​Yannis Munro

Yannis Munro talks Psychodynamic Therapy, Empathy, Supporting Young People, The Prince’s Trust and the Power of Creativity and Hope in difficult times

How did you start at the Prince’s Trust?

I was let’s say at a crossroad in my life, where I was thinking that I wanted, to be working more with people and less with food.
My studies and my previous professional life were with food, but I wanted to get more involved with people and I was already volunteering for Marie Curie and for Hestia. I was very keen to volunteer and when a role came up with the Trust to work for the volunteering team, for someone who had a business background, I thought, that might be me. So that prompted me to apply for that role and it was an 18 months contract and following that there was another permanent opportunity, and I am still here 2 ½ years later.

You said you started working with food, what initiated you to then give support to Young People?

I think it all links. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a psychotherapist but then living was not continuative to capture that, so I ended up in the food industry. I ended up feeding people, which was a way to show them I loved them. I was loving people through feeding them, but then as I developed I realised that feeding them was not enough so I realised that the real help, or more effective help comes through not just feeding them, but feeding them emotionally. 

​Feeding their soul

Yes and nurturing them not just physically but nurturing them emotionally. So the need of nurturing has taken me from stage to stage and to end up where I really need to help Young People through volunteering through therapy, through cooking and through coaching, so I see that as a continuous process, all through nurturing.

Can you tell us a little what the Prince’s Trust offers to Young People?

The most important thing is that it helps disadvantaged Young People that are educational underachievers or unemployed. These are the two main target groups. The Prince’s Trust helps them to get the soft skills and to get to a post development stage, which is employment, training, education or volunteering. 
So these are the four things that the Trust is trying to help the Young People with, and at the same time give them confidence in the other shift skills that they need to move on with their lives.

You have vast experience with mentoring, how have you seen Young People develop?

I’ve seen that in different ways, I’ve seen Young People grabbing the opportunity immediately and trying to turn that into a result and I’ve seen lots of cases where Young People have taken some time to reflect or deal with their own situation and in the end develop, and I’ve seen young people falling off the grid and disappearing as well, which is really sad. 

It is very sad.
I have noticed many Young People go into the arts and the creative fields, is that something you have noticed?

Some of the trends are fashion, arts and arts and crafts, the other is with food. 
These are the two basic trends that we have seen coming into the Trust. This is just to be precise about the Enterprise Program, so for people who are starting their own business.

Can you share with us some successes?

I can say that as a mentor I have been very fortunate to see some. 
As a Programme Executive I was very fortunate to be working with a Young Person who came in and was shy about his idea regarding a food product.  I was mentoring him along side other mentors. I helped with how to contact supermarket buyers. Now I have seen that Young Person flourish and progress through to being in a major retailer. Some weekends ago I went into the retailer and I bought that product, for me that was my contribution. It felt really good. 

That’s fantastic, a great example of how a Young Person can reach success.
You are also a psychodynamic coach, what exactly does that entail?

I am helping people to identify opportunities to develop themselves and the way that I approach this, is to use psychodynamic therapy and the psychodynamic theory to connect with what is happening right now in their lives and how it creates a pattern. 
Relationship patterns they can happen at work, they can happen at home, they can happen at other places in their lives and I look into how they can affect the issues that they have and where they may have come from.
So for example, looking into if there has been a pattern introduced at an earlier point in life and how we can have this triangulation between what’s happening right now, what are my patterns and where do they come from. This is a way of opening up a space for reflection. This triangulation is an overall very simple way of trying to do that. Of course there is a lot of detail behind this, but I am trying to keep the theory in the background and trying to engage with questions and keep a space for reflection rather than mention any kind of theory. 

Do you see a similar pattern in every person or Young Person you’ve coached, such as, that if we each hold on to anxiety, something that throughout society, the world (though different degrees), seems to be growing, or is each case different?

I think what you are saying is if there are any common trends. So for me the common trends would be, people who are suffering from anxiety and depression and that’s the general trend and also narcissism is something that is very modern. So we all share on Social Media what we eat and where we go. Everybody is trying to have a relationship with themselves because it is difficult to relate to other people, this has some repercussions and creates difficult situations, so for me, I’ve seen that as a collective trend in this period. 

Why do you think people have difficulty empathising with others?

Because I think, it’s very difficult to empathise, because we have been brought up to look after ourselves and we have been brought up sometimes without empathy, without parents being 100% available for us, so we develop some sort of like preparation for ourselves in creating a form of shield. Like thinking I’ll love myself because no one else loves me and that of course becomes a sort of pattern, a defensive attitude then it becomes more difficult to connect with other people because there’s a lack of trust. So it’s easier to say, this is what I’m doing rather than this is what we are doing, and this is what we communicate. And of course Social Media and technology are an excellent medium for this to be expressed. For example if you think about Twitter, we diffuse an entropy of information and on Instagram, it’s like, here’s what I do, here’s a picture of what I’ve done, here’s a picture of what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve got, and not usually this is who I am.

