Episode 14: Thursday 31st July The Speakmans help with a phobia of medicine
Amanda has a major phobia of medicine, she cannot swallow tablets or take it in liquid form. Her phobia is literally killing her. Amanda has almost died around 5 times due to her phobia! Amanda is 34 and has been on a dialysis machine for 25yrs, despite the recommended maximum time being 5yrs. Amanda lost her kidneys at 10yrs old and had her first transplant at 18, however that only lasted for six months as her body rejected her kidney as she couldn't take her medication. Amanda can't even be in the same room as a tablet, she is petrified of them. Amanda spends 3 hrs, 3 days a week, attached to a machine that draws out her blood, cleans it and pumps it back in. Amanda is meant to be taking a cocktail of medication that helps her body cope with dialysis, but she cannot take them. As a result, Amanda's bones have become brittle and she is now in a wheelchair. She can walk a short distance but she relies heavily on her family. Her mother claims that she has only has a few years left, unless she gets treated for her phobia. Amanda is not allowed on the kidney waiting list at the moment as she refuses the medication. If Amanda is treated for her phobia, it will give her a new lease of life and if she starts taking medication it will strengthen her bones and the likelihood is that she’ll no longer need her wheelchair!
Can The Speakmans help Amanda overcome her fear and swallow medication?
Because Amanda has no kidneys and needs a transplant this therapy is very important to her. After 25 years on dialysis she now needs to have a translplant in order to save her life. She travelled with her family to the Speakmans home to have the usual family therapy session. There has not been an episode in this series in which the Speakmans have not had family therapy in mediation. This may make you think that the only way you can move forward is to meet with all of your family with you. What do you do if you do not have a family unit around you? What if they do not support you, ot you are alone? It makes no difference whatsoever. The way that the Speakmans work is not the way that most therapists work. In general clients are seen alone and this is the normal way of working. Because this is a television show the family therapy creates drama and tears, but these are not needed for you to be successful in letting going of a fear of swallowing tablets.
A tack that is often used by the Speakmans is that you are a child and need to grow up. Sometimes they say it in that way, sometimes in a more empathetic way. It is interesting to think about the fact that often we revert to a child like state and behave in a way that is not alongside the reality. We often learn to be scared of things and in this case she learned to be scared of taking tablets and swallowing tablets.
When we see that thoughts and feelings are uncovered during these talks these are the same things that are uncovered in any therapy session. As ususal we also see the family write letters to each other. This really seems like a device to create drama. As the family are sitting there I am sure that they could say the same things in front of each other that they read out in a letter. I also wonder if they are getting help from the production in writing those letters? I am sure that is not the case as it would clearly be wrong.
Sometimes the way that the Speakmans talk is quite strange. After this emotional scene Eva Speakman said "Right, we need to start therapy so we will ask you to leave". They have started therapy though?! Why not help people by saying how well they are already doing to speak up in front of their family?
I often use a process called EFT which is sometimes known as tapping with a phobia or fear. It works excellently to help let go and move forward. We do not see any such therapy here but I imagine that is because there is not time to show all that happens in this TV show.
Scheme therapy is something that the Speakmans claim to have invented but of course they are really taking ideas and study from many people and using what they find works for them. This is what all therapists are doing, We use training in the right techniques to help create change. I am not sure about the training that the Speakmans have had as it is not clear.
Although we didn't really see how the changes happened it was of course wonderful to see that Amanda was able to let go of her fears and phobia of swallowing.
When they brought in their own son and asked him to swallow a pill I did feel that they crossed a line that no therapist who is a member of a professional body would cross. However, this is a television show and we must not forget that.
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