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Cancer- How Psychologists and You Can Help

Posted on May 22, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Danielle Corbett, Clinical Psychologist

morningteaEarlier this month, The Project host Carrie Bickmore took home the Gold Logie on her fourth attempt. In accepting the Gold Logie, Bickmore donned a beanie and used her acceptance speech to raise awareness of brain cancer, which her husband died from in 2010. Most Australians will either be affected personally by cancer or be affected through friends and family. The Cancer Council expects that this year alone will see 128,000 new cancer diagnoses.

Consulting a psychologist has been shown to improve treatment and disease-related symptoms for adult cancer patients. Many cancer patients can experience depression related to their diagnosis and treatment. Researchers have identified that depression can inhibit anti-tumour immune responses, so effective treatment of the mood disturbance in addition to cancer treatment may be of benefit. Psychological interventions also reduce psychological problems experienced by people with cancer which can range from mood disturbance to body image adjustments. Additionally, researchers have found that early psychological treatment in cancer patients reduced overall distress and predicted more positive emotion, higher quality of life, and less depression which had lasting benefits when researchers reassessed patients, even up to 8 years later.

The Cancer Council estimates that 1 in 3 cancer related deaths are preventable. Psychological interventions play an important role in reducing risk factors for cancer. Tobacco use is thought to be the leading cause of preventable cancer related deaths in Australia. Psychologists can assist people to cease smoking and reduce their cancer risk. Similarly, excessive alcohol use has been associated with an increase in cancer risk. Psychologists are trained in helping people develop a safe drinking level and reduce their cancer risk.

Socialising with family and friends is also beneficial for reducing stress, so why not host a morning tea to raise funds for cancer treatment. Chances are that you, or someone you know will benefit. Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea is on May 28th 2015, however you can host a morning tea at any time during May or June.

More information and a list of useful resources is available at: www.cancercouncil.org.au or www.biggestmorningtea.com.au

DanielleCorbet250For more information on Danielle and our team of experienced Psychologists visit: www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Acceptance in the Treatment of Trauma

Posted on April 17, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0
Clinical Psychogist, Erika Fiorenza

Clinical Psychogist, Erika Fiorenza

By Erika Fiorenza, Clinical Psychologist

Psychological distress is considered a normal and natural reaction to trauma. However, a small proportion of trauma survivors may go on to develop trauma associated disorders which have a significant impact on their functioning and quality of life. Individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often struggle with painful and unwanted memories, thoughts and feelings. They may, quite naturally, spend a lot of energy on avoiding or escaping these painful private experiences and situations or cues related to the trauma (Walser & Hayes, 2006). This avoidance is considered to be a core psychological process in both the development and maintenance of PTSD (Orsillo & Batten, 2005).

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a behaviourally based and empirically validated intervention that is well suited to the treatment of PTSD. It targets decreasing experiential avoidance, including unwanted feelings, thoughts or memories, while increasing acceptance of these painful experiences in order to move in a valued direction.

Dr Robyn Walser, a leading expert on the use of ACT for PTSD, was recently in Australia conducting her training workshops. She highlights the paradox that can occur following a trauma. As clients do everything to avoid all the things related to the trauma, the trauma is always present. As such, the past becomes their future (Walser & Westrup, 2007). As she succinctly puts it: If you don’t want it, you’ve got it.

Dr Walser differentiates pain from suffering. She explains that it is the judgement, evaluation and avoidance of the pain that leads to suffering. “It is in this place that suffering occurs and grows” (Walser & Westrup, 2007).

ACT focuses on helping clients shift from a position of avoidance to one of acceptance and willingness. Acceptance can be defined as openness to internal experiences. To “willingly take what is offered… without protest or reaction” (Walser & Westrup, 2007). Acceptance does not suggest that the trauma was ‘okay’, but teaches an alternative to the usual response to pain by reducing the struggle with it.

Clients are taught to “decrease suffering by showing up to the natural response and letting it be what it is: a thought, a feeling, a memory…it is not a diminishing of experience, but a presence to and acknowledgement of it – a gentle observing” (Robyn D. Walser, 2015).

In the treatment of PTSD acceptance further suggests that individuals are more than their experience of the trauma. We are beings who experience, not beings who are the experienced (Robyn D. Walser, 2015). This position of acceptance helps broaden a survivor’s range of responses so that other meaningful outcomes can be pursued.

