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Recent blog posts
Benefits of knowing and understanding your family

When people are asked about what really matters in their lives, relationships are usually mentioned. After our basic physical needs are met it is the quality of our relationships that most influences our quality of life. How do we think about this? Is it just the current relationships we are in that matter to us and to our mental health?

In my previous blogs, I have discussed the benefits in terms of mental health of knowing your intergenerational family story. Here we delve further into this drawing on Dan Siegel’s research into how our brains and minds work.

Dan Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. He is a pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology an interdisciplinary field that invites all branches of science and other ways of knowing to come together in order to understand the human experience.

His research has led him to conclude that:

1. we are profoundly interconnected

2. relationship is essential to our development

3. interpersonal relationships shape our brains from infancy to old age

4. mind is not something you own, it is shared between people

5. mind is a relational process that essentially regulates the flow of energy and information

6. identity is not contained so much within an individual but between individuals

It has long been thought that our early experiences define who we are. The relationships we have with our parents have a big influence on our development. The research on attachment between parents and children shows that the nature of this attachment influences how a person relates to others and their relationship with their child, passing on patterns through generations.

Dan Siegel points out something really interesting about this: the best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to their parents as children, but rather how their parents made sense of those childhood experiences.

This highlights how knowing and understanding your family is shaping both your own relationships and that of the future generations. This challenges the long-held idea that our early experiences defined who we are. Interpersonal neurobiology holds that our brains are constantly being reshaped by new relationships.

I think this is good news we can change our brains, lives, and relationships as well as the relationships of the future generations by working on understanding our families and relationships.

I would like to leave you with something to think about. People seem to think of anxiety as a personal quality, something within them. When you think about how profoundly interconnected we are, how does this impact on your thinking about anxiety?

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Anger Issues

 Some of the most common issues seen in children who come in to the clinic are behavioural. Aggression in the form of yelling, throwing things, and hitting out are the most common complaints.  

Such behaviours cause frustration at home, damage to items, loss of friendships and at more extreme ends can result in the loss of school placements.

So what can you do about it? 

The first thing to understand is…that all behaviour serves a purpose. That means, that in the absence of an alternative, the ‘undesirable’ behaviour will rear its ugly head…to get a point across - loudly!

Of course, there are many reasons why children (and adults) show anger, frustration, and other challenging behaviours; but notwithstanding more serious causes, the most common reasons children use challenging behaviours are:

-    As a way to communicate: “I don’t know how to express my inner feelings using words, so if I yell… I will let you know about the anger I feel!”

-    To escape an overwhelming situation: such as “I can’t handle all of the busy-ness of the classroom and I need to leave - asap! When I begin to scream or throw things…i can predict that someone will get me out of here.”

-    To have a need met: such as “I am tired….and I don’t want to keep shopping….so if I have a tantrum in the supermarket… then you will take me home.”

Parents are often lost as to what is causing their child to behave in ways that result in so much chaos. They can blame themselves, or experience a loss in confidence. Difficulties in a child’s behaviour can sometimes also be a reflection of what is going on around them, at home or at school. A good way to begin solving the behavioural puzzle is to understand the way our brain works. As Dr Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson describe in their book “The Whole Brain Child”, the following formula will help.

Left Brain = Logic

Right Brain = Emotion

Upstairs Brain = Thinking (Reasoning)

Downstairs Brain = Safety (fight-flight)

Some tips for using the whole brain child approach include:

1. CONNECT (left brain) before REDIRECT (right brain):

Listen to your child’s feelings, empathise…”I can see that you are sad…”, use touch “let me give you a hug”. Once they have calmed down because they feel understood, cared for, seen and heard by you - then they are more likely to comply. Only then, involve them in problem-solving.. “so what could you try different next time to help mummy /daddy understand what you need?”… offer some solutions using minimal words if they are stuck. If they begin to get upset once again, then try connecting again. Wait 20-30 minutes or so before approaching the subject again.

2. Name it to tame it: help engage the logical (upstairs) brain - tell them what is happening so they understand and develop the emotional language to talk about it again in future. “ I can see that you are angry because you had to put that toy away…your arms are crossed and you are scrunching your face”.

3. Use it or lose it: giving your child opportunities to practice their problem solving skills will build their rational brain and help them to gain confidence in their ability to come up with good solutions.

4. Engage don’t enrage: remember, that once calm, it is possible to accidentally trigger another reaction (downstairs brain). Therefore use logic to keep the upstairs thinking brain engaged.

5. Move it or Lose it: use exercise and play to keep their bodies moving, get rid of excess energy from the downstairs brain and help them to stay calm.

6. Rewind and Remember: Later that day..but whilst still fresh, try “replaying the movie”. Talk about what happened, pause, rewind and fast forward to the parts that you need to process with them.

7. Remember to remember: Help your child by practicing the new skills they have learned. “Remember when we get angry…we can try to breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth”.

8. Feelings come and go: use mindfulness skills to teach your child to let go of thoughts…by watching them float by. Make it a game.

9. Sift: What sensations…images…feelings….thoughts….do you notice..when…you are happy?…..sad….angry…..

10. Exercise mindsight: practice self regulations skills - deep breathing, relaxation…make it fun. Give them tools they can use when needed.

11. Enjoy each other: Connection is the most fundamental human need. If your child and you do not feel close to each other, then your influence will not be well accepted. If you have a good relationship then discipline is easier.

12. Connect through conflict: When experiencing conflict, use it as a teaching moment…

b2ap3_thumbnail_SummaryofTheWhole-BrainChildbyTheMontessoriNotebook.png

 

Seeking support when normal strategies do not seem to make a difference is important. There is no parenting manual…there is only a school called life. Remember each day that as long as what you are doing is ‘good enough’, then you are doing great. Children are resilient and will blossom given the right circumstances - as Dr Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson teach “Connection before Redirection” can result in many difficult behaviours being avoided!

Credit: Montessori Notebook and Shutterstock for the images.

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The Teenage Brain

Last month, I attended a seminar hosted by Dr Kate Owen called ‘Understanding your Teenager’. Dr. Owen discussed practical and useful information regarding how to communicate effectively with teenagers, as well as information regarding how the teenage brain works.

There are two crucial times in your child’s life when they require your attention the most – the first 3 years of life and the adolescent years. However, your child requires different types of attention in these two periods. In the first 3 years, they require you to help them develop basic learning and cognitive skills. In their teenage years, your child requires emotional support and guidance. The teenage years are a time for learning values, developing personal characteristics and a sense of ‘Who Am I?’. All of this is critical for who they will develop into as an adult.

