Managing Your Emotions: Re-Train Your Brain

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

by Redland Bay Community Centre

Where: Redland Community Centre Inc.,
29 Loraine St, Capalaba, Qld 4157
Ph 07 3245 2117

Format: 8 group sessions, each 3 hours including a tea break.

Facilitator: Patrea O'Donoghue, MPsych, MAPS.

Cost: $455 includes the 8 group sessions, all materials, 2 CDs with guided instructions, and light refreshments.

Bookings: (07) 3245 2117 or (07) 3472 1361

This 8-week course is aimed at helping people better understand and manage difficult emotional experiences such as when feeling stressed, anxious, sad, depressed or angry. The course is based on Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MiCBT), a treatment approach developed by Bruno Cayoun, DPSych, clinical psychologist.

MiCBT is an approach that combines both mindfulness and the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). During this course, participants will learn a variety of mindfulness-based skills and approaches that encourage them to focus on their breathing and their body, rather than the thoughts that are likely triggering reactive behaviours and escalating the emotions. The course also looks at how other people and our emotions interact with one another and what we can do about that.

Mindfulness approaches have been demonstrated by researchers to be very helpful for people in better managing emotions and stress, improving depressed moods by helping avoid rumination, improving concentration, and generally result in feeling a greater sense of satisfaction with one's own life.

Term 1: 8 February – 28 March 2012
Time: 6.30pm-9.30pm
Free pre-course information session 1 February 2012 from 6.30pm-8.00pm

Term 2: 2 May – 20 June 2012
Time: 9.00am-12.00noon
Free pre-course information session 18 April 2012 from 11.00am-12.30pm

Term 3: to be advised

Term 4: 17 October – 5 December 2012
Time: 6.30pm-9.30pm
Free pre-course information session 10 October 2012 from 6.30pm-8.00pm

Snapshot: Mikako Naito

Monday, November 29, 2010
Consultant Psychologist MPsych (Clin) Tugun Clinic, Gold Coast

I stumbled into meditation quite by accident when I was 35. I had just broken up with a lawyer boyfriend who I thought was my knight in shining armour, only a year after I had divorced my first husband. It was a turbulent period. I probably cried more during this time than any other time in my life. And I didn’t just cry in those days. When I got upset, I would cry, scream and vehemently attack my partner with the nastiest words. It was like my anger, fear and sorrow weren’t mine at all but some powerful thing from outer space that would suddenly hijack my consciousness and drive my body to do all the deeds.

On that day I discovered meditation, I was lying on my bed wailing helplessly because I didn’t know what else to do as the memories of my lawyer boyfriend came and went. I wailed for what seemed like all morning and then stopped. I was simply exhausted. I closed my eyes and started to do some deep breathing, something my first husband had taught me but I never practised. Suddenly, I noticed myself free from the anguish – so completely free that it was as though I was floating far above the problems and questions which I was sure were still unresolved. I soaked up the blissful serenity, and when I opened my eyes I cried – because I then saw hope.

Looking back, the experience was probably closer to dissociation than meditation. But I thought I had found enlightenment and enthusiastically began following a path of self-discovery. I continued practising meditation every day. I read many popular psychology books and saw psychotherapists. I wanted to know why I was like this. I wanted to know where all that intense, unwanted energy came from.

The psychotherapists I saw weren’t much help, and I decided that I could do a better job if I knew how. I enrolled myself in a clinical psychology program at a nearby university. When I studied CBT, I thought I had found the cure for myself. When I learned about borderline personality disorder, I thought there were others like me. And when I learned about Asperger syndrome, I thought I had found the explanation to how I was. I drafted detailed conceptualisations of myself and tried one CBT technique after another to ‘fix’ myself.

I resolved many of my difficulties this way. For example, I managed to distance and differentiate myself from my well-meaning but erratic mother and learned to accept myself for who I was. I slowly but steadily began leading a life which others may envy. I bought a house, fell pregnant to my architect boyfriend, married him, had a beautiful baby daughter, finished my degree, got a job, and subsequently started my private practice.

