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The Integrated Coaching Academy

Where Coaching and Counselling Connect

Prince harry, grief and how to really help

Prince Harry has gone very public about his mental health struggles resulting from the death of his mother, Princess Diana. In Apple TV’s ‘The Me You Can’t See’ he says he ‘boxed up his emotions’ for 20 years.

It’s true; people often attempt to deal with life’s losses and traumas by disconnecting and switching off their feelings.

The ‘box-it-up’ method can work for a while, as it did for Harry, but what tends to happen over time is that the lid of the box begins to lift all on its own and the anger and despair begin to tumble out in an uncontrolled way. For Harry, the lid of the box seems to have really started to open after his marriage to Meghan and the build up to the birth of his first child created a psychological pattern match to the trauma of his mother’s death.

Harry was filmed in an EMDR session with his therapist. It seems to have really helped. I wish he could also experience the Rewind Technique which was originated by Dr David Muss in the 1970s. It can be even more effective. I did some training with David. As a newly qualified psychotherapist many years ago, I was so amazed by the successes I was having for my PTSD clients that I wrote a book about it. It works in a similar way to EMDR by grounding the client and setting a cognitive task that anchors the brain into the neo cortex. It’s less well known simply because it hasn’t attracted the research and funding of the EMDR programme originated by Francine Shapiro.

Here, an EMDR therapist gives a succinct explanation about the underlying mechanism. She says:

‘The therapy works by the therapist creating a safe and trusting space. We identify the experiences … and bring them into the room in a gentle way to reprocess those memories so the past can be in the past and our past life experiences do not continue to create stress, anxiety and triggers in our current life’

The subconscious mind

What stays in the subconscious mind has the ability to control us. Allowing suppressed emotions to safely surface can actually process long term grief in just one session... if that is what the client wants.

Sometimes, however, the bereaved just want to speak, to be allowed to explore and express their emotions in their own time and in their own way. Fortunately, a Fusion Therapeutic Coach will have the empathic attunement to understand what the client needs from their practitioner.

Yes, if they want resolution, the Rewind Technique can achieve that quickly and efficiently but if they need to talk, a Fusion Coach knows how to offer the time and space for that to happen. It’s about making the model fit the client rather than the client fit the preferred therapy style of the practitioner.

My article this week looks at suppressed grief and how the reaction to unprocessed emotions can take us by surprise many years later.

I hope it helps…

Grief and how to really help

As James sat in front of me, memory after memory of his father’s death surfaced, released, and ran softly down his face.

‘He died when I was 10’, said James. ‘It was an unexpected heart attack. He went to work one morning and didn't come home. Mum thought I was too young to go to the funeral so I went to school on that day just, like any other day.’

James's mum wasn’t being cruel. She had hoped to protect her young son from the pain of seeing her so desperately upset at the grave side. She wanted him to escape somehow the turbulent and intense range of emotions that are a part of the journey through the grieving process. So she made life as normal as possible for him. She compensated by taking him on lavish holidays, buying him the latest gadgets and putting on her ‘I'm fine’ face in the daytime.

Crying alone

She had removed all the pictures of James's father in the house and he was now rarely referred to.

The mother-who-meant-well stayed strong and kept going. She was doing a good job she told herself. After a year, James seemed fine, was doing well at school and never mentioned his father at all.

But the grief hadn’t gone away and it was only after she put James to bed at night that she allowed herself to cry. What she didn't realise was that, in bed at night, James could hear his mother crying and would often cry himself to sleep too.

Both mother and son were going through an intense range of emotions they did not want to communicate to each other, for fear of causing more upset. They had both become isolated in a shared grief for the most well-intentioned of reasons and they were making a mistake that many of us make.

I must keep going

There are plenty of laudable reasons for not dealing with grief. People have to go to work to keep their job. They have to get the kids off to school. They have to mow the lawn, do the shopping, cook and pay the bills. They think if they give way to grief, it will be like a dam has burst. They won’t be able to cope with the deluge and will drown in a flood of their own tears.

But deferring grief is like living with an undetonated bomb. We fool ourselves that if we tiptoe around it, perhaps it won’t go off.

An open wound

However the loss and grief remain as a concealed, but still-open, wound. Although we may have put a plaster over it, it will not begin to heal until we acknowledge its presence and let some light and air onto the injury.

As Prince Harry has observed, death has become a sanitised business.

We try to ignore it. We clean it up with phrases like ‘passed over’, or ‘slipped away’ rather than saying someone has died. Or we wrap it up and leave it on a shelf in a darkened room that we try not to visit.

We are taught, in the face of adversity to stand strong. We must stay in control. We have to keep a very British ‘stiff upper lip’.

But grief is not an illness. It’s a fact of life. We will all lose someone we love and we will all feel the pain. Being able to ride the intense waves of emotion that come with bereavement is an example of mind management and asking for help or talking to someone about how we really feel is a sign of emotional intelligence, not weakness.

As a therapeutic coach, I have a range of skills in my professional toolbox. But for James, as with most of my clients who are grieving, I used the simplest, yet most powerful of them all.

I listened.

Frances Masters MBACP accred GHGI

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist, coach, training consultant and author of the book PTSD Resolution: Reclaiming life from trauma.

In 2009, Frances founded the charity Reclaim Life; training its volunteers to work in the new, integrated coach-counselling model, Fusion.

