Often people believe that when you go to see a psychologist, the majority of the ‘therapy’ happens while you are in the clinician’s room at your appointment. In actual fact, the therapy is something that largely takes place in the changes you make to your thinking and behaviour between the sessions. There are 168 hours in a week, and an average appointment is 50 minutes. Therefore, you need to be doing most of the hard yards between the sessions, so that when you get to your appointment time, you can spend this limited time touching base with the psychologist about the changes you have made since the last session, things you tried and problem solving any barriers you came up against, and then learning some new skills to take away and try before the next session.
Typical Between-Session Tasks
The kind of between-session tasks you do will depend on the kind of goals you have set for your treatment and what you’re wanting to work on in your therapy. Early on in therapy, this will often involve reading information to expand on the things you have discussed with your clinician during your session. It may also involve you keeping some sort of self-monitoring record of anything that is relevant to what you’re working on e.g., thoughts, mood, sleep patterns, eating behaviours etc. Finally, you will often be trying to make changes to your thinking and behaviour between sessions. Perhaps you will be practicing noticing and challenging negative thoughts that pop up, or ‘unhooking’ from a worry spiral, or making a change to your behaviour in order to improve your mood or test out a feared prediction. All of these are crucially important components of therapy that need to be practiced regularly between your sessions in order to achieve change.
Self-Monitoring and Records
When we ask you to keep some sort of self-monitoring record, this serves a few different purposes. Firstly, it’s a means of further assessing what is going on for you with regards to any patterns of thinking, behaviour, and emotional experience that are relevant to the difficulties you’re experiencing. Secondly, self-monitoring will prompt you to become more aware of your own patterns, and give you an opportunity to start to make changes to these – after all, you can’t change what you’re not aware of. We recognise that at time these tasks can seem arduous and perhaps a little annoying, but they are well worth the effort because they help you progress and make change.
One of the first things you will do in each therapy session is to review how you’ve been traveling since your last appointment and how you’ve gone with your between-session tasks. Try to make sure you always bring your self-monitoring or homework tasks into session with you and be ready to discuss them with your psychologist – it’s much easier to do this when you have the paperwork there in front of you and don’t have to rely solely on your memory! It often helps to have a folder where you keep any handouts, self-monitoring, or other homework records that you’re working on during treatment to bring to each session and always have them handy.
Homework Setting at the End of Each Session
At the end of each therapy session, your clinician will work with you to set some ‘homework’ to complete between now and the next session, so be prepared to actively participate in this and think about what tasks might help you practice the skills and strategies you’ve learned during the session. Between-session tasks should ideally be related to whatever you’ve discussed during the therapy session, and to what you’re currently working on. It’s important to let your clinician know if you don’t understand what they’ve asked you to do or are not confident that you can manage. This gives them an opportunity to clarify things with you, and for you to collaboratively come up with a plan that feels manageable.
Scheduling Time for Homework + Reminders
It’s really easy to walk out of a therapy session having written your next appointment in your diary and simply forget all about the between-session tasks you’d planned to work on! For this reason, we often recommend that clients set aside some time each day or week for an at-home check-in, or self-guided ‘therapy session’ where they review their homework and keep track of how they’re progressing. Many people find it helpful to pop a reminder for this in their calendar or phone, so that it doesn’t slip their mind. This way, you can steadily progress through your homework during the time between your sessions, rather than doing it all in a rush the day before your next appointment, or finishing it all right after your previous session and then forgetting to practice the tasks repeatedly.
What To Do If You Get Stuck or Forget Your Homework
If you get stuck with a homework task – that’s ok! It’s great that you’ve given it a shot, and you can always do some problem solving with your clinician at your next appointment. It’s really important that you still attend your next session anyway, and be honest with the clinician about what you have and haven’t been able to do between your sessions; that way you’re on the same page and can figure out how to move forward. The clinician can then also give you extra support, clarify the task further, and help you brainstorm how to overcome any hurdles you’ve faced.
