How Do I Know If I Need to See a Psychologist?

How Do I Know If I Need to See a Psychologist?


Deciding to see a psychologist or psychiatrist is a pivotal point in many people’s lives. Often, however, it is difficult to know whether you’re just having a low spell or there is something more going on.

Many things can affect mood and mental well-being. Hormones, illness or physical ailments, work stresses, financial problems, family or relationship issues, a lack of direction in life, chemical imbalances, and of course a pandemic like Coronavirus – all of this contributes to your state of mind. The difference, perhaps, between a low spell and a persistent problem that needs attention, is time. If the feelings persist longer than a few weeks to a month, this may be an indication that there is more at play. Many people wait it out for too long, but professionals recommend that you come in sooner rather than later, so that the problem does not have time to develop even further.

Dr Katherine Stewart, clinical psychologist at Uplift Psychological Services in Redfern, Sydney, says it’s quite simple when you break it down.
“The reason people come to counselling is that they want to be happy in their lives. If your unhappiness is greater than your happiness or capacity for happiness, then it’s time to see someone.”
If you are still unsure, there are signs you can look out for in yourself:

1. Your relationships are taking strain

When we are unhappy or struggling internally, the first casualties are usually those closest to us. Our friends, families and partners often take the brunt of it as they know us the best and notice the changes in us the fastest. Sometimes we lash out at them in the struggle to admit that there is something awry, or simply pull away from them. If you have noticed that one or more of your relationships are suffering and you are at odds with loved ones more than usual, this could be a sign that you are needing to work through some things with a professional.

2. You don’t enjoy doing things that used to bring you joy

The capacity to feel happiness is essential to our lives. If things that previously brought you joy or relaxation no longer have that effect on you and rather leave you feeling like you’re going through the motions, counselling could help you determine what is sucking your enjoyment out of life.

3. You start to pull away from people and would rather be alone

Sometimes we turn to our loved ones in times of need and other times we prefer to work through things alone. When we start to pull away entirely, however, and prefer to isolate ourselves for an extended period of time, there is cause for concern. This means our internal world is consuming us and there is no space to deal with anything else. A psychologist can help to harness those thoughts and feelings and redirect them in a positive way so that social interaction becomes a source of joy and not something overwhelming and exhausting.

4. You’ve suffered a trauma and can’t stop replaying it in your head

Trauma has a very complicated effect on our psychology. Some people are able to deal with it on their own and work through it eventually, but for many of us, it is too much to unpack by ourselves. Maybe you have lost a loved one or gone through a bad breakup or had a harrowing experience. Whatever it is, it is likely to have a lasting effect on you. Learning to deal with trauma in a healthy way can help you to move forward in life and stop the repeat reel.

5. Your diet or sleep has changed or your physical health has taken a knock

If you have noticed that your immune system is run down, you are experiencing headaches or stomach-aches, or that your eating habits or sleeping patterns have changed, this is a potential sign that your mental health is suffering. Our minds and bodies are connected and can have a large impact on each other. Think of the butterflies you get before delivering a speech or the warm feeling in your stomach when you are happy and content. Your body sometimes tells you what your mind is not ready to admit.

6. You’re using a substance or sex to cope

If your intake of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or your use of sex or other escapes has increased recently, this may be an indication that it is becoming harder to cope with daily life. This is dangerous for obvious reasons and a psychologist can help you to learn healthier coping mechanisms to use when you are feeling down.

7. Your friends have told you they’re concerned

Finally, if your loved ones have gotten to a point where they are so concerned they say something, it might be time to listen. It is not easy to tell someone you love that you think there might be a problem. You don’t want to hurt their feelings or upset them or turn them against you and sour the relationship. People who really care about you, however, will put your well-being first as they want you to be happy and see you thrive. This might feel like judgement, but it’s actually love, albeit tough love.

Many people avoid counselling because they think that their problems aren’t big enough, or they don’t want to be stigmatised as being mentally ill. This stigmatism is slowly dissipating as the decades roll on, but it still exists and prevents people from seeking the help they need. Just as your body needs maintenance – you need to check your blood pressure, go to the dentist, attend physiotherapy if you develop movement problems – so too does your mind need maintenance.

