North Queensland Psychology Services

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By Michael Schauer*

Depression is a common emotion. At some stage almost everyone is down in the dump about a break-up of a close relationship, a sudden loss of a close person or frustration in a job.

Sadness, lack of enjoyment, sense of hopelessness, loss of confidence, feelings of guilt and failure and low activity levels characterise depressed feelings. Fortunately they are usually short-lived, but often they return.

In a clinical sense we speak of depression, when the unhappiness is long-lasting, intense and interfering with life. It is often accompanied by symptoms like anxiety, poor sleep and loss of appetite. Some severely depressed people even contemplate suicide at times stays in hospital may be advisable.

There are three major types of depressive illness. “Endogenous Depression” may develop for no apparent reason and can be severe.

“Manic depression” has alternating periods of endogenous depression with periods of extreme happiness overactivity and sometimes delusions or false beliefs of grandeur.

“Reactive depression” is trigged off by stressful situations.

What causes depression?

Many theories exist about how depression develops but the real cause is not fully understood.

Medically, depression has been explained in terms of biochemical imbalance and heredity factors. For example depression seems to occur in certain families.

Psychoanalysts assume that it is caused by a loss of parental affection during childhood. Hostile feelings against others are often repressed and turned instead into self-blaming. Psychologists explain the depression as a combination or interaction of personal (internal) or external factors. We examine carefully the skills and attitudes which a person has learned to cope with adverse situations in life.

How can professionals help?

Depending on the sort of depression and the individual circumstances medication, counselling or both can be appropriate. While anti depressive medication is used by doctors in some cases to treat depression, many psychologists nowadays use “cognitive and behavioural” counselling techniques. This involves trying to change the clients distorted thinking and irrational beliefs. We challenge these beliefs by asking them for example, “do you really believe that you always have to be successful, competent and perfect?”

For the individual person it may be helpful to learn to cope better with stress through relaxation to learn to say “no” without fear and to develop supportive friendships. Sometimes the depressive environment of the client needs to be changed and the partner or family may need counselling.

How can you help yourself and prevent depression?

1.       For a start force yourself to do something even if you think it is only vaguely interesting. Otherwise you will stay in the old vicious circle of self-isolation and self-pity: the lower you feel the less you do!

2.       Challenge automatic negative thoughts “have I ever felt good before?”

3.       Set realistic and limited goals which you can achieve.

4.       Increase daily enjoyments and worthwhile achievements. Reward yourself with a pat on the back.

5.       Remember, also “everybody has bad days”.

In the last few years many books, web pages and DVDs have been published in regards to “the power of positive thinking”, including using affirmation and goal visualisation. Some of this self-help material, used at the right moment can offer support and encouragement, but it can never replace a good relationship, friendship or professional help.

Two major factors for “success in life” are believed to be healthy self-esteem and positive assertiveness.

How can you achieve liking and accepting yourself and speaking up for yourself when you want to

·         Take full responsibility for your life, stop being a victim and blaming others

·         Focus on the present moment instead of the past or future.

·         Understand mistakes and failures as valuable lessons in life.

·         Stop being critical of yourself as well as others, avoid comparing yourself with others. Everybody is unique!

·         Enjoy compliments and acknowledgements. Praise others.

·         Speak up for your own needs, opinions, feelings and respect those of others.

·         Generate positive thoughts and feelings accepting yourself: I am O.K the way I am

·         Last but not least, laugh at yourself, do not take yourself so seriously!

*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of the Australian Psychological Society.


