image of girl laying on ground, abstract, scared

Breaking the Silence: Navigating the Truths and Myths of Rape

Rape is a form of sexual harm, sometimes also called sexual assault or sexual violence. Sexual harm is the ‘umbrella’ term which includes any unwanted sexual contact or behaviours including:

  • rape (including attempted rape)
  • penetration (vaginal, anal or oral) with a body part or an object
  • touching
  • kissing
  • other sexual practices or behaviours

Rape can be a one-off event or it may have happened lots of times. It can involve one or more people. Often, but not always, sexual harm involves fear, force, or coercion such as using threats to make someone do something. People who are raped often know the perpetrator. Is it very common for rape to happen at, or near the raped person’s home.

Myths about rape

Myth: They were asking for it

The victim doesn’t have to say ‘no’ for it to be rape or sexual harm. Often people can go into a freeze response when they are overwhelmed or feeling unsafe. This means that they may not be able to move, speak or even think clearly. Any sexual activity that doesn’t have a clear and enthusiastic ‘yes’ from both/all parties should be taken as a ‘no’.

Unwanted or forced sex can happen between partners or spouses. It is not a partner’s “duty” to have sex with their partner against their will. In heterosexual marriages, up to 14% of wives report having unwanted sex with their husbands. This is known as marital rape and it often happens repeatedly throughout a relationship. This may surprise you, but waking up to your partner having intercourse with you is classed as rape. In Australia, it is illegal to have unwanted or forced sex with your partner or spouse.

But remember, regardless of the circumstances, what happened to you is never your fault. Even though it can be incredibly challenging and normal not to blame yourself, please know that you did nothing wrong. It doesn’t matter what you said or did, how you behaved, what you wore, or any other factor, it’s not your fault!

The responsibility lies solely with the perpetrator, not with you. Your experience is your experience, and your feelings are understandable and normal. You deserve compassion, support, and understanding as you work through this. 

There can be many physical, mental, and emotional consequences that come in the hours, days, weeks, and even years after rape.  Soon after the event, you may need to attend a hospital or see a doctor for help with any injuries such as broken bones, skin tears, or bruises. You may also seek help from a sexual health specialist to prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

Emotional support is also available from counsellors and therapists to help with trauma, shock, anxiety, fear, depression, intimacy issues, and other difficulties. You may experience PTSD type symptoms such as flashbacks, dreams, or fight/freeze states.

Alvin Mahmudov Rgauysta0ni Unsplash 3

Seeking help and support from professionals who specialise in trauma recovery is okay. We can use Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), we know it helps people process and heal from traumatic experiences like rape. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore your emotions, work through trauma-related symptoms, and develop coping strategies for healing and moving forward. 

If you can, reach out for support. Australia’s national sexual assault helpline 1800 656 4673.  Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. If someone you know has been raped, ask them if you can reach out for help on their behalf if they cannot. Don’t assume that they want help – always ask first and respect their decision. Sometimes just being there is the best thing you can do for a friend who has just experienced trauma.

Know that you are not alone in this, and your life does not have to be dictated by what happened to you.

Online counselling and therapy session

Online counselling – yay or nay?

Online counselling and psychotherapy sessions have become the norm since COVID-19. Whether you like them or not, they are here to stay. Let’s explore the pros and cons of online therapy.

Pro – convenience and flexability

As long as you are in a private space and no one can hear you, you can attend your counselling session anywhere you like. I have spoken to people whilst in their car, wardrobe, cupboards, you name it. Pop in a set of headphones and you can have your session walking in a park – no one will pay attention and can only hear one side of the conversation. Just let your therapist know, after all, confidentiality is important.

Being busy shouldn’t stop you from attending online sessions. They are flexible and can be scheduled during your lunch break or even when you’re on the road.

You and your counsellor can still attend sessions even if you are feeling unwell but still want to attend your sessions, the same goes with your therapist. We understand the importance of not spreading germs.

Pro – geographic locations

Online counselling ignores borders, allowing you to access therapy from virtually anywhere in the world. Whether you’re exploring bustling cities, serene beaches, or remote villages. This also goes for if you live in rural areas, the middle of Australia, work FIFO or on a fishing boat in the middle of the ocean. As long as you have a decent internet connection you can connect with your therapist. Remember to check your time zones, you might not wish to have a 3 am counselling session.

Pro – specialisations

If you are searching for a particular specialisation, like kink-friendly counselling, it may not be available in your local area. However, with online counselling, you can access professional counsellors and psychotherapists from anywhere in the country. This means that your options are now limitless.

online counselling

Pro – privacy

Imagine this. You are living in a town of 1200 people. There are two counsellors to choose from. The town is one of those places where everyone knows everything about you. Are you going to want to see one of the two counsellors with the risk that someone will see you (your privacy means the world to you)? Online counselling offers that privacy. No one will ever know you are attending sessions unless you tell them.

