counselling psychotherapy


Building a Secure Base for Kids in Care: The Best Attachment Focused Parenting Books

adoption familyBuilding a Secure Base for Kids in Care: The Best Attachment Focused Parenting Books

There is a lot of buzz in the news and recently on SBS Insight about the much needed push for kids in foster care to be provided with the security and stability of local adoption.

Over the years, I have worked long-term with many women who spent time in orphanages, children’s homes, foster-care and adoptive families. They have been Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generation and local and intercountry adoptees.

I am also the mother of 2 wonderful little beings through the long-term foster-care/permanent care/local adoption program.

Since 2004, I have researched everything I could get my hands on about foster-care and adoption, and in 2014, I attended the International Childhood Trauma Conference with Dr Dan Siegel and a Master Class with Dr Dan Hughes  where the focus was on early childhood trauma, intersubjectivity and attachment relationships. Having knowledge of these topics is crucial for parenting a child who has had a rocky start to life and who has lost their biological family for whatever reason that may be. In our home, we count in 3 lots of years: chronological, developmental and attachment years!

To my surprise, the attachment process of the child with the primary caregiver is still not given the attention that it should be; there tends to be a focus – especially within the foster care system – on the child’s ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ behaviours. In my personal and professional experience – these are merely responses to disturbances in attachment; a lack of external and internal security and stability.

If the child is in short-term care (evidence suggests that this should be for no longer than 6 months), the focus of the attachment relationship between biological mother and child is paramount. If the child is in long-term foster-care/permanent care or is adopted, alongside birth-family contact, the focus should be on the attachment relationship between the foster/adoptive mother/primary caregiver.

The attachment relationship between the primary care giver and the child will be the premise for all future relationships, including those with biological family members – it is therefore crucial that this relationship becomes the primary focus. This is a child focused response.

Parenting a child who has suffered with loss so early in life means reparative parenting; building a safe and secure sense of self and the world. Here are some of my favourite books to help to build a strong and secure external and internal base for the child:

Attachment Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children

By Daniel Hughes

Attachment security and affect regulation have long been buzzwords in therapy circles but many of these ideas—so integral to successful therapeutic work with kids and adolescents—have yet to be effectively translated to parenting practice itself. Moreover, as neuroscience reveals how the human brain is designed to work in good relationships, and how such relationships are central to healthy human development, the practical implications for the parent-child attachment relationship become even more apparent (Google Books).’

At the heart of our relational, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, is our ability to form secure, healthy and balanced attachment relationships. By focusing on the attachment relationship first and foremost, it will help to deepen the parent-child bond, which in turn, helps to alleviate and manage behavioural issues in a healthier way. Attachment Focused Parenting is my number one book for foster and adoptive parents.

Parenting From The Inside Out

By Daniel Siegal, M.D and Mary HartZell, M.Ed

Parenting from the Inside Out draws on recent findings in neurobiology and attachment research – it explains how our attachment relationships directly affect the development of the brain. I love that this book focuses on the inner world and self-development of the parent – in turn – increasing the ability to raise healthy, compassionate and resilient children.

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain

By Sue Gerhardt

‘Gerhardt, has bravely gone where most in recent years have feared to tread. She takes the hard language of neuroscience and uses it to prove the soft stuff of attachment theory (Rebecca Adams, Guardian Book Review).’

Sue Gerhardt is a psychotherapist in private practice; she is a leading specialist in mothers and babies. Why Love Matters is evidence based and provides an eye opening view of the baby’s brain, psyche and how these develop in relation to separation, bonding and attachment. Gerhardt links early childhood attachment and development with childhood and adult issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions and so forth. This book is a must for understanding the importance of attachment and is a valuable resource for making conscious choices regarding the care and well-being of our children.

Read more about Why Love Matters.

First Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts

By Caroline Archer

First Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts is a valuable resource for foster and adoptive mothers. It offers sensitive and practical guidance through the process of separation, loss and trauma in early childhood. Caroline Archer is an adoptive parent so she speaks from experience. This book provides good, practical advice and encouragement for foster or adoptive parents. It explores issues such as bringing the child home, childhood attachment and development, what to do when things don’t appear right, the effects of trauma on the child and how to parent these difficulties.

New Release

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

by Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson

No Drama Discipline is my new go-to self-help book recommendation for parents.

Attachment theory as the basis for parenting has been used for many years to help build connection in families who have found each other through foster care and adoption – Dan Siegel now brings this way of parenting into the mainstream. This is vitally important as there is a plethora of research emerging to back up the fact that disturbances in our early childhood attachment relationships contribute to a multitude of other concerns, disorders and impact all future relationships with self and others.

Much like with Hughes work, Siegel suggests a framework of connection before correction. Punishment such as time out  – is out (because it leaves children feeling dysregulated) and time in – is in (because it creates connection and relationship)!

This book shows us how to discipline in a calm, loving, nourishing and empathic way – which in turn deepens the relationship and provides the child with tools for building emotional intelligence.

Do you have other favourite books to recommend? Please add them in the comments below!


