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Think Therapy 1st – Helping Cathy to live as ‘the new me’

How a focus on functional rehab has enabled life-changing consequences

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When Cathy was injured in a hit and run, thankfully she escaped serious physical injury, but the psychological impact was profound. Here, NR Times learns how she has been supported in rebuilding her life by Think Therapy 1st – and how its focus on rehabilitation has enabled Cathy to live a life beyond all her hopes and expectations

 

When Cathy speaks to NR Times, it becomes clear that she is a very busy lady. Having just returned from a wedding in the North of England – a long trek from her home on the South coast – in a couple of days’ time, she will be riding a Harley Davidson for the first time, building on an interest in motorbikes she has had for over 50 years. 

She also shares how she enjoyed a recent mini-break to Oxford, is about to embark on a Scandinavian cruise and has booked a trip to Cyprus for her 70th birthday next year. 

This is all interspersed with her days spent enjoying walks along the seafront in her hometown of Hastings, seeing her grandchildren – one of whom recently took part in a production of Bugsy Malone, which Cathy attended, of course – and making the very most of her life. 

“I’m loving the ‘new me’,” she says. “I feel like a new person.”

For while Cathy is now living her best life, back in October 2019, the story was very different. 

Having been hit by a car outside her local Tesco, which then drove off leaving her with a head injury, Cathy confesses she went on to hit “rock bottom” and felt completely unheard and overlooked.

While she was spoken to by police in the ambulance, it took another seven months for them to take a statement from her. And Cathy, who had pre-existing fibromyalgia, struggled to get any medical support – appointments at her GP surgery were almost non-existent – and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant she became confined within the four walls of her flat. 

“I didn’t want to go out, I was scared to cross the road. No one was listening, I felt forgotten about. I was at the absolute lowest point,” recalls Cathy. 

But after more than a year of struggling to secure any support, Cathy met Fiona Peters, an occupational therapist at Think Therapy 1st (TT1st), following a referral from her personal injury solicitor and insurer.

With a focus on functional rehabilitation, which empowers clients to be able to fulfil their aspirations and goals – rather than compensate with easier-to-achieve alternatives –  TT1st has a proven track record in supporting people to achieve outcomes that far exceed all expectations. 

Through making rehab enjoyable, and with rehabilitation built into absolutely every activity the client undertakes – and a programme geared around the client’s own interests – TT1st is gaining a strong reputation for its ability to empower people to take charge of their own recovery. 

From the very first meeting, Fiona identified the psychological problems at the root of Cathy’s recovery, which were proving such a barrier to her being able to enjoy a quality of life. 

“I was really struck by this idea that she felt like an old lady, how she had gone from being a really active grandmother to being on her own, and that this was her life,” says Fiona. 

“There was a lot of health anxiety and a lot of fear avoidance behaviour. Even to get around her flat, she was using the walls to support her. She was de-conditioned as she hadn’t been out much, so there wasn’t much exercise tolerance.

“The injury had absolutely knocked her confidence and impacted all the symptoms of fibromyalgia to the point she could not control it. Her concentration was really, really poor, she couldn’t sustain her attention for any length of time, and her mood was very low. 

“But our focus was on making and keeping a happy Cathy. We started working together and we made a plan of how we could achieve this.”

Adapting Cathy’s sessions to two shorter periods each week, rather than one single session, to accommodate her lack of ability to concentrate, Fiona identified activities which would engage her and through which occupational therapy could truly make an impact on her life. 

From her career as a cook, Cathy was adept at cooking, and loved knitting as well as walking – all of which Fiona saw as opportunities to rebuild Cathy’s confidence, while giving her the tools to battle the impact of her low mood and fibromyalgia symptoms. 

“We started really small indoors and then started to venture out,” says Fiona. 

“Cathy had a lot of anxiety about crossing the road, which was very physical, she would get very clammy and have heart palpitations. But we started small and planned to meet some family in the park across the road opposite where she lives, which was a real boost as COVID restrictions started to be lifted. 

