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Shopping for a better mood

Posted on March 13, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
source/credit: © Andres Rodriguez / Dreamstime

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

Most of us have experienced the positive feeling of a post shopping rush, it’s exciting to have something new and the brain releases oxytocin because of our improved mood, making us feel happier, more relaxed and less stressed. And although I wouldn’t go as far promoting it as formal ‘therapy’, there is some science behind the term ‘retail therapy’.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing by researchers Selin Atalay and Margaret Meloy found that 62% of shoppers had purchased something to cheer themselves up and another 28% had purchased as a form of celebration.

Consumer behaviour is complex and has been studied for years on end with many theories on why people are so obsessed with commodity and owning ‘things’.

We live in an age where we are judge on material things like, what car we drive, the type of clothes we wear and the size of our house. So, it’s little wonder that people’s desire to own things is stronger than ever.

But retail therapy is more than just material desire, when practiced in moderation it can offer a range of therapeutic benefits, including socialisation, relaxation, boosting self-confidence, stress relief and creative expression.

Researchers noted that people who are experiencing low mood are searching for greater control over their situation. Shopping is their coping mechanism offering a controlled environment where they have say over where they shop and what they purchase.

But is this a good thing?

Like all things, moderation is the key. As a psychologist I has seen the devastating effects of addictive behaviour, although ‘retail therapy’ can improve mood, there should be positive reasons for using it as an outlet. Using shopping as a method of escape from reality that in turn results in credit card debt or financial stress, is counterproductive.

Signs to watch out for include; irritability after shopping, feelings of extreme guilt or hiding your purchases. If you feel your shopping experiences are getting out of control, the first step is to acknowledge the problem and if required seek professional help.

For more information on Kathryn and the team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au  


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Jack Feels Worried All The Time

Posted on March 10, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
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By Miranda Mullins- Clinical Psychologist- Psychology Consultants

Jack is nine and his teacher describes him as well-mannered and hardworking. But his parents were concerned when he repeatedly became very upset before he presented projects in class. Jack regularly said to them that his work was not good enough and on one occasion, he vomited before going to school. Jack’s parents were also concerned that he was having trouble getting to sleep.

After discussions with the psychologist, Jack said he felt nervous with changes to his routine such as going on a school excursion or running in an athletics carnival. He also said he was reluctant to go to friends’ houses because of his fear of dogs and was worried about being embarrassed if he became upset.

Jack’s mother told the psychologists that when he started Kindy, Jack was very thoughtful and expressed worries about new situations. She said he sometimes would get upset or have tantrums when things weren’t just right. At this stage, his parents thought this was ‘just Jack’ and that he would grow out of it.   His mother revealed that she was generally unsure how to handle Jack’s fears. Sometimes she would reassure him but other times she would become frustrated.


Jack’s pattern of physical symptoms and worries indicated he was suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder as well as a specific phobia of dogs. The psychologist explained that it was likely that Jack had inherited a sensitive temperament which may explain why he saw the negative in situations and perceived situations as threatening. It appeared that this tendency had been present for some time, but Jack’s move into a class with a new teacher without his friends had triggered his anxiety, causing him to have difficulties coping.


Jack first learned to identify different emotions and recognise the signs in his body that showed he was becoming worried. He then learned skills to relax his body and gain confidence and control over his physical symptoms. He became aware of negative self-talk or unhelpful thoughts and learned the skill of positive self-talk to increase his confidence and manage his anxiety. He also learned to focus on and reward his own success and his parents learned ways to reward his use of coping skills rather than provide reassurance.

To address Jack’s fear of dogs, the psychologist introduced a gradual exposure plan where he developed confidence managing his anxiety with smaller, more-friendly dogs until he was able to face larger, barking dogs.

Jack was proud of himself when he practiced the skills he learned and discovered he was able to enjoy a lot of things he has previously worried about.