About Jodie

Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches.

How to use words to heal the body, mind and spirit

evocative word cardsHow to use words to heal the body, mind and spirit

“Esoteric and spiritual teachers have known for ages that our body is programmable by language, words and thought. This has now been scientifically proven and explained.” Fosar and Bludorf, 2011.

Recent research explains how words, sentences and affirmations can have a profound influence on humans, the body and DNA.

Technique of evocative words

One of the techniques that we use in psychosynthesis psychotherapy is the Technique of Evocative Words (1999. P.76). Roberto Assagioli MD writes that according to psychological law, all words possess the power of stimulating and evoking the activity associated with them.

Using evocative words can be useful for developing a spiritual quality such as self-compassion if you have a harsh inner critic for example. It can also be useful if you are facing an event or situation whereby you might feel nervous; exams, sporting events, performances, family gatherings or a job interview.

I like to choose my word first thing in the morning and have this as my seed word for the day.

You can evoke and develop your desired quality through choosing the word for a specific situation, a day, a month, or more.

How to evoke and develop spiritual qualities

Step 1: Choose the quality from the list below that you wish to evoke and develop.

Step 2: Take a piece of cardboard, write or print the word on it. I have a set of cards to call on at any time.

Step 3: Place the card where you will notice it; in your wallet, on the fridge, your work desk, beside your bed or on your pin board.

Step 4: Bring mindful awareness to your word and desired quality. To do this, Assagioli recommends using different visual, auditory and motor images:

  1. Assume a state of relaxation and then observe the word attentively for 1-2 minutes. Notice any ideas or images that emerge and record them in your journal.
  2. Spend time reflecting on the meaning of the word, then record your reflections.
  3. Try to “feel” the quality that the word embodies, letting it permeate your whole being.
  4.  As you observe the word, say it aloud.
  5. Write the word many times.
  6. “Act as if” you already possess this quality.

You might also use your desired quality and word as a seed for art journaling, reflective meditation, a music playlist or as part of a vision board – place your word at the centre and surround it with images that speak of the desired quality.

NB: Even if you do not place conscious attention towards your word, Assagioli notes that catching glimpses of it, can make an impression on the psyche, or more precisely, on the receptive unconscious.

List of evocative words and desired qualities
  • Admiration
  • Acceptance
  • Appreciation
  • Assertiveness
  • Balance
  • Beauty
  • Bliss
  • Boundaries
  • Brother/Sisterhood
  • Calm
  • Compassion
  • Comprehension
  • Connection
  • Cooperation
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Detachment
  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Eternity
  • Faith
  • Forgiveness
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Generosity
  • Goodness
  • Goodwill
  • Gratitude
  • Harmony
  • Humility
  • Inclusiveness
  • Infinity
  • Joy
  • Liberation
  • Light
  • Love
  • Order
  • Patience
  • Peace
  • Positiveness
  • Power
  • Prosperity
  • Quiet
  • Reality
  • Renewal
  • Trust
  • Truth
  • Serenity
  • Service
  • Silence
  • Simplicity
  • Spontaneity
  • Stillness
  • Synthesis
  • Tolerance
  • Understanding
  • Universality
  • Unity
  • Vitality
  • Wellness
  • Wholeness
  • Will
  • Wisdom
  • Wonder

Are there any others that you would add to this list?

About Jodie

Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches.

Part Four: Children and iDevices. iAddiction & The Winter of Our Disconnect

winter of our disconnect

This post is part of my Children and iDevices 5 part series.

The Winter of Our Disconnect

Worried about her three totally wired teenagers – how they used their time, their space, their minds and with fears for their social, intellectual and spiritual development – single mother, Susan Maushart (PhD Media Ecology, author, social commentator & ABC Radio program maker) made a choice to pull the plug on technology for 6 months. She detailed their experiences in her book, The Winter of Our Disconnect,  which has been described as, ‘smart, funny, important, informative and a must read for the digital generation.’

Maushart wasn’t just worried for her children; she found herself warding off loneliness by sleeping with her iPhone and her homesickness for New York by living in two places at once (but present to neither Perth or NY). She is transparent regarding her family’s dependency issues, identity struggles (my iPhone/my self) and how the more they ‘connected’ as individuals to their iPod playlist, social media and screen based devices in their bedrooms, the more disconnected they had all become from self, others and life in general.

Throughout her book, Maushart discusses the cultural implications of a disconnected society. She also raises concerns in relation to helicopter, absent and narcissistic parenting. When she spoke of the family’s 6 month ‘experiment’ to friends, she continuously came up against, ‘are you sure you want to do this to the kids?’; likening internet, iDevices and screen time as a new ‘need’ wedged between Maslow’s basic and love needs.

Staying connected is one thing, excessive use is another…

Like Susan Maushart, I love technology, social media and of course my iPad!

But…in the many years that I have worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist in the field of addictions, there has been a dramatic increase over the last few years in internet, iDevice and touchscreen based addictions.

