Comics: A a great way to explore life issues with youths

Jenny Drew’s new book Cartooning Teen Stories is full of activities based on comic-making to help young people explore life issues. Read on to learn about how comics can be used as therapeutic tools.
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My work brings me into contact with other people who have somehow not been able to take their place in the world. Experiencing trauma, social marginalisation, unmet emotional needs, all contributes to difficulties in being able to make sense of their own narrative within their social context. They just don’t ‘fit in’.

Alfie had started off life this way. He had a diagnosis of attachment disorder due to early abuse from those who were supposed to protect him. He found it difficult to form relationships and regulate his emotions. He’d been refusing to go to lessons – wandering the corridors instead, and sometimes going off site where he’d be picked up by police. When I met with him in school we’d be given a tiny room that was also used as a storage cupboard. It can be very awkward and a little intense, sitting in a cupboard with a complete stranger, expecting them to tell you about their life. They don’t really understand who you are or what you want from them. You’re probably just another adult who expects them to be something ‘better’ than they are. If I ask him direct questions, he shrugs and says ‘dunno’.

Cartooning Teen StoriesHe creates a diversion by picking things up, opening drawers, experimenting with how much he can lean out of the window before I freak out. He gets on the floor and sits under the table, facing the wall, drawing on the cracked paint with a pencil. At the end I ask him if he’ll see me again next week. ‘I dunno, depends,’ he says.

The next week I lay out things on the small table – a tiny finger skateboard, some sharpies and a big sheet of paper. When he comes in he immediately grabs the skateboard and pushes it around the room with his fingers. He shows me some ‘tricks’. He seems in a better mood today. Then he picks up a marker and says suspiciously ‘what’s this for?’. I tell him I put those out so he can draw or scribble or write on the paper while we talk. I said I think it’s easier to talk when you’re doing something else at the same time. He picks up a pen and writes his name, in tiny letters in the corner. He looks at me. Then he picks up all of the pens and holds them all tightly in his fist, and with a burst of energy, scribbles across the whole paper until there is no white space left. He slumps back in his chair. ‘Can I go now?’ Of course, I say. He grabs his bag and walks out.

The next session I suggest we play a game. I’ll draw a line or a shape, then you can draw one, and we’ll keep going until we’ve got a picture. As an image of a strange figure with giant orange eyeballs and a purple dog emerges, we start to form the beginnings of a silent shared humour. Each shape I draw is a response to his last one. When I embellish something that he’s started, he gives me a little look and a smile. When we’ve finished I tell him he can give the picture a title.

YOU! HA HA HA!!! He writes, and we both sign our names. He puts the picture in his bag.

What’s the point of all this? We haven’t gotten to the bottom of why he isn’t going to class or why he broke into a farm last week and ran around with a chicken under his arm when he was supposed to be learning geometric equations.

Cartooning Teen StoriesThe point is that at an early age, he formed an internal ‘life script’, which offered him the best hope of protection from adults who can’t be trusted. My job is to very carefully and gently challenge that script, before I can do any of the other work with him. In the coming year, he helped me write the story of ‘Brian’, the character in my book who has ADHD. He mapped out his stories with images and scribbles and panel comics, and he made trump cards to identify his feelings and how they begin the paths that lead him to trouble. He shares some of the things he’s made with professionals and carers in his ‘a Team Around the Child’ meetings. He doesn’t say a lot, but he makes his feelings and perspective known through his words and images. He still has ups and downs but I believe that this bit of work has given him the opportunity to change his script and begin to find his voice.

Humans have always told each other stories to make sense of the world. If young people don’t get support to understand their narratives, and they can’t see their stories reflected anywhere else in the world, it will impact their ability to understand who they are and interact with their environment in adulthood. With comics – sequential text and / or images that tell a story – they don’t need to be outspoken, completely literate or good at art. They can explore their world from different angles. Find hidden memories. Express them. Connect with others. In providing this opportunity we can change internal script messages of ‘I don’t matter’, ‘no-one listens to me’, ‘I have nothing to say’. And for the reader – a new way of looking at the world – uniquely through the eyes of the young people so many of us want to help.

View extract: Comic 2 – Brian – The Story of a Young Person with ADHD

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Cartooning Teen Stories

ISBN: 978-1-84905-631-1

Price: £22.99

Available now!