As founding Principal of the Integrated Coaching Academy Frances gained accreditation for her training from NCFE as Customised Awards; 'The Fusion Therapeutic Coaching, Counselling and Training Diploma in Therapeutic Coaching and the distance learning programme Certificate in Therapeutic Coaching Skills'

Training programmes also include

The Integrated Coaching Academy certified Fusion Mindfulness Based Mind Management Skills Certificate

and new online training Breathe Stress Away

Fusion® Therapeutic Coaching is an approved NCFE training centre, an organisational member of he British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association for Coaching


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Am I bipolar?

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (38)

Seventeen year old Katie sat uncomfortably on the old green velvet sofa in my office, with a look that reminded me of a rabbit caught in headlights.


Eyes wide, she described how her mother had encouraged her to go and see her GP when she discovered that Katie had been self harming. The GP had suggested she might have bipolar disorder and arranged for a formal assessment.


Katie was now very frightened indeed. ‘If I'm bipolar, mum won’t let me go to university and live away from home. My whole future is wrecked. Why did this have to happen to me?’ she sobbed.


Whilst waiting for the formal assessment, Katie's mum had also helpfully suggested she come along for some therapeutic coaching. I was glad she had. My encounter with Katie was to prove life changing for her.


‘Am I a mentalist?’


‘What were the symptoms you reported to your GP’ I asked Katie.


‘Well, sometimes I'm really down and don't have the energy to even get out of bed in the morning and other times I'm jumpy and on edge. I'm restless and up all night. I can't sleep. I can’t seem to concentrate either and my memory’s really bad. Then I started cutting myself’


‘When did this start Katie?’ I asked.


‘I was absolutely fine until about two years ago’ Katie replied, thinking hard, ‘and then the anxiety started. The cutting seemed to help me calm down for a while.’


‘What was going on in your life at that time?’ I probed.


‘I suppose the biggest thing was that mum and dad split up. It was horrible. One minute dad was there in the house and the next minute he'd gone and mum was distraught. I felt I needed to support her. She was just crying all the time.’


‘And what’s the situation now Katie?’


‘Mum’s calmed down. In fact she’s got a new partner, but my life’s in ruins. Mum went on holiday recently and all the relatives kept calling or phoning to check if I was all right. They must think I'm some kind of mentalist. I bet they’re planning to put me in a mental hospital or something!’


An explanation rather than diagnosis


It seemed to me that Katie had become completely emotionally hijacked.


What had started with high anxiety due to mum and dad splitting up had soon evolved into depression, as her sleep became disturbed due to chronic worrying. Her energy levels subsequently dropped and she stopped doing many of the things she used to enjoy.


The trouble is when you go and see a GP, he or she will tend to look at your symptoms through ‘the lens’ of the medical model. They may refer to DSM V, the diagnostic and statistical manual GPs and psychiatrists use, to connect presenting symptoms to a mental health ‘label’ from which a recommendation is made on the appropriate course of action and/or medication.


Fusion® on the other hand, is a recovery and resilience model and looks for an explanation for what has happened rather than a diagnosis. Even doctors suggest that ‘when you hear hooves coming up behind you, it is more likely to be a horses rather than zebras’. In other words, look at the most probable explanation first.


This is how I helped Katie using the Fusion® model, the system, the tool box and the manual.


Fusion®: The model


The underlying principle of the Fusion® model is that our emotions and behaviours are always trying to help. Depression and anxiety are viewed as messages from the emotional brain trying to prompt you to take action to get your needs met.


After mum and dad split up, 15-year-old Katie's anxiety went through the roof. She began to worry. This affected her sleep which crashed her energy and serotonin levels, so that she began to withdraw from activities she usually enjoyed.


Perhaps prompted by peers or something in the media, she decided to try self harm as a way of controlling her distress and anxiety. This can work for a while as it releases endorphins into the bloodstream, but is obviously not the most helpful strategy for dealing with stress and can also become addictive, so that when you want to stop, you simply cannot. It starts out as a way of taking control, but soon begins to control you.


Looking through the ‘SAFE SPACE’ lens, it was clear that, at that time, Katie's life had gone from the ‘okay’ zone to ‘not okay’ pretty quickly and her needs for safety, attention, control, family and engagement with life really were not being met at all.


Fusion®: The system


I taught Katie how to mindfully step back from anxiety by focusing, counting and breathing to re-engage her rational brain. I showed her how to respond mindfully rather than react mindlessly to distress. She now had a much more helpful way to manage anxiety.


I explained to Katie that we can all be ‘a bit bipolar’ when we get emotionally hijacked. Our fight or flight system, sensing danger, will send us straight into a polarised, black or white way of thinking that will convince us our whole life is a mess and nothing will ever go right in the future.


The fact is, the more emotional we become, the more stupid we become, as the emotional brain climbs into the driver’s seat of our mind and switches of fthe rational thinking of the neo cortex. Katie had to learn how to use the STOP System ™ to stop the hijacks and take back control, particularly from the self harming pattern she had fallen into.


Fusion®: The toolbox


I suggested that Katie control her yo-yoing moods by practising mindful breathing for 10 minutes twice a day to lower her anxiety. To raise levels of her feel-good hormones, she should get outside every day for at least 20 minutes, to enjoy the benefits of full-spectrum light, fresh air and exercise.


Amongst many other interventions, we also played the ‘let’s spot your thinking error’ game, as it looked to me as though Katie had become a bit of a catastrophiser.


Fusion®: The manual


Everything I told Katie was backed up with clear and concise written explanations from the Fusion® manual that she could take home, read and use. Using the coaching wheel of life, we looked at her life holistically, set goals and brought together ‘a toolbox’ of mind management skills that she could draw on, to build the emotional resilience that would act like a kind of ‘psychological inoculation’ against future mental health problems.


I gave Katie the client progress log from the manual and asked her to record all the improvements she noticed as the result of our work together.


