General Questions

/General Questions

Choosing the Best Digital Mental Health Tools for Patients

Written by Clinical Psychologist Tania McMahon

Digital Mental Health tools and resources are becoming an increasingly important part of our mental health system. They provide effective, evidence-based intervention for patients with mild-to-moderate mental health symptoms, and they can be a fantastic option for patients who experience barriers to accessing face-to-face psychological care (e.g. finances, location, stigma).

However, with a huge selection of digital mental health tools available (e.g. there are an estimated 1400+ mental health apps on the app store), health practitioners face the challenging task of finding and selecting suitable tools for patients on platforms that lack regulation or reliable quality assurance (e.g. the star-rating system on the app store is easily exploited).

A major concern of many practitioners is the quality of the interventions provided by these digital services, as well as concerns about privacy and data security of highly sensitive information. To help address this, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is undertaking a project to develop national safety and quality standards and a certification framework for digital mental health services. The goal of certification of services is to increase user confidence, increase usage and increase consumer choice in digital mental health services.

With this certification framework still a little while off, the onus is currently on health practitioners and users to individually assess the quality of digital mental health services. While this can feel like an overwhelming task, it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few helpful options, including questions you can ask and steps you can take to help make the right decision:

For Apps – use the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS)

  • Researchers at QUT have developed and validated the world’s first known mental health app quality rating tool (the MARS), to provide a multidimensional measure of the quality of each app. The indicators include engagement, functionality, aesthetics, information quality, and app subjective quality.
  • More information about the MARS (including a free download of the tool) is available here.

For all other services (e.g. websites, online programs)

  • Is it user-friendly and engaging?
    • Is it easy to navigate and use? Is information easy to find?
    • Is it engaging and pleasant to use?
    • Is the information clearly communicated?
    • Will users want to access it enough to get the full benefit?
  • Is the content clinically safe?
    • There should be transparency about who owns the service and what the funding sources are (so that you can identify any conflicts of interest).
    • There should be transparency about how the content was developed and by whom (e.g. through university research or a government grant, and what the expertise of the content developers is). Services developed by government-funded bodies and institutions are likely to be the most reliable in terms of content and efficacy. Check out Head to Health for a searchable index of Australian, government-funded digital mental health services.
    • There should be some evidence as to the efficacy of the service - ideally a Randomised-Controlled Trial or other evaluative process. However, if not (as RCTs can be difficult to fund), digital adaptations of well-established efficacious treatment interventions (e.g. CBT) can generally be considered effective as long as the treatment is clearly communicated (i.e. something that claims to be online CBT clearly appears to be).
    • Are there any treatment elements that could cause harm?
    • There should be options for at-risk users to self-identify and seek further help (e.g. a ‘Get Help Now’ button that leads to Crisis Line information).
    • If there are health professionals involved in the delivery of the service (e.g. conducting telephone assessments, moderating online forums), do they have appropriate qualifications?
  • Does it protect privacy and is it secure?
    • Is the site secure?
    • There should be clear information about how personal data is used and protected.
    • The service should have a privacy policy stating that user information is not sold on to third parties.

To get started in your search for helpful digital mental health services, begin here:

  1. Check out the Australian government’s ‘Head to Health’ digital mental health gateway -
  2. Search for some relevant services and try out one or two for yourself; evaluate them using the questions above (or the MARS, if it is an app).
  3. See if they would be suitable for your clients – if so, great! If not, head back to Head to Health and search for another.



Choosing the Best Digital Mental Health Tools for Patients2023-08-21T14:47:38+10:00

Why doesn’t mindfulness work for me?

by Tania McMahon

“Be in the moment.” “Clear your mind.” “Centre yourself.”

I remember feeling rather confused when I first learned about mindfulness as a provisional psychologist. It was so abstract and nebulous – an idea that I just couldn’t grasp as tangibly as behavioural strategies like pleasant […]

Why doesn’t mindfulness work for me?2023-08-21T14:50:54+10:00

Help! My teen has self-harmed. What do I do?

by Karien Hill

Finding out your teen is self-harming can be frightening. You may feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the situation, fearing you might make it worse. Finding out more about why teens self-harm and how to help them manage their intense emotions can be useful.

Self-harm - The facts:

  • Self-harm is defined as intentional harming of one’s body without suicidal intent. It is usually done in places not visible to others.
  • Approximately 12% of young people have engaged in self-harm previously.

