Lauren is passionate about supporting people to live well - or thrive - in spite of personal challenges and in spite of mental health conditions. She is dedicated to providing an alternative, flexible and proactive model of support so that people who want and need support for their mental health are able to access this when they actually need it, understanding far too well the devastating consequences of a wholly reactive mental healthcare system and one that doesn't always view a person, or their symptoms, in the context of their past experiences.
Above all, she is determined to make mental healthcare provision as much of a priority as physical healthcare, whilst recognising the differences between both 'types' of care, as well as the individual differences and experiences of people who have them. This is the basis for CHIME to Thrive, whereby Lauren provides 1:1 structured, holistic, sessions to people via video calls or phone calls under the supervision of a Consultant Clinical Psychologist. CHIME to Thrive also provides consultancy, training and talks to organisations who value the insight that lived experience of mental illness and recovery can bring and who value the people within their organisations and want to support their mental wellbeing.
Lauren is probably what some people would consider 'high functioning' (she calls this 'putting on a mask'). She received a BA in Linguistics and English Literature, an MSc. in Language Pathology and qualified, trained and worked as a Speech and Language Therapist, later specialising within Neurology. However, Lauren battled privately with episodes of mental ill-health across a spectrum of severity and categories for over half her life with no support beyond trial and error medication given to her in 10 minute GP appointments and no psychological support or attempt to understand the underlying causes of her symptoms. Inevitably, the mask eventually got too heavy and she first went into crisis a few years ago. She was then diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) with aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Since then she has dedicated herself to her own recovery (a far from linear journey) as well as supporting others facing mental health challenges and illness and who have struggled to access the support they need and deserve.
Lauren has since received a scholarship to study at NTU where she completed a BPS accredited Masters in Psychology (inspired by her own Clinical Psychologist), on the course she was elected academic representative and was also a wellbeing champion for students. Lauren is also a peer-supporter in the crisis service where she was once a patient; here, she runs a course she developed based on the CHIME model of recovery and insights she has gained through her own lived and clinical experience. She completed her masters research project on peer-support within this setting and plans to make the findings accessible soon. Lauren has been awarded a studentship to continue to explore peer-support, trauma, identity and recovery for her PhD beginning October 2020. In addition, she is Lived-Experience Director for Staywell Derby CIC.
Lauren has represented the services that she volunteers within Derby University and has presented to Derbyshire Clinical Commisioners, healthcare professionals, and the Police Crime Commissioner about her own experiences and the difficulties for people with mental health problems in accessing crisis services with the aim of developing a more effective pathway for access to urgent mental healthcare services. She has presented to staff within the voluntary sector on the CHIME recovery model and attended conferences around recovery, lived experience leadership, peer support, adverse childhood experiences and trauma. She is also a member of a service advisory group for a local mental health charity as well as a member of the Research into Recovery network.
CHIME to Thrive is a private service, paid for on a session-by-session basis, however, since March 2020 work has been done in a voluntary capacity as part of a Covid response to support some of those people at risk of 'falling through the net'. Lauren aims to find alternative sources of funding for people who are struggling to work as a result of their mental health and who would benefit from accessing this service. Lauren is currently training two other paid Lived Experience Practitioners to deliver free sessions to those who need it under it, this has been supported by a grant from the National Survivers User Network, as well as by Santander, and organisational training around adverse childhood experiences, trauma, mental health, recovery, peer-support, COVID and telehealth communication.
Lived experience of mental illness
15 years misdiagnosis/without professional support
Emergency hospital admissions
Two crisis house admissions
Workplace discrimination for mental illness
Stomach cramps & migraines
Unable to process written or spoken information
Visual, somatic and emotional flashbacks
Attempts to end life
Deciding what information to 'put out there' about my history of mental illness has definitely been the most challenging part about producing this website.
The most obvious reason for this is that, regardless of how open I am about mental health, writing down my most difficult life experiences for all to see (friends, family, acquaintances, strangers) is pretty daunting! I feel positively about what I've overcome and how these experiences have shaped who I am today, nevertheless, these have been very real, very painful events and I have had to consider them slowly and carefully; regularly checking in with myself about how much information feels safe and helpful to divulge in one place.
I felt it was important to give readers information about my background and diagnoses so that you can begin to make an informed choice around whether I may be suited to help your individual needs based on these experiences.
At the same time, I didn't want my experiences to overwhelm or to trigger anyone who is in a vulnerable place. I am also aware, both from research and personal experience, that reading or hearing about other people's experiences can be both hope-inducing and cause for comparisson, the latter is not helpful.
