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?
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 →
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.
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 Continue reading →
You 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
You 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 →
I’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 →
Let’s take time out to acknowledge and celebrate stepfathers on Fathers Day. Over 20% of Australian children live in step or blended families, therefore, thousands of men are stepping into an ambiguous and difficult role.
Those passionate and delightful “in love” feelings couples experience in a new relationship don’t necessarily encompass your new partner’s children. And kids don’t Continue reading →
At times the rumble of drums or the soft tinkle of ivories floats into my counselling room at Little Window – Counselling, Psychology and Wellness. Then I know that our Music Therapist, Claire Stephensen, is working with a client, and I’m intrigued. Poking my head into the hallway, I try to see Claire using music in therapy, but her door is firmly closed and the mystery remains.
I would not describe myself as a musical person. I sing like a cat on heat, I’m an awkward dancer and my husband used to tell me off for singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star out of tune to our children. Yet I also know music brings great joy. I hear the first beats of an old love song and memories flood back. My mood can be lifted or lowered through a few well-chosen songs. I know that there is magic in how we respond to music. To satisfy my curiosity about music therapy I had a chat with Claire and asked her a barrage of questions.
Thanks for having me Anne, I know your curiosity is shared with so many people. I look forward to sharing a glimpse into the ‘music therapy space’.
How do you start a music therapy session?
In music therapy training we learn a lot about the importance of overall structure of a session – the opening, middle and close are each considered to be very important for their own reasons (just like the open, middle and close of a song or piece of music!) – and it will look different for each person I work with. I always intend to meet the person where they’re at – and finish the session closer to where they want to be. For some, this might mean we start with talking before introducing music, and for others, we start with music before we do any talking. Some clients like to start their sessions by bringing a song or piece of music that resonated for them – to help bring language to their current challenges. At other times we talk through the key challenges or wins so we can decide together what the best modality will be for the ‘middle’ part of the session.
I came across the quote “Comparison is the death of Joy” by Mark Twain the other day and was struck by how succinctly it captured what I frequently hear, and occasionally do. Consider the following ways that joy is killed.
The new mum
The new mum gently nestles her beautiful baby boy in her arms. She gazes lovingly at her son, stroking his hair. He’s snuggled in a bunny rug, blissfully milk drunk. She’s just finished breastfeeding him, happy to do so in front of me.
She dips her head away from my inquiring eyes. “He wakes more at night than my friends baby”. Continue reading →
Seeing a play is one way that I revitalise myself. For me, a trip to the theatre is an act of self care and pure pleasure. I feel given to, with nothing expected in return. There’s a feeling of connectedness with the actors and the audience which I never get from watching a screen. As a psychologist, I advocate for self-compassion, self care, and connectedness, so it’s important that I walk the talk. This weekend I indulged myself with two plays.
Watching the Mathematics of Longing at Brisbane’s Le Boite theatre, I immersed myself in another world for an hour. I love this smalltheatre in the round. It feels so intimate, and I intensified the experience by sitting in the front row. A friend insisted that we do this at the last play we enjoyed, and, somewhat reluctantly, I acquiesced. Unexpectedly I discovered that I loved the closeness to the Continue reading →
Clients often experience a wave of relief after their first counselling session. Their burden is shared and they feel joined on their journey. That old saying, a worry shared is a worry halved rings true.
Sometimes, you don’t recognise how burdened you’re feeling until the load eases, as I experienced recently. I’d been working on Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography for over four years and had come to the end of my skills, capability, and motivation. I knew I had to do more but had no idea Continue reading →
These 5 delightfully therapeutic TED Talks are perfect when your head is a cacophony of critical chatter or your brain barrages you with blasts of self-blame. Take time, less than 18 minutes, to listen to a voice other than your own which is, after all, just telling you a story that you’ve probably heard many times before.
All these speakers know how hard it is to be human and yet still inspire us to be better. Clients tell me these talks make you feel that you’re ok, even if you’re not perfect. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a not for profit organisation spreading ideas in the form of powerful talks. Before you start listening, scroll to the bottom of the post for some therapeutic listening tips.
1. The Power of Vulnerability
Let’s start with Brene Brown.Her first talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one I’ve listened to many times and encourage most clients to listen to. If you’ve ever thought your vulnerability Continue reading →