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Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 05:24:39 +0000


The more things change...

Tue, 23 Jul 2013 11:25:00 +0000

Been away so long, seems like everything has changed. A hacking of my gmail account drew me back to this blog...I'm in the final write up of my PhD and will be back after this, although I may relocate the blog elsewhere. Watch this space.

New Thinking in Illness Study

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 04:31:00 +0000

This study looks at how the way that we tend to think a lot about certain things might influence our thoughts and behaviours that relate to acute illness, represented by cancer, and chronic illness, represented by diabetes. Increasing our understanding of how people think in response to illness may help identify individuals who may experience difficulties in adjusting to illness and also guide us in developing ways to help you overcome these difficulties.

To participate in this study, you need to be aged 18 or over and have been diagnosed with any of the following: Type I or Type 2 diabetes, breast, colorectal, gynaecological, prostate or skin cancer.

If you'd like to find out more about the study, please visit Thinking Style in Illness

NEWSFLASH!!! Now open to international participants.

Direct Current Stumulation Study

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 04:28:00 +0000


Associate Professor Colleen Loo (UNSW / Black Dog Institute)


School of Psychiatry, UNSW; Black Dog Institute, Randwick NSW


Researchers are investigating direct current stimulation (DCS) as a treatment for depression and potential alternative to medication and other brain stimulation techniques such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Very weak currents are used to stimulate the brain. The stimulation is painless with no known serious side effects, and the person is fully awake and alert during the treatment sessions. Participants will be required to attend the Black Dog Institute from Monday to Friday for 4 to 8 weeks usually for 45 minutes per visit.

Participants required:

Participants must be at least 18 years old and experiencing feelings of depression for at least 4 weeks prior to study entry.


If you would like more information or are interested in participating, please call Angelo Alonzo on (02) 9382 3720 or Donel Martin on (02) 9382 9261 or email


Sat, 07 May 2011 06:09:00 +0000

Life keeps getting in the way of this blog. So far this year, I have broken three front teeth in a bad encounter with some Scottish shortbread, been hit in the chest by a tree felled by Practical Man (he's NOT a lumberjack and he's definitely not okay!) and now this week put my car out of action by taking out the front of it while reversing down my driveway. No, it doesn't make sense...but I have a very steep driveway, my car slid in the rain on to a wall and then when I tried to get it off the wall, crrunch.

Add to that PhD deadlines, other exams and my mother, in the UK, being diagnosed with dementia, I'm kind of thinking I'd like to rewind this year and start again!

As I am always saying, back soon.

So long Spud

Thu, 14 Apr 2011 02:21:00 +0000

There was talk in the media last week about a study that showed women care more about their dogs than they do their partners. Of course, it wasn't a serious study, just a survey of pet owners, see here if you're interested to read more. I thought how threatened must PracticalMan be living in a house of three dogs?

Well, today that number shrunk to two as we made the difficult decision to put our beloved golden retriever Spud (noble sounding name I know) to sleep. At the grand old age of nearly 15, and we'd hoped he would make it, Spud suddenly deteriorated overnight. As hard a decision as it was to make, it' was obvious that there was no alternative if we wanted to spare him any suffering.

The Dish (daughter, for new readers) is devastated. Spud had been there every minute of her life. Lifelong friends, they've shared many happy moments together. Spud made me feel safe when PracticalMan was away even though he'd have made any intruder his new best friend. At our previous house, Spud was very smart at finding new ways to escape the back yard but it was never hard to find him. We knew we'd find him at the local shops, curled up under a cafe table, gladly receiving any titbits anyone cared to throw his way. Being such a gorgeous looking dog, he got plenty.

So long dear friend.

Spud, gone walkies.

Hey, good looking!

