The professional bit…
I am the fifth person to train to deliver Biomagnetic Neuropsychology therapy in the UK. The therapy involves Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). I trained in the US in 2018. I am honoured to have been trained by Moizes Goiz. I have also studied for a Certificate in Trauma, with a particular interest in trans-generational trauma, under Joanna Beazley Richards, chartered psychologist and psychotherapist, owner of the Wealden Institute. Joanna is another very special person – a leading light in her field and is insightful, skilled, knowledgeable, sensitive, robust and fun and it is a privilege to have been ‘allowed’ to attend her training courses. She has the added quality of being a horse-woman and a fellow-farmer! I have developed an interest in the impact of trauma on the brain. Additionally, I have undertaken training in suicide prevention and the ‘Suicide to Hope’ training. Professionally, I have been a University Lecturer in Contract and Commercial Law for 14-years, and a tutor in Land Law and the Law of Trusts, teaching and coaching people from young lawyers at the beginning of their careers to senior City professionals wishing to reinforce and strengthen their careers.
Previously I worked in legal policy, as a Commercial Legal Advisor and in senior management roles. I have a particular interest in transferable and employability skills. I am also an experienced Monitor of University Law Lecturers, providing guidance particularly to new and practising lawyers entering academia. Concurrently I was appointed as the UK Legal Policy Expert on European Commission Studies for a consortium between the College of Europe in Bruges, the European University Institute in Florence and the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. The most notable of these studies was in relation to the Directive on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships, which included a study of the agriculture sector. I also worked for 9-years as the Independent Law Subject Expert for the Welsh Government.
I have an LLM in European Union competition law, in which I graduated with distinction and ranked the first in the year. I am a non-practising Barrister and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I lecture for a University and am developing an interest in the intersections between law and neuroscience. I now combine legal academia with Biomagnetic Neuropsychology. Please note that I am not a medical doctor. My first language is Welsh, and I work in both English and Welsh.
The personal bit…
It was by accident that I stumbled across Biomagnetic Neuropsychology. Nearly 10-years earlier, my father had been diagnosed as being terminally ill. My mother made the surprising decision to care for him at home. I knew it would be too much for her. At the time, dad needed a hoist to move him, he had two carers at a time going in to the house four times a day. He more or less needed a minimum of two people to care for him 24/7 care, and more comfortably, three people. Once mam had taken the decision to care for dad at home, I decided to support her by spending about a week a month with them. What I discovered during that time, however, what not what I had expected and it was to have a bearing on the rest of my life.
A few years earlier, dad had decided to move himself, mam and my brother, A, from their farm to a smallholding because, as dad said, my brother “couldn’t” pick up the reins to work the farm. Dad thought A might be able to cope better with a smallholding, which had a certain logic. But when dad became ill and I spent more time on the smallholding, I realised that A wasn’t coping with the smallholding either. For instance, if the handful of cattle they had, had drank all their water and the trough needed to be refilled, A had to be told to refill it and it would certainly never occur to him to buy a larger one. I found he wasn’t making the connection between running out of cattle feed and needing to get some more; the same was true with straw for cattle bedding, dog food, diesel… the list was endless. Then when I would tell him to go and get whatever was needed, actually getting himself ready to go out of the farm gate was nigh on impossible for him and I’d end up going myself. So in addition to part-caring for my father and supporting my mother during that period as I’d intended, I ended up part-caring for A and the smallholding too.
I sought help from his GPs. Two of them believed A has a learning disability. None had been diagnosed when he was a child – I guess because they weren’t so much in the 1970s when he was a child.
As the older sibling, I remember his nursery school and infant school days being mired by violent school teachers (yes, those were the 1970s). One of my earliest memories is of being in the playground at primary school and seeing A being dragged through the playground, the infant school headmistress pulling on his left arm and her accomplice, the nursery schoolteacher, following a fraction behind with his right arm. He’d been taken from his nursery class and dragged through the playground to main building of the infant school. My memory is of his little feet and legs dragging behind him. He was 3-years old. One has to question what a 3-year-old could possibly do to trigger behaviour from teachers which has now thankfully been criminalised.
One of my other early memory is of another infant schoolteacher putting my sister, who was in the year below me, across her knee and smacking her back-side. My year and hers had been joined together for that particular class to colour in the red dragon. And my sister’s “crime” for this punishment? She’d started colouring in the outside of the dragon’s swirly tail, so instead of the tail being red and the background white, the tail was white and the background red. She was 5-years old at the time.
So, based on what I’d witnessed with my sister, one has to question what my brother did, age 3, to ‘warrant’ being dragged by his arms through the playground by the headmistress: write ‘s’ the wrong way maybe?
Let’s say he did the worst thing that I can imagine a 3-year-old could have done in a nursery class in the UK in the 1970s, and that he hit another 3-year old or a teacher, what sort of a headmistress leads a member of her staff to pull a 3-year-old by his arms, feet dragging, through a playground?
