Medication for young people


Here is a site that I will certainly be recommending. It is called “HeadMeds” and it has been launched by Young Minds (, a website focusing on children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health (aged 13-25).

A survey was carried out in conjunction with the launch and it found that 49% of young people said they felt worried, 32% felt scared and 26% felt frightened when they were prescribed mental health medication. Half of those surveyed said that they wanted more information about side effects.

Headmeds is a funded by Comic Relief ( and the Nominet Trust ( and the aim of the site is to provide information about potential side effects of medication and gives answers to questions that young people may have but not want to ask their G.P.

The website ( is endorsed by the College of Mental Health Pharmacy as well as the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Until next time, with all good wishes,


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April 2014/ Today

Massage and Emotional Wellbeing

pulsing picture

When we are physically well and our body is in good shape the impact of the stress upon us will be far less than it would if we were unfit.  With a well-tuned body we are better able to handle the demands of life, express ourselves and project our personality and needs.  Indeed, it could be said that the body is a barometer, measuring the degree to which we are functioning effectively.  When we are unfit this not only makes it more difficult to cope with the many pressures upon us, but it also adds to the levels of stress we experience.

When we hold onto external stress, whether physical or psychological, it is manifested as “tension” in the body.  Its impact upon us may be imperceptible.  We may not even be aware that we are holding on to stress at all.  Sometimes, the first sign that indicates an accumulation of internalised stress is a noticeable increase in clumsiness and poor           co-ordination.  At a more subtle level, rigidity is present and the free flow of movement is inhibited.  Energy levels, too, may be noticeably impeded, as we may feel lethargic (slowed) or agitated (hyper-arousal).

If we are unable to release the build up of internalised tension this can result in headaches, tightness (often neck and shoulders), aches and pains (commonly stomach or lower back), the immune system can become deficient and we are more susceptible to colds and illness.  Likewise, even symptoms such as dry hair, skin rashes and poor sleep patterns frequently result from internalised stress and tension.

Stress is such a common feature of everyday life as to be regarded as “normal” and while this is true to some extent, stress levels are definitely up and the demands on us now are far greater than ever before in human history.  Most of us can adapt to moderate levels of stress, particularly short-term, but so often though, the result is ill-health.  Anything from colds and flu, to Angina, heart attack, conditions like depression, even cancer, has been linked to stress.

Underpinning the symptoms of stress can be unresolved trauma, or sudden shock, and similarly there may have been a build up or accumulation of stress over a long period.  Stress can arise as the result of internalised emotion such as anger, guilt or worry.  Whatever the cause, the important thing to do is to listen to the body and identify causative factors and then work to release the excess stress which gives rise to muscular tension.  The body can then begin to return to a more harmonious and balanced state.

Touch is something which is often absent from many peoples lives and it can be very healing. We actively need to be touched for our emotional health. This need is more than   simply a desire. It is a physiological necessity that, if unsatisfied can have profound            psychological effects. Research has shown that even a 30 minute neck and back massage can reduce depression. It can lower levels of stress related hormones and make people more alert, less restless and able to enjoy deeper, more  restful sleep.

The mode of body therapy that I practise is known as pulsing. In my opinion it is particularly well suited to promoting emotional well-being.  It is a very effective and gentle mode of bodywork with its emphasis on listening to the body and working directly with the natural rhythms and movement; assisting the free flow of energy and working to restore the natural resting state which occurs when the body is at ease.  Pulsing utilises gentle, rhythmic rocking movements to facilitate the release of stress, either on the physical, psychological or emotional level.  Amid continual rhythmic rocking the client is transported to a place of blissful peace and tranquillity, reminiscent, perhaps, of the womb or being rocked in a parent’s arms.  The ebb and flow of the breath is mirrored in purposeful movements, sometimes subtle and barely perceptible, other times lively and bold.  With no strain whatsoever, the body is moved gently through natural pathways, promoting mobility and encouraging relaxation and openness.  The wave-like movements bring about very deep relaxation as muscular tension is eased.

Clients learn how to recognise physical tension and how to let it go.  Often in so doing, emotional pain will be released and equilibrium will be restored along with a deepened sense of vitality and peace.  At the hands of an experienced practitioner, the gentle rhythmic movement can leave you feeling like you are dancing on a cushion or air.  As you learn to let go of bodily stress you will be better prepared to move forward and face life’s challenges.

For more information or to book a taster session please contact us.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve.

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to

Steve Clifford, Psychotherapist and body worker.

Visit us @

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @

Tweet us @ cbt4you


Alexander J. (2001) Mind, Body ,Spirit, Carlton Books, London.