Addiction of any kind is complex. There are multiple influences, causes and concerns to consider. Some of these include biographical, psychological, social, neurobiological and spiritual concerns. Whilst it is imperative to consider addiction from a holistic perspective, the primary issues underlying dependency and addiction problems are about relationship and connection; with self and other. Increasingly this is being backed up through a plethora of research in the field of early attachment relationships and neuroscience. When our will is trapped in maintaining cycles of dependency and addiction, our primary relationship is with the substance or process; in this case, our iPad, iPhone, or other screen based trapping.

iAddiction has become one the most socially acceptable problems of our time. We fear being ‘left behind’ or ‘left out’ and are bombarded with rationalisations and justifications such as, ‘get over it, it is a part of life’. Cocaine, binge drinking and playing the pokies are also a part of life but that doesn’t mean they are recommended practice, healthy or good for our overall wellbeing (Maushart 2010).

Other concerns associated with iAddiction highlighted in The Winter of Our Disconnect include an escalation in anger, anxiety, co-dependency, comparison, depression, disconnectedness, impatience, intolerance, low self-worth, obsessive compulsive behaviours, narcissism, an inability to relate, rude manners, risk taking and dangerous behaviours such as sexting, texting and driving, as well as a myriad of sleep issues. Subsequently, some of the issues related to sleep bankruptcy are anxiety, depression, hostility, attention deficits, a greater risk of drug and alcohol use, headaches, fatigue, stomach and back aches (Maushart 2010).

The Winter of Our Disconnect shines the light on numerous sources of research regarding the impact of excessive screen time. The Pew Internet American Life Project found that families with multiple communication devices were less likely to eat dinner together. Family meals are consistently correlated with positive outcomes for children; those who eat family meals 5-7 times a week get better grades, have a sunnier outlook on life and have significantly fewer problems with drugs, alcohol, nicotine and eating disorders. This research was across all socioeconomic spheres (Maushart 2010).

Disconnect in order to reconnect

From the first night of the experiment, Maushart noticed a change in the way her family communicated with each other. Here are some of the other benefits they experienced as a family once disconnected from media in the home (they were allowed to log on at school and at the library):

  • The children became more focused and their attention span, concentration and reading skills increased. They also became more logical in their thinking and were able to hold more complex levels of conversation.
  • The whole family experienced less frustration throughout the experiment.
  • They became more present to their surrounding natural environment.
  • The children were tired, not wired at night. They all began to sleep longer and reported a better quality of sleep.
  • They felt more connected listening to the same music on the radio (previously everyone was in their own world using iPods). This taught the whole family tolerance of others, expanded their horizons and levels of consciousness.
  • They all experienced a relief from their media devices even though they were expecting the 6 months to be hell.
  • The family felt more connected through playing board games. They encouraged bonding, and deeper relationships.
  • The children learnt more hobbies and spent time fostering new skills such as musical instruments, making clothes and cooking.
  • The family connected with a sense of humour as they spent time reminiscing about stories from their past.
  • The children became more socially responsible, for example, the children turned up on time rather than texting last minute lateness and cancellations.
  • They became more creative. Maushart credits this to not using technology to stimulate, numb or distract themselves out of boredom. Rather, boredom was the impetus for the start of the creative process.
  • Overall, they had a renewed sense of life energy/agency and will.

The ten (ok, eleven) commandments of screen hygiene

Maushart asks us to consider, ‘How are we fostering digital dependency and unhealthy use in our relationships, family and home life?’ She recommends the following (pp. 283):

  • Thou shalt not fear boredom
  • Thou shalt not multi-task
  • Thou shalt not WILF (‘What was I looking for?’ A term used to describe the free association of ending up elsewhere, hours later when google searching for something else)
  • Thou shalt not text and drive
  • Thou shalt keep the Sabbath a screen-free day
  • Thou shalt keep the bedroom a media free zone
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s upgrade
  • Thou shalt set thy accounts to private
  • Thou shalt bring no dinner to thy media
  • Thou shalt love real life, with all thy heart and all thy soul

If you are struggling with iAddiction, consider trying the above guidelines for healthy screen use as well as seeking support from a registered psychotherapist in your area to work through the underlying issues.

About Jodie

As Seen In Banner Profile (600x79)

Sydney Soul-Centred Life-Coach, Counsellor and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives.

She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Sign up for some SOUL in your inbox (aka. latest news, blogs and workshops).

Brené Brown: 15 Takeaways from ‘The Power of Being Enough’ Live Talk in Sydney

Brene Brown the power of being enoughBrené Brown: 15 Takeaways from ‘The Power of Being Enough’ Live Talk in Sydney

This past Saturday, I was fortunate enough to see Brené Brown talking live about The Power of Being Enough. She was extremely funny, engaging and as authentic as they come! Her work allows us to be ourselves and ‘live with more meaning through vulnerability’.

The event was organised through an organisation called The Wake Up Project; a community of 15,000+ people celebrating kindness and wisdom in modern life.


Here are my top 15 Brené Brown takeaways

– Authenticity is a practice.

– We can choose courage or comfort, we can’t choose both.