Learn more

‘The Forgiveness Project’ book – 12 years in the making.

Author Marina Cantacuzino explains how a journalistic idea evolved into the charity  The Forgiveness Project; dedicated to building understanding, encouraging reflection and enabling people to reconcile with pain and move forward from trauma in their own lives. Eventually, her work with the charity led to the publication of The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age – Marina explains how it came about and why she wanted to create a book from the stories she’d heard and the messages she’d learned. 


In 2004, after 15 years as a print journalist, I founded a charity more by default than design. I had created an exhibition (entirely journalistic in format with personal testimonies hung alongside photographic portraits) which explored forgiveness in the face of atrocity. It was meant to be a one-off event but the public response was so overwhelmingly positive that it led to me founding The Forgiveness Project charity.  The next 12 years was spent consumed by running it, whilst my writing took very much a backseat in my life.  So being commissioned by JKP to write The Forgiveness The Forgiveness ProjectProject: Stories for a Vengeful Age, became a project very close to my heart – not only because it was about a subject I was by now totally enthralled by but also because it brought me back to first love of writing.

My lengthy introductory essay in the book encompassed everything I wanted to say about this complex subject of forgiveness. I had no wish to add to the already extensive literature out there analysing the subject from a philosophical, psychological, religious or personal point of view.  I just wanted to share and illustrate my understanding of forgiveness clearly through real stories.

I had already met and interviewed, and in many cases developed a personal relationship with, the people whose stories I wanted to share so the really difficult thing was deciding which of the 140 stories already on The Forgiveness Project website should become a part of the book. In the end I felt far too close to the content to make what felt like such a personal choice and so asked JKP editors, along with other selected readers, to help me select 40 stories which would best present forgiveness as nuanced, messy, painful but fundamentally transformative.  In this hotly contested territory  the only thing I know for sure is that the act of forgiving is fluid and active, can change from day to day hour to hour depending on how you feel when you wake in the morning or what triggers you during the day.  Forgiveness can unfold like a mysterious discovery, or it can be a totally conscious decision, something you line yourself up for having exhausted all other options.   The stories had to reflect this fluidity and present different and diverse positions.

I wanted the Foreword to be written by The Forgiveness Project’s founding Patron, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who admired the charity’s work and who I had met on a couple of occasions.  However, trying to get this request to him, through several different channels, proved fruitless.  After six months I had still heard nothing back and so instead asked the author Alexander McCall Smith. Although perhaps not quite the international Forgiveness figure that Tutu was, nevertheless McCall Smith was a world famous author who I knew believed in the power of forgiveness.  Some years back, out of the blue he’d sent a letter to our offices saying:

‘I am very interested in the subject of forgiveness – it is a theme that I explore in a number of my novels. The importance of forgiveness is something that has definitely been lost in an age of confrontation and recrimination.  So the work you are engaged in is of immense significance.’

Alexander McCall-Smith was quick to respond positively to my request and has written a Foreword which is both insightful and intriguing.  And then, just as the final manuscript was done and dusted, I heard from Desmond Tutu himself saying he was indeed more than happy to contribute a Foreword to my book.

In the end we used both Forewords – and the book is all the richer for it.


The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age is now available in paperback.

Read the foreword by Alexander McCall Smith here

Read the foreword by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu here

Find out more about the book, watch Marina speak about the subject of Forgiveness, or order your copy on the book page here

How CBT and attribution retraining can improve self-belief – including a free extract

Alicia Chodkiewicz, Child Development psychologist with over ten years’ experience supporting students both inside and outside of the classroom, and co-author of Believing You Can is the First Step to Achieving, shares her insight into some of the issues and solutions surrounding self-belief in students. You can also try out some free sessions from the book by downloading the extract at the end of this post.


Many children can struggle with learning in their middle school years. This is a crucial time for parents and teachers to address what can become deeply entrenched negative self-beliefs about learning.

The way a child thinks shapes how they will approach their learning at school. A student who approaches their learning with positive thoughts is more likely to succeed, whereas one who has negative or unhelpful thoughts is less likely to achieve their full potential. Furthermore, a student with negative thoughts will feel that his views about himself are justified when he fails to achieve high results. This can lead to a negative self-fulfilling prophecy such as ‘why try, I won’t succeed’ used as the learning mantra. This, in turn, can result in students developing entrenched and unhelpful attitudes which can also lead to poor decision making in current learning which inevitably affects future approaches to key areas of education.


