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"Protect" them or let them run wild?

by Jennifer Wright Clinical Psychologist

I am often asked why young adults these days seem to suffer from so much anxiety. Seemingly happy, well-adjusted young men and women present to my clinic puzzled by the fact that they experience regular to intermittent symptoms of panic and anxiety. 

I usually say that I am not sure why there seems to be so such a glut of debilitating symptoms of anxiety amongst young people, except that perhaps we are better able to diagnose it. 

However, another reason could be that we have over-protected our children to the point where they did not learn to titrate their symptoms of fear when they were younger.

An article entitled Running Wild, by Melanie Thernstrom, in the December 3/4 edition of The Weekend Australian Magazine says:

“All mammals engage in dangerous play,” Gray told me. “Dangerous play is how kids learn how to titrate fear. Not everyone has to learn quadratic equations” — which, he points out, most people forget the minute they leave school anyway — “but at some point in our lives, we will all be in stressful situations and we need to be able to keep our cool. Sometimes there are accidents,” he added, “kid goats fall off cliffs while playing, or whatever, but they’re rare. If the instinct wasn’t of evolutionary benefit, the behaviour would have been rooted out.”

The implication is that children need to be exposed to dangerous situations so they can practice the skills they need to survive – without helicopter parents helping them.

This is a big call. As the author says: “Mother goats don’t die of heartbreak the way we do.” But I also understand that learning how to manage anxiety is an important part of childhood – and in some ways you just can’t do it when an adult is watching.

When I was in primary school my friends and I would walk above the (seemingly) raging Avon River on a very narrow ledge under a railway bridge. Had our parents known they would have definitely had a panic attack – and I almost have a panic attack now, thinking about what we did. But I also remember the intense concentration required, along with the wonderful feeling of success upon reaching the other side unscathed. None of us ever fell, thank goodness. But we certainly learnt to develop nerves of steel.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/mike-lanzas-verion-of-a-playful-childhood/news-story/e23cdd460c400670988bee6dfd9f9f86

Pantries, hypnosis and the art of the possible

Amber Cunningham ponders hypnosis and the art of the possible with psychologist Kalí Alfaro.

Listening to Kalí Alfaro speak about how she practices hypnotherapy is like listening to a really organised person speak about how easy it is to be… really organised. It's as though a couple of hours spent labelling and rearranging, say, a chaotic pantry, is as easy as showing up with a bucket and a pair of rubber gloves and getting stuck in. While my chaotic pantry does indeed cause me grief (only when I open the doors), so does a bunch of other murkier stuff. To stick with the kitchen metaphor, it’s like the turmeric exploded and got all over everything else. If the pantry isn’t your turf, think shed, think exploded bag of sawdust.

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Parenting with more confidence

Circle of Security

By Maureen Ives   Child and Adult Counsellor (RN, BSW, AMHSW)

We are not born with a manual on parenting. At times parenting our children can be overwhelming. We look for solutions in many different places, which can be more confusing than reassuring. The Circle of Security program gives parents evidence-based information and strategies on how to give secure parenting. American Psychologists, Hoffman et al, 2009,  worked with extremely challenging families and designed a program that is easily understood and easy to follow. Parents who have attended this program have reported that their parenting and the relationship with their child has significantly improved. They became more confident and their child’s behaviour became much better. The program offers clinicians and parents a simple map, which supports parents on day-to-day parenting, including the tough times.  According to research the long-term benefits to a child who has a secure relationship with parents include improved relationships with peers, siblings and parents and better educational outcomes.

Parents living in many countries have embraced the Circle of Security program because the concepts are easy to understand and it offers positive outcomes for both parents and their children.  

Below is an example of an easy to remember Circle of Security catchphrase for parents:

Always be:  BIGGER, STRONGER, WISER, and KIND

Whenever possible:  FOLLOW MY CHILD'S NEEDS

Whenever necessary:  TAKE CHARGE

Many parents find this so simple and easy to remember which helps them to stay focused on providing secure parenting.  They use this tool as a guide to reflect when “not so good” parenting has occurred. 