Pro – most therapy styles can be practised professionally

In terms of online counselling, I have not yet encountered a counselling framework or style that cannot be used. Of course, it’s different if we need to physically touch a part of the body to access it, but with counselling, we don’t typically have to rely on physical touch.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, counsellors have successfully adapted their practices to offer online services, including EMDR therapy and games to support children. Online group therapy sessions have been proven to help remove isolation and assist in connecting with others.

Pro – extra layer of protection

Some of the things you want to work on are difficult for you to talk through – especially face-to-face. I get that, your parts are holding shame and would prefer some extra protection as you talk about them. Online counselling offers that, as do phone sessions. The screen offers a barrier between you and your counsellor. I have received feedback from clients about the added layer of perceived protection allowing them to share things they would never mention in the office.

The same goes for the environment. Sitting in a therapy office may be difficult for you, it hinders you from opening up as you have had negative experiences before. Being able to stay at home in comfort (including PJs) can offer an extra level of protection for you. That is perfectly okay! We do what we need to do to make counselling work best for you.

fixing broken internet connection

Cons – technical issues

Battery issues, bad connections, and programs not working are all issues we have to work around by having online counselling sessions. One day everything works fine, the next they are glitching. Sometimes it’s pot luck on whats will work and what won’t.

Cons – communication issues

One major complaint about online counselling and therapy is the lack of connection between client and therapist. There is truth in this – missed body language and the slightest facial cues can hinder the connections between all involved. Some individuals have stated they feel further away and distant due to the screen.

Con – privacy concerns

Even though I included privacy concerns as a positive, it can also be a negative. You may have taken every precaution to be in a private area, but there is no guarantee someone will not walk into the room or overhear you. As for leaked or hacked programs, ask your therapist if the program they are using is telehealth-compliant to help ease your mind.

Online counselling offers a range of benefits, including convenience, accessibility, flexibility, and privacy. It breaks down geographical barriers, making therapy accessible to individuals regardless of where you are. However, it’s important to acknowledge the potential drawbacks, such as technological issues, privacy concerns, and perceived lack of connection. Despite these challenges, many individuals find online counselling to be a valuable and effective form of mental health support. By being aware of these drawbacks and actively addressing them, both clients and therapists can maximise the benefits of online counselling while mitigating potential risks. Ultimately, online counselling is not going anywhere. Is it time you embraced it?

memories

The Heart of the Matter: Understanding the Body’s Memory Bank

Isn’t it fascinating how our bodies seem to carry the echoes of our past experiences? They’re like silent witnesses to every moment, storing away memories and emotions in the nooks and crannies of our muscles and bones. But have you ever wondered why our bodies have this remarkable ability? What purpose does it serve, and how does it shape the way we navigate the world around us?

To understand why our bodies hold onto our experiences so tightly, we need to look at the role of our nervous system. From the moment we’re born, our bodies are wired to respond to the world around us, constantly scanning for threats and opportunities. When we encounter something new or unexpected, our nervous system springs into action, sending signals to various parts of our body to prepare for whatever comes next. This is known as the fight-or-flight response, and it’s a fundamental survival mechanism that has helped humans navigate dangerous situations for thousands of years.

But our bodies aren’t just wired to respond to external threats; they’re also finely attuned to our internal world of thoughts and emotions. When we experience something that triggers a strong emotional response, whether it’s a moment of joy, sadness, fear, or anger, our bodies react in kind. Our heart rate may increase, our muscles may tense up, and our breathing may become shallow. These physical changes are not just random; they’re our body’s way of preparing us to cope with the emotional intensity of the moment.

memories

But the purpose of our body’s ability to hold onto our experiences goes beyond mere survival. It’s also a key part of how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Our bodies serve as a kind of living record of our lives, carrying with them the stories of who we are and where we’ve been. When we encounter a familiar song or smell, it’s like flipping through the pages of a scrapbook, reliving those moments all over again. And while this can sometimes be painful, it can also be incredibly healing, allowing us to revisit past traumas and come to terms with them in a new light.

n the end, our bodies are more than just flesh and bone; they’re vessels of memory, emotion, and experience. They have a way of weaving the threads of our past into the fabric of our present, shaping the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And while it can be tempting to try to escape the weight of our past, perhaps the real challenge is learning to embrace it—to acknowledge the stories our bodies hold and to recognise the strength and resilience they represent. So the next time you find yourself caught up in a wave of emotion or memory, take a moment to honor the wisdom of your body. It may just have a story to tell you.

Pink Letters Forming The Word #metoo

Your body doesn’t lie – covert sexual trauma

Take your time reading this. It might be too difficult for you; I understand that. We do need to talk about it, though. We cannot keep denying what is or isn’t sexual trauma just because we do not have a memory of it.

Somatically your body remembers everything. Memories of good and bad will sit in your nervous system until it needs to speak to you, or wants your attention. This happens even if you have no memories of the events. As the book title suggests “The body keeps score”.

