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Kieron Sheehy

In terms of ethics, which is a big area in psychology, when research students or researchers on funded projects have to carry out research with similar groups of children, they would have lengthy, lengthy ethical procedures that could take a lot of time, a lot of paperwork and a lot of discussion.  Now did you go through any similar process in working with the children that we see in the film?

Laverne Antrobus

I think there’s a system that over the time that I've been working with the media in this way, I mean I've always very much felt that I'm still occupying a clinical space, you know, just because there are cameras and there are other people around, that actually I still have clinical responsibility for saying if I think that something isn’t moving in the right direction.  I think we spend a lot of time beforehand looking for the right sort of families, you know, not making any big promises but thinking with families about what the filming process will be like for them and whether or not they’ve really understood what it means to be involved.  And I think that is such an important part of selection, so to speak, that does guide you ethically, because often if I get some notes about a family I’ll have some questions and then the AP will go back and ask those questions on my behalf, and because I'm thinking clinically hopefully I'm asking the right questions so that I'm then making the right links for the production company to think about whether or not this is going to be a family that we are going to be able to work with and ultimately support through the process.

Kieron Sheehy

Something that stood out for me in some of the programmes, well I think in all of them really, was how brave some of the young people were in saying the things they did on camera to share with other people.  Now a) how did you feel about that, and b) did they get a chance to check out that they were happy with what they told you and shared around?

Laverne Antrobus

A lot of that I think came through the parents, a lot of that came through the time that we spent with the families.  I think that I felt very reassured that any one of us could make a call about that, that actually my role was central to the process and that perhaps if something didn’t feel right, and actually I think on these three programmes we were very fortunate to have parents who I think have done a lot of that thinking for us about their children, and because we talk about the process and we talk about how things might evolve, there are various points where parents can say Oh, I'm not sure about that, and we can talk them through, but I think you're never trying to sort of assure somebody that they should go through with it, because that doesn’t work.

Kieron Sheehy

One of the things I'm interested in is how your background as a psychologist influences what you bring to these programmes.  In what sense do you think you have an impact because of your training?

Laverne Antrobus

I think I suppose everything starts with me from the point of view of trying to uncover something about the attachment, or the attachments within a family, because that seems to signify or signpost things for me.  But also I'm often very interested in the sort of systemic approach, which is what are the roles that people have in their families, and particularly when I think parents are coming saying that there’s an issue they need to think about, and trying to open that up a little bit rather than it just being terribly focused on a child, that actually it’s a family issue rather than belonging in one person.

Kieron Sheehy

Did you see anything in the, or come across anything in the programmes that surprised you, that you hadn’t expected to see?

Laverne Antrobus

I think all three were very, very different, but I think it was a reminder to me as a psychologist that there’s still lots of things that we don’t know, and that actually it’s an important part of working with a family, that we don’t talk in absolutes, that actually we know the truth about things.  There are some things that we can say with quite a lot of confidence, but actually over the three programmes, meeting the different scientists and hearing their particular take on a given issue I think was incredibly helpful to me.

Kieron Sheehy

One issue that comes out I think for me is when you’ve got scientists saying we’re talking about programmes that are identified by a big label, it’s that idea of pathologising children, saying look here are you, this is you, child, you have this label, you're different, and then we look at their brains to say look, different brains.  There’s a risk I think, a strong risk of pathologising children.  How did you respond to that sort of issue?

Laverne Antrobus

I think what’s been so great about these programmes is that somehow we've tried to challenge that, I feel like we've tried to challenge that.  Rather than it being this child has X, Y and Z, end of story, that we've been looking for differences and different ways of thinking.  And I think as a psychologist that’s often what we do do, we’re looking for the strengths within somebody’s profile.  And I think what was lovely about when the friends were involved in these programmes that they picked those things out quite naturally.  You hear them saying well he’s still such and such, and I think that’s the moment when you think actually we’re all more than a diagnosis.

Kieron Sheehy

Now parents who watch the programmes may be thinking where shall I go to get support, it might be for themselves or someone in their family, someone they know.  I wonder, did you think there was a danger that we see a private psychologist working with a child and then we see I think the Maudsley, which is a long way, I think it’s a national centre, rather than showing, I don’t know, other more commonly experienced or commonly found services?

Laverne Antrobus

Ultimately I would hope that that would be the case, that they would see myself, a psychologist, and hopefully begin to see that they're not left, or they shouldn’t feel left with an issue, that actually there are people like me out there in the community who are available to talk through the sorts of issues that families are going through, and that if it reaches one or two families where they might be feeling quite isolated and quite left with an issue that they might think well I wonder if I could get some help or support to help me think about what’s happening for my child and for us as a family.

Kieron Sheehy

Thank you very much, that was lovely.

(6’49”)