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Our vision of mental and emotional health increases the focus on emotions, values the emotional heart of service provision and minimises stigma by celebrating diversity.

“The heart of our work is the hurt in our hearts”

Increasing the focus on emotional health

Emotions, such as grief, anger, fear, despair and shame, are the core experiences of most so-called ‘mental’ health problems. This is especially so for people needing help with the distress which comes from everyday life problems or from common emotional/mental health problems (e.g. depression or anxiety).

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We also know that the biggest impact on biophysical health stems from lifestyle problems, addiction for example, underlying which there is often an emotional issue. Moreover, there is a cross-over between lifestyle habits and mental and emotional health. For example, a strong link between mental health problems and smoking has been identified.

“… patients don’t care what you know until they know that you care”

Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Deji Ayonrinde (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust)

The emotional heart of service provision

We live in a society where science and technology have achieved amazing progress and where a rational-technical approach to problem solving is therefore highly valued. Unfortunately, however, this has also led the general devaluing, and sometimes downright neglect of, our emotional lives. Because of the enormous success of science and technology we have assumed that mental health problems can also be solved by a rational-technical approach. Emotions, however, are by definition not rational and we need to learn to accept that emotional problems require emotion-focused solutions.

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When a child is emotionally distressed their parent needs to respond in an emotion-focused way by offering emotional support that helps the child to feel better. Offering a purely rational-technical solution to their distress would probably make them feel much worse. If we let go of our infatuation with the rational-technical approach to problem solving it soon becomes very clear that offering these types of solutions to mental health problems is actually a little crazy.

Minimising stigma by celebrating diversity

Stigmatisation and stereo-typing is a common emotional response to mental health problems, which is still surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and fear. This causes a great deal of emotional distress for service users. We need to move away from this towards a society of greater toleration, eventually creating one that celebrates neuro-diversity and supports the social space for it to flourish.

A key part of the problem here is that the current ‘disease model’ of mental ill-health is addicted to the concept of ‘wrongness’, allied to diagnostic labels that merely describe rather than explain and are often issued on spurious, pseudo-scientific grounds.

Most recent posts about emotion-focused care


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