Today in the practice …. feasting on cute kittens …. #childpsychology #gordonpsychologist #mentalhealth #psychology
Today in the practice .... feasting on cute kittens .... #childpsychology #gordonpsychologist #mentalhealth #psychology
Challenges for neurodiverse kids manifest across academic, social, and psychological areas of life and frequently co-occur with other physical and mental disorders. Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) as outlined in the DSM-5, include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication disorders, intellectual developmental disorder, motor disorders and specific learning disorders (SLD).
Parenting a child with a neurodevelopmental disorder and additional learning needs can feel like being trapped in a relentless spin cycle while families around you are pressed and crease-free. While your child's peers are turning homework in, pursuing extracurricular interests and reading for pleasure, you may be simultaneously trying to get your child to put their undies on, preempt a potential meltdown with snack, or revise social skills ahead of the next activity. You may even feel like you yourself are somehow responsible at school pick up when the teacher beckons you over for (yet another) debrief of things that happened while you were not there. Yet what really adds to the burden of parenting a neuro-diverse child is the accumulation of messages parents receive when their child doesn’t meet expectations.
Cultural messages frequently scrutinise parents for being both under-involved or over-involved, lawnmowers, bonsais, helicopters or concierge parents, giving the impression that parents can be a major source of harm and are in fact responsible for a child’s growth and development. Parents of children with NDD have been criticised for seeking diagnoses or not seeking a diagnosis, medicating or not medicating, advocating or failing to advocate, informing educators or not informing educators, their role made more difficult within changing social perceptions of successful parenting.
Additionally, these parents face community stigma, which is now understood to be broader in scope than racism and discrimination and can be thought of as the public acceptance of discrediting stereotypes. Parents of children with NDD experience stigma in a variety of ways, such as in the form of critical evaluation, such as, "Have you tried essential oils?", "If it
were my child, I’d make sure it never happened again", and "She just needs firmer boundaries". They also experience stigma each time there is an attribution made about their child’s character, such as, "He can’t be bothered", "She refused to listen", or "He chose to ignore my instruction". The underlying message blames the child and blames the parents.
So how can parents find their way in contexts where they are held accountable for their neurodiverse child? Well, what is important to remember is that your child will do well where she is able to. If she is unable to, there will be some problems to solve and some lagging skills to address, and she is not deeply flawed in her character! This is best done collaboratively with your child, as opposed to anxiety fuelled ultimatums that may send the message to your child that they are not enough. Although it is sometimes necessary to address and change specific maladaptive behaviours, change is best undertaken together, so your child has every chance to build their own capacity to problem-solve or self-regulate by coming up with solutions. You might just be surprised by what she comes up with! Fundamentally, maintaining a warm and loving relationship without the pressure of your child having to ‘improve’, will let your child know that home is a safe haven where her emotional needs will be met.
Finally, it is important to recognise that there is still a clear gap in knowledge regarding NDD across our communities, which are often ill-equipped to set expectations for the growth and development of neuro-diverse children. Allowing stigma to set the agenda for our children would be to water a garden of toxic weeds. If you find yourself exposed to regular negative feedback, social exclusion or feeling misunderstood, it may be time to gently re-educate or remove yourself and your child from harms-way. We all need to find our village in life, and allies of children with NDD and their parents are usually flexible, open-minded, and less concerned about your ability to meet socio-cultural expectations.
If you are interested in reading more about lagging skills and unsolved problems for children with NDD’s, check out the work of Dr Ross Greene here: https://www.livesinthebalance.org
If you feel the issues you are facing are overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin, why not reach out to our team at The Centre For Effective Living?
With the new metro line it is now easier than ever to get from the Hills area to us. Change at Chatswood for Gordon and you will be at our door in no time. My first go on the metro today …Valerie
With the new metro line it is now easier than ever to get from the Hills area to us. Change at Chatswood for Gordon and you will be at our door in no time. My first go on the metro today ...Valerie
The sound of peace, calm and healing at the practice today #childpsychology #mentalhealth #psychology
The sound of peace, calm and healing at the practice today #childpsychology #mentalhealth #psychology
When mental illness, physical illness or extreme circumstances hit our families, it is likely that the care of those who suffer will fall on the shoulders of one or a few carers. The role is taken on out of love, and yet it will come as a certain change in direction and identity for the carer.
