It was a day full of anticipation, full of excitement and of the unknown.
When you hear about TED, your mind immediately gets drawn to all kinds of images, big crowds, the Madonna mic, the red circle, hard-hitting and inspiring talks. TEDx Glasgow had it all and it was such a joy and an honour to have been a part of it.
Speaking is one of those things that I have a strange connection with. I’ve always been a good communicator when academic performances were poor growing up, I was always able to communicate well with others. There is something about speaking in front of large groups that causes huge anxiety but also creates enormous excitement.
I suppose in some ways it’s like the person that does ultra marathons. We might think that it’s terrifying, anxiety-provoking and gut-wrenching, the person that does the ultra marathon would probably agree, but they are still going to sign up for the next one.
I feel similarly with regards to speaking, I love it, I love the buzz and the anticipation. If I’m honest, I love the idea of communicating expertise and knowledge to a group of willing ears.
This passion for speaking and my passion for mental health and especially men’s mental health drew me to TEDx Glasgow. With over 2,000 people in attendance, it’s one of the biggest TEDx platforms on earth.
It was a number of months of applying and going through different rounds of the application process, finally hearing that I had been accepted as a speaker a few months before the talk.
I was immediately assigned a coach who was incredible and who I met with each week. We discussed the topic of my talk, The Male Identity Crisis. We looked at the message I wanted to convey and how I would manage this in just 8 minutes.
This was unlike any talk I had ever given before. I had to do more than just communicate research and empirical findings, I had to illustrate my story and discuss why this topic was so important to me.
I was anxious about memorising my script. It was 8 minutes long and I had no idea how I was going to memorise all the words and sentences that my coach and I had so painstakingly gone through with a fine-tooth comb. My dyslexia means that its really difficult for me to absorb the written word at times. As a result, I decided to create some illustrations of my talk notes.
This has always been helpful for me, rather than memorising words, I could memorise the images and remember what words I needed to say when each image popped up in my mind.
You can check out those images below here:
Men’s mental health is not only the main focus of my research on my counselling psychology doctorate, but it is also my passion. The fact that 78% of all suicides are completed by men, that 84 men a week take their own lives and that only one-third of the population of people in therapy are men.
The statistics are staggering and for me, one of the biggest contributing factors to the epidemic of men’s mental health and suicide is male identity and how we view men.
The way that men are viewed in society today, with what I think ha an element of a predatory nature, is the biggest component of men’s mental illness and male suicide I feel. In many ways, men are now encouraged to be vulnerable, to talk about how they feel and to seek help. However, at the same time, men are still expected to adhere to stereotypical masculine norms like being autonomous, not showing emotion and never asking for help.
It’s this conflicting identity that I feel leads to this male identity crisis and ultimately to men’s mental illness and male suicide.
The day finally arrived and it brought with it everything I had come to stereotypically associate with TED events. Massive crowds, the TED logo everywhere, art and different types of performers. It was amazing and difficult to not get drawn into the anxiety that came with speaking on such a platform.
I was keen to be around people as much as possible, I’m not someone that finds massive benefit in isolated moments during such anxious times. I spoke to family members and friends and chatted to volunteers in the green room.
I checked out a couple of the talks from some of the other amazing speakers and got prepared by rehearsing my full talk with my coach.
Waiting backstage was, of course, nerve raking but I was excited to get going.
The most anxious moment was getting strapped up with the mic and standing at the side of the stage, ready to give my talk.
Walking to the red circle felt like it took 20 minutes but when I got there, I was able to look out and felt a sense of confidence that I could remember my talk and communicate it well.
I always find that once you face a fear and prepare well in advance, you gain a real sense of accomplishment and joy from overcoming something that was originally a barrier for you. That’s exactly how I felt with this.
Doing my GetPsyched videos was of course initially nerve raking, no one really likes being filmed initially. However, that eventually became routine. This was very very different.
In truth, I have to say I really enjoyed every second of giving my talk. The joy of this whole process, the months of preparing, rehearsing and amending my script all concluded with what was an awesome day.