Kirsta A. (1987) The book of stress survival,  Gaia Books Ltd, London.

10 tips to improve your child’s emotional health

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Are you worried about your child’s emotional well-being? Well here are some tips that you might find useful. Happy children have good mental health, secure family relationships, enjoy good relationships with their peers and are emotionally balanced.

Here are ten suggestions worth following:

1. Encourage emotional expression.

Allow your child to express their emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, worry or fear. Do not laugh, ridicule or humiliate them. Even if they are expressing emotions you find difficult to handle, do not withdraw or withhold your love.

2. Be consistent.

Ensure that your child knows what you expect from him or her. Try not to send confusing and unclear messages. Remember, children are not mind readers. If you have a partner make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet.

3. Rules are rules.

Set clear rules and boundaries. We all like to know where we stand. Do not make idle threats. If you do impose sanctions, make sure you always carry them through, that way your child will know you mean business and they will learn to trust you.

4. Do not compete with your child.

In other words do not try to get one better over your child. When they are upset do not try to outdo them and become more upset than they are. It is not their job to comfort you.

5. Do not put down your child’s other parent.

If you have broken up with the child’s other parent, do not say unkind, hurtful or critical things about them. No matter how unkind they may be, or how much you may be hurting. Fighting and point scoring can be a major source of anxiety to a child.

6. Foster independence.

Sooner or later all children will express thoughts or emotions that are different from your own. Encourage them to be inquisitive and to explore new things, meet new people and have experiences that you may never have experienced. This is how they learn.

7. Try not to bask in reflected glory.

Your self esteem should not be linked to your child’s appearance, behaviour or how well they do academically. Their performance does not reflect on you as their parent. By all means, give praise for things well done, but do not punish or withhold love and approval if they do not do well.

8. Their friends are not your friends.

Try not to get overly enmeshed in your child’s friendships. Make their friends welcome without becoming overly involved. When they get older try not to interfere with their love relationships.

9. Bad behaviour, not bad children.

When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.”All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning.

10. Children are children.

Finally – Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to                                                                                              

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist                                                          Visit us @

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Ref: “8 Surefire Ways To Emotionally Screw Up Your Kid,”Julie de azevedo Hanks, 8 March 2012, [Accessed 29/03/14].

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Remember the Positives – Beat #Depression


Tip 6 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s very easy when you are feeling down to lose sight of the positives.  One facet of depression is the way the depressed outlook shapes thinking.  The depressed person tends to ruminate on the negative things people say, and hears only critical comments. This is called “filtering out” and is a particular type of unhelpful thinking trait that often goes hand in hand with depression.  Instead of noticing things in a balanced way, we only notice things that “fit” our negative mind-set and we dismiss the positives. This in turn serves to reinforce low self-esteem and a negative outlook.

One way to turn this around is to create a positive book (see tip 25).  Buy a small exercise book, and if you are creative, cover it with a bright paper cover or positive images from magazines.  Use this book to jot down positive things that happen, positive things people say and positive things that you have achieved during the day.  Slowly you will begin to notice more and more positives as you learn to hear them and not dismiss them from your radar.

Consultant Psychologist Rick Norris, in his excellent book, “The Promised Land,” recommends compiling a list of 20 positive memories.  He acknowledges that this can be somewhat overwhelming, as depressed people get out of the habit of playing memories that make them happy, because their mental filter tends to screen these out of their conscious mind.  He suggests recalling three positive memories each day for a week. He tells us the benefit of doing this exercise last thing at night is because it can be a pleasant way to drop off to sleep and also that we tend to be more in tune with our sub-conscious mind during sleep, perhaps  leading to sweeter dreams!

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to                                                                                               Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime @                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

Coping with the Stress of Parenthood

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Stress and parenthood go hand in hand.  Coping with lively children, not to mention running a home and holding down a job and all the other myriad demands on us, creates tension.  The seemingly unrelenting pressures which we face on a daily basis can conspire to push us over the edge – headaches, sleeplessness, excess alcohol, unhappiness, panic attacks, anxiety and depression – all commonly experienced and often the result of physical and psychological stress.

Creating excitement in our lives can be very productive and can brighten up a dull routine.  A certain amount of stress is actually a very positive thing – too much stress, however, is not.

The moment a child is conceived the balance shifts from a world where, by and large, we alone dictate the pace of life to the demands of another.  The worry of pregnancy and stress of childbirth, to crying babies, bedtime tantrums, the “terrible twos”, school problems and teenage rebelliousness – each state of growing up places different demands on parents.  Even mealtimes can be a source of stress and tension.