Why do young people self-harm?

  • To cope with an intense emotion
  • To punish themselves if they feel guilty
  • To try and replace emotional pain with physical pain
  • To feel ‘something’, ‘anything’ if they feel numb, disconnected or alone
  • To feel in control
  • To express they need help

Signs someone may be self-harming:

  • Wearing long sleeved clothing in warm weather
  • Isolating themselves and withdrawing
  • Scratches, cuts, bruises, scars with inconsistent explanations

How is self-harm and a suicide attempt different?

  • Most young people self-harm as a coping mechanism, rather than to attempt to end their life.
  • However, people who self-harm are also more likely than the general population to feel suicidal and to attempt suicide.

How do I tell the difference?

  • Just ask - if you notice your teen is engaging in self-harm, ask them if they have thoughts about suicide. If they are, take them to a GP and psychologist for assessment and support.
  • Experts agree that asking and talking about suicide does not make someone feel worse or ‘put the idea in their head’ – rather it provides relief.

What to say:

  • Ask – have they been self-harming, what has been going on, how are they feeling about it, what are they thinking, what have they thought about what they could do.
  • Then listen – you do not need to give advice or fix anything, unless they ask for it.
  • Acknowledge their feelings - don’t minimise or tell them not to feel a certain way.
  • Keep your reactions in check – if you feel scared, shocked, angry or blame yourself – breathe slowly and deeply, relax any tense muscles and get back to listening and acknowledging their feelings. If you react they may be less likely to communicate with you in future. Find other parents to connect with and discuss this and get your own support.
  • Admit you may react or say something unhelpful. Admit you don’t have the answer. Tell them despite this, you care, you are there, you want to help.


What to do:

1.     Get them to talk or express their emotions in other ways. 

Whether to you, a friend, other family member, doctor or psychologist, teens need to express and make sense of their emotions.  Ways to express emotion include:

    • Talking
    • Writing/journaling
    • Singing
    • Drawing
    • Painting

3.     Teach them alternate ways of coping with intense emotions. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Take a cold shower
  • Hold an ice cube
  • Draw on their skin on their area they have an urge to harm
  • Intense exercise: push ups, star jumps, running
  • Stretching
  • Rip up paper
  • Pop bubble wrap
  • Deep, slow breathing
  • Play a game

2.     Build their resilience. 

Young people build resilience through a sense of belonging. Help them to a join a group they may be interested in:

  • Team sport
  • Volunteering
  • Part-time job
  • Take up a new course
  • Book club
  • Chess club

4.     Spend quality time with them

  • Do something they love with them: play a game, sing karaoke, go to a skate park, shoot some basketball hoops. Teens equate quality time with being valuable and worthy of someone else’s time and attention. This builds self-esteem and ability to cope.

Where to get help:

  • Parentline
    • Free confidential telephone support for parents
      • 1300 30 1300
  • Calm Harm
    • Smartphone app to help manage self-harm urges
  • headspace
    • Free telephone counselling for youth aged 12-25
      • 1800 650 890
      • 9am-1am
    • Free face-to-face individual and group counselling with GP referral
Help! My teen has self-harmed. What do I do?2023-08-21T14:53:15+10:00

Make your vote count for mental health in the upcoming election

Benchmark Psychology

By Dr Aaron Frost, Clinical Psychologist and Director

In a little over two weeks, Australia heads to the polls to elect a new Federal parliament.  There are a lot of issues in play, but for those of you interested in mental health we have a guide of what the big issues are, and where each party stands on each.

Before looking at the politics, let’s start by outlining the key issues.

  • Australia’s suicide rate has recently spiked upward
  • There is a bed shortage for patients with acute and severe mental health conditions
  • People in rural and remote areas, low socioeconomic areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have low rates of access to treatment
  • The burden of disease for mental illness represents around 4% of GDP
  • Almost half of our mental health spending is “downstream”, ie: for dealing with the consequences of poor mental health (homelessness, welfare, criminal justice etc).
  • Australia’s “spend” on mental health is low by OECD standards

So good policy would do the following

  • Have some plan to reduce suicide rates
  • Increase mental health beds for patients with acute and severe conditions
  • Increase access to disadvantaged groups (rural and remote, low SES, Indigenous Australians)
  • Look to reduce the burden of disease by increasing treatment availability and effectiveness

Currently there are a number of existing programs that receive the majority of funding in order to achieve the above goals.  No party appears to be committing to any out of the box overhaul of these systems or any significant funding increases, so therefore it is useful to consider what these programs are and where they fit into the picture.