Since you’ve started mentoring, Social Media has obviously expanded, have you seen a difference in the relationship between yourself and the Young People you mentor at the Prince’s Trust and in your own right? And how has the Prince’s Trust approached Young People in regards to Social Media, how has technology played a part? 

I think there’s a new way of connecting, so the Prince’s Trust are preparing to respond to that. I think it’s not necessarily fully outlined yet, but the Trust has listen to that and is trying to set up a whole system on how to be more available to Young People according to the Social Media needs. 
I have seen technology giving opportunities to people who are shy about communicating, because face to face is more difficult for them, so Social Media is definitely helping with that, but at the same time, it fuels sometimes the lack of responsibility to connect, even though online they are connected, it provides an excuse such as, I didn’t get the message or it got lost, so sometimes technology works for and against the human contact. 

It’s definitely a new era and I assume fuels the coaching that you do. Psychodynamic coaching does it have to do with the conscious mind and unconscious mind? Such as in regards to Social Media, if we unconsciously tweet something and we consciously want that to happen or vice versa.

I think what I can say is, that for everything that we do, there’s a conscious reason and potentially unconscious reasons. Sometimes, if there are unconscious reasons we don’t necessarily want to acknowledge that. 

What can we do to reach out to a Young Person that we see is in difficulty, would you have any advice? 

Advice I think is very prescriptive, but what I would say is the first thing is self-awareness, and definitely to encourage people to develop self-awareness. People develop self-awareness in different ways, through their own way, through reflection, through discussion, though sports, through reading. But being more aware of where they are is one thing, the other is to realise how to develop empathy and compassion. So developing empathy can be an easy thing, but it can also be a hard thing. Being in someone else’s shoes is both easily doable and it can also be very hard. When we see someone who is vulnerable, we sympathise, we say poor him or poor her or poor them but actually if we try to see the situation from their point of view then we will try to understand them, this is the beginning of empathy. 
Starting to think not about ourselves, because if we think, oh they are like this, then we keep our energy for ourselves, and that can be perceived as arrogant or narcissistic but if we start to think with their eyes, and we put ourselves in their situation, we start shifting and we start seeing what it is about them and less about us. 

So it is not just about sympathy but really about turning physically and looking at another’s perspective. 

Yes, sympathy can be perceived, I mean sympathy is close to compassion and is positive but sometimes it is not helping. Because like saying or thinking poor them they are in a difficult situation I am in a different situation, that’s fine, but turning that into I am wondering what it’s like for them, that kind of mind frame gives a different space for us to think about. 

How would you advice any Young Person that is struggling and does not know where to start? 

If they qualify for the Prince’s Trust programmes, then definitely to join something like that.

Is there something they can reflect on or think about, or a mantra you know of or believe in? 

Maybe some Young People may not know of this film, but the film that really changed the way I see things is The Matrix. 
There’s a part in The Matrix where someone is trying to bend a spoon with their mind, and if you are trying to bend the spoon actually what you are doing is bending yourself. Realistically what happens is that there is no spoon, so there is no limitation. We are creating our own limitations, so for me, there is no spoon, means like nothing is impossible.
That many people are in difficult situations, I understand that, but nothing is impossible is a good way to start. 

How do you build a Young Person’s confidence? 

I am usually using some of the skills of my training which would be listening skills and mirroring.
​So sometimes, the Young People do not realise the positive things that are happening in their lives. So mirroring the positive elements and highlighting the things and trying to control or limit the negative aspects that are happening in their lives will give them a perspective to balance everything and have a balanced view of where they are. 
At the same time of mirroring, listening, I think that definitely feeds into their self confidence, that someone is listening to them, somebody is there for them for the specific amount of time that we have, that gives them some sort of building block, a small start for their growth.

Do you think we all need a little therapy in our lives? Or do you think, it could be a bit of a hindrance sometimes to think too much about our lives, the past and so on, as in sometimes if you stop and think, you may not be able to carry on, or is it good to stop and think and reflect, or maybe actually do we have to balance it?

Well psychotherapy is not for everybody, so if you ask me if at some point, somebody might need a little therapy, a little counselling then yes, but are they ready to receive it, I’m not sure. 
It is definitely a case by case and if somebody is open to that relationship or not, that person has to decide if they may benefit from something like that.
Some people tell me I don’t need therapy, I have friends, and I think yes definitely the social family, the close social network is very important to support ourselves and we can live without therapy but living without a support social network is really hard.

