Hello Bob, thank you for this interview with Grey Man’s Land. Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello there, I am Bob Paxman and I am a former Royal Engineer and 22nd Special Air Service. I have spent that last 11 years as a Security Management Adviser in many hostile environments worldwide and I now specialise in the treatment of PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) with a unique process that trains ‘veterans to treat veterans’.
You are the founder of Talking 2 Minds, a (registered) charity that ‘eradicates the symptoms of PTSD’. Why and when did you decide to launch this charity?
My journey through PTSD began some years ago and with hindsight first became noticeable whilst I was serving in the military. I joined the army in my late twenties and rapidly became bored with the whole setup and decided to go for SAS selection. I managed to pass first time and spent several years working in high pressure hostile environments in 9 Troop B Squadron 22 SAS.
After a period of time and several injuries later I finally decided to move on and do something where I had more choice and freedom. Within several months I had left the military and was working as a Non Governmental Military Advisor in Africa. This is where my PTSD started to evolve into something uncontrollable and unpredictable.
Although my behaviour and mental state was deteriorating I found a partner who could see that there was a reason for my aggressive exterior and that there was a gentler human being underneath, struggling to get out. After several years of managing my state my new partner managed to get me to realise that there was something quite wrong with my behaviours and that there may well be an underlying problem. By this time I was working in Iraq as a Security Adviser in a senior management role. In around 2004 I approached the NHS (National Health Service) for help and was passed from pillar to post as there was little knowledge of existing treatments or providers. I met many likeminded sufferers along the way and eventually was taken into a well known UK charity that provides respite for former military sufferers of stress related disorders.
It quickly became apparent that there is little or no effective treatment for PTSD or severe stress related disorders. There are lots of very caring people and organisations offering help with the highest of intentions as well as the sharks who want to prey on the weak for their own personal gain.
I completely lost the proverbial ‘plot’ after spending 2 weeks in the care of a specialist combat related stress charity in UK. When they told me I would have to ‘face up to facts and take the drugs’ I decided to change tack and carry out my own research to save my mind.
Along my journey I looked into many kinds of therapy and suggestions of how to manage my state. All well and good for someone to tell you what to do when they haven’t experienced the living hell and the pits of madness themselves.
After several months of research and admitting to friends that I wasn’t well I came across a friend of a friend who was a life coach and was also helping people with PTSD and stress related disorders. During all of this time I continued to work in Iraq where I was a Senior Security Adviser in the red zone.
I eventually found Mick Stott who had developed a unique process. Mick spoke the same language and the feeling of someone actually understanding me was unimaginable! Regardless of the curative effect of his treatment I felt so much better for just being amongst ‘my own’.
After the first session I lost my nightmares and flashbacks. Two more sessions were enough to see me waving goodbye to my PTSD demons. Like George Foreman, I was so impressed by the results that I got trained up and together Mick and I now run Talking2Minds, a charity with the sole aim of treating people with PTSD.
Mick had been a Senior Physical Training Instructor in the British Military Academy at Sandhurst. He had come up through the ranks to become a Captain in the PT Corps and had been tasked by the MOD to investigate civilian performance enhancing courses in order to increase pass rates within the military for various courses. During Mick’s years in the military he had studied many disciplines and philosophies and has picked the bones out of those that work and added them to some of the more modern approaches. Mick has his own school of personal development and therapy (Quantum Performance) that is now inextricably linked with Talking2Minds and conducts the training and validation of all those that work with Talking2Minds to ensure efficacy.
How can you tell if you’re suffering from PTSD, what are the signs?
To begin with the sufferer is generally totally unaware that there is anything wrong with them. The problem starts with negative self talk followed by nightmares and flashbacks that creep up on you over a number of years and quickly become part of your life. Usually sufferers self medicate with alcohol in order to get some sleep.
Anger and depression, along with hyper vigilance and over exaggerated startle response then tend to become apparent. Many sufferers withdraw into themselves, destroying relationships along the way. A proportion begins self harming, either mentally or physically, in order to escape temporarily. Some may ever exercise in order to gain temporary release by the added endorphins that are generated.
Sufferers develop coping mechanisms that may lead to unusual behaviours that may present as Obsessive Compulive Disorder.
