As a group of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) working in a secure hospital we recently embarked on a mini project using Talking Mats to check in with our service users with learning disabilities during Covid-19. We collated the evidence from our respective professional bodies (Royal College of Occupational Therapy, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and British Dietetic Association) in terms of changes that people might experience if they’d had Covid-19 and produced a talking mat around these.
It quickly dawned on us that we might be on to something here, and that creating an opportunity to ‘check in’ more broadly with our service users would serve a useful purpose, so we added some additional categories around changes to routine, psychological wellbeing and feeling safe.
This was my colleagues’ first experience of using talking mats, and their faces when I turned up clutching my 99p actual doormat were a picture! I introduced them to the theory behind the mat and its presentation and harped on about the benefits in terms of attention, comprehension, non-threatening interaction, initiation and structuring narrative; they nodded supportively.
We set off across our learning disability wards in multi-disciplinary pairs and all but a few of the service users agreed to have a chat with us. My colleagues commented that they were pleasantly surprised by the engagement and the amount and novelty of the information gained; we identified things that the service users hadn’t told anyone because they hadn’t been asked that question!
In talking to others we were asked why weren’t rolling this out in a partner secure hospital for people with mental health conditions? ‘no reason really, we just haven’t got there yet’ we answered. Then came the…. but we can just do it like a questionnaire with them. This question wasn’t, and in my experience isn’t ever ill meant. It comes from a place of naivety in relation to the presence of communication difficulties in people with mental health conditions and because of that, lack of exposure to different professional groups such as Speech and Language Therapy and the skills and approaches we have to offer. Skills in gaining and holding someone’s attention. Skills in decreasing pressure in communication situations. Skills in enabling time, space and ways in which people can initiate their thoughts.
The Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) working around the project has enabled me to show others how talking mats can support their practice. It has enabled them to see how a very simple and non-threatening visual tool can open up conversations and lead to information that the service users hadn’t shared before, in a way that a face to face conversation doesn’t.
Thanks to Jo Brackley, Clinical Lead, Speech and Language Therapy Secure Services at Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust for this inspiring blog – which demonstrates when we shift the way we listen and gather information from patients we get a different result and improve the quality of information and communication . If you or your team want to consider Talking Mats training then we can provide this for organisations . At the moment we can take a cohort through our online course together and then arrange a zoom call to discuss application to your work setting – email email@example.com for more information.
In our latest blog, Rachel Woolcomb, Talking Mats OT Associate, discusses how Talking Mats can support Reflective Practice for Occupational Therapists.
Taking time out to stop and reflect on our practice can be a challenge. We convince ourselves there are more important things to do, people to see, targets to meet, and therefore we just don’t have the time.
However, I suggest, that with this mind set we are doing ourselves, and the people to whom we provide support and care, a disservice.
Clinical supervision has always been embedded in the culture of occupational therapy and at its best should create a safe and supportive environment in which reflective practice can take place.
Unfortunately, in practice, the reality can look different.
The more I have used Talking Mats to enable my clients to think and express their opinions, the more I have been convinced, that there is also great benefit to them being used within the clinical supervision process.
I want to thank the occupational therapists who agreed to explore this further with me. They used Talking Mats to think about their coping skills at work, or reflected on how their ability to learn and think, impacted their job role.
They were surprised how easy they found it to think about the full breadth of their working life and the impact this had on their wellbeing. As clinicians, we are great at looking after other people and ensuring that their health and wellbeing needs are met, however, we are not so great at caring for ourselves.
The latest TMOT resource provides more information about why and how, Talking Mats can be an effective tool in enabling a reflective thinking space for clinicians. Check it out here: TMOT3 Reflective practice
Give it a go… You are worth it!
To find out more about our Talking Mats resources, check out this link:
Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
In the first of a series of blogs showcasing some of the fantastic presentations delivered during our Talking Mats is 21 event on 15th August 2019, our OT Associate Rachel Woolcomb shares her thoughts on thinking – and how Talking Mats can help:
Recently I have been giving some thought to the process of thinking!
Is thinking just a matter of the neural pathways in our brains manipulating information about ourselves and the world, to create an output or action? or is it more than that?