Covert sexual trauma is rarely spoken about. These are the events that you debate with friends over for if what happened to you was sexual assault or not. I have read many posts in women’s Facebook groups asking precisely – “was what happened to me assault? Can I do anything about this?” The answers are often a mixed bag of reactions from “yes, it was” to “no, it wasn’t, and you could’ve done something to prevent it”. The victim blaming that occurs in those groups at times is beyond imaginable. I am positive it happens in the men’s groups as well. That’s if a male is game enough to post such a scenario with the same question.

What is covert sexual trauma?

Unlike overt sexual trauma, covert is behaviours, comments, or looks which are not wanted. It’s the coercion to make you do something to get the person to lay off you or the image you were sent that you did not request. Covert sexual trauma can be tricky, I understand that. Think of it this way – if you feel uncomfortable about it, it is.

Overt sexual assault is outright violent behaviour. No one questions overt; it’s clear and undeniable.

As a society, we do not classify unwanted sex by partners as sexual trauma. However, if you are being talked into or you give in to make them stop, that is covert sexual assault. I understand there are often unspoken rules that occur within relationships. That is okay if they are negotiated and spoken about beforehand.

Other examples of covert sexual trauma include:

  • unwanted photographic nudes
  • unwanted touching
  • breaching of privacy around intimacy
  • removal of sex toys from your room or possession without permission
  • body shaming
  • slut shaming
  • verbal sexual words or sounds
  • being introduced to pornography at a young age
  • sharing of your images without permission
  • reactions from partners during sex that left you feeling uncomfortable
  • sexting without permission

Quite often, covert sexual trauma occurs in childhood. The term used here is ’emotional incest’. It is described as the parent rely’s on the child to fill their emotional needs. I am talking about extreme emotional reliance. Imagine a child replacing a partner or best friend regarding emotional support. The child’s needs are ignored. In effect, the child has become the parent.

Some parents may extend their behaviours to being sexual in nature. They will take their children on dates and talk about their sexual needs and adventures with them. It’s important to note here, this then falls out of emotional and into physical abuse.

Parents do not often see an issue in how they interact with their children. They fail to see how the crossing of boundaries is harming their child. There are many reasons why the lines are crossed. The parent may have experienced the same behaviours growing up, and they are seen as ‘normal’, lacking in parenting skills for what is appropriate and what isn’t, or they may be struggling with a mental illness or addiction. Single-parent families are at a higher risk, or if the partners in the marriage/partnership are unhappy.

Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik

Signs of covert sexual trauma

Often the symptoms or signs of covert trauma are unnoticed or not understood. You may find yourself doing one of the following unconsciously:

  • Struggling with arousal – you want to be aroused, yet struggle to get or stay aroused.
  • Pain during penetration – your body is speaking to you. Our emotional states are often felt as pain, covert sexual trauma may be stored in your nervous system and are released as a painful experience during penetrative sex.
  • Flashbacks – a particular touch, sound, or smell may produce a memory or flashback of an event.
  • Avoidance – you may find yourself avoiding any sexual advances, touch, or relationship.
  • Relationship issues and difficulties – it is not uncommon to distrust others or yourself. You may struggle with communication and vulnerability.
  • Hypervigilance – you may find yourself always looking for danger or feeling unsafe.
  • Self-blame – it is not unusual to blame yourself for what happened. It is common for women to go along with a sexual event as they need to protect themselves. You may experience shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty with emotions – you may find yourself wondering why your emotions seem a little out of control or intense. It is common to struggle with anger, sadness, or fear and have little understanding to why you feel this way.

Even though the list is fairly extensive, you may or may not experience any of them, as everyone is different. Some people have no signs or symptoms, others have many, and some show up months or years later. There is no hard and fast rule for how you will feel or cope after your experience.

How to heal

You recognise something is holding you back, or the symptoms you are experiencing are affecting your life. You want to heal. But how?

Firstly, recognising and acknowledging your experience is important. Give yourself compassion. Remind yourself it wasn’t your fault.

Self-care is important. Be kind to your body, heart and soul. Have long showers or baths, rest a lot, and read. Do the things you enjoy doing and what makes you feel good. Spend time with friends and family.

Find a support group. You may like to stay online, and that is okay. You may wish to have live human connection, which is okay too. Whatever feels right at this time. Finding yourself a community that understands what you are saying and feeling can help normalise how you feel. Not feeling alone is important.

Speak to a professional. Talk therapy can help you understand how and why you feel the way you do. You may be questioning yourself, and talking to a therapist can help clarify things for you. You do NOT need to go into full details about what happened if you do not wish to.

EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) can help you move forward. Often, with sexual trauma, survivors blame themself or don’t feel safe anymore. EMDR can help remove those beliefs and the emotional reactions that come with flashbacks or intrusive thoughts.

The important thing to remember is you are not alone. There is help and support out there for you. You do not have to go through this by yourself. It is time we stopped feeling ashamed of covert sexual traumas and start to share the stories we hold so close. The #metoo movement started the ball rolling, it’s up to you and I to keep it going.