Please explain to us, what can be the consequences of suffering from PTSD?
The sufferer cannot sleep properly for fear of nightmares. Cannot stay awake for fear of flash backs. Personally I couldn’t be left alone for more than about 10 minutes without the movies beginning to play. On many occasions films and news releases or even smells or tones of voices would set me off.
Living in a constant nightmare inside your own head drags you down to the point where many want to simply end it. Since the Falklands conflict we have now lost more combatants through suicide than killed in action. There have been many suicides already from Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
What would you say to anyone who thinks they might suffer from PTSD?
Speak to someone and get the negative thoughts dealt with asap. It can take years to be diagnosed by the system, which is distressing in itself, so speak up and ask for help before it starts to destroy lives.
How can you help them, can you tell us about your programme and what does ‘synergy’ mean?
The Synergy programme is a unique therapy that has been designed specifically to eradicate the symptoms of PTSD.
Synergy means ‘the effect of the whole is greater than the sum of the effects of the individual parts’ – therefore what we have is a series of structured therapeutic interventions that target the root cause of the problems and doesn’t target the symptoms like other therapies do.
We are results focused around the clients needs and ‘content free’ which means the client does not have to revisit any traumatic memories.
Having suffered myself the last thing that a sufferer want to do is revisit something they are desperate to get rid of.
The Talking2Minds Synergy programme uses a combination of 4 main disciplines: NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), Reiki, Hypnosis and Time Line Therapy. They are cemented together with performance related coaching norms. Having looked at NLP and the way that it has been bastardised over the years to fit financial and marketing models we have taken it back to its therapeutic beginnings and started again; together with the coaching norms and our own R&D interventions this has produced the mother of systems.
We have many clients that have had been through the complete range of treatments that are available in our health service which include some badly delivered NLP and Hypno from people that have had the highest of intentions but woefully miss the point with what they do.
The following is a very brief explanation of the discoveries that we have made when we compared and contrast our Synergy programme with the other systems available:
CBT was designed in 1923 by Albert Ellis for desensitising children to fear of the dark, not severe stress related disorders. Change the way you do things and you change the way that you think about that thing, it can take years to desensitise a traumatic memory. CBT is based on Pavlov’s dog 1960’s stimulus response system.
Designed by an NLP Practitioner and initially only taught to medical Doctors. Not designed for PTSD. It utilises a gentle exposure to a trauma. Similar to CBT and can re-traumatise the client as they connect with their memories. Not for those that are AD. It can work with very visual people over time.
EFT / TFT
Uses acupressure on certain areas allowing certain energy movement around the chakras. The key to this discipline is Meta Modelling and identifying the correct Gestalt (From German: “essence or shape of an entity’s complete form”)/what context to deal with.
Non directive i.e. no interventions.
Non Directive i.e. no interventions.
With these therapies, and others, they use an extrospective approach that encourages the change to happen on the outside. Our Synergy programme uses an introspective approach that has the client search for the changes to be made on the inside. This is achieved by connecting with the client’s model of the world. Many existing systems are deployed over long periods of time and may even form dependencies as they don’t completely remove or reframe the trauma. This in a financial context leaves the client suffering for years or for life, which equates to vast sums of money and ties up therapeutic resources.
In UK the NHS is struggling to cope. As time goes on the problem will worsen to astronomical proportions unless it is checked. Since the Falklands conflict we now have in the region of 100,000 former military that are suffering from severe stress-related disorders. This only takes into account those who have been identified and diagnosed. There are thousands that suffer in silence until things go terribly wrong for them. The civilian population suffering from severe stress-related disorders is in the 100’s of thousands. The problem in the United States is reported to be even bigger, with around 80% of soldiers going on to develop PTSD.
We know from experience that the root cause of a trauma is not the memory of the trauma itself, instead it is the emotions that are connected to that trauma that makes it disturbing. Unhook the emotions and all that is left is a memory. We go back to root cause with the client, identify the first time that they experienced an emotion and assist them quickly to understand and neutralise that emotion. The key to this phase is identifying the correct Gestalt with Meta Modeling and using the correct intervention to facilitate change.