For more information on Miranda and our team of Clinical Psychologists committed to taking steps towards change, visit the Brisbane Psychologists page of our website. #believeinchange


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John Can’t Sleep

Posted on March 8, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0


By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants

John is 43 and divorced from his wife five years ago. He visited Psychology Consultants and mentioned that he had been chronically unable to sleep after his divorce. John reported going to bed early and watching television in bed. He admitted to worrying about his sleep loss all through the day and assumed that ‘something bad’ would occur to him if the problem of loss of sleep continued.
John’s case is common. One in ten people report the issue of Insomnia sometime in their life – often as a result of some event. A few of the contributors might be:

  • Disease or physical pain
  • Stress and worries
  • Boredom, loneliness, unhappiness and depression
  • Pondering over problems while in bed
  • Inactivity
  • Napping during the day
  • Over-consumption of alcohol

Over-stimulation from intake of stimulants like caffeine or tobacco at night or late exercise
John started going to bed early to make up for his loss of sleep, a strategy which most people adopt. But, instead of associating bed with sleep, he had started to combine it with other activities, such as watching TV.

The main contributor to John’s lack of sleep was perhaps his worries about this condition.

During therapy, we advised that John use his bed only for sleep or intimacy, and get hold of a relaxation technique which ensures sleep.

John understood that his technique of going early to bed heightened his problem. If we sleep for a long period of time, it tends to break more often during the night and makes us feel tired in the morning.
With the help of psychologist, John also learned to modify his belief about sleep that something bad would occur if he failed to work on his sleep. Consequently, this resulted in creating less worries, and improving his sleep.
Eventually, John’s sleep became better in a matter of few weeks of therapy and practice of new set of useful sleep strategies.
Before bed:

  • Relaxing in a warm bath
  • Playing peaceful music and/or reading for sometime
  • Taking deep breaths by slowing down breathing
  • Repeating the bedtime routine every night

If you can’t sleep or have been in bed for more than 15 minutes without falling asleep at bedtime or during the night:

  • Rise and leave the bedroom
  • Note things down occupying your mind or do something else
  • Read something or watch TV (do anything which is passive)
  • Take a warm non-stimulant drink, such as milk
  • Go back to bed only when you feel sleepy

If you think you could benefit from our group sleep therapy programme, visit the Towards Better Sleep page because  together we can take steps towards change. #believeinchange

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Simon Learnt to Control His Anger

Posted on March 7, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

Simon is a 45 year-old happily married man with two daughters. A litigation lawyer, he seems successful and has many friends.

However, recently at a school P&C function, Simon became verbally and physically threatening towards a friend about an issue which had been brewing for some time. Making a terrible scene in front of school acquaintances, Simon was extremely embarrassed about his behaviour.

Although his wife said not to worry about the incident, Simon decided to see a psychologist to prevent such an outburst reoccurring.

After our meeting, Simon discovered several life patterns where anger and aggression were present. At work, he can be aggressive as a part of his role. Socially, he recalled incidences of aggressively throwing golf clubs after a poor shot and getting very upset when a friend made fun of his football team.

Simon understood that although anger is not an inherently bad emotion, it can be expressed inappropriately. And inappropriate anger usually stems from irrational beliefs. It was this inappropriate anger and aggression that Simon wanted to control.

Together, Simon and I successfully worked on ways to control his anger and aggression. We developed an action plan and over several weeks, Simon was able to practise his plan:

  • Control angry and irrational thinking by becoming aware of thoughts when angry and choosing to have a more helpful attitude.
  • Use relaxation such as breathing, muscle relaxation, and imagery to control the body sensations associated with anger.
  • Do something incompatible to what you do when your angry such as forcing yourself to smile or laugh.

Simon now feels confident he is able to control any inappropriate anger because together we can take steps towards change. www.believeinchange.com.au 

For assistance with anger management please contact us to arrange an appointment with one of our psychologists enquiries@psychologyconsutlants.com.au


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What to do when your child’s FOMO spirals out of control

Posted on February 23, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Danielle Corbett, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Newmarket

For those of you that don’t know what FOMO stands for, don’t fear you have missed out. FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, is not actually as new age as your average 15- year-old might think.

