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Benchmark Psychology, helping Brisbane

Benchmark Psychology just marked our three year anniversary.  As well as being a world class, evidence based psychology practice, we are also part of the Brisbane community.  We thought it would be a good time to reflect back, and see what we have been doing to service Brisbane these past few years.

 

Seminar series for other Brisbane psychologists

At Benchmark, we have run a monthly seminar series for both he public and for other psychologists. These seminars have covered a range of topics, from parenting advice, to dealing with schizophrenia. These have been well attended and shared valuable knowledge and skills.

 

Talks for schools in the greater Brisbane area

Psychologists at Benchmark have given talks to parents at kindies, primary and high schools in the public, private and catholic systems.  We have received fantastic feedback on these talks from parents. If you are interested in booking one of the Benchmark Psychologists for a school event, contact us.

 

Benchmarking data for other Brisbane psychologists

 

Benchmark Psychology is quite unique in that we collect exhaustive data on treatment outcomes and drop-out for all of our psychologists.  You can check out that data here. As well as being incredibly useful for us in our efforts to provide the best possible service, that data has been used by dozens of other Brisbane psychology practices.practices.  Have a look at our colleagues at Jumpstart Psychology, to see how our data is helping to improve outcomes for others.

 

Supervision of trainee psychologists

Benchmark Psychology has a number of accredited supervisors who provide supervision services to trainee psychologists from most of the major Brisbane universities. Our team of supervisors are highly regarded and get great feedback from their trainees.

 

We are proud of the work we do as psychologists, but we are also proud of the work we do building our Brisbane community.

 

Why not click here to learn more about our team

 

Meet the Team

 

 

Are you Ok ?

This blog began as a marketing exercise, as part getting to know what resources were available for mental health I began looking at online self help forums through Facebook, message boards and the like.

 

The breadth and diversity of self help forums for children; giftedness, autism, behavioural disorders, and many more overwhelmed me. These forums are incredibly vibrant, moderated by volunteers, with hundreds of enthusiastic contributors and readers. Most of the forums are virtually absent of any form of trolling, and with a topic as contentious as parenting even the disagreements are rare and mostly managed politely. It really did open my eyes to how effectively social media at its best can be used to support mental health.

 

Then I turned my attention to adult self help forums, and was stunned by how scarce they are and even the ones that do exist were so much quieter than what I had seen earlier. It was heart breaking to read one forum where a man was posting his increasingly distressed and unhappy thoughts over a series of months and receiving nothing but Internet silence in reply. I can only begin to imagine how this silence must have felt to him in what I can only assume was one of the lowest points of his life.

 

This got me to thinking about the differences between kids and adults. As a child, ideally there is always someone who has their out for you. Parents, grandparents, teachers, siblings all play a role in making sure both the physical but also emotional needs of the child are looked after. Last week my daughter told my wife that an older girl had accidentally walked in on her at the school toilet and she had felt embarrassed. Now she doesn’t want to go to the school toilets anymore. Our response was immediate. We had a big chat to her about it, gave her some encouragement, talked to her school teacher, and one of the teacher aides agreed to take her to the toilet the next day before lunch to get her used to it again. In a perfect world, all children would have multiple people in their lives who are looking out for them to make sure they are ok.

 

But as an adult who is there looking after your problems?

 

“I’ve noticed its been a few weeks since you went to the gym, are you feeling ok ?”

“Every time we have to have a staff meeting you get sick and have to go home, are you ok ?”

“We all used to drink too much when we were teenagers, but you are still doing it, are you ok?”

 

Today is international suicide prevention day, as well as being Are you Ok day. If you ever felt like you needed permission to ask a friend or a colleague “are you ok?” then today is it.

 

Mental health professionals help people everyday who haven’t been able to figure things out for themselves. There is an old saying “you cant solve a problem with the same brain that created the it”, sometimes it really is as simple as getting another person’s opinion. When a tooth hurts, no one expects you to drill it yourself, when your throat hurts, no one expects you to decide for yourself whether you need antibiotics or just time and rest, yet when your emotions hurt, or your behaviours hurt, it is like we expect people to figure things out for themselves.

 

There are a lot of trained professional in medical, psychological, and family practices all around the country. If you ask someone today if they are ok and the answer is no, there is no shortage of places to turn for help.

 

 

question-ask-are-you-ok-health-wellbeing-mental-he1

Exciting Study to Help Kids Sleep

 

The MY NAP Study

“Is your child on medication for a diagnosis of ADHD and having trouble sleeping?”

What is the MY NAP study about?

 

An international research team is undertaking a study to look at the effectiveness of Melatonin in helping children who have a diagnosis of ADHD, are currently treated with stimulant medication, and are experiencing sleep difficulties, particularly in getting to sleep.

