On Joy and Sorrow  

by  Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.


Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.


Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.


Kahlil Gibran


Becoming an accredited Cool Kids Provider

Psychologists have a requirement to undertake Continuing Professional Education.  This can be attendance at courses or seminars, or completing other activities which contribute to continued learning.  As Psychology is an ever-evolving field in a phase of huge discovery, it is especially important for clients that we as Psychologist keep up to date on best practice.

It was with that in mind that I recently decided to learn more about the a program called Cool Kids.  The Centre for Emotional Health is a Macquarie University initiative, which researches and treats emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, through their Clinic.  Over more than 20 years of research, they have developed a treatment program for anxiety, called Cool Kids.

Cool Kids is what’s called a manualised treatment program, and is based on cognitive behavioural therapy strategies.  This means that if a child has symptoms that are consistent with anxiety, they will be taught specific strategies, in a way that have been proven to be effective at helping people reduce their anxiety.  Cool Kids can be undertaken as either part of a group of kids, or one-on-one.  On the outcomes of treatment, the Centre for Emotional Health state “following treatment, there are marked increases in school attendance, academic achievement, confidence, number of friends and involvement in extra-curricular activities and decreases in worry, shyness, fear and family distress.”  This means that for the majority of kids who undertake Cool Kids, they will experience less anxiety, and enjoy their life more.

To provide some specificity to particular age groups and presentations, there are a few different version of the Cool Kids program:

  • Cool Little Kids
  • Cool Kids Anxiety Program
  • Cool Kids ASD Anxiety Program
  • Cool Kids (Chilled) Adolescent Anxiety Program
  • Cool Kids (Chilled) Adolescent Anxiety and Depression Program

I was confident that Cool Kids was a service I wanted to be able to offer my young clients and their parents.  As I had learned that the program(s) could only be delivered by accredited providers, I set about doing the Cool Kids training program, so that I could become one.  After learning about the Cool Kids-specific way of addressing anxious thoughts and behaviours, and showing that I understood the theory and techniques involved, I’m happy to be able to offer the Cool Kids suite of programs.

Working as a Team

In my time working at Armchair Psychology, it has become evident to me that each of the Psychologist team members have varied and valuable skill sets.  No one person can claim to know everything about everything, so it is helpful for me to know that wherever I might be stuck on something, or not sure how to best help a client, that there is another Psychologist available to lend an ear and share their knowledge with me.

We have found our weekly team meetings to be a supportive space in which we can share what we’re stuck on.  We always make sure we de-identify any information, so that we honour our commitment to client confidentiality.  We tend to talk about themes, psychological techniques, or other specific services, and not information about a client’s life that would compromise confidentiality or respect.  Psychologists have an obligation to ensure that we attend “supervision” with other Psychologists to keep up to date on best practice, and continue our learning.  Given the benefit of talking through things with my colleagues, I am reminded of the importance and requirement of doing this to maintain registration as Psychologists.

We also find that the team meetings are a space where we can feel safe and valued in sharing our knowledge where appropriate.  This process of give and take helps us develop our psychological skill sets, and feel part of a friendly, supportive, knowledgeable team.

Life after 50

sbs-20170402-with-nitza-lowenstein.jpgYesterday I did one of my favourite things – live radio! I was on SBS Radio, in their Artarmon studios, and responded to listeners’ questions about the range of issues  that challenge us as we get older.  Depression was obviously a common theme – whether it was triggered by downsizing, retirement, missing one’s childhood home and family, facing the death of parents, or the illness of friends. You can listen to the full podcast here: http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/hebrew/en/content/amanda-gordon-clinical-psychologist-sbs-about-life-after-50-2042017. Don’t worry, it’s all in English!

You can also go to our Armchair Psychology Facebook page, where I have posted the video stream of (most of) the interview – there were a few early technical hitches.  That’s actually part of why I love live radio.  I had to wing it, while Nitza Lowenstein, the presenter of the programme, fixed the recording device. It was distracting, but I could be a “true radio professional” and carry on regardless.

I am always hopeful that, while I respond to specific concerns of individual listeners, I am assisting people change their thinking in their own lives.  That’s why I give general rather that personal responses. Do let me know if any of my words struck true to you, or made a difference to the way you look at things.  You can comment on the Facebook page if you like.

