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"Innovative Psychology Programs" With Dr Judith Griffiths

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Megan Walker: Hello, and welcome to Market Savvy Conversations. My name is Megan Walker, and today my very special guest is Dr Judith Griffiths. Hello, Judith. How are you today?

Dr Judith Griffiths: I'm fine. Thanks, Megan. How are you?

Megan Walker: Very well, thank you. Now, Judith and I have been working together over the last year. Judith is creating an amazing range of programs, but before we get into that, Judith, tell us a little bit about yourself, your qualifications, background. What's the Judith story?

Dr Judith Griffiths: So I've had about 24 years experience in psychology, both as an academic and a researcher, and I've done government research, private research, and general university type research.

In 2015, I decided to go back and rejoin with my passion, which was sport and exercise psychology. So I went through and I redid my masters degree. And then after I finished that, I had a couple of years practicing and then I went back and did my endorsement, so that's kind of that extra training. So all up, I think I've been training for about 15 years for this. So why I'm not a neurosurgeon, I do know ...

Megan Walker: You are one knowledgeable lady though.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Well, that's debatable. So after I finished my masters, I went straight into private practice. So I've been in private practice for about six years now, doing a mix of both, I guess you would call it general psychology and sports psychology.

So that's kind of where I'm at. I also now more recently am doing a lot more work in neurology, in the neurology field, working with patients who have got functional neurological and functional motor disorders. So, that's kind of really exciting.

Megan Walker: Tell us a little bit more about that FND space for people who are new to that. What does that mean? What does that look like?

Dr Judith Griffiths: So FND is a neurological condition of which there is no organic basis. So if you think of your brain a little bit like a computer, so a computer has both hardware and software. So if you were think about it this way, with FND, there's nothing wrong with your hardware. You can breathe, you can walk, you can talk. It's almost like you start to get little glitches in your software.

So when your computer, when you're working away at your computer and the screen kind of zings out and kind of goes a bit black and a bit fuzzy, transfer that and think of that's what's happening in people's brains.

Megan Walker: Wow.

Dr Judith Griffiths: FND is, it's kind of underlaid by trauma, by anxiety, by stress, long-term illness, a lot of these sorts of things. So, in a way it's almost like it's a coping mechanism, your brain almost gets too overwhelmed and it just shuts down.

Unfortunately, when it shuts down, people have things like, they look like, but they are not epileptic seizures. For some people, they will fall on the ground, they will shake and they will have those traditional epileptic seizures, but it's not epilepsy.

For other people, they will get numbness and they will get pain or numbness in their legs. Their limbs will stop moving. And so you literally have to sit and wait it out. So there's a lot of psychology in the management of these symptoms and how to move on with your life.

Megan Walker: That was my next question. What do you do as a psychologist with someone who's got FND? Just expand that a little bit more.

Dr Judith Griffiths: So if you were to talk about treatment modalities, we use a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy because it is underlined by anxiety, stress, and trauma. A lot of it is trauma-informed therapy. So a lot of mindfulness, we use ACT, it really all depends. Or the way that I approach it is that there's no one size fits all because every client of mine is completely different to the next one.

For me, it's about finding the right mix of therapeutic modalities that best suit the needs and the desires, if you like, of the client sitting in front of me. So I'll do a mixture of things. Primarily, it's CBT, ACT, mindfulness, and meditation for those people who like to do meditation.

Megan Walker: And I know talking to you a bit because your other passion area is the sports psychology. And I was saying, what's the common thread between the FND and the sports psychology?

Dr Judith Griffiths: I think both of them is about helping the client to, or the athlete to develop the skills that they need, that is going to help them live their best possible life. So I tend to think of everything we do in sports psychology terms. So everything is a performance. Getting out of bed takes a certain level of skill and combinations of skills and processes. Dealing with being nervous with a job interview is the same as having anxiety around performing at the Commonwealth games, for example.

So a lot of the techniques. So if you look at it from a very applied perspective, a very proactive perspective, for me it's all about helping my clients to live the best possible life that they can. And I see my role as helping them to achieve what they need and to teach them and to help them to develop the skills that best suit them.

Megan Walker: Fantastic. I love that thread performance.

Dr Judith Griffiths: I guess it underlies everything for me.

Megan Walker: And tell me then with those two groups in mind, what have you been working on and what does your ... what's been the evolution of your practice to this point?