Be Willing to Get Uncomfortable
As with any of the work that you do in therapy, change often involves doing things that feel somewhat uncomfortable, and the tasks you practice between sessions are no exception. You may often be asked to try something that pushes you out of your comfort zone like spending less time in bed to manage your insomnia, or exposing yourself to something you’re anxious about to test out your feared prediction. This is a really normal part of therapy and it’s important to be open to tolerating some short-term discomfort in order to experience improvement in the long term.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s important to remember that most between-session tasks are not a one off! As you go through therapy you’re gradually accumulating a set of skills and strategies to help you manage your thinking and behaviour differently, and improve your mood and overall quality of life. Just like with any skill (playing the piano, riding a bike, cooking a new recipe), you will need to repeatedly practice these strategies in order to get good benefit from them. This may mean you need to persist with a task even if it takes you a while to get the hang of it, or you don’t see the impact straight away. Repetition is key!
Now you know some more about what’s involved in between-session tasks during therapy, if you believe that you could benefit from some professional support, why not give us a call today? Our team of highly skilled and experienced Clinical Psychologists are here to help. Call us now on 6107 6828, and take the first step towards improving your mental health.
Although Covid-19 has upended our lives and the business world in many negative ways, some industries have benefited. One of those is esports, which has surged in popularity by continuing to provide spectator entertainment when many traditional sports have been sidelined due to the ongoing quarantine restrictions.
Esports refers to professional video game competitions (often in leagues, like the AFL), in which teams or individuals play against each other on a specific game in an organised format. There are lot of different types of video games that are played professionally. Most people would be familiar with first person shooter games like Call of Duty (COD) or sports games such as FIFA. Other popular games include League of Legends, a MOBA game (multilayer online battle arena) and Super Smash Bros, a fighting game.
The professionals who compete in esports, known as esports athletes, share many similarities with traditional sports athletes. They train regularly, get paid a salary and need to work on their performance management to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents. Performance psychology has been helpful in the sports and business arenas for decades as humans continually strive to optimise their functioning.
Over the last year clinical psychologist Dan Bonnar from Sleep Matters has been partnering with Perth based esports org Ground Zero (GZ) to implement performance psychology principles to support the health and wellness of its players. Originally several teams from GZ participated in a research study that aimed to improve their sleep and performance. Several academic publications are currently underway that will outline results from this study.
More recently, Dan has been working closely with the GZ Rocket League team to strengthen their psych game. What is Rocket League? The simplest explanation is that it’s soccer with cars, but that doesn’t adequately communicate the nature and complexity of skills required to play this game. See here for a clip of some highlights from some of the best teams in the world - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kffa4vVek4
Dan helped the team in a number of ways, including enhancing communication between team members, instilling team values, managing self-doubts and confidence building and perhaps most importantly, working as a unit.
After a ton of hard work, and many late Friday night psych meetings, the GZ Rocket League team (including Julz, Express and Decka) finished top of the ladder, and only a few weekends ago competed in the play-off series. They managed to pull off a clean sweep and win the grand final against another team called Fury, winning approximately $60,000 AUD in the process. Here’s a link to their season highlights.
Dan will be continuing his work with the team in the next season scheduled to start in September.
Interested to learn more? Here are some already published sleep and esports academic articles by Daniel:
Going to see a clinical psychologist involves a significant investment of time, money, and energy, so it’s understandable that you will want to get the most out of these appointments. Therefore, we’ve put together some key pointers below that will help you do just that…
First and foremost, understand that the vast majority of the work and change that happens in therapy actually occurs between the treatment sessions. Think of your appointments as a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly check in with a coach or trainer – there are 168 hours in a week, and an average appointment is 50 minutes. Therefore, you need to be doing most of the hard yards between the sessions, so that when you get to your appointment time, you can spend this limited time touching base with the psychologist about things you tried, what went well and what you may have struggled with, problem solving any trouble spots, and then learning some new skills to take away. Before your session, take some time to summarise the work you have been doing since the last session, and write down any queries or issues you may want to raise.