The outcome


Knowledge truly is power, particularly when it comes to mental health.


The combination of a better understanding of how the brain works together with sensible and practical exercises, tasks and tools worked their magic.


After just one session, Katie began to calm down and her mood swings levelled out. Not surprisingly, her sleep, memory and concentration all improved too, and by the time she went for her assessment, she was found to within the normal emotional range with no evidence of bipolar disorder.


My young client had reclaimed her confidence in her mental health and reconnected with a vision of a bright future that would begin with university and see her move into a career in medicine.


How different it all might have been.

Rewind, imagery, positive mental rehearsal, dissociation, goal setting, therapeutic story, mindfulness, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, psycho education, affirmations, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training programmes.

How to tell if PTSD is the problem?

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (8)


Do you suffer from unsettling physical or emotional symptoms that started after a traumatic event, like a death, a road accident, a burglary, an attack or some other event which caused you distress?

Perhaps you are a returning veteran and experienced something in your tour of duty you keep trying to put to the back of your mind? Do you wonder if, and how, you might be able to make it all go away so you can just move on with your life?

Could post traumatic stress disorder be your problem? PTSD is actually much more common than you think. But, more to the point, if you do have PTSD, what can you do about it?

There is good news. In the UK, a technique currently being reviewed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) called ‘Rewind’, is now being increasingly used by counsellors and therapeutic coaches to resolve PTSD symptoms.

Rewind is a visualisation technique that works by allowing the traumatic memory to be processed by the brain, which then settles back down in recognition that the trauma is over, you have survived and you are now safe.

As a professional psychotherapist and author of the book PTSD Resolution, I am very familiar with the symptoms, but you may not be. So here is a check list, used by doctors to work out if PTSD could be the problem, which I have adjusted so that you can begin to unravel what might be going on, for yourself:

Defining the problem: your PTSD symptom checklist

You may have PTSD if:


You have been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present: 1.You experienced, witnessed, or were confronted with an event or events that involved any (or all) of the following: actual or threatened death; serious injury; or a physical threat to the person or to others.

2.Your response at the time involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

You re-experience the traumatic event in one (or more) of the following ways: 1.You have intrusive memories about the event, including: images, thoughts, and/or feelings.

2.You have upsetting dreams about the event.

3.You have a feeling of reliving the event (including hallucinations and flashbacks, experienced while awake or perhaps after using drink or drugs).

4.You feel emotionally upset, when reminded about the event in any way, either by something you think about or by something which actually happens (often referred to as a pattern match)

5.You get a physical reaction when reminded about the event.

You try to avoid anything which reminds you about the traumatic event and/or feel numbed or distant in a way you did not before the event, in at least three of the following ways:

1. You try to avoid thoughts, feelings, and/or conversations connected with the trauma.

2. You try to avoid activities, places, and/or people that make you think about the trauma.

3. You are unable to remember an important aspect of the trauma.

4. You have less interest in doing things you used to do before the trauma.

5. You feeling detached or distant from others.

6. You are unable to feel the full range of emotions that you did before the trauma.

7. You have a sense of a future blighted by the trauma; that you are not the same or that your life will not be as you had expected it to be.

You have persistent symptoms of anxiety (not present before the trauma), in at least two of the following:

1. You have difficulty falling or staying asleep.

2. You are irritable or have outbursts of anger.

3. You find it difficult to concentrate.

4. You feel on ‘red alert’, like you are watching or waiting for something bad to happen.

5. You are on edge or easily startled.

Let me tell you a story

One day, many years ago, a man walked into my office, smartly dressed, upright, with a manner and walk that suggested a military connection. As he began to tell his story, he cried as he described increasingly severe panic attacks with nightmares and flashbacks of events from his tour of active service.

His life was now dominated by a range of distressing symptoms. He felt his marriage was beginning to unravel due to his heavy drinking and inability to move forward with his life. His goals for our work together on that first session were to get a good night’s sleep without having to drink to block out the symptoms and to regain some hope that things would improve so that he could get his life back on track.

We worked together for an hour and a half and he returned the following week with the good news that his sleep was restored and the nightmares had gone. He was amazed the intervention had worked so fast. Back then, when I had first started using the Rewind technique, I was also surprised it had resolved the symptoms so quickly.

These days I am surprised if it does not.


The PTSD domino effect

The pattern of panic and PTSD for veterans and non veterans alike, is very similar:

It starts with a traumatic event or a build up of events, which begins a combination of nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia or panic attacks or any of the symptoms listed above. This can then lead to a ‘domino effect’ in a life which begins to unravel as relationships suffer, work suffers and drink or drugs are used as ways of trying to control or numb the fear and anxiety.

Pete, who ended up homeless, and then in prison, recounts how it started;

‘When I came back, I went from war zone to home within the space of a week. One minute I had a gun in my hand, the next; I was holding my new born son. I didn’t feel safe around him. I knew what those hands were capable of. Then the flash backs started. I couldn’t sleep so I paced the floor at night, drinking to knock myself out so I could switch off for a few hours and get a break from myself.

The drink made me violent. My wife had enough and I ended up on the streets. No job, no money and with a drink and drug problem that pushed me into crime. Now I’m here and, in a way I feel safer. It’s a bit like being back in the army again but I dread getting out. I still have the nightmares and flashbacks. They say there’s no cure. I have to learn to live with it.’

The solution

To Pete, and all who have been suffering, I am pleased to let you know there is a cure; a cure which is brief and which works. Research is building which supports its effectiveness but, as we all wait for the research, lives are being blighted or even lost.

