Coming in for your first appointment initially means meeting to discuss the nature of your concerns and what has brought you to treatment at this time. Experience has shown that current problems are often caused by emotional traumas or experiences from the past which have not been resolved. This is the trauma model of psychotherapy which understands that people have reactions to a range of events which affect their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. These may need to be resolved before the current behaviour will change. Once we have an understanding of the problem, we begin the change process and will involve the use of evidence-based therapies and interventions.
Families and Relationship Therapy
Family Therapy is psychotherapy that addresses the behaviours of all family members and the way these behaviours affect not only individual family members, but also relationships between family members and the family unit as a whole. As such, treatment is usually divided between time spent on individual therapy and time spent on couple therapy, family therapy, or both, if necessary.
Family Counselling aims to prevent family breakdown by working directly with couples, families, young people and their families or caregivers to resolve conflict and improve relationships. This applies to families who are currently together or where couples have made or are working through a decision to separate and would like counselling or support to deal with family issues.
I have also trained in the Parents Under Pressure (PuP) program, which combines psychological principles relating to parenting, child behaviour and parental emotion regulation within a case management model. The program is home-based and designed for families in which there are many difficult life circumstances that impact on family functioning. Such problems may include depression and anxiety, substance misuse, family conflict and severe financial stress. The program is highly individualised to suit each family. Parents are given their own Parent Workbook. For many parents, this becomes a personal journal of their treatment experience.
The overarching aim of the PuP program is to help parents facing adversity develop positive and secure relationships with their children. Within this strength-based approach, the family environment becomes more nurturing and less conflictual and both parents and children learn to self-regulate their behaviour.
Group therapy is a form of psychosocial treatment where a small group of people meet regularly to talk, interact, and discuss problems with each other and the group leader (therapist). Group therapy aims to give individuals a safe and comfortable place where they can work out problems and emotional issues. Participants gain insight into their own thoughts and behaviour, and offer suggestions and support to others. In addition, individuals who have a difficult time with interpersonal relationships can benefit from the social interactions that are a basic part of the group therapy experience.
Some groups also have a structured psychoeducational element, such as a PTSD Group, and may also include the use of creative therapies – particularly art. Creative arts therapies are based on the premise that when someone works creatively under the guidance of a qualified therapist, they become more expressive and communicative. This raises their awareness of issues and brings impetus for change.
Forensic Psychological Assessment
Forensic psychologists are scientist-practitioners. They apply psychological knowledge, theory and skills to the understanding and functioning of legal and criminal justice systems, and to conducting research in relevant areas. They often work in criminal, civil and family legal contexts and provide services for litigants, perpetrators, victims, and personnel of government and community organisations.
My skills and competencies as a Forensic Psychologist include:
Collecting and reporting (both in written reports and oral) evidence of a psychological nature for use in legal and quasi-legal proceedings.
Psychological assessment and report writing.
Psychological formulation and diagnosis.
Psychological intervention (psychoeducation; individual, group and family psychotherapies; rehabilitation).
Psychological Assessment refers to the battery of tests administered to evaluate your intellectual, learning, emotional and/or behavioural functioning. The test battery varies depending upon the referral question(s), and can include a structured interview, assessment of intellectual capability, learning/processing measures, measures of attention and memory, academic achievement measures, projective measures, self-report surveys, parent and third party checklists, and possibly in vivo observations.
A Forensic Psychological Assessment may be requested by the courts or legal representatives and will often be used in legal, including Family Law matters.
Through the use of sandplay, the client is given the possibility, by means of figures and other ‘symbols’, to set up a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form and a pictorial world is created.
Sandplay therapy establishes a safe and protected space, where the complexities of the inner world are explored and integrated into the psyche for emotional healing. Clients place miniature figurines in a small sandbox to express confusing feelings and inner experiences.
Sandplay is not just for children, although when the technique was first developed it was children who lead the way with Sandtray. For many adults who have suffered trauma at some point in their lives, sandplay can help to work through issues in a safe and protected space.
EMDR Therapy and Other trauma-focused therapies
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The theory behind the treatment assumes that when a traumatic or distressing experience occurs, it may overwhelm normal coping mechanisms, with the memory and associated stimuli being inadequately processed and stored in an isolated memory network. It is hypothesized that the processes involved in treatment, particularly the use of bilateral stimulation, facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. The brain's information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound ‘festers’ and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
Other trauma-focused therapies-Narrative exposure therapy (NET) is a recently developed, short-term treatment for clients with a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of multiple trauma. NET can be applied very successfully with complex trauma complaints. An important feature of NET is that trauma processing is never an isolated event but is always embedded in the context of a traumatic event and in the life history as a whole. Therefore, at the start of therapy, the lifeline is laid, using a string laid out on the floor, with flowers (happy events), stones (traumatic events), sometimes candles (grief), or recently also sticks for aggressive acts. These symbols are laid down along the rope, in chronological order. In subsequent therapy sessions, the lifeline is processed in chronological order, giving attention to all the important events a person has experienced in his or her life, both the adverse as well as the pleasurable ones. This process promotes understanding and healing.