It can feel that the rest of the world moves on from the incident or tragedy that brought them into the role as carer. And yet, for the carer, the world can feel like it suddenly stopped spinning on its usual axis, and spun out of control or out of usual orbit. That feeling does not necessarily come to a neat resolution. Nor does a sense of normality and control break through.
Many carers will not talk about this, preferring not to burden other people with their "stuff". They may also have fatigue over telling the story over and over again. Yet alienation, grief and loss for a life anticipated (both for themselves their loved ones), profound physical and emotional exhaustion and the resentment-guilt cycle is a reality for most carers.
If you know someone who is a carer, we can help to ease the pathways to burnout by:
1. Listening without judgement. A carer does not intentionally want to sound negative, helpless or hopeless. It is the reality of not being able to see from moment to moment how things are going to turn out. Just being able to voice this can be a tremendous relief.
2. Ask what they need. We can't assume to know what a carer may be feeling, and therefore we can't presume to know what they need. It may not be the right time for a visit, or for providing practical assistance
3. Normalise the normal: Check in as if they were still the person you know, and not the role they perform. A note, a message, a walk, a movie, a tender touch or hug if they ask for it. This helps someone who is caring for others anchor in the knowledge that they are still remembered and seen for who they are.
Being a psychologist is such an honour and privilege. I have the opportunity to sit and hear from clients about their most personal struggles and assist them with moving forward. I get to see them being vulnerable, and have courage in doing so.
In being a psychologist, I have found that is actually a two-way street. Clients learn from their psychologist- for example, how to cope with painful emotions, healthy perspectives, communication skills- however psychologists also learn from their clients. During this blog series, I am going to write about some of the things that I have learnt or been reminded of by clients.
In today’s blog, I am going to focus on what client’s have taught me regarding values.
In today’s society, we are constantly bombarded with messages through the media that you need to be wealthy, successful and attractive to be content and satisfied. Client’s often come into therapy holding these ideals. It can be the pressure to achieve these ideals that maintain their pain.
What I have found though, is although on the surface, clients communicate the allure of being wealthy, successful and attraction, what clients tend to put most value on is experiences and relationships. During therapy, I have often seen clients reflect on their values and become more in touch with what really matters to them. What I have also found, is that when clients reflect on what matters to them most about themselves, it is not necessarily being wealthy, successful and attractive. I have often seen clients communicate that they would rather be a person who treats people well and has good friendships, rather than someone, for example, who is physically attractive.
So as you read this blog, what can you take away? It is always good to reflect on what really matters to us. Valued areas can include family, friendships, work, education, participating in the community, enjoyment and pleasure, health and personal growth. What really matters to you most on that list? How can you take action to improve your life in the areas that matters most? Is it organising to see that friend you have been planning on messaging for a while? Is it joining the sporting team you have always felt you were too busy to be in? Is it leaving work earlier to spend more time with you family?
Living consistently with values is so important for overall mental health. Often people come to see a psychologist for assistance with clarifying their values and problem solving how to increase their satisfaction in valued areas.
Intuitive Eating becomes more popular, and the term gets thrown around a lot,
the message can become a little distorted. So, let’s explore the what, the why
and the WOW moments (as well as a little bit on what Intuitive Eating is NOT).
eating is when we eat based on our internal cues (hunger, fullness, energy
levels etc), and leave all those external “shoulds” behind.
shouldn’t eat that biscuit.
shouldn’t be hungry now, I’ve just eaten.
should eat now, I eat this time every day.
should eat to my diet plan, anything more or less is not good enough.
eating asks us to trust our bodies, and respects that we know how and when to
nourish ourselves. We make peace with all foods.
why is there so much hype? When people eat intuitively we find the following:
in health markers (cholesterol, blood pressure)
levels of exercise
life without food rules frees up so much mental space, and allows us to make
time for the things we enjoy.
