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Lest we forget

Posted on April 24, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) helped by cultivating compassion.

Joe (not his real name) sits with me in my office, wringing his hands as his legs twitch. His experiences as a soldier in Afganistan have been the topic of our conversation. Despite a growing amount of time since his return to Australia following this deployment, he continues to be troubled by thoughts, memories and flashbacks of road side explosions, hunkering down among the rocks and dirt of the desert, and injured children caught in the cross fire. Right now, he’s feeling pretty angry.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common disorder that develops following trauma, especially trauma in which the person feels fear, helplessness and horror. It has far reaching implications for the individual, and also for the community. Apart from the many symptoms of re-experiencing the symptoms through flashbacks, symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing, and symptoms of hyperarousal, fear and anger, a central problem of PTSD is the severe self-criticism, self-loathing, guilt and shame that is often associated.

While psychological therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy have been found to be effective in the treatment of PTSD, there is a growing interest in helping veterans further through programs aimed at cultivating compassion, and also self-compassion.

I invite Joe to close his eyes. “Think of someone in your life you care about. Develop a picture of that person in your mind. Feel the presence of that person in your life, in this room.” Joe sighs, shifts his body in the chair, and then settles. “Now consider and say to yourself, that person is just like me. And just like me, this person’s had ups and downs in his or her life. Just like me, this person’s had goals and dreams.”

We go on to explore other people in Joe’s life, people he knows, people he doesn’t know, people in other places in the world, and eventually all sentient beings. And eventually, we come to a place of compassion also for himself.

Compassion is very difficult for Joe. In combat, and throughout his training, he learned to think of everyone as a potential threat. Fear and distrust were essential for survival and you can’t allow yourself to see the enemy as a human being “just like me”. But with PTSD, things stay that way, even after combat is over. The veteran with PTSD finds it so difficult to relate to people as just people, let alone to relate to themselves with acceptance and forgiveness.

Compassion meditation, such as the one Joe and I practiced, is about getting that ability back, learning to see oneself in others, and learning to accept and forgive oneself as well. And results are encouraging. Compassion and self-compassion can be learned and practiced through meditation techniques (Jazaieri et al., 2012) and such approaches can help to reduce anxiety and stress (Berger et al., 2012).

About 15 minutes later the meditation comes to an end. Joe opens his eyes, rubs them a little and stretches his arms and shoulders. He gives me a wry smile. “Never thought I’d be a hippy,” he says, “But I know what you’re saying. I feel more relaxed. It’s good to just let go of the anger.”

Written by Dr Stan Steindl

References

Berger, R., Gelkopf, M., & Heineberg, Y. (2012). A teacher-delivered intervention for adolescents exposed to ongoing and intense traumatic war-related stress: A quasi-randomized controlled study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 453–461

Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G., McGonigal, K., Rosenberg, E., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas, E., Cullen, M., Doty, J., Gross, J., & Goldin, P. (2012). Enhancing compassion: A randomized controlled trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training program. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9373-z

 

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Living with depression

Posted on March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

An interview with Clinical Psychologist- Dr Dawn Proctor

Dawn Proctor

Q-How do you think we can help remove stigma associated with depression?

Depression is common and 1 in 5 of us will experience it at some point in our lives. We need to recognise that it affects us all in some way and does not discriminate. Reducing stigma requires us to come together as a society in raising awareness, increasing our understanding and being there to support, listen to, and talk with those we care about. Clients often tell me it is this level of understanding and taking the time to step into their shoes that helps them feel supported by family and friends.

Q-We all feel sad and ‘depressed’ from time to time,  how can people recognise when they are truly depressed and require medical help?

