Kim Rutherford set up Dalton Wise back in 2017 in response to her own journey with mental health. In this week’s blog post, she shares some of that journey with us, and how it lead to Dalton Wise, and ultimately the 8Wise programme.

Can you tell us a bit about your wellness journey?

It all started back in 2014 when I was suffering with burnout from work. That lead to a car crash, which in turn lead to health anxiety, which lead to depression, which lead to agoraphobia. Because of this, I took nine months off work to focus on myself, and during this time I was also getting therapy. As I’d studied psychology at university, I decided to do my own research in wellness to work out the best way to help myself. It was during this research that I discovered the eight dimensions of wellness, and through those nine months I started to implement them into my life.

For example, I looked at my emotional wellness and started to work with my therapist to dig into my past. My mum suffered with mental health issues when I was growing up, so my emotional wellness was focused on dealing with that, and coming to terms with how it had impacted me developing my own mental health issues.

Now, my wellness journey is about utilising the eight dimensions by paying attention to how I’m feeling each day. If I notice that my emotions are becoming overwhelming, I do some self reflection and identify what is causing those feelings and how each of the eight dimensions are being affected. I then use them to help problem solve. To sum up, my wellness journey began as a result of seeing my mum have mental health issues when I was growing up, and then experiencing them myself later in life. My wellness journey now is also about helping people with their own wellness.

Can you explain what 8Wise is?

8Wise is essentially a manual to manage your mental health and wellbeing. It has been created as a therapeutic approach to managing mental health – it supports those who currently are struggling with mental health, and those who don’t yet have mental health issues by preventing them from developing. 8Wise is both a model and approach so you can use it to look after yourself, or as a way to develop a strategy to help others. It provides people with the tools to look after their full spectrum of wellness, rather than just the things that many tend to solely focus on like diet and exercise.

8Wise can give you an understanding of how life’s events and challenges impact you, why they cause you stress, and why they impact your wellbeing. If you can break down the things that cause you stress and negative emotions and map them against the eight dimensions, you can find solutions before they cause too much damage to your mental health.

Why did you decide to develop 8Wise?

When I was experiencing my own mental health issues, it took eight weeks, but I was lucky enough to gain access to therapy. I had six sessions with a therapist, and during these sessions I realised that we were only really touching the surface of what was going on inside the mind that lead to mental health issues. I started to think about how there were so many people who weren’t able to get access to therapy and support as quickly as I had been. I thought about the high suicide rates, and how many people were on medication for mental health – I realised that the entire system for mental health was based on waiting for somebody to have a problem, and then try to resolve them. By this point, these people have already been to hell and back and have been damaged.

So, I began to think about how great it would be if we could prevent people from ever feeling suicidal, or low in the first place – if we could offer prevention rather than cure. When I was carrying out my research and discovered the eight dimensions, I thought that it could be the way forward. I thought the dimensions worked for helping people look after themselves better, but as they were I realised they didn’t necessarily work for those who had mental health issues. When I retrained in psychotherapy I began to look at all of the psychotherapeutic models and coaching models and how they mapped against the eight dimensions. I took all of that knowledge and combined it to create 8Wise.

One in four people are suffering from a mental health condition, and 8Wise provides a support system for the one. However, it also supports the other three people who don’t yet have mental health issues, or have previously had them but don’t currently. So, whether you’re the one in four or you’re in the three in four, 8Wise can support you.

How do you use it yourself in day to day life?

I use 8Wise for self reflection now. In the early days when I was really struggling with my mental health, I would use it every single day. I would ask myself ‘how am I feeling today? How is my emotional wellness? My physical wellness? What have I done to boost these elements today?’. At the start of everyday I would proactively plan them into my day.

Now, many years later, I reflectively look back at my day to see if my wellness is at risk, or if it has decreased in any way. I think about how I have felt that day, if anything has caused me stress, and if so what has caused it and why has it stressed me out? Maybe it’s because I’ve not drank enough water, not done any exercise or anything else to make me feel physically well. Or I ask myself is that stress linked to one of the other core dimensions?

I don’t plan it into my day anymore, but if I do find I’m having a dip in my mental health I go back to the basics by assessing myself against all eight dimensions and see how I can improve them that day.

How do you use 8Wise with clients?

When a client comes to me for a one-to-one 8Wise session, the first thing I do is listen and identify what the client’s issue is. They always come to me with a presenting issue, which is something that they think is causing their problems currently. I’ll talk them through the 8Wise model and explain each of the dimensions, and talk them through what I call the ‘four dimension model’. This is about how the dimensions go together. Emotional and physical wellness pair up in what I call the foundation dimension – the healthy body, healthy mind. Then there’s the internal dimension – spiritual and intellectual wellness. These are the things that make you who you are on the inside such as your personality, beliefs, morals, and interests. Then I discuss the external elements, which are environmental and social wellness, so the things that take place in the world around you. The final two are your lifestyle dimensions – occupational and financial wellness, which help to develop the lifestyle that you want to live.

When I explain these, I ask them to look at their presenting issue and how it is affecting the eight dimensions. Then we do a self assessment where the client assess themselves against the dimensions and say if their level is low or high for each. We then use a therapeutic and coaching model to put a plan in place to improve the ones that are low. These are reassessed over time and we keep going through that process until they feel like they can manage it themselves.

I also use 8Wise as training format within groups. I utilise different workbooks, mini workshops, activities, and tasks to help clients boost each of their eight elements.

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