But I was keenly aware that a portion of my everyday life hadn’t changed since my most dysfunctional days. I frequently got angry and shouted at my young daughter. My anger got so intense that I wasn’t able to feel any love, compassion or remorse until much later. It got intense so quickly that I didn’t know that I was angry until after I had shouted. It terrified my daughter, and it tormented me, but no amount of CBT and meditation seemed to really help. My anger was almost always around violations of the rules I had created – to keep my house clean, to get things done on time and to do these things efficiently. To me these rules were perfectly natural, logical and necessary, but my husband and daughter failed to appreciate them. I knew that my rules were the main source of our conflicts, but I wasn’t able to let go of the rules for fear of losing my identity and sense of belonging.

I attended Bruno’s 1-day and 8-week courses without much expectation because nothing else had really worked. But I began to notice the difference after about three weeks of twice-daily MiCBT mindfulness practice. I began to detect my anger at a very early stage and to monitor its gradual increase as though it were in slow motion, which allowed me to actually ask myself the crucial questions, “Should I shout or just talk? If talk, what should I say? And how and when should I say it?” The questions I preached to my clients to ask themselves and yet was never able to do myself. In other words, a miracle has happened.

MiCBT bipolar exposure has also got me used to my anxiety, which I didn’t know I had because I avoided it so well. I now spend much less time on keeping my house clean, and instead I often manage to squeeze some fun things in a day – like going to a park or hosting an impromptu play-day after school. And this is the big part, I do it smilingly. The notion of equanimity has filtered into our family life so much that our 6-year old daughter told me the other day, “Mummy, you need to be more equanimous.”

On the second session of the 8-week course, when I told Bruno I did not have time for two mindfulness practices in a day, he gently but firmly persuaded me to get up at 5 am to do the first practice of the day. It was one of the most significant turning points in my life because it would have taken a very different path if he did not succeed then. It is my hope that I make turning points like that in others’ lives too. MiCBT has already helped many of my clients, some of whom have shown dramatic improvement. I am committed to continue learning and growing as a MiCBT practitioner – through the regular meetings with my fellow MiCBT course graduates on the Gold Coast, Queensland,  monthly supervisions by Bruno, upcoming advanced MiCBT courses, and, of course, my daily practice.

I accept referrals of clients and I can be contacted by phone: (07) 5559 5391 or email:

Snapshot: Karen Tepper

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Consultant Psychologist, Macquarie Psychology, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

I am a Psychologist, working in private practice at Macquarie Psychology in Hobart, Tasmania. Macquarie Psychology specializes in the practice of MiCBT and is associated with the MiCBT Institute. I have not always lived in Hobart. My husband and I decided we wanted to make the move here after living in warmer climates for the past ten years or so. We decided this was the time for a “tree change”. Before moving here I was in Townsville completing the final practicum for my Masters in Clinical Psychology. Although only my husband had secured a job when we moved to Hobart, the leap of faith has paid off. I wanted to work in private practice and I wanted to specialize as a MiCBT practitioner.

I began my professional life as an intern Psychologist working for Centrelink in Darwin. This was an interesting and challenging job working with clients who had complex needs. A few years later, I transferred to the Sunshine Coast, where the job at Centrelink just wasn’t the same. The demographic was completely different and not so challenging. Consequently, I resigned and went on to work for various departments within Queensland Health, including Adult Mental Health and Child & Youth Forensic Mental Health. Over the years I had been using an “eclectic” approach to therapy that had mainly consisted of the “Sparkly Eye” technique! However at this time, my practice was not informed by the Mindfulness approach.