This study is designed in a way that it can help provide information for individuals, and also group information. This information could be useful in determining if melatonin has a significant effect on sleep for your child.

Results from this study can be given to your doctor to help in treatment planning for your child.

This study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

 

Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

 

ADHD is a complex disorder involving difficulties with hyperactivity, concentration and attention.

Children with ADHD often have difficulty sleeping with problems trying to settle down in the evening. This can be complicated by the medications used to treat ADHD (such as with stimulants like Ritalin, Dexamphetamine).

 

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by a part of the brain, called the pineal gland. It is often described as the hormone of sleep and it helps to regulate other hormones and maintain the body’s circadian rhythm. The body produces melatonin each night as it gets dark to promote sleep and “re-set” the body clock. In some health conditions, insufficient melatonin is produced, and melatonin supplements can help.

Melatonin has been used in children to help with their sleep from time to time, however the scientific research has not decided whether there is a true effect seen in children with ADHD.

One of the best ways is to see whether your child sleeps better with melatonin, or a placebo (inactive medication).

 

Who is eligible to
take part in this study?

 

  • Children between the ages of 6 – 17 years;
  • Who have a diagnosis of ADHD;
  • Who are treated for their ADHD with Stimulants such as Ritalin,
    Dexamphetamine etc.;
  • Who have trouble sleeping, i.e. take at least 45 mins to get to sleep at least three nights a week.
  • Children who are already on Melatonin can participate in the study, but they will have to stop their melatonin use at the start of the first phase, as described below.
  • Children with some other conditions that also affect sleep, eg. Autism, brain injury, seizure disorder or sleep apnea, may be unsuitable for the study.

 

What would be involved?

 

If you are interested in taking part in the study, please contact Dr. Jane Nikles via email: mynap@uq.edu.au or telephone (mobile): 0408 599 033 for further information and to confirm your child’s eligibility.

 

A referral from your doctor – your G.P or Paediatrician - is required for the study. If you are interested in participating, you will be asked to make an appointment with your doctor, and the study team will contact them to ensure they are fully informed about the study.

In the first phase, you would be asked to initially complete some questionnaires and be given information about healthy sleeping habits. Your child’s sleeping activity would be monitored for two weeks.
At the end of the two weeks, your child would be given the medication (either melatonin or a placebo) for 1 week blocks, for six weeks. All participating children will receive both melatonin and the placebo. During the six weeks, you would be asked to keep a sleep diary and complete more questionnaires. Your child will wear an activity watch to help us measure their sleep activity.

A report will be generated and sent to your referring doctor detailing your child’s individual responsiveness to melatonin. This can be used to guide ongoing treatment decisions.

There will be follow-up contacts three and twelve months after this.

 

Who are we?

 

The research team is part of an international group of researchers from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane; The University of Queensland, Brisbane; and The University of Alberta, Canada. It is led by Dr Jane Nikles (UQ), Prof Geoff Mitchell (UQ), A/Prof Honey Heussler (Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital) and Dr Hugh Senior (UQ).

 

Ethics approvals

 

The project has been granted the following ethics approvals:

 

Mater HREC/14/MHS/AM01

UQ HREC – 2012000999

 

For further information,
please contact:

 

Dr. Jane Nikles

Email: mynap@uq.edu.au

Mob: 0408 599 033

 

Prof Geoff Mitchell

g.mitchell@uq.edu.au

 

A/Prof Honey Heussler
h.heussler@health.qld.gov.au

Siege Survivor Trauma Risk Increased by Media

Dr Aaron Frost looks at the psychological impact that media exposure may have on the Lindt Cafe siege survivors.

 

Usually I take reality TV with a grain of salt; just because I am not interested in seeing adults get drunk and compete in egg and spoon races it doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for it, and that some people find great pleasure in watching.

 

I feel the same about that other branch of reality TV, current affairs shows.  They tend to evoke the same response in me: “The killer lurking in your kitchen that every parent must know about” doesn’t interest me, and I generally assume that if there is something genuinely dangerous I need to know about, someone with actual qualifications will tell me about it. I try not to take my parenting advice from journalists, especially those who have risen to the heady heights of chasing down shonky plumbers required to be part of A Current Affair.

 

However last night I saw an advert for this week’s coming episode of 60 Minutes and was so angry that my usual indifference to these shenanigans wouldn’t cut it.

 

For those of you who haven’t seen the advert, Liz Hayes of 60 Minutes has gathered together the survivors of the Lindt Café siege for an interview.

 

While I recognize there is a legitimate public interest in sharing the stories of these people, where is the concern for their psychological welfare? Let me state this once and categorically;

 

Group interviews of trauma survivors increase the likelihood of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

In the 1980’s and 1990’s it became very fashionable in psychological circles to offer “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing" (CISD). Lot of counselors and mental health professionals made a living going from one disaster to the next and providing debriefing services. The idea was that by talking about the trauma straight afterwards, you reduce the risk of developing PTSD.