If you or someone you know has experienced unwanted sexual behaviours, know that help is available. As a therapist, I am here to support you on your healing journey. Whether you need someone to listen, provide guidance, or help you navigate the legal and medical systems, I am here for you. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to me today to learn more about how therapy can help you move forward and reclaim your life. Let’s work together towards healing and recovery.

Nesting Dolls

EMDR and hidden parts

We would like to think we are simple beings with easy answers. The reality is, humans are no such thing.

We are made of ‘parts’. This means we are a whole being made of many different parts of us. These parts are developed across our lifespan. Some are helpful, and some are not. They include protectors, managers, parter, parent, critic, sceptic, inner child, inner adolescent, and more. Each of us have different parts, they are in itself, individual.

You most likely have seen “Inside Out”, or heard Taylor Swift’s new song “Anti Hero“. Adele rang her child/adolescent part in her song “Hello” and apologised for what she wished she had done differently. The media has its own way of speaking to us about parts. Our parts can control our lives if we let them.

In EMDR, all your parts need to be on board, or we may find roadblocks along the way. Sometimes, you and I can identify them early in the history-taking sessions. Other times they are well hidden and let themselves be known later on.

This is a story (with permission) of a client I have been working with for a while. We will refer to the client as Melissa.

Melissa and I had been working on her inner child part for a few sessions. We do this by talking to her, playing with her, loving her, and finding out what she needs. I spoke directly to this part; they need to know and trust me.

We had introduced the container (a safe place to lock things away we don’t want to feel or remember, for now, to be brought out later), a calm place (a favourite place for Melissa to go when she is feeling stressed or anxious), and her circle of security (made up on 7 figures – protector, nurturing, and wisdom). The first stages of EMDR are built on emotional regulation. This stage cannot be missed and will take longer for some, which is okay.

When the time was right, we decided to begin the trauma processing stage.

Before we started, Melissa’s 6-year-old protector part paid us a visit. I knew this part was young as Melissa’s voice and wording changed. Parts speak through you. You become their voices and ears. We spoke to her, showed her she was loved and appreciated and then went to do something fun. A visit from this part and the consequent conversation decreased Melissa’s heightened emotions automatically.

We began eye movements. Six sets (waves of eye movements) in, Melissa felt her adolescent protector part arrive. She is a spicy little thing! Full of attitude and sass, all in the name of protecting Melissa from any harm I was about to do to her! I attempted a conversation (always with the parts permission). Her response was along the lines of “why should I trust you? I don’t know you!” I asked Melissa to speak directly to this part. The same process – to find out what she needs, how we can help, and what they are worried about. Not forgetting to validate the parts role over the years, thank them, and show them, love. The important take away here is this part is around 13-15 years old, and takes her role in protecting seriously, and so she should! I suggested Melissa speak more to this part than me as there was resistance in speaking to me, after all, I was a stranger.

We continued with a few more eye movement sets before I asked Melissa to contain what we were working on with plans of returning in the next 2 days. This protector part was not about to let go easily, and more work was needed here. Together we devised a plan.

Saturday arrived, Melissas parts, Melissa, and I set to work. The first point of call was to add to her circle of security tool kit. We added an Ideal Figure (used when parents or caregivers are unsafe). We introduced the 15-year-old protector part and the new ideal figure. This was a perfect match!

A few eye movement sets in the original target memory had reduced enough for our work to move further into the past. Melissa noted her protector part was now standing back and watching instead of being involved and trying to stop the process. She noticed a feeling of loss and abandonment from her part, yet she was happy enough to allow Melissa to do what she needed to do.

We worked through another 2 target memories from Melissa’s past, cutting the cords of emotional connection to the memories that once caused high levels of distress. These memories are now harder to bring with no distressing emotions attached.

We came back to the original target to finish the cutting of emotions. Melissa noted her original belief had shifted from “I am not secure”, to “I am not safe”. This can happen during EMDR; the mind will do what it needs to do when we stay out of the way.

It was this point Melissa said to me

“There is something here. It’s not 15-year-old. It’s something different”

Melissa and I worked together to discover who this new part was. She described it as having no face and being rather negative. We wondered if this part was a sceptic. I introduced myself and explained what we were doing and how life would be different. Sometimes, it is too much to think of a new life without the cape of trauma encasing you. Your trauma is safe, it is secure, and you know what to expect. Except, logically, we know this is not reality. Truth is, your traumas can keep you from living your best life and experiencing all the wonderful things in life.

Suddenly, Melissa says – “I know who it is! It is my saboteur!” Melissa knew this part well, and she had noted when she felt this part arrive and impact her life. Yet, on some level, Melissa felt this part was protecting her. At this moment, this part which was disguising itself as a protector, stepped out from behind the shadows and made itself known. Melissa spoke of times when it had shown up previously and now knowing what it really was is powerful. The faceless creature only came out of its hiding place because the 15-year-old protector part had stepped down.

Melissa described her monster as the creature from Netflix’s Wednesday, with more of a human face.

