Naomi Murphy Live Authentically
Naomi is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has over 25 years of experience. She currently works with prisoners to help them work them. Naomi discusses the whispers that led her to her career and some bricks she has faced. Most of all, she shares how to deal with difficult times at any job, and she stays grounded. She reminds us how important it is to live authentically and to have empathy.
Ari: Welcome to Wisdom bricks. My name is Gary Schoenberg, and I’m your host. My guest today is Dr. Naomi Murphy. She’s a consultant, clinical and forensic psychologist with over 25 years of experience of working with people in the criminal justice system in the UK. She has worked with men and women in secure hospitals where she jointly developed a specialist service for people with a history of complex trauma. diagnosed as personality disorders. With Dez McVeigh. They then jointly started the first mental health inreach team in an English prison. And 18 years ago, were recruited to develop a specialist treatment unit for men who were considered to be quote unquote, untreatable psychopaths, within a high secure prison as part of the controversial, dangerous and severe personality disorder project. At its inception, this ladder treatment program was the only one in the UK to emphasize the resolution of the printed prisoners own trauma before addressing their offending behavior. Also uniquely for the English prison system this unit has is primarily sexually violent offenders, alongside those whose violence does not include a sexual offense working in groups together. Additionally, all the men who entered the project also received five years of individual therapy as well as group treatment, which was also unusual for the English prison system. All of the men are a serious management problem into the prison system, and several have killed while in prison. Naomi is co author of treating personality disorder, creating robust services for clients with complex mental health needs, and honorary professor of psychology at Nottingham Trent University. She’s also co host of locked up living podcast, a podcast that explores barriers to wellbeing in harsh environments and ways to overcome these alongside for us that alongside forensic practice, Naomi has a small private practice working with high fliers to optimize their success across all areas of their lives. She’s an accredited sensory motor psychotherapist, say that three times fast and emphasizes living life with authenticity by engaging with emotions associated with vulnerabilities such as fear, sadness, and shame. This has been highly relevant to both branches of our work. Please help me welcome Niomi Murphy. Naomi, how are you?
Naomi: I’m good. Thank you. Thanks very much for inviting me on.
Ari: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Boy, that was a mouthful, let me tell you. So as you know, the name of this podcast is was for some bricks and the whispers of those voices telling you what the right thing to do is and represent the good in life and the bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. And we all know that life is not a straight line. There are many ups and downs and many bumps in the road and you have all people know know a lot about this area. But let’s start from the beginning a little bit. So from what our from our conversations before the podcast, you mentioned your dad was in the Air Force, and that you moved around a lot. Tell us about what that was like.
Naomi: Yeah, that’s right. Until I went to university I only really ever lived in it the longest I’ve ever lived in one place for three years and that was unusual. Most places I’ve lived for one or two years and I really didn’t like I didn’t enjoy that at all. It’s like you didn’t know sooner put down roots form friendships and then either you would be moving or they would be moving so it was very disruptive. I you know, lucky that I’ve very stable family background to help offset that. But actually it’s not it’s not a great lifestyle for children that constantly moving and having having to change having the wrong accent having the wrong version of the school uniform. The wrong tastes because they change from place to place.
Ari: Wow. Wow. Now, you mentioned you were the first in your family go to university and correct Wow. And you majored in psychology. Correct. And my my understanding is you took to you took to that like fish like like a fish takes to water. Tell us a little bit about you know what, what, you know, what possessed you to to go into psychology. You know why? Why that fields?
Naomi: It’s a good question Ra. So I applied to do history everywhere except for one place because I loved history. And I plan to do psychology as kind of a backup option. And then I thought, I don’t really want to be a teacher and come from a very working class background, I had very limited sense of what you could do with a degree once you qualified. And the only reason I’d applied to do psychology was a bit of a fluke, my dad was doing a course in psychology. A basic course in psychology. And I was intrigued by some of the experiments that I was, he would tell me about that he’d had studied about. And so I applied for that as a, as a bit of a rogue wildcard, and then decided I didn’t want to be a history teacher, which meant I need to just opt for the opt for the psychology. So I actually turned down a place at a very good university and went to a very, to a much less prestigious university, because I hadn’t realized how easy it was to change subjects, which again, I think, you know, as a working class person not knowing much about university, I hadn’t appreciated that I could have done that in a prestigious university. But it’s all works out, you know, worked out? Well.