Based on an emerging academic field of cognitive psychology, the programme Believing You Can is the First Step to Achieving addresses children’s learning needs through an easy to follow eight module programme for students aged 8-12 which can be delivered in the home, school or therapeutic setting.

The programme aims to increase positive thoughts and attitudes in students when approaching learning tasks, increasing school attainment and overall student wellbeing.

Unhelpful thoughts, such as ‘I can’t do it, I am going to fail’ and ‘I didn’t do well because I am not clever’ can distort the way young students see themselves and lead them to question any chance of future success. The programme teaches students to identify and challenge these unhelpful thoughts and shows them how to transform these thoughts into helpful thinking patterns – such as:

“I can do it if….”

“I do not know what will happen, but even if I do not succeed I can learn from my mistakes”

“I didn’t do well because I used the wrong strategy, next time if I use the right strategy maybe I can get it.”

All students should be supported on their journey to thrive and achieve by becoming more self-aware, confident, and developing coping mechanisms to overcoming difficulties in the future.

It is extremely rewarding to see students engage with these new ways of thinking in their everyday lives. Here is just one example that was shared with me by a classroom teacher after I ran the program with a small group of students.

Our class was playing T-ball against another school who were really, really amazing. It looked like there was little chance of us winning the game. Some of the children on the team despaired, “This is a waste of time, we’re never going to win!” But then a student who had taken part in the Believing You Can program piped up, “If you start the game thinking that we won’t win then we definitely won’t win.” She went on to suggest, “You should at least try to think more positively because then you have more chance of things being better than you expect.” It was great to see the students directly using the skills from the program, and it helped us have a much more positive and enjoyable game.

This programme was designed to support the diversity and range of students who share a classroom and experience unique challenges. For example, the programme supports academically struggling students faced everyday with learning challenges; the high achieving students coping with the anxiety and pressure that comes with perfectionistic thinking; the average students who feel failure because social comparison has caused them to judge themselves against their high achieving peers; and the students who would rather not try, than lose face by trying and failing in front of peers, teachers and parents.

It is not just the children who can benefit from this programme. Adults are not immune to falling into these thinking traps and at times distorted thoughts and unhelpful thinking plague us all regardless of age. I hope that through reading this book and working through the activities with your child, student or client, you will become more aware of the role thoughts play in our lives and be more prepared to challenge any unhelpful thinking. The best way to encourage children to use these techniques is to use them yourself. Therefore start questioning if your thoughts are really telling you the truth, start labelling your distorted thoughts as unhelpful and take the power back by becoming your own superhero.

Try out some free sessions from the programme in this extract.

Find out more about the book here.

10 years on Jeanette Purkis remembers finding her different kind of normal

Purkis_Finding-a-Diffe_978-1-84310-416-2_colourjpg-printTo mark the 10th anniversary of Finding a Different Kind of Normal Jeanette Purkis recalls the events surrounding its publication and the extraordinary effect it has had on her life.10457690_778274212253968_1155163404811294276_o

In January 2006 I was a Masters student living in an unpleasant public housing estate with 100 neighbours, many of whom were drug addicts and alcoholics. One of the residents I can only describe as a stalker; I can say this with certainty as she followed me around for years. Despite these surroundings, I was what one might call ‘aspirational’, that is I was an ex-prisoner and fourteen year veteran of welfare benefits who was going to university for one reason – to get a professional job and escape from the drug addicts, alcoholics, and my stalker.

As far as public housing tenants and ex-prisoners go I was an unusual case, insofar as I was about to become a published author. In late 2004 I had the good fortune of meeting autism advocate, creative prodigy and celebrity author Donna Williams who convinced me that I needed to write out my rather-too-interesting life story. From then on she mentored and supported me through the process which resulted in 197 pages of my exceptionally frank life story and then a contract from Jessica Kingsley Publishers – the first publisher I approached with my manuscript. As soon as I found out my proposal was accepted I told everyone that I would soon be a published author (I even tracked down my rather bemused high school art teacher who I hadn’t seen since 1991). My enthusiasm was matched only by that of my dad who I once observed telling the cashier in a shop (who I’m fairly certain he didn’t know) about my upcoming author-ing. Suddenly my life seemed to be headed towards my aspirations.

