Brain Ward is a therapist based on the Isle of Sheppey

What attracted you to become a therapist?

Well - throughout my former police career, I was acutely aware of the needless inner turmoil suffered by addicts I worked with, and many other people with presenting mental health conditions, which had been developmental in nature, and directly related to their broader environmental life factors. These people had eventually come into contact with the criminal justice system and many even died through a variety of personal tragic reasons. Around 12 – 15 young people dead every year...crazy! 

Young people and their senseless suffering, led me to question - at retirement - could I do anything to change the inevitability of these deaths? So I figured that a therapeutic practice focused on dual diagnosis, personality disorders, recreational drug and prescribed drug co-morbidities along with more common emotional disturbances, could be quite useful … and I wanted to understand more about the neurology of this kind of dysfunction, so I could perhaps try to do something about it.

Where did you train?

I’d trained for many years with Kent Police in drugs and drugs analysis, and working with clients with complex presenting conditions, with prescription and recreational drugs, learning about purities, contaminants, adulterants, co-morbidities and the like, and seeing the resulting cognitive and behavioural implications. 

I trained with the College of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) based in Regents University, London to get my grounding in REBT and CBT, and then I did some further grounding work in DBT because Marsha Linehan’s work with personality disorders and executive dysfunction is very useful. I'm now doing a MSc with Kings College in Neuroscience and Psychology, as I feel that understanding neural development and function is key to working with presenting cognitive disturbance.

What sort of people do you usually see?

Quite a wide variety actually, much forensic work but also some in professional backgrounds, and even some with neurological (pre-frontal cortex) injuries that affect their cognitive functioning. Most of my work focusses on anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, trauma, self-harm, suicidality, paranoia: conditions which are actually quite developmental, and where clients have often gone through a variety of routes already to seek support, but without much success. 

I work with the client to unravel what has happened to them throughout their lives, to make sense of it, empower them to make changes where necessary, and then to focus on the healing process.

What do you like about being a therapist?

It’s wonderfully liberating! I feel like I’m part of the solution now, and not part of the problem. I love working with clients and explaining their emotional and behavioural disturbance to them, and often watching their jaw drop as they ‘get it’, and begin to understand what has happened to them. My work is very much about empowerment and personal ownership, and each session is like a journey where we make new discoveries and gain personal insights.

What is less pleasant?

It can sometimes be frustrating to try to encourage partner agencies to work together where biopsychosocial care planning may be key. Disparate agendas can sometimes make it difficult to encourage partners to stay focussed purely on the needs of the client. But this is a small issue, where so much good work is being progressed. 

How long you’ve been with and what you think of us?

I was encouraged quite recently to join by a colleague who had also joined, and had been impressed with your professionalism and vision. I must say I totally agree with her insights now, and am very pleased to be part of this organisation.

Have you used the booking and payment system? And how do you find that?

I’m still quite new to the organisation, and haven’t used this system yet, but doubtless will certainly use this in the near future as it appears to be both useful and expedient.

Have you joined the Therapist Community on Facebook? If so, how did you find it?

No, but now I’m aware of it, I will!

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

Sometimes...but not typically. It depends on the needs of the client and what attention focusing approaches resonate with that individual.

What you do for your own mental health?

Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Meditation. Mindfulness. Oh...and quite a bit of mindfulness!

What’s your consultation room like?

Now there’s an interesting question! Because I like to go to the client, wherever possible, not for them to come to me! There’s a consultation room I can use which is part of a local housing project, which is perfectly suitable - but I really want to see what environment and circumstances the client lives in. What is their ‘normalised’ environment like? Nobody is isolated, and mental health disturbance is not a disease that can be localised. All mental health disturbance is developmental to some degree, with many contributory factors that then eventually result in overt symptoms. Often the basis of presenting disturbance becomes much clearer when you see the circumstances in which clients live.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

That they are not a ‘diagnosed condition’. That diagnosis is a useful categorisation which certainly informs corporacy in treatment, but in no way reflects them or their abilities, hopes, and aspirations. I often hear, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to do that, but it was my ADHD’, and such. People often have a notion that if they are required to take ‘a pill’ which may be called ‘a medicine’, that they are, by implication, ‘not well’. I would love people to understand that their therapy is to do with their self-knowledge and wholeness, and not about ‘treating a sickness’.

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

Loads! Working with every client is ‘self-treatment’ in some respect. I personally use the techniques I teach, and I employ the same principles on myself, as clients. So I know they work! So my therapeutic work is personally insightful, and very progressive. Worksheets, and analogies, and forms I use are constantly subject of refinement and development to better inform accessibility and understanding for my clients.