ISP Newsletter Editorials – 2004


I was in Singapore and Bali for Christmas and New Year. The things that stick in my mind aren’t all the beautiful sights but the unusual things that happen. I was reminded of Sam Field’s articles about North Africa. The pollution, chaos, unfinished buildings were one set of impressions. The amount of traffic was a surprise, especially the vast number of mopeds belching out blue smoke. I wondered how on earth we would be able to tackle pollution globally. Twenty years ago most of the people would have been on bikes. The Balinise drivers have taken bumper-to-bumper driving to an art form. The M25 on-your-tail drivers seem quite civilised in comparison. We saw whole families riding on a moped, Mum, Dad and three kids, with one of them asleep resting on the handlebars. Occasionally we saw a moving haystack on the road, only to realise this was piled high on a moped. Rice was dried on plastic sheets by the side of the road with no regard for pollutants.

The people were at ease, friendly and welcoming. The Hindu religion seemed to encourage this. There were small temples in every garden and along the side of reads. Each morning people would put out small parcels of food for the Gods. In our villa’s garden the Temple had what looked like a goose egg on top. These parcels of food could also be found at bends in the road to enhance good fortune. It seems to me the M25 would benefit from this approach. A whole new meaning to the highway code.

The Balinese people are incredibly creative. There was evidence of high quality arts and crafts everywhere. I read that this is partly due to Indonesian people from the other islands coming to Bali because they found the Hindu faith more sympathetic. We also spotted some ancient hippies. As well as being a creative place it is also cheap to live there. There are 15,000 rupiahs to the pound, so even when a meal comes to hundreds of thousands, it is still cheap.

The local wild life got a bit close for comfort. The villa had a traditional Balinese roof, exposed beams and a thatched roof. A lizard, which sounded like Daffy Duck, paraded around the rafters at night. We found a lizard 18 inches long in the bath. It definitely didn’t come up the plughole! One morning I noticed a group of local people, who helped look after the villa, holding their noses and looking in a stream which bordered the property. When we asked they took us to the stream and showed us the source of the putrid smell. It was a dead python, as thick as an adult’s leg, which had got stuck in the swimming pool’s outlet pipe. They guessed it had chased a lizard into the pipe. They then started the foul job of pulling it out. Not the most beautiful sight but one I won’t forget.

One of the best moments took place on the Nirwana Golf course, supposedly one of the best courses in Asia. I read an article by Ernie Els, the South African golfer, in which he said the seventh hole, a par three, was one of his favourite holes anywhere in the world. You can imagine that I looked forward to seeing and playing it. It lived up to expectations. Between the tee and the green, about 180 yards, the sea was rushing in. If I miss-hit the ball it would be lost. Within eyeshot was the famous Tanah Lot temple on its own small island. Praying for success seemed the only option. Our lack of confidence was manifest when we all dived in our bags for old balls. Appreciation of this beautiful view was followed by exhilaration when we all managed to hit the ball over the hazard. Another moment I won’t forget.


A few weeks ago I came across an interesting book “Fish! A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results” by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christienson. I found this book in the newly created business lounge at Lloyds Bank in Cirencester. I was drawn there by the free drinks machine and whilst sipping my cappuccino noticed a small library of books which could be borrowed. When my mother-in-law was alive we used to take her to open gardens in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire every weekend. Apart form the beautiful gardens I looked forward to sampling the home-made cakes and tea that were invariably on offer. At one stage I thought I might write a critical review of tea and cakes in England. Finding the drinks’ machine in the Bank I wondered if this might be the beginning of a new hobby sampling the complimentary drinks in banks.

Enough of this meandering, back to the book. It is based on the Seattle fish market, which had a remarkable atmosphere and inspired people to take a closer look at how this was achieved. This contrasted starkly with a department within an organisation, which was described in the book as “a toxic energy dump”, because the attitude of the staff towards work was so bad and the rest of the organisation had negative projections towards this department.

The new manager of this “toxic” department discovered four key ingredients behind the success of the fish market that she needed to transfer to her department. They are:

1.Choose your attitude
There is always a choice about the way you do your work even if there is not a choice about the work itself. We can choose our attitude we bring to our work.