For several reasons, then, I have chosen to omit certain experiences and words from the above, however I would be willing to talk about these if appropriate, safe and helpful. If you have any questions about the above please feel free to ask me.
Training and experience as a healthcare professional
Lauren volunteered from her early teenage years supporting the activity and participation of children with additional needs. After her BA in Linguistics with English Literature, during which she worked as a Psychology Research assistant and began learning British Sign Language, she gained work experience in hospitals in India and Brazil to gain a broader perspective of healthcare. On return, she worked a briefly as a healthcare assistant on a Care of the Elderly ward and later as a Speech and Language Therapy Assistant
before starting her two year MSc. in Language Pathology, a professionally qualifying degree using a problem-based approach which enabled her to become a Speech and Language Therapist. During her degree she became passionate about evidence based practice and established a journal club, worked as a Personal Assistant and volunteered in a group for people with communication impairment following stroke and lobbeyed the local MP to hear their voices which loudly stated the need for psychological support. She received a Distinction in her Masters, and registered with the Health and Care Professional Council and joined the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. She then worked as a Speech and Language Therapist within hyperacute, acute, rehabilitation and community settings, primarily within Stroke and Neurology, specialising in Neurorehabilitation, which she loved for it's holistic focus. Lauren had always been a big advocate of the NHS and provision of social care, however after becoming unwell she faced stigma and discriminatory practice around mental illness and disability and realised that she would be able to be more proactive and more effective in creating postive change towards mental health 'outside' the system and so she resigned.
Lauren has brought with her the following skills from her training and experience within healthcare.
Research Interests and Research Experience
Lauren is passionate about evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practice combines the use of published research, clinical experience and most, importanty, the needs, wishes and experience of the person who is being supported.
Her research experience includes:
Research assistant - Psychology - Nottingham Trent University (current)
Research assistant - Psycoloinguistics - York University
Psychology MSc. - Nottingham Trent University (current)
Language Pathology MSc. - Newcastle Unliversty
Linguistics with English Literature BA (Hons.) - York University
Daily application of Evidence Based Practice as Lived Experience Practitioner, and previously as Speech and Language Therapist including: choice of approach depending on client's needs, standardised and non-standardised outcome measures, controls, and evaluating effectiveness of intervention, including on quality of life.
Presentation deliveies: case studies, interventions, critically appraised research, postgraduate research conference proposal, presentations on coproduction and lived experience, presented to CCGs, PCC, third sector, healthcare professionals, SLT services, university students.
Continued Professional Development including involvement in research groups such as Research into Recovery Network, Survivor Research Network, attendance at relevant conferences.
Established journal club to encourage critical appraisal skills for newly qualified Speech and Language Therapists.
Evidence Based Practice blog - Speech and Language Therapy.
Lauren's main aim is to improve outcomes for people struggling with mental ill health.
Her related research interests include:
The use of peer-support to improve mental health outcomes for people who are struggling, including through shared experiential knowledge and shared social identities.
The value of having lived, experiential knowledge of what it is to be in a particular situation e.g. mental distress, and application of that knowledge to improve outcomes for others facing similar situations, including through face-to-face support, organisational training and education, public-patient involvement, power-issues in traditional patient vs professional healthcare structures, service improvement and 'consumer' researchers.
The CHIME model of recovery is based on a systematic review which found Connectedness, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment to be important components of personal recovery. Personal recovery differs from definitions of clinical or functional recovery and is about being able to live a hopeful, meaningful and connected life in spite of difficulties from mental illness. Lauren advocates that this approach is useful for many people however is also interested in crticisms of recovery approaches including it not sufficiently factoring in or addressing socioeconomic causes of mental ill health and not being a word that some people with chronic mental ill health find helpful. Lauren is equally, if not more, passionate about the need for preventative approaches to mental ill health including early intervention and incorporating prevention, early intervention and recovery approaches into an overall model of improving wellbeing.
Trauma-informed research including those which acknowledge the biological, psychological, somatic, social and econommic impact of trauma on a person and their mental wellbeing. Interests around this include polyvagal theory, adverse childhood experiences, complex trauma, post-traumatic stress, compassion-focussed approaches and psychosomatic approaches.
The social model of disability and the 'social cure'
The social model of disability states that society is the most disabling factor. E.g. if two people were called to a job interview and only had steps as a means of access then an interviewee in a wheelchair would be disadvantaged compared to an interviewee who was able-bodied. If, on the other hand, the building had a ramp, both candidates would be equally able to access the building. This approach can be applied to mental health as well as physical health.
The 'social cure' approach is related to this in that it provides a theoretical and empirical basis for helping us understand why social prescribing is effective.