Tue, 12 Apr 2011 06:18:00 +0000

PracticalMan takes it in his stride when I eye up French chef Manu Feildel. In fact, he finds it rather funny  (and occasionally beneficial) that I have developed a sudden interest in French cooking. Similarly, I don' t blink an eyelid when he rushes to watch anything involving former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, although there's no apparent benefit for me there. 'Chacun a son gout ' as Manu would say in his gorgeous French accent. Let's face it, he could be saying 'Your drains need cleaning' and it would still sound fabulous.

Well, it seems we may be on to something according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  While you might reasonably expect that a wandering eye would be detrimental to a relationship, trying to rein in that eye might actually be more destructive to a relationship. Based on the concept of 'forbidden fruit', of wanting what you can't have,  trying to limit that wandering eye has a three fold effect in that it reduces satisfaction with and commitment to a relationship whilst increasing memory and attention for attractive relationship alternatives. So, the more I'm not allowed to indulge my newly found passion for 'French cooking' *wink wink*, the more I'm going to think about it, to want to and the more 'ticked off' I'm going to be with PracticalMan when I can't.

Important things to note about the study that may limit these findings are that (1) there was no French chef involved (2) most of the participants were undergraduates and so in early stages of relationships and (3) there was no followup to see if relationships were in fact impacted.

Of course, PracticalMan is sensible. He knows Manu is no threat and, more importantly, he knows which side his brioche is buttered.

For more on the study, see the reference below.


DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Deckman, T, & Rouby, D. A. (2011). Forbidden fruit: Inattention to attactive alternatives provokes implicit relationship reactance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 621-629.

The perils of self-disclosure

Fri, 08 Apr 2011 00:41:00 +0000

I've had a recent spare of new clients complaining to me recently about past therapists, psychologists, counselllors and their preference to talk about themselves. There was the psychologist who liked to spend the session talking about the trials and tribulations of his weekend angling trip, the counsellor who thought that discussing work place issues gave her carte blanche to talk about her own frustrations. This information was given to me early on just in case I might be feeling the same need to unburden myself and to stop me in my tracks.

Self-disclosure, the divulging of personal information about the self, presents a considerable ethical dilemma in therapy, a situation made more difficult by the internet search engines and social networking sites. Not all self-disclosure is intentional. Several clients have told me they've Googled me. I immediately went home and Googled myself. Not too much to worry about there... a few sleep-inducing research papers and not much else. I restricted access to my Facebook page, not that I have ever really bothered about using it. Sometimes self-disclosure is unavoidable. When I was out sick for a while, clients knew that about me, and I had to be extremely careful in dealing with questions about it when I returned to work.

But what about intentional self-disclosure? Used sparingly and judiciously, intentional self-disclosure can be  therapeutic, can help to build the therapeutic alliance. It's a double-edged sword, however, and careless or excessive use of disclosure can make make the client uncomfortable, burdened and transfer the focus away from client to therapist.

Similarly, how you deal with requests for self-disclosure from the client is critical. When a personal question is refused with a flat: "no", it may be destructive to the therapeutic relationship. For example, in an environment where trust is key, people might feel there's a lack of reciprocal trust. Maintaining good boundaries at all time is essential but softening that refusal by explaining how the sharing of  personal information would change the nature of the therapeutic relationship and exploring the interest further can be useful.

Client side, therapist side - what's been your experience with self-disclosure? What's helpful? What's not?

The Fun of Flying

Fri, 01 Apr 2011 08:24:00 +0000

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I've had some interesting times working with clients with a flying phobia. Luckily for me, no one  has requested in vivo exposure. While I'm not phobic, I certainly don't enjoy flying as much as I used to and the 24 hour flight home to the UK is the stuff of nightmares.

When I do go, it's via the US (slightly longer) just so that I can fly Air New Zealand. Blogpal Reality Ravings first blogged on this safety  video because it features Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) with eyebrow.

So much fun, it even makes me feel like flying.

Comment Moderation

Wed, 30 Mar 2011 23:10:00 +0000

After some inappropriate comments on very old posts were drawn to my attention, I have decided to implement comment moderation.