Life is not always a walk in the park. Things happen and situations get thrown at us that we are not always equipped to deal with. There is no shame in seeking help for this. In fact, you should feel the opposite. You can be proud that you were brave enough to admit you need help and go out and actively seek it out. There are plenty of online mental health professionals who can help you right now.

 

16 Activities for People Self-Quarantining

16 Activities for People Self-Quarantining


With the majority of businesses requesting employers to work from home, restaurants and cafés only open for takeaway, most entertainment spaces shut down, and the government encouraging social distancing – we’re left to fend for ourselves in the safest place: at home.

For many of us, it’s quite a shock to suddenly be at home all the time. To have no breaks from family, partners or flatmates, no more commuting to work or school, replacing hanging out with friends in real life with a Skype date. The term ‘self-quarantine’ can even feel more like a form solitary confinement.

The good news is, the less time you spend in public space the less likely you are to spread any type of infections. You can be proud of yourself for playing your part in #FlatteningTheCurve and essentially saving lives. It’s important for all of us to limit social contact because too many people getting sick at the same time can overwhelm hospitals and healthcare facilities. Even if you are young and believe you can handle the Coronavirus with little to no complications, others in your community might not be able to. High-risk people (elderly, those with compromised immune systems or any other underlying health problems) should keep away from the public as much as possible to protect themselves from being exposed to the virus as it can be deadly for them.

If you’re experiencing severe symptoms of coronavirus, including a high fever, cough or trouble breathing, please call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080.

Here are some ways to make your time at home more enjoyable, productive, relaxing and even educational:

  1. Read.

    Read those books that you’ve been dying to read but never had the time. Now is the time!

  2. Learn a new language.

    Always wanted to speak a different language? What better time to become bilingual than learning with online resources like Duolingo, Open Culture, Livemocha, Babbel, and so many more. Also, with so many people stuck at home, there are plenty of deals out there.

  3. Meditate.

    This is a great time to learn how to quiet and calm your mind. If your thoughts are whirling around a million miles an hour then it’s time to get quiet. A helpful tip to remember is that you are not your thoughts. You also cannot be bad at meditation. If you have never tried it before, go for a short guided meditation. There are plenty of apps out there to start out with.

  4. Get out the board games.

    This is great non tech way of bringing the family or flatmates together and pass the time.

  5. Write a story

    Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Or a poet? Now is a great opportunity to allow your mind to wander and tell a tale…

  6. Watch movies.

    Probably the most popular choice: Netflix and chill. Watch movies, get hooked on a TV show. Is this a dream or what? To make it more social, you can also have a Netflix viewing party with your friends by using Facetime/Skype/Zoom or whatever allows you to all (virtually) be together.

  7. Learn something new online.

    After you’ve watched every movie and TV show on Netflix, now is the time to learn a new skill. With the world at our fingertips, you can literally learn about anything. Try Udemy, The Great Courses, Coursera, Open Yale Courses, edX, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, Udacity – there is so much out there.

  8. Clean your house.

    Blast some uplifting music and start scrubbing the floors, walls and windows. By the time this is over you will be living in a brand new, shiny apartment/house.

  9. Do at home workouts.

    Gyms may have closed, but your work-out routine should not be. It can become depressing to sit at home doing nothing, exercise is a great way to boost your mood. You don’t need to do much either, just a few yoga or Pilates videos online and you’re good to go.

  10. Virtually hangout with your friends.

    Social distancing might be the new thing, but so is socialising online!

  11. Cook a delicious and healthy meal.

    Become a 5 star chef and make a complex and delicious meal. Light some candles and pretend you are eating at a high quality restaurant!

  12. Listen to music.

    Create a playlist that helps you feel better if you’re feeling low. Have a dance party in your living room!

