Talk with a
by phone or video
Hi, I'm Russell Downham. I'm an AHPRA-registered Australian Clinical Psychologist with a PhD in Philosophy. Welcome to my online private practice offering evening and weekend appointments from the comfort and safety of your own home.
"The greatest weapon against stress
is our ability to choose one thought
William James, 19th Century Philosopher and Psychologist
Finding Your Way in 2020
So here we are, suddenly facing a global health and economic crisis that affects each one of us. For many people, Covid-19 is a matter of life or death. Yet for others too this may be a deeply traumatic time. At the very least, most of us will need to make difficult but necessary adjustments to our personal, family, and working lives.
My job is to help you find your way through these unprecedented challenges while protecting your mental health. One thing we've learned is that acting quickly and decisively can prevent problems from growing unmanageable -- that's true for mental health too. Likewise if we look after our own state of mind, we can give the best of ourselves to the others in our lives.
"What might I expect if I book a session with you?"
Booking a session with a psychologist can be a significant decision, summoning courage and humility. So when you see yourself commit to an appointment, you can take heart from this choice: you’re demonstrating your willingness to step forwards and try something new.
Anticipating your session, it’s not unusual to feel nervous, especially if you’ve never had this kind of conversation before. You might also feel a sense of relief, and perhaps hope, because now you’re getting professional assistance. You’ve made the first step, and when we talk I’ll do my best to help you find your next step.
Some people need only one or two sessions, just to get a clearer perspective. Others seek help to deal with more complex issues, or to navigate a difficult passage in life. It’s easy to just listen, or to just talk, but therapy works best when it’s a dynamic, purposeful conversation, supportive yet also challenging. In each session we'll negotiate our agenda to fit your aims. And with these aims in mind, I'll try my best to make your time well-spent, seeking ways to help you translate insight into meaningful change.
"What kind of therapy do you practice?"
My own particular approach to therapy stems from the rather indirect path that led me eventually to train as a clinical psychologist: first, I completed a PhD in Philosophy and then qualified as an APPA-certified Philosophical Counsellor. In retrospect, my passion for philosophical exploration always had a psychological aim, driven by an (admittedly somewhat obsessive) desire to understand how well-directed efforts of self-reflection might guide and inspire us to live wisely. Yet as much as I loved intellectual exploration and discussion, like many people I noticed that thinking about how I should live did not take me all the way to living accordingly. Philosophy helped me see why even small choices are meaningful, but Psychology taught me more about how we translate meaning into motivation – by understanding and collaborating with our minds rather than just lecturing ourselves! The pleasure I felt when I was teaching, seeing my students shift perspectives and learn, I now experience seeing my clients change their lives and grow.
Compared to your typical philosophy student, most people exhibit a much lower Need for Cognition (a trait expressed in people who enjoy and prefer effortful thought about complex things). Accordingly, for many of my clients, a little reflection goes a long way: once we have identified what matters for them, sessions typically focus on working through emotional challenges, reframing problems to reveal solutions, and developing skills and strategies to meet life’s challenges and move forwards. I like to help people access their personal strengths and resources. People are often encouraged when they recall how they have dealt with similar challenges in the past, and by relating those experiences can re-activate effective mindsets and identify transferrable strategies. But when unhelpful patterns of thinking or reacting to situations stubbornly block my client’s progress, I seek to understand the recurring windows of opportunity when changing course is possible. To reveal these hidden choices, I draw upon principles and techniques from a range of broadly cognitive-behavioural models and interventions (including conventional CBT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Meta-Cognitive Therapy, Schema Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and other evidence-supported interventions as needed). Most of my clients do not fit neatly into a clear diagnostic category, and therapy rarely resembles textbook examples, so I value the flexibility of a broadly cognitive-behavioural approach. It offers a lens for viewing, not only those issues conceived of as manifestations of mental illness, but also many of our shared struggles of living in this strange contemporary world with its stresses, complications and uncertainties.
Cognitive-behavioural interventions focus our efforts by simplifying human experience, highlighting where pivotal thoughts and behaviours may be modified. Most people are willing to sacrifice some nuance for the sake of greater clarity, and they judge the intervention by whether or not it works in practice. But people with relatively high Needs For Cognition are frequently dissatisfied with explanations that fail to recognise the subtleties of their experience. Inadequately nuanced explanations and rationales undermine their efforts to wholeheartedly engage with proposals that strike them as implausibly straightforward or personally invalidating. Psychologists may frame this ‘resistance’ as an avoidance strategy, yet it can also express a commitment to authentic self-knowledge. Indeed, for highly thoughtful individuals, the desire for cognitive understanding may be so great as to over-ride pragmatic concerns, at times leading them seemingly to favour interesting reflections on complex problems over the banal pursuit of simple solutions! The challenge as I see it for these people is to render the solutions more interesting than the problems. Thus instead of endlessly struggling to make these people stop ‘over-thinking’ life, I respect their Need for Cognition and view it as a potential strength, assisting them to direct their critical awareness where it can most fruitfully be channelled.
As a deeply curious person with a lifelong interest in all kinds of human experience, I enjoy working with a diverse spectrum of clients. Yet my own background has inevitably led me to specialise in helping those fellow individuals whose high Need for Cognition complicates even as it enriches their lives. I have first-hand experience of the precarious positive potentials of this widely misunderstood temperament, which I can tap into to work through whatever questions concern you. My own examined life doesn’t give me the answers to yours, but does at least supply a wellspring of enthusiasm for the project. So without fear of judgment or disinterest you can feel free to talk with me about anything you like. At the same time, I am alert to the ways that intellectualising problems can divert attention from difficult emotional truths. As your psychologist I will, when necessary, gently guide you towards confronting unappealing realities which you might naturally find yourself ignoring even when they stand in your way. Through a process of collaborative reflection, we can together converge on an understanding of your situation that moves you towards what matters most in your life.
Anyone can find themselves in a situation where psychological counselling might help. If that’s you now, please contact me to start a conversation.
"What services and rates do you offer?"
I offer 50-minute clinical psychological consultations and therapy by phone or video, including evening and weekend sessions. I specialise in working with individual adults -- though I often help individuals work through relationship and family issues, I do not provide therapy to couples or people under 18 years of age.
Unprecedented restrictions of public life have thrown many people into sudden financial hardship, and I do not want that to prevent you from getting the help you deserve. For a 50-minute consultation the Australian Psychological Society recommends a fee of $260, but you can book a phone or video consultation with me now through Wiser Self Psychology for only $128.40 AUD. That’s the amount which, as a Clinical Psychologist, I receive from Medicare for bulk billed sessions, and I’ve decided to cap my rates for privately-funded sessions at this same figure also, whatever your situation.
As I am temporarily residing outside Australia, I cannot provide Medicare-rebated services until I return home in 2021 (date as yet unknown, due to Covid-related difficulties securing flights). From then onwards, I will offer bulk-billed Telehealth sessions to all existing clients meeting Medicare's minimum eligibility requirements at that time.
"What if I need to cancel my session?"
If for any reason whatsoever you need to cancel your Telehealth session, you can do so without penalty providing that you complete the cancellation process using the online booking system at least 24 hours before the scheduled commencement of your session. This will allow sufficient time for another person accessing the online booking system to make use of the time-slot previously reserved for you. Timely cancellations result in automatic refunds. Late cancellations or no-shows result in forfeiting the fee for that session.
Request a Consultation
To request a consultation, in just a few sentences please tell me what prompts you to seek psychological counselling, or what you hope to achieve from this. I'll reply the same or next day. If I believe that I can help you I'll include a link to my online booking system and then you can make an appointment for a time that suits you.