Gateway Counselling & Wholeness Centre

At the Gateway Counselling & Wholeness Centre we are passionate about assisting you to do the journey of life well.  We understand that sometimes that journey will include challenges and difficult times. We seek to provide a safe place where anyone in our community is welcome to come and find help. We believe counselling support can empower people and support personal growth through those challenges and beyond.

Our counselling team consists of several highly trained, experienced and professionally accredited practitioners who are able to assist you and your family in working through life’s challenges in a caring, supportive environment. We offer a broad range of counselling services to individuals, couples, adolescents and families. While our team are all committed Christians, we acknowledge the diversity of beliefs, views and practices and offer counselling services that reflect the uniqueness of each person’s life situation. It is our intention to offer our clients the highest quality counselling care to meet their needs.

We aim:

  • To offer a range of professional counselling services and support to those facing personal or relational challenges, trauma, grief, distress or isolation.
  • To encourage and support people wanting to make a change and increase in effectiveness in life.
  • To equip people with skills, tools and strategies to overcome obstacles and move forward in life in their chosen direction.
  • To support people in building and maintaining healthy relationships and families.

Opening hours


  • Monday 9am – 5pm
  • Tuesday 9am – 1pm
  • Thursday 12pm – 8pm
  • Saturday 9am – 1pm


  • Thursday 12pm – 7pm



  • Gateway Baptist Church
  • 1052 Mt Gravatt-Capalaba Rd, Mackenzie, QLD


  • Gateway Baptist Church Ormeau Care Centre
  • Unit 1/18 Blanck St, Ormeau, QLD

Contact details and Appointments

All counselling sessions are by appointment only.

Fees & cancellation

Our fees are designed to be affordable and accessible based on your circumstances. This will be discussed at the time of booking. If your sessions are being paid for by a third party, please advise reception.

Payment needs to be made on arrival at the centre. Payment options include EFTPOS, Credit Card or Cash.

If you are unable to make your appointment, please advise us as soon as possible. Cancellations within 48 hours of an appointment will incur a cancellation fee.

Download a copy of the New Client Intake Form.

Download the Naturopath New Client Intake Form.

Services we provide

  • Individual counselling
  • Psychological services
  • Marriage & family counselling (including post-divorce recovery counselling)
  • Grief & bereavement counselling
  • Bereaved Parent’s Support Group
  • Pre-marriage counselling & PREPARE/ENRICH
  • BRITA Futures
  • Relationship counselling
  • Depression & anxiety counselling
  • Group therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Eating disorders and addictions counselling
  • Parenting support
  • Children’s counselling
  • Abuse & trauma issues counselling
  • Medicare rebates and services for psychological services on a Mental Health Plan
  • Clinical Supervision
  • Naturopathy Consults

Confidentiality and Ethics

We are a respectful environment and are committed to providing our clients the highest level of care and safety.  Each therapist is bound by a code of ethics and are accountable to their particular accrediting professional body: ACA, PACFA, AAWW, APS. Your confidentiality and privacy is important to us and assured.

However, there are limits to confidentiality.  If you have indicated an intention to harm yourself or others, are suspected of child abuse, neglect, or of committing a criminal act, we are obliged ethically to seek advice and report to the appropriate legal & statutory bodies in these instances.


Ashley_WEBAshley Withers

B. Psych (Hons); Registered Psychologist: Anxiety, depression, grief and loss, relationship counselling, mission.




Veronica_WEBVeronica Avio

B. Psych, M. Couns – Child & Family Counsellor: Families, children, teens, grief, family conflict, behaviour management.




Susan_WEBSusan Coutts

B. Phsyiotherapy, M. Couns – Counsellor: Individual adults, trauma, grief & loss, health coaching




Connie_WEBConnie Hon

B Ed–Counsellor and Family Therapist — couple , family, anxiety and depression, cross cultural issues




Barry_WEBBarry Morris

B. Psych; Registered Psychologist: Child & youth mental health, trauma recovery, anger issues and self esteem




Merie_WEBMerie Burton

B. Soc. Sci. M. Couns (undertaking): couples, intimacy issues, grief & loss, self-esteem and identity issues




Paul_WEBPaul Wegner

Counsellor/clinical supervisor B. Soc. Sci CCAA (clinical) PACFA (clinical)




Micaela_WEBMicaela Monteiro-Haig

Naturopath B.Health Sci. (Naturopathy)




Richard Morris

M.CCounselling, M.Arts (Min)




Vicki Binnie

B Nursing; M Counselling; Cert IV Christian Ministry: individual adults, grief and loss, abuse, spirituality, substance use, anxiety and depression.



Robyn_WEBRobyn Goodwin

Office Manager

Please visit this page to keep up to date with any events that are running at the Gateway Counselling & Wholeness Centre.

Caring and Self Care

July 2017: Susan Coutts (Health counsellor/Physiotherapist)

Caring for others is an act of kindness and compassion that is both rewarding and challenging. 2.7 million Australians are registered carers of family or friends who have a physical or mental illness or are frail aged. Many other people are in caring roles in their jobs or do a lot of caring in their families or communities. Sometimes all this caring can take a toll on the carer.

A recent study by Carer’s Australia stated that 50% of people caring for someone with Dementia reported a decline in their own mental health. I personally felt “care-worn” at one stage in my life after working in a caring role, studying and raising a family. The feelings of constant tiredness at a physical, mental, and emotional level, without a medical reason, have been identified as those associated with early compassion fatigue or burnout.

Of course, the first step to changing an undesirable feeling or situation is to recognise (not deny) the issue so that solutions can be sought.

One big part of the solution may be labelled “Self Care”. Carers may struggle to prioritise their needs and may even feel guilty to do so but their own health is vital to both themselves and the ones they care for. Self Care means looking after one’s self-physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It will be different for different people. For some it may mean seeking mental health care. For all, it will mean pacing one’s activities, not being critical of self and importantly, asking for help as required. As a community it is vital that we recognise the critical and honourable role that carers at all levels play in our society. It has been stated that, “without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community” (A. D’Angelo).


The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

June 2017: Connie Hon (Family Therapist and Counsellor specialised in multicultural issues)

Good communication is the key to successful relationship. A study reported that majority of communication is transmitted non-verbally. Our body language takes 55% of communication, our voice tone 38%, and spoken words is only 7 % (Silence Messages, Dr Albert Mehrabian).
This finding is a great encouragement for many whose mother tongue is not English. We are living in a multicultural society, where more than 200 languages are spoken in this country. Language barrier can be overcome by a better understanding of nonverbal communication.

Our body language includes:

  • Facial expression- Our face can express various emotions like, joy, sadness, anger, frustration, fear, surprise and so on. It is universal and the same across all cultures.
  • Body Movement- The way we move and carry ourselves communi-cates a wealth of information to the world. This type of nonverbal communica-tion includes our posture, bearing, stance, and subtle movement.
  • Gestures- Gestures are unconsciously used to express ourselves without thinking. The meaning of gestures can be very different across cul-tures and regions. It is very important to learn the cultural difference to avoid embarrassment and misinterpretation.
  • Eye Contact-Our eyes communicate strong messages including empathy, interest, affection, hostility, and so on. It is also important in maintaining the flow of conversation and engaging others’ response.
  • Touch- A warm bear hug speaks a warm welcome. A firm hand shake with both hands speaks of great gratitude. The meaning of touch can be culturally sensitive.
  • Space- How close is too close? We all have a need for personal space, though it may differ depending on the culture, the situation, and the closeness of the relationship. We can use physical space to communicate many different nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy and affection, ag-gression or dominance.