– We cannot live in the light without walking through the darkness.

– Shame needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment.

– Our willingness to be wholehearted is as great as our willingness to be broken hearted.

– Vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for—joy, faith, love, spirituality

– Unused creativity metastasizes into grief, rage and unhappiness.

– We desperately try to fit in and when there is no connection, we go away from the encounter feeling shame. Just turn up and be seen. Don’t shrink, don’t puff up, just be yourself.

– Always choose belonging over fitting in.

– We are wired in the brain to believe what we see. We file images away and when we are feeling vulnerable, we use these images to beat ourselves to the punch in the hope that it will prepare us for the worst. Nothing will prepare us for tragedy and suffering. We need to soften into joy and love. Wholehearted people have these moments too but instead of dress-rehearsing tragedy, they practise gratitude.

– It’s about owning our story. We don’t need to hustle for our worthiness.

– Hope is the ability to plan it, be it.

– In the absence of love and belonging, is always suffering.

– We are living in scarcity. If we want change, choose gratitude and joy over scarcity.

– The wholehearted practise gratitude. Do tangible things; keep a journal or a gratitude jar


If you haven’t seen it already, check out Brené Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability – it has been viewed by over ten million people world-wide.


About Jodie

Sydney counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches.

Addiction Recovery: The Starting Point for Recovery is Hope, Not Abstinence

damian-280x280Guest blog by Damian Grainer, UK Addiction Specialist, Therapeutic Counsellor, Coach, Trainer and the Founder & Director of Emerging Horizons.

Addiction recovery: the starting point for recovery is hope, not abstinence

“You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout, and to grow.” Thich Nhat Hanh.

For me the starting point for recovery is hope, not abstinence. I see it as my job, and that of any counsellor or psychotherapist, to hold hope for the individual seeking recovery, until it can be fully internalised and experienced by the individual, whose current perception of themselves is often one of failure, helplessness and shame. Hope can be nurtured by exposure to success – people who have done it themselves and where recovery is visable.

Psychosynthesis psychology has a wonderful concept known as bifocal vision. Bifocal vision involves seeing both the being – with emerging purpose and immense potential – and also the person as they present in the here and now, with their current struggles and difficulties.

When working with any addiction it is always worth noting:

  • Everyone can recover
  • Not everyone will recover (but the majority do overtime)
  • We don’t know who will recover
  • So…give everyone a chance to recover

Far too often, I find practitioners who have set “glass ceilings” for their clients, often citing the client’s complexities of need or lack of motivation as the reasons why they cannot progress any further. If there is no hope, there is no motivation. If there is no vision, no purpose and no meaning, then sustained motivation is unlikely. There is growing evidence of the significant impact that the therapist’s own expectations have on efficacy of interventions and this is particularly so in addictions.

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” Goethe.

Recovery capital in addiction recovery

A concept that has gained great ground over the last few years is that of ‘recovery capital’; a term used to describe the collection of personal, social and community resources that are available to individuals to help start and sustain recovery journeys. It is a way of looking at the strengths and assets that individuals have. For example:

I get up in the morning because I have to, I have a vested interest in my work and my family – this is part of my capital. Relationships and community ties are some of the things that help me to manage and adapt to adversity and the unexpected.

If the individual suffering with addiction had no resources, no social buy in, why would they give up the one thing that in the short term comforts them and provides them with some purpose or connection?

Positive psychology and the 5 ways to well-being

 “If what we focus on is magnified by our attention, we want to be sure we are magnifying something worthy.” Sue Annis Hammond.

Whilst it is important to acknowledge someone’s suffering with attention and compassion – of equal, if not greater importance, is to recognise their qualities, strengths and their gifts to the world. This is especially pertinent when the individual is highly self-critical, may lack confidence or is trying to find evidence to confirm their self-limiting view of themselves and the world.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) was commissioned to develop a set of evidence-based actions to improve personal wellbeing. The NEF completed a large scale analysis of research on wellbeing, with a particular focus on ‘Positive Psychology’. Having come up with a list of the key common findings, they were tasked with reducing these down to a simple and workable message that would support people to adopt behaviours that promote wellbeing, in a similar way that the public health message of ‘5 a day’ aims to encourage healthier eating.

5 ways to wellbeing (800x558)

This work led to the development of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.

What has been interesting is how quickly this has been adopted by the growing recovery movement in the UK; both mental health & addictions. Last week I was training a recovery coach, who self-managed his own recovery, exclusively using the 5TWB, monitoring his life around these 5 core behaviours.



The importance of relationship, connection and belonging

Holt Lundstad et al (2010) showed that having supportive relationships was a bigger predictor in decreasing mortality than giving up smoking. The importance of authentic relationships (quantity and quality) is essential to wellbeing. It is especially important for individuals addressing an addiction where their social needs and identity may be intimately linked to the culture of addiction they have lived in – with its rituals, beliefs, roles and relational networks.