While on the Sunshine Coast, a colleague suggested we attend a 4-day workshop on Mindfulness integrated CBT, facilitated by Dr Bruno Cayoun. At the time I had not heard of Bruno but agreed to go with my colleague because of my interest in Mindfulness. I had meditated occasionally before attending this workshop. I learned a framework of psychological practice that made sense and the therapist in me was immediately intrigued. I learned to pay attention to my breath, and return to the present moment whenever I got caught up in my thoughts. At first, when I arose, I felt as anxious as I had before, but something else had shifted. I had stopped struggling with the anxiety and started accepting my feelings as my condition at that moment in time. Moreover, the mindfulness felt helpful to me in a larger sense, even though it did not remove my anxiety that day. I began seriously studying MiCBT and the knowledge base that had been built up over 2500 years by Buddhist practitioners watching their own mind experiences.

I have tried to go where my energy is. If something has been of interest to me, I have explored it. I also like this quote from the movie, “Men Who Stare at Goats”, "Bob, have you ever heard of optimum trajectory? Your life is like a river and if you are aiming for a goal that is not your destiny, you will always be swimming against the current. Young guy who wants to be a stock car driver -- it's not going to happen. Little Anne Frank wants to be a high school teacher -- tough titty Anne, it's not your destiny. But you will go on to move the hearts and minds of millions. Find out what your destiny is and the river will carry you”.

In accord with my need for authenticity and presence, my goal has been to work within a theoretical framework that resonates with my beliefs and values. My experience working with clients using MiCBT has been positive and extremely rewarding. Clients, who engage with the model and commit to practice, demonstrate quantifiable evidence that the model has been fundamental in symptom reduction and behaviour change. Inherent in this process is what I bring to the therapeutic relationship as a therapist. I continue to train in MiCBT, which involves a commitment to Mindfulness practice.

As well as working full-time in private practice I am also completing the final component of a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. I am currently completing a thesis which aims to investigate emotion regulation and how this contribute to the difficulty individuals have in being able to maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours. I am in the process of collecting data for this research. Subsequently, I would welcome participation from anyone interested. This would involve volunteering 25-35 minutes of your time to complete questionnaires.

I accept referrals of clients and I can be contacted at Macquarie Psychology Monday to Thursday or by email:

Snapshot: Lyn Roubos

Monday, August 02, 2010
When Bruno asked me to write something for this edition, in January this year, I agreed willingly, as it seemed months away. When he reminded me by e-mail this past week that he needed my snapshot by this weekend, I find myself challenged by what to write.

My first exposure to MiCBT was in 2008 after a weekend seminar in Atherton, Far North Queensland with Bruno, which then led to an 8 week MiCBT training course the following year. I have been practicing as a psychologist since 1998; however my experience as a therapist began some years earlier in 1989. My attraction to MiCBT operates at several levels. As a therapist, I strive to be congruent in my life and work, and mindfulness meditation, as a personal practice, provides a very real and tangible way to maintain my connection to this strong value. In addition, the Eastern philosophies of acceptance and change, inherent in the model, feed a personal font of optimism around how I engage with my internal and external world and with the worlds of my clients. Nevertheless, one of the most exciting rewards for me is my own journey with this therapy has been the results that are achieved by clients that engage with MiCBT, and this on its own would be enough to keep me immersed in the model.

I live with my partner Colin and our 2 cats in Cairns, Far North Queensland, and work 2 days a week as a Psychologist in Sexual Health and 1 day in private practice, with the remaining time given over to my studies. In these working roles, I am inspired by the clinically significant behavioural and immunological changes in clients with significant health co-morbidities including HIV, Hepatitis C, Diabetes, and Cardiac Disease when they engage with MiCBT. I see so many opportunities to further expand our collective knowledge about the application of mindfulness to these problems. All in all, it is a very exciting time to be engaged in this work.