I wrote the book PTSD Resolution to show as clearly as I could, how the Rewind technique works in practice, and often in just one therapeutic session, to resolve all the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

So, if you think PTSD is your problem, track down a psychotherapist, counsellor or therapeutic coach who understands how to use Rewind to resolve your problems, or have a look at Dr Muss’ own website or app where he tells you how to use the Rewind technique to resolve your own symptoms.

Rewind, imagery, positive mental rehearsal, dissociation, goal setting, therapeutic story, mindfulness, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, psycho education, affirmations, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training programmes.

How to deepen your meditation from a Buddhist Lama

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (39)

How to deepen your meditation: A Buddhist Lama explains


I was fortunate enough recently to spend some time in the company of the Venerable Lama Ngedon Drime.


Lama Drime, or Saddhu as he likes to be called, describes himself as a ‘kick-ass monk’.

It's fair to say that, in his teachings, he strips away all the ‘bells and smells’ of popular meditative practice and takes it back to the bare essentials, which boil down to one important feature; you in the presence of your mind.


Saddhu has spent the last 38 years of his life in pursuit of spiritual development through the Buddhist and Zen traditions. When someone has such focus and devotion, their words have gravitational pull. They mean something.


And when they speak, you listen.


Don’t just do something, sit there


I thought I knew about meditation, but Saddhu taught me a surprisingly simple exercise based in the yoga nidra tradition which intensely deepens the practice and which I found really powerful. Although not designed to help you fall asleep, it certainly would have that effect if you did not consciously set your intention to stay awake.


In fact yoga nidra is often referred to as ‘yogic sleep’ and is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping; a state I access when guiding my clients in visualisation; a state in which the body is completely relaxed, as the practitioner becomes increasingly aware of their inner world by following a set of simple instructions.


This state of consciousness is different to mindfulness meditation where concentration on a single focus is required. In yoga nidra the practitioner systematically withdraws attention, closing down the senses, apart from hearing, which connects to the heard instructions.


The practice is also called ‘lucid sleep’ and is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. Not surprisingly, it has been found to be really helpful in reducing tension and anxiety if practiced regularly.


Nailing jelly to a wall


In the spirit of ‘if every man would mend a man', I will now pass this technique on to you. You, in turn, may wish to pass it on to others.


People often ask what mindfulness and meditation feel like. Like the proverbial jelly you try to nail to the wall, the concept seems ethereal and a bit spooky to many. And when you grasp too hard at the shadows, you begin to lose the substance, because the description can never be the thing itself.


These are things you need to experience rather than study. ‘Power of Now’ author, Meister Eckhart Tolle, describes them as ‘settling the mind to awaken the self.’ He says ‘When there is a conscious choice to remove attention from thinking, you dis-identify from your thoughts, and there is a form of awakening. You come to observe yourself.’


It’s fair to say, it’s an increasingly frenetic world, Research shows that, as a species, we are genuinely speeding up. We breathe faster, talk faster and even walk faster. As an antidote, there is more need now than ever, to be able to step away from ‘doing’ into just ‘being’, to achieve the calm, clarity and peace everyone seems to crave and which some of us pursue in ways that are harmful to the self. If you want to slow down, yoga nidra can really help.


Yoga nidra: the practice


This exercise is best practised sitting in an upright chair such as a dining chair, with palms placed downwards on your knees. It is best not to do this practice lying down as it is so relaxing, you really do tend to fall asleep.


To avoid nodding off, right at the start it's useful to repeat the resolution three times ‘I am practising yoga nidra. I am fully awake.’




You begin by becoming aware of your body sitting in the chair; notice where contact is made between your body and the chair; the seat, upper legs, the feet on the floor, the hands on the knees. Scan throughout the body.


Now you begin to imagine yourself breathing in and out through various body parts. One in and out breathe per body part, moving steadily around the body.


Breathe in and out through:


The thumb of the right hand, the forefinger of the right-hand, the middle finger, ring finger and little finger of the right-hand.


The right forearm, the right elbow, the right upper arm, the right shoulder, the right side of the chest, the right side of the abdomen, the right side of the hips, the right upper back, the right knee, the right lower leg.


Breathe in and out through the right big toe, the right second toe, third toe, fourth toe and little toe; the whole right foot.


Now repeat for the left-hand side of the body beginning with the thumb of the left-hand and throughout as before.


Then focus on the lower spine, the mid spine and upper spine.


Breathe in and out through the right nostril, left nostril, right ear, left ear, right eye, left eye, crown of the head.


Repeat to yourself, as and when necessary, ‘I am practising yoga nidra and I am fully awake.’


To finish the practice, clench your fists and extend your fingers forward three times. Stretch your legs out, clench and release the toes three times and fully open your eyes.




How to colour your stress away

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (5)

Whilst bringing together the Fusion Train the Trainer programme, I’ve been working with images quite a lot of the time; for the books, the Power Points and the trainers’ manual.


Along the way I’ve also updated and refreshed the Integrated Coaching Academy website; commissioned logos and even a short film featuring a little bear of happiness (yet to be named). The little bear will hopefully provide a much requested link to making Fusion available to younger children.


I love this kind of creative work, despite the stress of meeting the inevitable deadlines. And I have had to stay, in true Darwinian style, adaptable to change along the way. You think you know what the project will look like when it’s completed, but the reality is, when you start to write, the writing can take on a life of its own.


It reminds me of the exercise, where someone in a group begins to tell a story and ends with ‘AND SUDDENLY…’ and the next person has to take up the tale before passing it on to the next in the same way.