Can we overthink? Is being spontaneous under thinking? What about creative thinking?
At the Talking Mats is 21 celebrations I explored this subject and looked at how Talking Mats can be used effectively as a tool to support thinking.
My presentation – Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool – looked at the mechanics of thinking, and started to explore how as humans we don’t just learn facts but begin to understand and make sense of them within the context of our culture and environment.
Thinking is effortful and depending on the subject we need to think about can be complicated and demanding.
Using a Talking Mat creates the space to think, it helps to reduce other distractions and provides a structure for thinking. This means that the process of thinking becomes energy efficient as a Talking Mat enables the thinker to organise their thoughts and make connections that otherwise might not be identified or explored. The images used in the topic sets help with memory recall and are designed to expand a subject. This reduces the reliance on language and the need to express what we are thinking verbally.
The Talking Mat forms a visual picture of our thinking which is helpful for reflection and further exploration of the subject.
The final few slides in my presentation contain some quotes from occupational therapists who have used Talking Mats within their supervision sessions to enable them to think about their coping skills and strategies whist at work. I will soon be sharing a resource document on the use of Talking Mats as a reflective space for clinicians.
For further details about our Talking Mats is 21 event and presentations check out our recent blog – https://www.talkingmats.com/amazing-talking-mats-is-21-day/
If you are interested in accessing Talking Mats training, follow this link for more details of the options we can offer – https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
Watch this space for more information from the presentations delivered at our #TMis21 Event!
What an amazing day we had celebrating 21 years since the first article about Talking Mats was published in August 1998 in the Communication Matters journal. Over 180 people attended from so many different walks of life. We are grateful to them all for coming and helping us mark the occasion. We are also grateful to the endowment fund of Forth Valley NHS for helping us fund the event.
In the morning thanks to a fantastic group of speakers we discussed a diverse range of topics:
- Rachel Woolcomb, our OT associate explored how she sees Talking Mats as an ‘energy efficient’ thinking tool and outlined how it supports people to think through issues Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
- Two teachers, Fiona Graham and Claire Forgan examined the benefits and challenges of embedding Talking Mats in school to encourage and extend pupil participation
- Susan Gowland, a speech and language therapist discussed the use of Talking Mats in a forensic setting illustrating from a case example how Talking Mats helped staff see that incidents do not come out of the blue. When they looked at the pattern of mats over time they could see when the patient was expressing concern about small things. This was an indication that bigger things were going on for him.
- Sally Boa the Research Manager for Strathcarron Hospice led on how Talking Mats was a way to enable ‘end of life’ conversations, things that can be hard for any of us to talk about. The mats give a safe space and structure to enable these conversations to take place. Talking Mats and Palliative care
- Two parents Tracey Campbell and Sarah Robertson spoke about their experience with using Talking Mats with their children. Sarah said ‘Talking Mats gives us a happier home. It helps me be patient, listen and give power to him’ (her son). Talking Mat A Parents View 15.08.19
- Jill Bradshaw of the Tizard Centre, University of Kent outlined her research including her work exploring Talking Mats as a tool to sit beside functional analysis of behaviour where the person’s own view of what challenges and helps them is often overlooked and not included fully. TM and PBS final version for handout
- Anne Lafferty of The Advocacy Project , give a powerful example of using Talking Mats in a legal setting. This important work is in need of funding so we can explore this more fully. Everyone also got to play legislation bingo! Talking Mats and Supported Decision Making PP 2
- Liz Taylor (Talking Mats licensed trainer) and Lynnette Linton (Talking mats co-trainer) from The Action Group shared their experience in a fantastic film. They used a Talking Mat to reflect on the experience and would recommend co-training as an effective way to deliver the Foundation course.
- Brian Robertson and Paddy Carstairs described how they developed a Talking Mats to allow members of the National Involvement Network to explore with other people with a learning disability how The Charter for Involvement related to their life experience.This is an empowering way of using Talking Mats that shows that people who get support can help change and improve the support of other supported people.This is an empowering way of using Talking Mats that shows that people who get support can help change and improve the support of other supported people.
