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Heard of a Shrink Party?

Lynda Moyo talks to psychologist Hazel Carter-Showell about a girls’ night in with a twist

Written by . Published on December 14th 2010.


Heard of a Shrink Party?

From Ann Summers to Virgin Vie, home parties are an opportunity to gather the girls for a night of fun, games and discounts. In the case of Ann Summers, that’s so-called fun by the way of a penis piñata, games such as hump the pump and a discount on a wenche’s outfit that you only bought because you felt bad for the party host.

‘You gather with your friends at one of your houses and are joined by a psychologist equipped with advice, rather than copious amounts of bronzer or dildos.’

Not that I’m a party-pooper of course. Having been to several at home parties, I can tell you that they can be a lot of fun. However, as you pass the Rampant Rabbit to your friend, you can’t help but wonder if it’s just a glorified (and often expensive) chin wag. Because that’s really all women want to do when they meet up – talk.

North West psychologist Hazel Carter-Showell has come up with a way of cashing in on a woman’s natural need to talk a lot by hosting shrink parties. Not quite as barmy as they sound; they’re a worthier take on the aforementioned lingerie and make-up parties.

You gather with your friends at one of your houses and are joined by a psychologist equipped with advice, rather than copious amounts of bronzer or dildos.

Psychologist Hazel Carter-Showell

The idea is that women have the opportunity to talk about issues that matter to them with expert advice to hand – and a glass of wine of course. But do women really need help in opening up and discussing problems? We are talkers anyway, remember?

Shrink Party founder Hazel Carter-Showell thinks so.

She said: “Having a psychologist in attendance will help the group talk about their issues whilst giving helpful tips and advice on dealing with life’s ups and downs. Having the expert there is important as some friends’ advice can be ill-informed.”

Friends can choose to talk about issue based topics such as ‘coping with stress’ or ‘single and starting again’. Another option is to home in on one person’s particular problem. Either way everyone will benefit, according to Hazel.

She said: “It’s a chance for people to ask questions they’ve always been dying to ask. It can help break taboos about mental health and make you realise you’re not mad and you’re certainly not alone.

“It’s Tupperware for the mind and can show you a different way of looking at things, recognise patterns and provide solutions.”

A typical session lasts a couple of hours and includes exercises and games to put techniques into practice. To make sure they can cover a wide range of problems, Hazel has a team of qualified psychologists who specialise in different types of psychology such as behavioural, clinical and occupational. Hazel’s speciality is business psychology but she also hosts general psychology parties too. As well as being highly qualified, she’s also been through the wars (she survived a brain tumour in 2000, just months after founding her business, and was divorced twice by the age of 34) and has come out the other end, a very wise owl.

Overall the sessions have been received well, but it’s understandable that they can also unleash a range of emotions in participants.

“Tears. Lots of tears” said Hazel. “They can be of joy or sadness. It can be a great release. Most people don’t need counselling or psychiatric help. They just need the ‘tools’ to deal with life’s problems.”

Of course not everyone finds it easy to open up in an instant, and Hazel is keen to work through any ‘defence mechanisms’ whilst avoiding creating a therapy culture akin to the USA. She prefers to get straight to the point.

“Don’t swallow your emotions” she says. “It’s toxic.”

A Shrink Party costs around £50 per person including canapés and drinks. A typical at-home party runs from 6pm-8pm. Shrink Parties also take place at venues across Cheshire for those who prefer to meet new people dealing with similar issues. For more information visit www.shrinkparty.co.uk.

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