When I have a light bulb moment, it’s often when I’m working with an image and it’s often when I have stepped away from the computer and start to doodle. Doodling, drawing, mind mapping and colouring all stimulate the creative mind and help us de-stress too, which is the subject of my article this week.


How to colour your stress away


You would have to have been living on another planet not to notice the current trend for adult colouring books.


They're everywhere. Adult colouring books have rated consistently high in the Amazon bestsellers’ list for quite some time now. People are voting with their feet…and their wallets. Is it a trend? Is it a craze? Is it a cult? Just why have fully formed grown-ups decided to get out the colouring pencils and engage in an activity normally associated with children?




One of the first psychologists recorded to use colouring as meditation was Carl Jung. He did it through creating mandalas; the circular designs with concentric shapes, similar to the patterns we see in the rose windows of a church, but which actually have their origins in India. He wrote:


‘I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day. . .. Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: ‘Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation.’




When MIND UK are suggesting that one in four of us have a mental health problem at any one time, there's no doubt that anxiety, in particular, is becoming an increasing feature of today's fast moving, high-pressure, life style.


Many people talk about experiencing ‘noisy brain’ syndrome, with racing or chattering thoughts that can both distract and distress. Everyone, it seems, is now searching for a short cut to the land of calm.


Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explains that, when we colour, we have to engage both hemispheres of the brain; the logical left hemisphere which deals with fine motor skills and focused attention, and the right hemisphere which connects to the world through colour, shape, imagery, art and emotion.


This kind of bilateral stimulation is known to calm the central nervous system; in particular the area known as the amygdale, which means the alpha waves generated by the act of colouring, can soothe both mind and body.


Emotional regulation


Self-soothing is a skill many of us have difficulties with.


But we can all learn to improve our ability to regulate emotions internally, rather than reach for the pills or booze (or any of the damaging and addictive behaviours we can be drawn to). Like practising mindfulness, when we focus our attention on colouring, we detach from both external and internal stimuli, which lets the mind settle.


Reconnecting with our inner child


Like those lazy, distant days of childhood, when there was nothing to do but lie in the grass, watch the clouds drift by and collect daisies to loop into an ever-extending chain of flowers, colouring helps us to step off our self-imposed, adult treadmill.


It replaces our ever extending ‘to-do’ list with a brief interlude, where we give ourselves permission to stop and just ‘be’, just for a while. No goals, no plans, no worries and no responsibilities; we become engaged in a rewarding state of flow where the world falls away and all we have to do is, as teacher told us, ‘stay inside the lines’.


So whether you invest in an adult colouring book, do your own doodles or, like Jung, create and colour a unique mandala, there’s no doubt colouring is here to stay. It’s therapeutic and it’s something we can all begin right away.

Imagery, positive mental rehearsal, dissociation, goal setting, therapeutic story, mindfulness, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, psycho education, affirmations, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training programmes.

Try this 10p Process for Perfect Presentations

Posted on March 16, 2016 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (28)

Are you frightened of public speaking?


If so, you're not on your own. Surveys show that most people rate death lower than public speaking on the list of things they would rather avoid. Amazingly, that means that, at a funeral, much of the congregation would rather be in the box than standing out front giving the reading!


If the thought of giving a presentation makes you want to crawl into a foetal position, read on for some top tips to help you conquer your nerves, beat stage fright and send those mind-paralysing fears packing.


My first presentation: OMG!


I remember my first attempt at giving a presentation. Many years ago as a rookie management trainee, I was asked to present in front of a panel of experienced managers who would assess me on my skills and offer some feedback.


I was petrified. I actually visited the GP and asked for a small bottle of Valium to get me through. Sensibly, he didn’t give me any and suggested I used breathing to calm myself down instead. At that moment I thought he was the worst doctor in the world and used the next two weeks to work myself into a real lather by imagining all the things that could go wrong and the many ways I might make a complete t*t of myself in front of my colleagues.


By the time the day arrived, if somebody had given me a choice between losing a limb and giving the talk, I know the choice I would have made.


In the event, I got through it, but was poorly assessed and didn't earn additional credits for standing up rather than sitting down, placing myself in front of the desk rather than behind it, or for using prompt cards rather than reading from a script.


My second attempt: Gulp!


Winding forward many years, as a new tutor at an adult education college, I found myself walking into a classroom to see half a dozen expectant faces all looking in my direction and waiting for me to speak.


My hands shook, my throat dried and my voice cracked. I got so hot I had to ask for someone to open a window. It's fair to say I experienced the full range of fight or flight symptoms.


This went on for weeks until I approached a hypnotherapist colleague who taught me how to breathe my stress level down; taught me to visualise; how to use a ‘yes I can’ affirmation and told me the story of The Monster.

Sure enough, my personal monster got smaller and smaller until one day, I realised the nerves had gone. Speaking had become just something else I did.


I faked it ‘til I made it. I faked it ‘til I became it.


Just do it


Harvard based, social psychologist, Amy Cuddy tells a similar tale. Her research on power poses clearly shows that our feelings affect our body language but, paradoxically, that our body language affects how we feel.


She suffered from extreme low self esteem as a result of a car crash that put her years behind with her schooling. She says:


‘Eventually I graduated from college. It took me four years longer than my peers, and I convinced someone, my angel advisor, Susan Fiske, to take me on, and so I ended up at Princeton, and I was like, I am not supposed to be here. I am an impostor.


And the night before my first-year talk, and the first-year talk at Princeton is a 20-minute talk to 20 people. That's it. I was so afraid of being found out the next day that I called her and said, "I'm quitting."

She was like, "You are not quitting, because I took a gamble on you, and you're staying. You're going to stay, and this is what you're going to do.