It is important for us all to ‘check-in’ regularly on our own mental well-being, just as we would our physical health. It is the case that most people will experience low mood at some point in their lives. However, if someone were to notice they were feeling down most of the day nearly every day and/or had lost interest in the things they used to enjoy and this persisted for at least two weeks they should visit their GP. Take note of any physical changes such as loss of appetite, weight loss/gain and increased/decreased sleep. It is also important to look out for more subtle signs when it comes to children and older adults. These might include, but are not limited to, reports of feeling physically unwell, being socially withdrawn and more moody/irritable than usual. Family and friends are often good at picking up when somebody is acting out of sorts, becoming more withdrawn, turning down social invitations and no longer getting enjoyment from things. When you notice these things you can talk about it with the person or get some advice or further information from organisations like Beyond Blue or your local GP.

Q-How does a Psychologist help a depressed person? And when should you see a Psychologist instead of a Psychiatrist?

Psychologists work with clients to understand the factors involved in the development and maintenance of the person’s depression. We use the first session to complete an assessment and gather information that will help us to build a formulation. A formulation is our understanding of the person, the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ we put together to understand why somebody is feeling the way they are. This guides our treatment and the strategies that might be discussed in sessions. Psychologists are often trained in several different forms of therapy and can draw on this knowledge to develop a treatment plan suited to the individual. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is one form of treatment and involves targeting unhelpful patterns of thinking and unhelpful coping behaviors that maintain low mood.

I make a simple distinction to my clients that Psychologists tend to be the experts in talking therapies and human behaviour, whilst Psychiatrists are medically trained experts in mental health and the prescription of medications. This is a rather crude definition and does not do justice to the many Psychiatrists that hold professional qualifications in psychological therapies but helps to explain the key difference between these professions. Treatment guidelines recommend that antidepressant medication and psychological therapy work most effectively in combination for the treatment of moderate to severe depression. A GP is the best person to contact initially and, depending on their assessment, they will decide if a referral is required. It is not unusual to be under the care of both a Psychiatrist and Psychologist, where regular talking therapy occurs and the medication reviews are undertaken less frequently by the Psychiatrist.

Q-Can people living with depression make lifestyle or behavioural changes to help reduce symptoms?

Using a diary or notebook to monitor your mood can really help you to spot the things that affect mood positively or negatively. Gradually increasing your level of physical activity can help to boost energy levels and mood. Going for a 10 minute walk each day can make a real difference. It is also important to take a look at things you might be able to change about your sleeping and eating pattern. Talking to people about your concerns and getting that support can also be very helpful to give you a different perspective and reduce isolation. When people have experienced a depressive episode they also have an increased risk of future episodes and can work on relapse prevention by keeping an awareness of early warning signs and getting professional help.

Dr Dawn Proctor is available for appointments at our Morningside practice (07) 3395 8633 enquiries@psychologyconsultants.com.au

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We say no to bullying on ‘National Day Against Bullying’

Posted on March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

National Day Against Bullying- Friday 15th March 2013

miranda_mullins_-_clinical_psychologistIn her 17 year professional career Clinical Psychologist Miranda Mullins has seen many cases of bullying and the serious effects that it can have on children, however in more recent years there has been a rise of a more powerful form of online bullying.

“Bullying can trigger anxiety, feelings of loneliness and even anger. It can impact on a child’s self-confidence, concentration at school and enjoyment of day-to-day activities.

Sometimes it triggers feelings of shame and distress that prevent disclosure to those who can help. Sometimes the impact on a child’s beliefs about themselves and their relationships with others can have long-term effects” Miranda says.

In recent years the accessibility of the Internet and social networking has increased the opportunity for bullying, extending its reach beyond the schoolyard into the home.

“New technologies are rapidly changing our social interactions and can result in home no longer being a safe haven for those being bullied” she says.

Online social networks, like Facebook and Twitter and the accessibility of mobile phones can be a key source of emotional distress for a child or teenager who feels excluded or victimised.

Recent research sited from Kids Helpline website suggests that due to the more covert nature of cyber bullying and the ability to reach a wider audience, it may induce a more severe reaction in children and adolescents than traditional bullying.

For example, cyberbullying can involve the public humiliation or embarrassment of a child across a wider audience, plus the bullying behaviour can be more invasive as the bully can infiltrate the victims’ home and privacy through the use of the Internet and the mobile phone.

