I am a counselling psychologist and family therapist. I studied psychology and family therapy at Monash and Swinburne universities. I was awarded a PhD by the Australian Catholic University. The research for my doctorate examined 20 chemically dependent women’s responses to their pregnancy, antenatal care and birth and how they negotiated strategies for recovery and their development of a 'mother identity'.
I am also a registered nurse and once worked as a barrister. I am married with adult children but also am part of a larger blended family. I live in a small rural community about an hour's drive from Western Plains Psychology.
Why I personally trained as a counselling psychologist is a long story, summarised simply by saying I enjoy helping to empower people, whether it be an individual, a relationship or a family. Besides feeling effective and useful, I find the work endlessly enjoyable and rewarding, not just because of the ideals of helping, but I really like the work itself. I look forward to meeting each new client but also saying goodbye to those who have completed work with me. I do enjoy a challenge. I like to learn about the aspects of neuroscience, habit change and relationship complexities that we each share. I enjoy the countless ways that makes each person's mind, body, history, emotions, thought processes, network of relationships unique.
However, this work is not just about the ideals, but also about the day to day work. For psychology, this means: you have to like talking and helping people from various backgrounds. You have to accept paperwork (I'm still working on that; what I can say is that the client time makes the paperwork bearable).
Finally, to be a psychologist, you have to be mentally flexible, able to see things from another person’s perspective while helping them to build on their own culture, ideals and resources. This has enriched me for I get to see life through hundreds of different lens and watch life develop on a myriad of diverse pathways.
For light relief I listen to music, catch up with friends and family, chase kangaroos away from my farm and find a million excuses not to do housework.
Briony Leo (Currently Travelling Overseas)
I have been working in the field of mental health since 2009 and have been with Western Plains Psychology (previously Life Resolutions Caroline Springs) since 2014. After I finished university I was worked in disability support and taught English overseas, but returned to pursue a career in psychology.
I started my psychology career working as an organizational psychologist in survey research, looking at how to make employees happier and more engaged at work. My work was mainly sitting at a computer, however, and I missed the human contact I’d had in my previous roles! I trained with Lifeline and started my Masters in Counselling Psychology in 2010.
I have worked in several settings, including schools, universities, prisons, gambling clinics and over the phone, with many different client populations, and across many different issues. As you can imagine, the issues faced by university students are very different from those of people in prison or experiencing gambling addictions.
In my work with Western Plains Psychology, I mainly work with people experiencing difficulties at work or in their relationships, and who might be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or stress as a result of that. Sometimes the mental health issues have come first and are making their day to day lives difficult. I also work with people who have experienced traumas such as accidents or assaults, as well as clients who are having difficulties adjusting to the loss of a loved one.
The majority of our clients will notice a significant improvement in their mental health over this time, as a result of understanding the issue more, receiving targeted interventions, and making changes in their lives for the better. Often the biggest step is calling up to make an appointment, and I acknowledge that it is a big step to take to ask for support.
I am very excited for the coming year, as our clinic is starting a program in Neurofeedback and I am undergoing training in this. I am also undergoing training in EMDR, which is a technique aimed at treating traumatic memories. My research interests are in wellbeing and work/life balance, as well as art therapy and pet therapy. In my spare time I play soccer and enjoy eating out in Melbourne, and try to get out and about on my bike as much as I can to practise what I preach!
I believe that everyone holds the key to their own happiness and each and every one of us possesses the power to change our lives for the better...
However, sometimes we need the help of others to guide and support us to evaluate a situation, understand our needs, recognise our thinking patterns, and identify what needs to change.
My greatest reward as a psychologist is when I assist clients to discover ways to make changes in their lives, so that they can face the future with brightness and hope.
Everyone needs someone to talk to, who will accept them, listen with empathy, be nonjudgmental, and help them to identify and overcome the problems that stand between them and the life they want to lead.
I work with clients across the lifespan, from young children with developmental, behavioural and/or psychological disorders, through to elderly people who are in need of support, compassion, and a listening ear, as they face major transitions in their lives, or in the lives of their partners.
I have experience in collaboratively managing mood disorders, behavioural problems, relationship difficulties, grief and loss, hoarding, and parenting problems, and I use a variety of therapies, depending upon the clients' particular needs. Approaches and modalities include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, Interpersonal Therapy and Solution-Focused Therapy.
Prior to studying psychology, I was a special education teacher for many years, so I am passionate about supporting children with learning disabilities, improving their level of self-esteem, developing their resilience, and improving their confidence and social skills. I hold postgraduate degrees in both psychology and education and am a trained ABA therapist. I also have a particular interest in conducting assessments to support government funding for school children with special needs.
If you believe that you are committed to making positive changes in your life, and you feel that I can help you to do so, it may be time for you to take the first step. I look forward to meeting with you and working with you at Western Plains Psychology.
I am a registered psychologist and a trained ABA therapist. I have recently completed a Masters in clinical counselling. For the past 12 months I have worked with clients throughout the lifespan and across a variety of presenting issues. I feel confident engaging with children, parents and families to help each individual to improve on their strengths in order to work through and help them establish a positive environment to cope and understand the issues presented.
At Western Plains Psychology I believe in connecting with each individual on a personal and emotional level to ensure that their journey is unique and personal. I hope that my clients feel secure through the process, and that despite the challenges, there is a sense of comfort and wellbeing.
