Hi Ruth, as an easy opening question, can you tell us a little about what drew you to becoming a psychologist?
I was always interested in connecting with others and trying to understand different backgrounds and different perspectives. However, I was also very passionate about music. In my early years, it was a toss up between psychology and music for me. I almost left my psychology undergraduate degree to go on a tour of the states with a music group for a year...my parents talked me out of that one! Music remains a passion of mine and something I pursue in my spare time.
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I went on to complete a master’s degree in applied psychology. I then completed my PhD researching self-harm and family relationship and gained further experience working with clients in a wide range of psychological services. Throughout these years, the ability to connect with people and seeing the power of psychological therapy in improving the quality of life for clients brought me so much fulfilment and job satisfaction. I knew it was the right career for me!
Whilst it can be difficult to summarise could you try to summarise how you approach a practitioner/patient interaction? i.e. break down for the uninitiated what they are likely to experience if they were to see you
The most important thing for me, is to make clients feel at ease when they meet me. The first session I like to describe as a getting to know each other session. It’s important for me to get to know my clients, and find out as much information as I can so I’m best equipped to know how to help them. It’s also important for my clients to get to know me and to make sure that we are a good fit in the therapist-client relationship.
Following this my approach depends on the client and the difficulty that they present with. Some clients like structure and lots of information to help them to learn skills to manage their current difficulties. I think that CBT approaches can be helpful in this case. Others prefer a more explorative approach to help them identify the root of the difficulties they experience, and time to process this. It really depends on the client. I like to adopt a personalised integrative approach.
You're new to Melbourne having studied and worked and lived in Ireland previously. What differences have you noticed thus far between Ireland and Australia?
The food and coffee in Melbourne are incredible. I keep saying that every meal I have is the best one I’ve ever eaten! The food selection is nowhere near as broad in Ireland as it is here. I also notice a lot of similarities. I think the Australians’ friendliness and sense of humour is similar to that of Irish, which made me feel at home here right away. The weather in winter is unfortunately more similar than I had hoped for!
I notice differences in terms of psychology services in Ireland and Australia also. There is no Medicare equivalent in Ireland which makes private psychological services a lot less accessible. Something I’ve noticed if that Australians often attend private psychology sessions when they’re starting to struggle, rather than waiting until they’re in a crisis situation. I think this prevention model is really fantastic.
In terms of mental health conditions are there any areas that you are experienced/interested in?
I have experience working with adults and children with a range of psychological difficulties such as mood, anxiety, trauma and somatic symptoms. I have specialist training in the psychology of addiction. I also completed my PhD thesis on self-harm and family relationships which is also a specialist interest of mine.
What are your self-care tips?
I see having a self-care routine as being similar to having an exercise routine. It’s important to schedule exercise and find a type of exercise that suits you. I think the same is true for self-care. Here are some tips and tricks I like to follow.
It’s important to do something you enjoy. Whether that’s reading, playing music, playing a sport or meeting with friends. When life gets busy, it can be easy for the things we enjoy and that are good for our mental health to slip down the priority list, but by doing things we enjoy and help us to relax, we become happier which in turn also makes us more efficient in daily activities.
Mondays can be hard. A lot of people struggle on Monday, after a lack of routine or later nights at the weekend. I like to have Monday nights as my self-care night. I try to get to a yoga session, or practice some mindfulness at home. I like to follow this up with having a nice healthy meal, running a bath or having a nice hot shower, playing some relaxing music and lighting some candles. I read a book or watch my favourite Netflix show and have an early night. These all sound like simple things to do, but by paying attention to these details, tapping into each of the senses and scheduling time for yourself, this can be a good way to start your week.