When A reached primary school at the age of seven, he was put in the remedial class and the equivalent of the keys thrown away until his ‘release’ date at the age of 16 – as indeed happened with others. It might take a village to raise a child, as it does to destroy one. But in those days, parents believed that the teachers knew best and should not be questioned.
After A left school, our father spent the next two decades or so searching the length and breadth of the UK for support for my brother – within the NHS, the private medical and the complementary health sectors. Dad gave up. All sectors were, no doubt, in the main, well intentioned; however, from my observations, all were ill-equipped to address learning disabilities, physical trauma and mental trauma. Was my brother ‘misbehaving’ in nursery school or was his behaviour linked to learning disabilities? Did the physical punishments he received from his teachers cause him physical and/or mental trauma? Did the trauma he experienced at school result in mental health issues? Had he experienced prior trauma? This sort of informed, analytical thought process was not a feature of the medical or education systems of the time (and I question if it is now). It was, incidentally, the reason I became interested in the law of professional negligence at such a young age – although at the time, I didn’t know that that’s what it’s called.
It was not until our father became chronically and terminally ill, that I developed a better appreciation of A’s needs – partly because my father was no longer able to do the things he used to for my brother and partly because I was around him more to see it for myself. It was at that time that I found receipts of payments made to one particular complementary health therapist, who had clearly taken advantage of a vulnerable family situation over several years. Those receipts amounted to thousands of pounds – and that was only what I could see. A, our parents and I desperately needed support in order to support him. I spoke to one of the local GPs who very gently and kindly and with nothing but consideration for A said there was no merit in pushing for a ‘diagnosis’ at this stage – that it wouldn’t make any difference to his quality of life. Naturally I saw that argument. That said, in my desperation, after discussing with my father’s social worker, I made contact with the person who was at the time, the head of mental health for the NHS in A’s area. With hindsight, that in itself shows the level of ignorance by related professionals surrounding the learning disability/mental health distinction and connection. But I did contact the head of the mental health department as suggested by the social worker, after all, she was only doing her best to respond to my exasperated search for help for A.
The moment I spoke on the phone to the head of mental health services, is a moment in time that I will unfortunately never forget. Two things from that conversation have stayed with me – and for better or worse, will stay with me as long as I live. When I explained the factual situation to her and asked if Welsh-speaking support may be available for A, her brusque reaction was that: “He can’t have both a learning disability and a mental health issue – it had to be one or the other”, and that she personally, on her own, with no consultation, would decide if it was necessary for a Welsh-speaking patient to receive treatment through the medium of Welsh.
At that point in time, I realised that it would actually be dangerous for A (and possibly others) to be in such a system. How could a person, who was head of an NHS mental health service, not know that it was possible to have both a learning disability and a mental health issue? Presumably this person had some sort of relevant professional qualifications, training and experience? How can a patient with a learning disability entering a system under such ‘leadership’ possibly have a chance of being supported to develop or just to function? And why were we even having the conversation about whether it was possible for a patient to be supported through their Welsh mother tongue in Wales? Not only is it a political matter but surely, a safe-guarding matter: how can any person working in mental health, let alone the head of that service, not realise that it’s in the interest of the patient to communicate through their mother tongue? The realisation was disturbing. It was at that point that I stopped searching for support for my brother within the NHS and decided to support him myself. At the same time, I knew that I would not be enough for him – that he needed relevant professional support.
There were excruciatingly difficult and painful times ahead – for both of us. Often, I became frustrated, impatient and intolerant, especially in the beginning until I more fully appreciated his needs. As best as I could ‘label’ it, over the years, he’d developed agoraphobia and socio-phobia – a word seldom used until recently. He barely went out of the farm gate, especially alone and when he did, it was as long as he could stay within the confines of his car and in control. The one place he loved to visit was our uncle’s smallholding – even though the short journey there through the local town that is so small that new-comers call it a village, was overwhelming for him. In fact, he was so overwhelmed by the days that he stayed in his bedroom to avoid the mornings and part of the afternoons. As daylight dwindled each day and as life around him fell asleep each night, his anxiety decreased, he became calmer and that’s when he had a few hours of near-peace, until it all started again with having to try to fall asleep and then wake up again the following day. One of the GPs I spoke to about him said that that was a matter of conditioning and discipline. At the time, I couldn’t disagree.
