We are all continuing to live in challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are concerns about the impact on the mental health of people at all ages and stages of life. This is a good time to reflect on the wide variety of blogs that have signposted how useful Talking Mats can be in helping people to think, structure coherent responses, and express their views. If this is an area of interest to you then take a look at these blogs to find out more:
- Debbie Mole, Clinical Nurse Consultant in Mental Health and Intellectual Disability for DHM Mental Health Care in Melbourne, Australia shares a great example of the positive impact Talking Mats can have for people who have experienced trauma. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-trauma-work/
- Natalie Paris, CashBack 180 Project Lead shares some powerful examples of how Talking Mats has helped her to open up conversations with the young people she works with https://www.talkingmats.com/opening-up-conversations-with-young-people/
- Edith Barrowcliffe from The Action Group demonstrates how Talking Mats has allowed individuals with intellectual disabilities access talking therapies and counselling. https://www.talkingmats.com/counselling-communication-1/
- Edith expands on this work in her second blog, describing how she adapted this approach to use during remote support during lockdown. https://www.talkingmats.com/counselling-learning-in-lockdown/
- Jo Brackley, NHS Clinical Lead for SLT Secure Services (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust) describes how Talking Mats helps people with mental health open up and have richer conversations, with increased novel information gained. https://www.talkingmats.com/covid19_securehospitalsetting/
- Susan Gowland, SLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Service, describes how Talking Mats support patients to express what they think in forensic learning disability setting. https://www.talkingmats.com/forensic_ld_setting/
- Dr Carla Innes, Clinical Psychologist for Learning Disabilities at Stockport Healthy Young Minds (CAMHS) describes how Talking Mats helps the team to gain more insight to the children and young people they are working with, and how it has helped intervention focus on the child’s potential, and zone of proximal development. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-mental-health/. This work in Stockport is further expanded on in a presentation by Dr Rosie Noyce, Clinical Psychologist, given at the Talking Mats 21st Birthday Event in August 2019. https://www.talkingmats.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Talking-Mats-and-Young-Peoples-Mental-Health.pdf
- Georgia Bowker-Brady, Advanced Specialist SLT (Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust) describes how using Talking Mats in dementia care and acute health patient inpatient services helps patients organise their thoughts and express what is going well for them, as well as what isn’t. https://www.talkingmats.com/acute-mental-health/
- Rachel Woolcomb, Talking Mats OT Associate, explains why Talking Mats supports thinking, and why it can be particularly useful in helping people to structure and express their thoughts. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-as-a-thinking-tool/
We would love someone to carry out some research in this field, so if this sparks a research or blog idea, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
The Talking Mats Foundation Training is a course that builds people’s confidence in using and applying Talking Mats to their work. Organisations can access this as a group ensuring staff can embed the Talking Mats approach and principles into their practice. The training also gives staff a common language for embedding a patient centred approach at the heart of a service.
We offer online training by;
- giving organisations access to our online training platform – this is designed as self-directed course, supported by a Talking Mats tutor, with a variety of activities and resources to support learning
- zoom/teams sessions
- a combination of both 1 and 2.
2020 saw an increase in organisations approaching Talking Mats for online team training and this has continued into 2021. We will work with you to find the approach that best suits your staff group.
Online learning does not suit everyone and comments from participants are mixed. Some really like the flexibility of being able to work at their own pace and find the site user friendly whilst others miss the interaction that face-to-face brings. As a team we miss the face-to-face training too but believe that our online training and the support we offer organisations is an excellent alternative.
It is easier to discuss the impact of an organisational course by giving an example. We recently ran a course using our online learning platform combined with short introductory and a follow-up session on Zoom for 24 staff working in an NHS Paediatric service. Taking part on the course were Nurses, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Dieticians and Speech and Language Therapists. It was great working with such a multidisciplinary group. They all have communication at the heart of their practice and were keen to learn about a framework that could help them improve the effectiveness of their work. There were different reasons for doing the course, but a common theme was wanting to have more ways of directly engaging and building relationships with the children they were working with rather than relying mostly on carer views. They wanted to be able to involve young people more meaningfully in some of the complex issues that surrounded their care.
It is always positive when a course has immediate impact and this staff group applied their learning in very different ways, for example Talking Mats was used to;
- communicate with a young person with selective mutism,
- involve a young woman who was self-harming to contribute to the strategies that help her reduce those behaviours ,
- involve children in physiotherapy interventions.