I asked a group of intuitive eaters what their WOW moment was these were their
could finally enjoy a stress-free weekend away with friends. I could eat
and drink happily, without having to make up for it when I got home.”
never realised how much stress it caused me to be so preoccupied with my food
and body. It cleared up so much time for me when I learned to trust myself
able to eat with spontaneity was so refreshing, I could go out and eat what was
available on the menu, not what I had pre-planned the week before.”
it is NOT
paint a full picture, we also need to highlight what Intuitive Eating is NOT.
is not a new type of weight loss program.
does not mean we eat donuts and cake all day.
does not mean we are letting ourselves go.
SO WHAT NOW?
Eating teaches us to eat in a way that serves us both physically and mentally,
and helps us to reach a place of food freedom.
that this is just a small snapshot into the world of Intuitive Eating, however
if you are ready dive in, LET’S GO.
E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating. New York: St. Martins Griffin.
E., & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook: principles for
nourishing a healthy relationship with food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications,
Eating in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: The Journey of Atunement. Renfrew
Psychosis is one of the most misunderstood psychological illnesses and
is highly stigmatised by the media and entertainment industry as ‘incurable’
and dangerous. This perception is harmful in many ways – it isolates
individuals with psychosis, increasing hopelessness and lowering self-esteem
which then impact on recovery. Over the course of a few articles, I’ll be
dispelling common myths about psychosis and exploring ways families, carers and
individuals can cope with and address these symptoms.
Psychosis is a term used to describe a group of psychological symptoms
that influence a person’s understanding or perception of reality. Although it
has been sensationalised in the media, psychotic symptoms are quite common,
affecting 3% of Australians. Symptoms of psychosis usually emerge in
adolescence or early adulthood and can look very different from person to
person. There are effective pharmacological and psychological treatments
available which are beneficial for most people.
Psychotic symptoms can
be placed into 5 main categories.
– seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing or tasting something that is not actually
– unusual beliefs or ideas about yourself, the world or others. These can
sometimes be quite frightening and upsetting, or they can be comforting and
disorder – thoughts can seem to become jumbled, speed up or slow down.
Sentences can become unclear or hard to understand, and use made up words.
- Emotions –
emotions can change without reason such as mood swings between excitement and
depression. People with psychosis may express less emotion or feel less
emotion. They may also express emotions that seem strange, for example laugh at
something that isn’t funny.
– people with psychosis may withdraw and become inactive, or they may become
very activity. If the person is experiencing delusions, they can behave as if
these beliefs are true. If they are experiencing hallucinations, they may
respond to things that others cannot see. They may begin to neglect their own
appearance and self-care.
psychosis can have a significant impact on your ability to function and can
cause decline in cognitive functioning such as memory, attention and higher
order functions (such as problem-solving). However, research has found that
early treatment of psychotic symptoms increases the likelihood of a full
recovery. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing psychosis, it is
recommended that you seek professional help from a General Practitioner,
Psychiatrist and Psychologist.
Coming next: What Causes Psychosis?
Psychological trauma involves a frightening or distressing experience where someone feels his her own safety/life or the safety of a loved one is threatened. The person's picture of safety and security is profoundly shattered. The Australian psychological society give examples of some typical traumatic events such as experiencing: a serious accident, an armed robbery, war or terrorism, natural disasters, sexual abuse, or the suicide of a family member or friend.
Because most people have different perspectives, defining what events are ‘traumatic’ can be very subjective. For example, a five year old being lost in a busy city may find this experience traumatic, whilst an adult may find it mildly stressful or inconvenient. In this way characteristics such as developmental stage or even perceptions of one’s own competency can impact if someone perceives an event as traumatic where significant levels of helplessness and fear for one's life or well being is experienced.
