How we work
Generally people are referred to me by general practitioners, word of mouth or from my website. The easiest way to contact me is to call my mobile. After a brief chat we decide what kind of approach is best and an appointment is made. Prior to seeing me it will be necessary, if applicable, to see your GP to get a mental health care plan so that you can benefit from the Medicare subsidy.
In the case of a crisis it would be possible to have a telephone session at a mutually agreed upon time. This would then be followed up with a face to face session.
Based upon our initial conversation we will then decide if I will be seeing you as an individual, with your partner or with your whole family.
Early evening sessions are available as well as sessions on a Saturday morning.
You will come along on your own if the difficulty you are struggling with is essentially an individual one. Your issues may well cause concern to your loved ones but this would still be individual work. Sometimes you may not be sure exactly what is wrong? It could be several things that are upsetting you. Or, you are just finding yourself feeling irritable and tearful and do not know why? Whatever the feelings and the circumstances, at your first session you will be able to talk freely and we can jointly assess what the different areas of concern are.
At this very early stage it is more important for you to give expression to your feelings and your difficulties rather than to look for solutions. Like any new relationship, we will still be getting to know each other and it is very important for you to feel safe and comfortable. However, right from the first session, I ensure that you walk away with a ‘take home’ message that you will be able to think about until our next meeting. My message is concise and summarises what you have told me and how I have interpreted this.
Sometimes people only need six to ten sessions. Others may need six months, a year or longer. Each person is unique and the treatment will be tailored accordingly.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationship with your partner then most likely I will want to see you together. Often, with couple therapy, one party makes the call and is very motivated. They then have to ‘drag’ along the more resistant partner who perhaps is not motivated to address the issues in the relationship.
This scenario is very common. In every relationship there is generally one person who does more of the relationship care taking. Often there is one who is more giving and may well be the one to call me. If you are the giving one in your relationship you may feel that you are being taken for granted and are feeling unappreciated.
Sometimes with couples I will do individual sessions if I feel this would be helpful. Sometimes this is with both parties, sometimes just with one. There will only be a couple of individual sessions when I am working with a couple. What is most beneficial is when both of you are in the room and we can address the issues directly.
Couple therapy is generally shorter than individual therapy. It is important for a couple to feel some positive shifts fairly early on so that they do not become despondent. This is also very necessary as day to day living at home may be quite difficult by the time they come to sit down in my office.
A cornerstone of couple therapy, on the part of the therapist, is neutrality. My client is your relationship. While I may give one of you more attention at different times in the process, it is the relationship between you that is my concern.
If you are finding that the environment at home is unhappy then maybe it is necessary for the whole family to come along. Sometimes this can include extended family members, for example, a grandparent. If I get a call from a parent saying they are having significant problems with a particular child, I may well suggest that the whole family come along. I then see you in a different room that is comfortable and can accommodate several people. If there are little children, there will be some toys available.
I want to ensure that everyone is at ease so that we can focus on the important issues. I may see you as a family for one or two sessions and then decide it would be best to see the parents separately and maybe the teenager, as is often the case, separately too. Family sessions are longer than individual or couple sessions and there is time for breaks.
The family is a system and when there is a problem in one part of the system, the whole system is affected. Things can get so complicated and difficult that it can take a little time to unravel what is causing what? If parents are fighting, if a child is seriously ill, if a child has a disability, if there has been job loss, if there is an addiction issue, the whole family is affected.
Family therapy is highly skilled work. I was most fortunate to have received excellent training in this area. At my first clinical job in South Africa I was part of a family therapy team. The team would watch the process from another room through a one way mirror. We could call in on a special phone if we had suggestions for the therapist. Three quarters of the way though the session, the therapist would take a break from the family and come to the other room for discussion. We would all contribute our thoughts about what was happening and the message that was given to the family was a composite from the whole team. This was a very sophisticated way of working and a rich learning experience for me.