Now For – ‘The Serenity Programme’

Whilst doing some research for future blog posts today, I stumbled across something else that, like Parabl, had until now escaped my attention (please see blog post ‘Newly Discovered – ‘Parab’!’). This is – ‘The Serenity Programme’, which is brought to us by Steve Cottrell, who describes himself as a mental health nurse in north Wales
Although The Serenity Programme is being promoted as ‘therapy’, as with Parabl, there are not many therapists involved. Once more, we are taken into the realms of CCBT – ie. CBT via computer. (I note that there is a link to Parabl on The Serenity Programme’s website.) The Serenity Programme advertises itself as being for people with stress, anxiety and depression. As with Parabl, the website is littered with alleged comments from unidentified people at various locations in north Wales telling the world how great The Serenity Programme is. The Serenity Programme’s website has links to some very cheap and cheerful ‘psychological tests’ and a brief ‘self-help programme’. But scroll through to the end of the spiel on the website – and you’ll find a little note explaining that The Serenity Programme isn’t meant to take the place of face to face contact with a health professional – readers are told that if they are seeking health advice or are in crisis or seeking urgent help they should contact NHS Direct or the Samaritans. So as with Parabl, it doesn’t look as though the Serenity Programme is going to be offering any help to anyone who might actually need it.
Despite these severe limitations, Steve Cottrell proudly boasts of all the awards that The Serenity Programme has clocked up – Welsh Innovations In Healthcare, British Journal of Nursing Clinical Practice, Royal College of Nursing, Best Mental Health Nursing Project In Wales, Bevan Institute Prize for Health and Well-Being and Fab NHS Stuff. There’s even a photo of Steve meeting Gordon Brown at a Downing Street reception! Do any of these people know that The Serenity Programme is not actually offering any help to anyone in distress? And do they know what is going on in the mental health services in north Wales (sadly, I suspect that some of them do, but they’ve decided not to delve too deeply into that particular can of worms). Steve also lists a number of people whom he thanks for having helped develop The Serenity Programme – there are a few familiar names here: Dr David Crossley (a psychiatrist employed by the Betsi who trained at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, who will be featuring on this blog soon), Dr Rob Poole (another psychiatrist at the Betsi who features in blog posts ‘Service User Involvement In North Wales’ and ‘Experts in Suicide Prevention??’), Robin Holden (former Denbigh nurse, former senior nurse manager at the Hergest Unit and now I see ‘MIND Executive’ too (please see blog post ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’ and ‘A Convenient Arrangement With The Private Sector’), Clive Wolfendale of Parabl (Clive is also the most senior manager in the organisation that Dr Dafydd Alun Jones founded and still chairs, CAIS), Sean Clarke (that’s the man at the Betsi who commissioned Parabl and also doubles up as Clinical Programme Manager, Primary Care and Psychological Therapies at the Betsi), Dr Seren Roberts (who I think is a former Denbigh nurse as well) etc etc. Steve mentions that The Serenity Programme was developed in partnership with Aberconwy MIND – why are we not surprised?
After reading all this vacuous guff from the Award-winning, Prime Minister-meeting, Fab NHS Stuff-producing Steve, I’d nearly had enough, but thought that I’d better click on the menu provided on the website in case there were further horrors for me to discover. I wasn’t disappointed.
Clicking on ‘Cwm Taf First Steps’ on the menu led me to yet another programme for people with stress, anxiety, low mood and indeed ‘low self-esteem’. Once more, this is not for people who are a risk to themselves or others or who lack ‘motivation, concentration or energy’ ie. anyone who might be seriously ill. First Steps is an ‘educational programme’ with ‘telephone support’ – and yes, computerised CBT, what else?? I note that the ‘telephone support’ is certainly brief (15-30 mins or so) and further digging suggests that those on the end of the telephone are not actually therapists at all. This becomes obvious if you download the ‘helpers resources’ from the site – these are a series of very basic powerpoint presentations that would not fool anyone who had received training in psychotherapy. I was interested to read on one of the helper’s presentations that it was stated that ‘if people can fall in love in chatrooms, by letter, or by e mail, then the medium can sustain a relationship and allow therapeutic, affective (sic) work’. Now what often happens when people fall in love in chatrooms, by letter or by e mail? THEY GET SWINDLED BY CONMEN….
There is loads more nonsense on the other powerpoint presentations available to download, but the powerpoint tantalisingly entitled ‘War and Peace’ excels. Within this, there claims to be ‘A Brief History of Violence’ which seems to involve a whole series of crude racial and gender stereotypes, some very dodgy misunderstood archaeology and anthropology, and photos of ‘Neanderthal man’ that are so ridiculous that I began to wonder whether this whole website was a spoof. It seems that ‘War and Peace’ is a conference presentation on anger for the Betsi by Steve Cottrell…
So this is what the NHS deems worthy of awards – and Steve gets to live it up at Downing Street whilst patients continue to die.