Unami Magwenzi

Senior Clinical Psychologist

Every now and then you come across a psychologist who is smart, dedicated, warm and engaging!

Unami is a Clinical Psychologist with over 12 years experience working with young people, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, parenting, relationship counselling and family therapy. Unami is passionate about helping young people, adults and families.

Unami has worked with various organisations across different states around Australia. Unami has worked in the private practice setting, Relationships Australia and also hospitals. She has worked in both youth and adult mental health, corrective services, medical centres and in community services. Prior to moving to private practice in Applecross, Unami has spent the last 8 years working in Regional WA in the Pilbara region.

Unami believes that in the midst of confusion, hope lives and this is at the core of how she approaches her work with clients; there is never a hopeless situation. Unami has a unique way of working with people based on their identified needs. She believes in taking the time to build a good rapport with the client, identifying their issues of concern and then she tailors her therapy to the goals agreed upon with the client. Unami believes people have the internal resources to work through their own issues and that she mainly facilitates that process alongside the client.  Therefore, working collaboratively with clients allows Unami the opportunity to monitor closely the shift and transitions made from the beginning of counselling to the end.  Clients take ownership of their issues of concern and are encouraged to give feedback throughout the counselling process in order to identify gaps in the process to allow a more effective therapeutic journey.

 

Unami values structure in her counselling sessions as this allows both the client and her self to know where they are going and why. A typical first session with Unami will involve the initial getting to know you, assessing what your main issues of concern are and then discussing your goals. Once the goals have been established, Unami will usually talk about next steps such as providing information about your issue or working with a strategy. Unami enjoys sharing tools and techniques. Among her favourite tools is sharing a therapy plan (or case formulation) with clients once an initial assessment has been completed. This involves helping the client identify the underlying factors from the past, current triggers of symptoms causing distress and any factors that may be maintaining unwanted experiences such as thoughts and behaviours. Unami has found working this way helpful for clients who may feel stuck and need to think differently about their experiences.

 

Some clients do not require resources or strategies in the traditional sense and may be in need of counselling around issues where they feel stuck. Unami is able to identify such cases and tailor her therapy to suit such situations. Unami uses a range of techniques in her work. Depending on the presenting issues, there might be some written work such as journaling, they might be some role-play or at times the therapy might involve less activity and more reflective listening from the counsellor. When working with clients, Unami typically uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which focuses on the link between our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. If however, this therapy does not work for you, Unami will adjust her therapeutic intervention to what works. Other therapies she will use are Acceptance and Commitment therapy, which provides the opportunity to explore and commit to accepting where one is at before thinking of changing.

 

Unami values continuity of care and use of a multidisciplinary approach. She has worked closely with various professionals including doctors, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, to meet the referral needs.

 

Types of clients that Unami has worked with include

  • Children and teenagers
  • Defacto and Married couples
  • Fly In Fly Out Workers
  • People from Culturally and Linguistically diverse populations
  • Victims of Crime

 

Unami is able to address the following issues that clients may present with;

  • Behavioural issues in children
  • Childhood trauma
  • Fears in early childhood
  • Relationship issues
  • Separation/divorce
  • Blended families
  • Parenting
  • Perinatal mental health
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Social Anxiety
  • Anxiety including panic disorders
  • OCD
  • Trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide ideation
  • Self-esteem/self-worth
  • Phobias
  • Domestic violence
  • Attachment issues
  • Bullying
  • Grief and loss.

A word from Unami about how she works with various presentations

 

Anxiety

Anxiety can come in many forms and can have a varied impact upon those that it affects.  The experience of anxiety is not only mental but also emotional and biological. When I work with someone with anxiety I first focus on assessing the type of anxiety it is, the underlying factors that maintain it, the triggers and then the skills and strategies that the client uses to get through the anxiety. When someone’s anxiety manifests as a phobia, I work with them to reduce the anxiety to a point where they are able to function independently. When teaching exposure therapy, I first introduce the client to a number of techniques that will aid this process. In exposure therapy, the client is desensitised to the thing that they fear. This is done by working with the client to create a ladder where you gradually expose yourself to the feared situation while you to control your fear at each step through various techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and cognitive restructuring. In cognitive restructuring, the client learns to adjust negative thinking patterns that may be leading them to feel more anxious. An example might be changing thoughts around fear of going to a public place. The client might be ‘catastrophising’ and I would teach them to decatastrophise; which is to put the thinking into perspective and challenging its validity.