  13. Go for a walk.

    Unless you are actually sick, then you should stay at home. Otherwise, if you are just staying at home with no symptoms then get for a stroll, still keeping your distance from others. Sometimes the virus does not show any symptoms so just to be safe, keep a bit of a distance between you and others. Make sure to smile at the people you pass, it’s a difficult time and a smile never hurt anyone.

  14. Plant something.

    All your leftover veggies can be planted into fresh soil. The waiting period to watch them sprout with help you practice patience.

  15. Get creative

    Why not try some art? You can draw pictures, create something with watercolour or acrylic. The craft ideas are endless, check out Pinterest for ideas.

  16. Rest

    It can be a stressful time for many of us, so if you are overwhelmed and exhausted by everything, then take a break. Have a nap and allow your body to relax.

 

Whatever you do during this time, try to remain focused on the positive things in your life. Take advantage of this time spent with family, and also for yourself. Focus on all of the things you’ve been putting off from the distractions and stress of daily life.

Last but not least, make sure to wash your hands. That is the best way to avoid spreading anything, even a cold.

We wish you all the best from the team at Radiant.

How to Preserve your Physical & Mental Health During Coronavirus Outbreak

How to Preserve your Physical & Mental Health During Coronavirus Outbreak

The following article is written by Ana Kardum. She is a counsellor based in the Northern Beaches.

A strong body of research links stressful environmental events with the likelihood of later non-specific changes in health, even if the original change  presents as asymptomatic. If the stress response is intense or sustained, it can increase our susceptibility to physical and mental illness.

Under current circumstances, this means that lowering stress levels is central to preserving our future physical and mental health. But how are we to do that when others are in a state of panic?

Below are the tips for managing your family’s physical, mental and social equilibrium during the challenging times:

  1. Eat a balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts, and stay hydrated.
  2. Exercise 4-5 times per week using cardio, weight bearing, aerobics; modify and modulate according to your physical fitness.
  3. If you’re feeling anxious take a deep breath through your nose, hold for a few seconds and exhale through your mouth. Repeat.
  4. Invest in sleep hygiene (limit late meals, enjoy relaxing music, keep a regular bedtime, practice positive reflection/gratitude).
  5. Be kind to yourself and others; be a role model to your children.
  6. Follow government instructions for self-protection (hygiene, social distancing).
  7. Check government announcements to stay informed.
  8. DON’T watch news obsessively; in some cases it may be appropriate not to tune in at all, given that media sensationalises issues in order to attract its audience.
  9.  Stay connected to people who are positive either by phone or in person.
  10. Engage in activities that elevate your mood, be it listening to music, going for a walk or enjoying time in the sun.
  11.  If negative thoughts persist, talk to your doctor, call a counsellor or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
  12. If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080.

Try to remember that this will be over in the near future and that we should not allow this episode to negatively effect out future mental and physical health.

Tips for Managing Anxiety Over The Coronavirus

Tips for Managing Anxiety Over The Coronavirus


The incessant updates of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have caused nation-wide panic buying of essential items and drastic measures to keep safe.

Countries are implementing extreme quarantine measures, shutting down borders, schools, and stopping unnecessary travel. While following the advice from CDC and maintaining good health is important, so is taking care of our mental well-being.

“We’ve got national anxiety at the moment, a kind of shared stress, and we are all in a state of extreme uncertainty,” explains Catherine Belling, associate professor at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.

When we are on high alert all the time, it can wear you down emotionally and physically which in turn affects your immune system. Here are some ways you can take care of your mental well-being during the chaos around us all:

1. Be in the moment

During this time, it might feel that so much is out of our control, which only worsens anxiety. It’s important to calm your racing mind and anchor to the present moment.

As you sit read this, take a deep breath through your nose, hold for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth. Try that three more times. Next, try tensing your shoulders for a few seconds, hold. Then release.

2. Exercise and eat healthy

Daily exercise is not only great for increasing feelings of well-being, but it also boosts your immunity. As does eating a healthy nutrient-rich diet.