I have spent the last 6 months completely immersed in the practice of MiCBT. From January to March this year, I undertook a 3 month practicum at the MiCBT Institute in Hobart as part of my ongoing studies in a Masters of Clinical Psychology.  During this period, Bruno and I delivered a MiCBT group program for people in the community with mixed difficulties, with Bruno delivering the weekly group sessions and I meeting with participants individually for 10 weeks. I received ongoing supervision from Bruno throughout this period and administrative and organisational support from Karen in the Practice. For me, it was a unique opportunity to work within a single model framework and develop a depth of expertise, rarely accessible in ‘usual' practicum options.

Currently, I am working towards the completion of a thesis, which seeks to explore the differences between group and individual delivery of MiCBT utilising outcome measures including the Symptoms Checklist-90 (Revised Edition), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale, the Short Progress Assessment, the Mindfulness-based Self Efficacy Scale and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Some of the hypotheses generated through this comparison relate to the effects of group dynamics on motivation to engage in formal practice, and whether the severity of symptoms influences outcomes in either delivery format. My hope is to complete this research this year and to this end, I have just completed my latest round of data collection in Hobart.

I would welcome opportunities to participate further in this dialogue with like minded colleagues and look forward to sharing anything useful that derives from my current research. I can be contacted on I also thank Bruno for this opportunity and his ongoing sensitive and elegant mentoring.

N.B. I have closed my books for the remainder of 2010 but would be delighted to receive new referrals from the beginning of 2011.

Snapshot: Clare Voss

Monday, May 31, 2010
I have worked for Carers Tasmania for the past three and a half years and I am now manager of the counselling program. We provide statewide support for carers. Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are aged and frail.

Meeting carers in my new professional role and undertaking MiCBT training with Bruno three years ago was an interesting and synchronous experience. It led to the introduction of MiCBT to our clients at Carers Tasmania shortly thereafter and I am pleased to say this program has become an integral part of our work. Two of our counselling staff are currently facilitating an MiCBT group and we are now in the process of planning our seventh group training program. The assessment process begins next week. In addition, we provide individual training for some of our clients. I have particularly enjoyed co-facilitating the group program. The generosity of spirit that is apparent in each group is truly inspiring.

Our particular client group has responded well to the MiCBT training. This is substantiated by the evidence we have collected following the training, during the review process. Our client group, Carers, often present with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. In many cases their caring roles are ongoing. It is heartening to see not only their quality of life improve, but those of their families and the person they care for and to know that they have the skills to manage the vicissitudes of life.

I have worked in a variety of counselling roles over the past seventeen years since completing my education and training in Melbourne. In my first position, I was fortunate to be employed in an accredited agency which trained people in relationship counselling. Reflective practice was emphasized within that learning environment and I continue to feel grateful for the foundation that it provided in those early stages of my development. There were a number of aspects that enhanced this model of learning. These included fortnightly Professional Development, guest speakers to provide fresh air and stimulation, case presentation and discussion, intra-agency seminars which were conducive to building collaborative relationships. In addition, counsellors were supervised in-house as well as externally, depending on their learning needs at the time. Some of my colleagues sought personal analysis, a course which I also chose to follow.

My intention is not to paint a utopian picture. It was far from that but I want to draw attention to the prevailing sense of openness that I experienced within that learning environment. I believe  this to be fundamental to healthy practice for all concerned. In a number of other roles, I have experienced  reticence towards talking about the work that is conducted in the very private setting of the counselling room, or worse, not even considered necessary.

This leads me back to MiCBT. For me, it is the experiential nature of the model that makes it shine. My personal experience of MiCBT, as well as ongoing supervision and continued practice, have prepared me to undertake the journey with my clients, with confidence and compassion.

I moved to Tasmania from Melbourne eight years ago to live a quieter life. My partner, John, and I had been in a caring role and we were looking for a change. Some time later, other family members joined us, including two adorable grandchildren, only three months old at that time. The quieter life looks vastly different to the one that I imagined ... but feels very rich to live.

Clare Voss, Manager–Counselling, Carers Tasmania