More traditionally termed ‘The grass is always greener’ this primal human instinct to stay connected has recently been heightened by our addiction to smart phones, ipads, computer screens…and wait for it….social media.

Teenagers haven’t changed much over the generations, except that they now socialise or “hang out” online, rather than in shopping malls or at the local park, partly due to parental concerns about personal safety.  So instead of gossiping and doing all those adolescent behaviours in real life, they now watch it happen in real time on a screen.  To be on social media is to feel connected to their peers.  And just like in real life, events and interactions online can go pear-shaped rather rapidly.  The difference is though, if you are teenager and you go offline for an hour, suddenly you have missed the biggest dust-up or fight of the year, and on the social outer.

Social media get a pretty bad rap from health professionals across the world but what is so bad about staying connected, after all it’s a hard-wired human response? In fact, there is a dedicated part of the brain, the amygdala, part of the limbic system, specifically designed to detect whether our lives are in danger. Now it’s quite ridiculous to suggest that missing out on a Snapchat or Facebook Messenger event is life threatening but it triggers the same flight or fight response in our brains.

But jealously issues aside, our newfound need to be connected every waking moment is causing other psychosocial problems, particularly within the adolescent set.

Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett, who specialises in adolescent psychology is seeing more and more cases of ‘FOMO’ related stress and anxiety.

“I am seeing many young clients who are in a state of vigilance with difficulties living in the present moment and it is this state of living that causes social and emotional problems such as anxiety and stress.

“Basically, social media is opposite of mindfulness in our youngsters, and in particular, girls are struggling with feelings of personal inadequacy, and difficulties living in the present” Ms Corbett said.

Recent research from University of Chicago found that social media is even more addictive than cigarettes and that getting your fix is equally as urgent to social media users.

Ms Corbett professional advice is; “Instead of trying to quash the urge completely, adolescents and those struggling with social media should embrace the need to be connected without letting it control your life.

“Learn to curb the overwhelming drive to be connected online and redirect it to communicating in real time with real people” she said.

Practicing mindfulness is another way to counteract some of the unwanted stress caused by social media. A few easy ways you can put this into practice are, enrolling your child in extracurricular activity, encouraging face to face socialisation (as this also helps build their adulating skillset), limiting internet times or allocating phone free time whilst going for a walk together. Parents might even find this this allows you to reconnect with your child who in a blink of an eye will have left the fold for good.

For more information on Danielle Corbett and the team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au



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Chronic Pain – More than a Pain In The Neck!

Posted on February 20, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

By Dr Claire Jensen, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Newmarket.

Unless you have suffered chronic pain, it is very difficult to imagine the stress it places on a person’s life, not to mention the impact on those around them. Without intervention, chronic pain can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life, lead to sleep problems, exhaustion, stress, relationship and work dysfunction, as well as mental health problems.

According to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) one in five Australian adults suffer from both severe chronic pain and either depression or other mood disorders, costing the country $35 billion a year.

Despite this it is only in the last two decades or so that Chronic Pain has received the increased research and funding it requires. We now know much more about how we can support chronic pain sufferers to manage their pain levels, reduce the vicious downward cycle of pain and improve quality of life.

Like most modern medicine, taking a holistic approach is considered best practice and this extends to chronic pain management, where practitioners take a biopsychosocial approach assessing; the biological, psychological and social aspects of the person’s situation.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr Claire Jensen, who is extensively trained in chronic pain management stresses the importance of engaging a holistic team of professionals that you can trust to assist you to manage all aspects of your pain.

“Many clients avoid seeing a psychologist as they are worried others will think ‘Your pain is all in your head!’ but Cognitive strategies, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and relaxation can be just as important as pain medication or physiotherapy,” she said.

“Pain is a subjective experience and thus whatever pain the client describes is the true experience for them. Pain is certainly not ‘all in a person’s head’ but the brain and body are closely linked and thus it is a great asset to learn how to access the brains natural medicine cabinet, i.e., how to assist the brain to relax and release helpful chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.”