National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) - exists to provide long-term inclusive support for people with permanent disabilities.  While many people with mental illnesses make full or partial recoveries, permanent disability is exactly how the needs of many should be viewed.  However, currently the NDIS appears to have a poor understanding of mental health issues, and a general fear of opening up the program to mental illness as it risks blowing out an already stretched budget.

↣ Needs - Directing some additional funding into the NDIS to deal with psychosocial disability is almost a prerequisite of good policy.


Primary Health Networks (PHNs) - were developed to allow regional differentiation in health coordination, on the assumption that the needs of one area may be different from the needs of another.  While the PHNs do not provide treatment directly, they do receive substantial funding, which they can then use to purchase treatment services based on the needs of their local community.  While decentralisation has been a huge step forward in terms of regional differentiation, significant questions have been raised about the capacity of all of these regional boards to develop competent financial and clinical governance.  Large administrative overheads, both for the PHNs and then the agencies they tender work out to is proving to cost more and deliver less to treatment.

↣ Needs - Good policy in this space would probably see a commitment to improved governance for the PHNs (simply rebranding them from Medicare Locals is not enough).  Additional resources directed to the PHNs without such improved governance risks achieving very little other than blowing out a bureaucracy.


Headspace - Strives to increase access for youth.  Their accessible centres are designed to be youth friendly and inclusive.  They have been modelled on the centre for excellence in youth mental health treatment in Parkville Victoria (Orygen).  However, recent evaluations have suggested that Headspace has struggled to “scale up”, meaning that while some of their centres are providing excellent services, many of them are underperforming, and outcomes have been underwhelming.

↣ Needs - Headspace funding needs to be assured.  The short-term funding arrangements that have defined its recent history are damaging to long term sustainability.  However, Headspace also needs support in delivering on its promise. Simply examping the model does not address the underlying problems.


Better Access - This is the program introduced in 2006 whereby GPs can refer directly to psychological treatment services and clients can receive a medicare rebate.  This program has been a huge success in terms of increasing patient access (almost doubling over ten years), however the only evaluation done on this program in 2011 was very limited in scope and does not really provide assurance that increased access has led to increased outcomes. A recent review by Lee & Frost published in MJA found that Better Access had reduced the rates of those suffering high levels of psychological distress, but that the session cap introduced in 2011 had decreased the program effectiveness.

This article can be accessed here -

↣ Needs - Better Access needs session limits increased or scrapped.  There is no evidence that increasing session limits would cost more money as the workforce is stable (there are no additional psychologists left to do additional work), and increased session limits would allow this program to deliver support to clients with greater needs without risking their mental health by treatment disruption.  At the same time, money needs to be invested in the evaluation of this program.

Web based platforms - There are a number of hubs that have formed nationally whereby organisations have been funded to collate apps, websites, phone counselling services and other treatment that can be delivered at almost zero cost.  These programs are understandably popular, both for their ongoing running costs, as well as their ability to reach people in regional and remote areas such as a teen who might be 100km away from the nearest GP, let alone a psychiatrist or psychologist.  However, web based platforms have yet to crack the drop-out problem, with research suggesting that in some programs as many as 90% of people do not return after their first interaction with the website.

↣ Needs - More funding dedicated to basic research.  These programs are promising, and will definitely have a place in the treatment mix of the future.  However, until the dropout problem is improved markedly they are not yet ready to be considered frontline treatment resources.


Public Hospitals - As the graph below shows, in 1992 public psychiatric facilities used to make up 46% of total mental health spending, but it has dropped and has been relatively stable at around 12% since 2010.  Australia now has 39 psychiatric beds per 100,000 of population, compared to an OECD average of 68.  No one is calling for a return to the bad old days of the asylum, but perhaps there is a bit of wiggle room between 39:100,000 and 68:100,000 to add a few more beds around the place.  However this is expensive, both in terms of capital expense and in terms of running these facilities.  Big dollars require state and federal co-operation, which has been in pretty short supply in my observation of COAG meetings.


What are the parties proposing?

From my reading of the policy documents, none of the major parties are offering any out of the box solutions to the problems suggested above.  None are committing to increased expenditure (and no I don't consider expenditure commitments made with a commencement date of over a decade to be anything other than wishful thinking), and none are offering any money to be spent in ways that are substantially more innovative than the programs listed above.