The fish market is an adult playground. If fish guys can have that much fun selling fish anyone can.

3.Make their day
Customers are encouraged to play also. The atmosphere is one of inclusion. Not like my previous boss who talked to me like I was a tape recorder and never shared any of the interesting work.

4. Be present
The fish guys are fully present, they are not daydreaming or on the phone. They are scanning the crowd and interacting with the customers. They talk to me as if I was a long lost friend.”

It is a thought-provoking book to read. The basic message seemed to be if you get the underlying attitudes of your team right, success will follow.

Last year Wendy Spears and Melanie Cross completed their research project on children who foster within ISP. Their paper, “How the Children who Foster perceive Fostering” has been published in the last issue of the journal, “Adoption and Fostering”. If you haven’t read it, it is well worth getting hold of a copy. Melanie and Wendy conclude their paper with the following points:

“It seems that the children who foster whom we interviewed dealt successfully with considerable stress because they were able to discuss this with their families and others. This open communication is also essential within the organisation that fosters. The children who foster have been encouraged to express their concerns in a wider context so that appropriate support can be provided. Many of the negatives experienced by the children who foster could be minimised by offering preparation, supervision and support in order to enable communication within the foster family and the organisation as a whole. It is clear that the children who foster are an important part of the fostering family. Supporting them as well as their families is likely to lead to more positive outcomes for all concerned.”


Have you ever tried to proof read a piece you have written and wondered why you still failed to spot a misspelling after three attempts? There was an interesting piece in the Times by Mary Ann Sieghart which explains why this happens.

Sagtnre but ture
A friend sent me this by e-mail. Read it quickly and you will be amazed.

“I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuann mnid. Aoccdrning to rseearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef but the word as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt!”

I was sent a copy of “Therapeutic Approaches in Work with Traumatised Children and Young People”, by Patrick Tomlinson (published by Jessica Kingsley). I worked with Patrick at the Cotswold Community for many years. I recruited him as a novice group living worker and had the pleasure of seeing him develop over the years and eventually become a member of the senior management team. This book is about the day-to-day therapeutic practice of the Cotswold Community and contains lots of practical suggestions as well as an explanation of the underlying theory. I bought a copy for each Centre’s library so if you are interested that is where you should find it.

Here are a couple of extracts. The first is by Paul Van Heeswyk, a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist who was the Consultant Psychotherapist to the Cotswold Community for many years.

“The developing self has fundamental needs that must be discerned by parents and carers. Infants begin their lives dependent on others to recognise and then realise their needs and wishes. Without this experience over time, they have little chance to become and know themselves. It is not, as Franklin Giddins once observed, that two heads are better than one. Rather, it is that two or more heads are needed for one. The infant is vulnerable to both the lack of empathic response from his carers and to intrusive assault, especially where adults use the infant as a receptacle for their own excesses or unmet needs. In the absence of empathic response to the infants communications, the emotional and psychological growth in a child is severely endangered.

The chapters in this book represent the empathic immersing of many therapeutic workers in the recorded experiences of a community of children who had suffered deprivation and abuse during the early months and years of their lives. This weekly group reflection sought to support the children’s 24 hour care, the therapeutic aim of which was to set free and revitalise atrophied maturational processes in order that development could continue.”

This next extract is taken from the chapter on therapeutic education.

“The way in which teachers work with children has the potential of both enabling academic achievement and providing appropriate relationship experiences. However, achieving these two aims may not feel easy and could seem to be in conflict. Teaching and learning does potentially involve dependency. First of all a child may be distrustful and defended against the vulnerability involved in learning. Gradually through the relationship with his teacher, he may begin to trust her. As with other dependent relationships, he may feel she has something good, which is not his and which he would like. If he can allow himself, the child may be able to take something from her, which helps him to learn. He may need to develop a belief in a benevolent teacher before he can learn academically.”


In February I mentioned a book called “Fish” which was about the Seattle Fish Market and what we could learn from them about running a business. I have come across another book along similar lines. It is “Beans – Four Principles for Running a Business in Good Times or Bad” by Leslie A. Yerkes and Charles Dicker. It is also based in Seattle but this time a small coffee making business.

