Mental Well-Being – How do You Know You’re Well, Mentally?

Mental Well-Being:

I wonder, how do YOU know your mental well-being is, well, well and that the whole you is functioning in ways that tell you you’re being the best you you can be, mentally speaking?

Good question, and one I think it would be helpful if MORE people asked.

Men check their testicles, women their breasts; the NHS checks everyone, (at least those people over a certain age) for whether there’s blood showing in their bowel movements – to catch bowel cancer.  Men over 60+, well,  we’re screened to ensure our aortic artery isn’t showing signs of furring up; and further, women have cervical screening (at least from age 25 – 64) and mammograms;  and so on.

Problem is, those things I’ve mentioned in the paragraph above are all medical conditions, and therefore something we know CAN be screened for and it helps if you believe they can.

Mental ill health however, is somewhat less screenable; ALTHOUGH there are weighty tomes, like the DSM-V (US) – the classification manual which enables health professionals, at least in the US, to diagnose and recognise and treat mental ill health when it’s sat opposite them. DSM – V is, in full, ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (of Mental Disorders) volume 5 (V – Roman Numerals).

And, not to be outdone, the rest of the world has ‘The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders’, published by the WHO (World Health Organisation) which has recently decided that Gaming Addiction is a disease, that can be classified as such, and therefore, can, presumably be treated.

ICD, if you are really interested, stands for, in full, ‘International (Statistical) Classification of Diseases (and Related Health Problems)’.

Don’t you just love acronyms? That was rhetorical, by the way. Although there’s nothing to stop you adding a comment if you want to, at the end.

Public Health:

Some, such as Katherine Johnson, have argued that the public health agenda has moved over the last several years such that there is nowadays an “… increasing apprehension for ‘global health’ such that public health concerns are no longer seen as constrained by national boundaries …” (Johnson, 2012, p269), and that we are becoming more concerned about inequalities in health (McFarlane, et al 2008, in Johnson, ibid). And as Johnson goes on to suggest, this move to equalise resources and opportunities has, under the tenets of the WHO (World Health Organisation) also moved to include ‘mental health’ – ‘no health without mental health’ (ibid).

Which,  laudable though it is, means that, say, such as when The Lancet launched its ‘Movement for Global Mental Health’ (MGMH) (ibid), it was based upon a ‘medical framework’ (ibid) utilising diagnosis and ‘appropriate’ interventions in the field of mental health disorder, as opposed to the community psychology approach of collective action as a means of promoting good mental health and well-being.

Little is done by MGMH to ameliorate the effects of globalisation and the continued growth of neo-liberalism: instead the focus is upon ways to “…find cost effective methods to alleviate the ‘global burden of disease’…” (Johnson, 2012 ibid p, 270) since large parts of the world are low to middle income states and countries  and without sufficient income of their own for ‘scaling up services for mental disorders’ (Lancet Global Mental Health Group, 2007, p.87 in Johnson 2012, ibid).

It is quite clever of states and nation states – mostly in the west, I will emphasise, to place the burden for this growth in the rate and nature of the perceived ‘disease’ of mental ill health on those who suffer from the disease.

This reframes illness – both physical and mental – as pertaining to the individual; in terms of the root causes of that illness, and in doing this, seeks ways to blame the individual, or their community, or their environment with a view to firmly denying that the real cause of much of what we consider illness, particularly mental ‘illness’, is actually to be found in the socio-economic models that bind the citizenry to the state, and over which we have no control, unfortunately.

Carl Walker puts this argument quite succinctly in a paper in “Community Psychology & the Socio-Economics of Mental Distress” (2012) when he quotes Lemke (2001) who suggests ‘… The neoliberal rationality of government consists of a number of ideologically coherent political precepts drawn together by a fundamental belief in the superiority of the free market over intervention by the apparatuses of the state. Collectively these precepts are predicated on a reconfiguration of the social as individual and a series of discursive moves to to responsibilize  individuals and families such that social risks like illness, unemployment and poverty are transformed into problems of self-care…’(Lemke, 2001, in Walker, Johnson & Cunningham, Eds, 2012, p11).