The publicity for the book was fascinating. I was interviewed on the BBC Woman’s Hour radio program which involved a chauffeur picking me up from ‘the block’ and
driving me to salubrious South Melbourne where I was interviewed remotely from the UK at the Melbourne studios of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The most exciting thing about my book though was not the novelty, the media attention or the parental bragging rights, but the change in my self-perception. My autobiography did not make me famous or wealthy, but it did something incredible in that it helped to banish my self-doubt and negative perceptions of myself. A published author was surely a good thing to be. When I saw myself after the book came out, I didn’t see the criminal or drug user of my past, I didn’t see a public housing tenant or someone who had been so long on welfare benefits that statistics classified me as ‘outside of the labour force’, instead I saw an author. I have loved books for as long as I can remember, and as a child the characters in novels and their creators were good friends who taught me a lot about how humans operate. Now I had joined the ranks of my publishing heroes and heroines, it is an understatement to say I was excited, Whenever I was in a book shop I would check the shelves and be delighted when I found my little literary creation sitting there happily amongst the smattering of other titles about autism. Three months after the book was released I applied for two professional jobs. I had never
applied for professional jobs before but I was successful in my first attempt and subsequently moved to Canberra to join the Australian Public Service.

The book also opened doors in the autism world. Donna Williams introduced me to autism advocacy and public speaking and I started doing some talks for high school students and teachers. I was also asked to participate in a documentary about the lives of four adults on the autism spectrum. This aired nationally and to this day I am still recognised by people on buses and planes because of it.  Before I wrote the book I had trouble disclosing my Asperger’s diagnosis and was quite uncomfortable with it but writing a book focused on my autism that published internationally forced me to accept my diagnosis. As an autistic author I had something to say about autism and there were people who expected that to be interesting, this was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time!

So what am I doing now, ten years after Finding a Different Kind of Normal was published? I still work for the Australian Public Service; I have been promoted twice and do a lot of work around disability advocacy within my workplace, such as co-chairing the department’s Ability Network. I own my own home, a homely apartment that I like to call Whimsy Manor (that contains over 250 artworks on display at last count). My autism world profile is currently taking off a little bit and people tell me intriguing but confusing things such as ‘you’re Australia’s version of Temple Grandin’. I speak at conferences around Australia and overseas, I did a presentation at TEDx Canberra and recently spoke at an event with Professor Grandin; the highlight of my advocacy career thus far.

My second book was published in 2014, The Wonderful World of Work: A Workbook for Asperteens, and my third (a collaborative work on autism and mental health entitled The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum) is due for release shortly. I am a regular blogger, facilitate a support group for autistic women in Canberra, I have a weekly internet-based radio show and I have written guest blogs, articles and web content for a variety of organisations. I am on the board of two autism associations and am an ambassador for three more. All this started with Donna Williams saying “you need to write your life story Jeanette” and me replying “Yeah, why not”.
The publication of Finding a Different Kind of Normal was probably the most pivotal moment in my life and 10 years on people tell me it is still a pretty good read.

Jeanette Purkis is the author of Finding a Different Kind of Normal The Wonderful World of Work: A Workbook for Asperteens both of which are available from the Jessica Kingsley Publishers website. Her next book The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum is published in March 2016 through Jessica Kingsley Publishers



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Author Joan Drescher, A Journey in the Moon Balloon: When Images Speak Louder than Words, shares highlights from her home in Hingham, Massachussets after a wonderful trip to the 2015 International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“We watched the ‘Dawn Patrol’ rise from the launch field into the dark skies of the Rio Grand Valley. As the sun rose there was a mass ascension of up to 500 balloons.

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Among the high flyers was a British balloon.

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It was 4:00 am when we arrived at the Gondola Club in Fiesta Park where the book signing took place.


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A Journey in the Moon Balloon – When Images Speak Louder Than Words was a big hit. Many excited customers bought personalized signed books to share with their families.


It turned out to be a beautiful day with bright blue skies. Ken, my husband, and I took our first ride in a real hot air balloon.

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With all good wishes,
Joan & Ken


Specific Learning Difficulties: What Teachers Need to Know; an interview with author Diana Hudson.