“It’s a monster. A faceless monster made up of everyone who spoke to me badly. Of all the people who hurt me. It’s mean!”

This discovery helped move the trauma through Melissa’s mind and body with little resistance. We decided to put the Ideal Figure in front of the monster. Melissa did tell it to go away. She and I worked together to quieten and weaken the saboteur enough to clear and cut the cord of the recent target memory we were working on.

It was a long, exhausting session for all of us.

Melissa has checked in with me since this session. She is reporting increased emotional control and less reactivity. She knows her monster is strong. She has left the ideal figure and a protector figure from the circle of security with the monster and has surrounded herself with nurturing figures. This part will be linked to a few beliefs. They are target memories in our treatment plan. Melissa needs to show this part boundaries, as well as love. All our parts (even the negative ones) need love and connection. By making friends with them, getting to know them, and knowing they can trust us by letting go and relaxing is important. Our parts do not need to control us, they can work with us.

If you want to learn more about your parts or feel EMDR may help you, connect with me today.

Movember

Movember 2022

Since 2003 Aussie men have been growing mows or supporting the men who do. The purpose: raising money for Movember. The brainchild was developed in a good old Aussie pub in 1999. Eighty men were growing moustaches in Adelaide and were raising awareness for some male issues. I wonder if either of those two groups ever thought it would grow to be supported in over 20 countries. They have raised over $837 million and have 6,758,699 members. What an achievement!

What is Movember?

Men’s issues are rarely spoken of. Yes, we are improving. We still have a long way to go. Movember is a movement to open the doors of conversation around prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health.

Men have the highest rate of suicide in the country. The Australian Bureau of Statics (ABS) is yet to release its 2021-2022 data. However, in 2020, 3139 lives were lost to suicide, of which 2384 were men with a median age of 43.6 years (you can read the report here). This equates to a man every minute worldwide.

Why are we not talking about men’s mental health?

Overall, mental health distress in Australia is increasing, and honestly, I do not see a decline any time soon. We know lockdowns and isolation have increased mental health issues in Australia. You do not need statistics to tell you this, you only need to talk to anyone on the street or look at the data released by Lifeline earlier in the year. You can listen to my views about Australia’s mental health system here, it was posted to Facebook in Aug 2021.

Consequently, the ABS data on mental health was last released in 2018 (you can find the data here). We know women experience higher levels of mental health distress, however, you do need to ask the question –

Are men honest in answering their survey questions, and are they seeking help?

Why do we need to ask if men are being honest?

A study by Benita Chatmon in 2020 revealed in America; men were four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Death by alcohol was at a rate of 62,000 men compared to 26,000 women. Men are more likely to misuse drugs two to three times more than women (study here). Are we still to believe the mental health statistics? I, for one, do not, and all the studies I have read on the topic over many years all state the same results.

You would think in 2022, our boys and men would be released from the stigma society has placed on them. They haven’t. The men I see in my counselling room also share with me that we haven’t.

Stigma? What is this about?

Firstly, which definition of ‘stigma’ would you like to go with? The Cambridge Dictionary defines stigma as

  • a strong lack of respect for a person or a group of people or a bad opinion of them because they have done something society does not approve of,

and

  • a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something, especially when this is unfair.

As a society, we are governed by others. What they think of us and what we think of them. Men, especially, are viewed as weak or broken if they struggle with mental health. Our boys were raised on words such as:

  • Boys don’t cry
  • You throw like a girl
  • Don’t be a sissy
  • Boys will be boys
  • Man up
  • Don’t be a sook

With this type of programming, how can we expect men to want to show their feelings or emotions, not to mention when they do, they are often ridiculed for it.

On top of men feeling weak if they seek counselling, men often feel an intense level of shame. How much of a man can you be if you are needing someone to help you, or even feeling depressed for that matter? After all, men are meant to be stoic and unbreakable; they dare not show any vulnerability! All of this shoving down of emotions leads to substance abuse to numb the uncomfortable emotions; who can blame them?

Removing the stigma means we must discuss men’s mental health more. It needs to be an open conversation, just like those men did in Adelaide. They were brave and authentic. More so, they realised it is not healthy to hold feelings internal and death with the dramas and traumas of life alone.

Are you talking to your mates? Are you talking to your sons? Are you talking to your brothers about mental health? If not, why not?

How to participate in Movember!

You can sign up and pledge here. Grab your mates, get growing that facial hair and raise some money for a worthy cause.

Start from a clean-shaven face; no cheating now.

Post photos, videos, reels, anything of the amazing hair appearing on that upper lip. Have fun with your posts – grab the attention of those around you!

Grab your donors early, or build them as you go. Talk to everyone about why you are growing this amazing piece of hair art. Get family and friends on board – create a team! Get all the men in your network growing and donate to support each other.

Host events – remember, the more creative you are, the more fun it is. I’m sure your upper lip artwork will appreciate it and grow quicker.

I’d love to see your images.

