Carey Little is in her final year of the Master of Psychology (Clinical). For the placement component of her degree, she convenes the group therapy session REACH at ACAP’s Sydney Clinic.
“REACH is a nine-week educational wellbeing group developed by the Black Dog Institute to assist individuals with a diagnosis of depression or a mood disorder to manage their symptoms, stay well, understand their early warning signs of the illness recurring and put a plan in place to minimise the impacts if things are not going well, such as knowing who to turn to for support and when,” said Carey.
REACH differs from a typical support group and its purpose is not to assist those in crisis, which makes it an ideal program to operate from the ACAP clinic, which also hosts groups for carers, mindfulness, anxiety and eating disorders.
“To get the best from the program, it’s important for participants to have accepted their diagnosis and to have hope for the future. It’s for those who can be gently guided to reflect on past episodes and understand triggers, cues and unhelpful behaviour,” Carey said.
Carey says REACH is unique because it’s made up of a group made of individuals who want to be well and get on with enjoying life.
“There is always a lot of laughter as well as a few tears. It’s fantastic to see the change in participants as they usually approach the end of the group with more confidence about their future and with lifestyle changes in place that means their depression or mood disorder has become one piece in their life jigsaw instead of being the only piece,” she said.
“It is key though, that participants realise this not a support group, but it is a group that is supportive in how to build a wellbeing plan and in understanding why a participant will include certain actions or find certain activities difficult, like examining those things lost as part of the illness, such as friends and careers.”
Carey has experience convening other ACAP clinic groups and recommends this form of therapy as a safe environment to confront challenges and one where the ideas and struggles of others often strike a chord that triggers progress toward recovery.
“Group participants meet others with similar life experiences who are keen to make their diagnosis a managed part of their life, and not their life’s main focus. It’s a forum connecting people who are educating themselves about managing a set of symptoms as a part of a bigger rewarding life-plan,” she said.
“What is wonderful is to see the ‘light-bulb moments’ for so many participants as they start to recognise their own profile but more importantly how they can make choices to manage symptoms and be more likely to stay well.”
Find out more about the ACAP Sydney Clinic and its next REACH program dates here.