Diana Hudson is a tutor and mentor to students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), as well as a subject classroom teacher (biology) and learning support teacher and SENCO. She has a diagnosis of dyslexia, and is a parent to four children, three of whom have been diagnosed with SpLD. We talked to her about the inspiration for her book Specific Learning Difficulties – What Teachers Need to Know, and she shares her advice for teachers on how to support children with SpLD’s. 

  1. Tell us a little about your writing process. What inspired you to write the book?
    I became aware of Specific Learning Difficulties because my children were diagnosed with dyslexia. As I supported their learning through school, I could identify the teachers who were helpful and proactive and gave the children confidence despite any difficulties. These teachers are remembered fondly to this day.
    As a biology teacher I tried to encourage and help students with SpLD in my classes and to make my lessons multisensory and fun. I became the first SENCO at a high achieving academic school and I ran staff insets to help teachers understand students with SpLD better and to adapt teaching styles and materials to allow them to thrive. The booklet that I wrote for the insets became the basis for my book.
  1. Your many years of teaching must have provided you with extensive experience and knowledge. What kind of support for students with specific learning difficulties would you like to see more of in schools?
    Early identification of SpLD makes a huge difference.  People usually feel relieved if they are diagnosed and learn that they are not ‘stupid’ after all. Strategies can then be put in place in order to help them achieve their potential.
    A designated adult mentor at school is a great support. It is important that students meet regularly with the mentor and can talk openly and confidently with them.
    The mentor or SENCO should regularly pass on information and any teaching tips to the relevant teaching staff and listen to the teacher’s concerns. Tips could include simple changes such as reacting to the student’s preference for print on a particular coloured paper, preferred fonts and print size, use of technology, any friendship issues, and seating preferences.  Everyone is different so these will vary.
    Hudson- Specific Learning Difficulties - What Teachers Need to Know - pg 17 - imageTeachers should be aware of the student’s strengths and try to work with them, where possible to achieve the learning objective.  Could they, for example, make a poster of a power point presentation rather than writing an essay? Celebrating success is an important step to improving confidence and aspirations.
    Regular communication between the mentor or SENCO and the parents ensures the student knows that school and home are all working together.
  1. You have personally only recently been diagnosed with dyslexia, although you did struggle somewhat in school. You went on to gain a PhD in Zoology and have taught successfully for many years. How do you manage to cope with such a demanding workload? What are some of the techniques and tricks that you use?
    I have learned to work hard and to be stubborn and tenacious if I have a goal in sight. I do not give up easily. I still make errors sometimes but I try to keep my sense of humour and sense of proportion and focus on moving forward counting them as learning experiences and not catastrophes.
    Tricks I use for learning included mnemonics, silly rhymes, repetition, using colour and visual aids, trying to represent things with models. I sometimes make up phrases, poems or songs to fix facts. I record play lines or poems to learn them.
    I have to be well prepared for teaching lessons and I always check key spellings in advance. I set off early for appointments to allow extra time to get lost.
    I enjoy walking, acting and dancing and these hobbies help me to relax and keep a sense of balance.
  1. Your book aims to help teachers support students with learning difficulties better. Was there anyone that supported and mentored you while you were a student? What impact do you think this had on your experiences of studying?
    I was at school at a time before dyslexia was really recognised or understood so I was in the class that was not expected to go to University having failed the 11+ exam.
    I really have to thank my parents for their great support throughout my school and University days, they backed me and had faith in my ability and this helped build my confidence which was of key importance.
    Some of my teachers rated my academic potential as poor but a few stood out as having higher expectations of me. They recognised my skills and potential and tried to help me to work round difficulties and would spend time with me individually.  I was nervous and afraid of some teachers so I really valued those who were cheerful, smiled, and I felt safe with.
    Once at University my professor was very kind and a few of the lecturers helped me individually.
    My PhD supervisor was excellent.
  1. What do you think is the most common misunderstanding about specific learning difficulties?
    That people with SpLD they are unintelligent, careless or not interested.Hudson-English_Specific-Learni_978-1-84905-590-1_colourjpg-print
    Some feel that they are merely used as an excuse to get extra time in exams.
  1. What is the number one thing you hope teachers will take away from your book?
    That SpLD’s are real and cause anguish. A teacher who listens, is sympathetic, supportive and cheerful can makes a huge difference to the life, outlook and prospects of a student with SpLD.