In ACT, acceptance is taught through a variety of mindfulness skills. Mindfulness creates a place from which acceptance is possible (Walser & Westrup, 2007).  Mindfulness teaches clients to be aware in the moment, and be present to ongoing experiences. This is particularly relevant to individuals with PTSD who can be caught in the past, or worrying about the future.

Through mindfulness and acceptance, clients are taught to connect with their sense of self and move forward in the direction of their values. This is a crucial next step in acceptance as it emphasises taking action in the presence of painful and unwanted private experiences.

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


Orsillo, S.M. & Batten, S.V., (2005). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Behaviour Modification, 95, 95-129

Robyn. D. Walser http://www.tlconsultationservices.com

Walser, R.D. & Hayes, (2006), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In V.M. Follette & J. I. Ruzek (eds.), Cognitive Behavioural Therapies Trauma. Guildford Press: New York

Walser, R. D. & Westrup, D., (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma-Related Problems. New Harbinger: Oakland, CA.

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Therapy dogs: Posttraumatic stress disorder treatments continue to evolve

Posted on April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

Therapydogs2By Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist

As the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli approaches, we are inspired by the great heroics of soldiers in combat serving and protecting our nation, and we are humbled by the enormous sacrifices they’ve made. Many men and women over the last 100 years have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and we remember them. A great many other men and women who returned from the various wars and overseas missions have gone on to live under the heavy burden of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Though for a long time not formally recognised, the psychological effects of combat-related trauma have been observed and documented throughout the twentieth century. ‘Shell shock’, ‘combat fatigue’ and other more disparaging terms have been used to describe combat veterans suffering from PTSD. References to this condition can be found in many writings from Ancient Greek texts through to Shakespeare’s works, through to articles at the time of the American Civil War. However, PTSD became a recognised psychiatric condition in the early 1980s after our experience of veterans returning from the Vietnam War.

Since then, we have developed a number of evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Multidisciplinary approaches, incorporating medicines, psychological counselling, coping skills development and exposure-based therapies seem to help with this condition, making things more manageable and aiding the veteran to return to higher levels of functioning and quality of life. However, PTSD does not yet seem to be something that can be ‘cured’ and constant efforts are being made to improve treatments and services for supporting veterans.

I have now had the opportunities to work with hundreds of veterans over about the last twenty years. They have always impressed me with their ingenuity and advocacy, and to be frank many of the veteran support initiatives have come from the veteran community themselves. Over recent years I have started to notice the latest in such initiatives: therapy dogs.

Many veterans now have therapy dogs, designed to offer companionship, support and comfort to veterans with PTSD. One veteran and defence force personnel support organisation, Young Diggers, has set up The Dog Squad, which connects veterans with puppies and rescue dogs. An intensive training program is undertaken so that these dogs and their owners become very well-trained and disciplined with one another.

So, how might a dog be helpful for veterans?

Well, dogs are vigilant and protective. They can wake a veteran from nightmares or reassure them during flashbacks. They respond well to authority, which many veterans and military personnel are used to. They love unconditionally and uncomplicatedly, welcoming the veteran home every single time, and not playing complex emotional games. They can help the veteran to relearn trust and safety, and to relearn how to love and be loved. And they offer the veteran meaning, purpose, connection and a reason to get into the day.

None of this has been empirically validated as yet, but it seems to have a lot of face validity. Dogs are our best friends after all! But also, I have seen it work. Veterans, who soften, relax, smile and simply become comfortable in a situation where a well-trained therapy dog is present. I hope that this approach can continue to be explored, and properly developed, into a program that can really add value to veterans’ PTSD treatment.

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

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Trying to forget the unforgettable- musing on PTSD and sleep

Posted on April 8, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Towards Better Sleep Facilitators, Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist & Dr Curt Gray, Psychiatrist

veteran_overexposedLest We Forget will be pledged across the nation this Anzac Day as we approach 100 years since Gallipoli but for many of our veterans and ex-servicemen, forgetting the unforgettable seems a challenge too great.

Trauma regularly touches our community. Watch the evening news and you will witness traumatic events like car accidents, assaults, hold ups, natural disaster, terrorism and war.

Experiencing a traumatic event or the atrocities of war can have a marked impact on people’s lives. While most people are able to recover from trauma, others go on to develop psychological disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is characterized by sufferers persistently re-experiencing the traumatic event, through intrusive recollections, distressing dreams, or flashbacks. Sufferers may also try to cope through avoiding things that may be associated with the event, or memory. They may also experience mood and other changes such as irritability, anger, concentration difficulties, hypervigilance or being startled easily.