The warning signs of stress are personal to each of us and these vary from headaches, aches and pains, skin rashes and upset stomach.  Very often we will be prone to certain ailments that have been troubling us for a long time.  Strange as it may sound, I tell clients to “make friends” with these ailments and view them as the body telling the mind that it needs to look around and make some changes.  Often they will have battled with these ailments for years, seeing them as the enemy, but simply by shifting perspective, we can begin to help ourselves.  By becoming aware of our emotional reactions and noticing increases in tension, mood swings and shortness of temper, we can take remedial action early.  We may not always be aware of our mood state and so it can be helpful if our partner or someone close to us can tell us if we are unusually irritable or grumpy (they will of course need to do so in a very loving way so as not to appear critical then become the target of a sharp tongue)!

When we are stressed even the smallest of irritations can seem monumental,  such as the children spilling drinks, or the saucepan boiling dry and even trips to the supermarket and pre-planned visits to friends can seem like major expeditions.  Often we become fretful and the list of things to do builds up to the point where we do not know which way to turn or which task to do next.  This is the point to stop and draw breath.  If not…then stress is likely to manifest in more extreme ways, for example, obsessive checking that the door is shut, or the cooker is switched off, inability to make even simple decisions such as what to cook the family for supper, drinking alcohol during the day or consuming painkillers excessively.  Mood dips may manifest as depression with increased lethargy and inability to copy with the normal everyday routine.  When under stress, the behaviour of people might change quite considerably – gregarious people may become withdrawn, laughter and smiles can be replaced with tearfulness, insecurity and worry.  The quiet, gentle person you know may disappear and in their place an aggressive, moody spectre.  Closeness and decreased interest in sex may be noticed, or similarly desire for gratification in ways that are out of character for that person.  The signs and symptoms of stress are all there, we just don’t recognise them.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • In the past six months have you been noticing changes in yourself or the world around you?
  • Do you lack energy and feel tired more easily?
  • Are people around you increasingly annoying you?
  • Do you seem to be working harder and harder and accomplishing less?
  • Are you often overwhelmed with sadness you cannot explain?
  • Do you find it difficult to make decisions?
  • Are you forgetful?
  • Do you feel irritable and short-tempered?
  • Are you shouting more?
  • Have you stopped seeing friends and going out and having fun?
  • Are you suffering from aches and minor ailments?
  • Are you unable to laugh and joke…is joy elusive?
  • Does sex seem more trouble than it is worth?
  • Does playing with the children or having conversations seem too much? 

Stress is reversible – start by stopping.  Next, think about how you can be kind to yourself.  Have an evening to pamper yourself; buy some bath oils and give yourself time to reflect; plan an evening out or do something you have not been able to do for a while.  Sit down with a piece of paper and firstly make a note of all the physical symptoms of stress, e.g. difficulty relaxing, increased irritability, tearfulness, irrational fears, feeling constantly under pressure, frustration and anger, sadness and withdrawal etc.

Let these be your markers:  score 0 – 10 beside each and at weekly intervals review your scores.  Next, look at your life and write down all the possible causes of stress.  Look for major life events such as a recent house move or bereavement.  Note worries such as trouble with teenagers, or concerns such as redundancy or disputes with neighbours, relationship difficulties, money worries etc.  Some of these areas will just need time to settle while others such as children’s homework problems may be resolved by a word with the child’s class teacher.

Next, look at your life and what you can change.  For example, ironing as you wear clothes might be preferable to a whole evening stood ironing.  Look at prioritising jobs into “musts”, “shoulds” and can waits”.  Talk to your partner, friends and family or find yourself a good therapist – share your concerns.  Try to make gradual changes to make your life easier – trying to change everything at once will only create more stress.  The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone – there are many people feeling the same way as you do, but you can make changes to your life, however seemingly simple, which can make a great deal of difference.  Start by listening to what your mind and body are telling you.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

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When children drive you to despair

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Emotional battles between adults and children are so commonplace. All parents at some time find themselves at breaking point. resisting the urge to smack is enough to test the strongest of Saints.

Have you ever felt at the end of your tether, worried you might end up doing something you might regret? Do you fear you might lose control? Sometimes it’s just as if they knew just what buttons to press, isn’t it? Children always seem to play up when you are tired and have a headache. It is almost as if they are doing it deliberately to test you and to find out your personal limits.

Tempting as it is, to use physical punishment, it is not really the answer. Not only is it assault, but as your child’s role model by hitting them you are legitimising the use of force. Even “light blows” can catch a child and knock them off balance and they may well fall risking further physical injury hitting their head on objects or landing on their spine rather than their bottom. A blow to the head can easily damage a delicate eardrum or eyes. Shaking a very young child can lead to whiplash injury and concussion as the brain is jarred against the inside of the skull.