You are going to fake it. You're going to do every talk that you ever get asked to do. You're just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you're terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-body experience, until you have this moment where you say, 'Oh my gosh, I'm doing it.’


If, you too are struggling with your confidence in your own abilities, don’t be tempted to run away and hide from speaking in public. Try the following tips instead:


#1 Prepare, prepare, prepare


The more you can prepare, the better you will be able to work with the material you're presenting and the better the whole thing will go. Prepare your notes, your props, your venue and your PowerPoint. Be prepared, too, for any questions from your delegates.


#2 Practice, practice, practice


The general recommendation is to practice three hours for every one hour of presentation.

Legend has it that Winston Churchill practised one hour for every minute of his speech; so a three minute presentation would mean three hours practice. Stand up and give your presentation to family, friends, to the mirror, your pet or a row of cuddly toys. It doesn’t matter as long as you are saying the words and hearing your voice.


#3 Power pose


Amy Cuddy's research shows that the mind and body operate in a feedback loop. Turns out, we smile when we are happy, yet the act of smiling also makes us happier. When people feel powerful, their body language reflects that. Adopting a power pose will produce the confidence-boosting endorphins and testosterone that will give your presentation the edge.


Five or ten minutes before the event, find yourself a quiet place, put your arms in the air, throw your head back and widen your stance. Stay in that pose for at least 2 minutes.


#4 Positive affirmation


There's nothing like some positive self talk to give you a boost. Yet, how many of us are giving headspace to niggling self-doubts and negative statements. The trouble is, when we talk to our self, we are actually listening.


So choose to say something to yourself which is positive, supportive and encouraging. Try ‘yes I can’ or ‘I can do this.’


#5 Parasympathetic breathing


When we breathe in, we use the sympathetic nervous system associated with fight or flight. Breathing out stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system associated with rest and digest.


Make sure your breathing pattern is that of a longer out breath than in breath. That way you tap into your innate relaxation response, allowing you to calm down.


#6 Pick a number


Anything associated with numbers will connect you with your rational brain.


That, of course, is the hemisphere you want to engage to give your talk. Engaging the rational brain will also allow your emotional brain to settle down, as the two hemispheres cannot function well at the same time.


Try the 54321 technique. Think of 5 things you can see; 4 things you can hear; 3 things you can smell; 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you can taste.


#7 Positive mental rehearsal


Practise playing positive films in your head. When you're comfortable and relaxed, visualise your presentation going well and the audience responding positively. Use positive mental rehearsal to form neural pathways in your brain which will ensure that, when you come to give the actual talk, your brain thinks you’ve done it many times before, and it’s always gone well, so why be nervous?


#8 Put pressure elsewhere


If you make your presentation interactive, you will feel much less pressurised as the focus of attention is not just on you.


It then becomes more like a conversation between you and the audience. That works well for your delegates too, who feel more included and are less likely to get bored.


#9 Professional feedback.


Make sure you keep improving by seeking feedback.


Better than asking people informally how they thought it went, ask them to write their feedback down, anonymously if necessary. Get them to scale elements such as presentation and content on a 1-10 and to suggest any thing that needs changing.


You don’t need to act on every single comment but, if a pattern appears and many people make the same observation, it’s worth considering some changes.


#10 Persevere


Keep on keeping on.


In the spirit of ‘no failure, only feedback’, accept you won’t get it right first time. Fail your way to success by continuing to give talks whenever you can.


Accept all invitations to speak, until public speaking becomes just another skill-set you have. You will certainly be the envy of all those who would rather ‘be in the box.’

Positive mental rehearsal, dissociation, goal setting, therapeutic story, mindfulness, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, psycho education, affirmations, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training.

Fusion: A model, a system and a toolbox

Posted on February 28, 2016 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (44)

I'm pleased to say I'm having enquiries every day now from practitioners about training with Fusion.


Some are coaches who want to deepen their therapeutic skills, or counsellors who want to integrate coaching into their working practise.


Some are hypnotherapists who are using powerful techniques and want to access a theoretical model to safely underpin their work. Sometimes it's teachers who want a better way to work alongside troubles young people, or doctors who want to expand their understanding of mental health in a way which empowers their patients to take responsibility for their own emotional wellbeing.


More recently, many are professionals who want to become trainers. The courses are filling steadily and the £100 early booking discount for the Diploma in September will end on 1st March.


What's the USP?


Some of those who have contacted me have asked for a clear idea of what Fusion represents and what makes it unique.


In short, Fusion is a helpful and hopeful lens through which to view mental health and resilience. It is a mindfulness-based system that promotes emotional intelligence and a toolbox of mind management skills which are both easy to learn and easy to teach.


For practitioners, it is a practical, holistic, solution-focused, working model which integrates core counselling skills and advanced coaching tools, with fast track training and a helpful session by session post completion manual.


Fusion: The Model


As we learn and grow as children, we begin to develop beliefs about the world, based on our background, culture and life experiences.


From this, we construct our personal philosophy or ‘model of reality’. It becomes the belief system from which we draw up an ‘internal map’ we then use to navigate the world in which we find ourselves. It also becomes the lens through which we ‘see’ people and events.


To be helpful, our model of reality needs to be positive, empowering and hopeful.


The Fusion model is based on the idea that human beings have physical and emotional needs; that our emotions, instincts and behaviours have evolved to push us towards getting those needs met; and that with mindful awareness, we will make good choices, so that we can flourish and become our 'best selves'.


Fusion: The System


In addition to our personal model of reality, we develop systems.


They become the habits of behaviour we repeat every day which, once learned, become 'automatic'. Things like brushing our teeth or driving to work. Once established, we do not think about them or challenge them and they become our habitual way of 'being'.