While action speaks louder than words, our nonverbal messages speak the loudest. When we interact with each other, we constantly send and receive wordless signals. Often times, the words coming out of our mouth do not match up with our body language. When facing incongruence, the listeners naturally choose to believe the nonverbal messages, rather than the spoken words. When our body language match up with our words, it increases trust, bonding, connection and so relationship is built. Don’t underestimate the power of nonverbal communication in building relationship.

Factors that influence the risk of being depressed

May 2017: Matthew Dahlitz (Psychotherapist | Counsellor | Consultant )

Depression is marked by a deep sense of sadness and reduced motivation and activity levels. Most people suffering a bout of major depression experience a recovery phase—within 3 months for 40% of sufferers, and within a year for 80%. But some suffer chronic depression (dysthymia) that persists for years. What causes and sustains depression is complex.

Factors that influence the risk of being depressed and recovering from it include temperament, environmental factors such as adverse childhood experiences and stressful life events, genetics, and physiological factors. Because there are so many variable and it is a complex and individual state to be in, there is no single cure. It is not simply a case of taking a generic antidepressant and all is well again. An understanding of your own temperament, your upbringing, past traumas, genetics, diet, social support, and many other factors come into play when dealing with depression.

There are many different brain areas involved in depression that may be over or under active and the relationship between those areas can perpetuate the problem. For example the prefrontal cortex (the part behind our forehead) plays a dominant role in the determination of personality and temperament, guiding our behaviour based on our goals and values.

Depression often entails a generally underactive prefrontal cortex, with hypoactivity more pronounced on the left than the right side. This means there are less positive feelings and more negative ruminations and a desire to withdraw from people and activities. It’s more difficult to “reason” our way out of depression. Other areas involved in motivation can be suppressed and our “alarm system”, the amygdala, can be too sensitive. This leads to a lack of motivation to help ourselves and constant anxiety.

There are not only changes in the connectivity and activity of different brain areas in depression, but there is also marked changes in neurochemicals that modulate brain activity. Neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin have been widely studied in relation to depression and by increasing serotonin levels, antidepressants seem to alleviate symptoms in many cases.

Apart from the brain there are other body systems implicated in depression. It has been well established that the immune system is involved in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder. Signaling molecules of the immune system, called proinflammatory cytokines, can produce symptoms of anxiety and depression; typically those with major depression will have elevated levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines.

There is also growing evidence that the interplay between the brain and the gut is significant in depression. Recent studies suggest that the microbiota, the bacteria in our gut, could activate our immune system and affect our central nervous system, delivering substances such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid and affecting our mood. Interventions including exercise, diet, and supplementing deficiencies in the body are important to bring back balance to the body.

It has also been found that major depression in twins lead us to believe that the disorder is a familial one, albeit complex, arising from the combined effect of genetic and environmental influences. Individual environmental factors can change the way genes “express” in depression and some people are more prone to depression if they have suffered one or more earlier stressful life events, giving more support to the idea that an individual’s response to environmental stress is moderated by genetic makeup.

Because depression is so complex a combination of psychotherapy and naturopathy can be effective in identifying the psychological and biological causes of the symptoms and offer effective strategies toward recovery. Social support is also vitally important because the nature of depression can be very demotivating—family and friends can encourage someone who is depressed to get help and to then support them through that help.

Counsellor Introduction – Ruth Harding

Ruth Harding is passionate about giving people permission to sit back and take stock of their journey so far.  She likes to help clients see the big picture, before breaking it down into manageable chunks. Ruth takes a solution-focused approach to support clients navigate difficult seasons and move towards growth, and loves to bring understanding to situations through the use of psycho-education, coaching and humour.

Ruth is a registered high-school teacher and has been a mentor to many teens and young adults, walking with them through the transition from school life to adulthood.  She loves working with young adults to develop their goals and skills regarding relationships, friendships, career and ministry.  Having worked and served within various churches for over 15 years, Ruth has a wide experience of ministry and leadership roles, and understands the challenges faced by young Christian leaders in today’s church culture.  She is particularly passionate about helping young women overcome burn-out, family issues/co-dependency and relationship disappointments.

Ruth is currently in her final year of the Masters of Counselling at Christian Heritage College, specialising in child, adolescent, family and relationship counselling.  She holds a Bachelor of Education/Bachelor of Arts, a Graduate Diploma of Ministry, and is also completing a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Ruth looks forward to working with individuals dealing with relationship issues, ministry concerns, education/career goals and anxiety.

Can food be medicine?

March 2017: Micaela Monterio-Heig Naturopath B.Health Sci. (Naturopathy)

The short answer is yes!

“Food as medicine” is a term, which was originally coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine. It was his belief that the basis of good health was associated with eating a diet rich in wholesome food. The idea of using food as medicine to assist in healing the body has long been a belief of many cultures worldwide and now scientific research is lending evidence that food plays a major role in health and wellbeing.

The ability of food to act as medicine in our bodies lies in the many nutrients it contains; from the fibre that feeds our good gut bacteria and helps with blood sugar regulation, to protein, which aids with the repair and healing of injuries. In addition many vitamins and minerals help make brain chemicals involved in healthy mood, and potent antioxidants, as well as other phytonutrients, help fight inflammation and guard our cells against damage from environmental toxins that may cause cancer.

Numerous foods have specific healing properties. Homemade chicken soup made with fresh garlic and onions, is a great example of food as medicine for anyone with a cold or flu, as it provides natural antibiotic actions in the body. In addition, it’s great food for the soul, which also goes a long way in helping our bodies recover!

There is ample evidence of the many benefits a healthy diet confers on health. The Mediterranean diet for example – which is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, olive oil, nuts and fish – has shown to be effective medicine against cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.

When it comes to food, it is very important to make sure that our digestive system is healthy so that it can efficiently extract the nutrients from the food we eat. Many health conditions are often associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies or food intolerances. Therefore, having a healthy digestive system and knowing what foods work better for your body is really important.

One of the ways to ensure your body is receiving the nutrients it needs is to eat a wide variety of colourful, wholesome foods in order to provide your body with a diverse range of vitamins and minerals that it needs.

My best advice when it comes to food is to ‘eat a rainbow’ everyday and have fun with it. Your body will thank you for it!

Begin the family year well

February 2017: Veronica Avio B. Psych. M.Ed; M.Couns & Guid.

This excitement however may deteriorate quickly over the first couple weeks into the New Year.  It seems that the same distractions of the previous years somehow sneak their way into the New Year. If not distractions, it may be that a life-altering event has the potential to derail one’s dreams set for the year. This sense of failure may have a negative impact on our own health and well-being. Therefore, it is important then to find ways to adjust goals to more attainable ones whilst kindly letting go of old ones to reduce unnecessary pressure.

A study on 176 breast cancer survivors measuring emotional well-being found that those participants who were able to let go of old goals and adjust to more clear and attainable goals showed improved well-being overall, as it significantly reduced the pressure to achieve their ideal goals.  Wrosch (2013) states, “By engaging in new goals a person can reduce the distress that arises from the desire to attain the unattainable, while continuing to derive a sense of purpose in life by finding other pursuits of value”. Adjusting goals can provide opportunities to gently reflect on the reality of one’s world whilst letting go of the ideals that have created additional stress in one’s life.