 Circle of Security helps parents to understand how important it is to be available to their children when they are having fun and when they are not having fun and be able to support them with their positive and negative emotions. Circle of Security calls this “Being With”.

The program helps parents identify their child’s cues and miscues and why this is important. If we miscue our child we may miss something important. If we learn what our child’s cues are, we can respond to them appropriately.

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Eating Disorders

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

Eating disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. There are number of different disorders which can significantly impact on people’s lives. These include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and Obesity. The reasons for the development of such problems are complex and include societal factors, such as idealised and unrealistic body images, equating thinness with success, and desirability, and the promotion of fad diets. Other contributing factors can include family beliefs and behaviours towards food, personality factors, perfectionistic and rigid beliefs, stressful events, and family difficulties.

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Anxiety Disorders

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common psychological problems, affecting up to 25% of the population at some point in their lifetime. Most anxiety disorders do not tend to go away on their own if left untreated. They tend to stay the same or get worse over time, with an increasing impact on people’s quality of life, work and relationships. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. The most common are Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobias, Acute and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

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Depression

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

A major depressive episode is a very confusing and debilitating illness, which can leave previously high functioning people floundering on the couch, feeling totally inadequate and unable to complete simple tasks.

Depression has been described as the common cold of mental disorders, and most people will be affected by the illness directly or indirectly. Depression and its diagnosis is very confusing - what is depression exactly and what makes it different from feeling low for a few days?

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Relationship Changes After Birth

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

The birth of your first child will bring changes to every aspect of your life. One of the most challenging may be the impact it has on your relationship with your partner. It can present enormous changes, as you will need to negotiate differences that may have not arisen prior. Some of these many include:

Finances: Many couple are used to each earning money and having control over how and what they spend their money on. For some couple this may be the first time they have done joint finances and the person no earning (typically the woman for at least some period) may find it difficult to have to ask for money or feel she has to justify what she is spending.

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Stress

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

Individuals have different tolerance levels for stress, but most of us know when we are going through a stressful period. Our muscles become tense, our hearts beat faster and our palms can feel sweaty. Emotionally, we might feel intolerant, irritable and unpredictable. The effects of stress are evident in our physical reactions, our emotions and our behaviours. Stress is created by the way we see the world (internal sources of stress), and the stressful events in our lives (external sources of stress).

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Bipolar Disorder

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

Bipolar Disorder can be difficult to diagnose. Some sufferers struggle with unpredictable mood swings for years before they receive appropriate treatment. They find everyday situations difficult to confront because of their internal emotional havoc, and they don't understand why life seems so hard. People with Bipolar Disorder can be very high functioning, but their bouts of debilitating depression and occasional manic episodes confound their lives.

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Grief and Loss

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

Intense emotional reactions are common in the first few weeks following a bereavement and can include shock, disbelief, crying, anger, guilt, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in activities and social contact. Everyone varies in how they grieve. Many people may want to talk a lot about their feelings and others may want to grieve more privately. For most people the frequency and intensity of these symptoms will decrease within a couple of months however, it can be a prolonged process.

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Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Trish Hart, Clinical Psychologist

The essence of psychodynamic psychotherapy is exploring those aspects of the self that are not fully known (that are the psychological roots of emotional suffering) and bringing them into consciousness. This requires self-reflection, self-exploration and self-discovery which takes place in the context of a safe and deeply authentic relationship between therapist and patient. All of this material provides a rich source of information about how a person views themselves and others, interprets and makes sense of experience, or interferes with the potential capacity to find greater enjoyment and meaning in life. The goal is not just symptom remission, but to foster positive psychological capacities and resources.

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Social Engagement - A Pathway to Relaxation

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

My clients wonder why, in some situations, they behave like calm, loving, enlightened human beings towards their partners, and at other times, they scream and shout at the person they love, surprising even themselves.

