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O’Driscoll, D. (2020). Psychoanalysis, the NHS and mental health work today: edited by Alison Vaspe, London, Karnac Books 2017, 320pp., £34.99 (paperback/E-book), ISBN 9781 78220 3681. Psychoanal. Psychother., 34(1):52-55.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 34(1):52-55

Psychoanalysis, the NHS and mental health work today: edited by Alison Vaspe, London, Karnac Books 2017, 320pp., £34.99 (paperback/E-book), ISBN 9781 78220 3681

David O’Driscoll

At the moment, it feels good to belong to the National Health Service (NHS). While I am not on the frontline of the struggle against the coronavirus pandemic, I think I am contributing my bit in supporting a very vulnerable group: people with learning disabilities. Currently, my role as a ‘disability therapist’ (Corbett, 2018) in a Specialist Learning Disability team has changed, with no face-to-face work. I am offering a mixture of straightforward practical and emotional support, via Zoom and the telephone. My role will no doubt change again with reports that half of the coronavirus deaths are in care homes.1 While mortality figures are hard to come by, the death rate with people with learning disability is up according to one recent study 134%.2 For this reason, I suspect my focus will change to a more trauma and grief-focussed approach, and a new emphasis on working with staff teams. My concern is that some services for people with a learning disability have a narrowly behavioural approach and will be looking exclusively for more practical behaviour based responses. I also find that staff teams in learning disability services often have difficulties in processing more negative feelings, experiencing them as ‘unprofessional’, not as a useful source of data or as normal in an encounter with service users. The challenge is how to get at these feelings, and address the fact that staff may prefer a more behavioural invention which does not look at their relationship with the service users and the feelings that brings up.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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