In working with families, I have noticed that families who struggle with hardships yet demonstrate resilience, practice noticing and attending to who and what are important for them daily. It’s the smaller or daily achievements that matter, increasing their appreciation for one another and finding the hidden gems of wisdom the day has taught them. Instead of a year of “failure”, the unexpected twists or even failures of the day remain in the day, which in turn becomes the learning tool to take into the next day.  This New Year, be encouraged when a new opportunity arises to adjust a set goal, as this will allow us to reflect on whether the goals set are idealistic rather than realistic. Also, that we focus on our achievements of the day, and the mistakes that can be used as learning tools for tomorrow. Kindly setting realistic goals, may improve our overall health and well being, and in turn allow us to appreciate our loved ones daily.

Wrosch ,C., & Sebiston, C. M. (2013). Goal adjustment, physical and sedentary activity, and well-being and health among breast cancer survivors. Psych-Oncology, Vol.22(3), 581-589.

Happy New Year

January 2017: Marcia Watts M. Couns, B. Soc. Sci; PACFA (clinical) Mental Health Practitioner.

At this moment, while we stand at the edge of a new year it can be tempting to start make promises to ourselves of how this new year will be different from anything we aren’t happy with in the old year. Or maybe you have a sense that in the coming year there are things in your life that you want to change. So often we launch into a new beginning in our lives by setting goals, making resolutions and grand plans. But I’d like to invite us to begin our journey into 2017 differently. I’d like us to receive Cheryl Richardson’s invitation from her book ‘Life Makeovers’ (2001) to start the New Year by taking a moment to reflect over 2016 and acknowledge to yourself what you have accomplished in the last 12 months, and more importantly the person that you have become. Get a fresh perspective on 2017 through remembering all that you have done right in the last year. This sense of ‘rightness’ has the power to bring fresh energy, enthusiasm and a growth perspective to frame 2017 from a position of strength, not deficit. I invite you to begin the new year by reviewing what has worked well in 2016 so you come into the new year with your best foot forward rather than a sense of having to play ‘catch up’.

So when you have a quiet moment, grab a piece of paper and a pen and answer the following questions: What qualities within my character have I strengthened in 2016? How have I become more honest with myself and the people in my life? Where have I received kindness and offered support to others and what impact did these have? What special memories, achievements, accomplishments – both big and small have I created that I wish to hold onto into the new year.

Answering these questions will energise you to focus on what really counts and open your heart and mind to receiving the possibilities of 2017. It helps us also to bring attention to the prayers we’ve seen answered and grace received reminding us that this abundance will continue on and surely the best is yet to come! Change and growth occur in an environment where we recognise our strength and potential and how these can be cultivated. Focus on what has worked and changed for the better in 2016 and you’ll be all set for a great 2017.

Til next time…


Staying healthy over the Christmas period

December 2016: Micaela Monterio-Heig Naturopath B.Health Sci. (Naturopathy)

Staying healthy over the Christmas period can be challenging. There is often increased stress around a time of the year where joy and celebration should be the focus but can instead leave us overwhelmed, emotionally and physically exhausted. Fortunately diet, herbal and nutritional medicine, as well as some lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping you adapt to stress and support your body during a time when many of us tend to overindulge.

Here are my top tips for looking after yourself over the Christmas period:

  • Make a good night’s sleep a priority: an increase in social events and long to-do lists can tempt you to burn the candle at both ends however, not getting enough sleep results in poor energy levels and concentration, inability to handle stress, unhealthy mood, increased cravings for junk food, or food high in sugar, poor immune function and impaired detoxification to name a few.
  • Choose healthy meals options: Christmas and the festive season can lead you to treat yourself regularly to foods you would only eat occasionally or in small quantities. Occasional treats are fine yet, over indulging in certain foods can leave you feeling tired and cranky. As much as possible choose meals that are high in vegetables, protein and healthy fats as these food choices contain vitamin and minerals that your body requires in greater amounts during times of stress. If you know your diet is not going to be the best during the Christmas period, take a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol: when drinking alcohol, it is best to enjoy it in small to moderate quantities, especially if you are feeling stressed. Alcohol depletes several nutrients from the body, which can exacerbate stress and fatigue. In addition, alcohol puts a strain on the liver and its detoxification, and interferes with sleep patterns (it may make you sleepy to begin with but you may wake more often throughout the night). If you are going to drink, consider taking a good quality liver tonic supplement to keep your liver happy.
  • Exercise often: aside form its benefits for physical wellbeing, exercise helps to improve mood, reduce anxiety and enhance your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Aim for at least half an hour of moderate activity on most days of the week. For additional stress-busting benefits, exercise outdoors in your favourite place- the beach your or local park.

In addition to the tips above, there are particular herbs and nutrients that can help to support you to stay healthy during the Christmas period. Certain herbs called ‘adaptogens’, as the name suggests, help the body adapt to stress. Nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium can be very beneficial to relieve stress and enhance physical and mental wellbeing. Please consult a qualified naturopath to find out which herbs and nutrients are best suited for you, especially if you are on any medications.

Wishing you a joyful and happy Christmas!

Why is change so hard?

November 2016: Marcia Watts M. Couns, B. Soc. Sci; PACFA (clinical) Mental Health Practitioner.

Have you set upon a path of change only to be hit by a series of road blocks and set backs?  If yes, you’re not alone. Scott Peck plainly stated in his classic book The Road Less Travelled, “life is difficult” and so it is.  Ironically, we often encounter our greatest moments of difficulty and pain when we set about to make a big change. Quite often the will to change is precipitated by the catalyst of overwhelming pain and suffering that breaks through our defences of denial in a way that brings honesty that life cannot continue like this and we must change or else! So here is the paradox, pain and suffering most usually set us upon the path towards change, and yet that path is often way more fraught with challenge than we ever anticipated. What’s a growth-seeking guy or girl to do??

What is clear, if you are going to stay true to your desire for growth and change you need to be willing to engage intentionally with your pain.  However, it’s often a different kind of pain to the pain that brought you to a point of needing change in the first place. The pain that lets us know without a shadow of doubt we need to change is often the pain of failure, regret and being stuck. The pain of change and growth is quite a bit different. It is the struggle to be disciplined, feeling feelings that we have long suppressed with numbing activities such as substances, over working, over loving or over spending. It’s the pain of finally coming to a point of surrender, of letting go and being open to a new way of being.

As I continued to work through my own pain, I’ve discovered there is a big difference between these two types of pain.  I’ve labelled them as ‘productive pain vs unproductive pain’. Productive pain takes us somewhere, somewhere better, somewhere different and ultimately life-giving. Unproductive pain takes us away from people, places and goals that are meaningful and leaves us stuck and powerless. It is this understanding that has enabled me as a counsellor to stand with my clients as they explore the things that frighten them and have caused them pain and help them change that pain into something that can help them grow.

Herman (1997) has identified the role of community in transformation journey as   significant to the healing process. In order to become healthy, we must have a sense of loving connection with people who can be trusted.  Herman (1997) also refers to the power of community as maintaining the belief in a meaningful world whilst going through the often tumultuous and chaotic process of change. So if you are bravely embarking on the most exciting and terrifying journey of your life by seeking to grow and change, place yourself in a group, in counselling, a community, a church, AA or some kind of support system that can love you and help stabilise you in the process. It will be one of the best decisions that you ever make to help you stay on the course and make the process of change and growth less difficult.  Others will share the burden with you, and who knows, your healing journey might even bless others!