Dr Judith Griffiths: So in a way, the evolution of my practice has almost gone full circle. So I started off in sports psychology. I kind of drifted into general practice, and I've come back into the sport and the performance area. So currently what I'm working on at the moment is I've gone to an area that is my passion, which is golf. And I am in the process of creating an online golf program for people of all ages, of all abilities, just to help to teach them the mental skills that they need to improve their performance.

So even though it's based in golf, it can be applied to tennis. And at the moment, I'm teaching the very same skills to netballers and to other athletes and organisations in sports. So, that's kind of where I've come back to.

Megan Walker: Interesting. When you said golf, the first thing that jumped into my mind was, oh, you must have to spend so much time with the ... sitting with frustration.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Yeah, you get a lot of that.

Megan Walker: I've had a bit of a go at golf.

Dr Judith Griffiths: A tough game.

Megan Walker: Certainly had some control issues.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Sign up and do the program, we'll get you sorted.

Megan Walker: Yeah, you'll get me on the right track. Okay, wonderful. So an online course, golf, that could have applications into other sports, as we've already sort of ... We won't overwhelm you with loading you up with lots of different programs just yet. And what about for people with FND, is there an online opportunity there?

Dr Judith Griffiths: Look, I think there is, and I'm certainly working towards it at this stage. It's about ... very similar to a lot of the chronic pain management programs that are run. And I certainly run them in my private practice. It's really about reaching out to as many people as possible.

I come from a point where even I think to see a psychologist is expensive. So if we can get these skills out to the general population, if we do it in a group and it's cheaper, then we are going to be able to educate more people. So this is not doing psychological therapy online. This is about giving people the general skills that they need to be able to try and manage their program. If they want to then continue and see me or see somebody else in private, in a private area, that's entirely their choice. So we're not doing therapy, we are doing skills acquisition.

Megan Walker: I love that distinction because there's definitely a time and a place for both. And anyone listening knows I'm a big fan of online courses, but you could never replicate a therapy session with an online course. It's a top up, isn't it? It's a skills, like you say, capacity building.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Yeah. I think it's a top up, or I think it can also be treated as a funnel in you give people the early skills. They go away, they practice them. They go, "Look, I think this is not working, or I need to tweak this." Or, "This is really working for me and I need to know more." Then I think it can come at either end of the therapy process. So either funnel then, or kind of top up at the other end.

Megan Walker: Now this is a wild question without notice. Do you think online courses can have a role to play in helping with waiting lists and the skills shortage that we've got around the mental health epidemic that we've got? Do you think there's a role online courses can play with alleviating?

Dr Judith Griffiths: Yeah, I think there is. I think you would have to though be very careful that you didn't cross into any ethical boundaries or anything that Ahpra has decided is not to do. But I think you can offer sort of that skill acquisition type of thing, just to give people almost something to work on while they're waiting, which gives them ... So what that does is it actually gives them the feeling of control around what's going on for them.

And while we know that once we kind of turn and start to control what we can control, we actually feel more empowered. We feel stronger. So therefore, I think that, one, it's not going to reduce the waiting list time. I think it is actually going to help people to navigate that, almost that empty space between their first making an appointment and that very first appointment.

Megan Walker: Well said.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Some psychologists run waiting list, some don't. And I think that's a matter of personal preference, but I do think the online courses are useful. I think they're more useful than sending people out a flyer or an information sheet because I think it makes it more ... it explains it more.

I mean, my personal preference is not to do the pre-recorded online stuff. I come from a place where I actually like to talk to people. So it gives them, the people, the opportunity to ask questions. Run a program, but do it as a series of interactive kind of webinars.

Megan Walker: Yeah, absolutely. And that's so important is choose what's right for your audience. And in the timeframe that they want to learn and in the way they want to learn. I like the choice that it gives as well.

Dr Judith Griffiths: But-

Megan Walker: And ... Oh, sorry?

Dr Judith Griffiths: Sorry. I also think you've got to play to your own strengths. So being an academic all through COVID where everything was pre-recorded. So I did courses by Zoom or Collaborate, I did find that while they were easy, they really didn't sit that well with me and my staff. So I think it's really important that you not only pick what works for the general public, you have to be able to pick what works for you and what feels comfortable for you.