At the start of most sessions, your psychologist will set a bit of an ‘agenda’ for the session, to make sure there’s time to address everything of relevance during your appointment. Be sure to let the psychologist know right at the start of the session if there are any particularly important issues that you want to make time to discuss during the session. That way, they will be able to allocate the time within the session most effectively.
Do Your Homework
Typically, one of the first things that will happen in a session is that the psychologist will ask to review the between-session tasks you were working on since your last appointment. It really helps to make sure that you have not only done these tasks, but have also brought along any relevant worksheets, forms etc. so that you don’t have to rely on your memory. If you haven’t been able to complete these tasks for any reason (you ran out of time or you got stuck and didn’t know how to do the task), please just let your psychologist know. It’s definitely better to come along to the appointment anyway, rather than skip the session because you’re concerned that you haven’t finished your homework! The psychologist is there to help you problem solve any difficulties like this, whether they relate to practical barriers or issues with motivation. In working with your psychologist, honesty is always the best policy.
Some people mistakenly believe that when they go to see a psychologist, that person is going enact a treatment upon them; but this is not the case. When seeing a psychologist, you and the psychologist are a team, working together discover how you can reach your goals and improve how you feel. Your psychologist may well teach you certain skills and strategies, but the effectiveness of the therapy lies in your willingness to actively participate in the process.
Be Willing to Get Uncomfortable
It’s important to remember that working with a psychologist often involves facing up to upsetting or anxiety provoking thoughts, situations, memories, and emotions. Much of the progress we make in therapy comes from approaching, rather than avoiding, the things that make us uncomfortable. So remember to go into your sessions with the perspective that this is going to be like a real workout for your mind – you’re there to change, grow, improve yourself, and overcome your difficulties. If you went to the gym and didn’t engage in you wouldn’t expect to experience any change. Therapy is just the same! If you’re willing the put in the hard yards, you will certainly reap the rewards. And remember of course that your psychologist will be there to help you right through the journey.
Be Open and Honest: we’re here to help, not to judge.
Your psychologist’s capacity to assist you is limited by the information that you give them. Sometimes people feel afraid or ashamed to open up and be truly honest in their sessions because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or anxious. It’s important to remember the psychology is a helping profession, and it is your psychologist’s job to listen to the difficult experiences of others without judgement. Many people may have experienced difficulties just like yours, so it’s likely that whatever you share with your psychologist, they will have heard similar concerns from clients before. The more open and honest you can be during your sessions, the better your psychologist will be able to understand you and your difficulties.
If your psychologist mentions anything that you don’t understand, or feel confused by, make sure you speak up and let them know. They are not a mind readers, and though they will check in with you frequently about your understanding, it’s important that you remember that it’s your right to ask for clarification whenever you need to. This is also a good opportunity to practice being appropriately assertive, if this is something you struggle with. So when in doubt, just ask!
Now you know how to make the most out of a session with a Clinical Psychologist, if you believe that you could benefit from some professional support, why not give us a call today? Our team of highly skilled and experienced Clinical Psychologists are here to help. Call us now on 6107 6828, and take the first step towards improving your mental health.
Join us as leading clinical psychology practices collaborate to bring you answers to common psychological challenges that have arisen as we navigate COVID-19.
Recent studies suggest that for many people, distress is increasing during COVID-19. The rates of Australians with poor mental health has doubled since pre-COVID-19. Stress, confusion and anxiety are on the rise, while optimism has reduced.
Despite these numbers, there has been a drop in people seeking professional help across public and private sectors. People may be unsure about when and how to seek help and what psychological interventions involve.
We hope that our From the Couch series will encourage you to take care of your well-being and understand how to do that.
This Q&A series will to provide you with a better understanding of common psychological challenges, demystify what a clinical psychologist does, and give you some takeaway action points to help you or your loved ones in the right direction.
1. I can't sleep! Understanding Sleep and insomnia: May 11th at 7 pm
2. Managing OCD during a pandemic: May 18th at 7 pm
3. All things kids and mental health: May 25th at 7 pm
4. What if..... one for the worriers: June 1st at 7 pm
Clair and Melissa are two like-minded, experienced clinical psychologists based in Perth, Western Australia. They are both involved in and love research and run clinical psychology clinics dedicated to providing gold standard evidence-based treatments.