Health includes the ‘unseens’

October 2016: Veronica Avio M. Couns, M.Ed, B. Psych.

Health tends to be seen as physical (detected in photography, MRI), however, health includes the ‘unseens’ too. These include the mind (choice and perception), and spirit (purpose and meaning). They are all interrelated and when there is an imbalance through poor health, stress, trauma, or neglect all areas that make us who we are, suffer. If one is very physically strong through exercise and diet but neglect one’s mental health, all three areas will be impacted- that is, my perception, my choice, my ability to find meaning will be impaired along with a highly reactive chemical state and eventually a sick body. Ironically, we often spend too much time strengthening the body and we unintentionally weaken it through ignoring other aspects of who we are.

What I have learnt for effective helping is to be able to prioritise self-care. Self-care for me is: admitting that I am human (daily); being aware of my strengths and limitations (a good thing); and acknowledging that I am made up of ‘seens’ and ‘unseens’, that will never be perfect and therefore will always need assistance (big or small) to maintain a balanced self. For the body and brain (the seen), food, activity, rest and sleep are beneficial in strengthening them.  For the spirit’s health (unseen), prayer, meditation, meeting in church, as well as finding ways to help others in need, through outreach and missions, keeps our purpose healthy. Sometimes this area gets neglected, however the accountability through our fellowship and church events, allows this area to be in check somewhat.  Yet, repeatedly, the mind health (unseen) tends to be minimized or even neglected. I am not sure if it is due to a long history of stigma in mental illness, stereotyping, a topic of taboo in cultures, even church cultures, or not enough education.

I was able to ask myself these questions and begin to monitor how I was treating the ‘unseens’. This was a big light-bulb moment in effectively helping others, as the neglect in the health of my ‘unseens’ was going to impact my ‘seens’ and vice versa. Although I was already practicing self-care (mind health through monthly peer and supervision counselling, mindfulness exercises; brain and body health through study, physical activity and socialising; spiritual health through prayer and church connection), I still had to raise the bar in my mind health. Therefore I began to purposefully be kind to myself daily through smaller more attainable goals; reward myself with pleasurable activities (no judgment please); and forgiving myself daily for the many errors I made (and that’s ok because I prefer a life of mistakes rather than a life of regrets), in order to head towards balance of my whole self. I am very grateful as a church community Gateway acknowledges all three areas that make us who we are and encourages us to grow and be whole body, soul and spirit.

The Importance of Boundaries in Relationships

September 2016: Ashley Withers Registered Psychologist – B. Psych (Hons).

Relationships are often complicated by a lack of personal boundaries. In 1992, Henry Cloud and John Townsend wrote a ground-breaking book called “Boundaries – when to say Yes, how to say No, to take control of your life”. Since then they’ve written more books specifically dealing with boundaries in dating, marriage, kids, teens, and workplaces.

We all need personal boundaries with our parents, colleagues, kids, friends and intimate partners. If we can’t maintain personal boundaries we don’t have control of our own life. Having healthy boundaries means being able to say ‘yes’ to things you want to do, and ‘no’ to things you don’t want. If you can’t do this, you will feel controlled or manipulated and eventually you will become resentful.

Often in relationships one person is compliant and can’t say “no”, while their partner is controlling and doesn’t hear “no”. The controller can be aggressive or manipulative to get what they want, and unless their partner sets clear boundaries there is no reason for the controller to change. Setting boundaries is about allowing consequences to happen to the other person (E.G. “You can scream at me, but I won’t stay to listen”, or “If you don’t ask nicely, I won’t help”, etc.)

Having healthy boundaries requires a healthy sense of self. Knowing who you are, means that you can’t be defined by what someone else tells you you’re like. A controlling person may say, “If you don’t give me this, you don’t love me.” Their partner does love them, so may feel like they have no choice but to give in. However, with a clear sense of self, they can refuse to get drawn in by manipulation.

In her book “Mating in Captivity” Esther Perel observes that intimate relationships lose their passion when one or both partners don’t have a clear sense of self (individuation). If you can’t say “no” to things you don’t want, can you really say an enthusiastic “yes” to giving yourself sexually to your partner? Being able to clearly express your own wants and desires to your partner and being heard by them, brings freedom, sensuality and acceptance to a marriage.

In couples counselling we often need to help people who have been compliant or submissive to establish boundaries. Unfortunately, many people over-react when they discover that they haven’t had clear boundaries in the past. They start setting impermeable, stubborn boundaries that shut the other person out, leaving no room for negotiation. Rigid boundaries also cause a break-down in relationships, so it’s important to also consider the needs of the other person as well as your own.

If you feel manipulated or controlled in any of your relationships, it’s probably because you don’t have consistent boundaries. Talk to one of our counsellors about this and begin to take control of your own life again.

Neuropsychotherapy – What is it and how does it help counselling?

August 2016: By Matthew Dahlitz M. Couns, B. Psych.

Neuropsychotherapy, as the name suggests, looks at the neural foundation of our how our brains processes information and how that process can help in therapy. In other words, it is a meta-framework that looks at the dynamic way the mind, body, society, and environment work together and impact upon our well being. By understanding the way our neurological and psychological processes work and the influences of social interaction and environment, it is believed that a more holistic therapeutic practice can be formulated.

One of the more recent and influential researchers in neuropsychotherapy, the late Klaus Grawe, said that “Neuropsychotherapy aims to change the brain, but it does not directly target primarily the brain. Rather, it focuses on the life experiences encountered by the person. The brain specialises in the processing of life experiences. Life experiences are meaningful with regard to the needs that are embedded within the brain structures of each human being. Neuropsychotherapy strives to shift the brain into a state that enables these basic needs to be fully satisfied. The best method for improving the health of the brain, then, is to ensure basic need satisfaction.”

So what Grawe spent a good deal of his professional life doing was finding out what the brain needs to be healthy and how talking therapy can help achieve those needs—by changing the brain. It has not been that long since we have realised that talking therapies actually change the physical structure of our brains. In 1998 the Nobel prize winner in medicine, Eric Kandel, said in the Americal Journal of Psychiatry that “we are in the midst of a remarkable scientific revolution, a revolution that is transforming our understanding of life’s processes—the nature of disease and of medical therapeutics…[it] will have a profound impact on our understanding of mind.” A good part of this revolution Kandel was talking about was the changeable nature of our brains and how the interaction between people, as in a counselling situation, can physically change our brains.

If we know now that talk therapy can change our brains, then it helps us to know exactly what we are changing and why. This, then, is the realm of neuropsychotherapy—to understand brain processes, how they are changed, and what therapeutic techniques and approaches we should best be using. For the most part it is about us as therapists being more aware and fine-tuned in our approaches and interventions rather than reinventing the wheel. Here at the Gateway Counselling and Wholeness Centre we are keen to understand these innovative ideas and continue to educate ourselves in brain-based approaches to therapy.

Interconnectedness and Understanding the Impact of the Loss of a Child

July 2016: Barry Morris Psychologist – B. Psych (Hons).

Do you ever sense someone’s presence before you know they are there?  Do you ‘feel’ how busy a shopping centre is before you see the crowd? Ever experienced a sense of peace knowing that all of your family are home safe?  Recent developments in neuroscience give us some measurable data that shows how closely family members can be connected.  Dr Dan Siegel calls this interconnectedness, the ‘eighth sense’ (I thought there were only 5 too! Check out his website for an explanation1).  This is described as an awareness of people around us, a sense beyond physical presence that we are all connected in some way.  It explains ‘atmosphere’ in a room or stadium, the ‘tension in the air’ during conflict.  The sense of unity at a sports event, cheering for your favourite team alongside thousands of like-minded fans.