When we get stressed, it becomes easier to reach for sugary foods. Use this time as an opportunity to change your diet to one filled with vegetables and whole-grains, less refined and high sugar content foods. Also, try to avoid smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Along with exercise and a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do for your body. It boosts your immune system and helps to combat illness. If sleep is an issue for you, there are tons of apps to listen to before bed like Headspace, Noisli, Insight Timer, and Pzizz.

4. Focus on what you can control

While there’s nothing you can do to 100% guarantee you won’t become sick, you can focus on what is within your control. Here are some other practical steps you can take to lessen risk of catching the new coronavirus:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel and crowds.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 30 seconds (or if that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
  • Keep your hands away from your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose.

5. Unplug from the media

The news and social media can be filled anxiety provoking headlines. When you are constantly watching something that emphasises the rapid spread of the virus or the lack of effective treatment – then it’s simply becomes fuel for an anxiety fire.

While it’s important to stay up to date, it’s good to limit your exposure. Instead read a book, watch a show, cook a healthy meal, or do some at home yoga. Simply take a break from the chaos for a while.

6. Get your facts straight

To put this into perspective, you have a much greater chance of catching the flu or being injured in a car accident than you do of contracting the Coronavirus. Familiarising yourself with facts and statistics can help you better understand your risks and the bigger picture.

For reliable advice, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

7. Get professional help if you need it.

If you can’t stop thinking about the Coronavirus and are having a difficult time with everyday tasks like eating, sleeping and working; or if you are withdrawing from situations and isolating yourself, please get professional help.

A mental health professional can help you take control of your anxiety and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. We offer many online counsellors to help you find the skills to cope during this difficult time.

What Can I Expect From my First Psychologist Appointment

What Can I Expect From my First Psychologist Appointment


Are you going to see a psychologist for the first time? Good for you for making your mental health a priority! Here are some tips to make sure your first appointment runs smoothly.

The first session

The first session with a psychologist can be daunting, and understandably so. The fear of the unexpected, of being judged, of not connecting – you are not alone in feeling trepidation about telling your life’s secrets to a complete stranger. The important thing to remember is that you’ve taken the hardest step already, and that is reaching out for help in the first place. Just acknowledging your own need for outside assistance is a massive achievement.

Let’s break down this ‘dreaded’ first appointment into less ominous parts:

Preparing for the conversation

You may think of many things you’d like to say or discuss with your psychologist prior to the session, only to forget them in the moment of the appointment. It is a good idea to make a list to take in with you. List things like:

  • What you hope to get out of your sessions
  • What you think your main struggles are
  • Any questions you would like to ask the therapist
  • What your ultimate goal is

Arrive early

If you have never been to the psychologist’s office before, plan to arrive early. There is nothing worse than adding the stress of being late to an already potentially stressful experience. You may also need to fill in some paperwork on arrival and you don’t want to be wasting your session time on paperwork.

Meeting your Psychologist

Your psychologist will usually come out and greet you, maybe shake hands and lead you to their office. The office will likely look like a doctor’s office, but with two couches facing each other. Outside of Hollywood, it is unlikely that you will be made to drape yourself on a chaise lounge. More typically, you will sit on one couch and the therapist on the other and you’ll engage in a conversation.

The conversation

The psychologist will commonly ask you why you have come to see them. In this appointment, they are establishing what your motivations are, a bit of your history, your family’s mental health history, how you see yourself, the problems you are dealing with, and they are starting to formulate a treatment plan. It is important to be completely honest with them. Don’t worry about saying too much or too little. The psychologist will prompt and guide you as needed. Remember they are professionals who are trained to listen and analyse in order to help. Also remember nothing shocks them. You have come this far so you might as well be completely upfront because you really have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

my First Appointment with a psychologist | Radiant Mental Health

Wrap up

After your allotted 50 minutes or so, you should have a good feel of the dynamic between yourself and your psychologist. Towards the end of your session, your psychologist may like to summarise what you have discussed and ask you what you will take away from this session. They will watch the time so you don’t have to and they will let you know when it’s time to end the session.

After your appointment

You might like take notes during your session of any key things that stand out for you. Often during the conversation there will be moments of realisation and understanding that are difficult to recall afterwards. If you don’t want to take notes in the session, maybe write down or keep a notes tab in your phone after the session so you can refer back to them later in the week.

