Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

Getting there

My friend is terrified of lifts so we climbed up the dingy stairwell to the third floor, only to find our exit door locked. After pointlessly pulling at the securely locked door a few times, we turned and scurried back down the stairs, to find the door we’d entered through also locked. Anxiety slowly rose in my throat. What if we’re stuck in the stairwell for eternity?

Empty office corridoor

Frantically, we descended further flinging open the lower ground floor door to the street, bursting out into the bright sunshine. We re-entered the building, now no option remained but to brave the lift. My friend scooted into the back corner, her body firmly pressed against the walls, arms folded against her chest. Her eyes startled with fear and yet also relieved that we were the only ones locked in the confined, windowless space that she hates so much.

The long hallway to the inner city psychiatrist’s office was bland and soulless, terracotta tiled floor, cream walls and mission brown fixtures – a flashback to the ’70s.

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

The psychiatrist, unknown to my friend or me, greeted her warmly, even though we were 10 minutes early.  The psychiatrist had received a myriad of documents and clearly knew that this appointment was going to be distressing for my friend. Despite the kindliness of the psychiatrist, my friend looked pleadingly at me as she slowly followed her to the psychiatrist’s office.  She Continue reading

Estranged mothers and adult children

woman sadIt’s Mother’s Day this Sunday in Australia. A day when many families come together to rejoice in the loving bond between mothers and children. A day to celebrate the blood, sweat and tears that ooze out of mothers while raising children. But for some families, it’s a day of heartbreak. There will be no bunches of flowers or boxes of chocolates. Adult children and parents can become estranged to each other. That’s tough.

Those that choose to break the relationship with their parent or child, often see it as a move of self-preservation. For some reason, the family dynamics have gone awry and the person, unable to stand the emotional turmoil, chooses to leave. A broken attachment can feel calmer and safer Continue reading

Uniting Psychologists: Visionaries, Activists, Noisemakers… and Bystanders

A feisty shake-up of psychology

The profession of psychology is undergoing a feisty and invigorating shake-up, triggered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule Taskforce Review into Mental Health. For too long psychologists have trustingly left the management of their profession to the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) which is supported by the Australian Health Practitioner Agency (APHRA). We now realise that these organisations have not advocated proactively for most psychologists, nor for mental health clients, and the result has been a fractured profession. A cohesive mental health service for the Australian community can only be provided through unification.

There are now many more psychologists clamouring to be heard, stimulating hardy debate, challenging untested myths and demanding a united and yet diverse profession to meet the needs of mental health clients in Australia. If you are a psychologist, look at the Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPI) and Reform APS (RAPS) websites and join the Australian Psychologists closed group Facebook page.  These forums have re-ignited my interest in the profession of psychology, dormant for many years, having long ago let my APS membership expire for lack of relevancy.

Uniting psychologists

All psychologists are registered practitioners with APHRA under the general registration standard. A false dichotomy has arisen between psychologists with a clinical endorsement and those without. Those with clinical endorsement have been privileged financially (without any evidence of better outcomes) and are falsely assumed to have greater expertise, knowledge, and education.  In 2018 there were 29,982 registered Psychologists, with only 29% of them having a clinical endorsement. Eighty percent of psychologists are female.

We must celebrate the richness of diversity that different pathways to registration as a psychologist bring to the profession, and ultimately our clients. See more of my thoughts on this in Enraged Psychologists and Dear Mental Health Client, please don’t be too unwell.

Moves to restrict the practice of most psychologists will have a devastating impact on the mental health services we can provide to clients and overload our clinically endorsed colleagues. The APS is proposing that only 8,725 clinically endorsed psychologists can be expected to meet the needs of all mental health clients with severe symptoms.

Those working to unite psychologists are Visionaries, Activists, and Noisemakers. As always with social justice advocacy, there is also a group of Bystanders whose voice is silent.

Visionaries

There is a team of awesome Visionaries and these psychologists are my superheroes. They are unearthing historical documents, analysing research, writing submissions, compiling academic papers and creating petitions. You’ll find them leading RAPS, AAPI and the Australian Psychologists Facebook page.  The enormity of their toil is often unseen and unrecognised.