So, if you struggle with psychological or physical ill-health, the blame rests firmly with you – along with your poverty, lack of education, housing, employment and so on.

This is a theme I will return to in my next blog-post, along with the role that big Pharma now plays in ensuring that the medication that is unnecessarily prescribed for psychological issues, leads to those self same issues, for which more drugs of the same or similar kinds, with the same or similar outcomes,  are then further prescribed, and so it goes, ad infinitum...


Walker, C; Johnson, K & Cunningham, L Eds (2012): “Community Psychology & the Socio-economics of Mental Distress – International Perspectives”   Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, UK

Lemke, T (2001)’The birth of bio-politics’ Michel Foucault’s lecture at The College de France on neo-liberal governmentality.  Economy and Society, 30(2), 190 – 207.201


This Blog Is Not Only About the Solution Focus Approach

Other Approaches / Techniques

Incidentally, and I haven’t a great deal of time today – we’re babysitting a lively three year old and her big sister of nearly six. However, I need to run by you the simple fact that this site is NOT ALL solution focus, rather it is about offering training in:

  • Restorative Practice / Approaches
  • Restorative Justice
  • Mindfulness
  • Some Aspects of Ericksonian Hypnosis (for qualified counsellors and therapists)

A lot of work, however, it will cover all major aspects of social psychology and include ways of working, in community and voluntary settings, with people struggling with a whole host of issues, and I’ll flag these areas up as we go.

Rest assured, if you’re thinking of coming along with me, you will have a useful repertoire of applied skills, adding to and supplementing your developing skills in solution-focus. And don’t forget either, I also offer supervision, mentoring and refresher workshops and seminars. I said don’t forget, because I haven’t actually said that bit yet, about on-going support, so don’t forget…!

Any thoughts from any one?


The Move Towards a More Community Oriented, Critical Psychology Way of Working (Draft Manifesto)

Please Note this is about the search for social justice …

I have copied and pasted, with permission, the Draft Manifesto drawn up by Suzi and Guy that was made available to delegates at the UKASFP 2018 Conference in Liverpool. I emphasise the word DRAFT.

There is an invitation to a meeting London appended to the end of the Manifesto, inviting ALL interested solution-focus practitioners to come along and move the process forward.


“DRAFT MANIFESTO  for a Critically Engaged Solution-Focused Practice”

We hold this truth to be self-evident, that solution-focused practice can assist people in moving towards the lives they wish to live.

Solution-focused practice helps people to cope with the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.

We are angered by the oppression we see around us, believe that public issues should not be translated into private troubles, and thus are committed to social change.

So we have a dream, that solution-focused practitioners can come together, and use the power of our approach collectively towards the social change that is needed.

Our best hopes are for a world where there is social justice and freedom for all.

Our preferred future is a world of equality, reciprocity and interdependence, and of communities that enable people to lead lives of fulfillment.

We believe that there are instances of this everywhere, and that there has always been progress towards this future, wherever people have come together for the greater good.

The history of our preferred future includes the campaign and reform sides of social work present at its beginnings, alongside help provided to individuals and families.

The history of our preferred future includes the critical and radical psychologists who opposed austerity and now call for social change.

The history of our preferred future includes community work and community development, where workers get alongside people in their communities and agitate for change.

The history of our preferred future includes solution-focused practitioners and others who have worked with people in groups and not only on their own.

To realise our hopes, we aim to develop our solution-focused practice so that

  • it acknowledges the social and environmental causes of people’s distress and difficulties
  • it extends beyond the realm of the individual to embrace collective and social action
  • we evaluate the impact of our solution-focused work on promoting social justice and equality, going beyond evaluation focusing only on individual improvement measures
  • we build links with movements for social justice and equality, and with practitioners of other approaches committed to these aims
  • we critically reflect on our methods and on whether they maintain oppressive relations

We call on solution-focused practitioners everywhere! To join us in our collective aims, for a campaigning solution-focused practice, for a critical solution-focused practice, for a solution-focused practice that we take into our communities and offer to those in greatest need. We call on solution-focused practitioners to rise up, to break free at last, for we have nothing to lose but our individualised chains!