Connecting or being connected works on a multiplicity of levels and is both intra (within) and interpersonal (between).  For the person suffering with addiction, it is about building or utilising existing networks of support, be that through family, friends, peers, mutual aid groups, the wider recovery community, community groups and associations. It is also about overcoming the possible barriers to relationship and connection: shame, stigma, attachment difficulties, limiting core beliefs, issues of trust, pride and social competence.

For the counsellor and psychotherapist, ‘connect’, is as much about how they connect to the client as to how they are connected in their own lives. I believe that the more connected we are, the more likely we are to create the conditions where the client is empowered or supported to establish new and/or rebuild existing connections that support them in their chosen life journey.

Having a sense of autonomy is also important in overcoming addiction. Paradoxically the greater our sense of belonging, the greater our sense of autonomy is likely to be. Because connection is so important, I would suggest that a more proactive approach to working with the client’s network of support is called for. Examples of this would include incorporating social behaviour network therapy and/or systemic therapy as standard practice in addiction treatment along with interpersonal effectiveness skills.

Spirituality and mindfulness are essential to well-being and addiction recovery

“…the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and actions – in the present moment – without judging or criticising yourself and your experience.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn.

From a holistic perspective, it goes without saying that diet and physical activity play a key part in wellbeing and addiction recovery. For me, the application of mindfulness based psychologies and teaching to support the maintenance of recovery, resilience and wellbeing is also key and should now be the norm and a definite in any credible relapse prevention program.

My beutiful world worksheet (758x637)


In addition to mindfulness training, a willingness and ability to appreciate beauty and experience moments of awe – which often connect us to a deeper sense of who we are – also supports and enriches the recovery process.

Finally, it is worth noting the significance of reframing recovery as a “learning process”  with opportunities to gain mastery over new skills, do what is important and experience greater autonomy with plenty of opportunities to give back and engage in altruistic activities.


About Damian

Damian Grainer (MA. Dip. Couns) is trained in psychosynthesis psychology, therapeutic counselling, life and performance coaching, substance misuse, management and engineering. He has worked across a range of substance misuse and mental health services; spanning areas such as engagement, medical and non-medical community treatment and residential rehabilitation. With particular expertise in change management and leadership, Damian has a strong track record in the implementation and turnaround of large, recovery orientated, integrated substance misuse services and treatment systems. He has special interests in group work, mutual aid, conflict resolution, mindfulness based practices to support healing and wellbeing and community development and regeneration. Damian is passionate about helping others to connect with their values, meaning and purpose and translating this into action.

The team at Emerging Horizons offer cutting edge recovery solutions underpinned by a vigorous commitment to supporting the development of world-class recovery support services in the UK. They have delivered training to some of the largest voluntary sector provider agencies in the UK as well HM Prison Services, Probation Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts.

Connect with Emerging Horizons on Facebook for the latest in addiction and well-being news.

About Jodie

Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Jodie is the author of Addiction: A Psychospiritual Perspective, featured in CAPA Quarterly. She has post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating addiction recovery and eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.


How to create a sacred space for meditation

sacred space website (593x600)How to create a sacred space for meditation

In the midst of the busyness of life, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by an excessive amount of information and too much stuff.

Even though we are spending more time supposedly ‘connecting’, in fact, many of us feel more disconnected from our authentic, true and spiritual selves than ever before.

For some of us, there is an inability to be with ourselves without something or someone to constantly distract or entertain us. For others, the life energy increasingly becomes immobilized by concerns such as codependency and relationship issues, weight and eating problems, addictions, anxiety, fatigue, depression and major health crises.

The Self calls us to wake up to its presence in mysterious ways. It may call us to awaken to our true nature through the aforementioned life crises. Alternatively, we may have a peak experience which calls us to awaken to a new way of living and being. Both ends of the spectrum can shine the light on our growing sense of disconnection and unease.

One way that we can heal our suffering is by reconnecting and becoming present to what is. It is tempting to get busy booking expensive holidays or spiritual retreats in the hope that we can slow down and be. How often though do we return home with the post holiday blues and feel as though we need another holiday?

By creating a sacred space, we can retreat close by on a daily basis, even ground our retreat and spiritual experiences from far away places. Ultimately we are able to create a space whereby we can connect with our own sacredness and the Divine within.

What is a sacred space?

A sacred space is a place to:

  • Get grounded
  • Set our intentions
  • Relieve stress
  • Recharge our batteries
  • Practise self-care
  • Affirm our worth
  • Claim our space
  • Be present to ourselves
  • Dedicate to our purpose
  • Find ourselves again and again
  • Bring new energy into our lives
  • Connect with our deeper essence
  • Meditate and practise mindfulness
  • Practise yoga
  • Honour and uplift our spirit
  • Dialogue with our higher, deeper, Spiritual Self
  • Worship God or Spirit

Preparing for the creation of a sacred space

Spend time journaling, in prayer, meditation or reflection before and during the creation of the sacred space. Here are some possible reflections:

  • Would I like my space to be inside or outside?
  • What colours and textures call me?
  • Is my sacred space private or are others allowed in my space?
  • What boundaries do I need to negotiate with others regarding my time and space?
  • Do I need to schedule some ‘me time’?
  • What other needs do I have?
  • What are my intentions for this space?
  • What is the purpose of my space?
  • What makes my heart and soul sing?
  • What does sacred mean to me?