Although your teenager may be looking and trying to act more like an adult, their brain is far from being a fully developed adult brain yet. In fact, the brain does not fully mature until the age of 25 (on average). During the teenage years, the ‘thinking’ part of the brain shuts down to re-wire itself for roughly 3 years. Therefore, the ‘emotional’ part of the brain (the amygdala), which is connected to impulses, emotions and, aggression, takes over. This is the same brain of the brain which is dominant that your child from the ages of 3-7 years old. So those tantrums that happened when your teenager was a child are about to make a comeback!

This ‘emotional’ part of the brain being dominant explains why your teen's behaviour might sometimes seem more erratic or emotional in their adolescent years. The amygdala is on high alert but lacks a filter for reasoning. So, if you have a blank, expressionless face, your teenager may interpret this as hostility or aggression. This is also why your teenager may struggle to express how they are feeling. They could be acting up and you may ask them “What is wrong you?” or “Why are you acting like this?” and they will not have the ability to articulate how or why they are feeling or acting that way.

Every parent is bound to have some difficult times with their teenagers. Here are some tips for effectively improving communication and navigating those difficult times with your teenagers:

  1. Adjust your expectations: You need to be realistic about what your teenager can emotionally understand. Remember, the reasoning part of their brain is on shut down, so complex decision making and emotional regulation are not their strong suit.

  2. Communication: Communication is key! Talk to your teenager like you did when they were 3-7 years old, as they are now dominated by that same part of the brain. Give them simple instructions (one thing at a time) and lots of eye contact.

  3. Body language: Remember that your teenager’s amygdala is on high alert, so they are scanning their environment for ‘danger’. Make sure you have an open and friendly facial expression, tone of voice and body posture.

  4. Calm the body and mind: Teenagers are better at communicating when they are calm. Try practicing some heart focused breathing techniques to regulate the body.

    Heart-focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area and breathing a little more deeply than normal. As you breathe in, imagine you are doing so through your heart, and, as you breathe out, imagine it is through your heart. (In the beginning, placing your hand over your heart as you breathe can help you in directing your focus to your heart). Breathe in about 5 to 6 seconds and breathe out 5 to 6 seconds. Be sure your breathing is smooth, unforced and comfortable. Although this is not difficult to do, it may take a little time to become used to it, but eventually, you will establish your own natural rhythm.

    If you find that your teenager is agitated and worked up, try going for a walk or throwing a footy with them. This will help to release cortisol and regulate the body.

  5. Look after yourself: You cannot be emotionally present for your teenager if you are not calm yourself. Remember, your teenager is scanning you, and emotions can be contagious! Make sure that you practice self-care for yourself so that you can have effective communication with your teenager.

If you are struggling with your teenager and would like some more information, call us on 55 207 705 to make an appointment with one of our psychologists. For more information regarding Dr. Kate Owen, visit https://www.drkateowen.com/

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How Trauma Affects the Brain

Earlier this month, I attended training conducted by Blue Knot which focused on how to work therapeutically with complex trauma clients. It astounded me just how much trauma can affect sufferers; not only in emotional and behavioural aspects, but in neurological aspects as well.

So, what is trauma? Trauma is a state of high arousal in which normal coping mechanisms are overwhelmed in response to the perception of threat. There are many types of trauma, such as attachment trauma, developmental trauma and, single incident trauma. The training that I attended focused on the effects of complex trauma, which is when someone has endured multiple types of trauma. It is the product of overwhelming stress which is interpersonally generated. Examples include ongoing abuse (e.g. by a family member), community violence, war and, genocide. Complex trauma has long term impacts on the victim, as well as their family, friends, children and future generations.

Complex trauma has profound effects on the brain. Specifically, the emotional part of the brain (the amygdala) is overactive due to constantly being in survivor mode. As a result, the memory part of the brain (the hippocampus) is constantly activated which means the client is always running on adrenaline. For those clients who cannot remember their trauma, their hippocampus may have shrunk as a result of their trauma. Because the amygdala and the hippocampus are constantly running a hundred miles an hour, this affects the thinking and planning part of the brain (the cerebral cortex) and can cause it to go offline. This means that for some trauma survivors, they struggle to plan and make decisions in meaningful aspects of their life.

Because the brain operates a differently for trauma survivors, they may find themselves being in a state of hyper-arousal (rapid heart rate; shaking and can’t sit still) or hypo-arousal (flat affect; feeling numb or like they might collapse). If you are a trauma survivor and you think you might be hyper-aroused, try standing up and ‘shaking it out’ by shaking your arms, legs and, body. This will help to release the cortisol in your body. You can also practice doing long exhales, which will help to slow your heartbeat down. If you feel like you are in a state of hypo-arousal, try going for a leisurely walk to increase your heart rate. You can also practice increasing your inhale by taking a long inhale and taking short outbreath. It may help if you make a short ‘ha’ sounds when exhaling.

If someone has endured complex trauma, it is important that they seek support from a professional who can engage in trauma-informed practice. The five key principles of trauma-informed practice include safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, choice and, empowerment. A lot of these principles pose an emphasis on giving the client a say in their therapeutic process, as it is important that they feel involved in choice-making and have a sense of control over their life.

If you would like to book an appointment with one of our psychologists for trauma therapy, call us on 55 207 705.

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Farewell Drop of Life!

It is with mixed emotions that I write this letter. As some of you know, I will leave the clinic this week as I am moving back to the Netherlands to be closer to my family and to continue working there in the mental health field. This was not an easy decision to make because Drop of Life has meant so much more to me than just a workplace.

Let me take this moment to express my gratitude for all the support and kindness that I have received from all of you. I am so lucky to have met you all and to call you my friends.

A special thanks to Natalie Turvey, who has been my supervisor for the last 1.5 years. Under your guidance, I have learnt so much more. I can honestly say that you have been the main source of my significant growth in the field of psychology by inspiring me to challenge myself and take on new opportunities while working under the roof of Drop of Life.

It has been such a pleasure to work with you all!

 

You and I will meet again, When we’re least expecting it, One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won’t say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again.” -Tom Petty

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“Don’t Worry About a Thing”

As my home country, Jamaica, recently celebrated 57 years of Independence I celebrated with them – putting on some Bob Marley music that the whole world knows and loves. One of the songs (Three Little Birds) had lines therein that inspired the title of this post. He sang, “don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is going to be alright”. For so many of the clients I see who experience high levels of anxiety (the emotion), there is often the accompanying experience of worry (the thoughts). The combination of the two often leads to the individual’s experience of significant levels of distress and can result in a number of serious mental health concerns.