- Rosie Noyce from Pennine Care NHS described a whole team approach to supporting Healthy Young Minds and how they have embedded Talking Mats into their care pathway. She cited powerful case examples of impact and a real commitment by the team to hear the voices of young people Talking Mats and Young People’s Mental Health
And that was just the morning! Lots of delegates have asked for copies of the presentations so watch this space
The afternoon demonstrated just how far Talking Mats has come through its partnerships with other organisations. We are so grateful to all the people who came and had stalls and engaged with our networking activities! There was a real buzz in the room as people explored the variety of ways in which Talking Mats is used to support and enable more effective communication. Lots of connections were being made, people thinking about new ways of working and applying Talking Mats in their settings. People enjoyed seeing old friends but was good to see new networks were being built.
So, thank you Care Opinion, Turning Point Scotland, The Action Group, Capability Scotland, The CALL Centre, The Indigo Group, The National Involvement Network, Forth Valley NHS, The Stirling University Careers Service and Alzheimer Scotland. In addition, Talking Mats had a stand with all its products. Also, to promote our Birthday offer since we are 21, we have a 2 for 1 offer on resources for 21 days so order quickly. It ends on the 5th of September!
Today was also the day that Joan marked her ‘retirement’. She gave a very moving speech that celebrated her distinguished career and her very significant achievements. She leaves an amazing legacy in the Talking Mats framework and with all the energy in the room we are sure it will continue to grow and develop. Thank you, Joan.
Rachel Woolcomb, our Talking Mats OT Associate, shares a recent personal experience where she used Talking Mats to support a difficult conversation:
The vision of Talking Mats is to improve the lives of people with communications difficulties. I have been reflecting recently on the definition of ‘communication difficulties.’
When I first heard about, and started to use Talking Mats 10 years ago, my perception was that it was fantastic for those that could not speak but I must admit I didn’t really consider using it with people who, such as myself, could use their voice to communicate.
Over the years as my understanding has developed, and I have looked further into the use of Talking Mats as a ‘thinking tool’ I have come to a different conclusion.
I would like to suggest that at some points in our lives, each one of us is likely to experience a communication difficulty. I don’t mean that we cannot physically speak, but that we cannot express what we really want to say in words. Perhaps a topic is too difficult to talk about with someone so we don’t bother, or we are overwhelmed by the subject that we don’t really know where to start.
One such subject is that of death and dying.
We know it will happen to us all one day but to talk openly with loved ones, is for some reason, too much to comprehend, too emotive, or considered bleak.
I am very fortunate enough to have grandparents in their 90’s however the conversation about their wishes for the future goes unspoken. It is a challenge for my parents to raise the issue therefore it remains the big unknown.
This is a common problem. In 2009, The National Council for Palliative Care wanted to address this issue and set up the Dying Matters Coalition in England and Wales, to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement and to make plans for the end of life.
Talking Mats have produced a set of topic cards called ‘Thinking Ahead.’ https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/
These were created in consultation with Strathcarron hospice to help people with advanced illness or long term conditions to think ahead and plan for the future. The three topics in the set are: Affairs, Care and Treatment and Personal Values.
My Mum was interested in my role with Talking Mats and wanted to understand what it was all about. We had already started to talk about the challenges of having difficult conversations, especially about death, and therefore over a drink, in a relaxed coffee shop, we embarked on a journey of discovery using a Talking Mat. My Mum as the Thinker and myself as the Listener .
She used the Talking Mat to help her think about things she had not considered and was able to make plans about what she wanted to do next. I heard her wishes and her thoughts, on why certain things were important to her. It was a very special time, facilitated by a Talking Mat.
My challenge to you as readers of this blog is to ask yourself ‘what do I have difficulty talking about’ – A Talking Mat just might be the answer!
Another resource you might find helpful is ‘Let’s Talk about Death and Dying’ – www.ageuk.org.uk
Rachel will be running a ‘Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool’ workshop at our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019. Dr Sally Boa from Strathcarron Hospice will also be running a ‘Talking Mats in End of Life Care’ workshop at this event. Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935
You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.
If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August. Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….