Ari: You know, it’s interesting, because, you know, every time I talk to a guest, it always it always comes back to a certain part in my life, certain things that happens comes back to a certain part in my life. And I guess that’s why I enjoy doing this so much. But my daughter was, went to medical school. And in the States after he finished medical school, you have to do a residency program, you have to work in a hospital. And the way they figure out who’s going to be in what hospital, I mean, you you go, the students go and interview different hospitals where they’d like to like to do their residency. And then they rank the hospitals in order of you know, where they like to go. And likewise, the hospitals rank the students as well. And my daughter had, you know, put her rankings in and then right before, right before she actually submitted the ranking, she got a call from a hospital that was a second tier hospital, but they loved her so much, they called her up, and they said, we’d love to have you and, you know, we hope you’ll rank us, you know, the whole nine yards. And my daughter felt so guilty, because she hadn’t ranked them that she ranked them. And she ranked them like really low down. And then when the match came through, it turns out, that’s where she matched. And for what she wanted to do, it was a it was not a good hospital, and she was miserable. She goes, I could have gone to this, I could have gone to that I could have, you know, if I wouldn’t have put them down. And I said to you know, honey, you’d never know what God has in store for you. And it turns out that she’s now working at that hospital, she did a residency, she’s now working at that hospital, they love her, she loves them. And she’s got a great career. So, you know, it’s kind of like, you know, you could have gone to a better a better university, but you never know why. You know, it was this one, you know, absolutely. So we never know. And I know that you you were growing up you were you were devout Catholic, correct.
Naomi: My My parents are both devout Catholics. So certainly I was raised a Catholic and went to church also. And actually, the the religious beliefs were were important. I think in giving me a strong, my parents both have a very strong sense of right and wrong.
Ari: Exactly. So that’s what I’m saying. So you know, God had a plan for you. All right. That’s a chapter yet. That’s what you have to understand. Wow. So you wound up? After you got your degree you wound up in prisons and hospitals? Where did that come from? I mean, what was the what what were you thinking?
Naomi: Well, yeah, good question. I think the things I was always really interested in when I was doing my undergraduate degree in psychology were the the more abnormal elements of experience and trying to understand why people presented as with mental illness, and doing things that seem on the face of it to be a little bit crazy and hard to understand. So I was I was really interested in that very curious. And I love to make meaning out of things. I do like an intellectual challenge of trying to make sense of something that doesn’t seem seem too sensible. And then after I, after I graduated, a job came up for a psychologist in a local prison. And to me and all I thought, well, here’s your opportunity to learn more about behavior that seems to be nonsensical on the face that and went there to work. But when I was there, I realized very quickly, that the all of the people I encountered has had very, very difficult upbringings. And training as a forensic psychologist in the UK didn’t really certainly at that time didn’t prepare you for that at all. And so I then applied to train as a clinical psychologist thinking, you know, people who end up committing all sorts of atrocious acts really have, you know, they need therapeutic work, they don’t need to be taught the facts about what right and wrong is that everybody knows it’s wrong to rape, everyone knows it’s wrong to kill. Fundamentally, it’s an emotional need that is driving this kind of kind of behavior. So when I’m trained as a clinical psychologist, and then, yeah, I’ve just always been drawn to the more challenging client groups, because I like that I like the challenge. I thrive on that. And, yeah, as I say, I really like to make meaning and try and understand things and people, you know, people’s behavior is always understandable, if you look hard enough for all the pieces.
