(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.