But consistent amongst PTSD sufferers is disturbed sleep with symptoms of increased arousal, nightmares, dream re-enactment on occasion, and excessive movements during sleep. Many of these problems contribute to insomnia.

Recent studies by University of Calfornia’s Berkeley research team led by Prof. Matthew Walker found that REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the vivid dreaming stage of sleep that comprises 20% of a normal person’s sleep cycle, is compromised in PTSD sufferers. This has significant implications for well-being and recovery.

“The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day’s emotional experiences,” explains Dr Walker.

The good news is treatment can help to improve sleep disturbance in PTSD, particularly taking a holistic approach that combines psychological treatment like cognitive behavioural therapy and image rehearsal therapy with medication for sleep.

Reducing feelings of stress is imperative when on the road to emotional and mental recovery after experiencing trauma. A few simple ways to help improve sleep health include:

  • Making sure your sleep environment feels safe and comfortable. If darkness causes feelings of anxiety, which is common amongst PTSD sufferers, try keeping the room dimly lit.
  • Avoid watching the news before bed.
  • Develop a relaxation routine before bed. This can be as simple as a warm bath or listening to relaxing music.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee after 3pm.
  • Try not to consume more than one alcoholic drink within 3 hours of bed.

Psychology Consultants run a long standing group programme for insomnia sufferers called Towards Better Sleep, a cognitive behavioural treatment programme that uses evidenced based techniques that focus on sleep education, behavioural techniques, correction of unhelpful thinking about sleep and insomnia, and relaxation strategies.

The next programme commences on 14th May 2015 and runs over 6 weeks, visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or www.psychologyconsultants.com.au for more information and talk to your GP about the suitability of this programme for you.

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Courage: The Heart of Compassion

Posted on April 7, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist

wizard_of_oz-618x451Compassion is a feeling AND an action.

Paul Gilbert, in his 2009 book The Compassionate Mind, emphasises this action component of compassion:

Compassion can be defined as behaviour that aims to nurture, look after, teach, guide, mentor, soothe, protect, offer feelings of acceptance and belonging – in order to benefit another person.

Many people feel compassion for another who they see is suffering. However, it seems that a fewer number of people act compassionately, especially when the person suffering is a stranger or someone from outside their family, friendship or cultural group.

It’s easy (or at least easier) to act compassionately towards someone we love. Picking up our own child when they fall and scrape their knee comes very naturally. So too, offering our best friend support during their time of need. Much more difficult is acting compassionately towards a stranger, let alone someone we actively don’t like or perhaps is our enemy.

But here in lies an opportunity for us all. As the Dalai Lama wrote:

And who creates such opportunities [to practice compassion]? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble, so if we truly wish to learn [compassion], we should consider enemies to be our best teacher! (www.dalailama.com/messages/compassion).

How can we cultivate compassion in our society so that we are all acting more compassionately, even if it is to people we don’t know or don’t like?

Many people would like to act compassionately, the desire is there. The reasons to be compassionate are many and varied, and we now know that compassion can benefit the person giving, as well as receiving, the compassionate action. And many people see helping others as important. In fact, lots of us would list kindness, helpfulness and compassion as important parts of our values system. We probably even often know what to do: “I should just walk up to that man and see if he needs help!”

What quality, at the heart of compassion, helps us to move from feeling compassion for another human being who is suffering to taking action to relieve that suffering?

So often, the quality required to go ahead and take committed compassionate action is confidence, or more pointedly, courage.

The idea of stepping forward to help someone, especially a stranger, can evoke all sorts of fears: How will they react? What if they get angry at me? I might get abused or attacked! What if people think I’m being silly? They might judge me or laugh at me. What if it makes me late and my boss gets annoyed? It all might go bad for me.

Compassionate action takes a lot of courage. As Aristotle said:

Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.

Honesty can take courage. Loyalty can take courage. Authenticity can take courage. So too, compassion can take courage in order to push through our fear. We never really know what might happen next, and it can feel like there could be some sort of negative consequence. Once a person has a feeling of compassion, often the blocks to action are low confidence, self-consciousness, anxiety and fear. But as the Cowardly Lion learned in the Land of Oz, courage means taking action even in the face of fear.

And so it is with compassion: planning for little gestures to begin with, taking little steps, gradually building confidence with some small success, and taking opportunities that present around you for spontaneous acts of kindness, helpfulness and compassion. So why wait? Let’s get started!