By Michael Schauer*

Stress is a fact of life. It is unavoidable. Everyone experiences stress in one form or another. A certain amount can be a positive force to get us moving.
Too much stress causes strain. We become tense, worried, and may be ill. When we use a bow some force will give the arrow its flight, too much will distort or even break the bow. The same happens with people.
What exactly is stress and how does it affect us?
Stress is a natural, automatic physical reaction to a new, unpleasant or threatening situation. Muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, the heart speeds up. This same response occurs when a deer reacts to a roar of a lion or when a pedestrian hears the screech of brakes.
It is an old survival response that gives us the extra strength needed to fight off danger or to flee from it. Today we have fewer outlets for stress.
Warning signs of unrelieved stress can be apathy, withdrawal or impatience, argumentative behaviour, over or undereating, disturbed sleep, constant headache, excessive drinking or chain smoking.
Prolonged stress creates tension which increases the risk of a number of health problems like headache, insomnia and respiratory infections. American research says that all physical diseases are stress-related with stress acting as either a trigger or as a consequence.
Stress can also result in anxiety and depression. It may lead to communication breakdowns in a relationship and may result in antisocial behaviour or physical violence such as child or spouse abuse.
What causes stress?
Too many or too drastic sudden changes in life are seen as one of the main external causes for stress. For example a major illness, retirement or even a positive event like a sudden financial gain.
Demands or pressures in life that are too big also cause stress but the opposite does too. We can have too little stress or stimulation.
People in monotonous, repetitive and boring jobs show signs of stress similar to those in a busy job.
So our aim should be to achieve a medium stress level which we find pleasant and perhaps mildly challenging. Our individual perception of stress and assessment of our coping abilities is important too. For instance people who worry a lot or put themselves down with negative thoughts, irrational beliefs or have unreasonable high standards produce their own internal source of stress.
How to reduce and manage stress;
First we should understand that our emotions about a situation are largely a consequence of our thoughts and they are not always as commonly believed, the direct result of an event. This is why we have to learn manage our thoughts in order to learn to manage stress.
·       Stop being critical about yourself and other. Praise virtues instead;
·       Set realistic goals and achievable standards;
·       Accept reasonable bad feelings at times and always tell yourself ‘I can cope with these feelings;
·       Develop new living habits;
·       Balance family, work and personal responsibilities;
·       Put aside some time every day for something you really enjoy and find rewarding. Choose a new hobby;
·       Talk over things that concern you with your partner or a close friend;
·       Have a good laugh or cry if you feel like it;
·       Manage your time wisely. Set priorities;
·       Eat a regular balanced diet;
·       Work off tension in the gardening, cleaning and sport;
·       Get fit. Intensive exercise produces tranquillising chemicals that are released in the brain naturally;
·       Learn relaxation techniques for the body and mind with the help of a professional;

There are many proven methods like progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, imagery, self-hypnosis, meditation and yoga. Find the one that suits your needs and stick with it. As with any skills you have to practise it regularly over a certain period of time in order to get the benefit out of it. Start your personal stress management program today.
*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of The Australian Psychological Society.

 

By Michael Schauer*

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the above conference in L.A.  The conference is only held every five years and was first held in 1985.  The conference was attended by over 8000 participants mainly consisting of psychologists, social workers, marriage guidance counsellors, pastoral care counsellors and psychotherapists.  About 190 professionals from Australia as well as 100 professionals from China /Hong Kong enrolled.
Some forty world known speakers and presenters offered a smorgasbord of lectures/workshops/symposiums, discussion groups, supervision as well as treatment demonstrations. The choice was often a difficult one whom to choose and it was even harder to organise a good seat which afforded a lot of strategic pre-planning and good preparation competing with so many participants.
 Some of the presenters that I selected were:
Albert Ellis:  Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy
Erwin Polster:  Gestalt Therapy
Mary Goulding:  Transactional Analysis/Redecision Therapy
Marsha Linehan: Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
Frances Shapiro:  Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR)
Christine Padeski:  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
 and many others.
 I was amazed to see the 91 year old Albert Ellis in wheelchair and with private nurse demonstrating in old freshness his skills with several clients from the audience for various problems. Similarly impressive were the 84 year old Salvadore Minuchin, Family Therapist, Ervin Polster, Gestalt Therapist and William Glasser, 82 year old psychiatrist, discussing his choice (control) therapy model.
 I also attended the workshop preceding the conference on the 06.12.2005 with Patch Adams.  It was held in one big ball room of the Hilton Hotel with about 1000 participants.  The focus of his workshop was on joy and love. The exercises were held in small groups and in pairs which created a lot of laughter and included hugging and saying ‘I Love You’ to complete strangers.  These experiential activities created an immediate familiarity and closeness to other group members.  It reminded me of the 1970’s when I attended a Sensitivity/Encounter groups in Germany.  Patch Adams has received a lot of publicity through his movie with Robin Williams but I would say that Patch is even more amazing than the actor.
Patch also gave the opening speech of the conference which focused on the lack of compassion of some health bureaucrats and the lack of funding for adequate health care in the world.   Patch referred to his so called Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia where his professional team has offered free health care for over 30 years. The message of his opening speech was seen as very emotionally confronting and very controversial as it also showed some graphic pictures of pain and suffering of young children all over the world. Similarly controversial was, for instance, a couple therapy demonstration by Chloe Mandanes and the well-known motivator coach, Anthony Robbins, showing TV Psychologist/Doctor Phil type intervention.
I felt that this conference was enormously stimulating and I felt validated in my therapeutic approaches of 17+ years of clinical psychological practice work in North Queensland. Research repeatedly confirms that whatever therapeutic technique is being used has only about 50% effectiveness regardless of the behavioural, cognitive behavioural, experiential, or psychodynamic model, etc. The most important factor for therapeutic change and we probably knew it all along is the therapeutic relationship/alliance. This can probably also been said about general medical practice.