If someone has experienced a traumatic event, it can often cause strong physical or emotional reactions and altered thinking patterns. These symptoms are very common and usually last for a couple of weeks. If you have recently experienced a traumatic event it is important to have a good support network and to feel safe. If you find that after a few weeks you are still struggling and unable to function, it is important to seek mental health help and visit a GP who can refer you to a Psychiatrist, or Psychologist.
My child has ADHD - How do I manage my own emotions during
tough parenting challenges?
I have a passion for children
and adolescents with ADHD. They are often larger than life, fun to be around
and have so much to offer to any who take the time to tune in. However, the
growing-up years can be tough, particularly when a child is wired differently
and emotional resources in the family are drained. Despite the inevitable
challenges involved in raising a human with neuropsychological differences,
there is incredible scope for parents to build a strong and resilient bond. In
fact, most therapeutic approaches prioritise supporting parents. One skill fundamentally
important to the parent-child bond is the ability of a parent to regulate their
own emotion. This is essentially an ability to calm oneself down, or pick
oneself up, in response to overwhelming emotion. The good news is, like many
psychological skills, emotion regulation can be strengthened with a little
know-how and practice. When parents become self-aware and model a healthy
relationship with their own emotion, they give their children a powerful gift!
Read on for some key
principals, and food for thought.
What to Do
- Take care of stress, sleep, and self-care – a parent
who is well-rested will find emotion more tolerable, and won’t need to control
the environment around them to keep themselves feeling comfortable
- Stay in the present moment - cultivate a habit of
sticking with what is currently happening in front of you, and make no room for
emotions that belong in the past (whether it be this morning, last night or
- Monitor your
emotional ‘dashboard’ – our emotions send us important signals that guide our behaviour
- it takes practice to interpret this information so that we can make wise
parenting decisions and look after ourselves
- Make a deposit in the ‘attachment bank’ – use plenty
of eye contact, physical touch, words of affirmation and the gift of your time
and interest to communicate unconditional positive regard to your child – a
healthy attachment relationship with your child will help you return to a happy
equilibrium on ‘those days’!
- Practice ‘grounding’ techniques ready and have them
ready to whip out when you find yourself in the middle of an emotional meltdown
– try a few and see what works well for you
What to Avoid
- Unrealistic expectations – take the time to really
understand the problems causing frustration in the relationship – is your child
able to meet the expectation, or are there lagging skills and problems that
need solving? Auditing how ADHD impacts each area of your child’s life is an
empathy-building exercise, and where empathy exists, negative emotion is
- Power struggles – while it’s tempting to ‘make’ a
child meet an expectation, this will inevitably lead to an increase of emotion
in both parties – it is OK to come back for a conversation when everyone is
- Unintentional reinforcement – both positive AND
negative emotion in the parent-child relationship will increase the frequency
of a behaviour – Eg Correcting a child with frustration for table manners may
lead to more of the same behaviour ... and more frustration!
- Forgetting to have FUN! All children/teens/parents
need time to laugh together, and especially families facing challenges
If you are struggling to manage
your emotions as a parent, why not reach out to our team for help?
N is for Noticing! Taking part in a national project organised by Positive Young Minds! #internationaldayofhappiness #happiness2019 #happinessflashmob2019
N is for Noticing! Taking part in a national project organised by Positive Young Minds! #internationaldayofhappiness #happiness2019 #happinessflashmob2019
Valerie Ling's Resource Me: 6 Weeks To A Burnout Free Year launches today. Here is a pre-launch video aired into the exclusive closed group who will be working closely with Valerie as their Burnout Prevention Coach to align their year. It's not too late to SIGN UP. If you have never heard or implemented this sort of thing - do it now! Registration details in comments.
Adjusting to high school or a new school can be like adjusting to a new culture … 4 Stages of Cultural Adaptation and helping our kids adjust
Adjusting to high school or a new school can be like adjusting to a new culture ... 4 Stages of Cultural Adaptation and helping our kids adjust
Do you ever have trouble dealing with your emotions and at times feel like they are just too overwhelming? Do you find yourself making unhelpful or even detrimental decisions in your relationships or everyday life when you are experiencing strong emotions?
