITV. They started by helping a young girl who suffered from emetophobia, a fear of being sick.
Today they met Ashlea who has a form of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which means that her life is ruled in a way that many would find alarming. Her issues started at about the age of 8 when she started touching and smelling objects. Now she still does this on a daily basis because she believes that if she does not then something bad will happen to her or her family. When she goes upstairs in her home she has to bite the banister three times at the bottom and the top. If she feels that she did not bite it properly then she will start the ritual again. As she herself stated "it's kind of my daily living now"
Her husband Brian finds that it can be frustrating to be married to someone suffering from OCD. It can take hours for her to get ready and to check everything before they go out.
Just when we thought we had heard it all she confessed that when walking the dog she would want to bite the bag with dog waste in. She said that doing it would give her relief...until the next hurdle.
Being ruled by these rituals means that when she is driving she will often take her hand off the wheel to touch buttons with both hands. The voiceover stated that this was dangerous for her. Perhaps he could have explained that it is also dangerous for other road users and pedestrians too.
She travelled to the country pile of Nik and Eva Speakman..Speakman, Hall to get some help. As a Clinical Hypnotherapist who has just watched how severe her traume is I have to say I was surprised that she found it so easy to visit a new place and walk inside and sit on their sofa without biting or touching anything. Perhaps we just didn't see this in the edit.
The Speakmans asked her what the issue was and explained that they had seen her notes. I suppose they could also have watched the video that we all just watched but I am sure there was a reason that they did not do that.
Both Ashlea and Brian spoke to the Speakmans together. This does seem to be their modus operandi and is an interesting approach. Often, of course the last person a client wants to be with is someone that they feel may stop them from being honest. When a problem is caused or made worse by someone close then it may well be better for that person to not be around during therapy.
She told us that she gets the worse comments when driving. It seemed like she was not taking much responsibility for those around her. I do feel that If I was a danger in a car to others then I wouldn't be driving that car until I had sought help.
Whilst talking about her life she stated that her parents divorced when she was seven and that is when the OCD problems started.
At this point we are told that Ashlea's mother and step father had only just learnt about her OCD issues. Again, as a Clinical Hypnotherapist this sets alarm bells ringing a little because it would be very hard to hide this from your family, especially when you are biting banisters and taking the paint off them.
Ashlea stated that when anything bad happens in her family then she blames herself. Even when her mother was diagnosed with cancer she thought that this was because she had missed something in her rituals. After talking it emerged that her mother had lung cancer and admitted that she smoked and knew this was the cause.
The Speakmans had asked them all to write letters to each other which they read out for us all to hear. From what I have seen it appears that this would be the first time that they had really talked about the issues and how they cause problems for everyone. When working with clients I always explore how they deal with family and friends and how the knowledge of a situation affects it. Often people are scared of what will happen when they talk and open up. In reality this often makes things much easier to bear and helps everyone to see how each feels.
The Speakmans concluded that it was a family who did not communicate. I think we could all agree with that therapist or not. There is a lesson to learn for some people from that I believe!
She had told them that she hears a voice telling her to do these things. It emerged that the voice was that of her mother and she felt that she was being told to do them.
Nobody wants bad things to happen.
Nik Speakman told Ashlea that the OCD did not cause her mother's cancer, and had that been the case they would have called Ashlea in to perform her rituals to make her better. Actually this seems a great way to help reframe the thought of this and show her how the reality is.
The first time that she tapped a banister when when her parents were breaking up at the age of eight. They pointed out that if that was to keep them together then it didn't work!
They then whipped out a picture of a Mayan temple and showed us that although they thought the world would end in 2012 it did not. An interesting approach I thought, as they explained that sacrificing someone every night did not make any difference to what happened in the world.
So, this was all traced back to the initial event of her parents splitting up. She is now 25 but has carried this with her.
At this point they told her "All you have to do is grow up, and become a woman"
It is important to bear in mind that we only see an edited version of the show and of course there are probably many hours of talking that we do not see and other interventions that the Speakmans do not want to show us.
They did in fact offer to let her sacrifice their pet goat...but she declined!
They then brought out several items for her to bite and she did not want to bite any of them, She stated that she felt very stupid. This is interesting because often people do feel foolish for having problems and she didn't seem to feel this way before.
They talked about memories and how they felt different now, which did show me that they have also used therapies that we have not seen to help her deal with her issues. It is a shame that they do not want to show us this part of what they do. Talking is a very important part of therapy but there are also other aspects and tools which I use and the Speakmans also use which for some reason they do not seem to want people to see. Why this is, I do not know.
To celebrate her losing the OCD problem the Speakmans took her to a car racetrack. I perhaps would have wanted to know how she was going to drive on a normal road, but that would probably make less interesting viewing! Of course it wasn't her car they were in and that is the one where she had rituals but I am sure that they knew this and took it into account.
Off she drove and we watched her leaving her rituals and routines about OCD in the past.
We were treated to the "getting her life back on track" metaphor as we watched her race around keeping her hands on the steering wheel. I was once lucky enought to race a car round Silverstone and I kept my hands on the wheel too.
We were then treated to a clip of the next episode where they help a lady who suffers from hair pulling or trichotillomania. I look forward to seeing their approach.
Another interesting episode which does help to show people that you do not need to live with any problem. Always ask for help. As ever I do feel that we miss a lot of the therapy but that is the nature of any television programme. If you would like any help and advice do drop me an email and I would be happy to help.