The Visionaries see the big picture and put the pieces of the puzzle together. They share their insights and spur us to action.  They shine the spotlight on the deficiencies of the status quo.

By placing themselves in the public domain they face the pushback that occurs, including legal threats, and malicious social media comments.

The Visionaries are predominantly female, all volunteers with day jobs, families and other caring roles.  They are full of energy when not exhausted, both inspired and feeling hopeless, often afraid, always courageous.  As a group, they are relentless and sustain the pressure to unite the profession.  As individuals, they give what they can when they can. Sometimes they need to withdraw to re-energise.

Activists

The Activists, spurred on by the findings of the Visionaries, flood Members of Parliament with feedback on the negative consequences to the community of a divided profession. They demand an end to the false division of psychologists within Medicare, Centrelink and the NDIS policies.  Comments made by the APS and APHRA are now challenged, no longer silently accepted. They write submissions to the Productivity Commission and the Medicare Benefits Schedule Taskforce Review into Mental Health.

Activists speak about the issue to colleagues and at professional development events.

They correct misinformation in the community, including with General Practitioners.

They sign petitions such as “Enough is Enough’….All consumers and psychologists in Australia deserve equal access to Medicare.

They commend action, encourage debate and contribute to the discussion.

Let’s not forget that the Activists (who may also be Visionaries) also volunteer with minimal resources. Those they are fighting have paid workforces and infrastructure to support them. Activists do not have access to mailing lists of psychologists to share their concerns. It’s exhausting work.

Noisemakers

<a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business">Business photo created by asier_relampagoestudio - www.freepik.com</a>

The Noisemakers echo the findings of the Visionaries and words of the Activists. They blog, write articles, post on Linkedin, Facebook and Tweet.

They seek to engage the media as ultimately, the fracture in psychology has a negative impact on services provided to mental health clients.

Noisemakers share Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts, they “like”, retweet and comment frequently. They actively support other psychologists on social media.

Noisemakers are both inspired and deflated; passionate and at times overwhelmed. More volunteers with day jobs. Some are also inspiring Visionaries and busy Activists, fully committed to uniting psychology.

Bystanders

At times we are all Bystanders, but life or events call us to action at different times. I assume the Bystanders are psychologists who think a fractured profession does not affect them. Who perhaps think uniting psychologists is a big fuss about nothing.  Maybe they see Medicare as having nothing to do with them. Or perhaps they support the status quo.  Possibly they see it all as hopeless. Nonetheless, they are silent and there are too many of them.

If you are a psychologist and a Bystander but want to start being more active, begin by signing “Enough is Enough’….All consumers and psychologists in Australia deserve equal access to Medicare. You could also share one of my blogs on social media, or talk to a colleague about what’s going on. Join the Australian Psychologists Facebook page.  It’s a hive of information and inspiration.

In my opinion, what Bystanders don’t get to say is:

“Why didn’t you tell me what was going on”.

 “See, it was all alright in the end”.

“I knew it would be ok”

“I knew that wouldn’t happen”

“It was a lot of fuss about nothing”

“See, the changes have been good”

That’s because the Visionaries, Activists, and Noisemakers did hours of unpaid work to unite psychologists.  Do not let inaction, apathy or silence undermine their courageous and heroic effort.

Psychologists, you can take action.

  • Donations can be made to the Australian Association of Psychologists inc (AAPi) Fighting Fund by:
    • AAPI Gofundme page here
    • EFT to BSB 182 512 Account No. 961170248
    • BPay to BPay Code: 667022; BPay Reference: 961170248 – Cheque to PO Box 107, North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051.
    • Credit Card phone 0418 391 820
    • Receipts will be issued for all donations but please use your full name if a member and if not a member your email address (we have a lovely volunteer psych doing the receipts!). For further information telephone 0418 391 820 or email admin@aapoz.com
  • Join the Australian Association of Psychologists www.aapoz.com
  • Join the Australian Psychologists Facebook page. This is a closed group of enraged psychologists with a huge passion, great debate, and inspiration. They are an amazing brains trust.  Make sure you answer the questions required to join the group.
  • Go to www.reformaps.org
  • Make your views known to:
  • Share this post on social media.
  • Has the APS represented you as a psychologist? Does it look after your best interests? Has it provided a workable suggestion for mental health clients? Is it in your benefit to remain a member?