Discipline is very much a part of good parenting, but we are talking about the kind of acceptable behaviour that comes about through the use of “positive reinforcement.” Praise and encouragement, if given when your child exhibits the type of positive behaviour you want to see, will pay off and you will find that the behaviour you do not want will gradually extinguish. It is important however, to explain in ways your child can understand why it is that they must not display negative behaviour

Did you know that the word “discipline” actually comes from the word “disciple” or “follower?” The key is for you to model the type of behaviour you want to see. Look at your life, is it full of rows and conflict? If so, this is the area to start. Create a pleasant nurturing environment and your offspring will flourish.

From a CBT perspective I would encourage you to keep a note (preferably written) when problems occur – record details such as the time of day, who is present, has your child eaten certain foods Be aware of the stimulant properties of certain sweets, particularly brightly coloured ones where additives may promote hyperactive behaviour. Also be aware of the amount of sugar consumed (excess sugar can cause spikes in mood and behaviour with rapid highs and lows). Take note also of the general atmosphere present and any other factors present.

Try to pre-empt problem behaviour before it occurs. Listen out for phrases such as “every time.” For example, “every time he plays with her…watches that programme…goes to his house.” Let “every time” be your cue. Try changing the routine, environment or other circumstances. Also be aware of the changing needs of your child and your child’s changing moods. Tiredness often manifests in problem behaviour.

Reduce stimulants. Computers, televisions and electronic gadgets can be over stimulating. Try turning down the volume, dimming the lights and reducing excess noise. Talk quietly to your child instead of shouting.

A quiet word, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a knowing look, may be all that’s needed. Nagging, shouting and “you wait!” are generally counter-productive.

Stop saying no. Listen and take note of the number of times you use the words “no” and “don’t” each day. Instead use positive alternatives such as, “Shall we try this,” or “let’s try that.” Use “I” statements when you can. Offering choices so that children can learn to make decisions will help foster self-esteem.

A smile or a hug is the key to creating a sense of well-being and therefore likely to reinforce the behaviour you are looking for.

Start young, even toddlers recognise facial expression and tone of voice. They learn very early when you are pleased and displeased.

Build a solid base. In the early years there is nothing children really want to do more than please their parents. Take full advantage of this time to teach children to care for their belongings, be polite and respectful, help with simple chores and be considerate of the feelings of others. This really will be time well spent.

Do not tease or taunt. Such behaviour is invalidating and really has a detrimental effect on the child’s personality and later development. In my book teasing, put- downs and humiliation are tantamount to abuse and very traumatic for the child.

Set a routine. Time for homework, time to wind down and time for bed are essentials. Along with routine comes boundaries. All of us need structure and to know what is expected of us. Try to stick to the same routine every day.

Tough love and firm kindness equals happy healthy children. Remember you are the authority figure. Try being Nelson Mandela rather than Attila the Hun.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist


“When the going gets tough…” Steve Clifford, ABC Magazine, 03-07 2002.

“How to Reinforce Good Behaviour in Children.” Elizabeth Grace

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How to be a “good enough” parent.


It’ s not easy being a parent. Despite all your best efforts, the drip, drip, drip effect of  demanding children, babies crying, nappies and housework, to name but a few, all add up to ensure a steady rise in stress levels. Of course, there will be times when you feel you’ve done brilliantly, but there will also be times when you chastise yourself and feel you have failed abysmally. At times it may seem that the demands are endless, but it need not be like this.

Begin today by taking the pressure off yourself.

Here are thirteen tips that might be helpful.

1.If you find yourself feeling as if there are too many demands on your time, make a list and then prioritise by breaking your list down into 3 parts – Needs, Wants and “Oughts.” “Needs” are top priority, “Have-to-get-done-right-now-or-there-will-be-consequences” sort of things. “Wants” are things you would really like to do if you had the time. While, “Oughts” are things you feel you ought to do to please someone else or because you think others would do them, such as, “I ought to cook a big family dinner on Sunday, just as my Mother did.” – From today, take care of your “Needs” first, then move on to the “Wants” and then only attend to the “Oughts” if you have time. The “Oughts” are no longer on any priority list.