Grow the mow and help men’s mental health

Sex,toys.,black,butt,plags,and,donut.,useful,for,adult,

BDSM and therapy – Time to remove the shame.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had two clients express how grateful they have found me.

Grateful as they do not have to hide who they are. Grateful they can sit in my room and speak of their adventures confidently, they will not be judged or shamed.

Grateful I am as open as I am in my advertising and communication around kink and BDSM.

Previously, these clients have experienced unpleasant experiences from other therapists or have not felt comfortable speaking of their preferences. Let’s face it, speaking of any mental health issue can be shadowed by shame or other feelings resulting in us, as humans, hiding away and not being willing to face them. I can tell you I have sat across from a couple of professionals and felt I needed to be silence as my conversation was making them uncomfortable. During my time at university, I have sat in a classroom and listened to a lecturer shape minds around those who enjoy leather, flogging, or sleep with teddy bears as adult.

When you understand the history of kink and BDSM in professional circles, especially psychologists, you can see why they think and feel the way they do. Since 1952, fetish, kink, BDSM or any sexual behaviour that was seen outside of the norm was classified as a mental illness. This included homosexuality, the powers that be decided any non-mainstream sexality was a sociopathic personality disorder. Thankfully we have come a long way, or have we?

..any mainstream sexual activity was a sociapathic personality disorder..

Psychologists are known for treating clients according to the DSM (Diagnositc Statictical Manual). They are trained under the medical model. The DSM is their bible, rarely to they stray from it. I am familiar with the DSM, I also believe any person can find themselves with a diagnosis from the manual. With such a prestigious manual stating non-mainstream sexual behaviours are not normal, why would anyone who is trained in mental health think it is anything but normal?

A revision in 1987 (DSM-III-R) moved BSDM and kink from a sexual deviation listing to being a disorder. Now, if you are kinky you have a mental disorder. Disturbingly, children were being taken away from their parents by family courts because their sexual appetite included spankings or more than missionary position.

‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’

and/or

‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

In 2009, Richard Krueger raised concerned for how stigma and bullying within workplaces, family courts, etc were impacting the BDSM and kink community. He stated the behaviour towards these communities created high levels of stress and was contributing towards a mental health issue, not the sexual behaviours themselves.

May 2013 the DSM-5 was released. Victory, but has the damage been done?

“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”

Moving forward I have been in conversations with clinicians who are open to understanding and learning more, also the opposite. The myths are still believed.

The last thing I want for our BDSM community is an underlying fear of walking into a therapists office and being shamed for enjoying breath play or being blindfolded and tied to a St Andrews Cross.

My aim is to change the way therapists and the wider community see kink and BDSM.

I am not saying everyone should like it, everyone should do it, and everyone should be into spankings. If that’s the case, I am going against one of the biggest pillers of the community – consent.

However, you can sit in my room. You can talk about your vanilla sex life, or you can talk about how much you enjoy primal or pet play. There is no judgement.

Work in the mental health field? No thanks.

I never intended to work in the mental health field. In high school, when they gave us those books with all the jobs and what courses you needed to do, I was baffled at why I would want to attend university. No one in my immediate family had. They are all blue-collar workers and proud tradies.

Directly out of high school, I followed in my mum’s footsteps and entered the field of home decor. She was a manufacturer; I was in retail. I had my retail store in a tiny town inland from Airlie Beach in North Queensland, where I started at the local markets. After 15 or so years, I remember thinking – there has to be something more to life than making people’s homes pretty.

Youngest daughter

During these early years, I had two beautiful girls. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I remember how motherhood was for me. I was not one of those mums where everything was perfect, the soccer mum type. I struggled. When my oldest was 18 months old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. To this day, I do not think I moved through it.

Five years later, I found myself sitting in a hospital psychologist’s office, around four months pregnant and told I had prenatal depression. That depression stayed with me for years. I saw countless mental health people, on and off medications, you name it. I could not shake it.

I have a reason for sharing. Stay with me.

My oldest struggled at school, and she needed to repeat year 2. She was later diagnosed with ADD with hyperactivity, amongst other things. I remember seeking help from a doctor when she was younger to be told I was just a stressed-out mum. As part of her care, she required speech therapy. Little did I know, years later, that this was the start of my new life.

I began university in Townsville intending to have a career in speech pathology. I had to start with a medical science diploma, the gateway to all medical fields at James Cook University. After six months, my husband and I packed up the girls are moved across the country to Perth. The universities here did not offer the same courses, and I could not complete the diploma online. I began a psychology undergraduate degree as the gateway to speech pathology.

I never did finish a speech pathology degree. I started it, my marriage ended, and life turned swiftly upside down.

I sought the help of professionals and was told I had traits of borderline personality disorder and bipolar. At the time, it gave me a reason why I felt the way I did, so I grabbed onto it. I was medicated for a while, and maybe that saved my life. Now, I wonder, how can they give me those labels after one or two visits?