Ari: Were you ever you know, being in a prison or whatever. And as I read in your bio there, you know, people that were actually murdered people in prison, whatever we ever we ever scare you ever nervous about, you know, for your own safety for your own well being?
Naomi: Absolutely. I think one of those strange things about prisons is that staff often say that they’re not scared. And I think that’s just a total disconnect. If you if you believe that you’re not frightened, and you’re in prison, and you’re surrounded by people who’ve committed really serious acts of violence, the only reason prisons work is because the prisoners choose to behave themselves. And we see a lot of American prisons on TV over in the UK. And you can literally smell the fear coming out of the TV set with the prison officers huddled together, having very few interactions. And I remember one time in the unit that I worked in, there was a prisoner being taken to segregation unit. And so there was a big team of staff that had come to remove him and take him down there, because he’d been aggressive. And the staff were wearing crash helmets, they had the full riot gear on the head shields their buttons, you know, basically, come back here, and we set the stuff, you know, he obviously he’s behaving in a way that’s really scary, you’re obviously frightened, and they’re like, No, we’re not scared. It’s like, if you’re not scared, why are you wearing a crush on that and carrying a shield and a baton? And, you know, think, you know, the reality of the situation is we we use safety behaviors to make ourselves not feel scared. It’s like when you cross the road, people say, I’m not scared across the road, that’s not a problem when you’re ready, not scared, because you’re looking left and right, you wouldn’t just step out across the road. So I have been scared. You know, I, I’ve never been assaulted. And it’s very rare for a psychologist to get assaulted. Thank God says, Yeah, because I think they the people that we work with, appreciate that you’re trying to offer them so they don’t always see you as being helpful. But they do. I think there’s a sense of you are trying to build a relationship with them, you’re trying to do right by them. And so it’s very unusual for a psychologist to get assaulted, but I have seen violence in prison. And of course, I have sat down with some of the people who are most scary or not, it’s not because they’re physically threatening you I want sat in a group where there was a it was a group full of very angry men, who were being very denigrating of me I’m one of them referred to me as a black widow spider, but the disdain and contempt was just dripping off his tongue. That actually really gave me the heebie jeebies, you know, I could feel my shiver down my spine, and yet he wasn’t threatening me. But there was something about him that was full of menace. So anyone who says anyone who works in prison who says they’re not frightened is not being honest. With themselves. Yeah.
Ari: So let me ask you, how do you preserve your own wholesomeness when steeped in the in the darker aspects of human nature?
Naomi: That is such a great question. Um, a really important one, I think, because I think a lot of people don’t prioritize that. I think it is really important. I’ve worked out that you know, for me, it’s important to be kind and compassionate. And I think what helps with the wholesomeness is being able to understand that if you can make the meaning out of a situation, you can not take things personally. And you can understand why somebody is behaving in a way that’s distorted. You know, when you hear the histories of the of the men that I’ve worked with such brutality during their childhoods, that you can easily see how they’ve grown up to be very angry men. But you have to I think you have to work hard to be compassionate. And if you’re not, I think you lose, not only do you end up being punitive towards the people that you’re working with, but you lose something of yourself, within that I pride myself on still being quite wholesome, and still, you know, being able to be generous, spirited and kind because, to me those values is a really, really important and if I start feeling vengeful or vindictive or spiteful those kinds of is obviously those feelings, copper pin everybody occasionally. But for me, it’s really important that that isn’t the dominant kind of feeling that I hold.
Ari: Well, that’ll bring me to my next question. How do you prevent your own traumatization? When listening to accounts of trauma by the, you know, by your clients?