2. Take a tip from twentieth century American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who in his “Serenity Prayer,” tells us to, “Accept the things we cannot change, have courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

3. When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.”All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning. In CBT circles we talk about “front stage” and “back stage.” Front stage is what the world sees and back stage is what is really going on behind what we see. Think of “attention seeking” behaviour as “attachment seeking” behaviour, in other words, they want to be with you. Praise them when they are demonstrating the type of behaviour you regard as “good” behaviour. Also give yourself some praise.

4. Find time to breathe. Get into the habit of taking five minutes out for reflection, breathing and contemplation. Just five minutes quiet breathing can restore, calm and promote inner peace. Learning to meditate will help you to develop patience and greater tolerance, so that when your children are demanding you will be less irritable and better able to react calmly. Daily meditation (five minutes only) is all it takes, to gain a better perspective on life, where you will feel more relaxed, less out-of-control and your day will seem more manageable (see my November 2012 blog on Mindfulness Meditation).

5. Teach your children to meditate. Silly as this may sound, teaching children the tools to manage emotions such as stress or anxiety can be a godsend. You know what it is like to see your child having a tantrum, out of control and at the mercy of major upset.It is distressing for them and you. Well, showing them how taking deep breaths, learning to visualise a nice calm safe place can really help, furthermore, it will stand them in good stead to cope with the stresses and pressure of young life. Teaching children and young people to learn controlled breathing and use affirmations and visualisations is a key facet of my work with children in my private practice.  Something I thoroughly recommended to all parents.

6.Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things. If you are entertaining aim to reduce stress by focusing on the needs of the smallest and youngest. Adults will be able to appreciate what you are doing and why you are doing it. Everything from how long a child can sit still, concentrate or be quiet, is so different from an adult. If you go out, choose child friendly places, do not expect a child to “fit in.”

7. Surround yourself with positive energy. Avoid those friends who are stressed, tense or negative. Avoid the ones who are always bitching about other friends or moaning about their partners or life. Instead, find some friends who are happy and smiling. Learn about positive self-talk ( see my October 2012 blog on self-criticism) as this is an important way to reduce stress and maintain a positive frame of mind.

8. When those around you, whether it is Mother-in-law or your partner are critical this can really undermine your confidence, which will in turn affect your parenting. Apply the following:

  • Stay focused on the present, don’t drag up the past, this will not help.
  • Listen, don’t interrupt, don’t become defensive. Hear the others point of view and remember it is only their opinion. Now reflect back to let them know you heard them.
  • Try to see their perspective, let them feel understood. Get them to explain in more detail if you do not understand and give you examples.
  • Now respond calmly and take responsibility. Accept what is right to accept. Remember, if you feel you are being attacked you are likely either to retreat in shame or lash out and attack..
  • Instead of trying to “win,”look to compromise and try to find a solution or resolution. Remember,It is OK to get it wrong.

9. Rigidity and inflexibility are major sources of stress. Keep your plans flexible, there are countless ways that plans can change. Make allowances for change, have a plan B. If you are more relaxed then those around you will also be more relaxed.

10. As a young parent it is very important to get out and join mother and baby or toddler groups. Being a parent can be very isolating and the friendship of others can a real help when things look tough and lots of fun can be had.

11. There is an old saying, “Choose your battles wisely.” Sometimes, letting  things go is so much better and far less stressful than having mini battles on all fronts. With your children it is so easy to find fault, point out their mistakes and “correct” them. Instead, look to build your children up,to make them feel better, You have plenty of time to demonstrate to your children the right way to do things. Model the behaviour you want your children to adopt. Being a critical parent should not be one of them.

12. Let go of “multi-tasking.” I am not referring to low-functioning activities such as listening to music while you play with your offspring or leafing through a magazine while the television is on. No, I mean doing several things at the same time with your attention split across different things. If you listen to your child when they are speaking to you, they will feel appreciated and respected. Driving while answering your phone and keeping one eye out for the children in the back is positively dangerous. Being present in what you are doing, whether it is playing with your child, washing dishes or eating ensures, you are fully present in the moment.

13. When you find yourself pulling your hair our and are tempted to throttle your little darlings, STOP. Instant fury is triggered by reflex action and responses come from a small part of the brain known as the “amygdala” located in the”limbic centre” of the brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response when we sense danger or threat. In the case of instant anger, the thinking part or “central cortex” has been bypassed. This is known as an “amigdula hijack.” By simply lengthening the fuse and counting from one to ten slowly, it will allow the thinking part of the brain to engage.

Remember, pause, step back and breathe.

With best wishes, Steve

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to

Visit us @                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime at:                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you


Image ref: Elisa Franci Gonçalves, Wikimedia Commons images, Adults with children.

Recommended reading: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and its all small stuff” by Richard Carlson, published by Hodder & Stoughton.