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Wellness Advisors

(presented as is, no time for editing today.)

Positive Step; I’ve mentioned them before, so have others, in responses to my posts. They are the go-to group referenced by my GP and now the asperger clinician, after so far failing to provide a diagnosis. They are presented as the entry level mental health service provider, but in truth they exist solely as a provider of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and nothing else. So I’m being told to go to them for what will be the third time. I know it’s pointless, but if I am not seen be doing what the doctors think then I will be criticised and labelled as lazy. This is how the game it seems has to be played.

However Positive Step has a history I want to understand. They are connected with ATOS. They call their advisors, whom you might otherwise like to think of as doctors or psychologists, Wellness Advisors. This reminds me of what ATOS calls their diagnostic staff: Healthcare Professionals. Both are, I suspect, unprotected terms, regardless of the background of any individual concerned.

On Tuesday morning I have an appointment with a Wellness Advisor. This process has taken me almost a month. Initially I was told, by my GP, I had to refer myself and did so. Unfortunately trying to get hold of Positive Step is not easy. They have an admin team that do not seem to understand the nature of the people they are dealing with and so instigate a ‘we’ll call you back at some point between now and the end of time’ approach, much like any mundane call centre. I suspect this is the influence of ATOS. When they did call back I was out (it was the evening and I had assumed their office closed). I rang the number back to find it was someone’s personal mobile phone number! They seem to contract out to private individuals the job of booking appointments even though that process includes a brief but personal assessment of your state of mind (presumably so that if you are actually suicidal they can call your GP and get themselves well out of it, as they aren’t specialists). I was told someone was going to call back shortly. They didn’t and I had to ring again (a freephone number at least) the next day when I did manage to get through to someone.

The assessment process however is just an entry point to another level of bizarre and pointless admin: you are then put back on ‘hold’ to wait to be given, again with a phone call, an appointment with the Wellness Advisor who will conduct another assessment! No it doesn’t make much sense. 

This process has taken about three weeks: I rang back twice after receiving two identical letters saying that ‘we called when you were out and so if you want to proceed you have to ring back and go back into the queue’. This really is no way to treat people. I was even told they would email me, as somehow they have my email address (I must have given it to them during a prior appointment – the two times I’ve seen them previously were never this awkward). That didn’t happen either until my third call managed to sort me out with the appointment I have on Tuesday.

Curiously this email, sent by their admin team, includes details of a group called ‘OHassist’. This is the group handling Positive Step’s admin, and they are connected to ATOS. This is what the bottom of the email says:

OH Assist TM is a trading name used by the Atos group. The following trading entity is using the trading name OH Assist: Atos IT Services UK Limited, registered in England and Wales with registered number 01245534 and Vat No. GB232327983; and is registered office at 4 Triton Square, Regents Place, London, NW1 3HG.

Now why does a (presumably) small group liked Positive Step even need a multinational IT firm like ATOS, perhaps through a subcontractor or affiliate, to handle phone calls? Why is this long winded process – just to get an appointment with someone who may or may not be a proper mental health professional – necessary?

I don’t know if Positive Step operates elsewhere, that isn’t the impression I get though I could be wrong. Their website lists they are a local group only and I can find no trace of any link to other iterations across the country. They are also supposed to work in partnership with the mental health trust that has been diagnosing me (hence telling me to go to Positive Step). I need to ask my Wellness Advisor (what a stupid term) what his/her experience and qualifications are. I know they peddle CBT and I know that’s all they will offer me so to be fair I am wasting my time, but I have to be seen to go through this nonsense. However I will be using it as an opportunity to ask some questions.

My suspicion is that they exist to offer a very simple one size fits all solution to mental health problems in the local populace with the notion that such people can be quickly helped and thus won’t need to be a ‘burden’. Unfortunately CBT is not suitable for everything or everyone. It might be great if you’re afraid of spiders or heights – something that can be easily debunked and desensitised – but if you have deeper or more serious issues you are not best served. I do not need to be marginalised because I ‘refuse’ CBT. I need to get access to a proper diagnosis and the right kind of support. Is the best that can be provided locally a group linked to the likes of ATOS?