Where to create a sacred space

A sacred space might be a quiet spot in the garden or a homemade area with or without an altar. For example:

  • A quiet and peaceful corner
  • A spot in the garden
  • A room in the house
  • A quiet nook
  • A window seat
  • A kitchen table
  • A special chair
  • A giant floor cushion
  • A bathtub/bathroom
  • A place on the land
  • A church, temple or other place of worship

Some elements and ideas for bringing a sacred space into being

There is no need to rush out and buy expensive mats, buddhas or other artifacts. Many of the elements in my sacred space I have collected over time at women’s retreats and workshops. Creating a sacred space is about listening to that quiet voice inside. The following elements are often found in a sacred space:

  • Alter
  • Plants and flowers
  • Rocks and crystals
  • Windchimes
  • Candles and incense
  • Goddess and daily meditation cards
  • Books that awaken and nourish the soul
  • Beautiful bath and skin products
  • Water
  • White sage
  • Delicious fruits
  • Statues and figurines
  • Art and craft supplies
  • Journal
  • Rugs, cushions and throws
  • Photos and images of sacred places
  • Sand tray
  • Music
  • Singing bowl
  • Worry dolls
  • Guided meditations and visualizations
  • Evokative word cards for reflective meditation
  • A small suitcase for a portable sacred space

Quiet time nook (448x600)Sacred space for children

For those who have children, consider creating a space where they can play quietly, read or listen to audio books/music. Creating a quiet time or reading nook is a great idea for little ones. Keep loud toys in a designated play area and soft toys, books, puzzles, dolls’ house, audio books, guided meditations and visualizations near the quiet time nook. Children who learn mindfulness and meditation skills at an early age have higher self-esteem, a better attention span and live healthier and happier lives.

Benefits of a sacred space

We don’t need to spend hours in our sacred space to experience the benefits. Even a few minutes of quiet time can help us to build a more balanced relationship with our body, feelings, mind, sexuality and spirituality. Practising mindfulness and meditation in a sacred space can have the following benefits:

  • Reduce stress
  • Enhance emotional intelligence
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Develop compassion and kindness towards self and others
  • Manage painful thoughts and feelings
  • Live a balanced and conscious life
  • Experience more peacefulness and calm
  • Reconnect with our true selves, others and our environment
  • Gain a greater sense of clarity, focus and concentration

Check out my Pinterest page for more inspiration and beautiful images of other sacred spaces.

About Jodie

Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.

Top 10 Self-Help Books for Women

top 10 books for women (600x600)Top 10 Self-Help Books for Women

As a therapeutic counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist specialising in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being – there are many books that I recommend over and over again. Many are listed in my bookstore and on my Pinterest page but here are my top 10 recommendations to help women find change as well as adding depth and meaning to their lives.

The Gifts of Imperfection

by Brené Brown

Having taken part in The Gifts of Imperfection Art Journaling Course with Brené Brown – this is my new favourite go-to book for women. Her research focuses on shame, vulnerability, authenticity and belonging. If you have a relentless inner perfectionist and never quite feel enough – this book is for you! You will come away chanting, ‘I’m imperfect and I’m enough. Brené is a wonderful storyteller and that makes this an easy read.

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing

by Dr Christinane Northrup

“By the wisdom of the body I mean that we must learn to trust that the symptoms in the body are often the only way that the soul can get our attention.”

This is the ultimate bible for women’s health. It covers topics such as the body, menstruation, infertility, motherhood, menopause, sexuality, intuition, wisdom and self-nourishment. Dr Northrup takes a holistic approach towards healing physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés

This deep, soulful and inner life enhancing book has been described as ‘vitamins for the soul’, ‘a gift of profound insight’, ‘fertile and life-giving’, ‘a bible for women interested in doing deep work’.

Jungian analyst, Dr Estés uses intercultural myths, dream symbols, fairy tales and stories, to help women reconnect with the fierce, wild woman and instinctual self within.

Women Who Love Too much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change

by Robin Norwood

Along with ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie, this is one of my most recommended books to women who suffer with a fear of abandonment, controlling behaviours, co-dependency, love addiction and relationship problems such as choosing unavailable or abusive men.

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything

by Geneen Roth

Geneen Roth suggests that food, diet and weight related issues are an attempt to fix something that has never been broken. We are already good and whole; our journey is to awaken to our goodness and wholeness.   She writes,

“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels…We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.”

Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children

by Sarah Napthali

Along with ‘Attachment Focused Parenting’ by Daniel Hughes – this book is my bible for parenting in a calm and peaceful way. Napthali applies Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children. Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses on the inner self of the mother.

Breaking the Spell: The Key to Recovering Self-Esteem

by Rachel Clyne

‘What matters is that we stop hating ourselves; when we do so what has to replace it is Love!’

