Education & Experience
I completed my undergraduate studies at Wits in 1989. I moved to RAU for a Psychology Honours (1990, cum laude) and Masters in Clinical Psychology (1991-1992), graduating in 1993 with an M.A. Clinical Psychology (cum laude). I earned a Doctorate in Psychology in 2001.
During my time at RAU, Prof Eddie Wolf (a Fulbright scholar who trained in CBT in the US) was part of the faculty, and I was able to obtain parallel cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) training with him, which started a lifelong passion for this approach. My training at Wits was psychodynamic, and at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg) it was a combination of systemic, interpersonal and person-centred. The CBT completed the picture, and is my favourite paradigm of work—mostly because it is an active, practical and rapidly effective approach based on research, where the therapist teaches the client how to become their own CBT therapist!
After completing the course work and dissertation for Clinical Masters as well as a year’s internship at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital, I spent a year as Resident Psychologist at two Places of Safety, assessing and working with children and teens while running a part-time practice. I commenced full-time private practice in 1995, focusing mostly on the anxiety disorders (panic, social phobia, agoraphobia). Stress, health and pre-surgery intervention are further areas of interest.
I completed a Doctorate in Psychology in 2001, which required making a relevant and original contribution to the field. Based on a literature review, I created and tested an intervention to Reduce Overt and Covert Anxiety at the time of Breast Cancer Diagnosis.
A lifelong student, I have attended several international CBT congresses and in 2015 I completed international certification in the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (UP) .The UP is cutting edge CBT for the modern world, created by one of it’s founding fathers, Prof David Barlow.
Advocacy & Training
I’ve been affiliated with SADAG, the largest patient advocacy group on the African continent, since 1997. My portfolio includes selection, training, supervision and debriefing of counsellors, as well as being a media spokesperson. In 1999 I was elected to SADAG’s Scientific and Advisory Board, where I ultimately served as chairperson for 8 years (2000 – 2018) and remain a board member. I feel strongly about advocacy for those who do not have a voice or access to mental health resources, and am honoured to be a part of SADAG’s work.
Corporate Wellness & CPD Training
Sharing information widely is another passion, and to this end I have continued training abroad during my career. I’ve also been actively involved in educating colleagues through CPD programs and co-running a CBT peer supervision group.
I’ve been involved in the corporate wellness space for a number of years, first as a therapist, then as a provider of content and more recently as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) consultant. Clients have included Investec (through Maureen Kark & Associates) and Discovery, among others. As a mental health advocate, I feel this is an important field and I’m always keen to make a contribution.
I’ve contributed regularly across various forms of media: print (Longevity, Femina, Cosmopolitan, The Star); radio (A Word on Psychology with Leigh Bennie and The Jenny Crwys-Williams Show, both on 702; Monica Fairall’s Health Show on SAFM; Health Talk on Classic FM) and television (3Talk, Great Expectations, and Morning Live, all on SABC; I was a guest expert for eight weeks during the Oscar Pistorius trial on the special Carte Blanche channel on DStv—my role was to unpack concepts like vicarious (armchair) trauma for those watching, explain disorders like GAD or depression which were being proposed for him, and to answer any questions raised by the public or interviewer around the trial). I’ve also contributed journal articles in medical (general practitioner) and psychiatry publications (Specialists Forum, Serenity, Arthritis Focus, Mental Health Matters). Samples of these are available on my LinkedIn page.
In 2013 I launched Thoughtsfirst.com, the first CBT self-help site in South Africa. Adequately trained, experienced CBT psychologists are scarce in this country. Therefore, good CBT is not readily available to the bulk of the population—or, it’s simply not available when you need it. Thoughstfirst has free downloads for self-help with anxiety and worry, panic attacks, sleep issues, social anxiety and stress. This year, 2019, will see the addition of self-help courses for these and more: assertion, social skills and insomnia.
In recent years I’ve discovered meditation and mindfulness, and have incorporated both of these into my life and, on request, at the practice. I also offer mindfulness-based CBT, individually and as part of the Practical Mindfulness series, co-founded with Neil Bierbaum and combining the best of CBT, coaching and mindfulness. There are now 6 modules, taking mindfulness into daily living. Applications like emotion regulation, stress and resilience, decision-making, flow, and authentic relating, are all covered in a practical way. This year also saw the launch of a full online version for the out-of-towners who’ve requested it. Neil has also authored the Practical Mindfulness book, which is becoming a popular gifting (and reference) choice!
My approach to life and work can be summed up by a wonderful quote from Alvin Toffler, the respected futurist. He says:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”