Since then the opportunities for speaking and connecting with others have really grown, but I don’t want this blog post to be just about me. I want to give some advice and belief to people that want to undertake a TED talk but perhaps think it’s out of their reach.
So, here are some of my top tips for getting started:
You absolutely are capable of doing it. TED talks might have a huge global status and platform but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply or speak. TED is looking for innovating and interesting ideas, we all have those. So my first piece of advice is to believe that this is an option for you.
When thinking of an idea to talk about, it doesn’t have to be a “never before heard of” topic. It could be a topic that we all understand but given a different angle due to your subject appreciation. Think about a topic you love and how that topic might be appreciated different because of your own living experience.
Apply! You could spend months building up the courage and constructing ideas, but you’ll get nowhere if you don’t send that application form!
The important thing is not about how well you know the topic, or how smart you can sound. The key to any process with a TED talk is to discuss what it means to you. What is your story connected to your topic? How can people connect with the story through you?
I encourage anyone thinking about doing something like this to go for it. TEDx Glasgow is one of the most incredible events and one of the biggest honours of my life!
Before I begin I want to say that there will be numerous people that disagree with me and that’s totally ok. I love psychology, obviously, but there are numerous issues in the field today overall that I have felt are prevalent in psychology and that I think need discussing.
The first thing that I feel is important to highlight is the emphasis and focus given only to empirical literature in psychology.
No, we need empirical lit, don’t get me wrong. We need research backing in everything we do. As a psychologist, you are also a scientist and must use empirically backed information. Furthermore, this isn’t an attempt by me to say that we should stop the process of empirical literature, not by any means.
I want to ensure I am being clear and that my point is not misconstrued here.
My question is though, do we focus on empirical literature too much in psychology, to the detriment of other mediums of communicating psychological information and findings?
I am a great believer in psychologists and those working in the mental health profession being more in the public awareness and in public domains. One of the main questions I ask here is, are psychologists not focusing enough on where the public is?
I’ve spoken about this a lot recently, and it was actually one of the things that led me to create GetPsyched in the first place.
We as psychologists, trainees and mental health practitioners, need to be in the mainstream where the people are.
The public doesn’t read empirical literature often. Yes, they feel the impact of it when psychologists utilise empirical principles, but they don’t absorb the content directly. We need psychologists to be on social media, on YouTube, on blogs, in the mainstream where people actually absorb content on a regular basis.
For example, name one publically recognisable psychologist. Name a recent study in psychology that grabbed the public attention. It’s difficult, nearly impossible, to see where psychology is branching from vital empirical literature and communicating it to the masses, where it needs to be absorbed and understood. We need psychologists to be in mediums where their work and what they do is recognised and appreciated.
Processes of getting published, and the value this has for professionals
This kind of leads me to my next point
The actual process of getting published is very challenging, again rightly so. This means that we get the most robust literature into the field of psychology, we need to be scrupulous and challenging of the literature we accept.
There is something to be said about the difficulty that students and new researchers have in getting published as a result though, but this isn’t necessarily something I would directly change.
What I do think is an issue is how psychology researchers are given value based on the number of publications they have to their name.
Now, you might not think this is such an issue, but I do.
Researchers based at universities are often ranked based on the number of publications they get.
This can at times have consequences where researchers break up pieces of research in order to publish multiple articles and not just one big one…again you might not think it’s a big deal.
However, the fact that this goes on speaks to the motives behind this valuable empirical literature.
It’s often not a case of getting their best work out there, sometimes it is of course, but other times its to boost the name and the credibility of the individual and that doesn’t sit well with me.
What’s more, is that the pull to publish more work can at times lead to shoddy results. Now, this is in part why it’s so important to have a critical eye in psychology, but I do not think we address this enough.
It’s not uncommon for researchers to manipulate data to their favour and in ways that give outputs that they want. It might be to get more funding, it might be to boost their position as a researcher, either way, it’s not ok.
I don’t want you leaving thinking I hate empirical literature, I in no way do. In truth, I believe in developing more empirical literature. The research backing I have as counselling psychology is based in empirically backed considerations. This is something I would never change. I believe in the scrupulous nature of publishing research also. However, the points I have discussed here are ones I feel need addressed.
