BA (SA), Hons BA (SA), Ph.D (Int'l Relations)(USA), Dip.Couns, DipCrimPsych, MACA, M.A.I.P.C., MIAAN
Clinical and Forensic Neuropsychotherapist / Registered Counsellor / Life Coach
"The ultimate aim of psychotherapy is to reach a point where my client is able to live a self-directed, confident and generally happy life without fear, anxiety and self-doubt, whilst the ultimate aim of life coaching is to harness a person's values, dreams and talents toward defining and achieving life goals.""
9 Stoner Court, Mandurah 6210 (Perth Region), WA, Australia. OPENED MAY 2023
PRACTICE 2: College Street Specialists, College Street, Sydney 2000, NSW. ONLINE ONLY
Dr Westinghouse provides a globally accessible online service.
Watch this video if you'd like to know what to expect from your first consultation, or read the short interview with the American psychology program "Relationships are Complicated"
What sorts of issues and what sorts of clients do you deal with mostly?
As a registered therapist I deal with all kinds of clients and deal with all kinds of issues, ranging from everyday mental problems like depression, anxiety and relationship troubles to more serious mental disorders. As a life coach I help people to reach their life goals.
Do I need a doctor to give me a referral to see you?
No, you don't. Give me a call or use the "Contact me" button.
What does a psychotherapist / counsellor actually do?
There's a lot of confusion about what a psychotherapist does, what a counsellor does, what a psychologist does, and what a psychiatrist or psychopathologist does. In common language we're all referred to as "shrinks." We work in different ways, though there is a lot of overlap. We're all involved in providing mental health care of one kind or another.
I'm a psychotherapist and a counsellor, and what people like me do is often described as "talk therapy." I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. More particularly, I am a neuropsychotherapist, sometime referred to as a reconstructive psychotherapist, because a lot of what I do is aimed at changing the way different parts of your brain talk to each other. These are not things you need to know - they are things that I need to know in order to be helpful to you.
People usually try to solve their own problems, but sometimes they just can't get it right, no matter how hard they try. Often they don't even know how to define "what's wrong," or where to start. That's usually when they come to see a professional. Therapy may take a few weeks and a few therapy sessions, but it often takes much longer to achieve the desired results.
What does Life Coaching involve - is it the same as counselling?
The skills that a counsellor or psychotherapist employs are very similar to the skills used in life coaching. There is extensive overlap, but the process is actually quite different: counsellors and psychotherapists focus on helping their clients to deal with problems, i.e. they provide mental health therapies, whilst life coaches focus on harnessing a client's ideas, aspirations, strengths and talents toward achieving goals.
Why do I need a shrink - surely my doctor can help me?
Your doctor knows a lot about psychology, but isn't extensively trained in psychology, psychiatry or psychotherapy or mental health counselling. And yes, chances are your local general practitioner or family doctor can be very helpful. Sixty one percent of people who go their doctor do so for psychological problems in Australia. The most valuable thing your doctor will do for you is to refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychotherapist depending on what your symptoms are. In a way your doctor is a handy "first port of call" and he or she can act as a filter to assess where you are most likely to get the help that you need. Remember too, that quite a few mental / psychological problems have a medical source - so it's always wise to talk to your doctor about these things.
Will you give me pills?
No. I'm not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist - those are the people who prescribe medicines. If your psychological issues warrant it, I will refer you to a specialist in consultation with your GP for a comprehensive assessment, and he or she will decide whether or not medication is appropriate for you. Psychotherapists can give you good advice about all kinds of things but we rarely recommend medicines to our clients. Sometimes there are exceptions however.
How will we know if therapy is working?
As a therapist my job is to help you to tackle the things you're struggling with, and to help you to achieve a more fulfilled, self-directed, confident and "happy" life. It's also part of my job to help you to discover things about yourself that you haven't realised. I'm not a surgeon - so I can't pick up a scalpel and cut your problems out and declare you to be well again. Neither am I a mechanic - I am not the one who does the repairs: I merely help you to "fix" yourself. In psychotherapy and counselling we work together to achieve the goals that you decide upon, or to eliminate the problems that you may be encountering in your life. It's really all about you: my role is to be your "professional friend" in this process - in terms of our ethical practice I am not allowed to be a personal one. During our sessions together we will often reflect back to trace changes that have occurred in your life, and the progress you have made.