Seeing both Health Minister Greg Hunt, and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King debate at the National Press Club last week, it appears both had subscribed to the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of policy development.  Both said little, agreed to listen to experts and quickly pivoted to other topics

The Australian Greens policy paper in mental health was light on details and heavy on ideals and principles, but I did note a commitment to funding the NDIS to be able to provide services to those with a mental health disability.  While this is not the answer to all of the problems outlined above, it is certainly a step toward a more inclusive and less disabled life for those with severe mental health issues.

I also noted a recent ALP announcement that the NDIS funding would be increased and assured by putting aside money into the future fund to ensure there is money to meet its long term needs.  This is the only serious attempt I have seen to consider how the fund will be sustainable in the long term.  The LNP announced on budget night that the NDIS was already fully funded, but the growth rates used in their economic modelling seemed so optimistic as to be fanciful.


In terms of specific details -

The Australian Labor Party - Their policy document has a lot of language around ‘regional’ driven policy, which I am interpreting as code for increased funding of the PHNs.  I am happy to be corrected on this, but my interpretation is that the ALP plans to put more resources into the PHNs in the hope that they will figure out how to solve local problems region by region.  There does not appear to be a plan to overcome the governance limitations of the PHNs.  This has the potential to be both costly and ineffective. The ALP has also committed to a target of reducing suicide by 50% in the next ten years.  This is an admirable goal, however the detail of how to do this are somewhat unclear.  It seems that they will be relying on the PHNs, and possibly another layer of regional structure to seek out and implement best practice solutions. Without more detail it is impossible to comment on this.


The Liberal National Party - The LNP made a commitment in the budget to a massive expansion of Headspace services.  These will be extended to an adult version of Headspace, and the total number of centres will triple.  This commitment was costed at $111 Million.  There is no detail of the minutiae of how this injection of funds will be used to deal with the patchy performance of some centres during an expansion phase that will be tripling their reach.  The LNP has aso committed money to trying to tackle suicide within Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander peoples, and importantly this money is to be managed and used by the communities in need.  While this doesn’t address the wider issue of suicide, this group of Australians are disproportionately represented in the suicide statistics, and the LNP are to be commended for this commitment.


One Nation Party - I was unable to find any specific One Nation mental health policies.  However, there was one policy designed to deal with the “Ice Epidemic”.  It involved life sentences for high level drug dealers, and empowering parents to institutionalised children regardless of age in specially built rehabilitation centres if they are addicted to Ice.


Palmer United Party - I was unable to find current information.  However, at the last election, they stood for increasing mental health funding by $4 billion dollars, and Indigenous health services funding by $5 Billion.  No details of how the money would be used were available.


(EDIT: I hadn't realised Clive Palmer had now rebranded his part as “United Australia Party”, who do not appear to have a mental health policy, but have a health policy that is similar to their 2013 mental health policy.  They commit to an $80 Billion dollar injection into the health system.  There were no details of what that $80 Billion would be spent on, and given that the only other economic policy of note was cutting taxes and raising the pension, it is hard to see how it will be funded, but I will leave economists to comment on that aspect.)


Overall - Unless there are significant announcements in the wings it does not look like any party is committed to a serious attempt at tackling the needs of the mental health sector.  Throwing more money into current systems and changing their funding mix slightly is unlikely to achieve any of the key goals of good policy.  Both the ALP and LNP are committing to outsourcing more of the problems to the PHNs and Headspace respectively, both of which are systems that hold great promise but are struggling with substantial teething problems.  The Greens probably have the most optimistic message and goals, however being so light on detail it is hard to give unqualified support for their platform either.


However you choose to vote on 18th May, make it count and enjoy your democracy sausage.

Make your vote count for mental health in the upcoming election2023-08-21T14:54:41+10:00

Helping children (and ourselves) respond to Media coverage of difficult events

by Dr Jasmine Pang

There has been a plethora of difficult news stories to hit our screens recently: from child abuse involving high profile, previously well regarded alleged perpetrators to mass violence resulting in multiple deaths. While the media can help to inform and educate, it can unfortunately […]

Helping children (and ourselves) respond to Media coverage of difficult events2023-08-21T15:00:46+10:00

3 Ways To Tell If Your Child Might Have Social Anxiety

Written by By Dr Cate Hearn

Shy or Self-Conscious

Compared to other children their own age, socially anxious children appear shyer and more self-conscious. They may:

