for June, 2019

The difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist & counsellor

Posted on June 30, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

What is the difference between a psychologist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, and counsellor?

This is a commonly asked question of new clients and those considering therapy. This article sheds some light on the differences and similarities of professionals whose common goal, put simply, is to help better feel better.

Psychologists study human behaviour in their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees before undertaking supervised experience and gaining registration. They do not have a medical degree; however, many have postgraduate qualifications or doctoral level qualifications in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists have specialist training in psychological assessment and therapy with diagnosed psychiatric and/or mental disorders.

Psychologists generally assist people with a range of everyday problems such as stress and relationship difficulties. They also provide counselling and therapy for people with diagnosed mental disorders, such as anxiety disorders or depression. They help people to develop the skills needed to cope and function better, and to prevent ongoing problems.

Clinical psychologists and psychologists cannot prescribe medication. Their treatments are based on changing behaviour and emotional responses without medication. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing psychological treatments are effective on their own, as well as in combination with certain types of medication.

Psychiatrists have a medical degree, which involved six years of studying general medicine, followed by further study to specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional problems. Psychiatrists treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body and the effects of physical conditions on the mind. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Some combine medication with other forms of therapy.

Source: Australian Psychological Society 

A Counsellor assists people to “develop understanding about themselves and to make changes in their lives.” According to the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) it is expected that they “work within a clearly contracted principled relationship that enables individuals to explore and resolve issues of an interpersonal, intrapsychic or personal nature”.

There are different types of counsellors such as rehabilitation counsellors, marriage and/or family counsellors, school counsellors and others. Each may have very different qualifications and experience levels, which can be enquired about by potential clients. In Australia there is no mandated minimum training and qualification framework in place yet, though many counsellors are voluntary members of professional counselling associations, and are working towards this through PACFA, their peak body.

PACFA maintains a national voluntary register of counsellors and psychotherapists who have satisfied its minimum training standard. Also refer to for more information on counselling.

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Sleep Anxiety & The Power of your Mind

Posted on June 27, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

A global study conducted in February 2019 by Philips surveying over 15,000 people across 13 countries has revealed that worrying has kept over 51% of Australian adults up at night over the past three months, with illness and technology as other dominant disturbances.

The irony of this finding is that worry, or sleep anxiety as we like to call it, does nothing but exacerbate sleep disturbance and so the vicious cycle continues. On a more positive note, the study found that people do recognise and value the importance of sleep, and as a nation over half (63%) of Australian’s experiencing sleep disturbance have taken active steps to resolve the issue. On the flipside, Australians are more likely to use sleeping tablets than any other country- a worrying notion in itself.

So how do we stop the vicious cycle of sleep anxiety and drug reliance to help aid sleep?

Never underestimate the power of your own mind! After all, if worry has the power to stop your mind from rest, the power lies within to counteract such thoughts with more positive, soothing and naturally tranquilising ones.

Enter, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a form of therapy that has been scientifically proven to improve long term sleep health and reduce the reliance on sleep medication. Breaking the sleep anxiety cycle begins the minute you wake. After a restless night, you wake up tired and irritable which provokes anxiety about how you are going to cope with work, family commitments and other daily pressures. As the day continues you worry about how you might sleep that night and so the vicious cycle continues. Stopping the pattern of worry, requires acknowledging the thought as it enters your mind and replacing it with more helpful thoughts. This the has a flow on effect with positive thoughts leading to behavioural change. An action plan that involves a commitment to changing lifestyle choices that may be inhibiting sleep (read more about these below) and establishing a better bedtime routine may provide real comfort.

Often, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to sleep with a bunch of habits that are seriously unhelpful. Here are 5 common habits that are serious sleep killers.

  1. Worrying about sleep during the day. This is a number 1 ‘no-no’.
  2. Drinking too much caffeine, particularly after 2pm
  3. Overindulging in alcohol during the evening. Not only will this keep you up to the loo; alcohol is a major sleep inhibitor, affecting your natural circadian rhythm. Read more about this in “Mind the Booze if you want a good Snooze
  4. Exercising within 3 hours of bedtime. Although exercise is key to overall health and beneficial to quality sleep; be mindful of working out too close to bedtime as it produces too much physiological arousal which is not preparing our body for sleep.
  5. Gluing yourself to a screen. Technology is a sleep killer with the blue/green light omitted interrupting your natural circadian rhythm. If the technology is work related, you are also not allowing your mind to destress and decompartmentalise work life from home life.

