Sunday, 22 November 2009

My internet tv debut

I was asked in early summer to do a tv segrment for an internet channel called Positive tv. They do a weekly 20 minute show (called Solutions) which is intended to showcase positive ideas for living and be a contrast to the negative news which goes on media outlets. News stories include stories about ecology, healing plants you can find in your environment, tantric sex etc.
I was asked to talk about positive approaches within psychology to a general audience who may not know anything about academic psychology- so academic jargon was a no no.
Filming was scheduled at quite short notice as they wanted to get good weather (the sun always shines on positive tv). It was an absolutely fabulous day and filming took place on the beech.
I went down to the beach with Director/Cameraperson Amber (and the interviewer/presenter whose name I have forgotten). She was very skillfull in setting up shots and managing to make an artificial situation seem totally relaxed and natural.
I decided to focus on humanistic type approaches and how they could help people to improve their lives. I also talked about current social problems such as racism and how psychology can help us to understand and combat these issues.
There is quite a lot of lead-in time for this sort of thing and I forgot all about it. It was only when I contacted Amber about something else a few days ago that I found out that the item had already aired.
Watching it now gave me some very mixed feelings. On one hand it is a kind of swan song for a career that I have probably left for good. I really enjoyed communicating ideas and I probably won't get so many opportunities to do it in the future. On the other hand, I have actually put in practice some of the ideas I talk about in the segment- taking control of my own life and demonstrating self-efficacy.
If you want to see the show then follow this link
That will take you to web site. My segment is the second half of the show entitled Solutions 32. You can either flip through the 'more shows' option (not easy) or do a search on the website for positive psychology. This will take you to Solutions 32 which lasts for 20 minutes and I am in the second half.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Lack of Activity

Sorry to not have posted anything for a while. I should have lots to say about the fact that I am winding down from my current job and moving to another one. However, I have been spending a lot of time dealing with all the feelings that you might go through leaving a job you have been doing for 10 years plus all the excitement about starting a new one. I am doing a lot of reading to prepare me for my new job role. I am also winding down a bit and trying to get some rest. Something I haven't done for at least 3 years.
I am also thinking about what this blog should become. Should it be about mental health, personalization in adult social care(the topic of my new job), new technology (an recent interest of mine), psychology, the economy (another interest), or about me as a person? Ideally I would like it to be about all of the above but that might be a bit confusing or unsatisfactory for anyone who actually reads it.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Should Internet Content Be Free?

This month's issue of Wired magazine contains two very different views on this issue. One is the perspective of Rupert Murdoch who has recently started charging for content from the Wall Street Journal. It is business model in which some access can be obtained free but anyone who wants regular and comprehensive access to the site has to pay a subscription. This approach has some merits and seems to be working to an extent. However, the high end users of this web site are not typical of the wider constituency of internet of even newspaper readers. Murdoch reckons that the era of free online content is at an end because online advertizing revenue alone will not replace the income lost from the declining print versions. Murdoch is certainly right about this but this does not mean that that the internet is going to change to accomodate the needs of News Corp to continue to maintain its existing income levels.
Chris Anderson, in the same issue argues for a radically new business model to replace the old one. His arguments (taken from his new book Free: The Future of a Radical Price), suggest that traditional business models are not sustainable in this era. People are used to getting internet content free and production costs are now so low and piracy is now so rampant that anything which can be provided digitally is, or will soon be free. He argues that rather than trying to beat piracy, we should see pirates as just another marketing tool for our product. He argues, for example, that bootleg Gucci bags simply stimulate demand for real ones and that bootleg downloads expose a band to a greater number of people and ultimately sell more concert tickets.
Piracy, is not the only internet based threat to traditional business models, however. The other threat is generation of content. The tools of making videos, animations, etc - which would at one time have been restricted to those with a film studio are now available to anyone with a camcorder and a computer. Distribution and marketing are also free to anyone with a web site. Many people get much of their news and opinions from Blogs. An obvious retort to this is that the average blogger does not have the large resources or expertise of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. However, this perspective ignores the fact that much of the content of newspapers and tv news does not come from its own reporters. Much of it comes from news agencies, some consists of thinly disguised press release material and the opinion pieces are often little better than blogs. In terms of 'on the scene' reporting, more and more of this is being done by members of the public through Twitter and their camcorders. This trend is supported by the news media through intitives such as CNNs i-report. Increasingly news reporting is an interactive experience rather than a top down one. Sure, there is still a need for good investigative journalism but what is possibly not needed is the juggernaut publishing system and its old fashioned business models. Innovations such as i-report and the use of Twitter on CNN show a savvy approach to changes in the way news is produced and consumed
The internet is radically and forever changing not only the relationships between producers and consumers but also the roles. Consumers are generating content and writers and artists can interact directly with their audiences. The only part of the chain which no longer has a clear role is the traditional distribution networks. Much as Rupert Murdoch might want to turn back the clock and put the internet genie back in the bottle it is not going to happen.
The whole face of commerce and the buying and selling of resources, skills and labour is changing forever.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Schizophrenia and manic depression
This article in today's Independent (based on recent articles in Nature) claims that schizophrenia and manic depression have a common genetic basis. This discovery is, they claim, "at odds with the orthodoxy in psychiatry stating that the two conditions are clinically distinct". It will not, however, come as a surprise to many people who have experience of working with mental health problems, students on my mental health module. Enlightened practitioners have come to realize that such terms do not necessarily have any direct link to dictinct pathologies and are in fact just ways of categorizing groups of symptoms. Some patients are given more than one diagnostic category at different times and this can be very confusing for them. It is much safer to say that someone who has symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations is suffering from a psychosis. The article also points to the involvement of areas of the genome associated with the immune system and this would help to explain the variations in succeptibility associated with the time of year someone is born. Links have also been found with genes involved in growth of nerve cells and production of neurotransmitters.
The work is based on analysis of gerntic material from 15,000 pateints and 50,000 'healthy' subjects.
The study points to a common vulnerability to the two conditions but does not explain why people develop one condition or the other. It also supports the stress vulnerability model as inheritance is only claimed to account for 80% of the risk.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Statutory Regulation