In psychology, there are different ways in which we understand the nature of anxiety and worry thoughts and there are as many varying viewpoints on how we treat with them. Anxiety is most simply defined as an internal experience of stress, which may involve feelings of nervousness, fear, worry and apprehension. It is also important to know that Anxiety is a future-based emotion – meaning that the focus is always on something that has not happened yet. You may reflect, for a moment, on an experience of anxiety (it can be recent or one further in the past) and notice that while it may have been triggered by something in that moment it was really about something that you believed was going to happen or that you believed could happen.Anxiety is an emotional experience created and made stronger by the nature of the thoughts that we have and usually these thoughts are negative.

But, is all anxiety BAD?

The truth is, some amount of anxiety can be useful in that it gives us information about things in the future that are important to us. Take a job interview, for example, and the anxious feelings about that which may arise. First, we acknowledge that the anxiety is present in this situation because of our thoughts about the future (we might be concerned about whether we will get the job). Secondly, it is giving us some information, which is that this is a job you really want, or it is important to you. Some anxiety can help us to perform well, but too much anxiety can get in the way of us being our best selves in the present.

Worry takes a toll!

Worry tends to go hand in hand with anxiety and it is the thought process, the self-talk that keeps running on a loop in our mind when we are anxious. Anxiety can also result in physical symptoms and these tend to vary across different people. Noticing what happens in your body is an important first step in coping with anxiety, because you can be alerted to the warning signs of when you are becoming anxious.

 

Get out of your worry loop and back into your body

To get out of the mind, sit or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes and feel your body – focus on where the sensations are and bring awareness to them (you do not have to do anything about them, all you have to do is notice them). Even though these sensations are not pleasant, rest assured, they want to go out. Take deep breaths. Draw the air down into the pit of your stomach, then easily and slowly release it again.

Dealing with anxiety and worry can be a challenging experience and there are different approaches and tools that can support you towards living a better quality of life. If you believe you could use support in terms of managing your own experience of anxiety and worry, contact our team at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic.

 

By: Matthew McKenzie, B.Sc. (Hon.), M.Sc. (Dist.)

Registered Psychologist, Drop of Life Psychology Clinic

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The Impact of our own Attachment Style on our Relationships

Each of us has a certain style of attachment, that impacts on how we find a partner and the way we behave in our romantic relationships. This is the main reason why recognizing our attachment pattern can be important as it can give us the opportunity to understand our own strengths and vulnerabilities in any relationship.

So, what is attachment exactly? Attachment is a deep personal connection that we have with another person who will protect and help to organize our feelings. It consists of two concepts namely care-seeking and exploration whenever there is a safe base to do so. As adults, we will remain attached to our caregivers though we also form attachments to our romantic partners and close friends.

The attachment theory is a well-researched theory in the field of relational psychology. It describes how our early relationships with a primary caregiver, mostly a parent, creates our expectations for how love and relationships should be.

There are four main attachment styles that can help us to identify our own and also help us to understand how this can affect our relationships.

Secure attachment
This is an organized attachment style that occurs when children feel they can rely on their caregivers to attend to their needs of proximity, emotional support and protection. This in return makes the child feel safe and secure. A secure attachment style is important when it comes to creating healthy relationships as an adult. In a secure relationship, we know that we can feel that our needs are met and that we can rely on the other person.

Insecure attachment
This is formed when children cannot rely on their caregivers as they are unresponsive. There are three different insecure attachment styles:

  • Anxious attachment
    Attachment style in which a caregiver has been inconsistent in relation to their availability and responsiveness to the needs of their child. This leads to confusion for the child as it does not know what to expect. These children turn out to be adults that find it difficult to trust their partners and have a high need for attention.
  • Avoidant attachment
    This style develops when a child is neglected by their caregiver and therefore has too much opportunity to explore. While having to opportunity to explore is an essential key to parenting, an underemphasize on the safe base causes children to feel that they are left on their own and do not have an adult to rely on whenever they need help or safety. As adults, they usually will view themselves as highly independent.
  • Disorganized attachment
    Occurs when there has been trauma or abuse in childhood. These children do not feel as if they have a safe and secure base to draw upon and fear their caregivers, or their caregivers are frightened of the child. Children with a disorganized attachment usually exhibit a breakdown in behaviour when the child needs to seek comfort and protection from their caregiver. They learn that they cannot rely on their caregiver regarding care and safety. Instead they know that their caregiver will abuse them regardless of what they do. As adults, they usually will have partners that will show similar behaviour as their caregivers as they are used to inconsistency when they seek connection. Usually these adults will behave in certain ways that will confirm their own negative beliefs that they have formed as a child. These adults that have a disorganized attachment style are at increased risk of anxiety and depression compared to the other insecure attachment styles.

As mentioned previously we know that our attachment styles that we have formed in our childhood usually impact on our behaviour in close relationships as an adult. However, there is good news, we can change and work on our attachment!

The first step to changing an insecure attachment style is to identify sources of our anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment style. A therapist can help to recognise moments in our life when we experienced certain attachment related behaviours. For example, for people that have disorganized attachments styles there will be most likely past trauma or maltreatment that needs to be addressed in therapy in order to make sense of these past events. The second step will be to identify and focus on our negative thoughts or core beliefs that we have formed in our childhood on basis of our past interactions with our caregivers. In attachment-based therapy, a therapist can support by examining our thoughts that have been formed about ourselves and evaluate these and conclude if these thoughts are true or rather exaggerated or incorrect. Additionally, people who have had caregivers that failed to take care of them, usually struggle to communicate their needs in a relationship. Through counselling, it is possible to improve our communication skills and to learn how to express feelings and needs more clearly.

Eventually, we can notice that an increase in communication can be helpful in our current relationship, or it might be realized that we will never get our needs met in this relationship.

Overall, attachment-based therapy can be really helpful if you feel that you are experiencing issues in your current relationships that might stem from your childhood.

So, if you think that you might have underlying issues related to attachment that might affect your current relationships, feel free to book in with one of our experienced psychologists at Drop of Life!

Sources

Ainsworth MDS, Blehar MC, Waters E, Wall S. Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; 1978.