Michael Schauer
Clinical / Forensic Psychologist
North Qld Psychology Services P/L

Selected references:

Patch Adams:  Gesundheit! Bringing good health to you, the medical system, and society through physician service, complimentary therapies, humour and joy, healing arts press Rochester, Lamont 1998

Arnold and Clifford, Lazarus: The 60 second shrink, 100 new strategies for staying sane in a crazy world. Impact publisher’s atascaderio, California, 1997/2000

Albert Ellis: How to make yourself remarkably less disturbable, Impact publisher’s atascaderio California, 1999/2003

John Gottman: Why marriages succeed or fail and how you can make yours last, winchberry publishing London, 1997/1998

Martin Seligman: Authentic happiness: using the new positive psychology to realise your potential for lasting fulfilment, free press Simon Schuster 2002

Bernhard Trenkle: The Ha Ha handbook (the seriously funny collection of jokes from here there and everywhere, Zeig, Tucker and Theisen, Phoenix, Arizona , 2001

Jeffery Zeig: Confluence: The selected papers of J Zeig, Volume One (Prepublication Edition), Zeig,Tucker and Theisen, Phoenix, Arizona 2006.

*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of The Australian Psychological Society.


By Michael Schauer*

I recently attended the Second Annual Conference “Happiness and Its Causes” on the 14th and 15th June 2007 at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. The highlight of the conference for me was the presentation by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Spiritual Leader, as well as workshops conducted by psychiatrist Dr. Howard Cutler regarding the Art of Happiness, the research about Culture and Emotions by Dr. David Matsumo of San Francisco State University and the wisdom of a Buddhist Nun, Venerable Robina Courtin, Director of the Liberation Prison Project (USA & Australia).
A discussion with the Dalai Lama and Clive Hamilton (Australian Institute), Professor Gordon Parker (Black Dog Institute), Linda Burney (Canterbury Electorate, NSW) and Magda Szubanski (Comedian) was moderated by the journalist Geraldine Doogue. It was interesting to note that the comedian was a replacement for the current Minister for Environment and Water Resources, the Honourable Malcolm Turnball. This event is due to be broadcasted on Compass, ABC TV on Sunday night approximately on 19th August 2007.
The Dalai Lama’s messages sound fairly simple and straightforward “The Purpose of life is happiness. Happiness is determined by the state of one’s mind and one’s external conditions, circumstances or events (at least once basic survival needs are met). Happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of the heart and mind through shaping our attitudes and outlook. The key to happiness in our own hands” (The Art of Happiness at Work, 2003, p1).
This message was reiterated on many occasions. Our world would be a different place and we would feel happier if we did more Acts of Kindness to our families, friends, neighbours and strangers, if we practiced daily Gratefulness for what we’ve got as well as if we’ve got as well as if we showed Compassion for the less fortunate. The Dalai Lama pointed out that all pain and suffering is part of humans’ existence and part of our pursuit of happiness.
*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of The Australian Psychological Society.


By Michael Schauer*

“I have a problem but I’m not crazy? Who can help me?”

For many people critical situations may arise where a professional counsellor, a psychologist could help.

Such situations can include the break-up of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, a threatening disease, recovery from an accident, drug dependence, losing a job or failing an important exam. The results are often feelings of not coping, emotional stress, hurt, fears or panic, grief and more.

Psychologists may also deal with long standing problems like anxiety, lack of confidence or controlling temper.

What is a psychologist and how do they help?

Psychologist study what people do, think, and feel. On average psychologists receive four years of training followed by two years of supervised training. Some then choose to specialise in the fields of education, others in industry or court work. Clinical and counselling psychologists help individuals, couples and families to explore and resolve their problems.