So strong is this sense at times that we can actually feel another’s pain.  We can be stirred to compassionate action for a person we have never met.  When a child falls and hurts themselves, parents can feel an almost physical pull to act and comfort.  When a child experiences fear, there is an almost tangible compulsion to somehow ‘be their strength’, willing them to be brave, to keep going.

This sense of interconnectedness provides a helpful basis for understanding the effects of losing a family member or close friend.  People often describe the loss of someone close as ‘losing a part of myself’.  If we were all just disconnected individuals, this makes no sense.  It is only through some understanding of our interconnectedness that this idea of losing part of ourselves makes perfect sense.  To deny or minimise the depth that the loss of a loved one impacts on us is to deny a key part of our experience – our deep connection with other people (yes men – us too!).

It seems that the more we get to know someone, the greater the ‘sense of connection’ we have with them.  There is no closer way of knowing someone than to bring them into the world and share their entire life with them – the parent-child relationship.  So when a parent loses a child, it is not only the loss of a little person, it is a major disruption to this deep sense of interconnectedness.  It’s not a disruption easily overcome, in fact so deep is this sense of connection between parent and child that it seems to continue after death.  Bereaved parents talk about it, science can’t explain it, but knowing about ‘Interconnectedness’ gives us a framework to understand it.

Resilience – the choice to grow through life’s challenges

June 2016: Marcia Watts – Counsellor & Psychotherapist M. Couns, B. Soc. Sci.

Founder of positive psychology and researcher Martin Seligman coined the phrase ‘post-traumatic growth’ which is the ability to become stronger and more growth-focused after difficulty, loss and trauma. I really like this phrase and reflect on it often when I think about how much I have grown through adversity and what might have been intended for my harm has, because of the way I’ve responded to it, become something good and strengthening in my life. It’s actually propelled me forward and made me a better person. I think it is really good to know that when you have somehow managed to survive the rigours of a difficult situation that it is very possible to come through those experiences as a deeper, wiser and more insightful person than you were before it. In essence, what hasn’t killed you, has served to make you a stronger, kinder and more capable human being. This kind of growth Seligman highlights, is achieved through focusing on strengths, and how challenges have allowed you to take on a broader perspective.  With a focus on strengths, resilient people accept that difficulties will be an inevitable part of life and then get about solving issues.  They also feel ok about naming problems, rather than denying them and then getting help and support from others. This generates a growth perspective that is about finding ways to grow through problem rather than ways to avoid or be limited by problems.  A growth perspective helps to fight the spiral downwards of guilt and shame about having problems and feeling ok asking for support.

It can be easy to make the mistake of thinking resilience is a quality that some people just have or are born with.  Rather, resilience is something that is built, and most commonly under adversity.  Resilience is the recognition of being challenged by a circumstance but not weakened by it. I like to think of resilience building as a similar process to building muscle when lifting weights.  You need enough weight to stress the muscle to stimulate growth through the muscle tearing and then having to repair itself.  The healing process after stress on the muscle is actually what creates the strength in the muscle and over time, in the body as a whole. Without the stress of bearing heavy weight, the muscle is not challenged and strength cannot be built. Martin Seligman, further describes resilience as a set of skills that involves being able to have a strong grasp on reality, the commitment to hold onto a set of values that confirms that life is meaningful even in hard times, and to adopt creativity responses to life’s challenges.  So I’d like to encourage us to find ways to cultivate a growth mind-set through using and developing resilience skills and responses. How can our challenges be transformed into stepping stones towards our future success? And further, how can I become a more whole and wise person in that process. This is the essence of resilience.

About Micaela

May 2016: Naturopath B.Health Sci. (Naturopathy)

Hi my name is Micaela Monteiro-Haig and I have been part of the Gateway Baptist church community for the past twelve years. I am a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and eating psychology coach with a special interest in mental health. I have a passion for helping people and for using my knowledge as a naturopath to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

I practice evidence-based natural medicine to identify the most appropriate and relevant treatment options. I incorporate dietary and lifestyle advice along with nutritional supplements, herbal medicine and eating psychology coaching, to create a unique treatment plan for each individual. In addition, I believe in the importance of supporting and complimenting existing medical treatment where possible and taking into account any possible interactions with prescribed medication. I can prescribe pathology tests, including functional testing if required.

My interest and passion in natural medicine stemmed from my own mental health challenges. I have great compassion and understanding for people suffering with mental health issues and having gone through some myself, I know how debilitating it can be.

I have found natural medicine to be a gentle, safe and effective system of healthcare that brought relief to my own depression and anxiety.   I am passionate about holistic health and treating the individual as a whole; taking into consideration not only the biology of each individual but also their mental, emotional, spiritual states and personal story in their health journey.

Other areas of interest which I believe can also have a significant impact on mental health, include stress management, sleep issues, fatigue syndromes, female and male hormonal imbalances, thyroid conditions, cognitive issues, immune dysfunction (including food allergies/intolerances, autoimmune conditions), digestive complaints, eating challenges (overeating, binge eating, body image, chronic dieting) and weight management. As a mother of two teenagers, I am also passionate about adolescent health.

In addition to my degree qualifications I have also studied mind-body nutrition, eating psychology and counselling techniques. I find that incorporating these approaches into my work with clients helps to bring about positive change and restore health on many aspects of life.

Healthy Body, Mind & Soul

April 2016: Healthy Body, Mind & Soul – Susan Coutts Counsellor & Physiotherapist B. Phy.; M. Couns.

Increasingly science is proving the connections between body, mind, spiritual and emotional health.  Exercise has been shown to help depression; stress has been proven to effect hormones and diet has been linked to both mental and physical ailments.  These are just a few examples.  Maintaining one’s well-being is therefore about considering all aspects of health.

Sometimes people get stuck in patterns of behaviour that have a negative effect on their well-being.  They may eat or drink more to cope with stress or they may stop exercising altogether because of injury or time demands. This then impacts on their self-esteem and energy levels.   It can be difficult to find a way out of these unhealthy cycles.

Seeking help to break these cycles is a wise thing to do.  Often this first step is the greatest hurdle once we notice a problem.  Sometimes our friends or family may point out the problem to us!  In the long term the benefits of seeking help and making changes will far outweigh the consequences of not addressing the health issue.

Some adversity in life is inevitable and out of our control but what we do to manage our own attitudes and actions for the sake of our well-being and those we love is up to us.

If this prompts you to take some action then you may wish to see a health professional, a counsellor or psychologist on our team or you can join me in an introductory educative and supportive Well-being Workshop on Tues 19th April.  Just contact the office to pick up a flyer and register.


March 2016: Merie Burton B. Soc. Sci. M. Couns (undertaking): couples, intimacy issues, grief & loss, self-esteem and identity issues.

It can be confusing to couples that they long to be connected to one another and yet at the same time they’re driven to stand up for their own sense of self; it can seem as though there’s a tug-of-war going on. Couples often feel that there’s something wrong with their relationship when they notice this kind of tension. What if this was a very normal part of relationship? What if it was, in fact, a necessary part of a healthy long-term relationship and an essential ingredient to individual growth? I believe that, indeed, this process is an integral part of a deep and vibrant long-term relationship and a key to emotional “growing up”. The name of this process is called differentiation.