Naomi: Again, another brilliant question, because lots of people who work with people in prison do end up traumatized hearing that, you know, either because you’ve heard about the horrific crimes that they’ve committed in detail, or because you’ve heard about the brutality that they’ve experienced during childhood. And sometimes it’s you despairing out the depths to which people will plummet, you know, some of the things that people will do. But I think what helps preserve your own well being as obviously have clinical supervision as a psychologist, but there’s something about being emotionally authentic, you know, we have emotions for a reason, where we have all of the, you know, fear, sadness, shame, all of those feelings. That’s part of the human experience. And the projects within which I was working for many years. So in a high secure prison, where it’s taboo to talk about fear, but we would, I was the most senior psychologist there. So I’d role model talking about feeling frightened, because I’m frightened doesn’t mean I’m not going to take action. In fact, you can’t be brave if you’re not frightened, right? Yeah. So. So actually, I would go and have conversations with people who were being very aggressive and very hostile. But I would say, you know, actually, the way you’re behaving right now is leaving me feeling frightened. But I’m not, I’m not going to walk away, we need to find a way to resolve this. And I also felt really sad at work, I’ve cried at work on many occasions. And I think if you’re working with people who have very limited ability to regulate their emotions, what better way to show that emotions are not to be frightened off. If if you can role model that you can, you can be any of these states of emotionality, and you can manage it, and nothing disastrous is going to happen, you’re not going to fall apart, you know, that you can be frightened, you can be sad, you can feel ashamed, you can talk about all of these things. But it also means you don’t have to take it away at the end of the day, you know, I if somebody humiliates me at work, and I talk about feeling humiliated, I’m sad that I’ve been humiliated and hurt by somebody I’m trying to care for. I don’t have to go home and then have a drink or pick an argument with my partner, because it’s all been processed. While I’ve been at work, people or the staff will respond and be supportive. Quite often, the prisoners, people in prison don’t appreciate how for they feel very disempowered. So when they’re shouting and being abusive, they don’t recognize that they’re being scary. And actually, when you say, actually, what you’re showing me is really frightening, right now, it takes them aback, and they’re a bit shocked, because they feel very, very small and insignificant in the system. So having that kind of feedback allows them to think a little bit differently about the situation and realize that actually, they can be quite scary on occasion. Wow.
Ari: So at any point in at any point in your life, you know, this has to take a toll. Alright, the type of work that you do has to take a toll on you. Did you ever reach get to a point in life where where you just said to yourself, you know what, I just can’t do this anymore. I’m out, I’m quitting. You know, I have a dream to help the world. But you know, I just can’t do it. And you know, you curl up into a ball and get into bed, you know, and hang out there. And if you ever did reach that level, how did you manage to get yourself out of it?
Naomi: I can’t say that the working with the people that I provide therapy to has ever had that effect on me at big organizations institutions have on occasion, because you see also as part of these organizations, you see misuse of power. You know, that’s very common in big organizations and people not not holding themselves accountable, not taking responsibility, looking the other way. We see punitive nurse, all of these things, and they’re all things that, for me are important to call out. And that can mean that you’re in conflict with your employer on occasion or big organizations. And that can be brutal, I would say. Not, you know, the work with the people that are incarcerated. I understand that and I understand why they’re, why they’re like that. But I think in terms of preservation of myself during those times, I do a lot of yoga. I also run I practice breathing and mindful over cliched cycles. Just stuff I’m afraid, you know, getting out into nature for long walks, all of those. So you know, the movement, the breathing, all of these kinds of things. I just think really feed your senses. And then also I’m really into bio neurofeedback, which is a form of kind of like brain training, which again, I think really helps with stress so, and comedy, having watching comedy, and engaging in things that make you laugh, because actually, you know, I love to go to the Edinburgh Festival each year, which will be a recorded Comedy Festival. And I only go for a long weekend. But I feel like I’ve had a two week holiday by the end, because I’ve just spent so much of the weekend laughing. And that produces a total different emotional state within you.
Ari: Sure, for sure. Now, let me ask you up. Are your parents still alive?
Naomi: They say yeah, they’re both alive and in good health. Thank goodness.
Ari: Oh, great. So let me ask you, what, what, what’s, what did they think when when you when you decided to go into psychology and more. So when you decided to go into the prison world? You know, what were they thinking with a nervous Were they supportive? What was going on?