Allow yourself some downtime after the session to decompress and process. Everyone feels differently when coming out of a session. You may feel elated or exhausted or relieved. However you feel, be sure to take stock of these feelings and give yourself some introspection time before rushing back out into life.

Was the Psychologist right for you?

At Radiant, we strongly believe in find the ‘right fit’. For any real life change to be effective, you need build trust and develop a strong connection with your psychologist. Relationships vary depending on the person, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t click with your psychologist. There are many more people out there and we can help you find the right one for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if the psychologist is right for you:
  • Did they show acceptance and compassion?
  • Did they develop at plan to guide you to your goals?
  • Did they make you feel heard and validated?
  • Were they trustworthy and did you feel comfortable with them?
  • Do they have expertise working with issues like yours?

If your answered ‘no’ to any of these questions then you might be better off switch psychologists. At the end of your session, all you have to do is tell your therapist that you will not be returning. You don’t disclose the reason or tell them you’d prefer to not say. Your psychologist will not be offended.

In summary

The idea of the initial session is understandably a bit scary, but in reality, it can be the start of a life-changing process. If, after a few sessions, you don’t feel a connection with your therapist, it is okay to change to a different one. People are different and not every lid fits every pot. Once you find a therapist you connect with, you can start the real work of developing a better mind-space for yourself to live in.

How Do I Get a Mental Health Care Plan?

How Do I Get a Mental Health Care Plan?


The decision to go on a mental health care plan is not always an easy one.

Many of us avoid it because it would mean admitting something is wrong that we cannot fix ourselves. Perhaps finances are also a problem and the high cost of therapy sessions makes you soldier on and try to just ‘deal with it’.

The good news? Anyone with a Medicare card is eligible for a mental health care plan.

This is a plan made between you and your doctor to address your mental health issues, and Medicare subsidises up to 10 sessions a year with a psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist.

Who needs a mental health care plan?

Anyone who is suffering with mental illness can ask their doctor for a plan. This could be anything from mild anxiety to severe depression and debilitating mental states.

If you feel like you are struggling with daily life and you have felt that way for two weeks or more, then you could benefit from a mental health care plan. Remember that you are not alone in this. In fact, according to Beyond Blue, ‘One in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both. This is equivalent to 3.2 million people today’.

Here’s how you can get on a mental health care plan:


Book an appointment with your GP

Your first port of call is your GP. Be sure to mention that you would like an appointment to discuss a mental health care plan, as sometimes clinics will book you for a slightly longer session.

Keep in mind that during COVID-19, you can make an appointment with your GP via telehealth. Contact your local doctor’s office and ask more.

Your GP will then ask you your reasons for wanting a plan and how you are currently feeling. They might ask you to fill in a questionnaire which gives them a sense of your state of mind. It can be daunting to open up to a stranger or near-stranger, but it is important that you are honest with your doctor so they can help you in the best way possible. If they agree that you should go on a mental health care plan, the session will usually end with them writing you a referral to the appropriate Allied Health Professional.

Choose the right mental health professional for you

You can request a certain mental health professional or go on your GP’s advice. It is important to find someone that you can click with and that suits your needs. Do your research because if you decide to change after a couple of sessions, you don’t restart your ten sessions with the new mental health professional. You can have a look now at different mental health professionals who have expertise in many different fields here.

It is possible, depending on where you live, that your chosen professional has a waiting list. You will need to call as soon as possible to make your appointment and when you do, they will ask if you have a mental health plan and referral. Bring this referral to your first appointment.

How much does Medicare subsidise?

For a 50-minute session, Medicare will cover $124.50, or $84.80 for 30-50 minutes. All up, you can get 10 sessions on Medicare rebates per year, but you can’t get all 10 sessions in one go. After the first 6 appointments, you need to see your doctor again to review your mental health plan and get another referral. If your sessions costs more than the rebate amount, you will need to pay the ‘gap’, which is the difference between the two.