At the heart of addiction, food related issues, depression and other modern day concerns – working to increase self-esteem and self-worth is always at the core of the healing process.  Psychosynthesis psychotherapist Rachel Clyne gives very practical suggestions in each chapter for developing a healthier and more loving sense of self.

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions

by Dr Christopher K. Germer

This is one of the best books out there for healing a toxic, harsh, punitive and critical inner voice. With practical mindfulness techniques for living in the present moment, this book teaches us how to nourish the spirit, reconnect and show kindness, compassion and empathy towards ourselves. Germer shows us that through self-compassion, we can heal pain and suffering.

Depression as a Spiritual Journey

by Stephanie Sorrell

This book is rigorously researched and takes a well-balanced view. Psychosynthesis practitioner Stephanie Sorrell explores indepth – the medical, psychological and spiritual aspects of depression. She writes poetically about suffering and depression as a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Sorrell shows us that it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of our suffering.

Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

by Thomas Moore

This life affirming and soothing read illustrates how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nurturing the soul. Moore uses myths, stories and dreams to help us understand everyday concerns such as depression, anxiety, death, low self-worth, envy and narcissistic wounding.

Man’s search for meaning

by Dr Viktor E. Frankl

‘If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”

This moving book was named one of the 10 most influential books in America. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl spent time in four Nazi death camps. He survived his pregnant wife, parents and brother. Man’s search for meaning is based on Frankl’s own life experience as well as those he worked with in private practice. His ultimate message is that we cannot avoid all suffering in life but we can choose how we respond to it and ultimately, we can find meaning and purpose in it.

About Jodie

Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.


Body Image & Eating Disorders: Stop the Fat Talk

Body Image & Eating Disorders: Stop the Fat Talk

 Tri Delta Fat Stats

54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.

81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat.

10 million women in the US are suffering with anorexia and bulimia. This is more than with breast cancer.

1 in 3 Australian females cite body image as their major concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2010).

My Fat Talk Journey

I remember the first time I fat talked – I was 5. For the school photo, I stood next to the ‘fat’ boy so that no-one would notice how fat I was. The next fat talk etched in my memory was at 8 when I put a t-shirt on to go swimming in our backyard pool – I didn’t want anyone to see my fat body. I wasn’t even fat. On both occasions, I was a normal weighted young girl. 20 years of food issues, yo-yo dieting and body/self-hatred followed.

I was fortunate enough at 27 to find a psychotherapist who specialised in disordered eating and body image issues. Over time, I worked through my chronic low self-worth and self-loathing. It was a long journey back to health and well-being. It was also the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist and what Jung called, a ‘wounded healer’. Through my own experience, I now help women transform the way they feel and think about body and self.

Nowadays, I practise being compassionate and kind to myself. I no longer excessively exercise to burn calories as I did for most of my 20s and 30s. Rather, I swim regularly because I enjoy being held by the water. I have redirected my focus from a torturous longing to be skinny to being healthy and accepting of every size.

Internalized Images and the Inner Critic

Recently I went Christmas shopping online for a doll for my 3 year old daughter.  I felt overwhelmed with fear as I searched for one that did not have insect sized legs and a size 0 waist.   Although I don’t subscribe to measuring BMIs, from a medical perspective – if Barbie were a human being, her BMI would be 16.24 and would therefore fit the weight criteria for medically diagnosed anorexia.

Internalized images from children’s dolls and the media are in no way solely responsible for society’s eating and body image issues. But…they do make up part of our critical inner voice. What hope do women and girls have when the majority of dolls on the market and the images we are bombarded with, mirror such distorted and unhealthy body sizes. Fat talk reinforces these unrealistic beauty ideals.

Fat talking to ourselves and with friends and family doesn’t just affect women and girls suffering with eating disorders. Unfortunately, fat talk has become a part of our everyday lives. Due to the widespread use of technology, even third world countries are no longer immune.

If we are stuck in fat talk, it frequently starts on waking as we look in the mirror and get ready for the day. The mirror and/or the scales become a harsh critic that determines what kind of day we will have. A single pound can start a tirade of punitive, self-abuse that can torment us until the next weigh in when hopefully we have lost it again.

The crazy thing is, ‘I am fat’ cannot even be; Roberto Assagioli suggests that this is psychologically, grammatically incorrect. ‘I’ (self) cannot be fat! The ‘I’ is the essence of who we are. At the core – we are whole, unbroken, beauty, love and ultimately, a spark of the Divine (or nature, goodness, oneness if that fits better for you!).   Our work is to realise this.

Fat Talk Visualisation – Would you fat talk to a child the way you fat talk to yourself?

If you are willing, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. Now say to her in your best fat talk tone,

‘You are fat’

‘You are disgusting’

‘You can’t wear that’

‘No you can’t go to the party because you look too fat’

How do you feel when you talk to the child in this way? You wouldn’t dare say this to a child. Yet…every time you fat talk to yourself, you are being self-critical and hard on yourself. Often what follows is a binge, a starvation diet or excessive exercise to soothe or punish yourself even further.