But often these habitual patterns are not serving us well. They are negative or based on an outdated or unhelpful model of reality. It's like we are running the wrong software and wondering why our lives are not working well.


The mindfulness-based STOP System™ helps us make good choices and helps us respond to life’s triggers with emotional intelligence rather than react mindlessly. In this way, we are more likely to get our needs met, experience greater wellbeing and live our best lives.


Fusion: The Toolbox


Neuroscience is providing an ever-increasing understanding about our amazing human brain.


With that knowledge, comes practical skills and tools we can all use to help regulate our emotions; to better manage our minds, our lives and our relationships.


Fusion promotes the kind of self help, mind management tips, tools and techniques that anyone can learn.


For practitioners, it provides a range of innovative and effective coaching and psychotherapeutic interventions, to accelerate client progress and improve clinical outcomes.


Fusion: The Manual


The 5 session practitioners’ manual, integrates key counselling skills with advanced coaching tools, based on the Fusion model, the system and the toolbox.


The manual has been test-bedded for over 5 years with great success in the therapeutic coaching charity I founded, with others, in 2009. It is made available to all who successfully complete the NCFE accredited Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma.


Making the model fit the client


Fusion is all about making the work ‘bespoke’ for our clients. We need to make our model fit the client, not the client fit the model. The more tools we have as practitioners, the better the chance of offering something which is ‘a good fit’ for them wherever they are on 'the continuum of wellbeing'.


How to manage your weight, your health (and a lot more) with mindfulness

Posted on February 22, 2016 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (7)


I’ve had a lot of enquiries about the Train the Trainer program. The first training day on 4th April is now closed to new applicants.


There will be a second training day in Lancashire on Monday 11th July, after the northern Diploma program completes. Here in the south, there will be a weekend of training 26th/27th November. You can find out more and also take a look at the updated Integrated Coaching Academy website here.


My blog this week is about using mindfulness for making good choices around food.


We make two or three hundred choices every day about what to eat, when to eat, where to eat and just how much to eat. But with choice comes the potential for making a bad choice and one that is not compatible with our desire for good health.


How often, in the moment, do we react emotionally and mindlessly and make a choice we regret later? When we reach for the fridge handle to release one of the cream cakes that lie within, do we take the time to ask ourselves, ‘will this cake take me towards my goal of losing half a stone, or away from my goal?


If we do, we become mindfully aware. Like standing at a fork in the road, we have the ability to play the film forward and consider the future consequences of the decision we are about to take. That doesn’t just apply to food of course and is one of the reasons clients and practitioners like the STOP System so much, because it is a quick and easy way to ‘remember to remember’ to be aware.


I hope you find the blog useful. It describes a classical mindful eating exercise which we can teach our clients in session....and remember to practice ourselves :)



How to manage your weight, your health (and a lot more)

with mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about focusing; about paying attention in the here and now, in a detached and non-judgemental way. It is both the art and the skill of 'being present'; of being aware of our awareness itself.


It is a way of being truly conscious.


So many of our responses are unconscious; if we are not careful, much of our life can be lived on a kind of autopilot; caught up in memories of the past or imaginings of the future and not really ‘here in the now.’ The things we do unconsciously or automatically have the power to control us and can mean also that we make bad choices.


This is very true when it comes to eating.

Do you really want that biscuit?


How easy is it to open a packet of chocolate biscuits and, before you know it, half of them have gone.


It's as though you have been in a trance-like state; as though someone else is eating the biscuits. And, much of the time we are not eating the biscuits because we are actually hungry, but are looking for something else.


Eating the wrong things or just eating too much can happen as a reaction to external triggers that raise uncomfortable emotions for us. We seek to make ourselves feel better; to calm ourselves down or to self nurture. Many people eat when they get stressed or feel lonely or sad. They are looking for comfort and a quick fix.


And many people make poor food choices because it has simply become a habit.



It might be a biscuit with a cup of tea or a cake with coffee or a bag of crisps with a late-night glass of wine. These patterns and habits get reinforced on a daily basis and can make us pile on the pounds over time.


Mindfulness can help us to make healthy choices, so we can ‘step back’ from habit or automatic reaction and helping us to respond with emotional intelligence. Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to our food so that we are fully aware of it; how it looks, smells, tastes, feels and how our body responds to the eating of it.


Mindfully eating a meal will slow us down, helping us to chew properly and savour the meal. Many of us eat far too quickly; barely tasting what we are eat and certainly not taking the time to really enjoy the food. It can allow us to be aware of whether we are actually hungry at all, or are simply eating to ‘swallow back down’ some uncomfortable feelings.


Being mindful also allows us to have a sense of what our bodies really need to stay healthy and make good choices around food. Eating a raisin is a classical mindfulness practice that brings our full awareness to ‘savouring’. It can be done with any food.


Doing the exercise regularly will help, not just to slow eating down, but to begin to make good choices about what, when, and just how much to eat; and to actually savour the food itself.

Just one raisin: Eating mindfully




Choose a raisin and place it in the palm of your hand or hold between finger and thumb. Focus your attention on the raisin. Be curious, as though you have never seen a raisin before and it is completely new to you.




Allow yourself to really look at the raisin. Give it your full attention and allow your eyes to explore every part of it. Notice where the light shines on it; where the folds and creases fall in to shadow. Notice the shape and uniqueness of this raisin.




Now begin to turn the raisin over between your fingers or in the palm of your hand, exploring the texture, perhaps even closing your eyes to bring up your sense of touch.