Amanda Gordon

Our project on Grief

The psychology team at Armchair Psychology Practice talk a lot about the issues that affect our clients. The one that is overwhelmingly at play is grief – in all its forms.  Whether there has been a death of a loved one, or someone we love is dying; whether chronic illness or disability has changed the way life will be; whether a relationship is ending or has come to an end – even children going through life’s stages and moving away from parents – grief is a natural response.

The foremost thought is always, though, if grief is so common, felt by us all, and is so natural, why do we find it so hard to deal with? Why do we find it so hard to reach out and take comfort, to accept the help offered? And, conversely, how is it possible to see someone grieving and yet walk away?  Our worlds have got too busy, people are too isolated. Psychologists know that the best way to deal with grief is to talk about it, to cry, to shout, to mourn. It is a shame that the common wisdom is that we should “Soldier on”, even when that is the worst thing to do. Grieving is NOT the same as wallowing (and so what if it is, it is necessary!)

The problem with grief is that it makes us stop.  It takes over and insists that we deal with the feelings. Many people try really hard not to allow grief to interfere with their ongoing life tasks.  They think they are being strong when they push them away, or take medication to stop the feelings and allow themselves to sleep. Psychologists know that that just doesn’t work in the longterm.  We might feel better when we avoid the feelings, but grief has a way of catching up with us and forcing us to face our losses.

The people whom we see in our practice are sometimes those who know they need to talk and to be sad, and find ours a safe place to do that.  Often, they are finding it hard to get on with everyday life because they are so sad, and don’t know how to take the time for themselves to grieve. Then there’s the other group – the complicated grief – people suffering emotionally and being so distant from the loss that they sometimes are not even aware of why they feel so terrible. Then our work as psychologists is to carefully, sensitively, help them face the grief of the loss.  Once they reconnect with all the feelings they have pushed down hard, they will discover their tears and then be free to move forward in their lives.

When you allow yourself to mourn, you can keep hold of your loved one in your heart, and continue on in life, being functional and okay.

Amanda Gordon


Grief – Multitude of Losses

Our new project on adult and child grief and bereavement will hopefully bring some awareness of what is involved in the process of grieving and what can be done to relief it. Here is a small preview of our upcoming e-book on grief.

Grief has always been associated with death and dying. While it is often the case, many people might be unaware that grief can be experienced in a multitude of losses. When something of significance being unexpectedly or expectedly withdrawn from us, and we need to adjust to new ways of being, grief will almost inevitably occur.

Grief can come in many forms. For example, grief can be experienced by: parents of a child with disability; those who are long-term unemployed; unrealised dream; miscarriage or infertility; relationship break-down or end of love affair; sex abuse or domestic violence; migration or moving houses; losses after natural disasters; children leaving home; diagnosis of an illness; marriage of children and so on.

Each of these types of grief is often private and felt in isolation. Grief can reappear throughout the individual’s life-time. Simple ‘triggers’ such as,  a date in a calendar, a certain music or a smell, a scene in a movie or news, receiving an invitation to a wedding or to a birthday party can renew the old grief.

Unfortunately many of us refuse to accept grief and continue to suffer in silence. It is therefore important to acknowledge that there are many types of losses that we can experience and their impact on our lives. Here, at Armchair Psychology, we are reaching out to help those who are in the process of grieving by creating our first e-book on grief.

Anna Reznik

Have “health” campaigns gone too far?

Over the weekend, the 9 year old child of some family friends took a jelly snake from the snack bowl and said, “A lady who came to school told us we need to exercise to eat sometimes foods. I exercised for an hour this morning so I can eat this.”

Meanwhile, a relative of mine went to school with a cupcake in her lunchbox for her birthday and came home with a letter saying that the cupcake had been confiscated and that an apple or banana should have been provided instead as cupcakes are a “sometimes” food.

Despite all the “healthy eating” interventions in schools and the introduction of calorie listings at most cafes and food outlets, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has not changed in the past few years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. However, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa appear to be on the rise in children and youth, particularly for young men.

Is it any wonder when, from a young age, children and adolescents are being taught to carefully scrutinise what they eat, are being discouraged from having small treats and are being told to compensate for what they eat?

While the ultimate goal of these “healthy eating” interventions is to teach people from a young age to eat enough fruit and vegetables and to prevent obesity, I have to question how useful these really are.

People should be able to eat a single jelly snake and have birthday cake, guilt-free.

Kristina Le Marne