We are all looking forward to celebrating Talking Mats is 21 on the 15th August
The morning is aimed at people who are experienced Talking Mats practitioners and will extend thinking and Talking Mats practice. There are an interesting range of parallel sessions to choose from. Each participant will get to choose three topics to attend.
- Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
- Embedding Talking Mats in Schools
- Talking Mats in Forensic Settings
- Talking Mats in End of Life Care
- My experience of using Talking Mats as a parent
- Talking Mats and Positive behaviour Support
- Talking Mats and Supported Decision- Making
- Empowering people with Learning Disabilities to be Talking Mats Listeners and Trainers
- Talking Mats and Children’s Mental Health
The afternoon is more informal and there will be an opportunity to engage with some of our partners – see how they use Talking Mats and try things out . There will be posters on the use of Talking Mats in lots of different places and for a wide range of applications.
Plus there will be lunch, cake and a few bubbles !
Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935
You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.
If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August .Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….
In this latest blog, our Talking Mats OT Associate, Rachel Woolcomb tells us how Talking Mats can support delivery of Personalised Care:
“Person centred practice”, and “partnership approach” are common phrases heard in health and social care settings but what does this really mean in practice?
How good are we at ensuring our service users are truly heard, and given opportunities to talk about what is important to them?
Recently NHS England set out their ambitions for the delivery of personalised care. This is a commitment to enabling people to have the same choice and control over their mental and physical health that they have come to expect in every other part of their life.
This however requires a shift in culture.
One of the cornerstones of personalised care is shared decision making. This is a collaborative process in which people are supported to understand the options available to them including the various risks, benefits and consequences. A shared decision will have acknowledged personal preferences, circumstances, values and beliefs. This ensures that when a choice is made it is fully informed.
There is substantial literature which demonstrates the usefulness of goal setting as part of the communication and decision making process.
A well written person-centred goal will describe the anticipated achievement of a specific activity. It will be meaningful and help create a common vision within the rehabilitation process.
Talking Mats is an ideal tool to help facilitate these processes. They enable better conversations and provide an interactive thinking space. They have also been demonstrated to be a useful tool in enabling people to think about their rehabilitation goals.
Read more about this in the TMOT Resource 2: How Talking Mats can help facilitate shared decision making and goal setting: Goal setting TMOT 2
If you would like to find out more about the different Talking Mats training options we offer, take a look here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
Many thanks to Tina Wood, Occupational Therapist at Therapy In Motion, for this great example of how Talking Mats can be used to explore thoughts and feelings both in present-day and in retrospect, to evidence positive outcomes from a change in educational placement. Tina’s use of colour coding and pie charts really helps to illustrate this.
Tina attended our Talking Mats Foundation training back in September 2016 and since then she has been using Talking Mats regularly in her work as an Independent Occupational Therapist.
In this example, Tina has used Talking Mats to enable Ben (name changed for anonymity, age 12½ years) to share his thoughts and feelings using the Talking Mats ‘Consulting Children and Young People’ resource packs – focusing on the topics ‘My Body and Skills’ and ‘What I do and Support’.
At the time of this Talking Mat, Ben had been accessing a new placement at a Pupil Referral Unit for the past 11 months (click on the picture below to see a clearer version).
As there was clearly a difference in how Ben felt things were going when he was attending his previous school, Tina decided to ask him to do a retrospective Talking Mat of how things were going for him 11 months ago in January 2018, when he started to feel “unwell”.
This enabled comparison with how he feels now in the “safe setting” of the Pupil Referral unit (click on picture to see a clearer version).
Tina then compiled the information from the above tables into pie charts, enabling a clear visual comparison between the two times/situations (click on picture to see a clearer version):
As can be seen from these charts, there had been a huge change in Ben’s perception of how he is coping with life in general and school in particular.
Tina recommended that this information needs to be considered along with the rest of Ben’s sensory needs (as reported in her full OT report) when deciding on what is the best educational setting for him after leaving the pupil referral unit.
We love this use of colour coding and pie charts to illustrate the information from Ben’s Talking Mats – to really ensure that Ben’s feelings and thoughts are seen and heard.