Clinical Psychologists can help chronic pain sufferers work through the daily struggles that present, offering strategies that will help the individual manage their pain, improve their mood and sleep, as well as recognise how unhelpful thoughts feed into the pain cycle. This in turn leads to an increased quality of life and reduced risk of associated depression and anxiety.

Many chronic pain suffers feel trapped within debilitating negative thoughts that influence our mood, memory, function and ability to enjoy everyday life. CBT has been extensively researched for its positive effect on managing negative thoughts associated with pain, through adaptive coping skills, such as distraction and relaxation, that produce calming thought processes.

Another more recent technique embraced by health professionals across the world is mindfulness. Leading the way, Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn brought mindfulness to the forefront of chronic pain management to separate the person’s thoughts, moods and emotions from the pain itself.

Dr Claire Jensen says “Mindfulness is about increasing a person’s ability to choose which thoughts are most helpful for them to pay attention to. Increasing aspects of control is important for individuals with chronic pain who often feel like they have lost all control due to pain”.

Dr Claire Jensen practices from Psychology Consutlants at Newmarket. To read more about Dr Jensen visit: psychologyconsultants.com.au/teammemberprofile/dr-claire-jensen/

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Why Being Angry Could be Making you Sick

Posted on February 8, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
Image By: Craig Sunter https://flic.kr/p/dcZ5Tp

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist

We all get a little worked up at times and let’s face it, sometimes we ‘fly off the handle’ and this is okay. Feeling angry is a normal human instinct; a hard-wired response in our brains but for some, anger is like a raging inferno ready to burst into flames at any time and this is not a healthy way to live.

Recent studies have shown that this type of uncontrollable anger not only affects your immediate quality of life but can put you at risk of long term health concerns including anxiety, depression and even cardiovascular disease.

The good news is there is a way forward and the first step is identifying the problem and then learning to manage your anger.

So why manage your anger if it’s a normal human instinct I hear you say? Older theories encouraged venting anger as a good release and way to get past the problem, however researchers have now found that this only exacerbates the problem fueling the internal inferno for future outburst.

This is not to say we should ‘bite our tongue’ but managing anger and expressing it in a more controlled way provides a release without the negative side effects, allowing you to focus on the underlying issues triggering anger.

Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith says; “Part of anger management is mindfulness, being aware of your body and recognising the triggers that make you angry.

The next step is more technical and involves personalise thought response before, during and after an episode, that allow you to tame the beast, so to speak.”

Each person’s management style will be different but here are some suggested thoughts that might help you keep your cool and minimise the aftermaths: 

1. Just breathe. It sounds simple but taking a deep breath in and exhaling gives you time to think before you respond.

2. I am not going to let them get to me. I am in control of this situation.

3. I am not going to judge them; their opinion is not important to me.

4. Let’s not take this so seriously. Is there a funny side to this?

5. I can’t change them or this situation with anger but I can change my thinking.

If you or someone you know has problems with anger, seeking professional help will allow you to develop personalised management strategies and address underlying emotional and psychological issues. Psychology Consultants has a large and diverse team of Clinical Psychologists based at Newmarket and Morningside who are committed to helping people from all walks of life with their emotional and psychological hurdles. Visit the Brisbane Psychologist page of our website to learn more www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Is this how you started your working year?

Posted on February 3, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0

If you are tired of waking up tired and would like 2017 to be the year of ‘better sleep’, Towards Better Sleep group insomnia programme might be the answer you have been looking for.

A frequent excuse for not turning up to work is tiredness due to not having a good night’s sleep. The Reawakening Australia report conducted by Deloitte in 2011, estimated the financial cost of insomnia to the health care system to be 118.7 million and in excess of 1.5 billion dollars to the workforce annually. Evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression and an increased risk of other co-morbid conditions creating an even more significant impact on the workforce.

Towards Better Sleep is a cognitive behavioural therapy group programme designed to equip insomnia sufferers with long term strategies to correct faulty thinking and behaviour and enjoy the health benefits of better quality sleep.

Facilitated by Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray and Clinical Psychologist Psychologist Kathryn Smith, TBS has been running for over 15 years with people across Brisbane reaping the rewards of better quality sleep.