You see the problem is that by regarding all mental health issues as something that can be fixed by CBT you are saying that such problems are ‘wrong thinking’ or ‘negative’ thinking in some way. Certainly the experiences they can lead to can indeed be negative, in that they are painful and limiting. But to regard this as bad is something I would regard as unhelpful; it’s a rather dismissive and simplistic approach just seeking to label a problem as bad and apply a process to ‘correct’ it. CBT doesn’t seem (and wasn’t my experience last time I interacted with it) to take into account the reasons why you have problems. These may well be more serious in nature. I don’t imagine that has changed, otherwise you would require more than a Wellness Advisor can provide.

Aspergers and neuro diversity is not ‘bad’; it is merely how someone’s mind functions. It is how they think. Why is that bad? Problematic certainly; our society demands people be able to function a certain way and, as I contend with my experience, these conditions make life a lot more difficult in many fundamental and unseen ways. I do not need to learn a process to ‘correct’ my thinking; I need a process that helps my issues be recognised and accepted so that I can become independent of a system that currently does not recognise and accept them and in fact (in the case of the DWP) seems to exploit such people.


  1. You have been told by an "asperger clinician" to go to Positive Step?

    I'd be asking to see that clinician's CV, certificates and then, walking out.

    ATOS owns Positive Step. They always have. OH Assist is the new branding for ATOS in their dealings with the DWP and NHS. OH Assist are just continuing with their commercial OH work and probably now running recruitment for PS.

    As for experience and qualifications of "Wellness Advisors" When I last looked, three years post qualification experience was stipulated and the experience and qualifications had to be gained within an obvious field like being a CPN or a closely related field. It was the extension of the "related" fields that were of concern, because they were recruiting from physiotherapy - just like ATOS did when assessing claimants.

    They have also been rather flexible on the three years post qualification experience.

    Many of the Wellness Advisors are very young, with little life experience and in training they are seriously sold short. A few weeks substandard training on how to carry out "script based conversations" is the bulk of it.

    As a patient, you have every right to reject their suggestion that cycles you round and round, back and forth to PS and to totally inappropriate therapy. You don't have to capitulate, you are seeking help, they should provide it.

    CBT is totally inappropriate for what you describe as your issue. CBT is not a diagnostic tool. Someone needs to tell that to your "clinician", Positive Step and your GP. Everyone is shunted to PS - people with very serious issues are harmed by Positive Step every day.

    If you are serious about getting this nailed, it looks like you'd do better to frequent some of the fora for those with Aspergers or other forms of neurodiversity. Speak to people who have similar issues and see what they do when caught in the system.

  2. I have posted on the NAS forums before, but there really isn't anything else being suggested. Ultimately I suppose it comes down to finding the right doctor and proving your case to them. I obviously have not done this.

    I did ask the person on the phone what her qualifications were and that's exactly the resposne. She was a young lady fresh from uni with a degree in psychology training, not to be a doctor, but a wellness advisor (at least right now). So yes, you are right; this is all nonsense and is obviously owned by ATOS (otherwise why else would they be involved).

    I don't know anyone that's dealt with them, but I won't be pursuing it. I asked her if she could offer anything else and she said she could speak to the Bristol Autism Spectrum Service, but then they are going to be the same people that have just (not) diagnosed me so I doubt it will be anyhelp. She is going to ring me back today to tell me what they can offer.

    Im not really sure what else I can do, other than see what happens when the Work Psychologist speaks to the diagnostic person. But I doubt they will disagree being colleagues after all.

    Back to being in limbo really.

  3. It's a lousy business, all of this. It affects so many and the deeper you get into it, the more rot you uncover, especially within NHS MH services, but it's everywhere within the NHS.

    Have a mooch around the Royal College of Psychiatrists site

    They should have some lists of shrinks and their specialities working in the geographical and subject area. A couple of days Googling their credentials and practice, might turn up some likely ones to approach.

    Then it's the difficult bit. Building your case to present to them, to convince them to give you an assessment, without charge. It takes a huge amount of cheek to do it. But it can be worth it.

    Have you approached the neurodiversity organisations and charities directly to ask for advice? They should be able to point you in a more helpful direction as nothing has been suggested on the forum

    Don't blame yourself for not proving your case to them. Fault is within the system and the professionals that live off of it. They have a different agenda to you.

    1. I don't think I have the energy or patience to trawl around anymore sites.

      The attitude toward mental health is absolutely appalling.

      I haven't spoken to any charities yet directly, I have spoken to the local NAS branch before but they weren't able to offer any insight. That was when I was trying to find where i could get a diagnosis. I suspect they will defer to the professionals and it's hard to see where else I could go.