“We were working on small, achievable goals to help rebuild her confidence and increase her tolerance for activities, and built up from there. 

“We did some dinner clubs where we cooked and planned some meals together and then sat down together to eat them. Cathy loves National Trust sites, so we went out to visit them and to enjoy a walk, which always involved cake and coffee too. 

“Cathy is an absolutely prolific knitter, but she hadn’t been able to do that for a while. She just couldn’t concentrate anymore. So by teaching me, we were able to re-engage her in it. I can’t say I was very good – I did three stitches while Cathy knitted a whole baby outfit! – but to see her re-engage in something she loved was fantastic. 

“And as well as the activities, because Cathy had been living with her health condition for a long time, we introduced some education around the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of pacing yourself, not overdoing it, which would help her to live her life again longer-term.”

For Cathy, who admits to not being sure what to expect initially, the involvement of TT1st in her rehabilitation was a welcome turning point. 

“It was fun, it wasn’t what I expected at all,” recalls Cathy. 

“I’ve had sessions with people before to talk about my depression, but I stopped going because they wanted to dig up things I didn’t feel I wanted to talk about. But with Fiona, it was fun and we had fun together, and that made all the difference.”

Quickly, Cathy began to progress through her engagement in, and enjoyment of, her rehabilitation programme. 

“I wanted to focus on things Cathy was interested in, and for her to feel heard. We also really tapped into her personality, which is always ‘I’ll have a go’,” says Fiona. 

“And through her commitment to having a go and pushing herself, we set a goal of doing a 5k walk. We hoped to do that towards the end of our sessions, but half way through she smashed it. 

“Cathy has lived in this area for most of her life, but she had come to feel very isolated from it, so by walking in placed she knows and loves and had enjoyed with her children and grandchildren, it gave an extra significance to everything we were doing.”

To help address some of Cathy’s deep-rooted issues, which had never effectively been addressed previously, TT1st introduced Traumaticus, a national network of practitioners to deliver therapy, and Cathy met therapist Tom. 

“Working together and in a multi-disciplinary way, we were able to address how Cathy’s health was impacted by her mood and inactivity, and Tom was very gentle in doing so, which was very important,’ says Fiona 

“We worked on ways to recognise the triggers that sink Cathy’s mood and built in strategies to help. Her sleep was very bad, which fed into the pain, depression, low mood and inactivity, and at last Cathy was given some medication to address that.

“We also supported her to advocate for herself, which is something Cathy had not felt able to do for a long time.”

One particular breakthrough in this came in Cathy’s dealings with her local GP surgery, with whom she felt largely ignored. 

“I could never get an appointment, they just wouldn’t listen,” says Cathy. 

“I’d been fighting for weeks to see a doctor, they said the mental health nurse would phone me back but I didn’t hear from her for three weeks. 

“But then one day, I insisted on being seen by a GP, I wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

“And I was seen by the most wonderful doctor. That was a big moment for me.”

Fiona says: “At TT1st, our approach is to never do for a client what they can do for themselves. I could have intervened earlier and rung the surgery, but it was really important that Cathy learned to do that for herself, so she could do it on her own in the long term. 

“We had a goal of working towards her doing that, and typically of Cathy, she smashed it.”

Having worked with Cathy for 12 months – during which she made beyond-expectation progress in terms of both her physical and psychological recovery – Fiona’s occupational therapy work with Cathy is now finished, but the friendship forged between the two women during their time working together means they still keep in touch. 

“Cathy is of course a very busy lady, but it’s lovely to meet for coffee when she’s free,” says Fiona. 

“And of course it’s fantastic to see her living the life she is now, which is a world away from the Cathy I met back in December 2020.”

Cathy says: “I do feel like a new me. I don’t look back, that’s in the past, and we’ll leave the past where it belongs. 

“Now, I can cope a lot better with what the day throws at me, I can cope with life in a way I felt I couldn’t anymore. 

“I’ve enjoyed my sessions with Fiona so much. It was not what I expected – I never expected to enjoy myself! But now, I’m really happy and looking forward to what’s ahead.”

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