An online survey conducted by Kids Helpline (2013) revealed that most cyber bullying occurs in late primary school, focusing on appearance and is experienced slightly more often by girls.

“There are some complex aspects to online interactions that can lead to specific challenges but there are many effective tools to deal with it, which will depend on the specific situation” Miranda says.

Miranda shares some professional advise for parents and teacher dealing with traditional and cyber bullying:

  • Encourage open communication about school and social experiences and be aware of changes in your child’s behaviour or emotions.
  • Supervise internet and phone use where possible, this will be more difficult with older children and teenagers so developing boundaries and rules surrounding this technology might help
  • Be aware of any reluctance to go to school, reports of stomach aches or other physical symptoms and an increase in irritability can all be signs of bullying (but can indicate other worries and sources of stress also).
  •  In some instances damaged or missing possessions and scrapes and bruises can be indicators.
  • Responding calmly will help the child to feel supported and safe. Explain what bullying is and that verbal attack via email, social media or phone is not acceptable.
  • Make it clear that any type of bullying is unacceptable, is not their fault, and that you are available to help.
  • Help them think of different coping strategies and consider what might work best.
  •  Encourage and support reporting the bullying.
  • The awareness of bullying when it is occurring and the message that it is unacceptable are the best antidotes, so education in the classroom and development of an anti-bullying community is essential

To discuss strategies for dealing with bullying, contact Miranda Mullins on (07) 3395 8633.

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We say no to bullying on 'National Day Against Bullying'

Posted on March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

National Day Against Bullying- Friday 15th March 2013

miranda_mullins_-_clinical_psychologistIn her 17 year professional career Clinical Psychologist Miranda Mullins has seen many cases of bullying and the serious effects that it can have on children, however in more recent years there has been a rise of a more powerful form of online bullying.

“Bullying can trigger anxiety, feelings of loneliness and even anger. It can impact on a child’s self-confidence, concentration at school and enjoyment of day-to-day activities.

Sometimes it triggers feelings of shame and distress that prevent disclosure to those who can help. Sometimes the impact on a child’s beliefs about themselves and their relationships with others can have long-term effects” Miranda says.

In recent years the accessibility of the Internet and social networking has increased the opportunity for bullying, extending its reach beyond the schoolyard into the home.

“New technologies are rapidly changing our social interactions and can result in home no longer being a safe haven for those being bullied” she says.

Online social networks, like Facebook and Twitter and the accessibility of mobile phones can be a key source of emotional distress for a child or teenager who feels excluded or victimised.

Recent research sited from Kids Helpline website suggests that due to the more covert nature of cyber bullying and the ability to reach a wider audience, it may induce a more severe reaction in children and adolescents than traditional bullying.

For example, cyberbullying can involve the public humiliation or embarrassment of a child across a wider audience, plus the bullying behaviour can be more invasive as the bully can infiltrate the victims’ home and privacy through the use of the Internet and the mobile phone.

An online survey conducted by Kids Helpline (2013) revealed that most cyber bullying occurs in late primary school, focusing on appearance and is experienced slightly more often by girls.

“There are some complex aspects to online interactions that can lead to specific challenges but there are many effective tools to deal with it, which will depend on the specific situation” Miranda says.

Miranda shares some professional advise for parents and teacher dealing with traditional and cyber bullying:

  • Encourage open communication about school and social experiences and be aware of changes in your child’s behaviour or emotions.
  • Supervise internet and phone use where possible, this will be more difficult with older children and teenagers so developing boundaries and rules surrounding this technology might help
  • Be aware of any reluctance to go to school, reports of stomach aches or other physical symptoms and an increase in irritability can all be signs of bullying (but can indicate other worries and sources of stress also).
  •  In some instances damaged or missing possessions and scrapes and bruises can be indicators.
  • Responding calmly will help the child to feel supported and safe. Explain what bullying is and that verbal attack via email, social media or phone is not acceptable.
  • Make it clear that any type of bullying is unacceptable, is not their fault, and that you are available to help.
  • Help them think of different coping strategies and consider what might work best.
  •  Encourage and support reporting the bullying.
  • The awareness of bullying when it is occurring and the message that it is unacceptable are the best antidotes, so education in the classroom and development of an anti-bullying community is essential

To discuss strategies for dealing with bullying, contact Miranda Mullins on (07) 3395 8633.