I took two years off from my studies to regain control of my life. When I decided to go back, it was tough. I worked, studied, and raised my daughters throughout a hostile separation. My family were back in North Queensland, and I had no friends to speak of. Every semester I would ask the universe to give me a semester with no issues. Every semester, it felt just as hard as the semester before. I persevered. I graduated with an undergraduate degree and completed further studies in psychotherapy and counselling.

My two girls

Why am I sharing this?

I want you to know I’ve been there. I know what it is like to feel so lost you don’t know if you are coming or going. I’ve felt so angry I wanted to scream constantly. I’ve cried for days on end. I know how hard it is to crawl out of bed every day when all you want to do is hide under the covers. I remember going to counselling sessions with my head hiding in a hoodie as I didn’t want to be seen by another person.

The most important thing I learned after my separation was that I do not have BPD or bipolar. My responses were perfectly normal for what I was experiencing.

The other thing I discovered, my marriage was a symptomatic cause of my unhappiness.

During my many years at university, I discovered how grief and loss work. I learned how depression could affect us when we face life changes. I discovered what feelings and emotions are normal for life changes. I also learned how childhood paves the way for our adult selves and how connections with others and relationships are affected.

These discoveries paved the way to where I am now. I am sitting in my healing space in Midland, working with people like you. People who want connection and are unsure of how to get it or even what a healthy connection looks like. People struggle with who they are and what their needs are. People who have lost sight of what makes their souls sing with excitement. People who have childhood wounds and struggles yet don’t even realise it.

Undergraduate graduation

My life journey is not different to a lot of the stories I hear in my office. I relate to them on some level.

I never wanted to work in mental health. Psychotherapy and counselling is something I found a love for when I realised how many answers it holds. I realised it was “the something more to life than making homes pretty“.

It’s the opposite. They want to be told everything right and normal about them! I mean, normal is just a setting on a dryer or washing machine, right? The more we tell people they are broken or give them a label when their life is just turned upside down, the more we keep them stuck.

Attachment theory (how we connect with others) resonated with me on many levels. I look at my childhood of travelling around Australia and see how not being able to develop long-term friendships has hindered my adult life. I understand how I was parented has impacted how I parented my children. I see how parenting styles also impact adult relationships of all kinds. I have a new level of understanding and can sit with those thoughts without being overtaken by them.

I wish I had people who told me life was shit because I was getting separated or my hormones were going crazy. Even more so, I wish I had someone explain why and how my childhood affected my adulthood and my relationship with my daughters.

I bet life would’ve been much different back then if they had told me. Thankfully, now I know, and I understand. Upside. I have the power to change it, and so can you!

We Walk With You Mental Health Featured Image

Reasons to think outside mental health plans for therapy

Life is hard. Let’s face it, even at times, it’s downright dreadful! It has this way of throwing everything at us all at once. We try and lean sideways to dodge it. Sometimes we are winners, and other times, it hits us like a pie in the face.

We are constantly told talking about our emotions and feelings is normal and important. There is truth in that, and we must be okay with expressing what hurts us. We know who we talk to makes all the difference.

The most used option is a trip to your GP to request a mental health plan under the better health scheme. Realistically, why not? You are eligible for a few free or cheaper sessions. It’s a no-brainer, right? Sometimes though, it’s not always the right choice.

When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gutwrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear. And that is really the origin of what happens in human pathology. People take drugs to make it disappear, and they cut themselves to make it disappear, and they starve themselves to make it disappear, and they have sex with anyone who comes along to make it disappear and once you have these horrible sensations in your body, you’ll do anything to make it go away.

Bessel A. van der Kolk

What are your options?

Currently, under the medicare scheme in Australia, psychologists and mental health social workers can accept a mental health plan entitling you to 10 sessions per calendar year. Predominately, there is a gap fee and a waiting list to see a psychologist.

The alternative is you can access counsellors or psychotherapists. If you are concerned about qualifications, this is displayed on their website, or you can ask. Many counsellors and psychotherapists are highly trained and have similar qualifications to registered psychologists, and most are trained in specialist fields instead of generalists.

Before getting a mental health plan, there is information you need to be aware of.

The medical model

For a psychologist to obtain payment for your session from the government, they are usually required to list a code for a diagnosis. Under the scheme guidelines, the diagnosis will stay on your case file with Medicare. This is problematic as you may not need a diagnosis.

Sometimes we are going through a few things and need some help to process them or move forward. Big feelings or emotions are normal when experiencing grief, loss, relationship stress, work stress, or illness. These emotions will be anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, hopelessness, and depression. It is important to understand these feelings are expected and come and go with what is happening in our life. They do not always mean you have a mental illness or need to be diagnosed with one to get help from a therapist.

Your treatment plans are limited

The treatment choice under a mental health care plan is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). For some people, this works well; for others, it doesn’t. Therapy is not a one size fits all model.

Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to look beyond the here and now. They will listen to your health concerns and rule them out first or work with them on a mind, body, and soul treatment plan. It is important to look at everything around you, even to travel back in time and explore your childhood or how trauma is passed through the generations.