  • Find it hard to talk to other children
  • Find it hard to make new friends
  • Feel left out or awkward, or worry they’ll embarrass themselves
  • Have less well developed social skills than children their own age
  • Dislike being the centre of attention
  • Worry a lot about their appearance
  • Worry that their friends don’t really like them
  • Be quiet in large social situations
  • Speak softly to those they don’t know well



Socially anxious children fear and avoid a range of social situations. They may:

  • Avoid new social situations
  • Make excuses not to go, by saying, “I’m just a homebody”, “I don’t feel like going”, “I don’t like parties”
  • Dread sports days or swimming carnivals
  • Dislike giving orals or talks in class
  • Be too anxious to raise their hand/answer questions in class
  • Play alone often


Tummy pains, headaches

Anxiety and worry can manifest in physical symptoms, and socially anxious children may:

  • Report pains in the stomach, headaches, nausea or sore/aching arms/legs especially before school or social events
  • Become withdrawn or irritable before social events or before school


Won't they just grow out of it?

Research shows that a great many children with social anxiety do not just ‘grow out’ of it.

Left untreated, social anxiety can persist and cause significant interference in children’s lives. Child friendly cognitive behaviour therapy for social anxiety can help children overcome social anxiety.

At Benchmark Psychology, we have a number of therapists who can provide child friendly therapy to socially anxious children. Ask for Dr Cate Hearn (who’s PhD thesis was in child and adolescent social anxiety), Dr Alison Bocquee, Dr Kylee Forrest, Dr Jasmine Pang or Dr Leona Chun

3 Ways To Tell If Your Child Might Have Social Anxiety2023-08-21T15:11:48+10:00

Five Screen-Time Life Hacks

Written By Dr Tania McMahon

It’s 9pm. You’re exhausted. You’ve just finished dinner, maybe putting the kids to bed, tidying up around the house and vaguely thinking about what you have on tomorrow, and you have approximately one hour before you drag yourself, bleary-eyed, into bed to get some sleep and do it all again tomorrow. It’s time for some ‘you’ time! What about checking social media for a few minutes before figuring out what you could do to relax?

It’s 10:15pm, you realise with a start, as you peel your eyes up from Instagram and check the clock. “A few minutes” has turned into over an hour, and any time that could have been spent tinkering on that craft project, strumming on the guitar, or pulling a new book off the shelf has now been sucked up by the black hole of your digital device. While you have a vague sense of being mildly entertained over the past hour, you can’t remember exactly what it was you were looking at, and your brain is in a strange state between buzzing with alertness and feeling strangely fatigued. As you scramble to get ready for bed, you can’t help but notice a strange feeling of discomfort, a low-level frustration that something hasn’t been tended to, or you didn’t finish something; a feeling of being left unsatisfied.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Our devices embody an almost perfect solution to temporary boredom: brief, instant entertainment, on demand. Yet when we find ourselves turning to them at every idle moment, day after day, night after night, we start to realise that they are taking us away from all those things we’d “love to be doing more of”, but that take a little more time and effort to get into. And when we do less and less of those activities we value, we fall more and more into the same trap of turning to our digital devices whenever we have a moment of boredom.

So, how do we hack our way out of this digital ditch? Here are five quick tips to get you started:

1. Categorise screen time into ‘work’ and ‘leisure’.

We all know that some screen time is unavoidable – emails, online banking, checking the bus schedule, and so on. However, this ‘necessary’ screen time need not get mixed in with checking social media, playing games, and browsing the web. By mentally categorising each function, app and activity on your device as ‘work’ or ‘leisure’, you can start to build awareness of your use, and then start to make decisions about how much ‘leisure’ time you really want to spend on it.

2. Track your use

Devices have a funny habit of ‘warping’ time while we’re on them, making it seem like only 10 minutes has passed, when it’s actually been much longer than that. It follows, then, that all of us are rather poor judges of how much time we’re spending on them. By downloading an app that tracks your use (popular options include ‘Quality Time’ for Androids and ‘Moment’ for iPhones), you’ll be able to analyse your use over days, weeks and months, as well as look at patterns of use across the different apps on your device. By knowing when, were and how you use your device the most, you’ll be able to set your own personalised goals for what you’d prefer your use to be like.

