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"Delivering Psychology Online" With Emma Borthwick

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Megan Walker: Hello, I'm Megan Walker and welcome to Market Savvy Conversations. Today our special guest is Emma Borthwick who's a Clinical Psychologist, and we're going to be talking about moving some of her work that she's been doing traditionally to the online space. Hi, Emma. How are you today?

Emma Borthwick: Hi, Megan. I'm good. How are you going?

Megan Walker: Yeah, really good, thank you. Kick us off and tell us a little bit about your background, from where you've studied, the type of work that you've been doing in practice and to your business today.

Emma Borthwick: I studied my undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Queensland. Then from there, I worked in child safety as a child protection officer for two and a half years. I then went into working on the other side of foster care in a not-for-profit agency with foster carers and kids in care for two years. Then that period of my life sparked my interest in working with children, adolescents and families in the area of psychology to help improve relationships and help cope with different life challenges. I then went to study my masters in clinical psychology at Bond University. After that, I worked at a private practice space in Springfield for a year. Then, I went and did a guidance counselor role at a private school in Ipswich for a year. Then I started my own business, which is where I'm working now.

Megan Walker: Fantastic. It sounds like there's a common thread through there of working with children.

Emma Borthwick: Absolutely.

Megan Walker: What is it what you saw in the child protection and the foster care work that you wanted to be able to address or support more in your clinical work?

Emma Borthwick: What I saw, I saw a lot of carers struggling with caring for kids who had had pretty horrific histories of trauma, struggling to deal with behaviors and a lens to interpret that behavior that wasn't necessarily they're just being naughty to be naughty. All of that behavior served a purpose in the previous environments they were in to get needs met. It was just unhealthy ways of getting those needs met that were necessitated by the environments that they were in previously. Seeing that and seeing the struggles they went through, in my role as a child protection officer and as a case manager, I really couldn't help them that much. I was there to oversee the services that were involved and I could give them bits and pieces of assistance, but I really wanted to be able to do more and to help more and to be of more of the hands-on therapeutic provider as opposed to the person coordinating everyone.

Megan Walker: Yeah, I love that. That's such a revelation, as a layperson, parent to hear that those behaviors are actually... They are a communication, aren't they?

Emma Borthwick: Yes. Yeah. I think so often we think the kids are being naughty or attention-seeking just for the sake of it, when in their minds... Like sometimes, they may just be being naughty, but sometimes, there's a purpose of that behavior to communicate something or to get a certain need met that they might not be able to communicate. Then it's about us as adults becoming the detective and putting that little detective hat on and working out, okay, I'm seeing this behavior, what's happened before? What might they be wanting? What are they needing from me and can I give that to them right now?

Megan Walker: Yeah. Amazing. Then, in your own practice, congratulations, that you've been running. Tell me about the services that you've been offering and where you're located and you're based and your practice name. Tell us a bit about the current world.

Emma Borthwick: Current world, I'm based in Sherwood. My practice is Minds in Bloom Psychology. I work predominantly with children, adolescents and families. I work a lot with neurodiversity, so ASD, ADHD, learning difficulties, depression, suicide, self-harm, anxiety, supporting both children and young people and parents who are going through those things. When it comes to neurodiverse children, it's helping parents understand the diagnoses, understand what that means in practice and how to manage the behaviors that they see from their kids. Then when it comes to depression, anxiety, suicide, self-harm, it's helping parents to understand where this might be coming from, what the cause might be and how they can create environments that can help support their kids and help the kids open up over time.

Megan Walker: Yeah, amazing. It's not here's my child, my child needs help. It's the child carer approach that you take, isn't it?

Emma Borthwick: Yes. I mean, I do get a lot of parents coming in saying, "Can you fix my kid?" To which I say, "How about we work on ways that we can adapt the family unit so that everyone can get along better?" I take that focus of can you fix this person to, well, how about we look at the whole system, which is where everyone exists, and work out what things are working, what things aren't working, and how we can make that better?

Megan Walker: I love that shift. That's so good. Then, moving some of your services and what you do to the online space, what's drawn you to having digital offerings? What appeals to you about that?

Emma Borthwick: When COVID came along, there was a huge uptake in need for mental health support, but the system didn't have enough psychologists, didn't have enough support, so people were on really long waiting lists. What I want to achieve by going online is giving parents and carers access to an online creche for parents where if they're on a waiting list to get help, the parents themselves can get help and education about different topics, how to support themselves, how to support their family and how to support the young person. Because the entire system, when it comes to mental health of a young person, is impacted. Can impact the parents' mental health, it can impact the parents' relationship. It impacts the young person's relationship with their parents, with other siblings, with friends. It's really providing that online space where parents can go and feel safe and learn and get access to services so I can ultimately help more people than I can doing face-to-face work.

Megan Walker: One after the other after the other. I love the portability and the privacy of those skills. I can imagine one challenge would be that parents might not necessarily see themselves having a role in adapting their own behavior. I don't know if that's a fair call. I love your thoughts already around the whole system and we're adapting the whole system. In extending that out to online, I'm guessing that's going to be more of a portal and a place of resources where people can access that help and those insights as needed. Tell me your thoughts around that portal.