Mental health advocates and consumers, you can take action

  • Donations can be made to the Australian Association of Psychologists inc (AAPi) Fighting Fund by:
    • AAPI Gofundme page here
    • EFT to BSB 182 512 Account No. 961170248
    • BPay to BPay Code: 667022; BPay Reference: 961170248 – Cheque to PO Box 107, North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051.
    • Credit Card phone 0418 391 820
    • Receipts will be issued for all donations but please use your full name if a member and if not a member your email address (we have a lovely volunteer psych doing the receipts!). For further information telephone 0418 391 820 or email admin@aapoz.com

Dear Mental Health Client, please don’t be too unwell

Dear Mental Health Client,

Mental Health ClientYou came quietly into my counselling room,  looking a bit unsure, eyes cast downwards.  Hesitant to speak.

It had been tough to pluck up the courage and ask your GP for a referral to a psychologist. You hardly ever see your GP and felt uncomfortable when they asked about your mental health and living situation. You gave the GP brief answers, just wanting the appointment over and done with. This stuff so hard to talk about.

Starting your treatment

Mental health clientYou left the GP with a Mental Health Care Plan for 6 sessions, a bit surprised to learn that they’re not free because most psychologists can’t afford to bulk bill. Ouch, this is more expensive than you anticipated. You also learned that you can only have 10 Medicare subsidised sessions each year.  Still, you think, 10 sessions must be enough for the psychologist to “fix” you. Why else would they only give you this many? It seemed like quite a lot of sessions at the time.

It was so hard for you to come to the first appointment. Initially you tell me you are “just a little bit depressed and anxious”. By our fourth session, you’ve trusted me enough to share the Continue reading

Lucky Cardinal Pell – now not so lucky

Lucky Cardinal PellCardinal Pell Sentenced!

Today, 13/3/2018, Cardinal Pell received a maximum sentence of six years for the sexual abuse of two teenage boys, after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1966.  He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.

While handing down the sentence Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell been “breathtakingly arrogant” and “brazen and callous” in his offending.

That Australia’s most senior Catholic leader has been found guilty of child sexual assault astounds me.  No longer is the Catholic church successful at covering up its heinous deeds.

Pell will, of course, make an appeal.

Take care of Yourself and others

Australia media is inundated with this news of this case and undoubtedly survivors of child sexual abuse will be triggered. Some ideas for caring for yourself and others can be found here: Taking care of yourself (or a loved one) in the wake of George Pell’s conviction

Survivors and Solicitors 

Pell is now guilty and imprisoned. It’s likely that others who have been sexually abused as children, and who have remained silent, may now be considering legal action against their perpetrators.  Before you embark on a marathon legal journey, read Survivors and Solicitors, and make sure you have a strong team with you.

Original Post 8 May 2018.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic leader, was committed to stand trial for Continue reading

Enraged psychologists fighting for an improved mental health system

Enraged psychologistI’ve never met so many enraged psychologists as I have in the last six months. We’re channelling our pent up fury by pounding keyboards, our battle cry is echoing loudly through social media and Members of Parliament (MP’s) are being accosted at every opportunity.

And that goes against everything I know about my usually sedate and contemplative colleagues.

Life of an enraged Psychologist 

Let me tell you a bit about the life of a psychologist. We work with vulnerable people in our Continue reading

Live like a giraffe in 2019

Giraffes Crescent IslandMy new year started on safari in Kenya. One of the many amazing highlights of this trip was walking with the giraffes on Crescent Island, Lake Naivasha. It was like wandering through the Garden of Eden and it was easy to imagine the birth of humanity here.

Watching the gentle and majestic giraffes inspired my new year wishes.