If you would like to know more about accessing Talking Mats training – available across the UK and Ireland as well as online – please take a look here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
If you have any examples of how you report/share information about completed Talking Mats we would be interested to hear about it! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Woolcomb, our Talking Mats OT Associate, tells us about the recent Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ Report and considers the ways Talking Mats can support:
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists have recently published a new report. “Making personalised care a reality: The role of occupational therapy.”
As the OT Associate for Talking Mats, I took the opportunity to review the document and consider how Talking Mats can help OT’s in fulfilling the recommendations made.
The report recognises that people living with long-term conditions bring different and equally important, knowledge and expertise to the decision –making process.
It challenges OT’s to ensure that they really listen to, and hear the views of the people they work with.
A Talking Mat can help facilitate this. It helps people to understand what is being discussed, to reflect and organise their thoughts, to say what matters most to them and record their views. It helps OT’s to really listen, to learn new information, to involve the person in their own planning and support decision making.
Read more about how Talking Mats can help OT’s to make personalised care a reality in the TMOT Resource 1: TM Personalised Care – Copy.
The RCOT report is available here: https://www.rcot.co.uk/news/delivering-personalised-care-frontline
Rachel would love to hear from you if you have any examples of how Talking Mats have helped you to provide personalised care, or if you want to know more about OT and Talking Mats. Her email is: Rachel@talkingmats.com.
If you are feeling inspired and would like to find out about accessing Talking Mats Foundation Training, take a look at our upcoming courses across the UK, as well as online and organisational training options: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
We are delighted to introduce Rachel Woolcomb our first Talking Mats OT Associate. She is joining the Talking Mats Team and will be working to develop awareness and use of Talking Mats by Occupational Therapists. I will let Rachel introduce herself:
I am delighted that Talking Mats have asked me to join their team for one day a week. I am passionate about occupational therapy and about Talking Mats and to have the opportunity to bring these two loves together and seeing what develops is very exciting.
I live in South Gloucestershire and have had a varied career since I qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1992. I was introduced to Talking Mats in 2008 and have never looked back, using them with my clients ever since.
In 2017, having spent over 25 years working in the NHS, I made the decision to move into independent practice. I work predominately with teenagers and adults who live with long term neurological conditions or who have experienced catastrophic injuries following trauma. I am very aware of the psychological impact of sudden disability and the need for people to be able to express who they are and what is important to them, even in difficult circumstances.
I now use Talking Mats with most of my clients. It doesn’t matter if they are old or young, can speak or have communication needs, they all benefit from the opportunity to stop and think and have someone really listen to them.
In the last few weeks a man who has had a stroke and has limited expressive speech has used a Talking Mat to talk about what leisure activities he used to enjoy. He then used a second mat to explain what he can and cannot achieve now. This helped us together, set goals for occupational therapy. I am also working with a teenager who has had a traumatic brain injury and now struggles with her education. She uses Talking Mats with me regularly, to think about her coping skills at school. Looking back at her previous mats is helping her to recognise progress. I have so many more examples and will be sharing them with you soon!
I really want to inspire OT’s, helping them to consider how they enable their clients to think, communicate their choices and make decisions. A Talking Mat is a great for this. It is also creative and interactive something that in my experience OT’s like! I will also be looking at important issues within the field of occupational therapy that are currently driving practice, such as personalised care, goal setting and shared decision making. I believe it is vitally important that we collaborate with our clients as together we can achieve so much more. Talking Mats is an effective tool in enabling this, so watch this space, and please do get in touch if you want to know more or have stories to share.
It is great to have Rachel working with us to build on some of the excellent work being done already in the Occupational Therapy Sector. Our Director, Lois Cameron shares why we are so excited to welcome Rachel to our Team:
‘I am really pleased that Rachel is joining us . I think the Talking Mats approach sits well with the values and approach of Occupational therapy, In my experience OTs are naturally holistic in their approach. I remember at a training course in London an OT said for her Talking Mats was the missing link in her toolkit. The training and experience of OTs allow them to see things through a different lens and that will be really helpful to us’
For more information about how OT and Talking Mats are a winning combination, take a look at Rachel’s recent blog – https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-ot-a-winning-combination/
Feeling inspired and want to know more about the training courses we offer? See www.talkingmats.com/training/ for details.