3. Set regular screen-free times

While everyone’s screen time rules are ultimately going to be different, a good general rule for everyone to apply is to set at least one regular screen-free time. Some choose a screen-free breakfast, so they can connect meaningfully with their family first thing in the morning; some choose the train or bus trip to work, so they can use it as ‘thinking time’; many choose the hour before bed, because of the strong evidence linking screen use before bed to sleep difficulties. The options are numerous!

4. Change your notification settings

Notifications are designed to catch our attention – a red badge here, a blinking light there. The more we see, the more we feel the compulsion to check them, irrelevant of how important or urgent they actually are (and let’s face it, how many times have those notifications been utter time-wasting distractions??). A simple solution to this is to change your Notification settings so that you only receive Push notifications for things you feel are absolutely necessary. Or, be daring and change them all to Manual!

5. Make your leisure screen time as goal-directed as possible

Get into the habit of asking yourself ‘what am I wanting to achieve by looking at my device right now?’ and ‘is this my preferred use of my time right now’? More often than not, you may find that mindlessly scrolling through social media is not your preferred use of your time. Sure, the answers might be ‘I want some quick entertainment’ and ‘yes, as long as I start making dinner in 10 minutes’, but at least it means that you are consciously making that choice, and that you have defined a meaningful limit to your use. That way, if more than 10 minutes go by and you realise you haven’t started making dinner, you know it's no longer a good use of your time.

Dr Tania McMahon is a clinical psychologist with a particular passion for helping people manage their screen usage. Tania often treats internet and gaming addictions at Benchmark Psychology.

Five Screen-Time Life Hacks2023-08-21T15:12:49+10:00

Embracing Easter – It’s time to teach play

Most of us can’t decide what we think of the Easter holidays – it seems every bonus comes with its own cost. The camping trip is booked, but will begin with standstill traffic on the Bruce Highway. The chocolate eggs have been hidden, but a secret few will always remain behind the couch (yes, that’s why you have ants). The kids are on school holidays, but the kids are on school holidays.

Having the kids home can fill parents with a mix of joy (think – no school drop-offs, lazy mornings, fun time together) and dread (think – they are there ALL the time, I miss the peace and quiet of work). But, how often do we think of school holidays as a time to teach our kids new skills?

As a parent, you are always your child’s number one teacher! So now the school-bell has rung, it’s back to you to help give your child the skills they need to thrive. I’m not talking about teaching maths and history; I’m talking about teaching play.

Developing good play skills is essential for all children. Play is where we learn tolerance and problem solving, where we express our creativity and healthy competition, and where we develop friendships and explore relationships. While play skills come naturally to some, many children struggle to find their feet in the playground.

Working with children with autism and other social communication challenges, I spend a lot of time in schools teaching kids how to play with their peers. I can get the basics across with books and individual sessions, but the real learning happens out there in the field. You’ll find me hanging out in the sandpit, on the spider web, and at the oval (and yes, I have been told to sit out once before because of the no hat, not play rule). So, how can you get involved and help teach your child how to play this Easter holidays?


Step 1 – Release your inner kid

Mum & SonWe all know that a group of adults and a group of children playing look like different species. If you’re going to help teach your child how to play, you need to find and release your inner child. A few key pointers to look out for – 1) kids don’t talk and explain themselves as much as adults, they just do stuff and get on with it, 2) kids lose themselves in the moment, they’re not pretending to be Spiderman, they are Spiderman, and 3) kids join in on play by announcing their role in the game, not by waiting to be given one (“I’m the postman!”).

If you’re still feeling stuck, take some time to watch how your child, their siblings, friends, and cousins interact when they’re playing.


Step 2 – Brush up on the games

I’m telling you, the field has changed. I’m sad to say, What’s the time Mr Wolf? is getting dusty, and Mr Freeze is the new cool kid on the block. Tiggy/tag and stuck-in-the-mud are still going strong (woohoo!). But, if you don’t know how to recreate a live action version of Minecraft, you’re going to struggle. I recently asked a group of kids to play Red Rover with me and only got blank stares back. Hiding my inner devastation, I took this as a challenge and taught them now to play it – within 10-minutes they had mastered it and I firmly believe their little futures are better for it!

Remember, the internet is a marvellous place where you can look up modern playground games – but this isn’t always necessary. The expert in your child’s playground is sitting right in front of you. Ask you kids what they play at school. If they’re not sure, ask their friends and cousins for some ideas.