If you want to know more about identifying and supporting students with SpLD’s, check out Diana’s book here

You can also watch  a video of Diana speaking about the topic here.

The Making of ‘Dad’s Not All There Any More – A comic about dementia’.

Alex Demetris is an illustrator, cartoonist and maker of comics. He completed an MA in Illustration in 2012, which resulted in a comic based on his family’s experience of coping with his father’s dementia: Dad’s Not All There Any More – A comic about dementia. Here he shares a little about the process of creating the comic and some of his pre-publication sketches (click to enlarge the images).
Alex also co-authored Grandma’s Box of Memories: Helping Grandma to Remember.

The idea for Dad’s Not All There Any More came to me whilst I was studying for an MA in illustration at Camberwell College of Art.  I had been making comics and drawing cartoons as a hobby for a number of years, and decided to enrol on the MA to see how good I could get by focusing on my hobby full time.

The first term involved writing a proposal for a final project.  I toyed with one or two ideas, but it eventually occurred to me that the most interesting subject I could address in my project was what had been going on in my life right then – my Dad’s illness and how my family was coping with it.




















Preparing for the comic involved talking through Dad’s medical records with my Mum, internet research into Lewy Body Dementia, taking reference photos, and doing a lot of character and planning sketches.

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One thing about making comics is that you can’t really edit them once you have drawn them, so it is necessary to meticulously plan out the best way to get the message across in a limited number of

During my MA I was also learning to use Photoshop as a colouring tool, so I decided to keep the colour scheme simple.  I arrived at the greenish look from some experimentation and feedback from tutors and peers, while the contrasting colouring of the Lewy Bodies and resulting hallucinations in pink developed as I progressed through the comic.Demetris- pg 7 - image

I wanted to create a comic that was entertaining but also educational, to tell a story and also to present facts about a condition that is not well known despite being pretty common.  Additionally, I think that a lot of people view the idea of having a relative in residential care as horrendous, but I wanted to show that in the case of my Dad, who was lucky enough to be admitted to an excellent home, this was not the case at all.  He seemed content and comfortable in residential care, and I enjoyed visiting him there, and seeing what the other residents and staff were up to.

I was very pleased with the final project and am very proud that it has now been properly published.  I hope that, as intended, readers will find it to be both entertaining and educational.

Find out more about the comic, read reviews and order your copy here.

You can also see more of Alex’s work on his website here

All images are copyright Singing Dragon and Alex Demetris.

Finding the link between Mind Clearing and mental health

With over 30 years of experience in Mind Clearing under her belt, Alice Whieldon walks us through her journey as she developed her understanding of mindfulness and mind clearing.



I became interested in the question of what constitutes good help at an early age.  My father had an alternative conference centre in the 1980s and I cooked for the many and varied groups that came through the place for a while, when I left school.  One that particularly struck me was the Enlightenment Intensive (EI), a three day intensive meditation course combining features of a Zen sesshin with partnered talking and listening.  They have been popular since the 1960s and are one of the contributions made by, Charles Berner or Yogishwar (1929-2007).  I joined an EI, pretty much without thinking about it.  I never looked back.

In short, it blew my mind, quite literally, and I did several such workshops over the next few years.  The experiences I had on them gave me a solid grounding in mindfulness mediation as well as personal insights into the human condition that have been invaluable.  I was aware of Mind Clearing, a counselling-style approach associated with the EI, but I was moving on to other things just then and shelved it for another time.

But the EI had opened a different way of being to me and my life, in the 30 years since then, has been shaped by that experience.  I had, at 18, clearly seen two paths before me, one in which I could become an even more sophisticated version of who I thought I might be.  The other, far more compelling was the journey to who I actually am.

The difficulty I then encountered, however, was how to live in that truth and develop my understanding while operating in the world.  So, alongside my academic studies, including a PhD in feminist and spiritual ideas of selfhood, I studied Shiatsu.  I had also come across this Japanese art at the conference centre and it was the one other thing that really touched me.  In that too, I recognised the potential for opening more into Truth.

Life went on and, as I studied and practised I became ever more interested in finding out what really helps us in emerging from the trouble and noise of the mind and working towards deeper fulfilment.  I was never willing to rest until I had made progress in this understanding and experienced for myself how to make it manifest.

