The Speakmans are celebrity therapists who appear on This Morning on ITV often working with people who have phobias or issues that are quite unusual. In this third Episode of their new television series "The Speakmans" we met Danni who suffers from hair pulling issues. The condition is also known as Trichotillomania. So today Danni wanted to stop hair pulling with the Speakmans help...how did she get on?
According to Nik and Eva Speakman and their experience it always happens (they stated) because of a previous trauma and once they uncover that they can move on. As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I would never diagnose what an issue was or how it was caused before I met a client, but the Speakmans do have a very different approach.
We met Gillian who is Danni's mother and also her Father Nigel in a group setting. It is becoming clear now that in each episode of this show they gather the family together to all talk about the issue. I understand that this makes better television because of the raw emotions that are shown but I can't help thinking that many of the people who applied who did not have family around them would have been turned down for the show. Often those people would have been the most in need of help because there was no one else to turn to.
We heard about the fact that Nigel, her father did not like to talk about the Trichotillomania problem. Danni explained that her father never says "I Love you" back on the phone. Nigel explained that was not how he was brought up. It seems like we are now delving into someone else's past rather than that of Danni.
After some more discussion it emerged that Danni was bullied at school because she had nice hair. She would be stabbed in the back with a compass by the bullies. She told us about the first day that she started the hair pulling. She felt a longer wiry hair and it felt painful but it made her feel alive to pull the hair. Because of the bullies it reminded her she was still a person.
She hid the fact that this happened from her parents as she was ashamed like many people who suffer in silence. Both her parents were sad that they had never really spoken. This is something that we see time and time again. A lack of opening up and communication can often mean that we hold on to feelings that we can in fact let go of. It may not always be the case that your family want to talk in a group therapy session but there is a benefit that we can see in the programme for the trichotillomania or hair pulling sufferer.
The format of this show seems to be a little fixed and this group therapy session seems to be something that shows us part of how the Speakmans treat a problem but we miss a great deal of the other interventions in therapy that they use. Talking therapies can take a longer time to have an effect but these shows are often filmed in a tight time slot. The Speakmans themselves had admitted that they only had an afternoon slot for at least one of the episodes. I still feel that we are missing a lot of what they do and I am not sure why they would not want that to be shown. Many people will not be able to sit in a room with family talking about their feelings and if that is the case you should be assured that you can get help and overcome your issues as well as the way we are seeing this hair pulling problem being treated.
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It is clear that Danni has not overcome her feelings and memory of bullying and so I can see that this is the area that will be focussed on. As a single mum she also needs to be aware that her behavior will influence her son and change how he feels about himself and others.
Once Nik and Eva had Danni alone they asked her to feel her hair and she how much she wanted to pull it out. She told them that it felt nice so they replied that meant she wanted to keep her hair. In common with their unusual approach they pulled a toy out of a toy box with a girls hair play set and told her they wanted her to pull the hair out of it. She said that she didn't want to pull it out. As this point I am starting to see some interesting patterns in the interventions that they make as they often seem designed for television rather than therapy. Not having seen them in person of course I can't be sure how they work, because as I mention, they seem to be keeping quite a lot of what they do to themselves.
Once she told them that she would not pull her hair again they took her to a hair specialist to have her hair replaced and cover up the patches that she had left. A photo shoot followed and her delight was a pleasure to see.
If you suffer from hair pulling then you can ask for help. We are not born with any issues such as this. That means that you had to learn to pull hair...and if you learnt to pull it then you can unlearn that too. The same goes for any bad habit, fear or phobia. Reaching out for help is often the hardest part and things will get easier once you have taken that first step.