Talking2Minds also has an internet based product, to assists us to lead those into therapy that have severe aversion problems and oppressively low esteem, that can be deployed by telephone, email, Skype and face to face. Our 3 and 5 day courses not only re-frame the client’s model of the world, it allows the client’s self esteem to be re-built and it allows for goal setting which installs direction and purpose which has invariably been lost due to the illness.
Post course, the palliative care aspect for the client incorporates the new networks that have been established with other clients as well as the Practitioners. A high proportion of the clients come back to train in our system or go on to achieve fantastic results in their own lives.
How do you know your programme really works?
We have been asked if the changes are permanent. Our answer is yes, with the following caveat.
Based on our research, it is quite possible for a client to be re-traumatised should they re immerse themselves in a hostile environment or endure a further traumatic event although to date this has not been the case. We have clients that are still serving in the military and still work in hostile environments. Not one has come back to us re-traumatised. Once the client has been through the course they are able to make sense of what situations they become involved with. As for my journey through this process I have managed to work for several years in African War Zones and Iraq for over 5 years whilst still suffering from PTSD. During the latter stages of my employment in Iraq and after having treatment some 3 ½ years ago I have found it easy to fully comprehend the hostilities which I have subsequently experienced without further negative reaction.
Looking at the numbers that are coming to Talking2Minds, that have been through the myriad of therapies available without any degree of long term success, the Talking2Minds Synergy system speaks for itself. The clients leave us having rewired themselves and become active and productive members of the community. We also treat family members who may be suffering by proxy.
We now statistically analyse all our client outcomes which are externally validated to ensure the efficacy of our programme by using recognised instruments and recognised scientific methods that tell us that the client is getting well – along with the clients feedback telling us that they are getting well.
Talking2Minds has its own governing body that has teeth and we have strict rules and regulations to ensure that the brand is not watered down or taken advantage of at the detriment of the client.
By running a ‘Veterans helping Veterans’ or ‘like helping like’ approach it assists us to build that extra little bit of rapport with the client or the clients family member that may be suffering by proxy. By allowing veterans, and others that have suffered, either directly with a severe stress related disorder or by proxy, to train in our system and operate under our umbrella, we are expanding exponentially each time a course is run. We regulate the quality of Practitioner as all therapeutic programmes are run by a validated trainer who overseas Master Practitioners and Practitioners alike.
It’s quite a step to seek help, it’s often considered a ‘sign of weakness’, what would you say to those who hesitate seeking help for this reason?
One of our countries greatest leaders had PTSD and referred to it as his black dog. Sir Winston Churchill was the figure head a leader that brought us through WW2 to victory.
When you are ready you will make that step. Personally I would class it as a sign of strength. To make positive steps in both personal development and health can only be a good thing and we have many clients that are treated off the radar for obvious reasons.
Can anyone suffering from PTSD contact Talking 2 Minds, or just (ex-)soldiers?
Anyone can contact Talking2Minds for help. The charity is run by ‘veterans to help veterans’ and by ‘like to help like’. What we have belongs to the people that are suffering and we are being very protective as there are many out there that would see our process watered down for financial gain.
Our process cost less than £2000 to run and that is a mere fraction of the cost of the current care programs, therapies and drugs prescriptions. We can save the country millions both in therapy and in collateral damage that is caused with in communities.
Does one need to be diagnosed with PTSD by a doctor to be able to participate in your program?
We treat people in a non judgmental way so anyone who is displaying the symptoms of PTSD can come on a programme. We are all aware that the current systems of diagnosis can swing wildly across the spectrum dependant on who diagnoses a client and when.
Our clients self diagnose with World Health Organisation and NHS recognised Quality of Life instruments.
Regardless of what diagnosis the client has we are here to help and we liaise with the GP or Mental Health teams where appropriate.
PTSD is just as tough on members of the family, what advice would you give them?
Families can be devastated by PTSD and PTSD by proxy. When the sufferer realises that their behavior isn’t appropriate and that there is proper help out there, then you have taken the biggest step. PTSD can be removed and the damage repaired.
Is it possible for family members who suspect their relative to suffer from PTSD to contact you as well for information?
We welcome family members contacting us for more information. We then encourage that the client contacts us directly. That’s the hard part for the sufferer.