The following is an extract from the book’s Foreward by Bob Nelson:

““Beans” is a true story about the El Espresso coffee shop. The El Espresso has chosen to stay small and do what it does best: serve its customers well.

In this age of headlines about corporate executives run amok, Jack and Diane Hartman, the owners of the El Espresso, are the kind of business people who deserve a little good press. For more than twenty years, they have stayed true to their values and their principles. In the process, they have created a business that has earned the reputation for serving Seattle’s best coffee – coffee good enough to make people willing to line up in the rain to buy a cup.

I work with thousands of managers and business owners every year, most of them looking for ways to create a more successful business. The answer is simple: Hire the best people you can, allow them to be who they are, treat them fairly and reward them regularly, instill in them a love for serving the customers and the customers will come back faithfully. These simple truths are the message of Beans. As your read Beans, you will experience a business where everyone wants to be a regular, where the custom is known and respected, and there is an honest blur between serving people and running a business.”

I had the good fortune to find a book in Borders in Singapore, at the beginning of my holiday, which became a highly appropriate read, mirroring some of my thoughts and feelings. It is “A Fortune Teller Told Me. Earthbound travels in the Far East” by TizianoTerzani. Having spent 40 hours flying during the two and half week holiday this comment about air travel resonated with me.

“As soon as you decide to do without planes, you realise, how they impose their limited way of looking at things on you. Oh they diminish distances, which is handy enough, but they end up diminishing everything including your understanding of the world. You leave Rome at sunset, have dinner, sleep awhile and at dawn you are at India. But in reality each Country has its own special character. We need time if we are to prepare ourselves for the encounter. We must make an effort if we are to enjoy the conquest. Everything has become so easy that we no longer take pleasure in anything. To understand is a joy, but only if it comes with effort and nowhere is this more true than in the experience of other countries. Reading a guidebook whilst hopping from one airport to another is not the same as the slow laborious absorption, as if by osmosis, of the humours of the earth to which one remains bound when travelling by train.

Reached by plane all places become alike – destinations separated by one another by nothing more than a few hours flight. Frontiers created by nature and history and routed in the consciousness of the people who live within them lose their meaning and cease to exist for those who travel to and from the air conditioned bubbles of airports. Where the border is a policeman in front of a computer screen, where the first encounter of a new place is the luggage carousel, where the emotion of leave taking is dissipated in the rush to get to the duty free shop – now the same everywhere.

Ships approach countries by slowly and politely entering the mouths of their rivers and distant ports become long awaited goals, each with its own face, each with its own smell. What used to be called airfields were once a little like that. No more. Nowadays airports have the false allure of advertisements – islands of relative perfection even amid the wreckage of the countries in which they are situated. They all look alike, all speak the same international language that makes you feel you have come home, but in fact you have only landed at the outskirts of a city from you must leave again by bus or taxi for a Centre which is always far away. A railway station on the other hand is a true mirror of the city in whose heart it lies. Stations are close to the cathedrals, mosques, pagodas or mausoleums. On reaching them you have well and truly arrived.”


If you have read my ramblings in the newsletter over the years, you will know that I have mentioned Barbara Dockar-Drysdale on several occasions. She died in 1999, the year I joined ISP. I worked with her for about 18 years at the Cotswold Community where she was the Consultant Psychotherapist. I was recently sent a copy of her entry in the Dictionary of National Biography written by Christopher Reeves, her successor as Therapeutic Advisor at the Mulberry Bush School. Here is an extract from it:

“Throughout the years of child rearing that followed her marriage, Barbara Dockar-Drysdale continued caring for other people’s children, running a children’s nursery, and then, during the Second World War, taking in evacuee children who had been difficult to place (and occasionally their parents). Though she lacked a formal training, her success in dealing with troubled children came to the notice of government representatives who were busy enlisting the best practitioners from the recent evacuation programme for their new child welfare plans. In this post-war climate of innovation Dockar-Drysdale embarked on what became her major practical contribution to childcare in Britain founding the Mulberry Bush School in Standlake, Oxfordshire. This residential special school for about forty children of junior school age opened in 1948 under the auspices of the Home Office and the Department of Education. Drawing on therapeutic principles deriving from her wartime experiences, she recognised the importance of the qualitative ingredients of family life that many of these children lacked – security based on acceptance, consistency, love, and individual attention – and sought ways of providing them in a communal setting. Her husband actively supported her in launching this venture and was her closest ally throughout. In addition she relied on a network of likeminded psychologists, educationists and psychiatrists, who valued her therapeutic skills and admired her determination not to give up on even the most dauntingly problematic children.