One course participant said ‘I have practised with a couple of patients and it has made a massive impact on their lives already. One patient’s behaviours have dramatically reduced as I was able to support her to show how she felt about aspects of her care and resolve this.’ And another participant said ‘I have now used Talking Mats with a couple of young people with complex neurodevelopmental difficulties and this has helped engagement considerably, where things had felt stuck before’
An important part of Talking Mats training is to help participants think about their own communication style and how it impacts on interactions and relationships. Staff said;
- this course increased my awareness of my communication style and made me reflect more on how I communicate with my patients but also what I presume from my patients.
- I am more aware of the communication demands I place on others as a clinician/therapist and am more confident in engaging people with communication difficulties.
- It has made me think more about the language that i use during interactions.
- It has definitely made me reflect on my own style of questioning, and helped improve my pacing and language skills.
The feedback from this varied and engaged group of staff was positive and is summed up in this comment; ‘The course was very engaging, interesting, and easy to follow and understand. I have learned a lot from this. The reflective work throughout the modules really helped to connect the theory with the practice of Talking Mats. The course leaders were very involved, supportive and helpful!’
Our training is relevant to organisations working within Social Work, Advocacy, Dementia Support and Education as well as Health and Social Care. If you think you would like to organise a course for your staff group please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk it through.
Our first Talking Mats advanced online module has launched. We are pleased we had developed our online foundation training well before lockdown. There has been such great feedback from people who have completed our online foundation course and they have been asking for more. They like the bite size chunks, being able to pace their own learning and the reflective practice approach. Now we are adding to our online course with an advanced Talking Mats module focusing on Talking Mats use in safeguarding. This course is structured around the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource and how to use it.
The Keeping Safe Talking Mats resource was developed to check in with people and find out how their lives are going. It uses a holistic framework to do this and the conversation it supports is structured around three topics: 1) well-being; 2) relationships; 3) thoughts and feelings. The resource was trialled and tested in projects involving over 700 practitioners. Originally, it was designed for people with learning disabilities but feedback has been that it has been helpful with a wide range of people including, those with stroke, head injury, dementia and mental health issues.
The advanced online module involves 2 to 3 hours of learning that you do at your own time and pace. It involves short talks, reading, videos and reflective practice activities. You will develop confidence in using the resource as well as an understanding of relevant issues, such as diagnostic overshadowing, developing the capacity of individuals to raise concerns, the impact of trauma. You will be encouraged to reflect on how you can apply the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource to your own area of practice
To apply for the course, you must have completed your foundation Talking Mats training. If you haven’t completed this training book now – there is still the reduced price training offer if you book your place before the end of August 2020. Access to this advanced course will begin on the first of every month and you will have the full month to complete it.
Book your place now. The cost is £85 for the course and the Keeping Safe resource and £35 if you already have your Keeping Safe resource and just want to do the training.
I am passionate about connection, about communication, about music. That’s what drives me forward. I have been playing the cello for over 40 years; I’ve been playing professionally for about 25 years. Having the privilege and honour of playing at the bedside of people who I cared about who were nearing the end of their life changed my perspective on the importance of music. I realised that there was far more to music and to my playing the cello than ‘performing’ – than my ego. I learned that music could touch all who were involved; listeners and musicians alike in a deeply profound way – but I wasn’t sure quite HOW to harness music in an effective manner to insure I was not simply performing. This realisation took me into a wonderful course in the USA – ‘Music and Transitional Healing Program’ (MHTP.org) back in the early 2000s. I found what I’d been looking for – I learned about different types of music and rhythms and modes and when to play them depending solely on the state of the listener. I learned about entrainment and other very important tools in order to better ensure that all important connection with the listener. I learned to meet the listener where they are in the THAT moment – to aim to get in sync with them – and to then respond to whatever happens.
This learning eventually and unexpectedly led me to a PhD studentship at the University of Stirling where I played the cello live and pre-recorded at the bedsides of care home residents with dementia who were in palliative care, and someone who was closely connected with them. I wanted to know how the recorded vs live music might affect the listener’s connection with one another.
During my PhD, I trained in Talking Mats – I have since bought quite a few of the packs available and remain convinced regarding the effectiveness of this simple tool for enhancing connection and communication.
