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Q&A with a mental health expert

We're focusing on women's health this week and we have partnered with Caia to raise awareness of varying conditions and open up the conversations on all areas of health that affect women.

Caia is Australia's first virtual clinic dedicated to supporting women and families as they navigate the reproductive life stages. We are partnering with Caia to connect you with empathetic and trusted experts who are available to chat for advice and support.

Wendy Gilroy is a Mother of 2, a professional Counsellor & Psychotherapist, a Wellbeing Coach for women, workshop facilitator and speaker. Wendy has a degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Addiction Studies, and a Diploma of Counselling. She lives in Sydney, and offers secure online video and phone support to busy women in Australia and internationally. Wendy specialises in supporting mothers who are feeling stressed-out and overwhelmed and wish to learn how to become calmer, more connected to others and chase their dreams.

What does your typical work day look like?

As a busy mum of two school-aged kids, I run my private therapy and coaching practice around my family. I love being able to drop my kids off at school each morning, and then settle into my day, coffee in hand, as I plan my client sessions. In-between clients, I’m always keeping on top of my work-related social media accounts, returning calls and emails amidst the ever-present admin involved in running an online business

Do you work mostly with women or men? 

Before starting my private practice in 2015, I made the decision to work exclusively with women. I’m particularly passionate about supporting mothers and believe there is a strong need to increase the support we offer new and experienced mums across our lifespan.

What type of challenges do you support?

By far, the biggest challenge I’ve supported women with over the years has been anxiety.

Anxiety comes in many forms, and impacts women physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. I’ve supported women in their twenties who are struggling with relationships, family and career. I’ve support pregnant women navigating their way through their transition to motherhood, many mums in the postnatal phase, and then a huge part of my work has been in helping mothers in the early years of motherhood, wrangling toddlers, pre-schoolers, primary schoolers, and adjusting to the work-family-life juggle that so many of us know so well.

Do you deal with many people experiencing PMDD or any other mental health issues that are linked to menstruation?

Hormonal imbalance related conditions such as PMS and PMDD are challenges that many of my clients have experienced too. And because I work in a very holistic way, I ensure that we talk about these aspects of a woman’s health, so we can create the most effective treatment and support plan possible. Our brains and bodies are connected in so many ways - so if there’s an underlying physiological cause for a mental health challenge, we need to understand that sooner rather than later.

Do you find people are hesitant to reach out to mental health support and services or that there is stigma associated with reaching out for help? 

I think one of the biggest challenges with women reaching out for support is that they fear being labelled or diagnosed with a ‘mental illness’. In the work I do as a counsellor and psychotherapist, I do not diagnose or label my clients (this is typically the work of a psychologist, amongst other medical professionals). I seek to understand a woman’s symptoms and life challenges, and then take a holistic approach to help them learn how they can reclaim control and minimise or eliminate these symptoms. The work I do is empowering for women; they’re never seen as ’broken’ or ‘damaged’. Rather, they’re on a learning curve to better understand the relationship between their mind and body (we all have mental health, just as we have physical health), their relationships to the people around them, their goals, dreams and desires. We set things up, together, and I offer practical tools and strategies to help them move forward and achieve their desired outcomes with confidence.

What do you wish people would know about mental health experts? 

I wish more people understood that counsellors and psychotherapists are not all about mental illness. We help people with career goals, relationships, being better parents and generally being the happiest and most resilient version of themselves possible. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to be in a dire situation, or suffering from a mental health condition to reach out for support. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I applaud all the women who reach out because they simply recognise they’re not living in alignment with who they truly wish to be. They’re not feeling fulfilled or motivated anymore, but they’re unsure what they need to do to change this.

What excites you about the ability to support patients through virtual consults with a company like Caia?

The opportunity to support women, wherever they may be, through virtual consultations with apps like Caia is truly wonderful.

By reducing the time, location barriers and other challenges around 'getting to an appointment', having professional help at your fingertips is a game-changer for women's health. This has made healthcare and self-care highly accessible to many busy women, who would otherwise (unfortunately) leave things until it's too late.

What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

Witnessing the transformations of my clients over sessions is soul-satisfying work. In fact, I often tell the people closest to me that it never feels like work because I’m so passionate about seeing women turn things around and start living their life with a renewed sense of hope, energy, optimism and confidence.

I can’t imagine doing anything else - I’ve certainly found my calling!

Head to www.askcaia.com to see more Caia practitioners

You can also follow Wendy on Instagram @mindmomentumformums

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