Keen to make good the absence of formal qualifications, Dockar-Drysdale trained as a psychotherapist. She also gained a broader knowledge of childcare theory through attending courses at the Maudsley Hospital. Her work became more widely known when she was invited to address the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1956. Her topic was the treatment of “frozen children”. These were youngsters who, in her terms, had become emotionally and morally desensitized, having grown up without early maternal care. She emphasised the importance of adaptation to the child’s needs and of anticipating breakdowns rather than employing corrective or coercive efforts afterwards. The paper was notable for combining intuition, based on empathy, with un-sentimentality, based on a realistic appraisal of the depth of such children’s deprivation. These qualities became the hallmark of her clinical writing.

In 1954 Dockar-Drysdale first met the psychoanalyst and Paediatrician Donald Winnicott, with whom she developed a close professional collaboration. In addition to running the Mulberry Bush School she accepted a number of his patients into analysis, often treating them in her own home. One fruit of their association was her formulation of the place and purpose of symbolic regression within a significant relationship in meeting the emotional needs of deprived children. This for her was the key to solving the major problem of effective residential therapy based on regression, namely, how to provide therapeutically for several children simultaneously and collectively, when what each child had lacked was individual, consistent, personally directed maternal care.”

It is amazing to think that Barbara Dockar-Drysdale started her illustrious career by using her talent as a caring mother to help the children in her village.

The recent death of Marjorie Boxall, an Educational Psychologist employed by the Inner London Education Authority led to a spate of articles about nurture groups, which she started in 1969. I have heard nurture groups talked about in ISP over the years. I am not sure if anybody knew what they were exactly but the title was appealing. In the last issue of the YoungMinds magazine Jim Rose wrote about nurture groups. This extract conveys pretty well what they are about.

“The daily ritual of breakfast is acted out in hundreds of nurture groups across the United Kingdom every school day. The two adults, usually a teacher and a learning support assistant who run the group use the opportunity of eating together to practise good social behaviours but more importantly to encourage the children to talk, to listen to others and to experience a sense of being valued and ‘thought about’ by significant adult figures. The same adults and the same group of children work together through most of a school day in a homely environment specifically furnished and designed to promote a sense of security and safety for children whose wider experience is likely to be chaotic and disturbing.

Repeated and consistent daily routines, using language to learn to express feelings rather than acting them out, use of names and eye contact, reminders about saying please and thank you not just to observe social niceties but to encourage interaction and to promote sharing and taking turns, are each integral parts of the nurture group experience. The enormous therapeutic and educational value of ordinary experiences in a containing and safe environment is right at the heart of nurture group work.

What are nurture groups?

In their classic form nurture groups are classes of 10 or so children set up in primary schools with their own room, preferably in a central part of the school. The group is an integral part of the school’s provision, understood and supported by all the staff. Training for nurture group staff emphasises the importance of valuing the child as s/he is and responding to them at whatever developmental stage they might have reached; whether they need comfort and physical contact like a baby, control like a two-year old in a tantrum or repeated explanations like a three-year old at the “Why?” stage.

The children registered with their ‘base’ class, are collected by group staff, spend most of the day in the group room, keeping in contact with the rest of the school by joining them for midday lunch and at playtime and returning to their base class for the last part of the day. It is recommended that nurture group staff should have one afternoon session for recording and planning, for training or for meetings with parents. On average children will spend up to four terms in the nurture group before rejoining their mainstream class.

In many schools there are variations on the above, usually in terms of the length of time spent in the group each day or more involvement with their mainstream class in certain subject areas, but nurture groups always work to the core principles encapsulated in the above description ie:

• Children’s learning is understood developmentally.
• The classroom offers a safe base.
• Nurture is essential for the development of self-esteem.
• Language is a vital means of communication – more than a ‘tool’ it is a vehicle for expressing feelings and emotions
• All behaviour is communication.
• Transitions are important in children’s lives.”