  4. It's a given that the attitude to MH is appalling, that's why you are where you are.

    Total despondency is understandable.

    1. Mental Health is the biggest problem among humans today.

      Things have to change.

  5. There is no such thing as "asperger's". Psychiatry itself is a bogus science. The following articles and essays explain this:

    12 Part essay that exposes psychiatry as a bogus science

    Inventor of ADHD: “ADHD is a fictitious disease”

    Co-Founder of DSM admits there is no way to scientifically prove that mentall illness is real

    One year old babies and younger being put on psychiatric drugs

    Psychiatric Drugs Shorten Life Span by 15 years on average

    Psychiatry is based on lies and falsehoods

    Psychiatry is a fake science

    Every human emotion is now a "mental illness"

    Ten Myths about Psychiatric Drugs

    Studies show psychiatric drugs have no benefits and are dangerous

    Psychiatry is now giving 3 year old children drugs

    Psychiatric drugs make you sicker

    A few free eBooks talking about how psychiatry is a massive hoax

    A list of THOUSANDS of psychiatrists who have committed crimes against their patients

    1. I don't know what I'm meant to make of this.

      I'm not advocating nor seeking the use of drugs.

      I think to suggest that all of psychiatry is bogus is a ridiculous overreaction. I know these are difficult times we are living in and people are being led to question everything, but it doesn't then follow that everything is wrong.

    2. To be clear, i'm not trying to be dismissive. I apprecite people responding on my blog. But i find that a bit overwhelming, to be honest. I'm sure there's some truth to it, as with most things, but these days there's a lot of people that question things a bit too much. What i mean is that they end up falling for snake oil and conspiracy theories, believing in cranks like Alex Jones or David Icke. While there are undoubtedly good reasons to distrust the pharmacuetical industry, there's also plenty good reason to distrust crank science and alternate medicines that don't - can't - work.

  6. Looks like a big list from someone who has been harmed by psychiatry to me.

    The person is sort of right I think. Much of it is bogus science. Science requires tangibility and the mind is anything but tangible. If you dig around you can find the studies behind most psychiatric drugs that the drug companies didn't publish, that show how wrong the "chemical imbalance theory " for most MH conditions is. The work of Joanna Moncrieff will show you plainly how dreadful the industry is, both in its basic and fallacious beliefs and the pharmacology they push. J Moncrief is a senior psychiatrist who is head of something or other at some London Uni. Look her up. She talks and writes very sound science and sense.

    Other non kooky authors who really do know the issues and history on this subject are Jeffrey Masson and Bob Johnson (each one has trained as a psychiatrist and worked as such)

    You might find useful info at The Critical Psychiatry Network. Useful as in things to read about the subject, not necessarily to sort out your current need. With MH we have to be educated about our issues and know about current thinking, treatments, therapies whilst those charged with our care aren't always informed at even a basic level. This of course isn't restricted to MH.

    Psychiatry ought to place itself in the realm of philosophy. Because that is what it is. Psychiatry has a very confused history. Science was where it was decided it should be as it was concerned with wellbeing. It is not exactly bogus, but it is misplaced.

    Mostly MH therapies and treatments are useless (the ones experienced by me have at best been useless and innapropriate and at worst caused severe harm) They are perfect to keep the serfs, compliant and obedient. The compounding effect of side effects being medicated for again and again results in no one being fixed or better.

    We need to go back to therapeutic communities (and hey, real communities that actually care and act well with each other) and dump the pharmaceutical and behavioural approach. One look at the state of those attending the MH resource centre tells you that none of the approaches work and in our increasingly hate ridden, fractured society that thrives on greed, it's unlikely that therapeutic communities would ever exist again, unless ATOS of G4S have the contract (jest)

    The current state of MH provision in this country (and globally too) is an absolute atrocity.

    1. That may be so and I wouldn't disagree, but I don't think you can write all of it off. The problem is the lack of investment and interest because the prevailing attitude toward mental health is still so primitive.

      However I would, and have, refused to take pills that are related to the head (ie here's some depression meds). Not unless it's absolutely necessary and there's no other choice (which is still no guarantee of efficacy). But I'm certainly not going to be zombified because doctors think treat mental health in society like battlefield medicine: patch him up so he can do his job and send him back to the trenches. Who cares if it really cures.


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