Mentalbility: A Podcast: Episode # 1

‘Mental Health & Wellness” An opnmnd podcast (c)

A blog post of the podcast –

My name is Paul Avard, I’m a Registered Hypnotherapist here in the UK (CNHC & NCHP). I have my own practice as a hypnotherapist; I also practice as a counsellor using the solution focus approach and have done for many years. Additionally, I work for Change, Birmingham Brief Therapy – www. on one day a week, where I also I teach solution focus practice and mentor counsellors and trainee counsellors for Change and I am, and have been a member of the United Kingdom Association of Solution Focus Practice for a long time. (UKASFP). I was also Chair of Change for many years.

A Bit of Biography:

For over thirty years, I worked as a specialist, special needs teacher, working with secondary age (US, High School), students, aged 11 – 18 who had emotional and other behavioural issues. I came into special ed., almost by accident – but, to be honest, I found classroom, subject teaching, tedious and repetitious with little opportunity to be truly creative, very different from the years I spent in special ed.

The educational support service I worked for was closed down in 2012 / 13 and I was made redundant, however, by then I had trained as a hypnotherapist and was able to set up my own practice in the area where I live.

I originally trained as a teacher intending to teach social science and sociology, so, unlike many in the psychological services, I don’t have a psychology background, and thankfully this freedom is more helpful for me, for it frees me from being hidebound in and with prescriptive practices. I know lots of practitioners who have backgrounds other than in psychology and this seems to free them up too, helping them to be open-minded about the things they do in their day to day work.

Having said that, I also know some exceptional practitioners who DO have a psychological – either in terms of training, or academic, background. As with everything else in life, it is the individual we’re thinking of, and you cannot, safely, ever lump people together and pull out a single, specific example of … whatever.

I successfully work with people with all sorts of issues: from wanting to eat less to those struggling with drug, alcohol and pornography addictions; anxiety, various phobias, incessant pain and virtually anything else you can think of. I currently support a terminally-ill client and a couple with OCD (so-called) and a young man on the autistic spectrum, who’s also on my client list, and for what it’s worth I also work with an astro-physics student … there is NOT a single client who is typical, all of you are totally INDIVIDUAL…

This podcast arises out of my desire to become more involved in working with the wider community. However, since I am disabled and registered as such, I have becom less and less mobile as I get older, it becomes easier for me to use technology to reach out to that wider community. And reaching out is what I want to do…

‘Mentalbility’ is called that because I believe that no matter what it is that bothers you, we all have this amazing ability to, with help, to get over things that we find distressing and get back on track – not my track, but the track that you, or someone like you wants to follow.

And it’s important that you understand that I don’t ever try to get others to follow my way of doing things or believing what I believe. After all, I can only be certain that what I do, works for me, I have no way, really, truthfully and honestly of knowing if it would work for you. So, the people I do work with, directly or indirectly, know that I will try to help them co-create the futures they want, not DIRECT them to a future I think they might want. Because I can’t before you ask, since I’m not them, I’m simply me….

With the kind of approaches I use, that is Ericksonian hypnotherapy and Solution Focus Practice, it can only ever be about helping others to help themselves. I don’t, ever, and it is worth repeating, dictate do this that or the other to clients or friends who come to me to ask for help.

So, as this podcast develops, I hope it will be an organic mix of current thinking; interviews with service users receiving help; interviews with counsellors and others; me talking with thinkers, shapers and movers and other practitioners of all types; academics – It won’t be about ‘do this because I say this is good for you’.

I don’t, really, know what it will ‘look’ like, I suppose, like anything ‘organic’ it will take on the shape that best suits IT

I will indicate sources, by which I mean books, magazines, articles or organisations, providing useful, helpful and ever-changing information – Episode information will contain references so you can keep up, do your own reading, and so on, and each episode will have a supporting blog post, which can be found at  

I’m aiming for a two-weekly gap between episodes, so that you have time to listen and digest, think and come back at me.

It would be great if there could be a ‘dialogue’ between you and me; so please give feedback, make useful comments and ask questions as we go along. As someone once said, “I may not know the answer, however, I probably know someone who does …”

And your questions will likely inform the shape of future episodes, so let’s work together, even if you don’t agree with me — and there will be times when you won’t,   I guess …

So, help me to help you, please.


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