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Responding to People’s Trauma

Posted on October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

distressedTrauma regularly touches our community. Events like car accidents, assaults, hold ups, and natural and man made disasters seem to happen all too often. Experiencing a traumatic event can have a marked impact on people’s lives.

The possible psychological effects of trauma are now fairly well defined. While some people are able to get on with their lives, others may have great difficulty “forgetting” the memory, causing them to develop a number of symptoms that are collectively referred to as posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

If a person has experienced an event in which they were exposed to death or serious injury and felt intense fear, helplessness or horror during the event, then further assessment of their mental state is recommended.

To screen such a person for PTSD, consider the following questions.

Is the person persistently re-experiencing the traumatic event through intrusive recollections, distressing dreams or flashbacks?

Is the person persistently avoiding things that may be associated with the trauma, like certain topics of conversations, places, people or activities, or certain memories?

Is the person persistently experiencing symptoms of increased arousal, like sleeping difficulties, irritability or anger, concentration difficulties, hypervigilance or being startled easily?

Once established, the likely prognosis of the disorder can be determined through assessment of a number of other “risk factors”. Following is a checklist of risk factors that should be investigated:

  • Severe trauma including grotesque injury or death,
  • Comorbid psychiatric disorder present,
  • A positive lifetime history of another psychiatric disorder,
  • A history of separation or abuse during childhood,
  • A family history of psychiatric disorder,
  • Other life stressors present concurrently, and
  • Little social support available.

A person diagnosed with PTSD is likely to benefit from psychological treatment. The aim of this approach is to assist the person to process the event and develop an appropriate interpretation of it. One of the key components for achieving this is, in the context of a supportive therapeutic relationship, to conduct systematic and graded imagined and real life exposure to the trauma related stimuli.

Psychology Consultants can provide assessments, reports and treatment for those who have experienced a traumatic event.

www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Responding to People's Trauma

Posted on October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

distressedTrauma regularly touches our community. Events like car accidents, assaults, hold ups, and natural and man made disasters seem to happen all too often. Experiencing a traumatic event can have a marked impact on people’s lives.

The possible psychological effects of trauma are now fairly well defined. While some people are able to get on with their lives, others may have great difficulty “forgetting” the memory, causing them to develop a number of symptoms that are collectively referred to as posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

If a person has experienced an event in which they were exposed to death or serious injury and felt intense fear, helplessness or horror during the event, then further assessment of their mental state is recommended.

To screen such a person for PTSD, consider the following questions.

Is the person persistently re-experiencing the traumatic event through intrusive recollections, distressing dreams or flashbacks?

Is the person persistently avoiding things that may be associated with the trauma, like certain topics of conversations, places, people or activities, or certain memories?

Is the person persistently experiencing symptoms of increased arousal, like sleeping difficulties, irritability or anger, concentration difficulties, hypervigilance or being startled easily?

Once established, the likely prognosis of the disorder can be determined through assessment of a number of other “risk factors”. Following is a checklist of risk factors that should be investigated:

  • Severe trauma including grotesque injury or death,
  • Comorbid psychiatric disorder present,
  • A positive lifetime history of another psychiatric disorder,
  • A history of separation or abuse during childhood,
  • A family history of psychiatric disorder,
  • Other life stressors present concurrently, and
  • Little social support available.

A person diagnosed with PTSD is likely to benefit from psychological treatment. The aim of this approach is to assist the person to process the event and develop an appropriate interpretation of it. One of the key components for achieving this is, in the context of a supportive therapeutic relationship, to conduct systematic and graded imagined and real life exposure to the trauma related stimuli.

Psychology Consultants can provide assessments, reports and treatment for those who have experienced a traumatic event.

www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Summer’s Coming! 8 ways to keep tabs on your drinking.

Posted on October 10, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

surfshotThe weather is warming up and with that many of us start to increase how much we socialise with friends and family.

Drinks after work, BBQs, dinners, weekend lunches at the local pub, sporting events, and even relaxing at home with a drink or two are common. We all like to enjoy ourselves and in the lead up to the festive season, it’s easy for the amount of alcohol we consume to increase. 

But what happens when the occasional drink becomes a little too frequent?

By Dr Jillian Millar

Clinical Psychologist Dr Jillian Millar

Clinical Psychologist
Dr Jillian Millar

 Australia is well known for its drinking culture and laid-back lifestyle “no worries mate,” “she’ll be right.”

But how do we draw the line between enjoying a few drinks and problematic drinking?

If you find yourself thinking you need a drink rather than simply wanting one, this might be an indication that your drinking is heading towards the problematic side.