Ainsworth MDS. Attachments and Other Affectional Bonds Across the Life Cycle. In: Attachment Across the Life Cycle. Parkes CM, Stevenson-Hinde J, Marris P, eds. London: Routledge; 1991: 33-51.

Bowlby J. The Nature of the Child's Tie to His Mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis.1958;39:350-371.

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Is it really about the Skeletons?

In my last blog I talked about trauma in previous generations of the family and how knowing about this can be helpful for the current generation. Now let’s talk about the benefits of knowing about family, not just about the traumas.

Psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University in Atlanta Georgia asked children from 48 families 20 questions about their family history. They called this the “Do You Know” scale. Marshall Duke points out the major criterion for inclusion in this set of questions was that they test knowledge of things that children could not possibly have learned firsthand, thus relying on having learned these through the telling of family stories or other indirect sources. What they found was that children who knew more had:

  • a stronger their sense of control over their own lives
  • higher self-esteem,
  • lower levels of anxiety,
  • fewer behavioural problems
  • improved chances for a good outcome if the child faces educational or emotional/behavioural difficulties

They also found that the families of the children who knew more functioned better. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush reassessed the children in these same families shortly after the tragedy that was Sept 11. The families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, but they had all experienced the same national trauma at the same time. They found that the children who knew more about their families proved more able to moderate the effects of stress, were more resilient.

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.”, a sense of their history and that their identity stretches back 100 of years giving them connection, strength and resilience.

The research shows that children who have a strong “family narrative” in particular one about the ups and downs of life and how the hard times were overcome, enjoy better emotional health. Dr Duke asserts that negative family stories can be even more important than the positive ones for fostering children’s emotional resilience.

So this is good news right, all we have to do is teach our kids the answers to the “Do you know” questionnaire and they will have all these benefits. An easy fix is really appealing but of course there is more to it than that. We need to look at how it is that some children know more than others and what are the factors in the family that contribute to this.

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Tapping to Help with Stress?

I recently attended a workshop on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping, and was amazed to learn about the benefits of this technique.

To be honest, I was somewhat dubious before I attended this training and questioned how tapping could bring about benefits for so many types of emotional and physical problems. But I saw firsthand the benefits of tapping doing this workshop and also saw that it was backed up by empirical research!

So what is EFT / Tapping?

Tapping combines principles from Chinese acupressure and psychology to treat both physical pain and emotional distress. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body, while addressing negative emotional experiences or bodily sensations, can calm the nervous system, thereby reducing stress and providing healthier ways of responding to daily stressors.

How does EFT work?

EFT recognises the connection between mind and body. Whilst ancient Chinese populations have known this for a long time, we are now beginning to find and have discovered through research, that our bodies are equipped with an energy system that runs along pathways known as meridians. It is believed that EFT helps to stimulate these pathways, and when we verbally or mentally target the cause of distress, energy that is stuck or blocked can begin to flow naturally.

The basic technique involves tapping with the fingertips on 12 of the body’s meridian points, whilst addressing negative emotions, bodily sensations or physical pain, and repeating this sequence between 5-7 times. At this point, and having done tapping on myself, you start to notice a shift and a reduction in the experience of distress or stress. It is truly phenomenal!

What can it be used to treat?

Another incredible thing about tapping is that it can be used to treat so many types of emotional problems and pain. It can be used for stress, anxiety, phobias, chronic pain, addiction, weight loss, negative core beliefs and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

Benefits of EFT

Along with reducing emotional distress, tapping can improve memory, increase positive feelings, lower stress (cortisol), control inflammation and immunity genes and down-regulate heart and blood pressure.

Probably one of the most amazing features of tapping is that, once the process and sequence has been fully learned, it can be practised by anyone, at any time and is FREE!

I would like to express a word of caution in this regard, if there are complex psychological problems (such as PTSD), it is best to undertake EFT with an experienced mental health provider or psychologist.

So if you are interested in trying out EFT, feel free to book in with one of our experienced psychologists at the Drop Of Life!! J

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3 Things you Absolutely Need to Know About Finding your Sense of Self

How do you define who you are?

Do you rely on the different roles and relationships you have, eg mother, teacher?

Or

Is it more about your thoughts, emotions, and knowledge of the world that you live in?

Or

Is it about your Self Esteem and how you view yourself and what you look like?

Or

Is it about if you LIKE yourself?

 Or perhaps

 Is it what you think you can achieve and accomplish in life?

GUESS WHAT! Its ALL of these things!

SENSE OF SELF is the way we think and view ourselves, our traits, values, and it incorporates what we believe and our purpose in the world and how we interact with those around us and the world in general. SO, ITS BIG!

Our Sense of Self is a very complicated concept because it’s both the inner and outer working models of self. We cannot separate how the two interact with each other. Its WHY we do what we do and choose the things we choose.

Often however, sometimes we get lost in the outer world and other opinions and ideas and lose that feeling of being connected with our actual self!   This is not hard to do as we are continually changing. You are certainly not the same person your parents brought home from the hospital! Yet you are still you! We are meant to GROW and LEARN and as a result, so does our Sense Of Self (or SOS as I like to call it because it’s our beacon in the dark to give us direction!)

1.   Self-Image – This typically relates to how you view yourself and includes things like your personality traits and physical description eg I Identify with being loyal, a Psychologist and tall, and a certain age (which will remain a secret for the moment ;-) ) . It is usually the first thing that we identify with when we are young. You will often hear a little child tell you with great pride “I am 3”, or I’m a big sister, I am good or bad etc. At its lowest level, our Self Image affects how we think and feel and also how we interact within our world, Self-image affects how we think, feel and behave in our world. It is basically all that you know about yourself.

2.   Self Esteem – Is basically how we view ourselves and what we think is true of ourselves. This is typically established in early childhood with what is mirrored to us by our parents. So, can often be faulty as they were set up from the eyes of a child and an immature brain. As adults, we are continually drawing on these sometimes-old faulty beliefs and deciding on how we are supposed to act and behave within our world around us. As you would imagine if you have flawed negative views of your self or are very critical of yourselves, this will impact on your self-esteem and how you view yourselves. Therefore, it is necessary to challenge old faulty beliefs, so they do not continue to impact on your life.

3.   Ideal Self - This basically the concept around the person who we would like to be. It is where our aspirations and goals about our future are, and it is always moving and changing.   For example who you thought you were as a child is not the same as when you were a teenager or today.   There is always a struggle between our ideal self and the way we behave because let’s face it, we can all act poorly at times and out of character with who we identify with being. This very real struggle comes from the need to fit in and be part of the bigger social world. We are continually adjusting and comparing and deriving information from our social interactions. We all seek external validation and comparison of how to respond and behave, and as a result, we are continually changing to meet these social roles. This means that we are continually struggling to match and align with our Ideal self. What we present to the world and who we think we are and how we should behave often don’t match. This will result in fear and self-doubt, which makes us feel lost.