The definition of differentiation sums up the marital relationship brilliantly; it’s the desire for autonomy; wanting to be your own person, whilst at the same time longing for close relationship with another. Let me demonstrate what I mean by using a simple metaphor. In the traditional sense, the marriage relationship is like two people coming together, hopping out of their own boats and jumping into a single boat. Difficulties arise when each person has a difference of opinion on things like the direction of the boat, the speed, and other navigational issues. The trouble with this ideal is that when one of the shipmates (spouses) wants to venture in a different way, they’re faced with a dilemma. Questions might arise such as, “Whose direction is the right one?” or “Why do we always have to go your way?” The shipmate might then unwillingly sit brooding at the back of the boat while their mate steers in another direction or they might jump ship for a time and thrash about on their own in the water, or worse still, they might see another boat and climb aboard that. On the other hand, I wonder if God’s design for marriage is about individual and relational growth; spiritual, emotional, sexual, intellectual growth. The metaphor might change to something like this; two individual people navigating their own boats and choosing to come alongside another’s boat. They then make a commitment (marriage) to tether to the other. He throws his rope to her boat and she to his and they openly discuss ways to venture forward on their journey together. This doesn’t mean that they always agree, on the contrary, it allows space for differences, nuances, and misunderstandings. One of the differences is that they have a choice. The person might let out a little bit of rope (grace) but what remains the same is the choice to be tethered to the other.

This metaphor also highlights responsibility for the individual care of your own boat. When each person focuses on coming from the very best in them; things begin to change and they can navigate the stormy seas in a different way. A person can choose to listen to their internal compass. They can ask themselves, “What kind of woman/man do I want to be in the midst of this difficult situation?” (this is all about your core values). Then they can ask themselves, “What kind of husband/wife do I want to be when this is happening?”

This metaphor doesn’t seek to “fix” marital conflict, it seeks to grow and learn from it and this can change the way you view relationship.

A Dad’s Role in Raising Sons

February 2016: Ashley Withers Registered Psychologist – B. Psych (Hons).

I recently spoke to a group of dads at the annual SU Father/Sons GENTS camp about raising sons to be good men.

Too often we men are pushed to give up our role of raising children. We feel the pressure to prove our love by providing financially, leaving emotional care to women, and sports and recreation to schools, clubs, and computers. When boys have needed mentors we have instead allowed them to follow irresponsible role-models, with only the insights of their peers for guidance. Fathers need to prioritize making time to connect with their kids, using every opportunity to encourage them and build good values.

In Raising Boys by Design, Greg Jantz and Michael Gurian talk about instilling values of honour, enterprise, responsibility and originality to build a boy into a HERO.

Honour is about commitment to truth, values and compassion for others. Mothers can instruct boys in honour, but they get it best from their dad and other men. Boys learn more from action than words and need to relate to their role model. A man who treats everyone with respect, especially women, will give a powerful example to his son. Enterprise is about work and challenge, doing important things for self, others, the world. Responsibility means following through on duty, having people and things to carry. One of the common mistakes parents make is not giving their kids enough responsibility in household jobs. Originality is about your son being a dreamer, a thinker, an explorer, his own person. This is the best protection against negative peer pressure.

In sharing values, it’s useful for us as dads to think about our own lives and to share our stories (good and bad) with our sons. When you watch a movie with your son ask him what the hero did that was honourable, or dishonourable. On camp, each dad wrote a letter to his son affirming his character and strengths. The impact of this was powerful and life-changing for both dads and sons. Make 2016 a year of growing your boy into a hero.

Happy New Year

January 2016: Veronica Avio Family Therapist – B. Psych; M. Guidance & Couns; M. Beh.Mang.

As we look forward to 2016, many individuals turn to new ideal goals and the traditional New Years’ resolutions. Every New Year provides an opportunity for fresh hope, giving us a sense of excitement to achieve these new ideal goals or even motivation to complete the things we couldn’t finish the previous year. This excitement however may deteriorate quickly over the first couple weeks into the New Year.  It seems that the same distractions of the previous years somehow sneak their way into the New Year. If not distractions, it may be that a life-altering event has the potential to derail one’s dreams set for the year. This sense of failure may have a negative impact on our own health and well-being. Therefore, it is important then to find ways to adjust goals to more attainable ones whilst kindly letting go of old ones to reduce unnecessary pressure.

A study on 176 breast cancer survivors measuring emotional well-being found that those participants who were able to let go of old goals and adjust to more clear and attainable goals showed improved well-being overall, as it significantly reduced the pressure to achieve their ideal goals.  Wrosch (2013) states, “By engaging in new goals a person can reduce the distress that arises from the desire to attain the unattainable, while continuing to derive a sense of purpose in life by finding other pursuits of value”. Adjusting goals can provide opportunities to gently reflect on the reality of one’s world whilst letting go of the ideals that have created additional stress in one’s life.

In working with families, I have noticed that families who struggle with hardships yet demonstrate resilience, practice noticing and attending to who and what are important for them daily. It’s the smaller or daily achievements that matter, increasing their appreciation for one another and finding the hidden gems of wisdom the day has taught them. Instead of a year of “failure”, the unexpected twists or even failures of the day remain in the day, which in turn becomes the learning tool to take into the next day.  This New Year, be encouraged when a new opportunity arises to adjust a set goal, as this will allow us to reflect on whether the goals set are idealistic rather than realistic. Also, that we focus on our achievements of the day, and the mistakes that can be used as learning tools for tomorrow. Kindly setting realistic goals, may improve our overall health and well being, and in turn allow us to appreciate our loved ones daily.

Wrosch ,C., & Sebiston, C. M. (2013). Goal adjustment, physical and sedentary activity, and well-being and health among breast cancer survivors. Psych-Oncology, Vol.22(3), 581-589.

Walking with Hope

December 2015: Marcia Watts Counsellor – B. Soc. Sci; M. Couns.

As we are preparing for Christmas day tomorrow and the end of the year just around the corner, I wanted to raise the idea of hope. Hope is a word that has been speaking to me of late, especially in the lead up to Christmas. Christmas reminds us that there is possibility of things being different, lost things can be found and broken things can be renewed. Hope abounds at Christmas in the gifts we hope to receive, the people we hope to see and the love, joy and peace we hope to experience. And yet I know that for many Christmas can also be a time far from hopeful; it can even be a time of pain, loss and regret.

So how can we walk with hope into the Christmas season, even if circumstances in our lives are far from hopeful? Perhaps we can start by remembering the words Mary Phipher (1996) shared with us from her book The Shelter of Each Other, where she states ‘that Hope isn’t about facts that can be disputed; it’s a choice about how to face adversity’. Phiper (1996) further states that there is no such thing as ‘false hope’ because hopefulness acknowledges both pain and problems and the courage to deal with them equally co-exist.

With these thoughts in mind we can even imagine Hope as a person who is walking alongside us as we face difficult times reminding us that this might be the end of a year that may have not lived up to all our expectations but it is not the end of our story. Hope has a way of suggesting circumstances can change bringing energy and focus even when we are desperate. What does the voice of Hope speak to you? How does listening to the voice of Hope, especially at this time of the year, refresh and energize you and allow you to embrace this season of celebration even in the face of disappointment or fear?