What could or should the government do more – or different in your opinion?
Unfortunately the systems that are being currently used widely are outdated and were never designed for PTSD.
It has been stated by those that have been through our process and are now well, that the Government and those NHS organisations that deal with veterans should be funding us directly. Unfortunately the Global Government statements sound convincing and hold no water.
Talking2Minds has been trying to obtain Government funding for the last 18 months. We are a complimentary therapy and we do not need to be approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), although we follow the guidelines and model best practice.
Our sufferers in UK can’t wait 15 years for us to be accredited by NICE so that we can be taken seriously. How many more have to suffer and even die before we can get funding.
A Government or PCT funded Pilot Project should be entered into NOW.
Is there something (or more) that could be done before and in the field to prevent/limit PTSD from occurring, or at least from being as severe?
The easy solution to this is having a pre-deployment brief from one of our veterans that is trained in our process highlighting the signs and symptoms.
During deployment the TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) programme that the military use can identify some of those that are likely to suffer from a stress related disorder.
Post TRiM or at the request of an individual there should then be access to one of our trained Master Practitioners in theatre who will be able to treat the individual allowing the reframing of their negative thoughts.
Post deployment those that develop the symptoms of PTSD can be treated with the full Synergy programme around 6-8 weeks after the individual experienced a significant trauma.
Upon leaving the forces all military should be screened and briefed on PTSD by our Practitioners and therapeutic work undertaken where needs be.
We have quotes from many senior military Officers that suggest that this should be available to everyone within the forces.
The savings would be immense right across the board.
Your patrons, amongst them Simon Weston and ‘our’ Andy McNab, what do they mean to your charity?
Both Simon and Andy are doing wonderful work behind the scenes spreading the word and have a firsthand knowledge of PTSD. Andy’s book Seven Troop is written around several of the guys who have been victim to PTSD and its debilitating effects.
Together we must raise the awareness around PTSD in order to de stigmatize it.
Talking2Minds depends on fund raising and donations, how are you doing at the moment?
Fundraising is difficult in the current financial climate and the larger charities are scooping what pots are available as they have full time fundraisers and can afford the marketing experts. At present we are desperate to not only bring in enough monies to keep our courses running but also to employ a fundraiser to open doors and obtain the funds necessary to take our therapy to those that need it.
To date we have raised about 20K that has gone straight to therapy. We as a group of volunteers have ploughed in around 300k to develop the therapy and to get the charity to where we are today.
We are in desperate need of funding.
A lot of people suffer from PTSD, how many are you able to help now and what does it take to increase that number?
Currently we self fund around 100 people a year through our processes that have been diagnosed with PTSD and as a group about 3500 with other stress related disorders
With funding and on the model that we have tested our school can expand the number of trained staff sufficiently for us to expand to around a 1000 on year one and an aim of 4000 a year on year four.
A million pounds will see us treat in excess of 600 people.
Are there any upcoming events to raise funds for Talking2Minds?
There are many events that have been planned and are taking place over the next 3 years.
We have a team Talking2Minds who are on a build up to race to the South Pole in 2 years time.
Two guys with the combined age of 103 are rowing the Atlantic to break a World Record in support.
We have a Rally car team supporting us as well as Veterans International Aid who are a charity that is raising money to get sufferers through our PTSD therapy by hosting expeditions and adventure events.
As finances come in and people start to raise money for our veterans with PTSD so more events will be planned.
In what ways can we make donations, contribute and/or support your cause?
Donations and contributions can be made to help our veterans through our website by Virgin Money Giving or by sending money to the address on our donations page.
By spreading the word that there is a therapy that ‘actually works with PTSD’ we can improve our chances of financial support.
By speaking with heads of department at work and by approaching your company to support Talking2Minds you can help us make the difference.
Where and how can Talking 2 Minds be contacted?
Phone: 0208 1330217 (outside UK +44 208 1330217)
Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
By allowing yourself to get well you are helping those around you.
Together we can bring peace of mind to those that are troubled.
Thank you so much for your time Bob, we hope you can continue the good work and be able to expand even, so a lot more can be done and a lot more can be helped. We wish you and Talking 2 Minds all the best and will continue to support you.
Lynn & Jon
Grey Man’s Land