Mental health was always something I ignored and saw as a second-tier problem within my busy life. The mess that has been 2020 has changed that outlook and I have begun seeing a councillor and psychologist on a regular basis.
This route to happiness with myself and my mental health worked for me. However, everyone’s mental health journey is drastically different. There is no one size fits all approach to having a healthy mind.
One avenue which I have discovered which takes away the fears some individuals may have of actually sitting down with a psychologist and pouring their heart is Impulsivity.
The ground-breaking Impulsivity psychology program was created as part of a research study which took place at the University of Newcastle. The program is designed to help individuals and couples gain control of their impulsive behaviour.
The programs offered by Impulsivity are designed to equip people with the knowledge and skills to help them understand their impulsive behaviour and how to manage it.
The psychological courses pinpoint seven key impulsive behaviours which are clear and present within post-modern society. These courses are;
- “Beat the Binge” Control Your Impulsive Binge Eating
- A sex life on your terms – creating the life you want
- Control Your Impulsive Overspending
- Impulsive Anger and Rage Management
- Relationship rebuilding for couples
- Stop Binge Drinking
- The Time Is Now. Stop Procrastinating
Chattr spoke with Dr Yuliya Richard, the founder of Impulsivity to get some further insight into her work and get her thoughts on mental health in Australia as a whole.
Where did the idea for Impulsivity come from?
As part of my postgraduate research, I was investigating the effectiveness of a computer-based intervention to address dysfunctional impulsivity in a non-clinical population. As I was doing the research, I realised that one of the barriers experienced by people who might be impulsive are feelings of shame, low self-esteem and confidence. Many people who struggle with these issues, after seeing a psychologist once or twice, might feel that they are weak or they can’t pull themselves together, nothing will work for them and they struggle to persevere and then they terminate their treatment prematurely. And so, I wanted to address the barrier of accessibility and to give people an opportunity to takes steps towards the improvement of their lives.
Explain the unique methods utilised by Impulsivity and what makes them so effective?
Our approach utilises evidence-based approaches that have shown to be effective in helping people to deal with their unwanted habits. We use an approach that combines elements of psychoeducation, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment (ACT) and motivational interviewing and mindfulness. For example, the psychoeducation part explains impulsivity/impulsiveness, triggers, and why do we find it difficult to resist temptations and urges; the CBT component helps to understand and address cognitive distortions, helps you to learn a better way to address and prepare for triggers and challenges, and helps you to change your thinking to a more positive mindset. ACT helps you to connect with your values. There are ample opportunities to reflect on learnt material, complete exercises, and practice mindfulness. We discuss self-empowerment, emotional regulation, self-compassion, relapse prevention, and stress management to help to enhance learning.
Impulsivity offers courses in; binge eating/drinking, anger/rage, overspending and even relationship issues. How prevalent are these issues within Australian society and has this past year of COVID-19 made things that much worse?
As you probably know this year has been extremely challenging for us, uncertainty, anxiety, fears, isolation, lack of clarity and loss of our usual coping skills and social connection has not been good for our mental health. For many of us, it meant that we struggle with management of stress, worry and it leads to development maladaptive coping skills – instead of going to a gym, long walks, a weekend away we started ordering more online from our local liquor store.
A recent article in the Drug and Alcohol Review found that the way Australians are consuming alcohol is changing, with the purchase of alcohol rising by 34% since Australia first went into lockdown in March. Other research has shown that people who have already struggled with eating disorders have reported increased restriction or food intake and an increase in binge eating behaviour. In other words, people who don’t have a diagnosed condition, as well as those who do might, struggle with management of their symptoms and behaviour.
You might have noticed more awareness about domestic violence, as it has increased during COVID, even though in some areas the number of calls for help has decreased, however, researchers suggest that it might be due to lack of opportunity to ask for help and to develop a safety plan.
With millennials, denial towards binge drinking impulses is a clear issue that engulfs their lives. How will the course Impulsivity offers let millennials understand the negative impacts of their drinking habits?
Through psychoeducation, discussing motivations, explaining impulsivity and its cycle, stress management and planning. We place no pressure on our clients to go outside of their comfort zone. However, we will implore them to discuss why they drink and how it makes them feel the next day and if their needs were met. This can be quite confronting yet very effective.
The Impulsivity promise is to “get rid of unwanted habits in 4 weeks”. What makes these 4 weeks more effective than let’s say seeing a therapist once a month for a few years?
As you can imagine one session a month for an hour is simply not enough to help us to make a change. The reality is that it is simply not enough time to understand all the factors, to do a functional analysis of the behaviour, to learn a new skill and to practice it. Often people find it hard to take the first step, feelings of shame and having to admit that they need help makes it hard to face the issue and the negative consequence of their behaviour.
Our online, self-paced course allows you to take the first step without having to experience initial distress of facing someone, feeling judged or ashamed. You simply learn about yourself, acquire skills, reflect and do exercises daily until your new habit will become automatic.
Mental health is always on the agenda of the government of the day. Do you believe the Australian government is doing enough to battle the rising poor mental health rates?
I believe that the Australian government is consistently making improvements to help more people to access services, for example, you might know that from 1st November 2019 there were 64 new Medicare Benefit Schedule items numbers introduced to support evidence-based treatment for people with an eating disorder (including binge eating disorder). People who are eligible can access up to 40 sessions with an accredited psychiatrist.
We are also celebrating the allocation of $5.7 billion (Budget 2020-2021) to support critical frontline and suicide prevention programs and other key programs. During COVID- 19, the Government supported Australians with an opportunity for people to access telehealth services from the safety of their homes.
The team of professionals you work with are a diverse mix of genders and ethnic minorities. How important is understanding the diversity of your clients when tackling an issue as sensitive as mental health?
It is essential to understand the diversity of my clients. I really enjoy working with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Well, people of different ages and cultures and we aimed to practice cultural awareness and sensitivity in developing our programs.
Feature image: supplied.