This is the reason why I have developed courses and workshops that deal with this specific concern because it is constant within everybody.

Imagine if you could be more aligned with yourself and act according to your values more than you don’t. Imagine if you could be aware of the faulty belief systems that are continually sabotaging your behaviours and moving you further away from that ideal self.

Thank goodness this is achievable and not as hard as you would think.

If you are curious simply fill out the quiz to see if you would benefit from some insight and tools to help you.

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Skeletons in the closet. To know or not to know. That is the question.

What do you know about your family history? Often difficult or traumatic things are not talked about, this was particularly so in the past. These things then become the skeletons in the family closet. Is it worth the effort of finding out about the previous generations?

Some of us would prefer to leave the past in the past. This is understandable, it can be anxiety provoking and painful to explore family history and build the connections we need to do so. Not only that but often there is the belief that what is done is done and that the influence from the past is fixed and unchangeable.

The study of trauma has documented ways that human biology carries stress reactions into future generations. Trauma can lead to disturbances in stress hormones, the immune system, metabolism, the development of inflammation and disruption in brain connectivity. These effects play their part in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, obesity, heart problems, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and other chronic illnesses in adult survivors and their descendants.

So yes the past of your family has an effect.

However the effect of the past is not fixed. Research on epigenetics has looked at the various ways that stress reactions are passed down over generations through biology, as well as through the ways family members relate to each other. This processes in the relationships of the family members’ influences whether these genes associated with vulnerability to stress are expressed or silenced. The expression of these genes then influences the next generation.

Ok what have we got so far, trauma in a previous generation can affect the current generation, however these effects can be moderated through family relationship and epigenetic processes. What are the kinds of family relationship processes that can moderate the effect? Well that is a big question.

One of the things that plays a part is knowing about the family history. Researchers have looked at the intergenerational impact of trauma. Eileen Gottlieb has done work with the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Katherine Baker has studied the descendants of the survivors of Stalin’s purge. Both have found that those who were able to get in contact with family and know the facts of the family history had better health and healthier family lives that those who remained cut off from their family and past.

Knowing about the skeletons, the trauma’s experienced in previous generations certainly seems to be helpful. How it is helpful is a topic for a future blog.

What I would like to explore next is whether there is value in knowing about family history, generally, even if you don’t find too many skeletons.

 

Nicole Hinchcliffe 

Psychologist

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How to Support your Teenager with Depression

As a parent, you are used to taking care of your children, especially when they are ill. But when kids are transitioning to their teenage years the parenting role changes to a more supporting role. This can be difficult and is even more so for teens who are struggling with depression. Depression is a serious mental health condition that has an impact on someone’s social life, work and physical and mental health. The number of children that are diagnosed with depression has been increasing every year. Statistics show that in Australia, one in 35 young Australians aged 4-17 y old have experienced a depressive disorder. Teenagers who experience depression need support, though they have to want that support.

So how do you know if your teenager has depression? The following are signs that your teenager might be depressed:

  • Your child has lost interest in the things he usually enjoys doing.
  • They have been sad or irritable most of the day, and most of the days for at least two weeks.
  • Eating or sleeping habits have changed.
  • His/her energy levels have dropped, and they experience a lack of motivation.
  • Your child is feeling worthless, hopeless about their future and experiences feelings of guilt.
  • Your child struggles at school caused by difficulties in concentrating.
  • He/she might have experienced suicidal thoughts. If this is the case, it’s key to have your child evaluated by a mental health professional.

Professional attention is advised when your teen has more than a few of the signs above. As a parent, there are a couple of things that you can do to support your teen. The most important thing is to simply be there for them and be accepting. So, how can you achieve this?

Strengthening your relationship
Strengthening your relationship with your teen is one of the main things that you as a parent can do for your child. This can be achieved by validating their emotions, instead of their unhealthy behaviours. In order to be able to validate their emotions, it’s important to be empathic, listen to your teenager and try to understand them by putting yourself in his shoes. For instance, you can say to your child: “I sense that you have been really down the last couple of weeks, is that right?” Key is to make it clear to your child that you are willing to understand what’s going on for them without trying to solve their problems.

Positive reinforcement
It’s important to focus on the positive things that your teenager does. These can be small things such as going to school, doing their home-work or cooking a meal. It’s key to notice these positive behaviours and to praise your child for doing them as this will ensure that your child feels valued and experiences a feeling of achievement. Similarly, avoid reinforcing your child in a negative way by highlighting their downfalls or the things that they are not able to do anymore because of their depressive mood as this can cause your child to feel more frustrated and down.

Find professional help
When you suspect that your child has depression, it’s advised to seek professional help. However, some teenagers will be resistant at first to the idea of therapy. If this is the case, try to be patient and acknowledge them by addressing that they must be going through a difficult time and that you have some ideas that could help them. Also, let them know that they can talk to you about these options whenever they feel the need to. Eventually, ifyour child agrees to see a therapist, it’s key to find a therapist that your child is feeling comfortable with as this usually leads to better therapy outcomes.

A variety of evidence-based treatments are available that can reduce the symptoms of depression. For instance, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Family-based Interpersonal Therapy have all been shown to be effective for teenagers who suffer from depression. While therapy alone might be effective for teenagers who have mild to moderate symptoms of depression, evidence has shown that a combination of medication and therapy usually obtains better results. In order to receive medication, a specialised child psychiatrist needs to be consulted first.

Self-care
Finally, it’s necessary that you also take care of yourself by making sure that you receive support from your friends or other family members and also keep on doing things that you enjoy, as it can be emotionally challenging to be a parent of a teenager that deals with depression.Know that you are not alone and that you can find the support you need. 

If you or your teenager would like to receive help book an appointment with Wendy or another psychologist at Drop of Life! 

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Dog with a Blog: Don't Leave Me

Hi it’s me again! Dog with a Blog is getting too much fun and I have so many things to say. Not long ago my human left me for what felt like a year, but someone said it was a week, (it’s okay though the human you know well, Claudine, took amazing care of me). When my human first left I felt a little bit scared and definitely very sad but once I warmed up to my new human I had the best time, she even gave me extra special treats. She took me to work and I got to hang out with all new humans in her sessions so my human being away wasn’t all that scary after a while. I remembered back to something my human is always talking about… separation anxiety.. woof! My human explained it looks a little like this;

-          Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or from major attachment figures.

