Mental health occupational therapists believe that engagement in meaningful occupations contributes to a sense of achievement, self-esteem and well being.
In this informative blog, Jess T Accredited Practising Dietitian outlines what's involved with seeing a dietitian for the first time: from what things to bring to your first session, to what topics you'll explore with your dietitian, and finally to how a dietitian will approach your ongoing needs in future sessions.
Interested? See Jess' blog at this link
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I look at the bigger picture. Beyond food rules and diet plans. I appreciate that health and wellbeing are shaped by so much more than what we eat.
Does a diagnosis make my child vulnerable?
Most parents will at some point will face the ‘diagnosis dilemma’; that is, the decision to investigate whether a child’s academic, developmental or clinical results vary significantly from their peers. For many parents this decision may involve a great deal of fear and uncertainty as they consider the potential impact of a diagnostic label for their child in the school environment, amongst peers or siblings, and whether the impact will follow through to a child’s higher education or work life.
Broader ethical debates can feed these fears, such as a lack of consensus regarding what constitutes a disorder, the limitations of our current diagnostic tools, and the belief that mental health diagnosis pathologise human diversity. However for children, teens and families facing significant challenges, the more urgent issue is how to find their pathway to appropriate support for a set of specific needs.
What’s involved in an assessment?
An assessment usually involves a comprehensive investigation of academic, emotional and behavioural domains via a multi-step process that may involve clinical interviews, interviews with significant adults, behavioural observations, and rating scales. It also seeks to answer a specific referral question or set of questions based on a child’s particular challenges, answers and evidence for which are then outlined in a formal report or explained in a feedback session.
What is the value of an assessment?
For most children and families who present for evaluation, there will already be a sense that something in their lives is far more difficult than they expected it to be, and they are usually wondering why. While going through an assessment process with your child may never be the highlight of your year, there are some potentially life-changing outcomes. A diagnostic assessment may offer you the following opportunities:
- Understand your child’s individual needs. When a child is understood and accepted in their formative relationships, they have the best chance of understanding and accepting themselves.
- Identify lagging skills. Whether this be the inability to manage big feelings, an excessive fear of social situations or phonological dyslexia, an evaluation will give you information about the specific area in which your child is struggling.
- Plan and prepare. With specific information, parents are better able to plan for successful outings, holidays and events.
- Change your child’s developmental trajectory. When assessment and intervention is timely, the future of your child may literally be changed. For example, when ADHD is managed well from an early age, the progression of ADHD to oppositional behaviour and then conduct problems in adulthood may be prevented.
- Draw on the evidence-base. Struggling parents can be vulnerable to adopting pseudoscience, e.g. A child with learning difficulties may feel emotionally deprived if a parent leans heavily on harsh consequences or tough love.
- Set realistic expectations. A child with an executive function deficit for example, will not have the ability to manage his time, or organise his thoughts and will need support and frequent reminders.
- Avoid damaging discipline. When lagging skills play out, parents and teachers with realistic expectations are able to avoid the unethical situation that arises when children are punished for their diagnosis, e.g. When a child with dyslexia seeks verbal confirmation of instructions from a classmate or teacher and is disciplined for calling out.
- Model self-advocacy. When a child is part of a collaborative process they learn that challenges can be spoken about and problems addressed. A good assessment should send a clear message to a child that their struggles are not their fault, and that with information and planning, goals can be achieved.
Managing potential vulnerabilities after a diagnosis has been made
Unfortunately not every person our children come across will respect their individual needs. It can be worth planning ahead with your child who their ‘helpers’ are, so that they are not left with knowledge that feels secretive, or a belief that they are defective in some way. We can also help to reduce the potential for self-stigma by framing diversity as an important aspect of the world we live in.
Parents also have a particular role to play to reduce vulnerability that requires both strength and subtlety. Parents are powerful advocates for the needs of their child in the community, however they must also be mindful to step out of the way of natural development. Sometimes overzealous parents can unintentionally add to the vulnerability of their child by helping too much. This may create a situation where the longer-term burden a child faces is increased by a parent who is over-functioning, essentially denying the child the opportunity to learn to live effectively and resiliently.
If you need support to figure out what your child’s individual needs are and how to support them, the staff at The Centre for Effective Living are able to help.
Our latest addition to the Sensory and Self Care bar… Mindfulness Jars!!! Fun for the young, and the young at heart we had a lot of fun making these too! Watch till the end for my personal favourit…
Our latest addition to the Sensory and Self Care bar... Mindfulness Jars!!! Fun for the young, and the young at heart we had a lot of fun making these too! Watch till the end for my personal favourite one in action
#mindful #mindfulness #sensory #craft #creative #mindfulnessjars #pinterest #effectiveliving
Not actually - not in the way it is usually meant.
I have been working on some compassion fatigue material and this image of a jar with a lid came to mind. Compassion fatigue is simply the cost of caring. When we care so much that it empties us from the inside out. There is certain thought that some of us naturally are drawn to the wounded and the hurt and our caring roles have existed long before we had formal roles. Caring for our family members even when we were children. Caring for our friends - attracting friends who needed support.
It could be that we grew up in an environment that celebrated us in our caring role. Maybe that was the main time we were given acknowledgement. Perhaps it was what was expected of us. Often, however, what can happen is that our caring from such an early age may have led to us having only other directed care, and not enough care for ourselves.
Psychologically speaking we may have developed certain life scripts that taught us to suppress our on preferences, decision and desires. We may have been pushed only to look at meeting the needs of others, and perhaps made to feel guilty if we attended to our own. Perhaps we do not feel worthy of care ourselves.
Yet we know we cannot care from a glass or tank half empty. Our body needs care and attention, as does our mind and soul. It may be difficult to shed years and years of guilt. But you know what? You can just for today try something a little different.
Why not take a piece of paper and write down all the people you are caring for right now and all the things that weigh them down. Acknowledge that this probably will not change in the immediate. Yet you can lay down that burden for a little while. Then place that piece of paper in a jar and put a lid on it. Put it safely in a cupboard somewhere.
Now. Breathe. Walk away from the cupboard and allow yourself to attend to yourself. Do you need a glass of water? Would you like to take a walk. Perhaps sit in the sunglight for a while. Give yourself the opportunity to experience what it is to direct the attention to yourself and what you need to care for yourself.
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.