Sleep Specialist Dr David Cunnington has been involved in ongoing research on using CBT for insomnia. Recent research published in June in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that on average people went to sleep 19 minutes faster and stayed asleep 16 minutes longer after CBT. This is similar to the effects of sleeping tablets but without the long-lasting negative effects.

Group programs like Towards Better Sleep, utilise CBT and focus on sleep education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies. Group therapy in treating insomnia has proven effective as it offers participants the opportunity to share stories and learn from the experiences and ideas of other insomnia sufferers, in a private and confidential setting. It also allows therapists to treat more people in a cost-effective way. To register for the next programme commencing Thursday 18th July visit Towards Better Sleep  or email



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Teaching Children about Anxiety

Posted on June 16, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Anxiety problems in children are very common, probably more so than other better-known behavioural problems like conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But how can we help children who suffer from anxiety?

Anxiety and fears in children are often obvious from an early age. Children from age five can present with phobias, obsessive-compulsive problems, social fears and shyness, or separation anxiety.

Anxious children usually fear particular things (for example, strangers or separation). They will talk about their fears and will avoid the situations or activities that they fear. It’s a common misconception that talking with your child about their anxiety will make it worse. Some parents may feel like talking about their fears or focusing on them will exacerbate them, but it can be really helpful in allowing your child to better understanding the symptoms and how to manage them.  So, what can parents do to help children who are experiencing anxiety?

  1. Ask your child about their  fears and talk openly and honestly about them.
  2. Listen to what they have to say and observe their behaviour.

Tip: Telling your child “not to worry” is generally ineffective. Think about how this makes you feel when you are worried or anxious.

  1. Teach them about anxiety. Tell them it is normal to experience anxiety. It may help to relate to your child’s anxiety with feelings you may have experienced when you were the same age.
  2. Discuss the feelings and physical symptoms that arise when your child is feeling anxious. Helping your child to recognise the symptoms will go a long way in helping manage them.

The main thing to consider is “Is my child’s anxiety interfering with his or her life?” If the answer is “yes” then it is worth doing something about it.

But what can be done for anxious kids? The answer is that teaching kids practical skills through cognitive behavioural therapy goes a long way to helping them manage their own anxiety.

At Psychology Consultants, children can learn how to identify their anxiety, how to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and how to think more realistically. We can also help them expose themselves to their feared situations and reduce their anxiety reaction to those situations.

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Work to Live- Not Live to Work

Posted on June 13, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

How to avoid Job Burnout

You’ve officially reached the half-way mark but that Summer break seems leap years away and getting up to go to work every day has become a major chore. You’ve become increasingly cynical at work and things that you ordinarily let fly now really irritate you. Headaches plague you and your work satisfaction has hit ground zero. If this all sounds very familiar, you might be experiencing ‘job burnout’. Note that these symptoms may also be caused by depression or other mental illness and should not be ignored. Either way, such symptoms can have serious consequences and seeking professional help a must.

Job burnout is a relatively new concept, first noted in 1974 by Hebert Freudenberger and likely a result of the modern workings of the world and increased demands and expectations of staff by workplaces. Caused by a number of factors, namely chronic stress, the World Health Organisation define it last month as; “…a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy”.

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist speaks about how to avoid Job Burnout  

Not surprisingly, job burnout is more likely to occur when one lacks proper work life balance. When a job consumes you so much that you have little or no time for friends and family, you are more likely to build resentment towards the job, your employer or your workplace. It is important to set boundaries around your work and the time you are willing to commit to it. Being clear and upfront with your employer about fair workloads and resources may also help you feel more in control and less stressed.

Having a sense of identity away from work may also help you feel less consumed and regain a sense of purpose and enjoyment away from work. Taking time to keep active, social and do things you enjoy supersede impressing your boss. Having a mantra like “I work to live; not I live to work” may help you keep things in perspective.