-          Persistent reluctance or refusal to go out, away from home, to school, to work, or elsewhere because of fear of separation.

-          Persistent and excessive fear of or reluctance about being alone or without major attachment figures at home or in other settings.

-          Persistent reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home or to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure.

Sometimes I even wait at the door when my human goes to get lunch while we are at work. I loved being with a new human, but my human is my favourite and she understands me. I am very thankful she left me with a super nice human that I was comfortable and familiar with! My human always makes really cool videos for other humans to listen to or learn from (posted on Facebook, along with cute pictures of me). Speaking of my human leaving, she’s just left me in the office so I am going to wait at the door for her to get back.. woof!

 

Benji... woof x

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Don’t be Cruel, Be Kind: Developing Self-Compassion

In reflecting on my own experience growing up, and also reflecting on the personal histories that many of my clients have shared with me, I have noticed a common thread – a shared experience for many of us. I have noticed that for many of us the development of virtues such as being responsible individuals, being goal-oriented, hardworking and motivated towards success, came with the indirect message that we needed to be hard on ourselves to establish these virtues and keep them alive. We confuse the good practice of holding ourselves accountable with punishing ourselves for our inherent imperfections. We lose compassion for ourselves, though we maintain compassion for others. For many of us, our suffering is a result of the poorly developed relationship we have with ourselves; we have either forgotten or we never learned to be kind to who we are. In my own life’s journey and with the clients I see for psychotherapy, I often integrate the good practice of developing self-compassion.

Self-compassion is the act of being kind and understanding toward yourself. Rather than being highly critical of yourself because of shortcomings and mistakes made, Self-compassion encourages you to accept that you are human and imperfect. It seems strange that we would struggle to be kind to ourselves, but part of the reason for this struggle may be our misunderstanding of kindness to self as a code phrase for self-pity; which many of us are understandably averse to. But self-pity is, what self-compassion is not! When individuals feel self-pity, they become immersed in their own problems and forget that others have similar problems. They ignore their connections with others, and instead feel that they are the only ones in the world who are suffering. This takes the “normal-ness” out of the experience you are having, and this tends to make the suffering worse.

Many people say they are reluctant to be self-compassionate because they are afraid they would let themselves get away with anything; being overly indulgent. Being kind to yourself also means holding yourself accountable and doing what is healthy for your present and your future self! Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long-term. In many cases, just giving oneself pleasure may harm well-being (so we definitely would not want to confuse having an entire tub of ice cream with the process of self-compassion).

The truth is many of us already know how to be compassionate, because we are to others. With others, we are able to see their suffering and then respond to it with kindness and help. This is the process we must engage in with ourselves – noticing our suffering, identifying where it is coming from and then helping ourselves as we would a good friend.

These things I leave for you to contemplate, and until next time – Be kind to yourself and look out for your neighbour. If you would like further support on your journey to self-compassion, contact our team at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic.

 

By: Matthew McKenzie, B.Sc. (Hon.), M.Sc. (Dist.)

Psychologist, Drop of Life Psychology Clinic

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How to Help Your Child Cope with Bullying

Friday the 15th March is the national day of action against bullying and this gives us the opportunity to think about this harmful activity at schools that unfortunately a large amount of children have to deal with on a daily basis. Statistics indicate that 1 in 7 school aged children report being bullied at some point in time during their school years. Nowadays, cyber bullying has also become a common phenomenon, which has led to children not only being bullied at school but also in their home environment.

For parents it is often a difficult situation to manage as every parent wants to protect their child from harm but usually it will happen when they are not physically present and therefore parents are not always aware of the bullying. In order to recognize, prevent and respond to bullying in schools, it’s important to understand what bullying actually is and what the warning signs are to look out for.

The national definition of bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. This can include a group or an individual mistreating and violating someone else’s rights. This usually involves people that feel as if they can’t stop it from happening. As mentioned above, bullying nowadays happens not only in person but also via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). What separates bullying from being mean is that bullying behaviour is repeated over time.

For children, bullying can be extremely traumatising and can therefore have immediate, medium and long-term effects on them, including bystanders. For example it can impact on their sense of self, their self-esteem and they are at greater risk for both mental health and behavioural issues such as anxiety and depression.

Children who are being bullied often are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers about it as they may think it’s their own fault and/or that adults won’t do anything to stop the bullying. For that reason, it’s key to learn to recognize the following warning signs that might indicate that your child is being bullied:

  • Has frequent nightmares
  • Acts aggressively
  • Loses or has damaged possession
  • Doesn’t want to go to school
  • Has no friends or party invitations
  • Gets hurt or bruised

So, what do you do when you notice that your child is being bullied? Watching your child struggle is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. It can be easy to feel helpless as a parent when it comes to helping your children with bullying whether it is  at school or online. There are different tools that can be applied to help you support your child to deal with bullying:

First of all, try to remain calm when your child is ready to tell you what has been happening for them at school as you want your child to feel comfortable. Questions such as “What happened next?” are helpful to let your child feel heard. Try to avoid negative comments by telling them to stand up for themselves.

As a parent, discuss with your child what reactions bullies are looking for, which are for example getting angry or upset. Develop a plan together with your child of how to respond in a way to defuse the situation. Practice makes perfect and therefore role play is a useful tool to  allow your child to practice their responses and to gain confidence doing so.

Another important point is that it helps your child to understand why someone bullies as this externalises the problem and will give them that reassurance that the bullying has nothing to do with them. Explaining your child that the bullies might need attention to make themselves feel better or copies other children’s behaviour will contribute to your child’s self-esteem.

Another step to take is to talk to your child’s teacher or a school psychologist about the bullying.

Besides being bullied at school, bullying may extend now through social media. Therefore, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on your child’s online activities.

A psychologist can provide you additional emotional support and tools to get your family through this challenge. Psychologists can help with: realizing and acknowledging the damage and humiliation that has occurred, dealing with the events associated with the bullying and making sense of what has happened.

If you feel that your child may need to speak to a professional about their experiences being bullied or if you need support on how to navigate this situation in where your child is being bullied, book an appointment with Wendy or one of our other wonderful psychologists at Drop Of Life. 

 

Wendy Pol

Registered Psychologist Drop of Life Psychology Clinic

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Changing Challenging Behaviours in Children: How Do We Respond?