Answering these questions allows us to create a bigger space for Hope in our lives. It gives us pause to reflect and consider the difference it could make to walk with Hope into this Christmas season. I believe one way we can enlarge Hope’s space in our lives is by looking backward over the year and acknowledge our persistence in the face of real and painful challenges. We can recall the acts of kindness we have given and received. We can tell stories to one another that dwell on how we have grown through our challenges in big and little ways and remind ourselves of the lessons we have learned and how we are now bigger on the inside. And finally we can look forward to the New Year with an open heart because our story is encompassed within His great story and that truly the best is yet to come! Good stories have the power to heal us and lift us up. Hope in our lives feeds our ability to connect with those stories and receive their healing power. So let’s prepare for this season of celebration by sharing our stories and in so doing give room for Hope to grow larger in our lives.

Til next time…


Copyright Marcia Watts December 2015

Learning Difficulties and Anxiety

November 2015: Learning Difficulties and Anxiety – Karen Conwell B. ed; M Guid & Couns

It is my privilege every day to work alongside parents and children in my role as a Guidance Counsellor in both primary and secondary school environments.  Often parents or teachers will come to me seeking referrals or advice for their children’s increasing levels of anxiety. We then need to look deeply at anxiety triggers.  In the face of phobias or separation anxiety, learning difficulties can often be overlooked as a key source of anxiety. Even though anxiety issues are well documented in children with learning difficulties (Baily & Andrews, 2003), they are underreported (Reiss et al, 1982) and underdiagnosed (Veerhoven & Tuinier, 1997).

Common sense tells us that a child who is struggling in the classroom to learn, keep pace with peers, follow instructions or see through the “fog” of a learning difficulty may naturally begin to display anxious behaviours over time.  Particularly as students get older and more aware of social difference, they can change their attitudes towards school and begin to “act out” in ways that we might label as anxious.  For example, school and work avoidance, increasing oppositional behaviour in class, lowered self-esteem and fears of failure can all have their roots in learning difficulties.  Many students in this situation feel they are “stupid” or “lazy” and show low self-efficacy.  Therefore, as a parent, exploring patterns of low achievement with your child’s teacher is an essential step forward.  Asking for further diagnostic testing may yield results which explain why a student feels lost or isolated in class and open conversations with your child about their personal strengths and challenges.

Barbara Arrowsmith Young, founder of the Arrowsmith Schools International, said of her own experience growing up with a learning difficulty that the greatest change happened for her when she understood “… there was a neurological cause to my confusion: parts of my brain were underperforming and I learned that through applying the principles of neuroplasticity, I could create exercises to change my brain”  For many students, this self-awareness and understanding can bring significant relief as they embrace their unique ways of learning.

Further Recommended Resources:

Rapee, R.M., Spence, S.H., Cobham, V., & Wignall, A. (2000). Helping your anxious child: A step-by-step guide for parents. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger

The Significance of Relationships in Mental Health

October 2015: The Significance of Relationships in Mental Health – Marcia Watts Counsellor – B. Soc. Sci; M. Couns.

October begins with mental health week (4th – 11th), I thought it was a good time to stop and reflect on all the things that maintain good mental health in our lives. Good mental health can mean many things to many people but when I think of my own mental health I tend to think in terms of the things that contain, sustain, support and energise me.  I think in terms of ways I support myself to stay in a place of emotional and mental balance in the midst of the challenges and stresses of life. I also think in terms of my environment, and from my perspective as a relationships counsellor, the people around me who support me and fill my tank.

Researcher, Dr Brene Brown states that we are, “hard-wired for connection with others and that our greatest human need is for belonging, acceptance and love.” Therefore having healthy relationships and connection with others has very protective power when it comes to mental health as it goes right to the core of our most basic human needs. We all need love and we all fear rejection. This makes us human. This basic need and basic fear levels and connects us all.

So what are healthy relationships and how to do they support, contain, sustain and engerise us?

Healthy relationships are the ones that are supportive but non-possessive.  Sue Johnson, adult attachment theorist and founder of Emotion-Focused Therapy, describes these types of relationships as stabilising as when we reach for our loved one they are there for us but in a way that promotes individual security and autonomy rather than a feeling of being controlled, ignored or dismissed. Further, healthy relationships provide a level of stability and yet room for both individual and relational change and growth.

Healthy relationships are a place in which we can find acceptance warts and all and yet also experience challenge and a reality check when we need it. These kinds of relationship can be in our lives in many forms and at different levels. In fact, the research would suggest that no one person or relationship can meet these needs for us. Good mental health often exists within a community or a web of supportive connections. We can work to create these kinds of relationships in our marriage or partnership, in our family, with significant friends, in the workplace and in our church or faith community.  By making a space that is inclusive of others, mental health becomes something we build and sustain together as a community. Caring for and being intentional in our relationships is a powerful step we can all take to fight back the darkness of mental illness and find a place where we all belong.  It also means that when we do struggle, we don’t do so alone. This is a very stabilising thing for us all in maintaining good mental health.


Brown, B (2010) The Gifts of imperfection: let go of who you think you supposed to be and embrace who you are. Your guide to a wholehearted life, Minnesota: Hazelden

Johnson, S (2008) Hold me tight: seven conversations for a lifetime of love, New York: Hachette Book Group.

Mental Health for the Multicultural Communities

September 2015: Mental Health for the Multicultural Communities – Connie Hon Counsellor and Family Therapist B Ed.

Australia is unmistakably a multicultural country. Nearly a quarter of the population is overseas-born. More than 200 languages are spoken and 90 religions are practised.

Meeting people from different cultures becomes an integral part of our daily life, such as in schools, workplaces, public transports, and even within the families.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Declaration for Europe states,

“Mental health and wellbeing are fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of individuals, families, communities and notations, enabling people to experience life as meaningful and to be creative citizens.”

A mental health program addressing the needs of the culturally and linguistically diverse( CALD) school children was piloted in schools in 2003. In 2012, the program was adapted to cater the needs of the parents and adults, naming

“Building Resilience in Transcultural Australian for Adults and Parents, [BRiTA Futures].

The four main components of the BRiTA Futures framework are:

  1. Health and wellbeing promotion that view health as positive, adaptive, holistic, connected and as an ability to cope with normal life stresses.
  1. Ecological approach that acknowledges that the health and wellbeing of an individual is the result of the interaction of the individual with family, community and the social system.
  1. Social inclusion that emphasizes the necessity of an individual of support and inclusion within the group, communities and the networks of society.
  1. Resilience or the capacity of individuals, families and communities to cope with adversities in life.

The purposes of the BRiTA  Futures are to:

  • Increase knowledge on health and wellbeing, acculturation and resilience
  • Reinforce cultural strengths
  • Increase resilience and coping skills
  • Reinforce family and social connectedness
  • Reduce stress associated with acculturation process

Two months ago, the BRiTA Future was successfully run in Carewerx, an outreach arm of Gateway Baptist Church. It was well received and the participants had very positive feedback. We are looking forward to the opportunity to run this program for the Gateway community in October.

Please contact the Counselling Centre for further information.

What is Health Coaching?

August 2015: Benefits of Health Coaching – Susan Coutts Counsellor & Physiotherapist B. Phy.; M. Couns.

Have you struggled to make changes to improve your health? Has this impacted not only on your physical health but also on your emotional well-being?  If you have found that the need to change has not translated to action then health coaching may help.

Many health problems can be prevented or well-managed by lifestyle changes.  This might include changes to diet, exercise, unhealthy habits or stress management.