 

OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is one of the common anxiety disorders that people struggle with. There are many forms of OCD and I have worked with checking disorders, fear of harming another person, rituals and contamination fears to name a few.  My approach to most forms of OCD would be to assess the symptoms, their severity and dysfunction caused. I would provide Psychoeducation around OCD and then use various anxiety management techniques to address the obsessive thoughts and compulsions associated with the thoughts. I use exposure therapy and a technique known as response prevention where clients refrain from compulsions and avoidance by using breathing, relaxation and other cognitive behavioural techniques. Use of thought diaries and journaling is used to track changes in the levels of distress experienced. There are many self-help books out there for OCD the trick to successful therapy is the relationship we have and how I coach you to work through the steps you need to take to overcome this debilitating illness.

 

PTSD

When working with someone who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I first identify the most distressing symptoms and other areas of dysfunction caused by the PTSD. For example, someone might have alcohol abuse and depression as well as the PTSD symptoms, which may include flashbacks, poor sleep and avoidance of certain places. I would work with the client to address the alcohol issue and the depression depending on severity as these may impact negatively on any interventions on the PTSD. My approach to this condition is based on Trauma-Focused CBT in which the aim is to provide psychoeducation to identify and cope with faulty thinking patterns, negative emotions, and behaviours. I help clients identify ‘hot spots’ which are the most distressing aspects of their experience. Then I talk them through rewriting their script (experience) while using self-soothing techniques to manage negative emotions.

 

Parenting

There are many factors that impact on dysfunctional interactions between parents and their children. When working with a family I look at the whole family in assessing the factors impacting on unwanted behaviours. Parents have often come to see me with their children following behavioural concerns that have often made them think there is something wrong with their child. Following an assessment of the behavioural issues, I will work with the parents to identify triggers of unwanted behaviours and factors that maintain that behaviour. I will use the ABC model to help identify not only antecedents (triggers) but also beliefs and consequences of the behaviours. Once I have provided education around this model, I set homework tasks for both parents and child to practice skills taught in the session.  Some of the techniques I use when working with parents are providing education around the role of teamwork between parents, consistency, reward systems and brevity of instructions, when working with younger children. I will often also teach about the principles of punishment and reinforcement and how these impact behaviour.

 

Children

When working with children I often use various techniques following an assessment of the individual needs, personality and style of learning of the child. I use puppetry, drawings, role-play and other psychological tools to interact in an age appropriate manner with the child. Unless otherwise indicated, I will often encourage parents to be part of the therapy as a way of strengthening relationships and cementing skills to be practiced outside of the therapy room. My work with teenagers differs in that I encourage them to take on more responsibility in their sessions and they get the opportunity to interact with me in a less threatening manner. I often use the 15-minute interview technique where I get them to ask me questions.

 

Relationships

When couples or families present with relationship conflict, it can often be distressing as it causes much dysfunction. I will look at the style of interaction to identify how a couple holds conversations. I particularly like assessing for a communication style known as the four horsemen of the Acapolypse from the work of relationship experts from The Gottman Institute. This is based on research on couples that were able to predict the likelihood of a couple divorcing based on whether these four horsemen were evident. This is Gottman Method therapy.

 

I also will look at identifying the thoughts and behaviours of each individual within the couple that maintain dysfunctional interactions. I will often ask the couple to do a number of exercises around what their goals, values and vision are for their relationship. We would then look at the degree to which the dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours line up with the values to try and align them.  When working with couples I will often have individual sessions as well as seeing the couple together in order to identify whether there are other factors that need to be addressed separately from the relationship issues.

Unami has completed a Bachelor of Psychology, Masters of Clinical Psychology and is endorsed as a Clinical Psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia.

Do you need a referral to see Unami?

No referral is needed to see Unami However if you are eligible and obtain a referral from your GP (mental health care plan), you can claim a Medicare rebate of $124.50 per session. To be eligible for a Mental Health Care plan you need to have been assessed as having a mental health concern, your GP will conduct an assessment of your eligibility for a Mental Health Care Plan.

If you choose not to use a plan you may be able to use your private health.  To determine if you are eligible for a private health rebate, please contact your private health provider, as this is varies depending on your level of cover.

When is Unami available for sessions?

Unami is available Tuesday to Friday 9 am to 6pm and Monday 3 pm to 7 pm.