A good friend of mine recently told me a story from his childhood of being a youngster with challenging behaviour at school. He was, and still is, one of the brightest minds I know, nevertheless teachers found him difficult to manage at times. In reflecting on his experience, he shared that being “good” consistently got him nowhere and nothing, whereas when he behaved poorly and then improved on his behaviour for a day he would be rewarded immensely. As a young boy he figured out how his environment would respond to different patterns of behaviour and his behaviour became influenced by that.

As I listened to his story I thought of many families I had seen wherein parents seemed to miss opportunities to consistently notice, praise and reward good behaviour. In many instances, this occurs because we are programmed to expect good behaviour naturally and actively respond to undesirable behaviour. However, if we step back we might ask ourselves: What motivation would a child have to demonstrate good behaviour consistently if that behaviour is seldom noticed and reinforced by those around them? Additionally, we should also recognise that even when parents respond to undesirable behaviours with anger, this negative response represents some form of attention, which they have been eager for and not in receipt of when they have behaved well. It seems then that balancing the scales in terms of paying more attention to desirable behaviours and reinforcing those behaviours is a key element for parents to consider taking on board.

Does Punishment have a place?

While punishment may not be the primary disciplinary strategy that we suggest to our parents, we are certainly not saying that it does not have its place. However, to be effective it has to be delivered in a particular way – otherwise, it could do more harm than good to the child’s psychological well being. For example, in some families I have worked with, parents may have allowed inappropriate behaviours to go unchecked for extended periods and then at their breaking point of frustration they crack down all at once with often excessive forms of punishment that may not have been proportionate to the most recent display of challenging behaviours. It is as though the parents were saving up the punishment and then made the decision to spend it all at once.

Parents, of course, have the best of intentions even when life seems to get in the way – however, the key to developing greater consistency in the child’s behaviours is by increasing the consistency in the parental response as well. In fact, the research tells us that inconsistent parenting may place children with oppositional tendencies at risk of greater anti-social behaviours in the teenage years and later in life.

Relying too heavily on punishment tends to create more challenges than it solves problems. When parents overuse punishment, children are less inclined to be honest about their behaviours and their motivation shifts from striving towards more desirable behaviours to avoiding punishment at all costs. What I find most unfortunate about an overreliance on punishment is that it also has negative long-term implications for the parent-child relationship whereby fear becomes a feature of that relationship, which in many instances is not what parents intend.

For punishment to be effective it has to be used as little as possible; occur immediately after the child displays unwanted behaviour; be carried out in a similar manner each time; be handled in a calm business-like way (making it about the behaviour and not the child being “bad”); and be of short duration.

The take home message here is that focusing on children’s positive behaviours and consistently reinforcing those efforts goes a long way to increase the frequency of those desired behaviours. Often times within this process, undesirable behaviours lose their strength and the frequency of such behaviours decreases. Changing our parenting perspective can go a long way in helping us win greater cooperation from children. If you believe you could use support in improving your parenting response or would like support in managing your child’s challenging behaviours, contact our team at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic.

By: Matthew McKenzie B. Psych. (Hons.), M. Psych. (Clinical) (Dist.)

Psychologist, Drop of Life Psychology Clinic

 

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The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

My therapy dog Gizmo has shown me how helpful animal assisted therapy can be. Gizmo will greet his visitors enthusiastically and instantly becomes friends, especially with children, though he also tends to warm the hearts of many adult clients. It’s a fact that owning a dog can change an individual’s life by giving them a reason to stay active while reducing stress and improving their general health. Interacting with dogs can have a direct influence on health, from lowering blood pressure and increasing levels of serotonin to help feeling emotionally better. Therefore, it is no surprise that dogs in clinical settings can be beneficial for a client’s well-being and can have a positive influence on his or her therapeutic progress. Therapy dogs

So what exactly is a therapy dog?Well, a therapy dog is a dog that unlike service dogs, provides people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. Typically, therapy dogs’ training and certification enables them to work in public places. Therapy dogs are usually not assistance or service dogs, but can be one or both with some organization. The systematic use of therapy dogs is attributed to Elaine Smith, who noticed that patients responded positively to his Golden Retriever, after which she founded Therapy Dogs International (TDI) in 1976 in order to train dogs to visit institutions such as hospitals.  

Being around therapy dogs has been shown to have beneficial effects on people’s mental and physical health. For children as well as adults who struggle with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, being able to spend time with a dog or other animal can help improve their quality of life. Research has shown that just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin.

Some therapy dogs for children with autism are even trained to recognize and interrupt self-harming behaviours or can help to de-escalate an emotional meltdown. To illustrate, the dog might respond to signs of agitation or anxiety by gently laying on his or her lap or leaning against the child. Animals in particular can be soothing for those with difficulty using language. They communicate with children and adults on a non-verbal level, and that connection helps to improve their feelings of self-worth, confidence and self-esteem.

The use of therapy dogs in psychology clinics
Animal assisted therapy is one form of animal based therapy that is commonly used within psychology clinics. AAT is a guided interaction by a trained professional between a client and an animal of which the purpose is to help someone cope with a health problem. Academic research supports the following potential benefits of therapy dogs in psychotherapy: 

  • A therapy dog facilitates rapport between clients and the psychologist. 
  • The dog’s non-judgmental nature may help clients feel more comfortable trusting the psychologist. This can aid clients to disclose more during therapy sessions as they perceive it as a safe environment. 
  • A therapy dog can act as a transitional object for clients. This allows clients to convey feelings through the animal rather than addressing the psychologist directly.
  • Therapy dogs can lower anxiety and therefore motivate clients to fully engage in therapy sessions. 
  • The interaction with a therapy dog might encourage clients to get in touch with their feelings. 
  • The dog’s presence may reduce perceived physical as well as mental pain.
  • They provide unconditional acceptance, which can reduce stress and anxiety for the client and the client’s family or friends. 

(Braun, Stangler, Narveson, & Pettingell, 2009; Havey, Vlasses, Vlasses, Ludwig-Beymer, Hackbarth, 2014)

I hope you’ve found this blog useful. If you have any further question or would like to experience a therapy dog assisted session, please call Drop of Life and book in an appointment with Wendy. 