Today - psychology comes under the regulatory auspices of the Health Professions Council. In some ways this does not affect me directly at present because I don't fit in to any of the categories which have become protected titles. It also creates a bit of an anomoly as I fit the criteria to be registered as a qualified social worker because of my past work and qualification with his body. The counselling profession is going to be professionally regulated in 2 years time. This has created a fair amount of controversy and indeed this process is likely to be a lot more 'messy' than some other types of professional regulation. Regulation seems to be working well for social work. However, this is a very clearly defined profession with existing statutory duties. Social workers have been traditionally employed by local authorities who are public bodies with very clear lines of responsibility and training has been provided for some time by publicly funded Universities. In addition to this training had been standardized and regulated for several decades.
Training in counselling, on the other hand has been provided by a diverse range of bodies, many of them private. There is a great variety of models and approaches. Many counsellors work in private practice and they do not have any statutory duties.
Part of the problem with the regulation controversy is that several different objectives are being conflated. The most obvious one is the need to protect the public from unethical, untrained or unscrupulous practioners. An article in today's Guardian recounts a story about a woman who was a victim of sexual misconduct by a counselling practioner. Certainly, the public need to be protected from such misconduct. However, statutory regulation is likely to encompass other issues such as standards of training, approaches to practice, monitoring of standards etc. Many of these issues cannot be tackled without significantly changing the face of the profession and its relationship with its clientel. Much of the attraction which private therapy hold for clients is the fact that is holistic, private, highly confidential and outwith the mainstream. For practitioners, the freedom to choose a model and develop their own highly individual stykle of working is a huge attraction in a field which does not offer many opportunities for high earnings or career development.
This is an issue which is likely to generate a very strong and lively debate over the next few years. Lets hope that whatever happens with regulation it arises out of a debate which hears all sides.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

User friendly psychiatry seminars in spetmeber /October

Monday, 29 June 2009

New rights for NHS patients

The existing (and unpopular) approach of setting targets for the NHS is to be replaced by a set of rights for patients. There are many reasons for the new proposals to be welcomed. The target system created perverse incentives reminiscent of the old soviet economic system where targets drove aspects of patient care rather than being a measure of them. Patients will have a right to die at home and rights to certain types of treatment within defined periods. Also welcome will be increased roles for clinicians in managing services and managing their own budgets.
However, there are important questions still to be considered in relation to how we as a nation deal with the increased possibilities which new technologies offer us and most importantly how are they paid for. Do we go towards allowing patients to top up their care- as has been done with cancer treatments- with the issues which go with this about a 2 tier approach to health care-OR do we have an honest debate with the public about the need for charges or increased taxation to pay for these innovations. All of the planned improvements in health care delivery will have to paid for in some way and improved access to acute care may be made at the expense of services which are less visible or less popular with voters. This is the real debate which has to take place about the future of the NHS

Sunday, 28 June 2009