10 small steps to build the courage for compassionate action:

  1. Smile to a stranger in the street
  2. Say “good morning” to the next person who crosses your path
  3. Express sincere appreciation to a shop assistant
  4. Let an anxious looking driver merge in front of you in traffic
  5. Be patient with airline staff when planes are delayed
  6. Offer help to a stranger struggling with a heavy load
  7. Give directions to someone who might be lost
  8. Write a note to someone, or their boss, about the great job they did
  9. Offer some change when the person in front of you can’t quite pay the bill
  10. Ask someone “Are you ok?” – and then really listen to their response.

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

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Lost Moments, the psychological downside of social media

Posted on March 31, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

iphone_MumSocial media has revolutionised the way we connect, communicate, source information, do business and spend our time. It offers tremendous benefits, including the ability to connect with others around the world, freely and immediately, to share ideas and information, obtain support and be entertained 24/7. There are, however, some psychological challenges we need to navigate in our social media use.

It’s been said that if you have 5 minutes to spare, then social media is a great way to spend an hour. It’s so easy to engage in social media (just another quick glance at the smart phone…), but often so hard to tear ourselves away. So we often end up spending much longer reading, posting and commenting than we intend to, at the expense of other valuable things in our lives, such as sleep and physical activity.

The format of key social media sites encourages us to post photos and comments by allowing others to “like” our posts and respond to them. And who doesn’t want to feel “like”d? We can, however, be tempted to reveal more about ourselves than we might otherwise choose. And, as social media expert Erik Qualman titled his book: “What happens in Vegas stays on Youtube”…

It’s also easy to fall into the trap of having half our attention on what we’re doing in the physical world, while frequently checking in to social media sites and responding to message alerts. It’s so common to see diners at restaurants with their smart phones by their cutlery, it seems obligatory for mums in playgrounds to have a takeaway coffee in one hand and a mobile in the other, and many of us can’t even watch television without also browsing our tablet or laptop. Are we really enjoying the richness, fragrance and full colour of our present experience while one eye keeps darting to a gadget?

The problem of cyber-bullying is well-known. While social media often facilitates supportive behaviour, the relative anonymity of social media allows people to get away with nasty and undermining behaviour.

Finally, using social media can leave us feeling inadequate and dissatisfied when we compare our own lives to the posts of others. We tend to post only our cleverest thoughts, best-looking photos and most impressive status updates. We might publish a story against ourselves if it is funny, but we almost never admit to vulnerability, failure or regret. So it’s natural for other people’s Facebook or Instagram lives to look much better than the real life we’re living. Our own “profile life” looks much better than reality, too!

In spite of these challenges, there’s plenty to like about social media – and it’s here to stay. As Qualman has said, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” Being mindful of how much time we engage and when we do it, who we pay attention to and how we present ourselves seem key to good living – online and off. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Decide in advance the times of day you’re going to access social media and for how long. Set a timer to alert you when the allotted time is up.
  2. Keep your phone and tablet out of immediate reach at home and at work. When you’re out, keep them zipped in your bag or in your least accessible pocket – or if possible, in your car!
  3. If you’re struggling to stay off your gadget, try turning it off where you can (e.g after a set time at night) or uninstalling social media apps during a critical period.
  4. If you find you sometimes regret what you’ve posted, impose a “cool off period” between when you think of posting something and when you actually post it. Try a 2-hour period and adjust it as you need to.
  5. Detailed guidelines for preventing and addressing cyber-bullying are readily available online.
  6. As in general life, choose your online friends and those you follow according to whether they enhance your life and contribute value.
  7. Be aware of how you feel during and after social media use. If it’s causing you to feel down, then it’s time to change the way you use it.
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What is the World Coming To?

Posted on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

By Clinical Psychologist, Cherie Dalton

positive-300x225As we welcome in the new year, it’s a time to focus on new goals and a fresh start, yet, with recent acts of terrorism, the Ebola crisis and airline crashes many Australians might be facing 2015 thinking ‘What is the World Coming To?’ While these events are confronting and frightening, they are extremely rare, particularly in Australia. Such events are unlikely to impact on us or those we are close to.