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Overcoming Childhood OCD: The Family Facing and Fighting Together

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)is a common and debilitating disorder that affects many children and adolescents (roughly 1-4%). The disorder usually involves the child’s experience of obsessions which are intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that are quite distressing and for some children this leads to compulsions which are rituals that are performed repeatedly in an effort to alleviate the distress that comes from the obsessions. Both obsessions and compulsions can take up a significant amount of the child’s time and often gets in the way of daily functioning at home, school and in their peer relationships. 

OCD, even more so than other anxiety-based disorders, tends to impact significantly on families and this is particularly because so many of the obsessions and compulsions often take place within the home environment. Parents often get pulled into the OCD experience with the child, whereby they begin to perform rituals with the child or for the child. This process is called Family Accommodation. Parents and other family members do not accommodate because they believe the OCD rules are true, however in an effort to prevent high levels of distress and an often chaotic response from the child suffering with OCD, they make massive adjustments to the way the family would typically function. Family accommodation increases the experience of stress within the family and unfortunately makes the child’s OCD more severe over time. 

Fortunately, there have been significant advances over the last decade in our understanding of OCD, the factors that maintain it and how best to approach treatment. In working with children with OCD I take an evidence-based approach which is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapythat specifically involves Exposure and Response Prevention. In this form of therapy, I work with the child to take small gradual steps towards facing their OCD fears (the Exposure), while not engaging in the rituals which OCD tells them is necessary to alleviate the distress (the Response Prevention). In the process of treatment, children learn to tolerate distress and they also learn to let go of beliefs they may have about their responsibilityfor things that in reality are not within their control. For example, through treatment a child may learn that engaging in a 1-hour bedtime routine will not prevent something bad happening to a beloved parent, the child will also learn to tolerate the anxiety that comes from such a thought, and they will learn that the anxiety will pass on its own without any need for rituals. 

Because OCD impacts so much on family functioning, I get the whole family on board from the very start, providing good education about OCD and how it works, then getting the whole family to make a commitment to work together as a team to fight the OCD. This treatment approach is dynamic and flexible and very often can be incredibly fun for the young person even while they face some of their most challenging fears. At times, I may do sessions in the child’s home since for many children the OCD is centred around the home environment. We want to make the treatment experience as similar to the child’s daily experience with the OCD as possible.

The role of parents and other family members in treatment is just as important as the role I play as a therapist. It can be challenging for parents to decrease accommodation, especially when it has become an automatic part of the way the family works. However, even making small changes every day makes a big difference in the long run. It is often an incredible experience for children with OCD and their families to re-discover aspects of life which they had been missing out on for so long because of OCD. OCD is challenging, but there is solid evidence that a good dose of treatment can go a long way and overtime it is possible for a child with OCD to be OCD free! For more information about OCD and treatment options please feel free to contact us at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic.

 

By: Matthew McKenzie, B.Sc. (Hon.), M.Sc. (Dist.)

Provisional Psychologist, Drop of Life Psychology Clinic

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year!


It's that time of the year where we start afresh and make plans and goals for the new year. Which might be useful to have a discussion about WILL POWER. This year, I'm introducing a planning and goal setting program, which is online, and it discusses the steps to get you organised. So, it very poignant to perhaps talk about News Year’s Resolutions, Goal Setting and the link with motivation and willpower so we can continue our good intentions throughout the year. Typically, we see a considerable decline in our plans after the first month and if you’re lucky you will still be going in February, then we tend to start losing motivation and sight of our goals. Firstly ‘what is willpower’? Willpower is basically the ability to resist short term gratification or temptation for long-term gain. There has been lots of research on this topic with most people having heard about the experiment that was done with young children and the marshmallows, if not here is the link (https://youtu.be/QX_oy9614HQ). These children were followed throughout their lives and the study concluded that those children that were most successful in life were the ones that were able to delay gratification.
Willpower is like a super power and it can be strengthened, and it also can get depleted. It is similar to a muscle that gets fatigued short term however strengthened long term. The best part about willpower is that typically it is never completely lost, because that's when you lose hope. So, if you still have hope you still have will power.
How do you top up or strengthen your will power, so you can continue to achieve or maintain your New Year’s Resolutions?
1. Stress Management - The number one thing that I think depletes Will power faster than anything is not managing your stress well. It is exhausting mentally and physically to be in a state of constant ‘fight or flight’.
2. Organisation and Planning – Having a plan that is meaningful to you which means it is aligned with your values.
3. Role Model or a Mentor – Someone that you refer to for inspiration and ‘hope’ when your willometer is getting low. In my Planning Program I call this your Brain Trust.
3. Setting up a Habit – Take the pressure off your mind by setting up some good habits as this will free up a huge amount of time and energy.
4. Sleep – Sleep is a vital part of maintaining willpower, if sleep is an issue seek out some solutions or see your GP to rectify – everything appears clearer after a good nap.
5. Meditate – Turn your mind and body down a notch or two and gain clarity.
6. Ownership of your Goals - knowing that you and you alone are the only one who can make them happen. If you own your where you're at, and why you're there, how you got there and take responsibility for it you will increase willpower.
7. Believing - that you have lots of willpower, believing you have resources and resilience is also another way to increase your willpower. Knowing if you have hope you have willpower.
I hope this helps you stay on track this year and gets you one step closer to living the life you know you deserve.

Nat x

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ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD

It's Christmas time! That time of year that can be either blissfully happy or incredibly stressful.  It’s also the time of year where we tend to see people be just that little bit kinder and more respectful to others.  If I had my way I would make this ‘Christmas spirit’ continue for 365 days of the year. Not only does it make us feel better but research supports that developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ can increase happiness, reduce depression and strengthen resiliency.

Researchers such as Bruce Lipton’s have given us an insight into epigenetics, which is the study of changes in organisms caused by the modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.  Lipton’s research discusses his manipulation of environments that gene cells are in, leading to different outcomes to the SAME gene. Further stating that by simply changing the environment that the gene is in changes the outcome of the gene expression. Leading to the debate that we have more control than we originally thought over our own health and projection in life.  This type of research goes onto discuss the impact on an ‘attitude of gratitude’ on a person's brain.  Giving us proof that grateful people experience reduce blood pressure, less chronic pain, have increased energy levels and even live longer lives. 

There is a whole science now behind gratitude and how repetition and practice can change our beliefs and overall sense of self.  It makes logical sense the better we feel about ourselves and our environment and have higher self-esteem which means we would tend to be more prosocial and thus making us more connected to those around us.  However there is no scientific proof that has been replicated over and over that gratitude actually rewires our brain and produces dopamine and serotonin, these feel-good neurotransmitters activate the happy part (not the official term

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