I have posted this, and the email below, in order to give anyone reading this blog the opportunity to help, by using their skills and the skills they might acquire from, say, attending one of my trainings, to begin to move us all towards a more just society.


Email from Suzi and Guy, dated 20.07.2018

Dear colleagues
Just a brief reminder about the meeting called to discuss the Solution-Focused Collective initiative, which is taking place in London on Monday 6th August from 10.30am to 4.30pm.
The venue is St Margaret’s House, an historic building at the heart of the community in Bethnal Green, in London’s East End.
All who share our interest in charting a collective course for solution-focused practice are welcome to join us. Come and help us make collective solution-focused history as we consider our preferred future together.
Just drop us an email at if you’d like to come along.
Best wishes
Guy and Suzi
I think this is such a good thing to do and I have tried to support both Suzi and Guy from the outset.
Anyone got any thoughts?

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry

Ok, I’m having a cup of coffee before the day starts proper and thinking not a lot, when I get a sparkling moment and bit of a blow to the back of the head, both at the same time.

The piece on social psychology (18/07/2018), does not name the theory about why people with the same resources and living in the same environment (community) frequently achieve disparate aims. Why do some folk end up in distress and others, seemingly, glide through life?

The answer can be found through a process called Appreciative Inquiry. As an approach, or a way of thinking, a move away from a problem-focused way of being, it was predicated by David Cooperrider and it asked a simple question “… what’s working around here? …” and moves on from there.

And, I thinks it’s this basis, along with the solution focus approach itself, that is the underpinning of how we can begin our journey towards the social justice I talked about in my first blog-post.

What do you think?

Social Psychology


Social Psychology

Social psychology is growing in me; I know that now and that after some few years of experiencing a growing dissatisfaction, and whilst becoming aware of not allowing myself to be true to myself, I began to realise that if I was not careful, some of what I was beginning to feel might begin creeping into my work – as a counsellor and hypnotherapist this might not have been very helpful!!

Don’t get me wrong, I have always been careful to be ‘the best me’ I can be when working with people in distress; whether using solution focus approaches or Ericksonian styles Hypnotherapy (more of which in another blog post, soon).

I was just beginning to feel that some of what I was doing was – not exactly wasted (helping others is never a waste), yet I wasn’t ‘flying’ as I knew I could be, should be, doing.

Then I had a kind of epiphany. I have done lots and lots and lots of group work; with school staff, with beginning counsellors, with groups at conferences and other groups on courses of all kinds. Oops, I almost forgot, and when working in a classroom as a regular teacher; when supporting groups of anxious year 11,  12 and 13 students at exam time. All sorts of groups …, all sorts of ages.

Slowly,  I cottoned on to something (I’m getting older, guys, give me a break). People in groups consist of all sorts of people: except some are successful and some are less successful, in all sorts of ways. When it comes to mental health however, this raises an interesting point that is frequently missed, since we seem to focus our attention and efforts on ‘the individual’ and not the group.

How come some people experience mental health issues and others, with ostensibly similar backgrounds – same age, gender, social milieu, educational attainment levels, salaries, homes and families, NEVER, or seldom,  experience mental distress? Or if they do, there’s some qualitative difference between their mental distress and someone else’s?

So, what are we missing when we work ONLY with individuals? My shot at answering this is that we miss the differences because of the way we structure our work. So, there must be something else happening  than what Jack or Abigail or Khalil or Alexandru are feeling at the moment when they feel they are in ‘distress’.

And our focus will naturally be on the individual sat in our therapy room, so, as we work hard to help them lose their sense of ‘distress’, it becomes apparent to some therapists that, whilst, we are doing good work, it is only in a piecemeal way. Others, like the people in my list above (all aliases, by the way) are either out in their community toughing it out, and naturally, I guess feeling pretty rubbish; whilst some others, in the same community, are happily getting on with stuff and doing this with only the same resources.

So, how to meet the needs of the people in my list above? I think the answer is to work with all of them, as many members of the same community as are happy to be worked with, or at least a greater number than the individual presenting with distress in the therapy room. This way, I believe, we pick up the person who is in distress and the people who may well, but aren’t as yet, become distressed. So what happens is both ameliorative, and preventive.

Anyone agree?

(c) Paul Avard