Unequal appreciation of different branches
For me, this is a big one.
In the UK we have a disparity between different branches of psychology.
Let me make this clear from the beginning.
No one branch of psychology is more important or valuable than another!
If you are a doctor in applied psychology then you are equal to all other applied psychologists, clinical, educational, counselling, health, sports and exercise. We don’t fully appreciate that often in this country.
I’m going to try and take bias out of this as much as I can as I am a counselling psychologist in training. However, the way we look at clinical psychology and its hierarchical nature isn’t ok. Every now again on twitter ill voice this…it often doesn’t go down well.
People still see clinical as superior…it’s not.
In the UK we think it is, often because the training is fully funded, with a £26,000 a year salary attached.
Again, I’ve had some Twitter discussions about how this isn’t ok also.
However, the NHS and here in the UK have given clinical this hierarchical nature. I work with some people who are counselling psychologists and counselling psychologists in training that are not allowed to work with borderline personality disorders, it’s left to the clinical psychologists.
This isn’t right, it has no research backing, and it is against the egalitarian nature of all applied psychologies.
Counselling psychologists can work with a client diagnosed with BPD just as well as any other. One of the only ways this is going to change is with the funding situation.
Challenges with the direct route for undergrads
My next issue with psychology right now is the route and options for undergraduate psychology students. A very small percentage of undergraduates in psychology pursue a career in the field.
In large I think much of this has to do with not enough information or development of direct routes into careers in psychology.
If psychology is going to see developments in people coming through the ranks then I really think initiatives like apprenticeships, internship and opportunities for experience need to be provided by universities.
Non-accredited counsellors and therapists
This is an area that might not be directly attributed to psychology itself, but it is something psychology can stand up for and that will help it in its development I feel.
There are so many non-accredited ‘therapists’ and ‘counsellors’ out there. I have spoken to many and even worked with some in the past. The fact that an individual can legally call themselves counsellor or a therapist is discrediting to the therapeutic industry, and psychology as a whole.
Legally no one can call themselves a psychologist if they do not have a doctorate. However, literally, anyone can call themselves a therapist, counsellor or psychotherapist.
A lot of the time counselling psychologists actually call themselves therapists and this can blur the lines even further.
In part, this is a job for governing bodies here in the UK such as the BACP to develop guidelines of accreditation.
Challenges in developing clinical experience for students
When I did a bit of market research for this topic, the challenges for developing clinical experience for psychology student came out as a big concern.
Students seem more and more frustrated in psychology with the difficulties in gaining clinical experience
However, I can empathise with the challenges and frustrations experienced by undergraduates. In part, I feel that the view that psychology is often seen as a route to multiple careers not a career in psychology is a major contributing factor.
In many ways, this connects to one of my previous points. Psychology must do better in informing undergraduate students about the opportunities that are available in psychology.
We must do more to encourage students to pursue careers in psychology!
I started my YouTube channel GetPsyched just over a year ago. The object was for me to engage with a wider audience, to take on the role as a voice for psychology students and people just generally interested in psychology.
As I developed my YouTube channel, I also invested in developing my social media accounts.
From there, things really took off for me. I was seeing weekly growth and deeper engagement with a larger audience of psychology students and professionals and people just generally interested in psychology.
However, about six months into the development of GetPsyched. PsychReg invited me to speak at their upcoming international conference in the Philippines.
I was blown away. After an incredible amount of work and extra effort, I was gaining enough recognition to be asked as a speaker at a huge conference.
The conference itself with incredible. There were speakers and delegates from all over the world that sought to communicate revolutionary findings in psychology and education, as well as network and experience a new and diverse culture.
The Philippines and New Era University in Quezon City, Manila welcomed us with unapparelled hospitality.
The students and delegates that attended the conference had such an interesting background of experiences and a strong desire to learn more.
Throughout the conference, each speaker had the opportunity to engage with attendees that wanted to learn more about their topics. Seeing such an enthusiasm for psychology and education was amazing to witness.