Or if you can’t remember the last alcohol-free day you had, things could be getting out of your control and it might be time to reassess your alcohol usage.

Most people think an Alcoholic is someone who drinks all day every day, but this is not always the case. Often people with alcohol dependence issues are those that might wait till they get home from work to have their first drink each day, finishing off a 6-pack of beer or a bottle of wine before bed most nights.

Increasingly, we see the rise of binge drinking problems in which a person may remain alcohol free Monday to Thursday and then drink to excess across the weekend. Not only can this result in a horrible hangover the next day, many binge drinkers make poor decisions which might expose themselves to risky situations and behaviours leading to regrets, accidents, injuries, or even death.

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMR), alcohol is responsible for a considerable number of deaths, diseases, and injuries in Australia each year. However, the harmful impacts are not solely confined to the drinker, it also affects their families, friends, bystanders, and the wider community.

At times, people also turn to drinking to try and manage or avoid their emotions and problems. Unfortunately, alcohol is a depressant and while it produces a feeling of relaxation and tension reduction at a certain level, it can also lead to negative moods and, in fact, intensify unpleasant emotions. Alcohol is also a disinhibitor and many people use it when they experience nervousness or social anxiety.

However, alcohol reduces our reflexes, decreases our ability to concentrate, and makes us less aware of our behaviour, and therefore exacerbates the chances of mis-reading social situations and either embarrassing ourselves or offending others.

Alcohol can also increase aggression and conflict, making some people more prone to physical and verbally violent behaviour when intoxicated. Additionally, the consumption of alcohol is associated with increased fighting and arguing within relationships.

If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, or maybe even concerned about a loved one’s alcohol usage it is best to address it sooner rather than later.

Here are 8 simple steps to cut back on your alcohol usage.

1.Reducing the ease of access to alcohol by not storing it in your house.

2.Only purchase alcohol when you intend to drink it for a specific occasion.

3. Store alcohol out of sight, so as to reduce the visual trigger of seeing it and wanting a drink.

If it’s already stored out of sight, but is still easily accessible, consider moving it to a different location (e.g. in the garage) so that it requires a little more effort to get it. 

4. Change paired patterns.

Rather than opening a beer as soon as you get home from work, or pouring a wine while you prepare dinner, try to do something else that is relaxing (e.g. have a shower, sit in your garden or on your balcony for a few minutes). Do something productive before having your first drink (e.g. put a load of washing on, or check your emails).

5. Increase your exercise.

 Go for a walk, run, swim etc. The more we exercise the less likely we are to feel like drinking.

6. Plan non-drinking activities.

Rather than socialising around drinking by meeting at a pub or BYO BBQs, try organising a day at the beach, a bush walking adventure, or a sporting game in a park. 

7. Ask for help.

Ask your friends or family to help you regain control of your drinking and support you.

8. Don’t be afraid to talk to your GP or Psychologist about any problematic drinking patterns.

 

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Summer's Coming! 8 ways to keep tabs on your drinking.

Posted on October 10, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

surfshotThe weather is warming up and with that many of us start to increase how much we socialise with friends and family.

Drinks after work, BBQs, dinners, weekend lunches at the local pub, sporting events, and even relaxing at home with a drink or two are common. We all like to enjoy ourselves and in the lead up to the festive season, it’s easy for the amount of alcohol we consume to increase. 

But what happens when the occasional drink becomes a little too frequent?

By Dr Jillian Millar

Clinical Psychologist Dr Jillian Millar

Clinical Psychologist
Dr Jillian Millar

 Australia is well known for its drinking culture and laid-back lifestyle “no worries mate,” “she’ll be right.”

But how do we draw the line between enjoying a few drinks and problematic drinking?

If you find yourself thinking you need a drink rather than simply wanting one, this might be an indication that your drinking is heading towards the problematic side.

Or if you can’t remember the last alcohol-free day you had, things could be getting out of your control and it might be time to reassess your alcohol usage.

Most people think an Alcoholic is someone who drinks all day every day, but this is not always the case. Often people with alcohol dependence issues are those that might wait till they get home from work to have their first drink each day, finishing off a 6-pack of beer or a bottle of wine before bed most nights.

Increasingly, we see the rise of binge drinking problems in which a person may remain alcohol free Monday to Thursday and then drink to excess across the weekend. Not only can this result in a horrible hangover the next day, many binge drinkers make poor decisions which might expose themselves to risky situations and behaviours leading to regrets, accidents, injuries, or even death.