How long is it going to take?
Sometimes it's possible to resolve issues quite quickly, but most clients don't just need one specific issue to be fixed - they frequently have other issues. So, the answer is, it can take a few sessions in some cases (but this is rare). We can't know how long it will take until we start to explore together. For this reason I ask all of my clients to commit to at least six consultations before they even think about quitting. That said, a client can terminate therapy at any time - clients don't come to therapy in handcuffs.
For certain types of program, such as the Employee Assistance Programs that I help companies with, the main focus is not so much on psychotherapy but on solving shorter term, day-to-day problems. Here the emphasis is on what we call Solution Focused Therapy, and most companies typically provide free referrals for about six sessions.
Why do I need a therapist - I have friends to talk to?
Talking to your friends about your problems is fine. But how many of them want to listen to you talk about yourself for an hour every week? How many of them would put up with you venting your frustrations and anger? And would you really be comfortable talking to your friends about your deepest fears, emotions, weaknesses, or your wild fantasies for the future? And what are they going to do to actually help you? Friends can be a great source of support, but without training they won't know what to look for, and what to do about "it" when they find it! Therapy (and there are many different kinds), is systematic, structured and designed to move in a sensible way from identification of the issues to their resolution.
For many people the best therapy money can buy..... might be getting a dog, or a cat!
In addition to therapeutic interventions I am my colleagues have an obligation to provide our clients with a certain amount of relevant psycho-education as we move through therapy - this is aimed at helping our clients to understand what's going on and to play an active part in their own therapy.
Do you work with children?
Yes, I work with people of all ages, including children. I hold a current Working With Children Check and Federal Police Clearance, and am also accredited with the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) for work in schools.
What are your ethical commitments and qualifications?
I'm a qualified Counsellor registered with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) and on the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (ARCAP). In 2017 I was accredited as a Certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapist by the International Association of Clinical Neuropsychotherapy (IACN), and in 2018 this evolved into Certification as an Applied Neuroscience Practitioner (Psychotherapy), with Certified Membership of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience (IAAN). I am Registered as a Certified Member of the American Board for Hypnotherapy. I am a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors, a Member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, the Asian Psychological Association, and a past Professional Member of the International Association for Counselling (a United Nations consultative body), among others. I am a Member of the European Psychiatric Association - but will continue to practice as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist in Australia. Each membership, registration or listing comes with ethical obligations. In 2019 I completed accreditation in Ethics in Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University's Centre for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and I have a strong commitment to ethical practice. In addition, the various professional bodies that I belong to require me to undertake (a) regular professional supervision, and (b) a minimum number of ongoing professional development activities and training annually in order to keep my qualifications up to date. I have undertaken specialist studies at the University of South Wales (UK) in the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders in primary care in 2021, and OPD studies at Tomsk State University (Russia) in Psychodiagnostics and Psychological Assessment. My MSc in Clinical Psychiatry was interrupted in 2021 when I was diagnosed with cancer. Having partially recovered I am planning on continuing my studies in that area with an emphasis on psychopathology.
Is it confidential?
Yes. The confidentiality rules in mental health care are very strict, and similar to those that apply to a client and his or her lawyer or doctor. There are specific circumstances under which a therapist is legally obliged to break confidence however - if somebody (including the client) is in danger; if a judge or magistrate subpoenas your records, or if there is risk of harm to a child, for example. I hold a current Working With Children Check, and due to my profession I am a Mandatory Reporter in New South Wales.
What's it going to cost me?
I charge standard fees per per session, irrespective of the content or nature of the consultation. I am not "contracted in" with any medical insurer or Medicare, so patients must make payment for each session at the end of that session. The standard session duration for most therapy sessions is 45 minutes to one hour. Please contact me for a list of fees.
Do you specialise or can anybody use your services?