I have an interest in sport, healthy eating and positive personal experiences, which help in the holistic approach I undertake myself. I endeavour to encourage the client to pursue their individual goals based on their own personal values, interests and strengths. I have gained a knowledge and understanding of anxiety, depression, stress and relationship issues. I work with evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, (ACT) and Mindfulness to assist each client to achieve the best possible outcome.
As an ABA therapist and psychologist I have had the opportunity to work with children of all ages and their families. I have a passion for working with children who need help with anger, behavioural issues, Autism, Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and social skills.
I would like to talk a little about myself and the experiences that have bought me to become a psychologist. I feel it is important for you to have a sense of who I am and whether you feel comfortable to trust me to work to support you through your life’s challenges. Building trust is fundamental in the development of a supportive therapeutic relationship.
Having spent my late adolescence and early adulthood struggling with, and eventually overcoming chronic illness, I learnt about the importance of nurturing resilience in myself to cope with life’s difficulties. Having the support from both personal relationships and from the health professions was fundamental in my recovery both physically and mentally. Working through my own difficulties inspired me to support others to flourish in all areas of their lives.
Therefore, while rebuilding my health, I undertook to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) (Honours). I then went on to complete a Masters in Clinical Counselling and am now a registered psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and a member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) working through my final two years of training.
At Western Plains Psychology I utilise the skills and knowledge I have gained thus far in my work with individuals across the lifespan, couples, and families, while working with a number of counselling modalities including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy. I am a trained Applied Behavioural Analysis Therapist, working with children with learning difficulties and those on the Autism Spectrum and their families. While passionate about helping all individuals, my particular area of interest includes utilising the practice of mindfulness to help individuals to build resilience both personally and in their relationships.
On a personal level, I have been happily married for eight years, after meeting my husband at Singapore airport and discovering not only that we were both born in the same English town, but that we both had a passion for motorcycling. I enjoy the challenge of motorcycling, it requires complete concentration and awareness and many years practice and experience to master and ride well. I love that it brings you into the present moment and is a great exercise in mindfulness!
Sue Pallo is the Practice Manager for Western Plains Psychology. Sue has worked with the clinic for several years and is very experienced at connecting clients with the most appropriate psychologist to commence therapy. She may be the first person you will speak with when you ring for an appointment or enquiry. Sue provides effective and efficient management in co-ordinating all areas of the clinic and also plays an important role in delivering key services and the day-to-day running of the clinic.
As long as I can remember I have been passionate about creating bonds and working with people. It was this passion that drove me to a career in psychology. I believe that everybody has the right to access mental health care and support to navigate some of life’s tougher obstacles.
I believe that it is of great importance to develop a strong therapeutic relationship through trust, empathy and respect. I work with a variety of clients, including children, with diverse presenting issues. Being the only male clinician at Western Plains Psychology (besides Max, the therapy dog) has led me to choose male mental health and wellbeing as an area of focus. Male mental health and wellbeing are areas that I am passionate about and I look forward to continuing my growth and development in this area.
Through my training and recent completion of a Masters of Clinical Counselling I have gained extensive knowledge in the use of differing therapeutic techniques. These include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) Client Centred Therapy (CCT). My approach is tailored to each client’s individual needs.
I have played sport most of my life and I enjoy the fitness, challenge and comradery that comes with being a member of a team. I have lived in rural Victoria, the outer suburbs and inner-city areas of Melbourne. I have enjoyed the different lifestyles each has to offer.
Karen is a skilled and compassionate therapist who is committed to a framework of evidence-based practice. She provides current, effective and specialised assessments and therapies for adults, children, and families, and is experienced in using a range of therapeutic approaches including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and interpersonal behaviour therapy (IPT). Karen utilises a systems perspective, making sure that the goals of any assessment, intervention, or therapy include meaningful and measurable change in the relational areas of life such as family, friends and social contact, work, or school.
Karen has specialist experience and skills in working with people who have encountered a wide range of debilitating mental health issues. These include all mood and anxiety disorders, personality disorders, trauma-related distress and difficulties, thought disorders, and substance use difficulties. Karen’s approach is collaborative and respectful of how differences such as age, culture, and life experiences shape behaviour, thoughts, and feelings in unique ways. She believes that any chosen therapeutic approach should be both evidence-based and acceptable to the individual and their personal goals. She emphasises the contributions of relationships, hope and strengths to support recovery.
Karen is also interested in working with children and adolescents with mood and behavioural difficulties and is committed to partnering with families. She makes use of multiple sources of information such as family members, teachers, school observation, and specific psychometric tests. She has a special interest and skill in diagnostic clarification of children’s mental health and behavioural difficulties including eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional-defiance disorder. She believes these can be related to additional issues such as anxiety and depression, perfectionism, learning difficulties, or trauma. Karen has a thorough knowledge of working with situations of bullying, and signs of distress such as self-harm and suicidal thoughts, or anger. She is committed to making sure that the work of therapy with children makes practical sense in their lives at home and school.
Karen has a Doctorate in Education and Development Psychology from the Australian Catholic University and is a registered division 1 nurse.
Maxwell the therapy dog
"Western Plains Psychology" has a new trainee therapist... He is small, cute, hairy and irresistible. His name is "Maxwell"... Max for short, he is a toy French Poodle. Max loves to meet and greet the clients and charms everyone he meets… if you are lucky he will let you play with his toys.Just by having a friendly pet like Max in the room, people can feel more relaxed and at ease with the counselling process.