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Wandering Minds




In these COVID times, most businesses have had to adapt and find new ways to deliver their services, and local business Actworks Ltd, is no exception. Actworks, based in Emsworth, provides evidence-based psychotherapy (talking therapy) to local and not so local people as therapy moves on-line.  When the first lockdown was announced Actworks moved on line to meet the continuing demand for help. It was a big change for practitioners and patients alike but everyone rapidly adapted. Despite initial reservations, many people found that online therapy actually suited them and the majority found it an excellent alternative to in person therapy.


Now that we are well in to our second lockdown, restrictions on providing mental health services in person have been relaxed but not everyone feels comfortable with meeting in person, even within the COVID-secure environment that Actworks provides. So Actworks has adapted again, to provide a service to people who would prefer to meet outside. Twice a week on Mondays and Fridays, 1:1 sessions are taking place whilst walking. There are several routes to choose from, coastal or Downland, and different durations: 2 hours, half day or full day.


The business name of Actworks is a play on the type of therapy ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) and it lends itself brilliantly to this new way of delivery.  ACT (said as “act” because the emphasis is on doing things differently) is an evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy.  It holds that suffering is a normal part of human life, and traces much of what we call mental illness to normal psychological processes that have gone a bit awry.


Walking and talking (or “wandering minds” as one client called it) allows people who would not otherwise consider therapy or wish to sit face to face in a consulting room to experience the dual benefits that come with developing the psychological processes necessary for sustaining permanent change, whilst exercising and engaging with nature.

If you have depression, an anxiety disorder or you are stuck in your life, and would like to find out more about walking and talking therapy contact Beverly Coghlan on 07483 438861.

How best to approach the Coronavirus Situation


The uncertainty of the next few days, weeks and months is understandably troubling. To be honest it is difficult to maintain a sense of calm when all around us people are panic buying baked beans and predicting financial collapse and catastrophic death rates. But I’m minded of an album title from the 1970s. Crisis? What Crisis?

The picture suggests that whilst chaos is reigning in the world it is possible to find calm and pleasure – rather, it’s not what’s happening that causes us to feel bad, it’s the way we look at it that causes the problems. Research psychologists have come up with a five-step approach to developing a helpful mind-set.


  1. Build a sense of safety – self-isolating whether voluntary or not is a gift of safety to yourself and others. It protects you from harm and protects others from harm. It is the one major action that we can all do, even in the face of feeling totally helpless and overwhelmed, that will make the greatest contribution towards community safety. Yes, it may be disruptive and boring and it may also be a time for personal growth and an opportunity to develop resilience.


  1. Develop a sense of calm – the natural tendency of humans is to predict and control the future. This ability has got us to where we are now and is highly adaptive. The flip side however is that we have come to believe that we cannot bear uncertainty and it is this belief that underlies any anxiety disorder. We try to control and plan for every eventuality, eliminating the possibility of surprises and dealing with every possible catastrophic scenario in our heads. The problem is, this approach serves only to increase our anxiety and decrease our sense of calm. Practicing letting go of worrying thoughts and embracing the liberating knowledge that “what will be will be” has the paradoxical effect of promoting a sense of calm.


  1. Become effective – do the jobs around the house that you have been putting off. Offer to help others. Learn something new. Exercise. Keep working. Do whatever suits you but don’t just sit around doing nothing. Having jobs to do and being able to make a contribution helps to alleviate feelings of helplessness and overwhelm.


  1. We have technology that we can use  to develop and maintain community –  meeting in groups is not advised at present but community cohesion is possible in other ways if we can be inventive and creative.


  1. Spread hope – that solutions are possible and this crisis will eventually ease.


How Things Appear

Outwardly everything looks fine. The lovely house/perfect job/loving partner/happy children; yet on the inside all is not well. We are plagued by worry and attacks of acute anxiety (“What if it all goes wrong? What if I really am ill?”).

Dirty discomfort vs Clean discomfort

In ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) we use the idea of dirty discomfort and clean discomfort. Nobody likes pain or discomfort. It makes sense that we make every attempt to avoid it or make it go away.. We all begin to experience clean discomfort from the moment of our birth. It’s just part of being human, but why do some of us seem to have less of it than others?