I am happy to provide consultations on a very wide range of issues and problems as long as they are within my capabilities. After our initial consultation we will decide together about what happens next. Usually we will agree to a handful of sessions to explore your issues and start forming a plan. It's not unusual for a psychotherapist or counsellor to tell a client that he or she would be better served by a different therapist who specialises in dealing with specific issues - it would be unethical for me, for example, to try to provide you with help in an area where I know that my own skills are inadequate. If you would be best served by referral elsewhere I will recommend that to you.
Neuropsychotherapy? What is that?
Neuropsychotherapy isn't a new kind of therapy. It's simply a new approach to psychotherapy that helps our understanding of the way the brain works. Everybody got very excited when we discovered that the brain works on electric impulses in the 1800s, and therapies were designed around electricity - some are still used today. Then everybody got all excited again when we discovered that these electrical systems were part of brain chemistry, and that the brain is a sophisticated electrochemical system. This opened the door for a vast array of drugs to treat mental illness. More recently in the late 20th century, armed with technology like CAT and PET scans and Functional MRIs (fMRI), and under the groundbreaking leadership of Eric Kandel the paradigm shifted, and we realised that the brain is ultimately all about complex social connections and neural networks that are constantly re-wiring themselves in response to the environment, through neurons (brain cells) that tend to fire in certain characteristic ways that are different in every person. The brain is in fact very "plastic" and pliable. What neuropsychotherapists are interested in is the use of standard psychotherapy techniques to encourage a patient's brain to rewire itself so that neurons fire in more productive and effective ways, principally by employing therapies that stimulate the prefrontal cortex, or "smart brain," and reducing the excessive firing of neurons in the direction of the "survival" area of the brain. In Freudian psychoanalysis this is referred to as a kind of reconstructive psychotherapy. This results in a down-regulation of stress, fear and anxiety centres in the brain (and the behaviours that accompany them) and switches on the patient's capacity for higher order functioning (creativity and mental "thriving"). What we're trying to achieve is a safe and "enriched environment," which is typical of the so-called "therapeutic alliance" between a patient and his or her therapist. What's really fascinating is that research can now actually show (using fMRI) altered blood flow and changes in patterns of neuronal activity in different parts of the brain during the course of psychotherapy - with or without the use of medications. For the first time there is proper evidence that psychotherapy actually produces physical changes to brain structure and functioning.
Am I alone, or are psychological and mental issues common?
You're definitely not alone! All of us experience mental issues, emotional distress, moodiness, anxiety - it's perfectly normal. What isn't "normal" is when these things start to prevent us from functioning optimally, and start to affect our lives in unwelcome ways, and frequently. The September 2017 Report of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners tells us how common mental ailments are: 61% of patients who visit their GP do so for psychological ailments. The primary factors in making a diagnosis of any mental issue are called "The Four Ds." They are deviance, distress, dysfunction and danger.
Do you offer online or telephone counselling?
Yes. Telephone and online counselling is becoming increasingly popular these days, and one can understand why: it's convenient, easy to organise, doesn't involve the patient or the therapist having to travel etc etc. It is not the preferred method of providing therapy, but studies and my personal experience show that it is at least as effective as face-to-face therapy.
Can you provide patients with Court assistance? How much will it cost?
Yes, I am available to assist clients with Court matters, and I have expert witness experience in most of the Australian Courts. These matters typically consist of the preparation of objective Court Reports relating to (a) a client's therapy history, diagnoses, therapy content, progress, and (b) assessment, psychobiological factors associated with the Court proceedings, and objectively helping the Court to understand (and take into account) a client's state of mind and the mental factors that the Court should consider before determining guilt or innocence, and ultimately sentencing in criminal matters. Not all matters are of a criminal nature however - some of my work relates to family matters and therefore involves the Federal Court, where family matters are dealt with.
In order to qualify for Court assistance I must have had at least 6 standard consultations with a client before I would be in a position to consider preparing a Court Report. Six consultations is a bit of a "magic number" in that I always ask new clients to commit to at least 6 sessions before they consider terminating therapy anyway. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being that it takes a while to establish what we call "a therapeutic alliance," and it sometimes takes a little while to be sure that a client's issues have been assessed reliably and accurately.