Megan Walker: Yeah, absolutely. And to question sometimes, is it the right motivation? I caught myself, I presented to a group last week, a peak body, and they had questions coming back, and in the Zoom environment, you can really manage that quite neatly. And I thought, "Oh, this is quite shocking, the number of questions that I'm getting." I thought, "Well, do we hide behind our computer to avoid that? Or is that actually part of the process?" When to add and recognise the need for that.

And in embarking on this sort of, I suppose, new digital space, like packaging up your wisdom and delivering it in this way, what have you learned?

Dr Judith Griffiths: Oh.

Megan Walker: What do you think's useful for others to know? And what have you learned?

Dr Judith Griffiths: So I've made a couple of notes. There's three things that I have learned. And then there's lots of things, lots of pieces of advice that I would give.

Megan Walker: Good.

Dr Judith Griffiths: I think the first one that we all ... and this is just because we're human. I think we all have to acknowledge that we know more than we think we know.

Megan Walker: So true.

Dr Judith Griffiths: I think we have to give ourselves that permission to think of ourselves as pretty knowledgeable. A lot of us have been doing this for a long time in various guises. So you have actually collected this wisdom. And I know that's something that you constantly keep reminding me of. I think the other thing I have learned from doing your programs is that there is actually no single ideal way to do this.

I think if you don't like talking, if you're not confident talking to people over Zoom, then by all means, record it. But if you're like me, who can talk underwater, because it's what I do, lecturing. I'm really comfortable. I'm more comfortable. I'm really comfortable in the Zoom kind of sphere. So that would be the second piece.

Dr Judith Griffiths: The third thing that I've learned is that we have to all learn to play to our strengths. And again, that do what feels best for you. I know people do market research and go, "Oh, there's a need for a course over here," but if that course doesn't sit well with you or that idea is not something that you feel really comfortable about, it's going to be really ... it's going to be so hard to execute that you're actually not ever going to do it.

Megan Walker: So true. You've got to be driven. It's got to come from really you recognising the need and you wanting to lean in and solve it, doesn't it? Because it can be tough going, so you need that driver, that intrinsic ... I agree.

Dr Judith Griffiths: And I think even if you first, one, start with something that you feel completely comfortable and don't pick something because you think somebody might want to know about it down the track. So, that will build your confidence

Megan Walker: Beautiful.

Dr Judith Griffiths: So do you want to hear my advice?

Megan Walker: Tell me your advice, Judith.

Dr Judith Griffiths: My advice. I'm not saying this is what I do. This is what I would tell other people to do. I think first of all is to acknowledge that we are all filled with anxiety over this process. This is new. This is different. This is nothing that we ever learned at uni. This is nothing that we ever learned at sitting in private practice, talking to clients one on one.

So my advice would be acknowledge that you're anxious, acknowledge that it's scary, but don't get paralyzed by it because when you get paralyzed, you procrastinate and then you never kind of get there. And the longer that you wait to do it, the harder it becomes.

So I think I would say to someone do it, when you kind of sitting in that place, ask yourself, what's the worst thing that could possibly happen? Then the second question would be, will my life continue if that actually does happen? And I think if you can get comfortable with both of those answers, then you honestly, you just have to do it.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Honestly, if you're prerecording it, the worst thing that could possibly happen, I would imagine, was it be that no one would buy it. But, is your world going to finish? Probably not.

Megan Walker: Amazing practice.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Yeah, good.

Megan Walker: Don't do it again.

Dr Judith Griffiths: The other piece of advice that I would do, and you are going to laugh at this, is a bit of homework. I know. I know I should. It really does help. I think something that occurred to me the other day was really explore the marketplace. And what I mean by that is going ... even going outside of your area to see how other people are running their courses. Because I think you can learn a lot from other people and other disciplines.

I got a thing, I don't know where I got it, but it was for a self-something course. Anyway. I thought, "I'm actually going to do that. I'm going to see how they do it," because they were advertising that it was an interactive prerecorded program. That's what I went ... "How do you do that?" So I might sign up. I'm not interested in it. I just want to see what happens. So, kind of explore what else is out there, what other people are doing. And the nice thing is, it's tax deductible if you sign up to do a whole bunch of courses.

Megan Walker: I love that advice so much because to be a teacher, it helps so much if you've been a student, doesn't it?