How to live like a giraffe.Giraffes Crescent Island

Walk with dignity, purpose and pride.

Hold your head high and look beyond the petty irritations of life.

Remain calm under all circumstances.

Stay connected and protected by your family and friends.

Happy new year to you all.

Building connection and intimacy through Mindful Coupling

Mindful coupling cardsAs a couple’s therapist, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to build connection and intimacy with couples.  I was delighted when I discovered an ex colleague of mine, psychologist Iris Goemans, had created Mindful Coupling.  This innovative tool for couples is like a delicious box of chocolates, full of unexpected delights.  I asked Iris to tell me more about Mindful Coupling…

 What is Mindful Coupling?

Mindful Coupling is a relationship card set designed to help couples reconnect, reawaken and rejuvenate their relationship.  It includes 30 powerful weekly actions and 64 intimacy-building questions to strengthen a couple’s bond, deepen their connection and enhance intimacy. 

What inspired you to create Mindful Coupling?

Love is one of the most profound emotions known to human beings. Romantic relationships can provide a deep source of fulfilment and can be a very meaningful part of our lives.  However when I looked around me, I noticed very few relationships that were actually doing well.  I noticed many couples feeling dissatisfied in their relationship and disconnected from each other, and that this was causing a lot of anguish. As a wife and mother myself, I understood that feeling disconnected can easily happen, especially when you’re running a household, looking after children, maintaining jobs, and generally trying to keep on top of all the other things life throws at us.  People tend to think that the grass is greener on the other side, but it’s actually greenest where you water it.  Continue reading

Survivors and Solicitors

Survivors of child sexual abuse, who courageously gave evidence to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, are now torn between applying for compensation through the Redress Scheme and/or launching legal proceedings against the perpetrating organisations. Neither pathway is easy and neither has a guaranteed outcome. Historical child sexual abuse cases are notoriously difficult to win given the passage of time, lack of witnesses and the legal requirement for detailed information.  Survivors and solicitors embarking on the marathon journey into the world of trauma and legal processes need to be well prepared.

Acknowledge the legal process will trigger trauma symptoms

Female survivor alone

Applying to the Redress Scheme or undertaking legal action is likely to be distressing. Revisiting the abuse, providing statements, and arguing your case may trigger flashbacks, nightmares and other trauma symptoms.  During this time be proactive in care for yourself.

Gather a support team

  • Invite someone, other than the solicitor, to join you on the journey and be your support person.  Ask them to accompany you to appointments, read information, discuss the case with you and retain the focus in appointments when you are distressed.  Give consideration to who you would ask. Another trauma survivor may also be triggered by the process.  Perhaps there could be more than one person to assist you.
  • Inform your family and friends that the legal process is likely to be stressful and lengthy. Try and be clear about what you need e.g. “After appointments, I may be distressed, can you spend some time with me?”  “Can you come for a walk sometimes to help me manage the stress?”  “I may just need a hug or my handheld, will you be able to do that for me?”
  • Access support through a psychologist, counsellor, social worker,  or caseworker and schedule regular appointments in advance.

Commit to a rigorous self-care plan

Legal cases may go on for years and are stressful. They are indeed a marathon and not a sprint. Continue reading

60 years of loving

How has life, and the way we date, changed since Rhonda and Arthur met and married?  This couple, my inspiring parents-in-law, Stevens loving Mum and Dad, and wonderful grandparents to my children married on 1 October 1955, 63 years ago.  They have enjoyed over 60 years of loving.

The first date

P1080380 (2)They met on a blind date.  For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s where friends set up a date for you with someone you don’t know.  Kind of similar to Tinder except you didn’t get to stalk their Facebook page to see what they looked like.

Rhonda and Arthur courted.  The definition of courting for their time would have been “be involved with (someone) romantically, with the intention of marrying”.  The urban dictionary today gives the definition as “traditionally courting would include no sexual activity but today that is not usually followed”. I didn’t ask them which definition they followed, and I don’t ask my kids which kind of courting they do either.

No mobile phones

Sixty three years ago Continue reading