 

Great idea, but it doesn’t work. Actually, the latest research suggests that CISD actually increases the risk of people developing PTSD. Seeing a mental health professional for debriefing after a trauma makes you more likely to develop PTSD.

 

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that one of the most powerful human defense mechanisms is forgetting. Most of us remember what we had for breakfast today, most of us don’t remember what we had for breakfast this day last year. We forget things. Trauma is the same, we might never forget the trauma itself, but over time there is a natural process for most people whereby the trauma becomes less raw and gradually becomes just another memory.

 

Most people who are exposed to severe trauma do not develop PTSD. Blindly stumbling in and getting people to recount the horror when actually they should be learning to forget about it is harmful.

 

The second reasons why debriefing is harmful is the bit that made me so angry when watching the 60 Minutes interview; they interviewed them as a group and exposed people to things they didn’t already know.

 

When something as complex as a siege happens, no one has a full perspective of the events. Some things are hidden by the fact that we were forced to face the ground, other things are hidden because we were overwhelmed by emotion and not processing things, while other things are just hidden in the mêlée.

 

The single biggest predictor of who develops PTSD and who does not, is when a person realizes they are going to die. People who think they are living their last seconds or minutes are at a far higher likelihood of developing trauma. Similarly, people who realise after the event that they could have died are more likely to develop delayed trauma.

 

When you have processed an event and dealt with it, and then suddenly someone presents a new fact that means you were much more likely to have died, the incidence of PTSD increase dramatically.

 

This is exactly what Hayes appears to be doing in her interview. She is deliberately asking siege survivors to fill each other in on the details they did not know.

 

If you are exposed to a severe trauma, there are things that a skilled mental health professional can do to help you, if you have PTSD, you can absolutely benefit from treatment. But the package of interventions available is highly nuanced and depending on individual circumstances. A skilled clinician will have read the 200 page Guidelines for Treatment of PTSD developed by the experts from the Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health, and they will know how to help.

 

I am assuming Liz Hayes is not a trained mental health clinician, and I assume she did not read the latest research on how best to help people with PTSD. I don’t mind that she is not helping, I mind that she is likely to harm them.

 

Under normal circumstances we can assume that approximately 3 of the people from the Lindt Café will develop PTSD. Thanks to this interview, it is likely that an additional survivor will also develop PTSD. To that person, when you sue Channel 9 for damages, please feel free to contact me to put your legal team in touch with the latest research to help your case.  I also hope you get awarded a payout that far exceeds the additional advertising revenue received by Channel 9 associated with the increased ratings this story will surely garner.

Benchmark Report Card 2014

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CBT for Psychosis: Comprehending the Incomprehensible.

7 August, 2015 - 7 August, 2015

2/21 Mt Gravatt-Capalaba Rd

Map and Directions | Register

Description:

 Jenni ssDr Jennifer Wilson

After completing her clinical training and PhD in 2013, Jennifer has divided her time between general private practice and working with Queensland Health in a research capacity to develop and pilot test a cognitive behavioural treatment program for people with schizophrenia. As a result, psychotherapy for psychosis has rapidly become an area of interest and passion. Jennifer’s other interests include working with couples from an emotionally-focused therapeutic framework.

Abstract

In recent years, awareness has been increasing of the importance of early identification and treatment of psychosis.  But what role can and should psychologists play?  For many of us, our training in the treatment and management of psychosis has likely been limited to screening for symptoms and referring for psychiatric care.  Within the public mental health system, the dominant model is still one of medication plus case management.  However the past 20 years has seen a growing body of evidence emerge supporting the effectiveness of CBT for psychosis as an adjunctive therapy.  This presentation will provide an introduction to understanding and working with people with psychosis, and how psychologists can adapt and apply their existing skills to assist people with psychosis.

 

Register

How much screen time is too much ?

Dr Aaron Frost gives some advice not only on how much screen time children should have access to, but also on what type of screen time causes the most problems.

 

How much screen time is too much ?

 

I get asked this question at least half a dozen times per week. Parents are worried about the amount of time their kids want to spend sitting in front of the TV, iPad, DS, PlayStation, Xbox and various other consoles and hand held devices.  They often tell me things like, “my kids are absolutely feral after they spend a big chunk of time playing games”.

 

When I ask, "why don't you just remove the screens?", I get one or both of the following replies:

 

“I need the time, and leaving them on a computer to play games gives me a chance to catch up”,

 

“All my kids' friends are online, and this is how they communicate with each other, I don’t want him/her missing out”.

 

There are some real potential benefits of having technology in children’s lives, but it can often come at a cost.  The challenge for todays’ parent is to figure out how to get the greatest benefits for the lowest costs.

 

Before I say anything further, it is worth highlighting that the American Academy of Paediatrics has released well researched guidelines clearly stating that two hours per day of screen time is the upper limit for a child.  This is really helpful advice, and sets a good limit.  But what I want to talk about in this article in what type of screen time rather than how much.

 

In my observations both as a parent and a child psychologist, there are three basic types of screen-based activities that a child engages in, and each appear to have different consequences.

 

The first is mindless screen time. This includes games such as candy crush, Plants vs Zombies, binge watching ABC for Kids, and most console games.  Children spending large chunks of time engaged in mindless screen time will often seem most ‘feral’ immediately afterward.  There are a two main reasons for this.  Firstly, children engaged in mindless screen time are less likely to eat, drink and go to the toilet; emotions and behaviour in kids are driven by basic biology far more than most of us realise. Secondly, research conducted by Dr Grant Devilly and his colleagues found one of the main problems with mindless video games is that they don’t have a clear end point.  When a child is reading a book, it is easy to put it down at the end of a page, however, when a child is killing zombies, or lining up shiny jewels there is no clear end.  When they are finally forced off the game by their parents, children then experience high levels of anger and resentment. This is often where the “feral” mood sets in.

 

Mindless screen time should be avoided as much as possible, and it is up to parents to limit children’s exposure to this.  Mindless video games are designed by their manufacturers to be compulsive, which is how they become best sellers.  They are the junk food of screen time; a bit is ok every now and then, but too much too often is going to cause problems.

 

The second type of screen-based activity is engaged, and actualy involves the child’s brain being active.  Some of these screen activities are educational, most are not, but the key point here is that the child is mentally stimulated and fully engaged.  Please note that I am not a games reviewer, and do not endorse or have not been paid by any of these companies, but here are some examples to give you an idea of what to look for when shopping for games.

 

Reading Eggs  

 

This game is aimed at younger children learning to read.  It is engaging and educational, and designed to have small chunks of learning which matches the attention span of the children it is aimed at.  There are lots of natural breaks, and it is easy to say to a child “come off the computer when this level is finished”.

 

Tiny Bang Story

 

This has been a recent discovery for our family.  It involves a beautifully hand drawn world that has experienced a tiny explosion that has jumbled up all of the technology.  The task of the child is to find all of the pieces and to put the world back together, one level at a time.  It involves lots of lateral thinking, creative problem solving, and again there are many natural breaks for the child to step away form the screen.

 

 

Crayon Physics

 

This game involves a series of deceptively simple puzzles.  In each puzzle, the child has to move a ball from its start point to an end point by drawing things.  Everything they draw has real properties in physics. For example, if you draw a square in the air, gravity will make it drop the ground. If the square hits another object on the way down, this will cause the object it hits to move relative to the length of the drop and the size of the object.  Children have to figure out how to solve each puzzle using the properties of the objects they draw.  Once again, their brain is engaged, and there are lots of natural breaks incorporated.

 

 

This type of active screen time appears to be far less unhealthy for children (up to the time limits above).  They are less likely to have huge tantrums when finishing, and the compulsive nature to their play is greatly reduced.  These games are also excellent as they offer great opportunities for you and your child to do something together.  You would be amazed at how quickly the entire family will get involved in trying to figure out how to push a tiny red ball up a hill.

 

The final type of screen time is creative, and involves children using their imagination to create things using a computer.  Examples include Crayola DigiTools, iMovie, Photoshop, Lego Island and even a game like Minecraft.  The key element to all of these games is that the child uses their imagination and is creating things.  When a child is using one of these applications, their behaviour afterward appears to be no worse than if they had spent an hour drawing pictures or painting.  Obviously, it is important that computer based creativity doesn’t replace real world creativity, but these types of screen based activity should be looked at more in the light of a modern version of arts and craft.

 

However, even these type of activities don’t always get a completely clean bill of health.  Some of these activities have a multiplayer component which can be just as addictive as any mindless computer game.  While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with multiplayer games, the social element draws some children (especially those who are less socially successful in real life) into spending far more time on these games than they had intended, and this can lead to them becoming very compulsive.

 

They key point here is that as parents it is important for us to learn about what our kids are playing.  What they are playing is at least as important as how long they are playing.  It is worth spending the time getting to understand the games they are interested in and what it is about these games that is attractive.  Think about the mix of mindless games, vs creative and engaged games, and notice how your child reacts to both long and short periods of playing these games.  Who knows, you might find a game you both enjoy, which can become a real relationship building activity for you.

 

Please note:  Aaron has not received any kind of payment for his opinions regarding these particular products.

By |November 21st, 2014|Couples|0 Comments

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