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMR), alcohol is responsible for a considerable number of deaths, diseases, and injuries in Australia each year. However, the harmful impacts are not solely confined to the drinker, it also affects their families, friends, bystanders, and the wider community.

At times, people also turn to drinking to try and manage or avoid their emotions and problems. Unfortunately, alcohol is a depressant and while it produces a feeling of relaxation and tension reduction at a certain level, it can also lead to negative moods and, in fact, intensify unpleasant emotions. Alcohol is also a disinhibitor and many people use it when they experience nervousness or social anxiety.

However, alcohol reduces our reflexes, decreases our ability to concentrate, and makes us less aware of our behaviour, and therefore exacerbates the chances of mis-reading social situations and either embarrassing ourselves or offending others.

Alcohol can also increase aggression and conflict, making some people more prone to physical and verbally violent behaviour when intoxicated. Additionally, the consumption of alcohol is associated with increased fighting and arguing within relationships.

If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, or maybe even concerned about a loved one’s alcohol usage it is best to address it sooner rather than later.

Here are 8 simple steps to cut back on your alcohol usage.

1.Reducing the ease of access to alcohol by not storing it in your house.

2.Only purchase alcohol when you intend to drink it for a specific occasion.

3. Store alcohol out of sight, so as to reduce the visual trigger of seeing it and wanting a drink.

If it’s already stored out of sight, but is still easily accessible, consider moving it to a different location (e.g. in the garage) so that it requires a little more effort to get it. 

4. Change paired patterns.

Rather than opening a beer as soon as you get home from work, or pouring a wine while you prepare dinner, try to do something else that is relaxing (e.g. have a shower, sit in your garden or on your balcony for a few minutes). Do something productive before having your first drink (e.g. put a load of washing on, or check your emails).

5. Increase your exercise.

 Go for a walk, run, swim etc. The more we exercise the less likely we are to feel like drinking.

6. Plan non-drinking activities.

Rather than socialising around drinking by meeting at a pub or BYO BBQs, try organising a day at the beach, a bush walking adventure, or a sporting game in a park. 

7. Ask for help.

Ask your friends or family to help you regain control of your drinking and support you.

8. Don’t be afraid to talk to your GP or Psychologist about any problematic drinking patterns.

 

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Is Compassion Too “Touchy Feely” For This Competitive World?

Posted on September 27, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Written by Dr Stan Steindl

Dr Stan Steindl

Dr Stan Steindl

I’ve become more and more interested in compassion recently, both in terms of my work with people trying to improve their well-being or make changes in their life, and also in terms of my own personal life. But I can’t help also wondering (and have certainly been asked by others), is a focus on compassion a bit soft, weak or too “touchy feely”?

Compassion is a person’s ability to see and perhaps even feel the suffering of another person and also take action to relieve that suffering.

Compassion involves feelings and actions of kindness, warmth, gentleness and soothing. It means accepting that people are whole, and made up of lots of good bits and not so good bits, and that, in fact, in this way we are all basically the same. And it requires strength, courage and perseverance to do something to help.

And all of this presents further challenges when we consider the importance of self-compassion, in other words being able to acknowledge and accept our own suffering, treat ourselves kindly, and take action to help ourselves.

So, is compassion soft, weak or too “touchy feely”?

Well, reassuringly, a lot of scientific studies in disciplines ranging from psychology to economics, health to chronic disease, and evolution to neuroscience are suggesting that the answer to this question is definitely “no”! Compassion is good for all of us.

Compassion benefits both the people giving and receiving compassion.

Something as simple as offering a smile to a person who looks troubled can have an important positive impact. We can sense when a person feels down. We observe the cues in their facial expression and non-verbal behaviour, and we can feel something of what they might be going through. And the reverse is true as well. If we smile at them, or show signs of kindness and warmth, then they will sense that in return and feel something of what we might be projecting through that smile.

In this way, compassion enhances people’s sense of social connection. Social connection creates well-being. Compassion and social connectedness can help people to feel happier and healthier, even to the extent of enhanced psychological well-being, improving immune function and reducing the risk of sickness.

And it has powerful effects on the compassionate person. One reason for this is that neuroscientific studies suggest that giving to others activates certain “pleasure centres” in the brain. In fact, giving is possibly more pleasurable and more likely to enhance psychological and physical well-being than receiving. An anonymous act of kindness to start the day can leave us with a positive legacy throughout our day and beyond.

As humans, and just like all mammals, compassion is innate to us.

And this is the thing…we are hard-wired to help, sooth and nurture others. Observing toddlers and children demonstrates that we know how to do it and we do it from a young age. And of course, our nurturance of our young, our sense of family, our development of social structures and communities…it is all about how compassion, kindness and helping each other allows our species to survive.

