How Talking Mats Makes a Difference in a Forensic LD Setting
Many thanks to Susan Gowland, SLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Service, for this guest blog summarising the fantastic presentation she delivered at our TM is 21 event in August 2019.
As a speech and language therapist within NHS Fife’s forensic learning disability service, I work across two low secure wards. In my presentation for the “Talking Mats is 21 event” I talked about the way in which Talking Mats is used within these wards and the positive impact this has had for staff and patients.
Regular Check In: “it’s the same questions, but it’s easier to talk with the pictures”
Some of the people I work with use Talking Mats as a regular check in tool. Conversations are often based around the Wellbeing, Relationships and Thoughts and Feelings cards of the Keeping Safe resource, with personalised adaptations agreed with the thinker. Some people who find it difficult to express how they are feeling and irritations can either build up to a serious incident or the person can get weighted down by unexpressed needs and concerns. For these people a regular check in can address the small things before they become big things. This can help the thinker feel listened and responded to, build experiences of communicating effectively, as well as trust and therapeutic relationships, all of which are assets which will support the person to move on.
Self Reporting: “It helps me understand how I’m feeling about things”
For some people, the check in can have a specific focus. In a hospital based forensic service, unexpected and unrecognised changes in mental health can lead to serious incidents. To address this we have used Talking Mats to talk about mental health. SLT have worked with individuals, psychiatry & nursing to identify personal symptoms of mental health changes. These symptoms become options in the Talking Mat & can be used to support person to self report at the times their mental health changes. Being able to do this enables people to discuss the support they need & reduce the risk of out of the blue incidents. The Talking Mat itself can be a support. As one thinker said, “Talking Mats relaxes you, it calms you down”.
As and when required:
The regular use of Talking Mats on the ward has led to other patients asking for Talking Mats sessions. As a licensed trainer I offer training to all professionals within our multi-disciplinary team and there is often at least one Talking Mats trained nurse on shift. This means ad hoc requests can be facilitated and some thinkers have started using Talking Mats in weekly meetings; as a tool to talk through emotional events and as a way of exploring the mixed emotions around discharge. In the words of one of the charge nurses:
“Talking Mats has enabled me to communicate with people in a way that is meaningful. To support someone to express and understand their thoughts and feelings regarding both joyous and distressing events is a privilege. The format may be simple, but the outcome is often comprehensive and insightful.”
(Picture drawn by Fiona Glanville, staff nurse, NHS Fife)
If you would like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats training, check out this link:
If you are interested in our Keeping Safe resource mentioned here (available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training / Online Training Course) please see these links for more details: