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The myth of watch and wait

Something’s not quite right

James was like any other 9-year-old, but at the first mention of school his whole body would shrink and he would stare at the floor. Even though he had some good friends and wasn’t being bullied, he really didn’t like school. He didn’t have any ‘obvious’ issues, but he just couldn’t seem to keep up with the schoolwork and even started to call himself ‘the dumb kid’.

Chloe needed constant help to do her homework and was embarrassed to read in front of others. She was losing her confidence and every day became a battle to make it through the afternoon. Her parents were worried because they could see that if they didn’t do something she would be left behind, and their cheerful little girl would slowly withdraw away.

Parents are the experts on their children. They know their children better than anyone else, and they know when things aren't quite right.

 

Ryan has always seemed a little different from his brother. He didn’t play the same games and would spend hours alone, lost in “Ryan’s World”. He seemed to be a bright kid, but he never quite got it when it came to friends. One moment he would be smiling up at his parents and the next he would be on the ground. His parents were lost for how to help him.

The myth of watch and wait

These stories are ones we hear every day. Unfortunately, parents concerned about their child’s development are all too often told to ‘watch and wait’. They’re told that they are just ‘anxious’ parents and that their child’s problems are ‘just a phase’. These messages are not only invalidating for parents – they leave children behind and leave families and educators lost.

The path to helping children develop begins with understanding.

 

Parents are the experts on their children. They are number one. They know their children better than anyone else, and they know when things aren't quite right. Trusting this intuition as a parent and getting support as soon as possible, can help children reach their potential and be the best they can be before a small problem becomes a big one.

Finding a path for your child

Sometimes parents feel like they’ve tried everything to help their child and nothing seems to make much difference. They feel like they are sailing in the dark – not knowing which direction to turn. The real issue is that often we don’t have a clear understanding of the child’s thinking style or view of the world.

The path to helping children who are experiencing challenges in their social, emotional, behavioural, or academic development begins with understanding. A developmental assessment can provide this key and open up the pathway to change.Assessments for children can include a range of developmental areas. For example, cognitive assessments help parents to understand their child’s way of looking at the world.

Assessments for children can include a range of developmental areas. For example, cognitive assessments help parents to understand their child’s way of looking at the world, and can detect if a child is struggling to keep up, if they need more help, or if they have difficulty with a particular area of learning (such as problems with reading or paying attention). Assessments can also target specific developmental challenges, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders or Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and clinical anxiety.

Quality matters

At Benchmark Psychology, we have a team of clinicians experienced in a range of developmental assessments for children and young people. Assessments are conducted directly by registered a clinical psychologist or clinical neuropsychologist with experience in assessments and postgraduate university qualifications.

We only use the gold-standard measures for assessment, such as the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), Weschler Individual Attainment Scale (WIAT), and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2).

Every family is engaged in their child’s assessment process from start to finish. Parents receive a written report, outlining the assessment steps, the findings, and detailed recommendations to help parents decide where to from here. Parents also attend a feedback session with the clinician to go through the report together, discuss the results, and ask any questions.

Benchmark Psychology also offer families full assessment packages at a low cost (compared to other psychological practices in South-East Queensland).

To find out more or book an assessment today, call (07) 3349 5511 or visit benchmarkpsychology.com.au/services/cognitive-assessment/ for information about cognitive assessments or benchmarkpsychology.com.au/autism-spectrum-disorders-assessment/ for autism spectrum disorders assessment.

This post was written for us by Dr Grace Sweeney and Dr Richard Wellauer from Benchmark Psychology.

 

Find out more about cognitive assessments...

 

Find out more about autism spectrum assessments...

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    Pokemon GO might treat depression, but will it make your OCD worse?

Pokemon GO might treat depression, but will it make your OCD worse?

Pokemon GO is a mobile game that gets people walking around with their phones in the real world to collect virtual animals, items, and experience points. The app uses your phone’s GPS to work out where you and then allows you to collect different rewards in the game.


Already people are reporting that it’s helped them get out and about and as a consequence they feel more positive and are overcoming mental health issues such as depression. (Check out this article from the ABC for details.)


Although there’s not yet any published scientific evidence that playing Pokemon GO will improve your mental health, the rationale that Pokemon GO will improve mental health disorders like depression is pretty strong. However, there are also risks, and it’s possible that playing a game like this could also worsen some mental health symptoms.

check-1-iconDepression


Depression symptoms include low mood and a reduced level of activity. There is strong research evidence that exercise alone can improve depression symptoms, particularly for mild to moderate depression. Another key intervention is called ‘behavioural activation’ or ‘pleasant event scheduling’, which involves helping people to engage more in activities that they used to find enjoyable. Pokemon GO encourages people to get our more and increase their activity levels, so it’s likely that it would help with symptoms of depression.

check-1-iconFear of the outdoors (agoraphobia)


Some people feel very anxious being outside or leaving the house, and if these issues significantly interfere with their daily life, they might be struggling with agoraphobia (fear of being outdoors). Cognitive behavioural therapy treatment involves gradually encouraging people to challenge themselves so they become desensitized to the feared situation. Pokemon GO could enhance motivation for people to overcome this fear, so it’s likely to help.

flagSocial phobia

People with social phobia have an overwhelming fear that they’ll make a social faux pas or won’t know what to do or say in a conversation and so avoid social interactions and isolate themselves from others. Pokemon GO could help someone with social phobia to get out more and it also gives people something to talk about with other gamers, but a game like this can encourage people to avoid interacting in social situations and instead to get out their phones. Although the game has social aspects, it doesn’t really encourage people to use or improve their social skills and may not help people feel more confident in real life social situations.

flagObsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)


People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have an overwhelming preoccupation with things being ordered and clean (contamination) or difficulty getting rid of possessions (hoarding). Pokemon GO encourages people to collect and collect and collect so that they can be the best and is likely to involve the same neural reward circuits in the brain that reward people for following their OCD impulses. Pokemon GO could encourage hoarding-type symptoms of OCD and also encourages people to spend more and more time on their phones to the exclusion of other activities.

flagProblem gambling


People with gambling issues are so focused on the next reward or payoff that they neglect their other responsibilities or values. Pokemon GO encourages people to spend more time chasing after rewards and points and also allows you to spend real money to improve your status. If you’ve got a gambling problem Pokemon GO might be healthier than blowing thousands of dollars on the pokies but isn’t likely to cure your addiction.

Conclusion


Games like Pokemon GO can really help to improve people’s motivation to get out and about but they have a real potential to become addictive and lead to people neglecting other important areas of life. When used carefully they are likely to improve mental health for a substantial number of people, however, you need to be aware of potential negatives. There’s no blanket rule about when things like Pokemon GO should and shouldn’t be used but if people monitor both their game use and their mental health symptoms they can make a decision for themselves about whether or not a strategy like this is helpful or harmful for their situation.

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Evidence Based Dating Strategies

Dating advice is everywhere, but most of it is based on opinion and folklore (or even creepy pick-up artists). New research from the University of Queensland uncovers the truth about how to attract a date.

 

When you’re trying to attract the attention of a potential partner you have a choice: make yourself stand out from the crowd, or show how well you fit in with others. Standing out suggests that you’ve got individuality and flair, while fitting in with others shows you’re friendly and agreeable. Both are attractive to potential partners, but which strategy is more successful?

 

If you asked your grandparents what to do they’d say that women are attracted to men who stand out from the crowd, whereas men are attracted to women who know how to fit in with others.

 

These ideas might sound old-fashioned, but a study from 2006 showed that when university students were thinking about dating, the female students tended to change their opinions to fit in with others, while men were more likely to change their opinions to stand out from the crowd. But are these strategies effective?

 

New research from the University of Queensland (co-authored by Dr Richard Wellauer of Benchmark Psychology) shows that men are actually more attracted to women who don’t conform to the group - those who stand out from the crowd.

 

Dating advice for women

 

Whether it’s evaluating dating profiles, rating the attractiveness of other people in small group interactions, or thinking about how much they’ve enjoyed recent dating experiences, men consistently reported that women who stood out from the crowd were more attractive, even though most women think that men prefer conformist women.

 

Dating advice for men

 

Women also reported that they preferred men who stood out from the crowd, but only up to a point - being too independent can be unattractive. If anything, men who are good at both standing out and fitting in with others are more successful in relationships.

 

So when you’re updating your online dating profile or going out with a bunch of new people, don’t let other people’s ideas about what’s attractive change how you act. Women don’t need to be afraid of standing out and showing off their individuality. Men don’t need to worry about acting the tough guy. Express your own opinions and flair, but make sure you also show that you’re able to be flexible and go along with the group.

 

This research is about dating, but it may as well be about job interviews, meeting new friends, or chatting to people while waiting for your morning coffee. We often spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to present ourselves in a way that stands out the least - instead, we should be making sure that we’re not living by other people’s standards. It’s okay to stand out from the crowd and it’s okay to fit in with others, but a mix of both is best of all.

4 steps to declutter your life

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by how much 'stuff' you've got to deal with in life? Too many bills and bank statements, too many jobs to get done, too many appointments, too many appliances or devices that keep needing to be fixed or replaced every few years, too many clothes (most of which you don't wear)? If you're like most people, you're looking for the quickest way to regain control of your life and find some peace and quiet.

 

I've begun reading the book 'The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide' by Francine Jay. The book claims that it'll help me get rid of unnecessary stuff and clutter in my life so I'll have more 'space' to function. Francine Jay also believes that having less stuff will make you happier.

 

The interesting thing is that rather than being a 'how to' manual, this book is more like a philosophical textbook, as the author describes the true costs and value of spending habits and behaviours. In fact, at least a third of the book is devoted to examining beliefs and attitudes about possessions and doesn't offer any any practical advice at all! Here's a sample.

 

"What if I told you that having less stuff could make you a happier person? It sounds a bit crazy, doesn't it? That's because every day, and everywhere we turn, we receive thousands of messages to the contrary: buy this, and you'll be prettier; own this, and you'll be more successful; acquire this, and your happiness will know no bounds.

Well, we've bought this, that, and the other thing. So we must be in seventh heaven, right? For most of us, the answer is “no”. In fact, quite often, the opposite is true: many of the items, and the empty promises, are slowly sucking the money out of our pockets, the magic out of our relationships, and the joy out of our lives."

 

So, why would a book about getting rid of your stuff spend so much time talking about attitudes and beliefs rather than just getting to the point and telling me how to get rid of my junk?

 

This investigation of attitudes is essential for regaining control of your stuff. It's also a central part of psychological therapy, and something that I work through with clients all the time when dealing with a range of different problems, including depression, anxiety, anger, and addiction.

 

So what attitude is necessary to declutter your life? Most people don't take into account the true cost of acquiring and owning things – the cost of storage and maintenance, the cost on our stress levels (and how that will influence our relationships), and the lost opportunity cost. Instead, we usually only think about how much money something costs and how much happier we think we'll be once we own it.

 

We also need to appreciate things for what they are. Objects don't change who you are and they won't make you happier – you are you, and things are things. Although on a certain level we know that what we own won't make us any happier, we get tricked in to thinking this way all the time.

 

It is important to consider the problem of your own consumerism in detail, examining your attitudes from all angles before trying to do anything practical. This will get to the root of the problem, rather that offering superficial advice or tricks to try and fix everything as quickly as possible.

 

The main aim of 'The Joy of Less' is to help people re-evaluate how they think about possessions, and I think it's a great book that will help you get back in control your stuff. However, the way the author talks about change applies to other things as well and reflects the an important psychological principle that I discuss with clients every day: sustainable change depends on a thorough understanding of the problem before attempting to do something about it.

 

 

Here's four steps to help you declutter your life.

 

 

  1. What do you gain by doing things the way that you're currently doing them? What are the deeper reasons behind your current behaviour? For example, you may find that you can't bear to throw away that heirloom because you're worried about what your family will say. Or maybe you're often arguing with your partner because you're stressed about other things and haven't developed effective strategies for dealing with stress.
  2. Work out the true cost of not changing. What are the long term costs to your relationships, your stress levels, your health, and your ability to fulfil your purpose in life? Don't just think about the money and time cost.
  3. Be prepared for the pain of change and focus on the goal. Acknowledge that change will be difficult and unpleasant in the short term, but have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and why. This could be as simple as a having a written statement or mantra that you can use to remind you of your goals, such as “I know it'll be hard, but I'm not going to get frustrated by traffic today because it'll just make me feel more angry and my frustration won't fix anything.”
  4. Go small. Big changes usually aren't sustainable and are more difficult to achieve. Start making small changes that will give you a high chance of succeeding. Once you've succeeded with a small goal, you'll feel positive and energized to tackle the next milestone.

 

 

 

 

"Decluttering is like dieting. We can jump right in, count our possessions like we count calories, and “starve” ourselves to get fast results. All to often, however, we'll end up feeling deprived, go on a binge, and wind up right back where we started. First, we have to change our attitudes and our habits... Instead of being a short-term fix, it'll be a long-term commitment to a new, wonderful way of life."