It made me think more about the responsibility we hold as people that work and study in psychology and education. Our research and our learning outcomes are not only applicable to the country where we work but all over the world too.
We live in an age where we can share ideas, thoughts and findings to massive audiences across the world. As a result, new collaborative approaches to things such as mental health, schooling of young children and human rights can be shared and developed. This conference was an illustration of all of this. It was an opportunity to share amongst new colleagues and witness new ideas unfold.
My presentation was on my recent findings on a widespread literature review of men’s mental health.
I covered concepts such as toxic masculinity, male identity and issues with therapeutic uptake in men.
The opportunity itself was genuinely life-changing. I found myself on the other side of the world with some of the most prominent and inspiring figures in the field of psychology and education.
After being unsure as to whether developing online content in psychology was a good idea, I cannot describe how grateful I am to PsychReg and all others that have supported me in developing GetPsyched.
I suppose this post is not one of new information or insight, or perhaps for some, it is. I hope that this article can be utilised as motivation for anyone considering stepping out into a new domain, or those willing to think outside the box a little.
Taking a step of faith and being consistent with what you develop and the passion you show for what you do will always work! It will always provide you with what you hope for and so much more! There is no downside to working hard, showing extra effort and developing your passion for something you care about. There will only always be positivity, and at times opportunities that you cannot believe have presented themselves.
Positive thinking has been in mainstream headlines and psychology headlines for a number of years now.
It’s something you are probably well familiar with, but what exactly does it mean and what are the true psychological and well-being ramifications of positive thinking?
So, before we start, what exactly is positive thinking?
One of the first issues here is that you might be tempted to think that positive thinking is looking at the world without any negativity, like looking through rose glasses.
It means having a positive outlook in spite of everyday challenges and barriers we all face.
The psychologist Martin Seligman gives an explanatory understanding in illustrating what positive thinking is.
He states that positive thinkers are able to absorb the good things that happen and can see negative outcomes as external to them and as temporary and fixable.
On the other hand, negative out lookers blame themselves for circumstances they can’t control.
They fail to give themselves credit.
They view negative events as lasting and expected, and they view challenges as insurmountable.
So, now we know what positive thinking is and isn’t. What then can we do to adopt more positive thinking and what could this do for our well-being?
In recent years, pop psychology books have made positive thinking popular.
However, positive thinking has real empirical research that shows massive health and well-being benefits.
Benefits such as:
Longer life span
Increase resistance to infection
Lower depression rates
So why are there all these benefits from positive thinking?
Well, first of all, its clear that positive thinking is linked to other things that improve our health and well-being.
By thinking more positively, we adopt a tougher protection to things like stress and anxiety, we also tend to live healthier lives in general.
All of this positive thinking stuff sounds great then, but how can YOU develop a life with more positive thinking and gain all these incredible benefits?
Well, the first thing you can do is to be aware of your inner monologue. What is your inner monologue saying to you? Is it positive or negative?
By doing this, we can start to understand the source of our positive and negative thinking patterns.
Dependent on the situation and context, your inner monologue might tell you something really detrimental and negative. Knowing what situation this happens in is the first step to developing a more positive outlook.
Understand and evaluate how you think in difficult situations.
For example, for me when things go wrong, I am quick to think that my situation is unfixable and that the situation is inevitably going to get worse.
What is best for me here is to focus on my successes so far, understand that difficulty is part of what I am doing and that I have made it through similar circumstances before.
By being realistic about my circumstances and the situation I face and knowing that I have faced similar situations before, I develop my positive outlook and my positive thinking patterns.
Understand your own blame game
One of the defining features of negative thinkers is that they are quick to blame themselves, regardless of the circumstance.
This doesn’t mean as a positive thinker you need to blame others.
It means that as a positive thinker you need to be realistic with the blame you dish out.
Understanding what you are capable of improving and working on rather than fixating on what you cant control goes a long way to improving your positive thinking capabilities.
Studies have shown that people who try to cultivate new habits and try to change big aspects of their lives all at once, fail more often than not.