Now you are ready to start your journey towards better mental health. Inevitably, difficulties on the outside are easier to deal with if you have peace and stability on the inside. It’s an easy process to get help, but it just takes the courage to take the first step.

9 Tips For Supporting a Friend On Their Mental Health Journey

9 Tips For Supporting a Friend On Their Mental Health Journey


For someone struggling with mental illness, support from a friend or loved one can make all the difference.
If you’re concerned about someone in your life, but not sure how to go about asking if they need a hand, you can follow our 9 tips to help ensure the conversation is as open, effective and supportive as possible.

1. Find a private place.

If you’re initiating the conversation take the time to think about the time and place. It’s best to choose somewhere you can talk openly, and a time when you can listen actively, without rushing or checking your watch.

2. Be prepared for any resistance.

The person you’re reaching out to might not be ready to talk, and that’s okay. If you reach out and they dodge conversation or say it’s not something they want to talk about, it doesn’t mean the conversation is a failure. You’ve still let your friend or loved one know you’re concerned, and you’re there for them if they need you.

3. Ask gentle questions.

Do ask gentle questions to help your friend or loved one explore their options. You might ask how long they’ve been feeling this way, or if they need support to see a GP or to contact a mental health professional.

4. Recognise your own level of expertise – or where your ability to help is limited. 

Do know your own boundaries. It’s great for you to reach out and offer support, but it’s also important to keep yourself physically and emotionally secure and to remember to take some time out for your own self care. Be mindful of where your expertise or capacity to help is limited. You might need to refer someone on to a professional or other support services.

5. Make sure you have an emergency plan.

If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, you need to call 000 or to reach out to a trusted person, like a parent, teacher, or health professional immediately.

6. Allow them to express themselves fully.

Try not to use language like “don’t worry”, “cheer up”, or “it’ll be better tomorrow” – language like this can make someone feel as though you’re minimising or trivialising their experience.Instead allow them to express themselves freely without interruptions.

9 Tips For Supporting a Friend On Their Mental Health Journey | Radiant Mental Health

7. Do not diagnose, or analyse.

It’s important not to offer your own diagnosis of what they’re going through, or debating the facts of their experience.

8. Avoid trying to ‘fix’ the problem.

Though it is incredibly hard to see a friend or loved one hurting, it’s important to understand that mental illness is complex, requires patience, and won’t just disappear over night. Instead listen actively, practice patience, ask gentle questions, and suggest different ways for your loved one to seek support.

9. Listen non judgementally. 

Try not to judge, analyse or question experiences you can’t relate to, or can’t quite wrap your head around. Experiences of mental illness are unique to each individual and can manifest in very different symptoms, behaviours and feelings. Try to listen without judgment, and to respond calmly, without exhibiting shock or alarm.

If a friend or loved ones need professional support you have a range of options.If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call 000 immediately, even if they ask you not to. 

For a friend or loved one who isn’t sure what they’re experiencing, or needs immediate support, it’s best to go straight to a GP. If you’re friend or loved one is ready to talk to someone and seek support, they might use a service like Radiant to find and connect to a counsellor or mental health professional that feels right for them.

Dealing with Stress – a UTS Guide

Dealing with Stress – a UTS Guide

A small amount of stress can be a good thing, challenging us and forcing us to grow and to exceed previous expectations. However, when the demands on us threaten to overwhelm, it can become more and more difficult to deal with any of them effectively. 

 It’s vital to recognise the kind of situations that can lead to stress, including excessive workloads, lack of sleep, ill health, financial difficulties, changes to working or loving patterns, moving home, pregnancy, or relationship breakdown, among others. 

It’s important you try and develop a lifestyle that sees to all of your needs: physical, mental and emotionally. Make sure you get enough exercise, take time out for social activities and establish supportive relationships. 