The answer is because we have the ability to use language. We don’t have a lot of choice about clean discomfort. It comes in the form of the raw emotion – sadness, anger, jealousy, disgust. fear, shame, guilt (and even for some people; happiness and love). We have evolved to experience these emotions, they can’t overwhelm us, they tell us something and for the most part our responses are adaptive. However, over the years our culture has determined that certain emotions are bad and unwanted and we are encouraged to pursue happiness at all costs. The medical way of looking at these things has determined that “negative” emotions are pathological and must be gotten rid of. It’s not surprising then that our reactions to this clean discomfort cause layers of “dirty discomfort” to be heaped upon it. “Why am I feeling like this? I’m not normal. Everyone else copes better than this. I’m weak. I’m a burden. I have depression/anxiety/OCD. This will never change. I am mentally ill. I can’t go on. I have to get rid of this”.

This is suffering or dirty discomfort. We don’t have a choice about the clean discomfort. That will come to us quite naturally just by being alive. We do however have a choice about suffering.  This idea is not new or revolutionary. It is as old as the hills and is present in many different cultures. A vicar once gave a talk that addressed it. He said “we all have crosses to bear. Some are tiny and some are enormous. It’s not the size of the cross that matters – it is the grace with which we bear it”.

Epictetus (a Greek philosopher) was on to it in the first century AD. He said “men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them”.

Confucius observed that “life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated”.

Buddha said “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.

Charles Swindoll taught that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”.

And of course Shakespeare had to get in on the act – “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it. And to me, Denmark is a prison”.

Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2.

None of this is to deny the distress and suffering that we feel, it is just to say that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can’t get rid of clean discomfort. We can change what we do when it arises and that is called resilience. ACT can help you to develop the quality of resilience.


30th March 2020


All therapy sessions have now moved on-line. If you are a regular client Beverly will contact you about this. If you are looking for therapy at present please do not be put off by this.  There is a blog post here that explains a bit more about it:

I am currently offering free sessions for all NHS frontline workers. Please call Beverly on 07483 438861.

For further information from the government you can click here


What is ACT?

ACT (pronounced act, not spelt out) is a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  that has over thirty years of research evidence to support its effectiveness. It has been shown to help people who are depressed, anxious, traumatized, or otherwise trapped by unhelpful patterns of behaviour; whether they be health, work or relationship related.

On-line Therapy

SIGMUND FREUD was not only the Father of psychotherapy but also a great innovator. Although much of his theory and research has since been discredited, he wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. I am in little doubt that if he were formulating his ideas and practicing his skills now, instead of in the late nineteenth century, he would be using all of the technology available to him.

He would be sharing ideas with colleagues using email, Skype and WhatsApp as well as texting and calling on his mobile. Documents would be shared using “cloud” services and collaborations would be enabled using Microsoft “Teams”. I think that he would almost certainly be meeting some of his clients online and conducting therapy sessions remotely.


There are many traditions around how psychotherapy sessions should be conducted that have arisen largely because the discipline arose in the late 19th Century. Traditions such as: sessions should always be held weekly, in the therapists consulting room, sitting in the same chairs, lasting the therapeutic hour (whether it is needed or not), and with no contact in between sessions. The extension of this is that self-help, telephone, email or video sessions are inferior to face-to-face sessions between client and therapist. Little if any of this is supported by research evidence on the effectiveness of different types of therapy delivery. But a reluctance to try new things persists for us all.


I have been conducting psychological therapy via Skype, Zoom and telephone for many years; it works. My observations of what my clients experience matches the feedback that I receive from them. It is overwhelmingly positive.

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought questions of how we work to the forefront; not least, how therapy is delivered. We are faced with two principal choices: to conduct therapy remotely, or not to have therapy at all. I think that we should all try remote therapy at least once before dismissing it out of hand. Here are some tips for therapist and clients to make the experience positive and the outcomes successful.