In fact, compassion is the human species’ greatest strength.

I was exploring this topic recently and discovered an interesting point being made by Dr Dacher Keltner from The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. He said that the idea “survival of the fittest” is often misattributed to Charles Darwin as part of his theory of evolution. However, this term was actually coined by Herbert Spencer, a Social Darwinist who believed that evolution explained class and racial social differences.

Darwin actually wrote in The Decent of Man that “communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.”

It seems that compassion is not soft, weak or too “touchy feely” at all, but rather a vital evolutionary strength and that our natural selection is much more likely to be guided by a slightly different philosophy:

“SURVIVAL OF THE KINDEST”.

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Did you know over 1.2 million Australian’s suffer from a sleep disorder?

Posted on September 11, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

If you form part of this statistic and would like to do something about it, our Towards Better Sleep group programme could be a dream come true! The next programme commences on 26th September at our Morningside practice. insomnia5

The sleep improvement programme has been effectively treating insomnia and other sleep disorders for over 10 years. It focuses on education, behavioural techniques, relaxation strategies and correcting faulty thinking.

By teaching practical methods and techniques to promote better sleep, past participants have reported significant improvements in their sleep behaviour and the way they think about sleep.

Experienced Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Sleep Specialist and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray facilitate the program that is held in groups of nine people or less.

A group setting has proven to be an effective way to treat sleep disorders by offering participants the opportunity to share their stories, and learn from the experiences and ideas of other insomnia sufferers. The setting still remains private and confidential but allows the therapist to treat patients in a more cost effective way.

A GP referral is required to participate in the programme, which costs $90 per session and is subject to a Medicare rebate.

If you are interested in participating in September programme, please phone our Newmarket office 07 3356 8255  or email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au to register your details and speak with your GP about a referral.

For more information visit http://towardsbettersleep.wordpress.com

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Did you know over 1.2 million Australian's suffer from a sleep disorder?

Posted on September 11, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

If you form part of this statistic and would like to do something about it, our Towards Better Sleep group programme could be a dream come true! The next programme commences on 26th September at our Morningside practice. insomnia5

The sleep improvement programme has been effectively treating insomnia and other sleep disorders for over 10 years. It focuses on education, behavioural techniques, relaxation strategies and correcting faulty thinking.

By teaching practical methods and techniques to promote better sleep, past participants have reported significant improvements in their sleep behaviour and the way they think about sleep.

Experienced Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Sleep Specialist and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray facilitate the program that is held in groups of nine people or less.

A group setting has proven to be an effective way to treat sleep disorders by offering participants the opportunity to share their stories, and learn from the experiences and ideas of other insomnia sufferers. The setting still remains private and confidential but allows the therapist to treat patients in a more cost effective way.

A GP referral is required to participate in the programme, which costs $90 per session and is subject to a Medicare rebate.

If you are interested in participating in September programme, please phone our Newmarket office 07 3356 8255  or email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au to register your details and speak with your GP about a referral.

For more information visit http://towardsbettersleep.wordpress.com

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Stigma and suicide-let’s get talking!

Posted on September 10, 2013 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

candelAn Interview with Clinical Psychologist Dr Eve Klopper     World suicide prevention day- September 10 2013

Q: The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day in 2013 is “Stigma: A major barrier to suicide prevention.”  How does the stigma associated with suicide impede suicide prevention?

A: Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable discussing or directly considering issues surrounding suicide.  This limits awareness of risk factors or “red flags” that someone may be suicidal, and can make people who are suicidal less likely to seek help.  Feeling rejected and isolated can increase the risk that a person who has previously attempted suicide will make another suicide attempt.  Social stigma can also isolate those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Q: So how can we respond to this?

A: Key steps to reducing stigma include understanding why people attempt or commit suicide; being able to identify risk factors and warning signs and knowing how to respond; knowing how to respond to someone who has attempted suicide and knowing how to support those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Q: Why do people attempt or commit suicide?

A: Suicide is sometimes seen as the “only way out” of unbearable psychological or physical pain.  This can include people experiencing severe mental illness, such as clinical depression or schizophrenia, or intense mental anguish, for example loss, shame or guilt, people facing extremely difficult life events, as well as those undergoing chronic or terminal physical illnesses.  Some other reasons for suicide include attempting to benefit others, expressing ambivalence about continuing to live, attempting to “send a message” or achieve an outcome by one’s death, or exercising control over the timing or manner of one’s death.