Intertwining research evidence with warm and compassionate care is our craft, and we're super excited about this opportunity to provide a glimpse into the world of clinical psychology.
More about your hosts:
Dr Clair Lawson. Hey everyone, I am a clinical psychologist based in Perth, Western Australia and have been helping people from all walks of life for the past 19 years. I spent the first five years of my career working with children and adolescents within the WA health department. I moved to the private sector in 2007 and established Lawson Clinical Psychology. Our mission is to improve lives through excellence in psychological healthcare. I have a keen interest in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults and children. I am involved in research and training of clinical psychologists.
Dr Melissa Ree. Hello there. I've been a clinical psychologist for 20 years. Following a stint at Oxford University, I've been serving the Perth community in private hospitals and in private practice. I founded Jeffery & Ree Clinical Psychologists and Sleep Matters with Paul Jeffery and our clinic has grown to provide care for many West Australians. I'm also a part-time academic at UWA where you'll find me teaching and conducting research in the field of sleep which is my clinical and research passion. The effective treatment of sleep difficulties such as insomnia brings so many good things to our health and well-being and I'm keen to spread the word far and wide.
Seeing a psychologist can be a proactive step in enhancing long term well-being.
However, it can feel like a big decision to seek psychological support for your child or teenager. How do you know if your child's behaviours or emotions will pass with time, are just part of "growing up", or something that needs more specialised help?
As a starting point, it can be helpful to talk with friends and family to get a sense of whether others are having similar difficulties, and depending on the concern, talk with your child's teacher to see if they have noticed anything different in your child's behaviour or school performance.
As a guide, a psychologist may be able to help when a child's difficulties are:
Psychological therapy encourages kids, teens, and parents to self-reflect, talk and learn how to best respond to their challenges. Therapy will generally involve parents being active in the treatment and this will especially be the case with younger children. It can improve coping and communication, develop resilience and help kids to feel better about themselves. It can also be useful to work on issues before they become too entrenched. Making an appointment to see a psychologist also models that if there is a problem, it's helpful to address it and look for solutions, rather than avoid; that you "have a village around you" and resources to draw on as you need to.
Speak to your child openly and let them know that you think it would be helpful to get some outside support to help you and them the difficulties you've been noticing. Explain that clinical psychologists are highly trained professionals who have a lots experience working with kids with all kinds of concerns. to improve the situation. Let them know that you will find a therapist that is knowledgeable, and that you are confident this will help. It's important that children also know that the information that you give your psychologist will be kept confidential and explain what that means. If you or your child prefers, you can meet with the psychologist separately first to get to know them and their approach. All Jeffery and Ree psychologists are highly trained to use evidence-based approaches to work with issues that may be causing children and families to feel "stuck".
The Initital appointment:
We will begin with booking an assessment appointment for you and your child. This is an opportunity for you and your child to meet your therapist, get to know them and give a detailed history of the problem(s) you are concerned about. They will ask you a range of questions about your area of concern and work hard to understand factors which will be important in therapy. At the end of the appointment, your therapist will give you some initial feedback about what could be helpful for treatment, and develop treatment goals with you to ensure that the sessions are meeting your needs. A thorough assessment really helps to get treatment off to a good start.
It is possible that your clinical psychologist may use drawing, games or play to build a strong relationship and aid conversations with your child. You and/or your child will often be asked to think about or summarise the session at home or to try out some new strategies for learning and coping between sessions. It's important that we make the therapy active and meaningful between sessions. We will review therapy progress with you regularly and encourage children and parents to provide honest feedback along the way.
If you would like to make an appointment with a psychologist from our team, you can look through our therapists and book straightaway on the website, or phone our friendly admin team who would be happy to assist you in finding the most suitable psychologist for your child or teenager.
As the blog grows, we hope that you'll find it a treasure trove of useful and interesting reading - so please keep coming back. Themes guiding our Blog include.....