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Eating Disorders Learning Group- a skilled-based program for those caring for a loved one with an eating disorder

Posted on February 12, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Eating disorders can dramatically affect families and the way they function and communicate. The Eating Disorders Learning Group was developed to help parents and carers foster a healthier relationship with their loved one as they help them on the road to recovery.

“I thought I was a good parent, but when this eating disorder came into our daughters life, my wife and I felt so alone and out of our depth. This group helped us to connect with other parents and learn and practice techniques to help our daughter.”Anon

Psychologist Cathy Dart

Psychologist Cathy Dart

Eating Disorders specialist and Psychologist Cathy Dart of Psychology Consultants, facilitates the six week program held at Rosemont campus at Windsor, Brisbane.

The program costs $130 per person and may help you:

  • Understand more about eating disorders and ways to support recovery
  • Learn and practicing helpful communication skills
  • Develop positive coping strategies
  • Foster a healthier relationship with your loved one.

Download the Eating Disorders Learning Group brochure for further detail or call our friendly reception team for information on start dates: (07) 3356 8255

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The flood clean up has begun….but how are the children coping?

Posted on February 7, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

littleboy_webJanuary 2013 saw Queensland once again hit by natural disaster with cyclone and flooding affecting thousands of families across the state. We talk to Clinical Psychologist Dr Stan Steindl about what to expect from children who have experienced or witnessed trauma or natural disaster.

Knowing the signs and how to appropriately react will greatly assist in how your child copes with the situation. Here are some possible reactions for various age groups.

Preschoolers

Children aged 1 to 5 will need the most parental support, as they have not yet developed their own coping mechanisms. You may notice regressive behaviour in areas where they have been competent such as toileting and dressing themselves.

Some children may develop a fear of the dark or experience nightmares.

Changes in sleeping and eating habits are also symptoms to watch for.

Speech difficulties, hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour are more severe reactions. If you find this behaviour is not manageable your child may benefit from professional help.

Primary School age children

Children aged 5 to 11 may react in a similar way to preschoolers displaying regressive behaviour, new fears or insecurities. They may cling to parents and experience separation anxiety. School performance may also be affected.

Withdrawing from social circles and extracurricular activities is also a possible reaction for children of this age.

Adolescents

Teenagers who have been affected by the floods should be closely monitored; this is a volatile age where opinions are important and they seek normalcy. Watch for high-risk behaviour like experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

Withdrawal from friends and family is a common reaction for teenagers along with rejecting authority figures and exhibiting disruptive behaviour at school.

Teenagers may find normal household chores and school responsibilities, like homework overwhelming during this time.

Some tips for parents and carers

  1. Talk about it! Open communication without dwelling on the negatives will help children of all ages.
  2. Let children express their emotions and fears in their own way, for example, drawing, writing, play dough, role-play with dolls and soft toys.
  3. Set some positive goals for the year and ways each member of the family can help achieve them.
  4. Talk about how great the community support has been.
  5. Give children, especially youngsters, lots of physical affection and attention.
  6. Try to resume a normal household and daily routine if possible.
  7. Accept short term changes to school performance.
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Is your new years resolution to get better sleep?

Posted on January 6, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Our Towards Better Sleep program could have you catching a few more zzz’s!

First group recommencing April 2013

Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith of Psychology Consultants and Sleep Specialist and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray are recommencing the highly successful   sleep program designed to help people suffering from insomnia and sleep disorders.

Towards Better Sleep is a group program held in small groups of 9 people or less at Psychology Consultants Morningside practice.

The program treats people suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders in a group setting and provides practical ways to manage sleep issues on an ongoing basis.

If you are interested in participating in the group or you are a doctor referring a patient, please contact reception (07) 3395 8633.

The friendly staff at reception will provide you with information regarding the next group session.

CountingSheep

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