Originally a Speech & Language Therapist working across a range of clinical contexts (neurology, voice, dysfluency, mental health and community paediatrics), my professional development turned to Personal Construct Psychology and the experience of the PERSON with the communication difficulty, an approach that I first discovered whilst studying to be a Speech & Language Therapist, and used for my undergraduate research project with a young girl of 7 years with cerebral palsy who refused to use alternative communication aids to the frustration of her teachers. The case study revealed that her family could understand her and believed in an oralist approach, and as a result it was this young girl’s ‘elaborative choice’ to be quiet, shy, and non verbal at school, making friends with a boy who was verbal and would speak for her, and putting all her energy into physical aspects of her education, for example physiotherapy and writing.
I trained as a psychotherapist (Diploma in Personal Construct Psychology: Therapy & Counselling) whilst working at St Charles Mental Health Unit in west London with adults with ‘severe and enduring’ mental health problems including dementia. One of my dissertations described my successful work over a six year period with a woman of 58 with a range of diagnoses, a long history of repeated admissions to hospital and resistance to treatment. She had started stammering late in life, something that is very unusual, but I personally never heard her stammer. This client returned home and has been living independently ever since our work was concluded. The other dissertation marks the beginning of my application of PCP to the experience of neurological disability, and my longstanding interest in working therapeutically with people with a diagnosis of dementia and their families. In 2004 a description of the application of Personal Construct Psychology to the experience of dementia was published:
Morris, C. (2004) Personal Construct Psychology and Person Centred Care in Jones GMM and Miesen BML (eds) Care-giving in Dementia: Research and Applications Volume 3, Brunner Routledge, Hove and New York
In 1997, following the BSE epidemic and the realisation that BSE had been transmitted to humans through the food chain, I left St Charles to join Counselling and Diagnosis in Dementia (C.A.N.D.I.D) at the Dementia Research Centre in Queen Square to develop a bespoke counselling service for people with a diagnosis of dementia and their families and to set up a specialist clinic for the families affected by Human BSE in addition to sporadic, genetic, and other forms of acquired prion diseases.
I was involved in counselling those affected and their families, in developing support networks for families in their local area, and in providing training and support for staff working with people with distressing symptoms requiring creative management. I set up information days at the National Prion Clinic and promoted peer support amongst the families.
Since taking early retirement from the NHS in 2010 I am free to pursue both clinical and non clinical interests, all informed by the creative approach to understanding people and change that is provided by Personal Construct Psychology. These include:
- Raising awareness and elaborating the support needs of people at risk of inherited prion disease and their families
- Developing therapeutic interventions for people with cognitive impairment and their caregivers
- Incorporating yoga and mindfulness in my therapeutic repertoire and training courses
- Providing training in applying Personal Construct Psychology for people working in a wide range of clinical, organisational and research contexts
- Providing a private practice in counselling, psychotherapy and clinical supervision
- Managing my late husband’s photographic archive – an important collection of images of folk and rock musicians, in addition to other editorial images and still life compositions (www.keithmorrisphoto.co.uk).