Hop on over to help out the kids hospital

Wed, 30 Mar 2011 02:36:00 +0000

Join the Lindt gold bunny hunt. Yes, you can win $20000 but, more importantly, Lindt are donating $1 for every sign up for the hunt to the Westmead Children's Hospital...up to a grand total of $20000 which has not been reached yet.

It's chocolate, it's bunnies...what are you waiting for?

DSM-V Subcategory Facebook Depression?

Tue, 29 Mar 2011 08:15:00 +0000

If you believe news reports today, you may be bracing yourself for a new subcategory of mood disorder 'Facebook Depression' in the upcoming DSM-V (diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders). Researchers claim that this is a possible outcome among adolescents who obsess over Facebook. Dr Gwenn O'Keeffe, the lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines points out that social comparison may play an important part in making adolescents feel they don't measure up. Comparing number of friends, reading about how others seem to be having non-stop fun, Facebook can provide a skewed version of reality.

Of course, 'Facebook Depression' is not really slated for entry in DSM-V and the validity of this study is highly questionable. It's a catchy term, it draws a lot of media attention...Google 'Facebook Depression' and you'll come up with many references. Maybe, and I don't want to be out there with this idea, people with depression just happen to use Facebook? If you want to read a really good analysis of this research, look no further than Dr. John Grohol over at PsychCentral.

I'd write one myself but according to this study, I should be severely depressed, judging from the limited number of friends (and the good times that they're having - you know who you are!) on my Facebook page.

Self-help resources

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 00:32:00 +0000

Stumbled across the Centre for Clinical Interventions this morning while looking for something else.

There's a whole series of information packs downloadable that may be of interest to both consumers and practitioners. Topics include assertiveness, low self-esteem, depression, bipolar, disordered eating, perfectionism, shyness and worry.

Earth Hour

Sat, 26 Mar 2011 09:25:00 +0000

Well, after work today, I decided to fiddle around with this blog a little. I've posted the first book of the month (early for April but hardly worth nominating a book for March!) and reinstated the 'Upcoming Events' in the side bar.

In less than half an hour, we hit Earth Hour and so it's computers off, lights out. OMG....we'll have to talk to each other!
Check out the Earth Hour website.

See you on the other side!

Book of the Month (April): Change Your Thinking

Sat, 26 Mar 2011 07:31:00 +0000

For me, this is simply one of the best self-help books I have ever read. As further testimony, nearly every person that I have lent this book to has gone out and bought their own copy.

So, what's to like?

I like that it takes the basics of cognitive behaviour therapy and applies them in dealing with a wide range of emotions such as anxiety, depression and anger. I like that it does so in such a way that is understandable to the non-therapist but without completely dumbing down concepts either. I like that it is extremely easy to read and has inbuilt exercises (with solutions). I like that, after therapy finishes, this book continues to be a practical tool for people to revisit skills learnt during therapy. I like that later people tell me 'I'm still using that book you recommended....'

Chapters include:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Recognising Faulty Thinking
Disputing Negative Cognitions
Overcoming Frustration
Managing Anger
Coping with Anxiety
Maintaining Self-Esteem
Recovery From Depression
Taking Charge
Effective Communication
Being Happy

Unfortunately, there is no preview available on Amazon.

For those lucky enough to be living in Sydney, Sarah Edelman is running a course on Changing Your Thinking over 8 sessions from the 3rd May to 21 June 2011. See here for details.

Read this book yourself? Leave a comment and share what you think of it.

Don't forget...if you've come across any good resources yourself, drop me a line.

Am I getting on your nerves?

Thu, 24 Mar 2011 03:29:00 +0000


I take it that's a 'Yes'?

Well, for a change of scene, hop on over to The Nerve Blog, a blog written and edited by Boston University undergrads that covers a scintillating range of topics including neuroscience, biology, pharmacology, computer science, psychology and philosophy. Entries range from reviews of current scientific literature to neuroscience in pop culture to opinion and commentary pieces.