A group setting offers participants the opportunity to share their stories, and learn from the experiences and ideas of other insomnia sufferers, in a private and confidential environment. It also allows the therapists to treat more people in a cost-effective way.

The first programme for 2017 commences 16th February and costs $380 in total. As the group sessions are a medical service, provided by a medical practitioner a medicare rebate can be provided. Places are limited so register today by contacting reception tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au or call (07) 3356 8255. For more information on the programme visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au 

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Being Present Is Your Greatest Present!

Posted on January 23, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0
Mother holding a hand of his doughter outdoors

How to learn from our children’s natural gift of living in the moment

By Dr Claire Jensen, Clincal Psychologists, Psychology Consultants

When the clock struck midnight and we ventured into the clean slate of 2017, many of us reflected on how we can better ourselves. One very simple resolution that struck a chord, was a mother’s pledge to delete social media apps from her phone so she could be more present. With a simple click of a wriggly cross, she would make a monumental difference to her ability to be present on a daily basis.

As parents we have the task of trying to meet our needs and that of our children simultaneously. This hefty feat is made even more difficult by modern technologies that act as constant temptations to multitask, by either checking our phone, email or other social media. Of course we are all entitled to a bit of our own time out and “argh, that online bill needs paying ASAP!’. However, when we are constantly dividing our attention it often leads us to feel stressed, unfulfilled and means we miss the beauty of the present moment.

Mindfulness is state of whole mind and body awareness focusing on the importance of our present experience rather than that of the past or future. It has been proven to reduce stress and the severity of depression, anxiety and ADHD in children and adults alike. The way we act as adults has a significant impact on a child’s opinion of themselves and their personal resilience. Being present with your child, playing with them undistracted, helps them to feel worthwhile and reinforces their natural tendencies to live in the moment.

Ellen Langer and team, a world-renowned mindfulness researcher found that children not only prefer to interact with mindful adults, but actually devalue themselves following interactions with mindless adults (Langer, Cohen & Djikic, 2010 as sited on www.kidsmatter.edu.au)

So, whatever your goals for the New Year, finding small ways to practice mindfulness can greatly benefit your wellbeing, and in turn reinforce the act of being present for our children.

Dr Claire Jensen, clinical psychologist recognises there is increasing pressures and stressors on parents, making being present a real challenge.

“Committing to daily mindfulness is like any other behaviour change… it seems difficult at first! But the more we practice, it becomes less of a chore and more of a habit that benefits not only ourselves but also those around us” Dr Jensen says. 

Herein lie a few simple ways you can practice mindfulness daily:

  1. Start your day mindfully by stretching each part of your body and noticing how it feels. This can be a fun activity with a child as you can ask them how each body part feels today. Start with “How are your feet feeling today, Sam?” All the way up to the face and hopefully a SMILE! Or if you have older children see if they will join you on a yoga mat to start the morning stretching together.
  2. Be in the moment. Take time to notice the present. Ask yourself (and a child if appropriate). What can I see? Feel? Hear? Smell? And Taste? It is amazing the things you will notice that the multitasker in you has previously missed.
  3. Mindful activity. Fully engage in an activity, distraction free. This can be alone or with a child. It sounds strange but a hair brushing ritual whilst focusing on breathing and enjoying the moment can be very relaxing for parent and child alike. But if this is not your thing it can be anything from playing, reading, to using technology… as long as you fully engage, you are living life to the fullest in that moment and isn’t that what it’s all about!

Dr Claire Jensen has recently joined our Newmarket practice and is available for appointments from March 2017. Claire has a wide range of experience and is able to work with adults (18+) who present with a range of clinical disorders and concerns including: depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, adjustment difficulties, grief and loss, anger, substance use, trauma, disordered eating, gender issues, sexual health concerns and other behavioural or emotional problems.

Visit the Brisbane Psychologist page of our website to read more about Dr Jensen and our team of Clinical Psychologists practicing from Newmarket and Morningside.




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