When working with clients experiencing adjustment issues, mental health problems, and other emotional difficulties, Irina helps clients to understand their thoughts and feelings as well as the impact of previous experiences and learnings, and how these affect the body, behaviour, relationships, and decisions. Irina provides an opportunity to learn productive ways to reduce symptoms, take helpful action to alleviate emotional pain, clarify what is truly important and meaningful, and commit to taking action that improves and enriches life. Irina encourages her clients to imagine their ideal selves and how different their day-to-day would be if they were able to act consistently with this image. Irina’s clients say that they understand how every discussion and therapeutic task brings them closer to their goals, that they know what new ways of being they will be practicing outside their sessions, and that they feel more confident when dealing with difficulties.
While Anxiety (General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, OCD, Social Anxiety, Phobias, Tics), Depression including Post Natal Depression, and Trauma (including complex PTSD) are the most common concerns Irina works with, she also enjoys working with people presenting with difficulties around intimate and work relationships, anger management and violence, stress management, and grief and loss.
Irina believes that non-discrimination, autonomy, informed consent, and free self-determination and self-expression of any parts of identity are basic human rights. As an LGBTIQA+ inclusive practitioner, Irina supports individuals through enhancing their capacity for thinking and communicating about their gender and sexuality, exploring and further developing their gender, sexuality, and other parts of their identity, and considering options available to them to express themselves in a way that is comfortable for them. Irina joins her clients in their journey to assist in assessing and treating any coexisting mental health concerns; alleviating internalized stigma; facilitating “coming-out” and/or “inviting in” processes; enhancing family and peer support; and supporting significant others in becoming gender-affirming and the person’s allies, protectors, and advocates.
Irina works with individuals 18 years of age and older. Therapy is the main focus of My Place Psychology. To the extent that the law allows, requests for assessment (written or verbal) for court purposes, insurers, or various government agencies, will be declined. If you believe you may need such a service, you may wish to seek out a different practitioner.
What was too much? What was missing?
Trauma is a “shock” to the nervous system. Individuals with a history of trauma lived through pain, tragedy, and loss, and found ways to survive, adapt, and protect themselves from what happened to them. Irina often recognises trauma arising from more subtle and less obvious experiences, such as experiences of being chronically misunderstood, unaccommodated, overlooked, minimised, excluded and isolated, exploited, ignored, marginalised as a minority, as well as living in poverty, loneliness, and overall instability and adversity. The injured and sensitized nervous system “throws” the person into an “internal chaos” each time it is triggered. In their best efforts to cope with the chronic invasion of trauma into their bodies and minds, individuals develop patterns of emotional responses and behaviours attempting to “self-medicate” their pain and to self-soothe and neutralise their distress. These same individuals oftentimes demonstrate a great deal of depth, maturity, and sensitivity and compassion for others. Where she has witnessed trauma, Irina also witnessed great resilience. With the highest regard and appreciation for survivors, Irina prioritises their empowerment through the provision of knowledge about what had happened to the brain and how this can be reversed, and an experience of predictability, choice, and control - all that was lost or damaged in trauma.
Irina draws on the latest trauma research and a range of trauma-focused psychological interventions, employing the “phased model”. Adequate safety, self-control, and stabilisation are established prior to working with the traumatic material to avoid re-traumatising and destabilising the individual; followed by integration where an individual is helped to make use of therapy gains to better their lives. Irina embraces a “bottom-up” approach, addressing challenges in the same sequential manner that the trauma has “hit” the nervous system. Patients first achieve safety and stabilization of the body, the senses, and the lower parts of the brain; establish healthy rhythms and routines; achieve regulation; enhance relational capacity, and finally work with the higher regions of the brain to benefit from a range of techniques for trauma reprocessing. Although one cannot change or simply “forget” past events and nothing can take away the pain that an individual endured; survivors can change how they feel, think, and react. Extensive neuroplasticity research promises that we can shape the nervous system to become more adaptive and resilient. Such a system can prioritise mental health over survival.
From Irina’s experience - most damage occurs in a relational space; the same space where most healing happens. Two key goals for any therapy, and more so for trauma therapy, are therefore 1) enhancing relational capacity which will serve as a buffer of suffering by (re)learning to be authentic and emotionally vulnerable with others, and 2) facilitating a healthier inner world characterised by attentive and compassionate care towards the self.
Despite the assertion that one cannot heal from trauma without revisiting the events, it is still possible to benefit from therapy without “telling in detail”. Better management of symptoms and enhanced wellbeing can be achieved through acknowledging that the event happened, is over, the individual survived, and that there is more to the individual and their life than their trauma. Such sessions emphasise symptom relief in the “here and now” as well as resource creation and meaning-making. Most individuals, however, feel the urge to have someone “witness” their trauma, and benefit greatly from accessing what was too painful to touch in the past.
Irina feels honoured to witness survivors transform their trauma into resilience, healing, and post-traumatic growth; and see them back in balance and grounded, connected and regulated, and finally at peace.
Autism and ADHD
Irina has a special interest in working with clients on the autism spectrum and clients with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and executive functioning and “self-management” challenges (ADHD) to address mental health issues they may be experiencing, help embrace positive self-identity and adopt self-advocacy skills. Irina embraces neurodiversity, which refers to the natural variation in the human brain regarding various mental functions. Thus, she regards Autism and ADHD as a difference rather than a disorder or a disability (although poor person-environment fit can disable the individual).
Irina’s vision is to see people empowered by their gifts and passions; for them to learn self-acceptance, and see the uniqueness, contribution, and benefits in being and doing things differently rather than following the already established ways. Irina empowers her clients to advocate for accommodations, inclusion, and academic and vocational integration. Irina is confident that when the individual’s unique needs are met, they will be able to demonstrate their best abilities when learning, working, and communicating. Irina is a passionate member of the “2E” (twice-exceptional) community which serves neurodiverse individuals who are talented and either highly intelligent or gifted.
Irina’s philosophy is simple - “know who you are, and ask for what you need (assertively; rather than aggressively, or not at all)”. Irina believes that it is not the sole responsibility of a neurodiverse individual to learn to adjust and accommodate. It is their responsibility, however, to acknowledge and learn about their gifts, unique needs, and challenges - and then to communicate these to others. As in any relationship and two-way communication, the world and the individual can “meet halfway”.
Irina is confident that the world can benefit from embracing autism and ADHD by tapping into the special gifts and strengths of the individual, by becoming more flexible, creative, accommodating, accepting, and inclusive of all types of brains. Irina knows that accommodating Autism and ADHD is not as hard as it is often perceived to be, and is honoured to help make it practically possible.
Irina is a Psychology Board-approved Clinical Supervisor (principal). Irina embraces a competency-based, reflective, approach to supervision and provides both individual and group supervision.
Irina is eligible to supervise provisionally or generally registered psychologists undertaking:
- A 4+2 or 5+1 internship program
- Accredited higher degree programs (Master, Doctorate, Master with Ph.D. combined)
- A registrar program leading to Clinical endorsement
- Professional higher degree placements
- Transitional Program for overseas applicants