Q: What are risk factors and warning signs we should be aware of?

A: While some suicides are impulsive actions with no warning, others are planned carefully.  People feeling suicidal may or may not express their feelings to other people.  Factors which put a person at greater risk of considering suicide include having mental health difficulties, alcohol and substance abuse, being male, being isolated geographically or socially, experiencing financial stress or family violence or bereavement, and having attempted suicide previously or having a family history of suicide.  Warning signs that a person may be contemplating suicide include expressing the intention to harm or kill themself or saying goodbye to family and friends; preoccupation with death or dying; expressing strong feelings of hopelessness, of the pointlessness of living, of feeling trapped or of anger and revenge; withdrawal from other people; increased alcohol or substance use; undertaking reckless, risky or self-harming behaviours; dramatic mood changes, including suddenly changing from long-term depression to happiness; and extreme anxiety or agitation.  It is also important to be aware of the kinds of events which may “trigger” a person to commit suicide.  These include traumatic life events, relationship breakdown, job loss, diagnosis or recurrence of severe physical or mental illness, major change in life circumstances, financial or legal stress, and the death or suicide of a loved one or public figure.

Q: What can we do if we suspect someone is suicidal?

A: If you observe warning signs in someone you know, it is important to remain calm but act immediately.  Ask the person if they are feeling suicidal, whether they have made a plan to kill themselves and whether they have the means to carry out that plan.  Contrary to popular belief, talking calmly with someone in this way will not increase the chance of them carrying through with a suicide plan.  If the person has a clear plan and intends to carry it out imminently, call 000 or a health professional who can see the person immediately, or take the person to hospital.  Do not leave the person alone.  If the person is at lower risk of suicide, talk with them about their suicidal thoughts and help them to plan how they will stay safe, including assisting them to find appropriate support services.  Acknowledge their feelings but express your hope that, with help, they will be able to cope.

Q: How do we respond to someone who has attempted suicide?

A:  While it is normal to feel a range of emotions including shock, guilt and anger when a loved one has attempted suicide, providing acceptance, care and support can help them to recover and reduce the risk they will attempt suicide again.  Practical support includes encouragement to attend appropriate medical and psychological help, making sure the person cannot access means to attempt suicide again, if possible, preventing access to alcohol or drugs and assisting the person to manage re-building their lives, for example returning to work or school.  Providing such support can be psychologically tiring, so access help wherever possible.

Q: How does suicide affect loved ones, and how do we help those bereaved by suicide?

A:  Bereavement following suicide is usually intense and complex, including feelings of shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness and shame.  Loved ones may have many “unanswered questions” and may also be experiencing trauma from discovering the deceased.  The most important thing we can all do to help is to express support and demonstrate our care.  We may feel awkward but it essential to say (or write) something to show our love and concern.  Let the bereaved person talk – when they are ready – and listen supportively.  Try to understand how they are feeling and allow them to grieve in their own way.  Be patient – understand that it may take years for the person to work out how to live with their loss.  Don’t avoid talking about the person who has died, but don’t press for details or make judgments – it is important to honour and accept both the person who has died and those left bereaved.  Offer practical support.  With children and teenagers, answer questions honestly and take their concerns seriously.  And remember – it is never too late to approach someone bereaved by suicide in the past and say “I didn’t know what to say to show you that I cared, and I’m sorry.  How are you going now?”

Q: What part can psychologists play?

A:  Psychologists can assist people who are feeling suicidal, and those who have attempted suicide, to address the causes of their pain and distress and to build their coping skills.  This includes providing treatment for mental illness, often in consultation with GPs or other doctors; providing coping strategies to manage life stressors or psychological or physical pain; and helping people to build relationships and social support networks.  Psychologists can also help those who have been bereaved by suicide to cope with grief and other emotional reactions, to build social support networks and to rebuild their lives.

Q: What should a reader do if they are feeling suicidal?

A: Please don’t suffer alone – help is available to you.  Tell someone you trust how you feel, or call one of the free, confidential counseling lines listed below.  If possible, stay with someone supportive.  Seek help from your doctor, a psychologist or another health professional.  Avoid drugs and alcohol, try to exercise and eat healthily.  You may find it helpful to write down your thoughts and feelings.  And if you need immediate, urgent help, call 000 or ask someone to take you to a hospital emergency department.

Q: Where can people get more information?

A: Confidential, 24/7 support is available at Lifeline: 13 11 14; Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800; Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78 and the Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467.

Useful information and further resources: www.wspd.org.au; www.livingisforeveryone.com.au; www.beyondblue.org.au

 

 

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