I completed my undergraduate studies at Wits in 1989. I moved to RAU for a Psychology Honours (1990, cum laude) and Masters in Psychology (1991-1992), graduating in 1993 with an M.A. Clinical Psychology (cum laude). At the time, 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 UJ) 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 practise. 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 also completed a Doctorate in Psychology, 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 (UP).The UP is cutting edge CBT for the modern world, created by one of it’s founding fathers, Prof David Barlow.
I have been affiliated with SADAG the largest patient advocacy group on the 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.
Sharing information widely is another passion, and to this end I have continued training abroad over my career. Educating colleagues and co-running a CBT peer supervision group followed naturally.
I have also contributed regularly across various forms of media – written (Longevity, Femina, Cosmo, The Star); radio (A word on Psychology, The Jenny Crwys-Williams show on 702; Monica Fairral’s Health Show, SAFM; Health talk on Classic FM) and television (3 Talk, Great Expectations, Morning Live). Journal articles in GP and psychiatry publications (Specialists Forum, Serenity, Arthritis Focus, Mental Health Matters) complete the picture. Samples of these are available on my Linked In 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. Thoughstfirst has free downloads for self-help with anxiety and worry, panic attacks, sleep issues, social anxiety and stress. This year, 2019, will seethe addition of self-help courses for these and more – assertion, social skills and insomnia.
In recent years I have discovered meditation and mindfulness, and have incorporated both of these into my life and on request, at the practise. 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.
My approach can be summed up by a wonderful quote from Alvin Toffler, 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.”