Now I am moving into the virtual world that we all find ourselves in. Lock-down has allowed me to have more time to fully enjoy playing my cellos (I specialise in baroque cello as well as modern cello – and I have a 6-string electric cello as well!). This strange gap in time has also prompted me to finally building a (still evolving) website (https://drclairegarabedian.com/) and to schedule events related to my work with music and people living with dementia (https://drclairegarabedian.com/events/). Although I have previously offered similar events live, this will be a new experience/learning curve in the virtual world!
I am currently managing a wonderful project through the Edinburgh InterFaith Association (https://www.edinburghinterfaith.com/time-to-talk); ‘Time to Talk’ – this Covid-19 listening service is funded Scottish Government funded through July 2020, and provides a skilled, trained, experienced listener for all care home residents and their families living in Scotland (11:00am – 7:00pm, 7 days a week).
I hope to see you at one of my upcoming events – please sign-up on my website for news of upcoming events and offers. Stay safe and healthy everyone!
Thanks to Claire Garabedian fro this guest blog and good luck from all of us in her new venture
Many thanks to Professor Anna Dunér, Dr Angela Bångsbo and Associate Professor Tina Olsson for this guest blog describing their research project where Talking Mats will be used to enable service users living with dementia to be involved in decisions about their home care services. The project is based on a collaboration between Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, Borås University College and the municipality of Borås, aiming to develop and evaluate the use of Talking Mats.
Associate Prof. Tina Olsson
In Sweden, as in many other developed countries, ideas of consumer choice and personalisation of services have been implemented in social care with the intention of achieving better choice and control as well as increased quality of the services provided for the individual. However, persons living with dementia are at risk of being excluded from the opportunities provided to other groups of service users. Thus, it is important to develop both needs-assessment procedures, and improve the performance of home care services, to enable older people living with dementia continuous choice and control in their everyday living.
We hope that Talking Mats will improve the communication between service users, care managers and staff in eldercare and lead to increased influence of service users over the decisions and planning of their home care services.
During 2020 we have funding for a planning study where we can develop and test the Talking Mats decision aid, identify, translate and test outcome measurements, and refine and test the procedures for a comparative intervention project. In 2021 we hope to attain funding for a three year study.
We have already received valuable advice and information about Talking Mats research from Dr Joan Murphy and hope to keep in contact with her and the Talking Mats team throughout our project.
If you are interested in Talking Mats Research, check out our recent blog with details of how you can get involved with our Virtual Network:
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/
This blog is about how Care Inspectors in Sweden are using Talking Mats.
On 18th March I met up with old friends – Ulrika Ferm and Eva Holmqvist – at the ISAAC Denmark Conference in the beautiful Vingsted Conference Centre in West Denmark. Ulrika and Eva work at DART Communication Centre in Gothenburg Sweden http://www.dart-gbg.org/english/.
Ulrika told me about the following initiative in Sweden and we agreed it would be useful to write a blog about it.
The Health and Social Care Inspectorate https://www.ivo.se/ (the Swedish equivalent of the Care Commission) had been in touch with DART about how they could get the views of people with dementia who live in care homes.
DART made a program of communication for the inspectors which included a first day about communication and dementia. Following this there was a full 2 day course on Talking Mats for 15 inspectors who then went on to pilot the use of Talking Mats as a way to get the genuine views of residents. It was so successful that they are planning to roll this out elsewhere. Now more inspectors in Sweden are getting Talking Mats training and using pictorial support as preparations before inspections.
It would be really good if this could happen in Scotland.
Many thanks to Mary Walsh, Health Service Executive (HSE) Senior SLT at St Mary’s Hospital, Dublin for this fantastic blog post about their project involving use of Talking Mats to support people with Dementia to participate in decision making related to their needs:
In September 2016 Aideen Lawlor (SLT Manager) and I (Senior SLT) won the Dementia Elevator award with a project entitled “Empowering Persons with Dementia to become more Active Participants in Decision Making Related to Their Present and Future Needs.” with Talking Mats being an integral part of this project. In November 2017, the prize money was used to fund my training to become an accredited Talking Mats trainer so that I could then train others in TM Foundation Course on a prioritised basis.
This project is now complete with 6 speech and language therapists (SLTs) from a variety of settings working with persons with dementia all trained in using Talking Mats. As part of their training, The SLTs used TM with patients/ residents with particular reference to the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015. TMs were also used to help the clinicians to get to know their patients, in care planning, in improving increased opportunities for interaction and in improving choices and decision making. In effect, we were checking it out!
All the SLTs found that when TM principles are followed, that it helped to empower people with dementia to make decisions about their care. Some of the reported findings:
- That the pictures help maintain attention and aid comprehension.