It is valuable and human to feel compassion and care for those affected, yet it is also important to keep things in perspective when reflecting on our own lives, particularly if it is affecting our own wellbeing. The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health highlights the “effect of fear and worry is often well in excess of the actual threat (of an attack)”. Maintaining this perspective is helpful. Despite our uncomfortableness with what we sometimes see and hear in the media, there are many actions that we can take to look after the things that matter to us that can offer us comfort and stability. We can:

  • Do activities we enjoy and try to do something enjoyable each day.
  • Spend time with family and friends and stay connected with people that matter to us and leave us feeling positive. Get in contact with friends or family we haven’t seen for a while.
  • Focus on what matters most to us and put energy into that – perhaps family, relationships, health, work relationships, study goals, making friends, helping others, prayer, participating in our community.
  • Limit exposure to media, particularly rolling coverage of incidents, especially before bed and around children.
  • Keep to normal routines and predictable schedules yet also being mindful of welcoming a sense of spontaneity.
  • Practice good stress management strategies such as incorporating exercise, healthy eating, relaxation or meditation and keeping alcohol intake at a healthy level.
  • Engage in positive activities for ourselves and others such as Meals on Wheels volunteering, fun runs or sporting clubs, church communities, walking, noticing the beauty of nature, fundraising for charity.
  • Keep to the facts and watch for people ‘hyping-up’ drama and threat. Keep things in perspective.
  • Ask ourselves each day what we are grateful for.
  • Remember how unlikely an event is to impact on us directly.
  • Focus on the countless positive examples of kindness, helping, courage and compassion around us.
  • Notice the extensive help, preparation and protection response that comes from security and health organisations and governments.
  • Be careful how adults speak around children about events and be aware of conveying a message of calmness and stability in words, reactions, tone and attitudes.
  • Answer questions from children in a caring, reassuring, truthful way. Listen to their feelings, be patient and keep explanations at their level with the over-riding focus on comfort and safety.
  • Watch for signs of becoming preoccupied with things that are beyond our control and turn attention to things that are within our control.

The actions we take each moment and each day make a difference to our wellbeing. Take with you a sense of empowerment and confidence into the New Year.

Cherie DaltonFor more information on Cherie and the team of Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au

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New Year Resolution and Self Compassion

Posted on January 17, 2015 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0
Dr James Kirby

Dr James Kirby

By Clinical Psychologist Dr James Kirby

When the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve we all celebrate and enjoy the moment. However, not long after, we get met with that dreaded question?

So what are your New Years Resolutions?


This can lead to all sorts of responses, such as: lose weight, exercise more, spend more time with my children, save more money, drink less, or even find a new hobby. Sound familiar? Our New Year Resolutions really can be quite diverse. However, one common element to all of these resolutions is that they require a lot of hard work. All the resolutions I listed are also quite vague and not that specific, yet we hear them all the time, indeed many of them are ones I have set myself.

I set lose weight and exercise more as my New Years Resolutions for 2015.

It has been about three weeks since New Years Eve, and around this time many of us can feel like we have failed with the resolutions we set ourselves. Some of us may have even forgotten exactly what we did choose as our resolutions. For example, some research estimates suggest that about 60% of New Years resolution gym memberships go unused, and that these gym memberships are rated as one of the biggest money wasters for our back pocket. Despite this knowledge, joining the gym is still one of the most common New Years resolutions.

One of the problems with New Years Resolutions is when we don’t meet them this can make us feel depressed, frustrated, and sometimes angry, as many of us see it as a sign of failure. Since New Years Eve I have exercised more, but losing weight, well that hasn’t happened yet. One of the problems with these New Years Resolutions is that often they aren’t specific, and research has shown that we are more likely to succeed or come close to success if we set short-term specific goals (Locke, Shaw, Saari. & Latham (1981).

So instead of setting a resolution such as exercising more, what would be better is setting a setting a specific goal such as:

I will aim to exercise three afternoons a week for 30 minutes for the first month.

And then after that first month review how you have been going. If it hasn’t been going as planned you can try to work out how to overcome any obstacles, you might even need to modify the goal, and then try again for the next month. Alternatively if you have met that goal, make sure you congratulate yourself for the efforts you have made. Setting achievable and specific short-term goals are often better than vague, open-ended goals, because we can gauge how we are going. However, when we take a moment to review how we have been going it is important to have a little bit of self-compassion with these resolutions.

But what is self-compassion?

Self-compassion has been defined as involving three important components (Neff, 2003), and I will use exercise as an example of how to apply self-compassion to your resolutions.

  1. Being mindful as opposed to over-identifying with the problem. For example, being mindful that you are struggling with exercise at this present time, as opposed to seeing yourself as a complete failure always with exercise.
  2. Connecting with others as opposed to isolating yourself. For example, realising that you are likely not the only one struggling with exercise, indeed many others struggle with exercise as well.
  3. Being kind and loving to yourself as opposed to being judgemental. For example you could say to yourself, “May I be forgiving of myself, and continue to try and exercise.”