Emma Borthwick: Yeah. The idea is it'll be a portal that parents can access. There'll be courses available they can purchase as a once off. There'll be options for memberships where they get access to a whole bunch of online resources and courses and different options for coaching and one-on-one support. It's a whole space designed for parents, which I haven't really seen out there in the market at the moment.

Megan Walker: I love that. That's so exciting. Tell me, what's the ultimate vision? If we think four or five years forward, it takes a long time to get these things built and launched and up and running, but what's your vision for the role of the parent creche into the future?

Emma Borthwick: I guess that it would just continue to be a space into the future where parents feel held and supported and listened to and provided with the resources and strategies that are really going to help them to navigate life as a parent and navigate the tricky situations that happen in primary school, in high school as the kids become terrible teenagers, like what's normal in that terrible teenager realm. What's, of course, the concern? Just a place where parents can really come and understand all of those things and feel like they've got the tools to tackle it head on.

Megan Walker: Yeah, I love that. We've had a conversation previously around even understanding the difference between low mood and just sadness and our own reflections of our teen years are no longer the insight because we didn't have social media, we didn't have all these other influences and pressure, did we?

Emma Borthwick: No.

Megan Walker: How different is it for kids now than us?

Emma Borthwick: It's incredibly different for kids now than when we were at school. When we were at school, we were very much sheltered from the social media world. At best, there might have just been messaging apps that we could use if we decided to use them. Whereas now, kids are online and they're online all the time. Things like bullying in the past that might have just happened at school. Now, not only does it happen at school, but it can happen online through messaging apps, through social media, through potentially any platform so kids don't get a break from it anymore.

Megan Walker: Yeah.

Emma Borthwick: That's one side of it. The other side of it is, as bad as parents might see social media sometimes, it's the way that kids connect with their friends now. It's how they organise outings. It's how they run their life and connections and chats so it's hard to balance. There are definitely some downsides to it, but the other side is that it's how they organise their social world. They don't do phone calls anymore. What are phone calls? I've had kids say, "Why would you call someone when you can text them or message them?"

Megan Walker: And we're all like.

Emma Borthwick: Yeah. We're all like what? What happened to the call on the landline or a letter or something? Kids don't communicate that way. It's about balancing the two and understanding that the kids are very much in a media-focused world and we're-

Megan Walker: I'm sorry, I was just going to say I was telling my daughter about dragging a dial phone down the hallway on a long cord to squish it under the door of my bedroom to talk to my friends for four hours. That's not social media.

Emma Borthwick: No. And it's very controlled as well, because you chose who you called on that dial phone. Whereas kids nowadays, bullies, whoever it might be, can get access to their number through whatever means and they don't always have a choice about who contacts them or not. They can block numbers, obviously, but there's also the element of them wanting to fit in and wanting to be part of something that might keep them going back. There's a lot of more complexities now than when we were at school.

Megan Walker: Yeah.

Emma Borthwick: But a lot of parents have said to me that, "Oh, it's not that different to when we were at school," but there's quite a few different factors now that weren't present when we were there, and thank goodness they weren't.

Megan Walker: Yes. And we need to learn that. Parents need to learn that so that they can be the advocate and work with and not be another force of pressure.

Emma Borthwick: Yes. Or another force telling their kids not to do it or not to use it or blocking it. Because in reality, kids need to learn how to manage this because it's going to be there for the rest of their lives, which is an interesting thing for parents to get around because we didn't have it, right? It's creating a new mind frame around we're going to need to teach these teens and kids how to use this responsibly and safely, as opposed to we just need to cut all access to it completely because that leads to teenagers, maybe young adults who don't know how to manage it.

Megan Walker: Yes.

Emma Borthwick: Who don't know how to put boundaries in place around it, who don't know how to lessen the effect of nasty comments or anything like that, and then who we find later on get really, really badly impacted by it.

Megan Walker: Yes, of course. Wow! We're so grateful for you building this amazing portal to help parents everywhere navigate these challenging times. It is. It's a lonely, isolating feeling for a parent who's going through a tough time, as well as the child themselves, so it's amazing work that you're doing. Where can people find out more? How can they start following your journey of what you're building and watch the progress unfold?

Emma Borthwick: Watch the progress unfold. I make regular posts on Instagram and Facebook about just providing parents with basic information about different topics so they'll be coming closer to launches, there'll be more information and more series of information on these things. My Instagram is and so my Facebook is The Minds in Bloom Psychologist. If people want to follow the journey or just learn more general information about topics, they can go there and I'll be posting more about the journey for the courses on there as well.

Megan Walker: Fantastic. And I'll put the links to those social platforms as well below, so that we can all get cool.

Emma Borthwick: Perfect.

Megan Walker: We won't ring you, Emma. We'll follow you on online. Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Can't wait to see it all evolve. It's been wonderful working with you and here's to your continued success. Thanks, Emma.

Emma Borthwick: Thank you so much for having me, and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

Megan Walker: Thanks, Emma. Okay, bye!

Emma Borthwick: Bye!


Minds in Boom Psychology website



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