I realised that A suffered vertigo and dizziness so badly he couldn’t climb a small stepladder to change a light bulb. I remember bringing him to my house and he collapsed in a shivering heap half-way up a staircase nearby, unable to continue to the top. People raced to his aid, asking if he needed an ambulance. In the house itself, he went up the stairs, semi-crawled up and once at the top, struggled to look out of the landing window. His unconscious screams in his nightmares were deafening. Along the streets that I’d cajoled him onto, he took tiny, gauche, baby steps in the farmer’s boots that he wore, even though he couldn’t farm, and shuffled his feet along, afraid of letting go of the ground beneath him. Along his path, he reached out to the walls on one side, and clung to my arm on his other side for stability. When he could see his destination, such as the car, within reach, he would dive for it, like a toddler having just taken his first shaky steps. Walking across the market square in his own local town for the first time was like walking a tight rope across a ravine between two mountains, with me coaxing him (in Welsh): “One step at a time, slowly, look ahead (not at the wall to your side), look up, don’t look down…” past the old shoe shop, past the undertaker’s, until he got far enough around the market square’s perimeter, that it was just as frightening for him to turn back as it was to continue forward.
A didn’t have a wheelchair. He had, what some might call an “invisible” disability. Yet from where I was standing, and for those who could really see, there was nothing “invisible” about his disability.
A “conquered” every shop and service in his home town, one at a time: the doctors’ surgery, the butcher, the baker, the post office, the chemist… Over time, he made enough progress so that after our father passed away, and with more time to focus on A, I turned to a particularly talented HANDLE Practitioner, who is also a veteran cranial osteopath, to pick up the baton, so to speak, and start that professional role. HANDLE stands for Holistic Approach to Neuro-Developmental and Learning Efficiency. For me, the right practitioner for him was one particular cranial osteopath who had healed an old pelvic injury of mine some years earlier when I was about 40.
I had first injured my pelvis when I fell on ice at home on the farm when I was 11. Then after learning to ski as an adult, poor skiing technique aggravated that injury so much that I became unable to get out of bed in the mornings in my 30s without first turning on my side. For years I saw a couple of different chiropractors and each one contributed something to me at the time. As I entered my 40s, I thought that that’s how my back would be from thereon in – until I went to one particular cranial osteopath, who took on complex injury referrals from other osteopaths, amongst other work. It took just one – albeit long – session with her and an assisting colleague for her to permanently correct that old injury. From that day forward I have been able to get out of bed without first having to turn on my side. Virtually every day since (other than when I forget!), I celebrate that fact.
When this particular cranial osteopath first trained as a HANDLE practitioner, A wasn’t at a stage where he was ‘ready’ to go to her. However when that time arrived, there was no question who would be my practitioner of choice for him.
The apparently relatively few people familiar with trauma recovery work know that it involves body work – and indeed that sometimes it is solely or certainly mainly body work. A first broke his arm when he fell off his tricycle when he was 3-years old; another time he broke his arm when he fell from a haystack. In all, he broke his arms four times as a child. One of his arms had been so poorly put back together it was deformed. It was hidden by clothing more often than not, but when I did see it, I found it hard to look at. The cranial osteopath got to work on his arms and whole body. I learned how physical injuries can cause trauma in the body and brain. What was a major breakthrough was the concept of sensory processing issues. Suddenly, the overwhelm and the dizziness and the other symptoms made complete sense. As a HANDLE practitioner, she gave A exercises to develop his motor skills and integrate his brain and body coordination. Together, he and I practised going up and down stairs, escalators and even lifts! He practised going to the shops – one at a time, with each “conquest” moving him forward towards tackling the next part of the obstacle course that is life. Since receiving the support and combined HANDLE and cranial osteopathy support, he’s never looked back. He continues to need support at arm’s length, including with some activities that are day-to-day activities for most people, but his ability to function in life increased beyond recognition compared to how he was.
I had been caring for A for 4-9 years when I read about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. On the face of it, I could see how it might contribute towards A’s development; however, at the same time, I wouldn’t have taken him for the therapy without first trying it myself. I was also a little concerned that it might be a gimmick. Part of its appeal was that it’s a short-term therapy that doesn’t require on-going sessions over a lengthy period of months or even years.
I personally had experienced acute trauma within my family about 3-4 years earlier. I no longer felt that acute trauma, but I did feel a bit worn-down by it – I’d lost some of my spark. I received my first session. Within a few days, I noticed that that spark had returned to my eyes. Within a week, I realised I’d stopped biting my nails after some 40-years! The reality is that my nail-biting was probably the outward manifestation of low-level anxiety that I wasn’t even aware of, because it was so ingrained in me. Not since that first session have I felt that involuntary compulsion to bite my nails. Within a week of my first session, I realised the therapy wasn’t a gimmick. Less than a month later, I was on a plane to the States to undertake the training myself.
As for A, after only one/two sessions, he found it easier to wake up in the mornings. His life is now almost unrecognisable compared to what it was.
I have since supported a number of people to live a fuller life, some with the neuropsychology therapy and TMS: an elderly relative who’d been living quite a reclusive life for a quarter of a century or so, some long-term psychiatric patients, some who have survived suicide attempts, others who’ve just needed a little bit of extra support along the way. It shows what’s possible.
Other people have their own unique stories to tell – you will be able to read some in the testimonials. I can’t say exactly how the therapy will help each individual at the outset, but I would be surprised if it didn’t benefit many people, one way or another.