We know when we are more self-compassionate as individuals; it helps with our own psychological health (Neff, 2003). We also know that individuals with greater self-compassion have been found to have less anxiety and depression (Neff & Dahm, 2014). People with higher levels of self-compassion also have been found to ruminate less (Neff, 2003), and tend to have fewer negative emotions such as irritability, hostility or distress (Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007).

So as you can see much can be gained by being a little more self-compassionate. I do a lot of research and clinical work with parents. And often parents will come to the clinic with the problem “I just don’t know if I am doing it right?” In these situations often parents are looking for a little bit of reassurance that they are actually doing a good job. To me it would seem parents would benefit greatly from some self-compassion. For example if you are a parent struggling in a particular situation with your child the following may be useful:

  • I am noticing this is a moment where I am struggling with parenting
  • I am not alone with my struggle, others also struggle with parenting
  • May I give myself the compassion that I need in this moment

Self-compassion is something I think we can all benefit from. It just involves those three important points: (1) being mindful, (2) connecting with others, and (3) be kind and loving towards yourself.

So have a look at your New Years Resolutions. Do you need to change them to specific goals and start again for February? And when reviewing them, be sure to do so with some self-compassion.

For more information on James and the team at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au


Locke, Edwin A.; Shaw, Karyll N.; Saari, Lise M.; Latham, Gary P. (1981). Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 125-152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.90.1.125

Neff, K.D., & Dahm, K.A. (2014). Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it related to mindfulness. In M. Robinson, B. Meier & B. Ostafin (Eds.) Mindfulness and Self-Regulation. New York: Springer.

Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and its link to adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154.

Neff, K. D. (2003). Development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250.

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Mirror Mirror

Posted on December 4, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 comments - 0

plastic-surgeryBy Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith

Cosmetic procedures are on the rise and with ‘bikini season’ approaching, I pose the question- does improving the outside make you feel better on the inside?

It seems everywhere we look these days, there is a new one stop clinic offering a variety of solutions for aging, fat deposits, uneven skin tone, wrinkles, sun damage, hair removal and so on. Not to mention the burgeoning surgical industry with some even taking a cosmetic surgical holiday.

Rates of cosmetic procedures from lunchtime fixes to more extensive surgery have continued to rise significantly over the past decade in the UK, US and Australia. We seem to be increasingly pressured to fulfil an ideal and are reluctant to gracefully step into the aging process. We are more than ever encouraged to make comparisons to others and to feel that “good enough” is now “not enough”. We are often sold the idea that improving our appearance will actually improve our psychosocial well being. In other words, not only will we will feel good about ourselves, our relationships, work and friendships will also significantly improve. Whilst some people do experience an improvement in self esteem, some studies have shown that most will return to their previous level of dissatisfaction and often those who have undergone more extensive procedures versus restorative procedures are more likely to have a poor adjustment.

So, how do you know if you are making the right choice about a cosmetic procedure?

As a clinical psychologist, I am increasingly concerned about the increase in these cosmetic procedures as individuals who are more susceptible may also be anxious or depressed with a long history of low self esteem. A particular sub-group, is also those who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD. This is typically characterised by an excessive preoccupation in a perceived flaw or defect, which causes marked distress, a reduction in functioning and a number of ritualistic behaviours such as excessive checking, picking, internet searching and reassurance seeking. Individuals with BDD will often believe that their perceived defect is so noticeable that they will either avoid going out into public or conceal themselves when they have to. To others, the perceived defect may be non-existent or only slight but despite reassurance they do not feel convinced. It has times, been referred to as a “preoccupation with perceived ugliness” (APS reference). This subgroup may frequently seek cosmetic procedures ranging from non-invasive to major surgery. I will unfortunately see this subgroup after a number of cosmetic interventions and increasing distress due to complications or misconceptions about the desired outcome.

Now, back to the question of how do you know if you are making the right choice? The first thing to consider is what the risks are associated with the procedure, is it invasive or relatively non invasive? Are you aware of the risks of complications and the realistic outcomes? Do you suffer from anxiety, depression or long standing self esteem issues that you may need to seek assistance with first? Or are you frequently reassured by other people that your perceived defect is non existent or minor but you are significantly preoccupied with this and it causes significant distress to the point you don’t want to be seen? If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, then this may be an indicator of BDD and it would be beneficial to speak to a psychologist to have this accurately assessed before drastic measures are taken.

As Brene Brown, a famous American scholar in social work aptly said… “Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together”.

KathrynFor more information on Kathryn and our team of Psychologists visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au




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