Bring the raisin up to your nose and, as you breathe in, inhale the fragrance, aroma and smell. You might also be aware of changes in your mouth or digestive system as a result of doing this.




When you bring the raisin up to the ear and roll it between finger and thumb, does it make a sound?




Put the raisin to your lips and have an awareness of how your hand and arm do this. Place the raisin in the mouth and explore the texture of the raisin with your tongue.




When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin and consciously take one or two bites, noticing what happens, savouring the taste as you chew. Continue until you are ready to swallow the raisin.




Become aware of your intention to swallow the raisin before you swallow.




Continue the awareness exercise as the raisin makes its way down the throat and into your stomach. Scan the body as a whole for a sense of its response after completing this exercise in mindful eating.



Goal setting, therapeutic story, mindfulness, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, psycho education, affirmations, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training.

How mindfulness protects the heart

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (5)

Our mental muscle strengthens with daily exercise. Sitting for just 10 minutes a day will start to have an effect within a couple of weeks. Here is how it helps.


It reduces anxiety and tension


It has been proven that even a few minutes meditating every day can settle and calm both body and mind. A 2015 study conducted on student nurses described very significant stress reduction following regularly use of meditation and biofeedback.



It improves sleep


It is often our chattering mind that keep us tossing and turning at night.


Sleep is not something we do; so much as something we allow to happen, by giving permission to the thinking brain to switch off. There is increasing evidence that meditation and mindfulness in particular, can allow people to step back into what is known as the ‘observing self’, that detached part of your mind which is aware of being aware.


When you are in your observing self, you can allow thoughts to drift by like clouds rather than getting caught up in them.


It strengthens immunity


Following an eight-week study of mindfulness based meditation at the University of Wisconsin, there were demonstrable positive effects on both the brain and immune function of participants.


It calms inflammation


Inflammation is at the root of most diseases.


Inflammation begins the process of arteries clogging with cholesterol. More and more research programmes are showing that mind-body linked therapies like meditation, together with sensible diet and exercise, can have a significant effect on the underlying inflammatory processes which are at the root of many common illnesses.


It lowers blood pressure


It's no secret that stress raises blood pressure and, long-term, this can lead to heart disease and stroke too. One study in particular indicated regular mindfulness-based stress reduction reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over an eight week period.


The evidence, then, is clear. Why would we choose to ignore it?


Meditation, mindfulness and mind management exercises like the STOP System are available to us all, have no nasty contra-indications or side-effects and, until someone finds a way of charging us for the air we breathe, are free. So why not give it a try?


Just getting going with mindfulness can be the hardest thing to do but there's no doubt that, if there's one thing you can do to dramatically reduce your chances of getting heart disease, taking ten minutes to STOP and be mindful is a really great starting point.


How to prevent your heart attack

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (5)

As February is international heart health month, I have focused my blog this week on the benefits of the mindfulness-based STOP System and how meditation plus good mind mangement can reduce allostatic load.


How The STOP System could help prevent your heart attack


We all run background stress.


It's no bad thing if it helps us get out of bed in the morning to tackle that things-to-do list. However, when background stress gets out of hand, our autonomic nervous system goes into overdrive, creating a dangerous combination of increased heart rate and shallow breathing, which can become chronic and cause long-term damage.


But the adrenaline-fuelled fight or flight response is something we absolutely must retain. It is an extraordinary mechanism, and a very efficient one too, if we genuinely are in danger or need to take evasive action quickly. Under stress, the amygdala area of the brain springs into action, like a jumpy patrol guard, pressing all your internal alarm bells.


This prompts the sympathetic nervous system to activate. The adrenals now start pumping, urging you into action.


Once the stressor is gone, stress hormones subside but, if the panic button is pressed over and over again, the system itself begins to break down. This is referred to as ‘allostatic load’ and it’s this that can damage the immune system, accelerate disease…and cause problems with your heart.

Meditation helps

It's fair to say people are becoming more familiar with the idea of the different types of meditation, mindfulness and mind-body therapy. It feels less hippy-ish and new-age than it used to, as the science begins to explain, clarify and support, what practitioners have known for a very long time.

So, if you are considering doing just one thing to help your own heart, in Heart Disease Awareness month and, as a bonus, improve your immune system, digestive health, sleep, and just about every other function of the human body and brain, you might consider adding the STOP System and regular meditation to your mind management toolkit.

How you can rewind trauma

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (60)

When I wrote the book PTSD Resolution, I wanted to shine a light on a quick and easy visualisation exercise that could resolve post traumatic stress symptoms in just one session of therapy.


In this unique fly on the wall account, I relate the true story of a returning veteran who eventually finds the therapeutic helped he needs. The Rewind session is told firstly through his eyes and then from the professional viewpoint, with a detailed explanation and rationale of the Rewind technique with a script for practitioners. I hoped this would encourage more therapists to implement an intervention which is under-used yet very effective.


So I was delighted to hear from my colleague, Dr David Muss, author of the Trauma Trap and originator of Rewind for PTSD, that NICE are looking closely at it as a potentially approved treatment. Here is his e mail:


I am greatly in need to treat asap as many members of the armed forces, active or veterans, as possible.


Why? Because the head of the MOD psychiatrist want to witness me live in action...he could be a determining influence at the forthcoming NICE re-evaluation of their PTSD recommendations. I am happy to treat anywhere in the country, so please think hard, do you know someone in need?


Many thanks, David.

Dr.David C. Muss L.M.S.S.A

Director PTSD Unit, BMI Edgbaston Hospital. Birmingham, UK


If you know a veteran who would like to access Rewind for PTSD completely free of charge, please contact Dr Muss direct on