 We’ve put together an additional selection of useful tips for overcoming stress: 

  • Take control by consciously relaxing, whether through physical exercise, breathing exercises or activities you enjoy.
  • Be creative in your approach to tasks. For example, if you feel stressed at the prospect of writing assignments, ask the advice of your tutor or take a HELPS academic writing course.
  • Talk with others about your anxieties and concerns.
  • Never be afraid of asking for help – everyone experiences stress at some time.
  • Accept your failures and move on. See value in your mistakes: no mistakes means no progress.
  • Be encouraging and supportive of yourself. Always appreciate who you are and the unique qualities you have.
  • Try to keep things in perspective. If a situation is getting on top of you, step back, adjust your goals and take action.
  • Most of us are very good at giving advice. Try looking at your situation as if it were a friend’s.
  • You can always contact our own Counselling Service.

For more information and guides, go to the UTS self-help resources page

Same Sex Relationships & Couples Counselling

Same Sex Relationships & Couples Counselling

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

Sydney’s 41st Mardi Gras is only a few days away, and the city is awash with rainbows and glitter. This is a special time of year when we get to participate in this joyous and spectacular celebration of LGBT+ pride. So it is in anticipation of this much loved event that we’re thinking more specifically of our gay and lesbian clients and couples, and the issues they face.

Same sex couples, like all couples, deserve to receive effective, tailored, and research-based therapy to strengthen their relationship and emotional bond. Going to couples therapy can feel daunting, and like all couples, gay and lesbian partners need to feel that their therapist is respectful, empathic and non-judgmental.

While all significant relationships share many similar features, there are some unique aspects to same sex relationships. Same sex couples face unique barriers that are likely to require strength and resilience, including social and cultural stresses and prejudice.

Strengths of same sex couples

The work of Drs John and Julie Gottman, renowned couples therapists and researchers, has contributed greatly to our knowledge base of the strengths of same sex relationships, and what makes them succeed or fail. Their research has demonstrated that:

  • All couples, gay or straight, experience the same problems and the same paths to staying happy together.
  • Overall relationship quality and satisfaction tends to be the same across all couple types.
  • Strengths like humour and the ability to calm down during an argument are especially important in the success of same sex couples.
  • Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humour when they bring up a disagreement, and partners tend to be more positive in response to this.
  • Same sex couples, in comparison to straight couples, are more likely to remain positive after a disagreement, which is important for repair.
  • Same sex couples use less controlling and hostile emotional tactics, which may reflect a greater degree of fairness and equality in these relationships.
  • In arguments, lesbian couples tend to be more emotionally expressive, both positively and negatively, than gay men.
  • When it comes to repairing after a disagreement, gay men find this more difficult than lesbian or straight couples if the initiator of the disagreement becomes too negative.

Potential challenges in same sex relationships

Same sex couples may face additional challenges to straight couples in navigating life’s challenges as a strongly bonded couple. These include but are not limited to:

  • Managing differences in approaching coming out and acceptance of sexual identity.
  • Coping with prejudice and others’ negative attitudes towards the relationship, which is especially challenging when it leads to conflict with family members or other important people.
  • Negotiating monogamy and a degree of openness in the relationship (both physical and emotional) that both partners are comfortable with.
  • Clarifying and establishing boundaries with each other, around issues such as the differences between a friendship and a couple relationship, negotiating living arrangements, and maintaining a friendship after separation.
  • Negotiating roles around areas like housework or parenting without the traditional gender role expectations.
  • Coping with parenting when there is a non-biological parent.
  • Managing sexual problems (e.g. mis-matched libido/desire).

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

Depression – Why Aren’t Men Getting Help?

Depression – Why Aren’t Men Getting Help?

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

We’ve recently had Mental Health Week, a wonderful national initiative aimed at raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing, as well as reducing stigma and supporting people to get assistance. While acceptance of mental health issues is improving, as a society we still have a long way to go and unfortunately many who need help still don’t seek it out. This is particularly true for men who often suffer in silence.

Depression is a serious condition and no one is immune. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender or factors such as economic or professional status. One in eight Australian men will experience depression at some time in their life, and men aged 35-44 years have the highest rates of depression. Overall, women experience greater rates of depression than men, but men tend to deal with the issue differently. Many men find it difficult to recognise and acknowledge that they are experiencing depression, and importantly, men are less likely to seek professional help.