A main goal of their work is to help clients to help themselves - that is to overcome their own limitations by discovering and developing their own resources.

The public finds it difficult sometimes to distinguish between a clinical psychologist and other therapeutic professionals. Psychiatrists have medical training and prescribe drugs. Psychoanalysts are trained in Freudian analysis and have either a medical or less commonly a psychological background.

On the other hand, counselling and therapy by a clinical psychologist varies in type and intensity, depending on the problem and the situation. They generally rely on the research-based psychological methods: observations, interviews, tests, particular exercises or sometimes hypnosis.

Most psychological services funded by the government are free but often have a waiting list. Private practitioner psychologists set their own fees. There are now Medicare rebates available for psychologists (2 levels; Clinical Psychologists attract a higher rebate). Privately insured patients on extras tables receive a partial refund of fees.

Psychologists are registered. People can only use the title Psychologist unless they are registered.

How to find a psychologist:

Look in the yellow pages under Psychologist. Government departments and private agencies that may employee psychologists are listed on the Help Reference Page. Alternatively contact the local branch of the Australian Psychological Society - the main professional body for psychologists with over 17000 members:

PO Box 864, Townsville 4810.

*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of the Australian Psychological Society.


By Michael Schauer*

If the word hypnosis is mentioned it usually provokes either strong positive or strong negative responses from people.
Some people believe it is a hoax or only good to make people act like a chicken. Some people swear it will cure everything from dandruff too flat feet, others have the opinion it is so dangerous that it should be left alone.
Hypnosis is a very natural process. It can occur when people are totally absorbed in what they are doing. For instance: jogging, reading a book, writing, watching TV or driving on a long trip.
Superficially, hypnosis resembles a sleep like state, but it is not sleep. It is an altered state of consciousness. The mind is fully aware of the spoken words by the hypnotherapist and the body is usually deeply relaxed. The person in hypnosis has full control over the situation. Many people describe a sensation of lightness or floating, feelings of peacefulness and comfort.
The hypnotherapist deliberately induces the hypnotic state by teaching the patient to concentrate on his suggestions. During the trance further instructions for solving the person’s problem are given. After the treatment there is a return to a fully awake state.
Many effective communicators use a form of hypnosis. Salesmen, politicians, religious leaders, teachers and parents often rely on a special choice of words, repetition, simple concrete ideas and a particular way or use of their voice which are hypnotic.
Hypnosis can be practised in Australia by qualified members of the medical, dental, and psychological professions. Therapeutic clinical hypnosis can help solve problems which stress, tension anxiety or fears play an important part. For instance to learn to stop smoking, to lose weight, to overcome shyness, agoraphobia or to improve self-esteem.
But hypnosis does not always work, just as other therapeutic approaches do not help everybody with the same problem. Trained professionals use hypnosis or hypnotherapy as one method among others to help a person to overcome their difficulties. Motivation and determination to want to change are other important factors for a successful outcome of therapy.
*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of The Australian Psychological Society.

 

As a child I experienced social anxiety then later, as a young adult I developed depression. I struggled with these two illnesses for a long time but gradually I came to realize that there were some things that I could do to help myself.

My social anxiety began in about grade three. I remember one early episode when I was in a new class and we all had to say our names aloud. When it was my turn I forced myself to speak.  My heart was beating rapidly, my voice was trembling. The other children all looked at me. I was sure they could see that I was different, so I lowered my head in shame.

Communication continued to be difficult for me. Socially I never knew what to say. I would lose my words in my head. I wanted to communicate, but I would get so anxious. Then after a while I started avoiding these social situations whenever I could. They just hurt too much.

As young adult I developed depression. I felt like all the happiness had left my world. I remember sitting on a lounge chair and just crying. I was an adult I could do anything I wanted, but it all seemed pointless because I no longer found pleasure in anything I did.

My only escape was my reading and comfort eating. I would curl up with a good sci- fi or fantasy novel and eat packets of biscuits, bowls of ice cream and anything else I could find. Afterwards my stomach hurt and I would just go to sleep. The next morning I would hate myself for being such a pig.

So I went to my GP and told him that I couldn’t stop eating. He just laughed. He said I was depressed and wrote a script for some tri cyclic antidepressants.

