By Lindsay Perlman, Clinical Psychologist (www.infocuspsychology.com)
Growing up with a mother who was a Clinical Psychologist, normalised the idea of going to therapy and talking to someone about my worries. In our house, it felt like seeing a psychologist was as normal as visiting the GP. However, I do remember that as a teenager, I was hesitant to disclose this as it seemed like most of my friends saw going to a psychologist as only for people who had ‘BIG’ problems or were ‘not coping”. However, I have to admit that I secretly enjoyed the time I had with my therapist. She helped me to download and think about various aspects of my life, whether it was navigating complex social situations or dealing with school pressures and homework. I enjoyed this space and felt that I usually left the sessions feeling clearer and more in tune with myself and my values. The other thing I found was although my friends and family were supportive and well meaning, their advice was understandably biased to some degree and also laden with their own ‘stuff’. Reflecting on both my personal journey in therapy as well as my work as a Clinical Psychologist, I see therapy as highly beneficial in helping enhance self-awareness ad growth.
Nowadays, there is more acknowledgement for mental illness. The prevalence of depression and anxiety is higher and there has been more recognition by organisation/initiatives such as RUOK, Beyond Blue, Black dog Institute, Headspace that its okay for people to not be okay and to seek help from psychologists.
Personal growth has become a ‘buzz word’ – many workplaces have introduced lifestyle programs, which focus on mindfulness, stress management, and various exercise programs like yoga and cardio classes. Whilst there are significant benefits associated with these programs, they are often quite general and don’t provide individuals with the opportunity to work on themselves in terms of their specific psychological needs.
Sessions with a psychologist can provide an opportunity for self-improvement and reflection. Having an objective and non-judgemental environment can provide people with an opportunity to download and process their difficulties and challenges. The idea is to help the person develop a more flexible mindset so these beliefs, thoughts, behaviours and can be broadened so to be more workable and balanced. Patients are assisted to identify problematic self-talk, thoughts, beliefs driving problematic behaviours, gradually with increased self-awareness, can provide a space and pause to respond differently with better success (
The patient –therapist relationship is also thought to play an important role in therapy/treatment outcome. I often say to patients the earlier part of the session is to ‘suss out’ the relationship fit. Sometimes, finding a therapist who you feel comfortable with takes time and it is perfectly acceptable to try out a few until you are satisfied.
So in summary, the elements and benefits of therapy are:
An important point to bear in mind is that therapy takes some time– in today’s environment, people often come with the expectation of wanting a ‘quick’ fix. Allowing time for growth and exploration is key and can result in long-lasting positive change and self-awareness.
Finally, with a mental health plan prepared by a GP, it is possible to claim back a rebate of $126.50 for ten sessions per calendar year.