Now try this version in a loving and compassionate tone,

‘I love and accept you just as you are’

‘You have so many wonderful qualities’

‘Your body is sacred and you keep it in balance’

‘What does your body need right now – sleep, food, to dance, a swim?’

Now how do you feel? Can you feel the difference? If not, keep practising, it takes some time to shift a strong inner critical voice.

About Fat Talk Free Week

Fat talk free week was conceived by Tri Delta. Check out their 2012 youtube clip about Fat Talk Free Week.

What Can We Do To Eradicate Fat Talk?

Following are some suggestions to help you on your journey. Start with small steps…


  • Change the conversation we have with ourselves and others. Friends don’t let their friends fat talk – be a friend (Tri Delta)
  • If you are a mother (or a father), you are the biggest influence in your little girl’s life – lose the fat talk – she will learn it and internalize it from you

 Stop Dieting & Weighing

  • If you are dieting or excluding whole food groups such as carbohydrates – bring balance back into your life by eating all food groups in moderation
  • NEVER put a child on a diet. Instead, eat wholesome meals together and become active as a family
  • Ditch the household scales. If you must own some, buy the pink fluffy ones that tell you how wonderful you are
  • Stop watching TV shows that you use to torture yourself e.g. Weight loss shows where overweight people are tyrannized for being fat, encouraged to binge eat for temptation and excessively exercise


  • Learn how to eat mindfully
  • Learn mindfulness meditation to help you to accept ‘what is’
  • Practise Roberto Assagioli’s ‘Body Feelings Mind’ Meditation (see my upcoming post)

Finding Balance

  • Become curious about and promote health at every size
  • Focus on uniqueness rather than comparison
  • Remember – you have a body but you are not your body, you are more than your body
  • Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs
  • Be accepting, kind and compassionate to yourself
  • Focus on all of who you are – body, feelings, mind, sexuality and spirituality. If you are over identified with your body – get to know your neglected parts. Take some time to reflect on, ‘who am I?’



  • Do you want to learn more about the real you? Psychotherapy is a great way to support you on your journey of self-realisation
  • If you are suffering with an eating disorder, addicted to excessive exercising, or you have food and/or body image issues, contact a highly qualified PACFA registered psychotherapist who works holistically and at depth with eating disorders, food and body image issues. Changing your thoughts and mindfulness are useful techniques but not enough on their own for most people. There are usually deeply ingrained, underlying issues to do with low self-worth that need working through.

In the News

Since writing this article yesterday, I have just seen this article via the Butterfly Foundation’s FB page about realistic dolls for children

‘MOVE over Barbie, a new range of fashion dolls has been launched in Australia  to address growing concerns about the impact on young girls of negative body  image issues associated with dolls such as Barbie, Bratz and Monster High.

Unlike her now 53-year-old counterpart Barbie, the new Lottie doll has a  childlike form, modelled on the average nine-year-old girl’s body shape and has  practical clothes, realistic hair and healthy outdoor hobbies.’

Read more:

About Jodie

Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction, Eating and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

Live Your Life with Purpose! * Sydney Life Coaching Christmas Special *

Live your life with purpose! *Sydney Life Coaching Christmas Special*

Are you feeling lost or disconnected?

Does something keep getting in the way of where you want to go with your life?

Would you like to know yourself at a deeper level?

Are you looking for value, meaning and purpose in life?

Would you like change in 2013?


It is only 5 weeks until the new year! Now is the perfect time to have some life coaching sessions to set you up for your new year’s goals.

Using guided visualisation – you will connect in a symbolic way with your deeper source of understanding and inner wisdom.

Some of the themes we will explore together are:

  • managing change
  • how your history might be impacting on your present life situations and relationships
  • life direction
  • what gets in the way of living the life you dream of?
  • self-nourishment
  • moving towards a life filled with value, meaning and purpose

Life coaching sessions can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Explore how your past is impacting on you in the here and now
  • Connect with a sense of value, meaning and purpose in life
  • Find and build upon your existing strengths
  • Build a tool-box of coping and life skills
  • Experience meditation and visualisation
  • Learn mindfulness techniques
  • Make healthy long-lasting changes
  • Change unhealthy thought patterns
  • Discover Journaling
  • Enjoy symbolic artwork
  • Explore your dreams
  • Unleash your creativity
  • Learn through psycho-education

‘Live Your Life on Purpose’ bookings with therapeutic counsellor, life coach & psychotherapist – Jodie Gale

You can experience ‘Live Your Life with Purpose’ as a 3-hour one off experience ($275pp) or for a deeper exploration, over 6-12 weekly sessions ($90 pp per session). This offer is available to purchase until 25th December, 2012.

Life-coaching makes a wonderful gift to yourself or for friends and family.   It is perfect for individuals or for a small group of family members and/or friends. Gift certificates are available.

The following session times are available before Christmas:

Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 11.45am

Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 1pm

Sunday 16 December at 9-12pm

Business as usual in the new year if you would prefer to start then.

Let your light shine and live the life you have always dreamed of! Contact me now to book your first appointment.