Today on Television show "The Speakmans" we met Dave who has not chewed on solid food for over a year. He told us that he was never a fussy eater but now he is. He is a father and husband and we watched him out with his children in a pub. He would not eat though and when they eat tea at home Dave has soup. He also does not sit with the family. The first thing he said was " I find it more comfortable sitting on my own and having time to myself" You could be forgiven for thinking that being a father he could perhaps be more thoughtful. Once we learnt that he was taking the children swimming and now has stopped that it was hard not to think that he would have to be very blinkered not to be thinking about what effect he is having on his children. Even if he really can't eat he could still choose to be with his family and show his children a good example.
In common with the approach that we have seen in this ITV series the Speakmans came to talk to husband and wife together. After five years of marriage the cracks are beginning to show. After losing a great deal of weight Dave feels that it is time to do something about the problem.
I do have to say that having been aware of the process of selection for participants in this show I have to wonder how much longer he waited to get help whilst he waited to see if he was selected. If I could give one piece of advice it would be to seek help for your worries and anxieties. That is always that hardest part. Once you ask for help things really do get easier.
In February 2013 Dave got some food stuck in his throat whilst out eating. He found that this affected him badly. For the first time the couple talked about how this has affected the children. Without sounding harsh it seems amazing that this is something that has not been spoken about before by the couple. Sadly, I do feel that certain things that we are seeing are a bit more "structured reality" for TV than they would be in real life.
As they seem to do each time they asked the participants to write letters to each other and read them out. This makes for an interesting watch but I wonder if it is the best way to work with clients? They then read out a letter written by the children Sophie and Ollie. Clearly these children are affected by the problems that are being caused so asking them to write a letter about it for a television show seems to be to be very irresponsible. I work with children on a regular basis and they would be much better served by having someone to talk to away from the cameras rather than being made to write a letter such as this. The Speakmans methods are very different from other therapists.
Next one of Dave's friends Mike was wheeled into the situation to ramp up the drama further. This is looking more and more like an intervention for an alcoholic or drug addict. As the series goes on I am starting to see patterns in the way The Speakmans conduct therapy that may well be off-putting to anyone who wants to deal with their issue and does not have a family who would want to join in. They surely cannot only conduct their sessions in this way? It seems that their set process must mean that those people who wanted help and didn't have a posse to appear with them on television were clearly not chosen. Rest assured that myself and every other therapist I know work with individual clients and working with a group is a rare occurrence.
What do the Speakmans do next?
So off Dave went to a kitchen to see food in a cupboard. They showed him a lot of cans of soup and said this is what your future holds. I wonder if they buy thirty cans of soup normally? Again, this seems another show for TV rather than something that perhaps they could have just asked him about. I find that working with clients and their imaginations people are often surprised about how powerful they are. Of course Dave found himself in this place so starting to imagine it changing for the better.
So..do the Speakmans use Hypnotherapy to help their phobia clients?
Throughout this series we see a set format with a discussion with the family and yet we never see anything other than talk. I am aware of some of the techniques that The Speakmans use and they do use techniques of Hypnotherapy and other skills that a Clinical Hypnotherapist such as myself use. I am still unsure of the reason that we do not see this part of the therapy during the show. It would demonstrate that changes can happen but that they make take longer than one afternoon. You can always seek help and lose any fear, phobia or bad habit that you have. Just ask for help.
This time we did see Nik Speakman ask Dave to close his eyes and describe the incident that first caused him pain. Any time that we close our eyes we are more open to using our imagination. Eyes opened again Dave continued. Once again I think we are seeing less of the eyes closed work than actually takes place.
A plate with a piece of ham, like the one that caused the problem was then put in front of Dave and he was made to feel quite small. I wonder how much of changing you would do if you felt that there were cameras on you and you didn't want to look so foolish? By talking about embarassment they told him how he felt and why. I don't recall many instances of me telling clients how they feel and why. I may ask them what they think and wonder but the Speakmans have a level of confidence that is different from the rest of us.
"All I am asking now is for you to grow up" Nik Speakman told Dave "There is nothing wrong with you"
WIth that simple statement Dave had very little choice but to eat. The music swelled and we saw him eat. As an observer I wonder how this well continue once the cameras have moved on. Dave was clearly eating through the shame he was made to feel. Did that deal with the issues or wre they papered over? Only time (and Dave) can tell. We watched Dave and the Family eat fish and chips and then we left them to enjoy the beach at Blackpool
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