Media

So, you’re going through a difficult time, things are getting on top of you, and you’ve decided to get professional help from a psychologist.

Good on you! It takes enormous courage to reach out and you’ve just taken the first step. Where do you go from here though? Do you know how to access a psychologist? Do you have an idea of what type of psychologist is suited to you?

A visit to your GP is a good place to start. They will talk it through with you, while assessing your eligibility for a Mental Health Plan (MHP), and the Medicare rebate, which can reduce the expense.

Your GP will also be able to provide you with a list of Registered psychologists to contact.

Let me start by saying, a registered psychologist is a qualified one, and this should be your minimum requirement. Once you’ve determined their qualifications, the next step is to find the right ‘fit’. This can vary from one person to the next and is about personal choice.  Finding your best fit psychologist  can feel a little daunting though, so here’s a few things to consider in your search.

Logistics

Location, accessibility, cost, etc., are all relevant. For face-to-face sessions, consider distance, ease of access, parking etc. Some psychologists offer virtual sessions, and if this is your preference, consider privacy, internet reliability, and the best time of day when you can fully engage. What’s important to remember is that visits to your psychologist shouldn’t feel like a burden or an additional pressure.

Specialty

Think about what you want help with. Are you looking for someone who specialises in relationships, anxiety, workplace stress, trauma, gender-related issues, or something else? Consider what you want to talk about and what you want to change, then narrow the search to those who specialise in that area.

Demographic

Would you feel more comfortable talking to a female or male psychologist? Yes, you can factor in gender, age, culture, and religion, etc. when choosing a psychologist. This is not discrimination. Similar backgrounds and experiences can support understanding and relatability, which will assist in the therapeutic relationship. Decide what demographics (if any) are important to you and go with your preference where possible.

Delivery

Psychologists often have different delivery styles. Some are more structured, planning 3 months in advance, while others take a session-by-session approach depending on the clients’ progress. Neither is better or worse, but simply based on what the clients wants and needs are. Communication styles also vary across psychologists, this means language, mannerisms, tone, etc. Go with the style you’re most comfortable engaging with, as this will support open conversations.

Give it a go

Once you’ve narrowed your search down, where possible try a few out. We test-drive cars before committing to one, do the same when looking for a psychologist. Some psychologists offer an initial phone call prior to booking the first session, it doesn’t hurt to ask if this is an option.

In and after your first session

Successful counselling requires openness, honesty, and a willingness to be vulnerable, so it’s essential that you feel at ease with your psychologist. When and after you meet with them ask yourself:

  • Do I feel heard?
  • Do I feel understood?
  • Do I feel hopeful that positive change can occur?
  • Do I like them?

Sometimes it’s necessary to meet a couple of times to see if you’re a good match. But if after 2-3 sessions if you’re not finding it helpful, either talk to your psychologist about it or move on.

Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your ‘best fit’ straight away, this is not uncommon. If your sessions are not benefitting you, give up the psychologist, not the process.

Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error but when you find the one that’s right for you dive in headfirst.

Stress is your body’s fight or flight reaction and it kicks in when you believe life’s demands outweigh your ability to cope. And when it continues to build, ‘distressing’ can get tricky.

Kim Cullen spoke to The House of Wellness about common triggers and how to deal with them.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, stories emerge of the bravery demonstrated by citizens who are choosing to fight back. From a safe distance, we see civilians collectively take up arms, individuals who stand in front of tanks and one determined Ukraine women offering sunflower seeds to a Russian soldier, stating “so flowers will grow when you die”.

Kim Cullen aims to understand where this courage comes from and why it’s so much more than simply a ‘fight or flight’ response.

So many people think they manage their stress well, but Kim Cullen believes that most people actually contain it. Stress often accumulates over the year and a lot of us hold that stress at bay until we are on holidays. Then we add Christmas into the mix and it adds even more pressure; it’s got to be special, everyone has to get along, the meal has to be perfect.

Kim recommends creating a ‘stress toolkit’ to help release stress before it accumulates. Personally, she has a few things that she can do in under 15 minutes to release her stress daily. It can be as simple as sitting outside with your favourite cup of tea and people watching.

Everything feels worse on Christmas. If the chicken gets burnt at any regular family dinner, it’s okay, so apply the same thinking at Christmas.

It’s a common theme for working mothers; struggling to be present for work but also function as a parent. Psychologist, Kim Cullen, has experienced doing just that.

Working mothers are role modelling – to their daughters in particular – on how they can manage their future lives as a working mother.

“I would say this to males or females…work out what you’re good at, what motivates you, and what’s meaningful to you, and dedicate your time to building strengths and set goals in support of that.”

“What we are shooting for is balance between work and the home. When you’re at work, engage in work, and engage in it well. When you’re at home, engage in home, and engage with your kids well. It’s about being present where you are at any given time.”

“Daughters [of working mothers] go onto have more equality in their relationships, they have higher pay packets and they move into more leadership roles. For our sons of working mothers; they also have more equality in their relationships and are more open to having female leaders. It’s really important to make sure that we are presenting as capable – because of the strengths that we have – not capable compared to what gender does it better. Comparisons rarely service well.”