- That it facilitated strengths rather than a deficit model.
- That photographed completed TM provided a pictorial record for meetings – very positive.
- That it provided a significant catalyst for change in some instances.
- That it helped people with dementia and responsive behaviour get needs met
- That video recording sessions with consent greatly enhances reflective practice and may be helpful in key decision making
The next phase is to expand the number of SLTs who can provide training in Talking Mats across the Republic of Ireland. Funding from the national SLT professional body training grant scheme has been sought for these 6 SLTs to become trainers for Talking Mats. This will result in cascading training on a priority basis, increase evidence base/ knowledge re using TM and embedding TM in variety of clinical settings with SLTs leading this practice.
Senior speech and language therapist,
St. Mary’s Hospital,
Phoenix Park, Dublin 20,
Speech and Language Therapy Manager
If you are feeling inspired and are interested in accessing Talking Mats training, we offer Foundation Training courses throughout the UK and Ireland as well as online – take a look here for more details:
Once you have accessed Foundation Training you can apply for our Accredited Trainers course to enable you to deliver Talking Mats training to others in your area.
Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look at how using the Digital Talking Mats can help people with long term conditions, including dementia, to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities. We also hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.
11 people living with dementia and their partners were involved in the project. Each participant had a tablet device and was given a personal digital Talking Mats licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home, taught them how to use it and asked them to complete at least 1 digital Talking Mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to us. We visited each participant a second time to discuss how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks and we visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.
In total we received 94 digital mats across all 13 topics from the participants living with dementia who reported that the use of the Digital Talking Mats during this project gave them a better understanding of their own individual health and social care needs.
A woman with dementia said ‘It (Health mat ) made me realise things are not so bad and made me think I will continue with my exercise classes, carry on walking, socialising and eating well’
As well as helping participants self-manage their lives, an unexpected outcome of this project was that many people found that using the Digital Talking Mats helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a deteriorating illness, things were not getting worse.
The following are some of the comments we received throughout the project.
• It helps me sort out my thoughts – very useful
• I get so much out of the process
• I come up with insights which might help me in the future
• I can now talk to (my wife) in a way I couldn’t before
• I’m more relaxed now
• I come up with niggly health things that my partner didn’t know
‘It made me realise things are not so bad’.
If you know of anyone living with dementia would like to obtain the Digital Talking Mats please fill in the attached Personal Digital Licence 161117 DTM personal licence form with explanation and send it to us at email@example.com
Self-management for people with long term conditions (LTC) is now a key government strategy to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health, behaviour and well-being. Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look how using the Digital Talking Mats (DTM) can help people with LTCs to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities.
The overall aim of our project was to empower people with different long term conditions, to manage their own health and well-being. Through using Digital Talking Mats (DTM) we hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.
There were a total of 28 participants in this project living with one of three different long term health conditions – stroke, dementia and learning disability. Each participant had access to a tablet device and was given a personal DTM licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home and taught them how to use it and asked them to complete and send us at least 1 digital mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to the researchers. We visited each participant a second time to discuss on how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks. We visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.
15 participants completed all 6 mats and 12 participants continued to complete mats over the length of the project. Participants completed 235 digital mats across all 13 topics
There were 3 particularly significant findings
1. At 18 months the participants living with dementia actually felt their well-being had improved, despite dementia being a progressive illness.
2. For the participants living with stroke the results were even more striking as 95% felt things were going well at the end of the project in comparison with 47% at the beginning.
3. At the end of the project the percentage of people with learning disability who felt things were not going well had reduced from 19% to 10%. Furthermore the percentage of people indicating that they were not sure about their views had increased from 27% to 42%. There can be a tendency for people with learning disability when using Talking Mats, to express their views at either end of the mat and to rarely use the mid- point. However being able to use the unsure mid- point is noteworthy as it indicates that the participants in the project realised that they could express their views not only as black or white but could indicate that they were unsure. This awareness opens up the potential for people to express views more thoughtfully with opportunities for further exploration.
Here are three examples of how using the DTM supported people to self-manage situations in their lives. Click on image to enlarge.
As well as helping participants self-manage their long term conditions, an unexpected outcome of this project is that many people found that using the DTM helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a long term condition and, for many also a deteriorating one, that things were not getting worse.
Click here for full report including 6,12 and 18 month reports to the funders 20180717 Alliance full report
Click here for the summary report 20180717 Alliance Final Short Report