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The Model of the Person

In the Tidal Model the person is represented, theoretically, by three personal domains: Self, World and Others . A domain is a sphere of control or influence:: a place where the person experiences or acts out aspects of private or public life. More simply, a domain is a place where someone lives.

The domains are like the person’s home address. Their house or flat has several rooms, but the person is not to be found in each of these rooms all the time. Sometimes the person is in one room, and sometimes in another. The personal domains are similar. Sometimes the person is mainly spending time in the Self domain, and at other times is mainly spending time in the World or Others domains.


The Self Domain is the private place where the person lives. Here the person experiences thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, ideas etc, which are known only to the person. In this private world the distress called ’mental illness’ is first experienced. All people keep much of their private world secret, only revealing to others what they wish them to know. This is why people are often such a ‘mystery’ to us, even when they are close friends or relatives.

In the Tidal Model the Self domain becomes the focus of our attempts to help the person feel more ‘safe and secure’; where we try to help the person address and begin to deal with the private fears, anxieties and other threats to emotional stability, which are related to specific problems of living. The main focus is to develop a ‘bridging’ relationship  and to help the person develop a meaningful Personal Security Plan. This work becomes the basis of the development of the person’s ‘self-help’ programme, which will sustain the person on return to everyday life.

The World Domain is the place where the person shares some of the experiences from the Self domain, with other people, in the person’s social world. When people talk to others about their private thoughts, feelings, beliefs or other experiences known only to them, they go to the World Domain.

In the Tidal Model the World Domain becomes the focus of our efforts to understand the person and the person’s problems of living. This is done through use of the Holistic Assessment . At the World Domain we also try to help the person to begin to identify and address specific problems of living, on an everyday basis. This is done through use of dedicated One-to-One Sessions.

The Others Domain is the place where the person acts out everyday life with other people—family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, professionals etc. Here the person engages in different interpersonal and social encounters, within which the person may be influenced by others, and may—in turn—influence others.

The organisation and delivery of professional care and other forms of support is located in the Others Domain. However, the key focus of the Tidal Model is on three dedicated forms of group work—Discovery, Information-Sharing and Solution-finding .

By participating in these groups, the person develops awareness of the value of social support, which (s)he can both receive from and give to others. This becomes the basis of the person’s appreciation of the value of mutual support, which can be accessed in everyday life.

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The Inevitability of Change

In Tidal we accept that change is inevitable. Nothing lasts! Neither our misery, nor our joy. The fickle, fleeting nature of human experience is the very ingredient that makes it so special. The pain of emotional distress only feels as if it is unceasing.

The euphoria of genuine happiness deceives us into thinking that it is anything more than 'momentary'. But, nothing lasts. If only we could hang on to this enduring wisdom, we might begin to live in, and for, the moment.

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The Uniqueness of Human experience

In Tidal we also accept that we can never know another person's experience - either of joy or pain. the same is true of what we call mental distress, which is something that has to be experienced, to be fully understood. For those of us who think that we have never really been 'mad' or 'seriously mentally ill' , the best that we can do is to develop our sense of empathy.

We try to fit ourselves, as much as we are able - or as much as we dare - inside the experience of those who really 'know': those whom we call 'patients' or 'clients' of the psychiatric services.


Sally Clay knows a lot about madness (1) - and what it is like to be treated as a hopeless and chronically 'mentally ill' person. As one of the USA's most notable consumer-advocates, her 'career' in the mental health system spans more than 30 years.

For Sally, the experience was primarily a human and spiritual problem. Sadly, her 'carer's assumed that her madness was 'enduring', rather than 'passing'. They had not come to appreciate that nothing lasts - not even madness.

Being 'mad' was all about being Sally Clay. The long and arduous process of recovery which Sally described in her writing on Madness and Reality was all about recovering a sense of what it meant to be human and to be Sally Clay. Sally wrote:

"Everywhere these days we see people living lives of quiet desperation - lives, as Kierkegaard noted, of 'indifference, so remote from the good that they are almost too spiritless to be called sin, yet almost too spirited to be called despair'. We who have experienced mental illness have all learned the same thing, whether our extreme mental states were inspiring or frightening. We know that we have reached the bare bones of spirit and of what it means to be human. Whatever our suffering, we know that we do not want to become automatons, or to wear the false facade that others adopt"

Many people today are afraid of talking about the human nature of mental distress, and think that 'spiritual' either mean religious, or some kind of New Age weirdness. Sally Clay knows that the experience of madness frightens us - even when we refuse to admit that we are frightened.

"Whether we have had revelations or have hit rock bottom, most of us have also suffered from the ignorance of those who fear to look at what we have seen, who always try to change the subject. Although we have been broken, we have tasted of the marrow of reality. There is something to be learned here about the mystery of living itself, something important both to those who have suffered and those who seek to help us. We must teach each other".

The lesson that Sally Clay learned from her experience of swinging wildly and frequently between 'Madness and Reality' is meaningful for everyone - but will benefit only those with the desire to listen and, perhaps, have the courage to feel something of what Sally herself felt.

As Harry Stack Sullivan said: "We are all more simply human than otherwise'. There is much that we can learn about ourselves in trying to learn something about the experiences of others.

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