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Psychology help during Covid19

I talked to Sharryn Muir at Northern Psychology about how you can still get help with low mood, anxiety or worry during this time of Covid lockdown.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Hi, Sharryn, welcome along. So these are some videos we’re doing with other health providers in our area, just touching base and updating everybody about what’s available during this COVID lockdown team. So, thank you for coming along.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Tell us a bit about Northern Psychology. I believe you established Northern Psychology in 1998.

Sharryn Muir:

Yep. That’s right. So that’s correct. It was established and it was actually 1999, and it started at Preston Family Health, that was the first site that we were at.

Sharryn Muir:

And back then, for some of your longer term clients, they might know us as the Center for Psychological Relationship Counseling. So we were called that right up until about five years ago when we changed it to Northern Psychology. And also about five years ago, we moved off site. So were with you up until about five years ago, and then went over the road to the Bell City complex, and now the Corporate One complex on the corner of Hotham and Bell Street.

Sharryn Muir:

So, there’s about 13 psychologists with us at the moment and three admin staff. And those 13 psychologists, they are across our Preston rooms, which we’ve got a number of rooms in the Preston site. We’ve got a room at Northcote, in the Doctors of Northcote site, and we’ve got a room at Mill Park.

Sharryn Muir:

So the psychologists work across that, and those psychologists they see a number of presentations. So children, adults. Different presentations, anxiety, and depression. People have different expertise and experience and so forth. And so quite broad and quite a few.

Dr Simon Wilson:

We’re recording this in early September, so still stage four lockdown for Melbourne. What’s changed for Northern Psychology and your psychologists, for people who might be coming along and looking to see a psychologist?

Sharryn Muir:

Yeah. So the main change has been that some clinicians, very few, are still doing a mix of face to face and telehealth. Some are doing just telehealth. So, that’s been of course the major change. So telehealth being by phone or by Zoom, that’s the vast majority, with some face to face.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Okay. So patients can definitely still see a psychologist?

Sharryn Muir:

Oh yeah, totally.

Dr Simon Wilson:

And there’s just these options.

Sharryn Muir:

Yeah. There’s just these options. And we started off doing that in March, people shifting to telehealth, Zoom or telephone. And there were a few teething problems as far as people getting their head around that and just getting used to it as a different form of therapy delivery.

Sharryn Muir:

But it’s actually gone exceedingly well, as far as clients have found that engaged really well and it’s okay. It’s inferior to a face to face, in-person, and we’ll certainly look forward to getting back to that when we’re able to, but it actually works really well, which is great.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think we’re finding that in general practice as well. For the right sort of talk, you don’t have to drive, you don’t have to park the car, you don’t have to find someone to babysit the kids.

Sharryn Muir:

Exactly. It takes away all that. And by the time you get into the session and you work out what you’re going to be doing in that session, and you sort of forget that it’s telehealth. You just get down to whatever strategies or whatever that client may be needing on that particular day.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Absolutely. And is there anything that’s sort of significantly different from those face to face consultations compared to the telehealth for people who come along? Do they just need to make sure they’ve got somewhere private where they can talk quietly, give you their focus and time?

Sharryn Muir:

Yep. Definitely. That’s exactly right. So the privacy is really important. So sometimes clients will have that space in their house where it’s private. Sometimes people will go in their car where it’s private, because our sessions go for an hour. It’s just whatever they can do to make it private.

Dr Simon Wilson:

And the intervals, you’re still sort of seeing people at the similar sort of intervals. Weekly, fortnightly, monthly. Has anything changed there?

Sharryn Muir:

No, not that I’m aware of. It hasn’t for me. Referrals have increased. We’re extremely busy given the impact of COVID on people’s wellbeing, the financial and the insecurity and just the isolation has had its flow on effect. So our numbers are high and people are also able to get 10 COVID sessions now, if they’ve been affected by COVID, under Medicare. Which is great.

Sharryn Muir:

And I encourage people too to take that up. We’re really busy, so I really encourage people to just phone around and see who’s got capacity to get taken up as quickly as possible if they’re in need.

Dr Simon Wilson:

All right. Yes, absolutely. As you mentioned, Sharryn, there are sometimes longer wait times just because there is a big demand for psychology. Are there some useful tips or tricks for people? As you say, phoning around might be really useful. We read a lot about these e-mental health options as well, so the Black Dog Institute, This Way Up, are a couple of big providers there.

Sharryn Muir:

Look, I encourage people on a wait list, or sometimes even between sessions, if they’re waiting maybe a few weeks between sessions, there’s lots of websites now. And the research is actually pretty good empirically behind outcomes for what’s called e-therapy, which is sort of therapy online.

Sharryn Muir:

One of them is Mood Gym and the other one’s e-couch. So Mood Gym, e-couch, just Google that in. And they target anxiety and depression using CBT. I think Mood Gym was originally a Beyond Blue, from memory website. But they’re both highly regarded and well-worth… Like I said, if you’re waiting or in between sessions hop on. And really, they’re great. Really, really good.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Fantastic. Well, I will copy the links to those and put those in the video as well.

Sharryn Muir:

And also, there’s lots these days of phone-in telephone support. I really encourage people to use them as well. Like there’s Lifeline. So 13-11-14. People can use that for text, they do text therapy now, you don’t have to ring and talk. It can be texting support or telephone support.

Sharryn Muir:

But if you just Google that as well, it brings up about 10 different sites. There’s a suicide line, there’s a kid’s line, there’s all different ones. And they’re amazing. So, someone to talk to in times of isolation, loneliness, distress, there’s lots of lines people can phone and talk to someone.

Dr Simon Wilson:

So we don’t have to wait for Monday morning to talk to your GP, talk to a psychologist, you can access those things now?

Sharryn Muir:

No, exactly. Which is brilliant. And my clients are using them more at the moment.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Okay. That’s good to know. So an extra sort of add on, so it’s not instead of or just, is it? It’s an add-on.

Sharryn Muir:

No, exactly.

Dr Simon Wilson:

And it sounds like this e-mental health is an add-on as well?

Sharryn Muir:

Yep. They’re all worthwhile pursuing, in addition to getting referrals and getting talking therapy as required.

Dr Simon Wilson:

No, that’s terrific. Well, Sharryn, thank you very much for taking some time out of your busy day to talk about the psychology services available here in Preston, North Melbourne. We might get you back at a later date. And maybe there’s some interest from patients, break things down and talk about some specific conditions or some similar specific types of therapy and how they sort of fit in to the overall looking after people.

Sharryn Muir:

Yeah. Because we’re still providing… There’s some therapies that don’t lend themselves to telehealth. Like there’s a therapy called EMDR, which is eye movement therapy, I can’t do that at the moment. But most therapies, people are sort of skilling up or using those therapies that lend themselves well to telehealth. So it’s still very viable and useful and helpful.

Dr Simon Wilson:

Terrific. All right. Well, thank you very much for your time joining us today.

Sharryn Muir:

You’re very welcome.

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