Naomi: I don’t think they I think in terms of studying psychology, they were supportive of that. And they didn’t want me to work in a prison. And in fact, my mum had hidden the newspaper with the advert in for that very first job that I had in prisons, and I just happen to find it. I don’t know how it is, I mean, fate. Yeah, we’re talking about God’s plan. And I just happened to find that advert. And I said, I’ve said to my mum, but why, you know, you knew that I was looking for jobs as a as an assistant psychologist, and she was like, I really do want you to work in a, in a prison, you know, it’s, you know, those places are dangerous. And I try not to do much about the kind of work that I do. Because I think if you’re not there, it can create a bigger sense of fear, you know, people’s idea of working in a prison is that there’s gonna be an officer with you at all times. And actually, that’s that we are therapy was not with officers, they were outside the room. So I try not to talk too much in detail. But I could Yeah, certainly, I don’t think that’s the job my parents would have liked me to do. But I know that my parents are proud of me first standing up for what’s right. On occasion, I may understand the need to be compassionate and empathic, the people. So yeah, it comes with mixed feelings for them, I think for sure,
Ari: for sure. But I know they’re proud of you, I really do. Now, who is the one person that you would point to that you would say had the most influence in your life?
Naomi: And why? Well, I have, I’d have to say, my parents because of giving me that sense of being loved and cared for as a child, but also, both my parents have this real strong sense of what’s right doing what’s right. And that it’s, it’s more important to do what’s right than it is to be liked. And I’ve grown up with that same sense of you know, that I will, I will do what’s right, even if it’s gonna make me unpopular, and I was fortunate enough to meet does McVeigh is the co author with me of treating personality disorder, and we’ve worked together over many 25 years, more or less. And we have a very similar approach. That’s not to say we have massive bust ups at times. In fact, those around us will feel quite irritated by how can you have this crazy disagreement, disagreement, there’s heated debate. But that’s, I think that’s what makes the working relationship so good is the fact that we’ve got a very similar attitude and philosophy. But actually, we do disagree on stuff and therefore we are able to thrash things out and find a way a creative way forward. From that. Well,
Ari: wow, All right, last but not least, okay, well, actually, there are two things. One is you have any words of wisdom for my audience, there are people out there and I know I have psychologists out there it probably in different in different scenarios and and you know, different work environments, etc. But, you know, just in general, any anything any any thoughts you would want to share with the audience any words of wisdom?
Naomi: Well, obviously, I’ve I think I’ve you know, for the sake of sounding a bit tired. The people always making sense I think is really important. Now, I don’t believe anybody’s born bad and they ought their people always make sense. But I think importantly for individuals is to be authentic and to appreciate that life you, you know, the pain, the pleasure, pleasure, pain principle, that actually we need the pain in order to feel the pleasure and we grow from things that are painful. As much as we grow from things that are pleasurable, so rather than avoiding and running away from those emotions that that, that make us feel vulnerable, embrace them and, and help realize that those are the emotions that can help us really grow. Which I think is the important theme of your podcast, right? Absolutely. whispers of whispers
Ari: and bricks, yeah. whispers works. Absolutely. 100%. Now, if people want to get in touch with you, what would be the best way for them to do that? You have like a website? Do you have an email address? Or, you know if people want to talk to you or?
Naomi: Absolutely, so I’m very active on Twitter. I love Twitter, and I’m on there as an M psychologist
against EDS and as a Nancy M as in Mary psychologist.
Yeah, yeah. Naomi, and for Naomi and for Murphy psychologist, or you can email me at Naomi firstname.lastname@example.org. And my private practice is through octopus psychology.com.
Ari: Okay, great. That’s awesome. That is That is so awesome. Now, me, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. You know, good luck going forward. You’re doing really, really important work. It’s the type of work that not everybody would want to do. But it’s so necessary and so important, and I wish you all the best going forward. You’ve been listening to whispers and bricks, and I’m your host Gary Shaman. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.