The aim of this site is to provide psychoeducation through a growing network of Doctors, Psychologists, Allied Health Professionals, and Inspiring Individuals who share a passion in raising more awareness and knowledge in the community as well as the health profession about Mind Health and General Wellbeing, and through a collaborative approach, a better outcome can hopefully be achieved. It is site for "everyone" and purely for the purpose of education and NOT as a replacement for therapy.
I first came to know about free writing as an undergraduate psychology student. Having read the fascinating works of Professor James Pennebaker and his colleagues about how free writing worked to alleviate emotional distress even amongst those who have been traumatized. However, it was only recently, after having attended an Art Therapy 101 course that I started to experience the impact of free writing for myself in my life.
We were introduced in the art therapy course to an Artist and creativity trainer called Julia Cameron and in her book, one of the fundamental exercises to liberate our minds and get out of the way of our own innate creativity was something she called “morning pages” – essentially free writing about everything and anything that pops up in our mindscape.
The instructions are stunningly simple:
1. Write about whatever comes to mind, or if there is an issue that is bugging you, write about that. Write freely without censoring yourself, without care for grammar, spelling or punctuation. The aim is to capture verbatim whatever is happening in your mind as it occurs moment-to-moment.
2. It is important to have a limit to prevent the emotions that come from writing to overwhelm you. Write for either a fixed time (e.g., 20 mins) or a fixed number of pages (e.g., 3 pages). This also helps to train our minds to become disciplined and express emotions and thoughts in a paradoxically structured-yet-free manner.
And so I committed to trying free writing every morning a week after the end of the art therapy class. The writing was at first difficult, because I felt a strong reluctance to write and my mind appeared to be blank whenever I turned my attention to it. So I wrote freely about the reluctance and the blankness. Then issues that had been bugging me for some years started to surface and I wrote about them freely, allowing my mind to remember whatever it remembered, allowing my body to feel what it felt as I wrote.
Initially it just felt cathartic and liberating to write freely without censoring myself, but as I wrote, I started to experience emotional shifts. New insights about old issues arose, new memories or neglected memories arose and changes in perspective occurred. Sometimes the issues started to loop and I felt that there was no way out and as I pressed on with the writing, new ideas about what to do came forth. Some days the writing was energetic and invigorating and my fingers felt that they could not type fast enough to capture my experiences. Other days, writing was wrought with lethargy and nothing of note came up. Still I persisted in writing freely.
After a few months, I started to notice significant transformations in my personality – I was more relaxed with others and with myself. I was a lot more open with others and with myself. My emotions no longer summoned a knee-jerk reaction and the initially unclear emotional senses that I sometimes got became clearer quicker. Most importantly for me, the old emotional baggages and issues started to resolve and the nagging feeling in the middle of my chest dissolved and there was a sense of freedom. Occasionally, as I wrote on, there was a sense of mindful detachment and a sense of spiritual transcendence away from the self (Now, I’m not saying that I’m enlightened in anyway!). In short, many new experiences and many new transformations occurred for me from the persistent free writing.
For me, ultimately, free writing became (and still is) therapy for myself by myself and it is also an act of self compassion because I am making space and time deliberate for me to be me. Give this a try but not the caveat! If you have been traumatized before or if you are easily overwhelmed by your emotions, DO NOT try this exercise without support from a psychologist.
A big part of counselling is to help people to accept them for who they are and to live life true to who they are. Live life authentically so to speak.
The problem is, many don't really know who they are and their core values. They may take on their parents' values or their peer's values or influenced my Hollywood and media. A big part of counseling in my opinion is to define that for people.
In counselling, we help people to define their values about work, about family, kids, parents, siblings, friends, and community. Then we help them to use it as their "inner compass" and live life authentically.
This is partly a principle of ACT... Acceptance Commitment Therapy.
Being a parent is probably the most important role your life. It is frequently a time of great joy, love, wonder and gratitude. From the images you would have seen and books you may have read, it certainly seems like these emotions are the ones that will be most prominent.
However it is also common to feel other emotions that perhaps you may think you are not supposed to feel.
Feeling down, sad, depressed, guilty, overwhelmed or anxious are also very common for parents.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that is vital in protecting us from danger. When we perceive a threat our body reacts with physiological changes including the release of large amounts of adrenaline and an increased heart and breathing rate. These changes prepare the body to fight or take flight from the threat. If you think about how fragile and defenceless a child is, then it makes perfect survival sense for the mother to be constantly on the alert for threats to its wellbeing.