A veritable neuroscience smorgasbord. Enjoy!

Good reading

Wed, 23 Mar 2011 03:13:00 +0000

Let me say upfront that I'm not going all Oprah and starting up my very own PsychoBabble book club. However, I often recommend books that I think will be a useful 'side serve' to therapy to clients and often lend items for people to look at before they choose to part with their own cash, although it sometimes backfires on me and I don't get them back! So, I'm thinking of starting a side bar item with a recommended book of the month. If you want to find out more about the particular item, you can locate the corresponding post that will be titled as per the book.

I'd be really interested to get feedback from anyone who has read any of the items that feature. More importantly, I'd love to hear some suggestions from readers of this blog as to books that they have found useful.

Of course, I hope to feature blog pal Dr. Deb's book once I get my hands on a copy.

First book will be up in a day or two.

National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence

Fri, 18 Mar 2011 05:06:00 +0000

Today is the first in Australia's new annual community campaign to address bullying and the focus for this year is bystander behaviour.

What does that mean?

It might seem like bullying concerns only the individual under attack but bullying involves us all. Bullying negatively impacts on everyone's environment, standing by and doing nothing effectively makes us bullies by association. We all have a role to play in ending bullying, a role that is more important than ever now that bullying can reach right into the victim's home via SMS, email and Facebook.

While much of the focus is on bullying at school, let's not forget that workplace bullying is also on the increase. A fact that is reflected in the number of clients with workplace bullying issues that I have seen in the past year. For a reminder on workplace bullying, see my earlier post.


Bullying? No Way! web site created by Australian educational communities
Parent tool kits and videos with leading child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg
Managing bullying at work, APS article
Workplace bullying, APS article

Great expectations

Tue, 15 Mar 2011 23:03:00 +0000

I've had several opportunities to think about expectations recently.There are the clients who, at the start of therapy, are insistent on a strategy that will magically and, more importantly, immediately transform their lives. There are the clients who have started medication and are disappointed to find that, although they may feel a little better, their troubles have not completely resolved or that the medications come with their own costs. Then there's me. I'm not immune from having my own set of high expectations either. As someone with chronic illness that sometimes throws up odd and unpleasant symptoms, I'm guilty too of wanting my doctors to fix it right now.It would be nice if we could all get our wishes met....if I had that magic wand that I could wave at my clients and their life would magically be transformed.....if I could wave it at myself and suddenly become a bastion of great health.It's not realistic though and one of the hardest things, particularly in starting therapy, can be to work through acceptance of the fact that change requires time and often considerable effort. Managing expectations in this respect early on is critical to successful therapy.Expectations come into play later too. Often people expect a straight line trajectory to recovery. Once people start to see an improvement, and this can be valid both in relation to physical disorders and in the management of health conditions, the general expectation is that recovery will simply continue. Yet it is quite common, in both situations, for progress sometimes to go backwards.This can be quite devastating and often underestimated by physical and mental health practitioners and even by those who love and support us. The thing is, when this happens, it can be be hard to remember the progress made since the onset of our difficulties. In some ways, a step backwards can be more difficult to cope with that the original onset of our problems.In terms of psychological disorders, relapse can be quite common and part of building people's resilience must involve the management of expectations in this respect and the provision of strategies to recognise when this is occurring so that remedial action can be taken early on.I always draw a distinction between lapse, a return to some of the behaviours seen in at the onset of a condition suchas hypersomnia, and relapse, a return to most or all of pre-treatment behaviours. A lapse is what will more typically be seen and, if picked up, can allow the implementation of a pre-planned strategy to prevent things from getting worse.An important thing to do is to kearn to recognise and act on early warning symptoms which will vary by disorder and by individual. When things appear to be going a little pear-shaped, it can be easy to dismiss their importance and to start to avoid certain situations that draw our attention to the fact that problems are beginning to reoccur. For these reasons, and because sometimes the road to lapse/relapse can be subtle, others can sometimes help us to pick up on a lapse earlier. It can be helpful to have someone who can be trusted aware of early warning signs with permission to draw it to our attention if they notice two or more symptoms. Trusted, however, is a word that cannot be stressed enough.For ourselves, it is important to avoid any tendency towards 'all or nothing' or 'overgeneralisation' thinking....that the return of one symptom means our condition is fully returned or that because we're not functioning so well in one area, all the gains we may have made in other areas are lost. Recognising these thought patterns and challeng[...]