In 1997 I met a radical Japanese teacher of the art, Kishi Akinobu.  In his work I again recognised the clarity I had first experienced many years before through the EIs.  So I stopped everything else and studied with him; eventually we wrote a book together, Sei-ki: Life in Resonance, the secret art of Shiatsu, 2011, published by Singing Dragon.

Some of the questions that arose for me while writing that first book were again about the nature of help and I began to think about how to bring the deep soul medicine of Sei-ki to a modern audience through the modern medium of talking.  I also wanted a theory of mind that would enable me to discuss help and progress in a way that made sense to me.  I had studied psychoanalytic theory for my PhD, experienced a good deal of personal psychotherapy and started, though never finished, a training in psychotherapy.  For me, the theory failed to match my actual experience of people and my own view of reality.  But Mind Clearing was different.

When I re-read the lectures Berner had given in the 1970s, informed by his work with Indian guru, Swami Kripalu, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, I began to see the possibility of a theory that not only explained the mind and human condition in a thorough way that made sense of all the work I had done, but it offered a comprehensive formula for what helps and why.  So I decided to write a book on Mind Clearing, partly out of personal interest and a pleasure in writing, but also to offer information and a coherent talking practice that I believed then, and believe more now, was a quietly radical approach that worked.

In time I trained in Mind Clearing and became a practitioner.  I learned that it had far more to offer than I thought at first and also appreciated why no one had written a book about it before, even though it has been around since the late 1960s and has had a steady training programme and enjoyed modest but solid interest.

What I found was that, while Mind Clearing is not a cure-all, it is the most coherent account of the mind and formula for help I have come across.  It looks in many respects like other talking therapies, but at its heart offers something different.  At first the difference may seem a small thing.  But in the gap between – worlds turn.

Mind Clearing grew out of the same philosophy as much mindfulness meditation but digs deeper and explains more.  It too is based on the premise that you are not your mind.  The mind is defined as a substitute for direct communication.  It is the sum of our ideas about people and the world.  We use the mind as a buffer between us and others because we think it keeps us safe from pain.  But the mind is finally in the way of a good relationship and brings only noise and confusion.  It is only by through learning again how to communicate directly instead of through distorted ideas and behaviour that our relationships begin to heal and we can find the deep fulfilment we are looking for.

This account will be more or less recognisable to many who know about psychotherapy.  What Mind Clearing offers over and above this is a focus and clarity in identifying what it is about help through communication that leads to fundamental change and greater happiness.  By identifying the key it enables us to take out some of the guesswork and makes help more effective and replicable. Mind Clearing is a big help.  It speaks to the real you buried in the mind and invites it to step forward.

But you do not have to become a Mind Clearing practitioner to benefit from it.  The description Berner gave of the mind, confluent with that of Patanjali, is valuable for its clarity and the freedom that offers.

This book is just an introduction.  It barely touches the depths of Berner’s work but will, I hope, offer enough to be useful.  It takes the next step in the mindfulness revolution in bringing that understanding into the heart of one-to-one communication and assistance.  It goes beyond just being present to what is going on and introduces the dynamism of the now that opens when communication is repaired.

Alice Whieldon is a Mind Clearing practitioner, a Shiatsu practitioner and teacher, as well as an Associate Lecturer with The Open University. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Alice is the co-author of Seiki: Life in Resonance, The Secret Art of Shiatsu, also published by Singing Dragon, and she lives in London and Norwich, UK.



Mind Clearing


Available now!



International Day of Persons with Disabilities – rights-based approaches to living better with dementia

As today is the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and in support of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and Dementia Alliance International (DAI)’s  call for global Gordon-Swaffer-_Living-Better-w_978-1-84905-600-7_colourjpg-printrecognition of dementia as a disability, we wanted to share this short extract on rights-based approaches from Shibley Rahman’s recently published book, Living Better with Dementia: Good Practice and Innovation for the Future.
Read the full extract, which includes Kate Swaffer’s prescribed disengagementTM  model, here.

You can also read Shibley’s blog post on this topic; “Dementia as a disability needs to encourage sustainable achievable goals”, here.

To find out more about Living Better with Dementia, read reviews or order your copy, visit the book page here.