There are many other treatment styles available. Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to explore many of them at once. Furthermore, YOU are in control of your treatment. We will work with you and give you options for your treatment.

Registration with the Australian Counselling Association or PACFA requires ongoing clinical supervision and training. You can be confident your psychotherapist or counsellor is well prepared and highly trained.

Duty to disclose

Your diagnosis will be permanently stored on the Medicare database. Insurance companies can access your records and adjust your premiums if requested.

Working outside the medical model means your information is bound under the client-therapist confidentiality agreement. We do not report to anyone outside of our practice unless court-ordered.

You can choose your therapist

Research shows the relationship between client and therapist is the most important aspect of your therapy. Having a chat with a potential therapist allows you to feel confident in who you will be working with before you commit to sessions.

You can email, look at their website, check their socials, or even ring for a quick chat before booking an appointment. If you feel a little nervous about your session, this can assist in minimising any discomfort.

Relationship and marriage counselling

Relationship or marriage counselling is currently not available under a mental health plan. Therapists must be trained to work with couples, and doctors are more likely to refer to psychologists trained for individuals.

Therapy is a personal journey. Exercise your right to choose what that therapy looks like. It can be the difference in how your healing looks. Find a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who aligns with your values. You have the choice.

If you would like more information, reach out today.

We Walk With You Inner Child Featured Image

How to heal your inner child

Ah, the inner child—that magical place in all of us where joy, wonderment and creativity flow freely. It’s also where we can get stuck if we’ve had a traumatic past. Adults are taught to ignore or repress their feelings to function in society. But when it comes to healing from trauma, it helps to give your inner child some attention and care. Here are some techniques for how to do just that:

Recognise what you’re feeling.

When you are feeling something, it’s important first to understand what that feeling is. For example, if someone says something that upsets you or makes you upset, ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling? How do I know it’s anger?
  • How does it feel in my body? Do any parts of my body tense up when I’m angry? Is there a knot in my stomach or chest? Am I breathing differently than usual?
  • What is the difference between being angry and acting on the anger (i.e., yelling at someone)? Does the feeling fade away in a few minutes, or does it stay longer than usual with each day that passes by without relief from whatever caused me to be angry in the first place?

Embrace the feeling.

When you’re feeling a lot of shame, it’s natural to want to push the feeling away. But this isn’t helpful. You can’t get rid of your inner child, and trying to push her away creates more shame. Instead, embrace your inner child. Treat her like a friend or a small child who needs comfort and care from you, her parent figure in this situation (you).

Try not to think about how shameful it feels when she cries; instead, just let her cry until she stops crying—and then some more if she needs more time than that! It’s important that you take care of yourself when dealing with feelings like these:

  • Take breaks between sessions if necessary—baths are especially good for this purpose
  • Go for walks outside (if weather permits)
  • Take naps whenever possible (if possible)
  • Read books that make you feel better

Name it.

  • What is the feeling?
  • What is the cause of the feeling?
  • What do you want to do with the feeling?
  • What does it feel like in my body?
  • How does looking at this emotion make me feel on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means “bad” and 10 means “good” (if possible)

There are only two rules for naming your feelings: First, make sure that you can name them accurately. Second, don’t judge yourself for having them. There’s no need to be hard on yourself or criticise how you’re feeling; just observe these emotions as they come up in your life and notice how they affect your actions and behaviours moving forward.

Talk to yourself.

It’s time to get real with yourself.

When you talk to yourself, do it like you’d talk to your best friend—as if you care about what they’re feeling. When we communicate in this manner, it is easier to hear what we are saying and how we feel.

Ask questions like: “How am I doing?” “How can I improve?” “What do I need right now?”

Imagine your inner child’s needs being met.

Inner children need to feel safe, loved, and understood. If you can’t imagine what your inner child needs to feel safe and loved, imagine that some part of you knew exactly what they needed—that would be an excellent starting point. If this isn’t possible for you, it’s okay! You can still work on healing your inner child by imagining that someone else is meeting this need for them.

You can heal from the traumas of the past with some creativity and compassion for yourself.

It’s important to understand that you can heal and that it’s possible for everyone. You may think this isn’t true for you because it doesn’t feel possible in your case, but trust me—you’re not alone. Over 90% of people have experienced trauma at some point in their life! It’s important to realize that there is no right or wrong way to do this; the only requirement is to allow ourselves time and space (and maybe a therapist if needed) to explore our feelings about childhood experiences and move forward as adults.

Let me be clear: Healing does not mean forgetting what happened or pretending like nothing happened at all; healing means being able to acknowledge those painful memories as part of who we are today without letting them define us forevermore into adulthood simply because they happened when we were kids.

It’s good to know that you’re not alone in your journey to healing. We’ve all been there and done that, so it’s nothing ordinary. I hope these tips help you on your path towards healing and self-love!

Inner child work is a different avenue from traditional talk therapy around trauma. If you are curious or ready to try a different way, reach out today. Let’s walk together and get in touch with your inner child.