So why is this? Most obviously, there is cultural pressure on men to fit the “bloke” stereotype which can make it very challenging to admit to any vulnerability, even for today’s generation of men. Many of our male clients describe the pressure they feel to appear strong, cope with problems on their own, and serve as “the provider”. Many feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings with others, especially their male friends.

Men can also tend towards a D.I.Y approach to life, believing they can fix everything themselves, including their mental health. Far from being a personal weakness, depression is a serious condition like other medical issues. Trying to fix it yourself is like trying to heal a broken leg without a surgeon.

Depression is very different than normal sadness or being down in the dumps. These are some of the warning signs to look out for in men who may be struggling with depression:

Physical signs:

  • persistent pain
  • reduced energy
  • lower sex drive
  • changes in appetite and/or weight
  • changes to sleep
  • increased use of alcohol and/or drugs

Emotional signs:

  • feeling more guilty
  • feeling more angry and irritable
  • less interest in hobbies and previous interests
  • lower motivation
  • feeling down or nervous
  • taking unnecessary risks
  • thinking about death or suicide

If these symptoms are very serious or have persisted for more than two weeks, it’s probably time to get a professional opinion on the situation.

The good news is that help is available. Depression is highly treatable. For most people, depression can be reduced or eliminated through a combination of changes to lifestyle, psychological therapy and possibly medication. Beyond Blue’s “Man Therapy” website is geared at Aussie males, and is a good place to get more information. The Black Dog Institute’s website is also very useful. If you think you or someone you care about has depression, then do something about it. Leave the D.I.Y for your home maintenance rather than your mental health.

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

10 signs of burnout and how to treat it

10 signs of burnout and how to treat it

This article was contributed by Gemma Cribb, founder of Equilibrium Psychology.

We all have days when we are less than our best. We all have mornings when we’d rather be doing almost anything else than going into work. And if we can deduce anything from the proliferation of terms like “hump day” and “Friyay” we are not alone in feeling like this!

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It happens when we feel overwhelmed, lacking in energy, and helpless to meet the constant demands placed on us. Burnout often stems from our work whether it be our paid job or the labour we do at home and caring for children or ageing parents.

Burnout is a gradual process that can creep up on us. We may dismiss our feelings of burnout as a “bad week” at first, but they can become worse over time. Burnout reduces our productivity and saps our energy. It makes us vulnerable to illness and has a negative effect on our relationships and mood. It leaves us feeling exhausted, cynical, and inadequate.

Here are 10 signs of burnout to be on the look out for:

  1. You are getting stuck on work thoughts when you are home
  2. You are drinking to switch off from work
  3. You are finding it difficult to go to sleep because of work thoughts
  4. You are having difficulty remembering things
  5. You are having more days of work due to sickness or just not feeling able to face it
  6. You are getting neck pain or headaches
  7. You are finding yourself more prone to colds and tummy bugs
  8. You find you are making silly mistakes
  9. You find you are caring less about your work
  10. You have thought about quitting and finding a new job or new career

Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout as soon as possible. Think of the symptoms above as warning signs and try to change things for yourself as soon as possible. Trying to push through will only worsen the situation and could lead to break down.

Once you have recognised signs of burnout in yourself it’s important to seek support and try to minimise your stress in whatever way you can. Seeking out the help of a psychologist or attending an anti-burnout workshop (such as this one we are running) can teach you essential recovery skills.

One intervention that most people suffering with burnout find useful is “job crafting.” Job crafting involves redesigning aspects your role (at work or home) in ways that lead to satisfaction, engagement, resilience and thriving.

Job crafting can occur in three main domains: we can reduce the stressors in our roles (the boring or frustrating tasks); we can increase the healthy challenges in our roles (the meaningful and interesting tasks) and we can increase the resources available to us in our roles.  This can include gaining more feedback, more social support, automating a tedious process, or learning a new skill.  Job crafting can change the way we think about our work, improve our working relationships, foster positive experiences and, best of all, prevent burnout! 

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.