Step 3 – Break it down

There are many skills involved in play – watch your child play and see if you can identify what skills they have, and what skills they are missing, to be successful in a particular game. For example, you can’t play tiggy/tag unless you can run – and even then, you’re always going to be “it” if you can’t run very fast, and that’s not so much fun. So if speed isn’t your little one’s strength, start off with some running races to help increase their gross motor skills and teach them how to sprint. Similarly, if you want to be the leader at Mr Freeze you’ll have to call out someone’s name, so if you’ve got a quiet talker, start by practicing using a loud voice by sending silly messages to one another across an oval/park.

One of the key skills to being successful in any game is actually just sticking around. If your little one is a bit of a wanderer and loses interest quickly, teach them how to stay with you for longer and longer. Create a clear play environment (e.g. the Lego mat or playdoh table) and alternate between play- and break-time, gradually increasing the duration of the playtime (e.g. 2-mins, 4-mins, 8-mins, 10-mins) and rewarding them for sticking with you with lots of fun and laughter.


Water Fight

Step 4 – Have fun, always

The take-away message when teaching children play skills is this: playing with others is fun! If they haven’t got that message, you haven’t taught play skills. We need children to absolutely love engaging with us when we’re playing with them, so they’ll want to spend time playing with their peers in the playground. Children’s games are incredibly fun – if you disagree, you just haven’t played them in too long! Lose yourself in the game and laugh along with them.

So while you’re sitting there on the Bruce Highway this Friday, chocolate eggs melting away in the boot, start up a game of Alphabet Number Plates or 20-Questions and enjoy the ride!


Grace works with children, adolescents, and adults at Benchmark Psychology. Grace has a special interest in supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. 

Embracing Easter – It’s time to teach play2023-08-21T15:18:34+10:00

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

Benchmark Psychology, helping Brisbane2023-08-21T15:22:02+10:00

6 Ways to get help for your child

Girl (free comm use) As a parent, supporting your child or teenager through mental health challenges can seem overwhelming. Many parents find themselves wondering – What do I do now? Who can help me?

What’s best for my child?

It’s good to know you’re not alone.

The Department of Health recently published a report on one of the largest national surveys ever taken on the mental health of young people. They asked parents what they found hard about getting help for their children and teens. One of the biggest worries parents had was not knowing where to turn.

So, how can you get help for your child?


1. Visit your doctor

GP’s and paediatricians are trained in recognising common mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression, and substance use problems. Not only can your doctor give you advice on how to cope with some of these challenges, they can also refer you to a mental health professional in your area for more support if needed.


2. Find a mental health professional

Mental health professionals are experts trained in treating mental health challenges, and include psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, and others. These professionals will speak with you and your child to find out what challenges they are facing, help you to set a goal for therapy, create a personalised treatment plan, and monitor how therapy is going.


3. Talk to friends and family about how they accessed help

Asking your friends or family members about how they accessed help for their kids can be a great starting point. Our loved ones can point us towards people, services, and resources that helped them support their kids through a difficult period. You might even find that having a conversation with another parent going through similar struggles can help you feel more supported and less overwhelmed.


4. Get some tips online

If you want the best advice on the net – go straight to the experts. Websites like,, and are full of helpful strategies, resources, and information for parents and young people with mental health challenges.


5. Book an appointment with the school guidance counsellor

School guidance counsellors are another great starting point to get help for your child or teen. These counsellors may already have a relationship with your kid and can help them get support straight away, in the familiar school environment. They can also provide added support for school-related issues and can communicate with teaching staff to help your teen achieve in the classroom.


6. Log into therapy

Parents and young people can access evidence-based support from the home computer. Computer-based therapy programs are now available to help young people manage anxiety, depression, mood problems, and odd experiences, as well as build resilience, study skills, and much more.

What about #6: Log into therapy? Have you ever heard about logging into therapy as a way to get help for your child?

Girl Laptop 2 (free comm use)[1]
Even though we’re all pretty switched on when it comes to technology, most parents don’t know that Australia has access to some of the best computer-based therapies for young people in the world.

A team of researchers at Griffith University and the University of Southern Queensland are trying hard to fix this. Their first challenge is to find out what parents think about computer-based therapies.

What do you think about using technology in therapy? Have you ever heard of a computer-based therapy program? Do you think they could help your kid? Why did you choose face-to-face therapy instead? We want your answers!


Want to find out more about the Department of Health report? Go to:


6 Ways to get help for your child2023-08-21T15:25:06+10:00