  1. Treat your online sessions as if you are physically meeting each other. This is real life therapy. It is face to face. It is not a poor substitute.
  2. Ensure that your computer/tablet/phone is in a quiet place where you can be alone and private and without interruptions.
  3. Ensure that you have a good Wi-Fi signal in that space. If there is anyone in your house with you, ask that they respect your privacy and keep away from your “therapy” room and keep the noise down. You might need to arrange childcare for the duration. Or this might happen:
  4. Get dressed.
  5. Be on time.
  6. Set up your device pointing away from windows and bright lights that might make the screen glare. Use plug in headphones or ear buds. This makes for better quality sound and goes some way towards ensuring privacy.
  7. Try not to munch your way through a session and leave your glass of wine outside the door!!
  8. If you have questionnaires to complete, they should be emailed before the session starts so that you both have a copy in front of you. Zoom and some other platforms allow for document sharing, so this may not be necessary.
  9. Be prepared for things to go wrong. The WiFi will go down, the screen will freeze and the microphone will stop working. Children or other family members will forget that you are having therapy and will barge in. Always have your mobile handy and share the number with your therapist as an emergency backup.
  10. Have some tissues handy so that you do not need to leave the room during the session, also go to the loo beforehand.
  11. It’s fine to have pets around and I know that some clients find this particularly comforting. Just try to make sure that they are not too bouncy and noisy, or sit on the computer keyboard, as my cat likes to do.
  12. Be prepared to have slightly shorter sessions. It’s quite difficult to maintain concentration with a screen for a long time.
  13. Especially if you are doing trauma work, enrol another person who is in your house to be available to help you if you become overly distressed.
  14. Provide feedback to each other on the experience: how was the lighting/sound, how did the session feel, what was good, what was difficult, and be prepared to make adjustments for next time.


With adequate preparation and a willingness to be curious, therapists and clients can both benefit from this different way of working. In times such as these when it is as important as ever to maintain our psychological well being, we will be better served if we embrace technology rather than rejecting it out of hand.













Settling in to University


Settling in to university

Being shy is not an inherited personality trait, so even if you have been shy at school, going to university can be an opportunity to change this. Growing up with the same set of friends sometimes means that the way people see you, and you see yourself, can get a bit fixed. If you have always been seen as the shy one, leaving familiar people behind and mixing with those who have no prior knowledge of you can be quite liberating; you can re-invent yourself, try out what it would be like to be more chatty, take risks to strike up conversations, or be the one who suggests a night out.

You need to be patient when you first get to university. Close friendships don’t happen in a couple of days or weeks, they take months or years. Think about the friends you have at home and how long you have known them. What experiences have you had together? How much have you learned about each other? Becoming close to someone involves spending time with them, talking about things and doing things together, learning to trust one another and this evolves, you can’t force it to happen overnight.

A good strategy is to cast your net as widely as you can. Even at a smallish university you have a pool of maybe 5000 potential friends. Of course you can’t have that many real friends, but assume that 10% of these could be people you would like to get to know better, that’s 500 people. And let’s say out of these maybe 10% are compatible enough to become close friends that’s 50 people. Your challenge over the next 3 years or so is to find these people, and to do that you need to open yourself up to opportunities for your paths to cross and chance conversations to happen.


How to start to make friends – Many students, when they first go to university complain about having the same conversation over and over and that they are bored with it and long to have something more meaningful. I agree small talk can be quite tedious, but it is a necessary social skill and it has to happen as the first stage in filtering out potential friends and finding common ground. During small talk we are exchanging all kinds of information about ourselves, not just factual information about home, family, subject choice etc, but information about the kind of person we are. Without even trying to, we are assessing whether this person is interested in us, whether they share our values, our humour; are they a good listener, do we feel comfortable with them? Once we have had the first conversation we don’t need to do it again with that person. Next time, if you didn’t feel a good connection you might keep it brief and move on. But if you both liked each other during the small talk bit, the conversation can move on to something a little more personal, interests, favourite music, food, relationships, then maybe one of you will suggest meeting for coffee, or going to the library after the lecture. This is how we socialise as humans. At school we are pushed together by adults so it takes less work, but at university you are in the driving seat and this can be both exciting and scary at the same time! When confronted with change we go through a process of gradually adapting, it doesn’t happen overnight.


Being shy when you start university at 18 or 19 does not mean that’s how you will always be. Many confident, outgoing adults were once shy and inhibited young people. University life offers many challenges and opportunities for you to grow and change. All students believe that everyone else is doing better than they are, are more confident, academically capable and socially skilled, but scratch the surface and you will find that many share the same anxieties. Confidence comes about by the accumulation of experiences where you face situations outside of your comfort zone and survive them.


How Can We Help Our Children?

There is a saying that a parent can only ever be as happy as their unhappiest child (however old that child might be) and this will resonate with many of us. Is it any wonder then that when asked what we want for our children we say “I just want them to be happy” and we say this to them too.