Dr Judith Griffiths: Yeah. You've really got to know what works and what other people are doing. It's like, why reinvent the wheel when there's a whole bunch of wheels already out there?

Megan Walker: So true. So true. Oh, Judith, these are fantastic pearls of wisdom that you've got there. Did you have anything else on your list? I'm leaning in through Zoom. Let me see your list.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Let me see. Oh, I think you ... because you were organised and for once, so was I, you asked what my vision was.

Megan Walker: Tell me your vision.

Dr Judith Griffiths: So my vision is to make, in particular for this course, but in general is to make sort of the non-clinical aspects of psychology available to anybody. So, by teaching the people the skills that will allow them to enjoy their sport or their life or their job. I can take all of that and transplant it into their general lives.

So I think there are these myths around going to see a psychologist. You only go and see a psychologist if there's something wrong with you. Actually, there's not, and this is one thing that's really important in sports, sports psychology is really proactive. So we get in there, we teach you the skills before you act, before things start going wrong. And yes, we do see a lot of athletes where things have gone wrong, but it's about educating people that we can actually teach you these skills first. So we can sort of help inoculate you against that slumps, the slumps of confidence, that anxiety, and that works regardless of the field that you're in.

So I think these programs have conducted effectively will actually help people to gain skills, but make them feel supported, because they're in a group of their peers. So if you're doing golf or tennis or executives, they're in with like-minded people and there's that safety, there is a degree of safety and anonymity. And so I think this is where the courses can help and that you can teach people the skills without them feeling really threatened by them.

Megan Walker:

Love it. Wonderful, Judith. I love that. And it's that enrichment, there's opportunities for enrichment there that I'd really love your thought about giving that to people as more an accessible ... normalising the access to those skills as opposed to crisis led only.

Dr Judith Griffiths:

If we can be proactive, then when sort of things do take a turn for the worst, we actually know how to deal with them. Actually, we don't have to wait two weeks, three weeks, you've got to get in to see ... if you want a mental healthcare plan, there's often a huge wait to get into see your GP. And then there's a wait to get into the psychologist. My vision is to let's educate people first before things go wrong. So that when things kind of do start to head downhill, actually know what to expect. And if you know what to expect, then it's never as bad as what it seems

Megan Walker:

Well said. Now, if we've got any budding golfers listening or people who have clients or others that they know who have FND, how can people find out more and reach out and make contact so they can come and join your courses?

Dr Judith Griffiths:

So they can go on to my website, which is just There are links all the way through that. So it outlines when the programs are coming up. Really excited, the golf one starts November, cannot wait for that one. It's going to be really fun to do it in an area, in a sport that I know absolutely heaps about. So, that will be good.

So they can go to the website. They can email me. My email address and all my contact details are on that, on my website. Otherwise, they could just get to me through Facebook. So Judith Griffiths Psychology, and they can just reach out. If you're at a golf club, probably in Brisbane, there will be flyers up, which you can just scan the QR code and it takes you straight to where you need to be.

Megan Walker: Oh, you are just an A-plus student, Judith. I'm giving you a high distinction.

Dr Judith Griffiths: I'm great in planning. It's the execution that kind of sometimes need some work.

Megan Walker: A worldwide condition.

Dr Judith Griffiths: I think it's called being human.

Megan Walker: Yeah, exactly. Judith, thank you so much for sharing your insights.

Dr Judith Griffiths: Oh, welcome.

Megan Walker: I know that'll be so motivating for other people listening and going, it's not easy, but like you said at the start, tapping into that vision and what it is that you're wanting to create and the change and sticking to that, it's well worth it, isn't it?

Dr Judith Griffiths: Yeah. It's very scary. And I'm going to do my first Facebook live this weekend. I've just decided I cannot put it off anymore. Just have to work out how to do it.

Megan Walker: The button, Facebook live, title, record, go live – the red button. And the beautiful thing is, as soon as you finish talking and then you press the stop record. It says view post, and do what I do nine times out of 10 and go, view it. Delete it. Do it again.

Dr Judith Griffiths: No, the first one is often the best.

Megan Walker: Yeah, that's true. That's true. Oh, Judith, thanks so much again. Can't wait to hear the success of your golf program and the many more to come and-

Dr Judith Griffiths: You're welcome.

Megan Walker: ... talk to you soon. Thank you.


Links and further information

Judith Griffiths Psychology Facebook Page

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