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed especially for people who want to manage their emotions better! It’s a therapy that provides you with skills to manage strong emotions, deal with stress, and communicate better with others. Children and adults can benefit from DBT, as the diverse and broad ranges of skills are helpful for all stages of life.
DBT involves a journey through different core skills and can be done with a
therapist or even in a group setting. DBT begins with learning how to be more self-aware and mindful, emphasising focusing your attention and being aware in a non-judgmental way. Next you will begin to identify emotions and learn helpful ways to regulate emotions. Following this, you will work with your therapist to be better prepared for crisis times, when your emotions are heightened, in the hope this will prevent any rash or irrational decisions that we sometimes make when overwhelmed. Finally, you will develop skills to help better communicate with others and have your needs met in a respectful and effective manner.
DBT is well researched and found to be effective for a wide variety of
psychological problems. If you think DBT may be helpful for you, have a chat with your GP for a referral to one of our psychologists who are able to work with you in this way.
If you would like to better manage your emotions here are a few ways to get
- Try being mindful! Download the FREE Headspace App on your
smartphone and be coached through daily mindfulness exercises
- Make sure you are looking after yourself! Not having enough sleep,
exercise, consuming too much alcohol or drugs, or poor eating habits can make it more difficult to manage your emotions!
It is very common to feel nervous about your first appointment with a psychologist. Your psychologist is well aware of what it means to see someone you have never met and share your life's story and challenges with.
Research into therapeutic effectiveness tells us that about 80% of effective therapy has to do with the relationship between the psychologist and the client. This means that the first few sessions, the first 3 session infact are important for a psychologist to establish trust, safety and respect.
At The Centre For Effective Living we ensure that psychologists are well aware of the importance of establishing rapport and trust with clients in their first few sessions. We spend a lot of time ensuring that new clients feel welcomed and embraced in their early sessions.
We’ve all been there. Caught at the last minute, you are now invited to the street Christmas BBQ.
“Just bring a salad” they say. Panic sets in.
So you run to the shops, but the premade options are looking a little uninspiring.
Behold! A list of delicious and fancy looking salads that can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes.
Pecan and Cranberry Salad
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
• 3/4 cup olive oil
• 1 medium bag of mixed greens (300g)
• 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
• 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
• 1 1/2 cups pecans or walnuts
• 150g fresh goat cheese/feta, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
Whisk vinegar, mustard, and thyme in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Mix greens, cranberries, and onion in large bowl. Mix in enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with nuts and cheese.
Green Bean and Radish Salad with Shallot Dressing
• 500g green bean, trimmed
• 1 x banana shallot, finely diced
• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
• juice of half lemon
• 250g radish thinly sliced
Boil a large pan of water. Tip in the beans and cook for 4-5 mins until just tender. Meanwhile, mix the shallot, mustard, oil and lemon juice with a little salt and pepper.
Drain the beans well, then toss with the radishes and dressing. Serve warm.
Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad
• 500g trofie or other short pasta
• 2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 3cm lengths
• 3/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 cup dill, finely chopped, plus extra sprigs to serve
• 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
• Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1/4 cup salted baby capers, rinsed, drained
• 2 cups rocket leaves, roughly chopped
• 200g smoked salmon, sliced into thin strips
Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions, adding asparagus for final 1-2 minutes. Drain, refresh, then cool completely.
Meanwhile, whisk the creme fraiche, olive oil, dill, garlic, lemon juice, half the zest and 2 tablespoons water together in a small bowl, then season and set aside.
When pasta is cool, toss with dressing, capers, rocket, remaining zest and smoked salmon. Serve with extra dill sprigs.
Loneliness: the importance of connection
A recent survey of the Australian population indicated that 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely, and that lonely Australians had significantly worse mental and physical health status. Connection with others matters! Psychologists have long been interested in loneliness and have found that connection with others increases self-esteem, feelings of belonging, and a sense of meaning.
Below are a few tips on how to connect with others if you are noticing signs of loneliness in your life.