 After 2 years of relentless depression and uncontrollable eating I got desperate. I wanted help, but no one seemed to be able to help me.

I didn’t want to die, but I thought if I try and kill myself people will see how real my pain is. Then they will have to find me some real help. And so I did. I took a tablet overdose and ended up at the hospital getting my stomach pumped out.

The next day Mum and Dad asked me why I did it. My doctor asked me if I wanted to see a psychiatrist again. Nothing really changed. There was no new solution. I just hurt the people who loved me.

Over the years I saw therapists. I tried all the older types of antidepressants, but I stayed in that wasteland between reality and insanity.

Then the SSRI’s became available, I began taking Zoloft and for the first time in my life I felt what it was like to be free of depression. It was like someone turned the lights on in my world.

After 18 months of meaningful living, I felt ready to stop taking medication. So I stopped taking Zoloft and I took up swimming and walking regularly and attended Grow support groups, which all helped greatly.

I went 10 years without antidepressants. I had a daughter, held down a part-time job, and attended university. But to be honest I was still mildly depressed. I was tired all the time, irritable, and anxious.

In this time, I followed my childhood dream and began studying mathematics and physics at university. At last my brain had some real problems to solve.

After a few years my concentration level decreased and I found it hard to concentrate in lectures. So I went to see my doctor.  I told him about my history of depression and he diagnosed me with dysthymia, which he described as persistent low level depression. He convinced me that my brain would work better if I took antidepressant medication.

I have now been taking Zoloft for 2 years. My brain does work better and my social anxiety has lessened. I still have ups and downs but I am so much more resilient.

Some things that I do now to help my social anxiety and depression are, being involved in Toastmasters, recognizing my stress level and attending  the Hand Up Depression & Anxiety  support group.

Firstly, Toastmasters has been invaluable in helping my social anxiety. 18 months ago my psychologist suggested I join Toastmasters as a form of graduated exposure to my social fears. I was afraid at first, but now I look forward to going every week.

Sometimes my speeches are great other times they are not so great, but it does not matter because I’m facing my fears and growing in confidence. I’m also learning to accept that I don’t have to do things perfectly.

Another thing that helps is recognizing my stress level. I have come to realize that I am sensitive to stress. If I am doing too much my body gives me clues. I know that if I get headaches, urges to eat when I’m not hungry or feelings of exhaustion I know I’m doing too much.

And finally being a member of a depression and anxiety support group is invaluable. The group keeps me on track. The group encourages me to take control of my recovery, to set goals, to keep contact with others and to talk about things that are bothering me.

But best of all when I talk with people who experience depression and anxiety I no longer feel that I’m different anymore. 


Written by Zoe

What is this thing called life? What is our journey? What is our purpose?

There are so many unknowns to this pathway we sign up to as we take our first breath and expand our lungs to let out our first cry. We are born into this world a blank canvas and as we grow the world presents us with an array of pastels to colour our canvas with.

As we grow up our parents, our siblings, our religion, our society, our culture etch lines on our canvas. These are the lines / the boundaries in which we are meant to colour. Not only is it the lines they impart on us – some events go so far as to wash the vibrancy out of our colours, and in some cases fade into only the heavy shades of black and grey. These are heavy shadows of our past that follow us and blur our creative vision.

These shadows create deep seeded fears of colouring out of the lines or even colouring with colours again. Some people go their whole lives colouring the same areas with the same patterns and never go to the white, the light, the untouched part of their canvas.

Some people however dare challenge the boundaries of their etched lines. They dare to explore the untouched area of white. They embark on a new adventure and just like any exploration into unchartered territory it’s treacherous and sometimes scary.

What makes it scary is the old habit patterns that come back to haunt us as we add new colours to our pallet.

Ego is the ‘you’ that hands you the old patterns of blacks and greys on the shiny silver platter when you retreat into yourself for guidance. Ego is the shackles, the force that generates fear and doubt and holds you back from learning and growing.

It is only with persistence that sooner or later you realise that as long as you keep accepting the ‘help of ego’ you will not create any change in your life. If you keep colouring with black, you are not going to get purple, the turquoise or the vibrancy you have been so desperately searching for.

It’s easy to understand this at an intellectual level. But there are some days where we feel like we spill every pot of paint we’ve stored from the past and got them mixed in with the new ones in our collection only to create a brown and muddied mess.

