Learn more about how Claire is reassessing neurodivergence, and how she aims to raise awareness of this at our June conference.
As you may have seen through our recent communications, we're very excited to be hosting our upcoming conference - Redefining Nutritional Psychiatry: Breakthrough strategies in mental health.
In light of this, we thought we'd do a quick interview with one of our expert speakers, Claire Sehinson MSc, to learn more about her practice - and why she wanted to be involved in our upcoming nutritional psychiatry conference. Read on to learn more.
Why do you think that a conference on nutritional psychiatry is needed in the UK right now?
There is an undeniable mental health crisis happening at the moment with waiting lists for services at the longest they’ve ever been. The NHS is on its knees, waiting times for formal diagnoses of ADHD and Autism in order to access appropriate care and accommodations are exceptionally long - we’re talking surplus of 2 years. All of this has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and the current political climate. Whilst this is largely out of our control, the biggest factors contributing to mental and psychiatric wellbeing are diet, lifestyle and social factors and having tools and information to support yourself, clients and the community feels critical at the moment.
Why did you decide to speak at this particular conference?
I wanted to speak at this conference to bring a representation of neurodiversity and lived-experience to the speaker panel. Very often research is done about us (neurodivergent people) with very neuro-normative goals or views in mind, and attempts to fix things that are only wrong because of the way society is constructed.
What part of your lecturing at the conference are you most excited to deliver?
There is a current upsurge in awareness of ADHD and Autism in women/girls at the moment, and these are patterns I have noticed for a long time specialising in CFS/Fibromyalgia and other complex conditions that may have been misdiagnosed for lack of better knowledge at the time. I am particularly keen to share insights and light-bulb moments on my own journey and in practice.
What do you feel that attendees will gain from your lectures, and the conference in general?
From my lectures, I am hoping a different perspective about some difficulties that a neurodivergent person might be experiencing that sometimes manifests as treatment-resistant symptoms, idiosyncratic reactions or unknown complexity. As a practitioner, when I revisited these problems through a neurodivergent-affirming lens, I had to un-learn a lot of my assumptions on what good nutrition even is. Working with someone’s neurotype is a whole other level of personalisation.
From the conference overall, there are a broad range of exciting speakers with decades of experience which will equip practitioners at every level to provide life-changing support to people suffering from mental health conditions.
What experience from your personal and professional life makes you a leader in neurodivergent-affirming practice?
Having received a multitude of unexplained diagnostic labels and chronic illness myself prompted me to extensively explore and research nutritional and functional medicine to find answers why these were happening. This was great from a theoretical perspective and helpful to a huge number of people, but it still felt like there was a large part of community this field of healthcare was not able to help.
Having grown up with close family members who are autistic and dyslexic and then being diagnosed later in life (in my 30s) means I can personally relate to being ‘wired up’ differently and constantly burning out for unknown reasons. Prior to having awareness of the ‘internal presentation’ of Autism and ADHD I saw a lot of my traits as personality flaws or symptoms to get rid of to better fit in with everything around me. I now know some of these to be incredible strengths such as high empathy which helps me to work sensitively with clients of all backgrounds and neurotypes, pattern recognition and problem solving - which has helped me in my research roles. Having a strong sense of justice explains means I will always advocate and fight for people who are marginalised in society so that there is more equity in healthcare.
I am a research scientist, but I understand that the ‘evidence’ has been historically flawed in these fields, especially for marginalised groups who typically get excluded from the studies. Focussing on only the negative aspects of Autism/ADHD/Dyslexia, or neurodivergent traits being pathologized because they are “different” has lead to misunderstanding, stigma and a lot of lost potential as a result.
Approaching neurodivergent traits in a strengths-based way can help coach clients during their most distressing times so they feel supported, understood and in control, all the while addressing their biochemical imbalances or dysregulated systems that are contributing to genuine illness using the functional medicine training.
Join us this June!
See Claire lecture at our upcoming conference, Redefining Nutritional Psychiatry: Breakthrough Strategies for Mental Health this June in London or online.