Mon, 14 Mar 2011 07:49:00 +0000

......something sensible written about Charlie Sheen.


Sat, 12 Mar 2011 05:31:00 +0000

(image) It was only recently, in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, the Queensland floods and cyclone, the Victorian floods and the WA bushfires, that I posted on the disaster resources made available by the Australian Psychological Society.

Now, there is the terrible news of the earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan.

Quite simply heartbreaking. What's heartening is the mobilisation of so many nations around the world to extend help. My thoughts are with those affected and with those that will be involved in the search and recovery missions.

A word of caution

Sat, 12 Mar 2011 05:08:00 +0000

Most of us are iPhone, iPad or iPod users, most of us will have an account with iTunes.

I had my iTunes account hacked this week, with downloads of games neither I or anyone else in the family has ever heard of.

Make sure you keep track of what is downloaded on your account because Apple's response was less than helpful, particularly given that Apple request a debit/credit card to use iTunes. Their suggestion? We take the matter to the local authorities. Like they don't have bigger things to worry about.

A little bird told me.....

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 03:30:00 +0000

A little bird told me about blueboard, an online support group for people with depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder and their carers. The aim is to provide support and opportunities for people to share coping strategies.

Note that the board is moderated with strict protocols to enhance safety and participation in free and anonymous.

Rare Disease Day

Sun, 27 Feb 2011 23:31:00 +0000

Today is Rare Disease Day, an awareness initiative for those with rare diseases coordinated world-wide by Eurordis, a non-governmental, patient-driven alliance of patient organisations representing more than 434 rare disease patient organisations in over 43 countries.

From the press release:

'Rare diseases are life-threatening or chronically debilitating diseases. Due to the low prevalence of each disease, medical experts are rate, knowledge is scarce, care offering inadequate and research limited. Very few cures exist. While the diseases are rare, collectively they affect more than 60 million people in Europe and the US alone. Despite their great overall number, rare diseases patients are the orphans of health systems, often denied diagnosis, treatment and the benefits of research.'

The focus this year will be on the health inequalities faced by many rare disease patients.

"Most rare disease patients spend years wandering through the maze
of health systems to find an accurate diagnosis. Many are fighting to
obtain life-saving treatments or to be reimbursed by their health
authorities. Others are denied access to services and to disability
compensations. They have further difficulties finding a job, getting
into school, obtaining a loan or accessing life insurance."

How can you help?

Get involved by bringing this day to attention.

Visit the Rare Disease Day website.

Have a rare disease yourself? Consider sharing your story.

Sun, 27 Feb 2011 22:06:00 +0000

News comes this morning that child care centres in Queensland are following a lead from the UK and banning 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' for its racist overtones.

Is the world going crazy? Should we be teaching our kids 'Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep'? or do you think as I do that making an issue out of the colour of a sheep is actually counterproductive? Interested in your thought.

Thank you

Sun, 27 Feb 2011 05:03:00 +0000

Over the past year and a half, I've put up a link to either of my two online studies looking at the way people think about illness. I'm just about to stop collection of data on the second study and now starts the hard work (for me, at least) of the statistical analysis of the data and later the write up and (hopefully) publication of the findings.

Being able to conduct psychological research online is great. It opens up your study to participation by a much wider range of people. I certainly very much appreciate the people that have taken the time to complete my questionnaire.
So, a very BIG THANK YOU to everyone who helped me out.