Some days – like the one I experienced today the mess seems irreparable – it feels like it has covered every piece of white that was left on the canvas.

What is a life, a path, with no more white? With no more hope?

When you can’t see white what is left to change? Everything, every dream, every step made to this point muddied by the thick slick of paints.

This is when the ego kicks in - Why have I even bothered I ask? What is the point? What is this whole thing called life? What is my journey? What is my purpose?

Ego for me is the voice that says you don’t have the energy or the vibrancy to do life any more. This battle creates an inner storm in me, a storm that paralyses me and brings me to my knees.

After reflection I can say that my paint pots have spilt many times over the last three years and as I get more adventurous in my exploration they seem to spill even more frequently. Change is hard.

It’s in these moments of reflection that I have realised that ‘this too will pass’. That the canvas doesn’t stay spoiled forever. As we face the truth in ourselves our canvas in nourished and also continues to grow. Though it is muddied – time will pass and with time new white edges will start to appear.

With every step into new areas of white, the ego becomes less and less. The awareness becomes greater and greater. The change becomes easier and easier.

I am still at the point where change is hard and change is tiring, but I have come too far though to turn back.

The choice is simple really – have no awareness to the white and stay in the muddied mess and hope it will turn into a rainbow, or wait the spills out, accept that they occur at times, pick up the brightest colour you can find strive for the white, the light.

Living in the white, you don’t have to hope for the rainbow. You are the rainbow. You are the light and the colours that brighten not only your life but also the life of those around you.

Be the rainbow and you will be there at the end of every storm.


By Michael Schauer*

Over the years there has developed a trend towards non-smoking. Many places have been publicly declared smoke-free zones.
Health risks for smokers are becoming too obvious, material losses too high for industry and society in general through sickness and health rehabilitation costs.

Smokers find themselves all of a sudden in a minority. About 35% of all Australians are still smoking. Research says the majority of smokers are unhappy about their habit and want to quit.

Many smokers can tell stories about their various unsuccessful attempts at giving up cigarettes. Statistics show that smokers try on average at least five times before they become an ex-smoker!

What makes it difficult?
It has been said quitting smoking is like “ending a love affair”. There is a grief over the loss of a dear friend with whom you have shared emotions.
But a person is not born to smoke. As psychologists say it is learned behaviour that can be unlearned.

Helpful tips for kicking the habit:
1.     Of course the first question is: “Is my motivation strong enough to quit. Do I really want to give up smoking? If only your partner, parents or employers want you to do it, you probably will fail... To make motivation more personal ask yourself all the things you like and dislike about smoking.
2.     Choose the right moment to start “cold turkey” at a less stressful time such as during your holidays or after being sick or after having a cold.
3.     Become aware of when, where and how much you smoke. What is your underlying need? Is it stimulation, fiddling with your hands, pure pleasure, tension, craving, a habit that comes automatically or a social need? An icebreaker between strangers by offering a cigarette or a light.
4.     Plan for a non-smoking day. Think of substitutes for your cigarettes such as manual activities, chewing gum, eating fresh fruit. Once you are off cigarettes the only rule is avoid the next one.
5.     Focus on the benefits of dropping an unhealthy habit. Imagine yourself energetic and fit, breathing clean air into your lungs. Reward yourself by spending the money from the cigarettes on something useful. Concentrate on low calorie food and exercises as some people may temporarily gain more weight.

How to avoid a relapse?
Look for people who encourage your decision. Frequent places where you cannot smoke: libraries, theatres, swimming pools. It is important to learn to relax to manage any stressful situation. Join a relaxation class. With-drawl symptoms like minor irritability, lack of energy, insecurity, depression may last for two to three weeks.

Relapses are common. Keep a positive attitude and do not compare yourself with others who have tried and succeeded or failed. See yourself making small steps in the right direction, gradually changing towards a healthier lifestyle.

Whereas some smokers have their own way of quitting, others need professional assistance. From my own experience with conducting stop smoking programs I favour individual psychological treatments. These allow for special needs and problems of a person.

Group programs are more cost effective and participants can give each other support. But the emphasis of group courses is on education rather than on therapeutic intervention. Quitting smoking does not just happen through insight or by making a rational decision to stop. Emotional aspects may need attention.

*Michael Schauer is a psychologist in private practice and a member of the North Queensland branch of The Australian Psychological Society

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