Our brains are still wired like this to detect bears and tigers that may harm our children, or poisons in the environment that may make them ill. You may feel restless, fidgety and constantly on edge. Your sleep and appetite may be affected. You may find yourself constantly thinking ahead to plan and organise to shield off any potential problems. You may constantly look for the perfect response to every situation. So many “what if” and potentially catastrophic scenarios run through your mind that you may not be able to make any decisions at all. You may feel guilty and your mind may tell you that you are not a good mum, that you should know what to do, that everyone else except you can handle the situation.
You may respond to these emotions in a way that makes the problem get bigger rather than smaller, such as withdrawing from your family and friends, stop doing the things that normally give you pleasure, work harder in setting rules and schedules in order to get a sense that you can control the danger.
These strategies work well when there is a tiger outside about to eat your child. But when the source of danger is diffuse and cannot be eliminated, such as worrying thoughts, these strategies actually teach you that you need to worry harder and exert more routine and control. And the potential sources of worry are endless, so a vicious cycle is set up. Reading multiple parenting books and websites can often increase the doubts that perhaps you are not doing things right and that you need to work harder.
This is not because you are in any way abnormal. This is just how your brain, and most of our brains, work. For a combination of reasons that may include your usual thinking style, the ways of coping you have observed around you, past experiences, your current situation, responses of others, and the temperament of your child, you have inadvertently found yourself in this vicious cycle.
ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is a modern form of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) that is very effective for anxiety.
ACT helps you to become aware of your anxious thoughts and emotions, not as automatic cues of danger but as events occurring in your mind and body. In that way you don’t have to automatically react to your thoughts and emotions, but be able to step back from them and see them for what they are. This frees you up to act in a way that is more in keeping with how you want to be as a parent and as a person. It allows you to experience your unique child as he or she really is from moment to moment, a concept known as mindfulness. In this way you can notice all the subtle cues that your child uses to communicate. This more than any set rules or routine, forms the basis of the sort of interaction and care that will allow you and your child to thrive together.
An added benefit is that you can apply this to all other areas of your life on an ongoing basis. So ACT is so much more than a treatment for depression or anxiety. You gain a whole set of skills that help you to live a richer and more vital life, and can dip into this tool box time and time again throughout your life.
Dr Nga Tran
Consultant Psychiatrist/ACT Therapist Brisbane ACT Centre
7 Marie Street, Milton 4064
Ph 3193 1072, Fax 3193 1073
Giving our children unconditional love is one thing, and making sure that they perceive it as unconditional love is another.
Giving our children unconditional love is so important as it will teach our children that they are significant no matter what. Once they have a stable and strong sense of "significance" or self, they will then have a good foundation from which to build strong relationships with self and others, and succeed better at life.
One of the books that I often recommend is the 5 love languages. Essentially, it is the "language of connection". If you want to "connect" with someone and build a good foundation for your relationship, you need to do the following....
1 Spending quality time with each other 2 Acts of service ie doing things for each other 3 Physical touch ie hugging, kissing or holding hands 4 Word of affirmation ie telling how much you appreciate each other or praising your partner 5 Gift giving ie to buy gifts for them
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers and to your families. We thank you for your support in 2014 and hope that life will bring you much joy and happiness. We look forward to sharing more ideas with you in 2015!
Chronic pain can have a significant impact on both our physical and emotional well being.
My simple approach to treating chronic pain is as follows...
Treat the cause if you can eg a severe bulging disc with severe nerve impingement.
Treat the pain with non pharmacological methods such as heat, ice, TENS, improving core muscles, massage and physiotherapy.
Treat the pain with pharmacological methods with analgesics such as heat rub, capsicum spray, anti-inflamatory gels, panadol, anti-inflamatories and less ideally narcotics and possibly steroid injection into an inflamed tissue.
Increase the threshold to pain by improving mood, treating depression and anxiety and improving coping skills.
Chronic pain is not easy to treat and often require a multidisciplinary approach. Ask your Doctor about whether you are eligible for a Care Plan and possibly a Team Care Arrangement to access up to 5 Medicare subsidised visits to an Allied Health Professional such as a Physiotherapist.