Health coaching is an integrated model of health behaviour change shown to help people prevent or self-manage health problems.  Health coaching uses proven counselling & coaching techniques to identify and address behavioural, emotional, situational and cognitive barriers to change.  At the crux of this model is the understanding that just because someone knows what they should do, does not mean they can automatically change their habits to do this.

This type of counselling / coaching considers the whole person including the physical, emotional & behavioural aspects as well as their lifestyle choices and motivation. Understanding the various factors affecting a person helps to identify what exactly needs to change and the best way this can be done. This process is done in complete collaboration with the client.  Realistic, achievable goals are then agreed upon only when the person is ready to implement these and feels confident they will succeed.  The goals are tailored to the individual and broken down into steps.  When small goals are achieved people often feel more hopeful that they can regain some control over their health issue.  They begin to feel better about themselves and their situation and more motivated to continue.

Many people struggle, alone, to try to change, without success.  Health coaching offers a compassionate and considered approach to assisting lasting change for the benefit of your well-being and those you love.

Susan Coutts

Physiotherapist & Counsellor

Susan is now available for Health Coaching at GCWC.  Concerns such as weight loss, diet, exercise, smoking & alcohol, stress, and chronic health conditions can be addressed confidentially or in collaboration with other health care professionals.

Raising Mentally Healthy Kids

July 2015: Raising Mentally Healthy Kids – Barry Morris Psychologist – B. Psych (Hons).

One of the greatest struggles that we parents face is watching our children experience emotions like sadness or worry, and not always being able to make it go away.  Our brains are wired in such a way that, when we take time to connect with our kids, we simultaneously experience similar emotions to what they are experiencing.  We become sad when they are sad, and can feel anxious when they become worried.  This is helpful because it motivates us to support them.  But we can’t always make them feel better…

So if we can’t take the feelings away, how do we help our kids through their struggles?  How do we help them express themselves and experience emotions without the emotions taking over?  What we are really talking about is the development of resilience – the human capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by or even transformed by the adversities of life (Grotberg, 1995).

Edith Grotberg identifies three markers of resilience which provide a framework for parents wanting to raise resilient children.  Having lots of friends, high academic achievement, good sporting ability will go part way, but the main source of resilience is us – parents.  Resilience is built on a foundation of unconditional love, a sense of physical and emotional safety, and supportive and committed relationships.

Markers of resilience (Grotberg, 1995):


  • People around me I trust and who love me, no matter what
  • People who set limits for me so I know when to stop before there is trouble
  • People who show me how to do things right by the way they do things
  • People who want me to learn to do things on my own


  • A person people can like and love
  • Glad to do nice things for others and show my concern
  • Respectful of myself and others
  • Willing to be responsible for what I do


  • Talk to others about things that frighten me or bother me
  • Find ways to solve problems
  • Control myself when I feel like doing something not right or dangerous
  • Figure out when it is a good time to talk to someone or to take action
  • Find someone to help me when I need it

The great thing about this is that we don’t have to have all the answers.  We don’t need to act according to a formula each time our kids get upset.  It calls us to connect with our children where they are at, to journey with them through the ups and downs, to model a way through, and to guide them in making good decisions.

Grotberg, E. (1995).  A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit.  The International Resilience Project: Bernard Van Leer Foundation.

Couples Are Wired to Connect

June 2015: We are wired to Connect – Matthew Dahlitz Counsellor B. Psych; M. Couns.

Part of being human is our innate drive to be connected to one another, to be part of the social fabric—from couples, families, communities, to nations. We are just wired that way. Social scientist Brené Brown put it wonderfully when she said that to be connected means to be “seen, heard and valued, without judgement” in relationships in which we can derive sustenance. Isn’t that the sort of connection we are all looking for? The most obvious expression of this sort of connection is within families and more intensely within a couple’s relationship. We are out best when we are connected in this way of being seen, heard and valued. Where we can be vulnerable, authentic, without any fear of judgement. However, because such connection is so important to us on all sorts of levels, it can be the source of much pain and anxiety—especially in intimate relationships.

At the center of a healthy intimate relationship is vulnerability—the ability to be real, authentic, seen for who we are. If the response to such vulnerability is acceptance without judgement from our partner, we feel safe—especially if our partner also responds with his or her own openness and authenticity. This feeling of emotional safety is at the core of mental well being. When we feel completely safe and validated by our partner, we have the courage to be more ourselves to the rest of the world—we are resilient. When we don’t. When that “home base” of safety is compromised, then we become anxious, we avoid, and we judge others and ourselves in an attempt to protect ourselves. It can lead to more serious anxiety and depression. We can be a wonderful gift to one another if we allow each other to be seen, heard and valued without judgement.  We strengthen the safety in our relationship that is so important for our individual wellbeing and thriving as a couple.

The Centre must remain centred in a remarried family

May 2015: Keeping the Centre Centred – Marcia Watts Counsellor – B. Soc. Sci; M. Couns.

It is important to recognise both the centrality and the vulnerability of the new marriage relationship in a stepfamily. It is both the most pivotal and also the most fragile component of the new stepfamily.  There’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the biological relationships in the family (often parent/ child and/or siblings) usually pre-date the marriage relationship. They have a longer history and previous shared experiences of which the new spouse has not been a part. Even going through the grief of the ending of the previous marriage/family is a shared experience and very bonding. Additionally, sharing genetic and biological factors are obviously very bonding and familiar.

Stepfamilies who thrive both recognise these issues as well as the need to foster intentionally the marriage bond.  The divorce rates in second marriages are much higher (Rutter 1994). However, these divorces seem to have less links to conventional marital issues and a greater connection to poor resolution of children’s grief issues and low household integration (Rutter 1994). Further, that these divorces seem to occur most commonly in the first five years of marriage, after this period up to eighty percent of remarriages succeed indicating a higher success rate than first married couples (Rutter 1994). Therefore, successful stepfamilies seem to be the ones that are not anticipating instant love or bonding, remain actively curious for information on what will make their family work  and are not afraid to seek help when needed (Cottrill 2012; Pasley, Rhodden, Visher & Visher 1996).

So bearing in mind that remarried couples who are able to last five or more years together enjoy a reduced divorce rate, it’s important to recognise the very real challenges to developing a solid marriage bond of a new marriage in a stepfamily. Some of these challenges can include either a real or perceived presence of the former spouse in the new marital home. They can also include time pressures on the couple to prioritise their relationship because of either ‘instant parenting’ or parenting biological and non-biological children. These issues all essentially come down to establishing boundaries around the marital relationship in the midst of a complex web of fluid and unclear relationships.

Therefore, this central relationship must be prioritised over all other relationships and considered the point of which all other relationship radiate out of and determine their direction. As the centre of the family wheel remains centred the whole system is balanced, stabilised and finds its place. It is not selfish to carve out time, money, energy and resources to keep the marriage relationship strong. Quite the opposite is the truth. By investing in the vitality in the marriage of the stepfamily is about protecting the vitality and well-being of all the relationships in the family and enables the couple to be the key leaders the stepfamily needs.

Pasley K, Rhodden L, Visher E.B, & Visher J.S, (1996) Successful stepfamily therapy: client’s perspective, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Vol 22, No. 3 3434357, (online)  0606.1996.tb00210.x/abstract
[Accessed June 20, 2012]

Rutter, V (2012) Lessons from Stepfamilies, Psychology Today

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