What to do if you have Job Burnout

The first step is to recognise that you don’t have to live with this level of daily dissatisfaction. The next step is to start a conversation about how you are feeling with your manager to resolve the core issues that may be contributing to your stress.  If you work with people you trust, it may also help to share your feelings with a colleague; if not seek the support of loved ones and give yourself a pat on the back for having the strength to take control of your life. Your work may also offer employee assistant programs; take advantage of these services, they are there for a reason. Taking time to explore all of your work options to assess if the job or industry you are in, suits your personality or lifestyle, may inspire you to make a change, or offer the clarity you are seeking.

Don’t underestimate the importance of work-life balance; part of the healing process will be regaining what you may feel has been lost along the way. Making time for exercise is key, as is a healthy diet, adequate sleep and time spent with friends and family. All good for the mind and soul.

If you are in the thick of job burnout and don’t know what to do next, talking to a psychologist can help manage stress related symptoms and provide the perspective you need to make positive steps forward. Check out our team of Clinical Psychologists here. 

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Healthy Winter Habits to keep in Mind

Posted on June 8, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

After a very long Brisbane summer, Winter has finally arrived and the temptation to go into hibernation increases as the mornings get colder and the days get shorter. Many people experience a bit of a cold snap slump during Winter, but perhaps if we continued all of our gloriously healthy Summer habits, we could avoid the Winter blues…

Diet, sleep and exercise; the pyramid of mood affecters, are the three things we quite quickly modify when the Winter months kick in. Salads are subbed for heart-warming casseroles and the snooze button is a temptation too hard to resist as slippers replace sneakers.

Here are a few smart ways we can continue healthy habits throughout Winter to keep those happy hormone firing.


True to the old saying; ‘You are what you eat’, our diet has an incredible impact on our mind, body and soul. There are strong links between poor diet and mental health and part of this can be due to the vicious cycle of guilt, weight gain and self-shaming. But it’s not just about what you eat but also about how you eat it. Enjoy your food, think about the connection you have with it, where it came from and how it is going to nourish your body. Eat distraction free, turn off your phone, TV or other distractions that you can control and try to focus on the taste, smell and feel of the food as you eat it. It’s all too easy to snuggle up in front of the TV with a blanket and eat Winter comfort food but this is not helpful in the long run.

It’s important to be aware of your physical cues vs emotional cues when it comes to eating. In short, eat when you are hungry not when you are tired, emotional or have ‘3:30itis’. Fulfil your emotional needs with something other than food, this might be a walk, a chat to a friend or something you consider personally indulgent.

It’s normal to feel sleepier and need a little bit more shut eye in the Winter month and this is due to your circadian rhythm which regulates your body clock. It is however, important not to oversleep during the colder months. Try to focus on getting better sleep rather than getting more sleep. If you are struggling with sleep, seeking help is a must. Some basic sleep hygiene tips include, keeping your evenings technology free (really- yes really), avoid alcohol within a few hours of bed and reduce caffeine after 2pm.  Although it is important to exercise and in fact it can improve sleep quality, some research suggests avoiding it within 3 hours of bedtime.

Research and literature across the world concur that exercise is one of the key components to maintaining your health and wellbeing and this doesn’t change in Winter. Brisbane Winter is pretty mild so outdoor exercise is still very achievable without the risk of frost bite! In fact, the conditions are much better for outdoor exercise than the warmer months and so walks or runs can even be extended. Rather than battle with your morning alarm clock and the frosty temps, consider a lunch time stroll or a social exercise session on the weekend instead. Incorporating 30 minutes into your day is important for physical and mental health, whether it be incidental exercise or a lounge room work out, maintaining regular exercise should remain a Winter priority.

Whether its summer, autumn, winter or spring, how you feel inside is real and it’s important not to sweep it under the carpet and hope your mood improves. Enlisting the help of a psychologist or mental health professionals can help people who are feeling depressed to assess the thinking patterns that may cause negative thoughts and behaviours.

So, for those of you who do experience a yearly cold snap slump, or if you have been struggling with prolonged depressed mood, seeking professional help is the best way forward.

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