Yes because not everybody has a support network, a loving family or friends, and it seems that modernity has brought about individualism.

I agree, and going back to narcissism, there’s a difficulty these days to relate and that is nicely supported by Social Media because you could be anywhere, so for example I can be somewhere extremely exotic and beautiful doing nice things, sipping cocktails and posting nice food pictures online, but at the same time being by myself and have nothing to do but post things online, so in essence, we are showing everybody else how happy we are but hiding how sad we may feel. 
This is the thing I am getting from Social Media, and this is a trend that we seem to be getting from around the world.

The work you do is to make people feel better about themselves

Well make them aware of that and hope that there is something positive about that, and something happening in a positive way and how they can achieve their potential.

You mentioned education, Young People going back to school is as important as finding a job or starting a business for the Prince's Trust, or for you, what do you think about having more philosophy in education?

So we are going back to classical education with this question.
We are in this post capitalistic era, and the training we have was finalised and designed to fulfil the needs of the Industrial Revolution. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have not seen a major change in terms of the education system, so I think that since we are in a post industrial, post capitalistic era that we have to rethink that and what is important. Education is so easily offered outside school through Social Media and the Internet, so it kind of is a synergy and it can also be something that is working against a classical education, but I don’t know what the classical education should be now.
So for instance, I agree that there needs to be some sort of philosophy, it is a great opportunity for reflection and self awareness, while so far maths, chemistry, science, or specific literature or history have been seen as the way to go forward to get the right job and the right money but at the same time we have seen that this is failing.
I believe we are in a post capitalist era and we don’t know what is going to happen. So we definitely need reflection, but I don’t know if through philosophy or through self-awareness. 

Maybe through communities, do you think through communities helping each other out and being there for each other?

I think definitely community support is important for us, or looking after people. 
But not sure through education how that can be done, that’s interesting, I do believe in community support but I hadn’t thought about it in the context of education. 

Something for the future

Community learning.

Yes, to bridge those two. I guess when you get community support, it feeds into your social skills, and that feeds into how you are through the education system and then through the work process. 

It’s additional support 

Yes additional support and I guess additional learning, because we learn everyday. We learn from each other

Yes and here at the Prince’s Trust we try to do community support for people with groups, creating groups we call networking groups, so for me, networking is a form of community support, so when you go to an event, you chose your community that you want to keep contact with and arrange the next event because you want their support.
So it is happening but I think it can further develop.

Art is a great way to bring people together, and like you said at the Trust, art, fashion and food gather people together.

Absolutely, art is a great way, and sharing food has definitely a social aspect, a social aspect that can lead to support and many things. Art is about communicating!

You are also an advisor on mental health at the Prince's Trust, how can and have the arts helped with mental health?

Art therapy is an established form of therapy for mental health issues. At the Trust we have identified the need to support our young people with regards to their mental health, even though we are not a mental health charity. We have started a pilot to offer Art Therapy at two of our centres in London for young people who have declared that they have a mental health issue. We are monitoring the impact and we will be able to see the effect of it to the web being of our young people.

What’s next for you?

What’s coming up is that I will be able to continue to see people in terms of psychotherapy and continue to see people in terms of coaching and at the same time working for the Trust gives me the opportunity to continue to serve supporting Young People.

And what are your hopes for the foreseeable future? 
It feels like we are going through unsettling times in the world

Yes, but at the same time, there is so much entropy that the universe is just collapsing politically, collectively and with whatever is happening in the world, but I think that through difficult times there are opportunities for creativity and for hope to take place for things to get better. So even if things are hard, there is only one way, to move forward. Moving forward is like the hope for things to get better, and that hope is always there, for at the last minute something could change and things could improve. 

Is that the philosophy you live by?

My philosophy is 'there is no spoon' from the Matrix, that nothing is impossible and limitations are made by us. 
For me, all our fears and all our ghosts are usually living inside us. If we really think about that, what is stopping us, it is our own self

Yannis Munro is a qualified and experienced psychotherapist and coach. He trained at WPF Therapy and is a Myers-Briggs practitioner.
In 2017, he completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Psychodynamic Theory and Practice Counselling Psychology, after extensive previous academic training in, food, environment, management and counselling in the U.K., France and Greece.
Yannis Munro has vast experience in the charity sector having worked at The Prince's Trust as a mentor, Befriended for Hestia, a Volunteer Councillor at Mind, and Helper at Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Yannis Munro is the Mental Health Advisor for the
Prince’s Trust, responsible for the implementation of their mental health strategy.

He works as a counsellor and psychotherapist with professionals in the city and also regularly with young people and students, older people and those working in the media and arts.