Focusing on small steps tend to stick better over time.
So how can you utilise this when trying to think more positively?
Well, perhaps you could try some daily reflections on your negative self-talk.
Or you could find one situation a day that you normally would feel negative about and try and have a more positive outlook on.
Fundamentally, positive thinking can have an incredibly profound and positive impact on your daily lives.
There is no doubt that it is difficult, it can be hard to suddenly change from focussing on negativity to thinking more positively.
However, by adopting these top tips and understanding a little more about positive thinking, you will be well on your way to making that change.
Motivation is a strange concept, we can feel motivated to do a number of different things, but often we don’t fully see them through.
Often, we might think we are motivated to complete a task, and yet struggle when things get too difficult or when we fail.
The truth is, there are loads of things they we wish we were doing, but often we don’t undertake them or push forward to achieve them, but why is this?
The first thing we need to consider is a change in our language.
Something we would like to do is vastly different from something we want to do. It is the dichotomy of true desire and passive thought.
If we truly want something, then we are much more likely to go out and get it. So, the first point of call when assessing and developing our self-motivation is to think, is what I am working towards something I really want, or something I would like to do?
If it’s the later, then there’s a bit of an issue.
Perhaps thinking about who you are doing this for, what you might gain from achieving it, or how far you have come already will aid you in developing your ‘would like’ into a ‘want’.
The next thing for you to consider is to question yourself, are you scared to progress forward in your life?
Ron Siegel from Harvard University gives a cognitive neuroscientific perceptive here. He says that we are hard-wired to continuously expect danger in new situations.
That fundamentally means changes, or new circumstances, elicit feelings of anxiety and concern before they elicit feelings of anticipation or excitement.
Therefore, it is likely that the first thing we do will be to highlight the potential for failure, or harm to ourselves when undertaking something new. This can be really difficult when developing a sense of self-motivation.
So how do we combat this?
Well, it might sound simple, but focusing on the positive and the opportunity over the chance of failure is what is key here.
If we highlight the chance of failure instead of seeing the positive possibilities in a new task or venture, then we are much less likely to be motivated to push forward and achieve what we want, especially if and when times get hard.
So, focus on the potential positive opportunity rather than the chance of failure!
Perhaps this can be better highlighted with an example that I’m sure you can appreciate.
I have a friend who smokes and keeps attempting to stop. Time and time again he says, ‘this is my last one’ or ‘I really would like to give this up’ (again we are back to ‘would like to’ and ‘want to’ from earlier).
However, he always returns to smoking, making some lame excuse as to why he hasn’t given up, or he just ignores people altogether when he is pulled up about it.
He lacks self-motivation and can’t seem to stop.
Fundamentally, this is because the focus is with the fear of pain that he might experience in quitting, as opposed to the massive positive impact it could have on his life. He focusses on the difficulty he will experience in trying to quit, rather than the potential health improvements.
The cravings etc. are what the immediate effects would be, the health improvements are much further down the line and require discipline to progress through the negative effects of quitting smoking.
This is fundamentally what he struggles with, and is a perfect example of someone who focusses on the potential for failure, rather than the opportunity for positive success in the long run.
What makes this even more prominent and what makes it even harder for people to become self-motivated is a fixation on immediate reward, rather than long-term and sustainable gain.
Short-term immediate gain over longer sustainable and more profound gain is what stops people from being motivated in the future.
It’s what makes people stick to a job they hate rather than quit, take a pay cut and start a business of their own.
It’s what makes people go to parties rather than study for upcoming exams that will inevitably improve their future.
So, what can we possibly do about this?
My first piece of advice here would be to write out all the potential failures and successes you might experience as a result of doing what you desire.
Then, attempt to fully emotionally engage with them, experience how it would feel to fail and to succeed at what you want to do.
If we use our previous example, try and emotionally engage with the challenges and difficulties of going through cravings when quitting smoking. Then engage with how it would feel to be healthier and fitter as a result.
By experiencing the emotions as in-depth as we can, we, in turn, develop our awareness and expectations of what might happen if we fail and if we succeed.