- Body cues – when we feel lonely, we can begin to act out those feelings using body cues that also push others away. Common body cues of loneliness are avoiding eye contact, leaving situations without saying goodbye, and turning away from others physically. This can make it more difficult to connect with another person. Being aware of these cues can help you begin to orient your body towards others, rather than away.
- Have an offline presence – people who are lonely can find it easier to connect with others online, but research suggests that this can also cause feelings of disconnection. Perhaps organise an offline, face-to-face meeting with your online friends and grow a deeper relationship with them in person.
- Join in – look out for opportunities to join or participate in activities. When you are already feeling lonely, it can be easy to withdraw or decline invitations to events. This can backfire and reinforce your loneliness. Challenging yourself by becoming actively and intentionally involved. This can counteract your loneliness even though taking the first step may be really difficult.
There are a number of reasons why people may be feeling lonely and psychologists are trained to assisting people to build more meaningful relationships and connect with others, to help you create a meaningful life. If you feel you may need assistance, the team at the Centre for Effective Living can support you in making meaningful changes.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a way of helping us to capture our thoughts and work on them so they are more reflective of a true reality. The way we think impacts our feelings. For example, if you saw a dog approaching you on the walkway, if you thought "That is a ferocious dog who will attack me" you would feel afraid. If you thought "I am not sure about that dog, I will just move to the other side of the road" you might feel quite neutral or a little cautious. If you thought instead "What a cute dog!" you might feel quite happy. Depending on which scenario occurs, our behaviour will also change.
Many situations in our life are a reflection of how we think, sometimes these thoughts are accurate, and sometimes not. Depending on how we appraise a situation, we will not only feel differently, we will also behave differently.
What CBT consists of
Typically, your mental health worker would:
- Help you identify what the problem you are encountering is, discussing onset, duration, and severity of symptoms. This would usually consist of an interview and some validated questionnaires.
- Work with you to identify your goals for therapy. This helps to narrow down goals and sets some realistic expectations about your therapy
- Discover with you the situations that elicit strong emotions and therefore some strongly impacting thoughts
- Work on these thoughts to elicit realistic evidence about whether these thoughts are true, and therefore whether a different emotional experience is appropriate
- Identify new ways of engaging similar situations, where we behave, think and feel in a different way towards a more clarified mental health.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been found to be very effective in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To take those first steps call us now and we can take you through.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Statistics
In a recent survey of child and adolescent mental health issues in Australia, it was found that about 1 in 7 children aged 4-17 years old had a mental disorder in the previous 12 months. That is 560,000 children and adolescents. The most common issues were ADHD, Anxiety and Depressive Disorders. About 1 in 10 children aged 12 – 17 years had ever self-harmed, and 1 in 13 of the same age bracket had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. Children reported that the most aggravating issues for them were bullying, problems with their eating and weight concerns, smoking and substance use and internet use and gaming.
When to get help
These developmental years are important for seeking help as these are the years identity is formed, social networks are impacted and academic foundations are built. Seeking early intervention leads to much better outcomes. How do you know when to seek help?
The general rule of thumb is if your child or adolescent is going through a period of time of a few weeks where they are showing general signs of not coping, which cannot be alleviated by previous coping strategies, such as:
- Having more days feeling sad, anxious, angry and/or afraid
- Their eating and sleeping patterns are impacted much more than usual
- School performance and attendance is significantly deteriorating
- They are finding it difficult to concentrate not only at school but also in carrying out daily activities
- Avoiding playing with friends or activities and games they would usually find great pleasure in
- Young children who previously had by-passed bed-wetting, thumb sucking return to these behaviours
- Physical complaints – nausea, headaches, pains in their body
- For adolescents – use of substances, getting in trouble, and unusual pre-occupation with weight and eating, withdrawal and wanting to spend more and more time alone
- In young children – emotionally not coping and may want to be with parents more than usual
If your child is showing these signs, a visit to the family doctor is the first step. From there, the doctor can discern if there is anything medical going on. If it looks like a mental health issue, a referral to a mental health professional can be made.