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Mindfulness - A Stress Management Strategy

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originated in Eastern meditation practices, where attention is brought to the present moment. Mindfulness can occur whether you are sitting in meditation, washing the dishes, watching television, or running a marathon. It is the opposite of mindlessness, where you feel out of touch with yourself and your mind is elsewhere.

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

ACT is a new type of cognitive behaviour therapy. It teaches clients to accept thoughts and feelings with compassion and develop new ways of relating to them rather than struggling with or trying to avoid them as this usually unworkable and leads people to restrict their lives. This enables them to instead focus on what really matters in their lives, what they want their life to stand for and take action towards achieving these valued life goals and living a full, rich and meaningful life.

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What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

Janelle Stanbury, Clinical Psychologist

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidence–based treatment approach developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for people who have emotions they are unable to manage in constructive ways. People who have difficulty in regulating emotions typically suffer with intense and painful emotions from which they may feel there is no escape. They may also experience quick shifts from one emotion to another and may feel like emotions are controlling their life.

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Coping With Trauma

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

At times in people lives they may experience an event that we would describe as traumatic this is usually an event that involves serious injury or threat to life. It may include an assault, sexual or physical abuse, car or work accident, natural disaster, being a victim of torture or war, a serious medical illness or operation (including labour). It can also include witnessing such events. Some people may also have experienced trauma in childhood that they may never have disclosed that may be re-activated or exacerbated by another traumatic event later in their lives.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make an appointment?

Call our office on 08 93866020 during office hours, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Sometimes we are unable to answer the telephone, but you are welcome to leave a message on our confidential answering service, and we will respond as soon as possible.

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The Bear is in Your Head

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

Anxiety and the Fight/Flight Model

In primitive days, the biggest stressors we had in our lives were physical dangers such as enemies from other tribes, snakes, lions, and bears. We are biologically adapted to manage these physical dangers generally by running from them, or fighting them.

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Useful Resources

Therapists at Chelsea Psychology are often asked to recommend authors, books and websites. Below are some of the resources we have found most helpful. Articles in our Library were written with the guidance of some of these authors, books and links.

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Hakomi Psychotherapy

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist and Certified Hakomi Therapist

Hakomi is a form of body-centred psychotherapy which focuses on using mindfulness to enable positive and lasting changes in the client. The basis of the relationship between the client and the therapist in Hakomi is based on loving presence which hopefully will lead to mutual trust and respect, creating a space where deep emotional work and consequent changes in core beliefs can occur. Hakomi is also called assisted self-study, where the client is seen as the expert of their own processes. The therapist is there to support the client in accessing material which may have been repressed, and help the client to better understand his or her behaviour and become more loving to the self.

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Postnatal Depression and Anxiety

Julie Watts, Clinical Psychologist

Although becoming pregnant and giving birth are amazing experiences women it is also an enormous time of transition which impacts on every aspect of your life. For some it can be a time when they experience symptoms of depression and / or anxiety that can significantly interfere with the enjoyment of this time. Estimates of depression and anxiety vary depending on the assessment used, overall about 9% will have depression in pregnancy and about 15% postnatally. Rates of anxiety have been found to be about 20% with 2/3 of those also having depression.

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Older Adults and Psychology

It is never too late in life to obtain assistance for psychological / mental health problems that you are unable to sort out by yourself or with friends or loved ones.

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The ups and downs of FIFO

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

The ups and downs of fly in, fly-out (FiFo)
(Also known as drive-in, drive-out (DiDo) and bus-in, bus-out (BiBo)

What are the stressors and health implications for travelling shift workers?

In Western Australia, we hear a lot about the Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) lifestyle, where people are required to travel to their jobs and live for extended periods of time on site during rostered work time. FIFO contracts require employees to live and work away from their family and friends, and return to a location of choice when off duty.

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Changing Bad Habits

Jennifer Wright, Clinical Psychologist

Habits are a choice, no matter how addicted to them you might feel. You may well be addicted to staying in bed on a cold winter morning, but would prefer to stay healthy, so you rise at 5.30 and go to your yoga class. Your preference for health and fitness is stronger than your need for warmth and comfort.

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