I’m willing to bet that if you fully engage with this, then the joy of succeeding and getting what you want will be so enticing that you’ll become much more self-motivated to take that leap.
So, after all of this, how do we know if we are self-motivated or not?
Well, all you really have to do is ask yourself these 4 questions:
Can you do it?
Do you really want it?
Will it work?
Is it worth it?
If you answer yes to all of these above questions, then consider yourself self-motivated…congratulations!!!
Self-motivation is not something we are born with, nor is it something that we just stumble across one day.
It is something we work on.
Don’t be disheartened when you fail or you procrastinate, what matters is that you seek to develop your self-motivation as much as possible on a daily basis.
With this understanding and applying these tips, you’ll be well on your way!
Also, be sure to stay up to date with my YouTube channel GetPsyched as self-motivation and the development of self-motivation is something I’ll look at in the coming weeks. You can subscribe and hit the bell next to the subscribe button to get reminders of when I upload!
Deciding to undertake a massive course like the doctorate in counselling psychology is a huge step.
For me, it was a journey I wasn’t sure I would ever get the opportunity to be a part of at one time. Starting the counselling psychology doctorate meant I had to conduct a graduate diploma in psychology and gain enough experience in the therapeutic and psychological field to be considered for the course.
When I was accepted onto the doctorate in 2016 it was an overwhelming sense of relief, excitement and apprehension. I would experience these to even greater degrees as the course began.
I’ve come to realise a number of things after being on the counselling psychology course for a year and a half, that I think are worth sharing. Firstly, it is a fantastic course. Studying a subject that is your passion is exhilarating at times, I feel like I am a working cog in the course and not just a ‘student’ listening to a ‘teacher’.
Although this, in theory, is true, I feel that because I enjoy learning so much about counselling psychology, I feel fully involved in my learning experience.
Secondly, there are a massive amount of opportunities that present themselves during the course and after graduation. Attending annual conferences, presenting workshops at universities, connecting with larger psychology organisation, and developing networking connection are just some of the fantastic opportunities I have realised come with undertaking the doctorate.
My advice here is that these opportunities really only present themselves to people who go out to find them. The extra work is well worth it though.
Thirdly, success on this course is dependent on a number of things rather than just intelligence. The ability to juggle multiple things at once is something you have to get used to very early on and get better at as the course develops.
Class work, reflective work, assignments, placements, personal therapy, and your own external work are just some of the things going on for me right now. Staying organised and accepting that the juggling act is just part of the course is vital.
At times for me, it feels like working on coursework is something I spend less of my time on than everything else. Placement takes up a large amount of time, as do additional reading and reflective practices. I’ve learned not to be worried about this though and have seen the value in investing time in these exercises.
Reflection and learning from practical work are extremely valuable when it comes to writing assignments and feeling more confident in the therapeutic work you facilitate. One key point I have learned so far is that your ‘intelligence’ might get you on the course, but your resourcefulness and determination will keep you on it.
One of the most challenging aspects of training for me has been juggling it with employment. Making enough money per month whilst studying can be stressful and has become a challenge I have had to accept on a monthly basis. I have been fortunate enough to work part-time as a research assistant and seminar tutor, which has allowed me to earn a living whilst studying. However, financial assistance for the course is something I feel needs improving. Especially when compared to our clinical counterparts. This, of course, is an issue externally to my course, my university and my governing bodies, but it is an issue that I feel needs consideration by those about to start the counselling psychology doctorate.
The course has been a pleasure and a real honour to be a part of. Studying my passion has kept me motivated and focussed on progressing further. I have learned that there are huge opportunities in the field of counselling psychology. I have also learned that whilst continual independent reading is vital, the practical experience that we gain in classes and on placement is invaluable. Practically implementing theory and research into actual therapeutic work is exciting to be a part of.
Interested in learning about the day in the life of a psychology doctoral trainee? Then click here.
Why not stay up to date on my YouTube channel ‘GetPsyched’ too. Youll find weekly videos on topics in psychology and study tricks also. Check out the channel by clicking here.
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