Q & A with Carla Ryan
Interview completed and written by Siena Leckovski, UNSW psychology undergraduate completing an internship at Inlight Psychology.
Carla Ryan is a warm, compassionate, and highly skilled therapist. Her approach is client-centred, humanistic, and evidence-based, and she seeks to deeply understand her clients and support them in their therapeutic goals.
Carla is in the final stages of her Masters of Clinical Psychology Training (due to be completed end of 2023), and has already become an integral part of the Inlight Team.
Q: What was your journey to becoming a psychologist?
A: My journey to becoming a psychologist was non-linear. I only realised that I wanted to be a psychologist late into my university studies. Initially, I was interested in law and criminology and started a double degree in this area to see how they might have complemented each other. I was also curious to learn more about how our minds work and how our history and experiences impact the formation of our identities. After one semester it became clear to me that I resonated so much more with psychology than law (though both are of course very interesting in their own way). I remember feeling at home in my psychology classes and with like-minded people around me. After that, psychology felt like the obvious direction for me and I realised that being a psychologist was such a natural extension of my personality. I’m so glad I made this career change, and I haven’t looked back since!
Q: Can you tell us about your interests and psychological approach?
A: I am very interested in trauma, body image concerns, and perfectionism, because they are so common in many different presentations and mental health concerns, and they can manifest in so many different ways.
My therapeutic approach is holistic, accompanied by attachment theory and schema-informed techniques (which is like a deeper form of CBT). However, most important for me is to ensure that I take into account my clients’ unique personalities, preferences, and past experiences of therapy. I also try to assist people in having self-compassion for their behaviours by allowing them to understand their motivations and actions.
Providing emotional validation, warmth, nurturance, and empathy cannot be undervalued, and I strive to implement this to create a positive therapeutic relationship.
Q: As part of your studies, you have been required to conduct research into a field of interest. Can you tell us a little bit about your research projects and how you may be implementing this into your current practice?
A: For my Honours thesis, I studied a cross-cultural comparison of Australian, Chinese and Indian University students during COVID-19 and whether their traits of neuroticism, and mental health facets of stress, depression, and anxiety were mediated by their self-efficacy. In that context, self-efficacy was referring to an individual's perceived/believed capacity to achieve a certain goal/action/exert a behaviour.
The research gave me insight into the cross-cultural conversations around mental health, especially during the pandemic, which was groundbreaking in its effect on all of us. Through this research, it was found that stress, anxiety, and depression were not mediated by neuroticism. However, it was found that having higher traits of neuroticism significantly increased depression, stress, and anxiety irrespective of the level of self-efficacy within University students. This indicates that there is a stable relationship between neuroticism and different facets of mental health even in the absence of self-efficacy.
My research influenced my practice as I ensure that I am open to learning about other cultures and remaining culturally sensitive in my approaches.
Q: Do you have a memorable success story from your work or studies where you are proud of how you overcame a challenge or helped someone in need?
A: I used to volunteer for Lifeline as a crisis telephone support worker and I remember speaking to someone who was feeling highly distressed and not in a great place at that point in time. I talked to them for about twenty minutes and by the end of the call I felt that their whole energy had lifted and they expressed how grateful they were for our conversation. In particular, I remember them saying that they felt like they would now be able to leave the house, even though they had said earlier that they had been stuck at home all week, and were lacking interest and motivation in anything. They felt recognised, heard, and cared for, and this was a really pivotal moment for me as I was able to make such an impact, despite the technological barrier of using the phone instead of talking face-to-face.
Q: For individuals who may be reading this interview and considering seeking help at our clinic, what message or encouragement would you like to convey to them about the benefits of seeking psychological support?
A: Anyone can benefit from seeking psychological support, regardless of how big or small you might feel your struggles are. No one is immune to mental health challenges and there is no specific threshold you have to reach to seek therapy. Therapy can be a sounding board to safely express your thoughts and needs, help you understand yourself, and work through some patterns in your behaviour. Approach psychological support with an open mind and prioritise finding a psychologist you really connect with because that relationship with your therapist is often key to meaningful change.
Q: How do you prioritise your own mental health and wellbeing while providing support to others?
A: I enjoy engaging in hobbies and spending time with friends and family. I love going for walks in nature; I find it grounding and calming. I also love reading books to take me on a new adventure and help with my creativity. I try to be intentional with the time I set aside for myself and make sure that I establish healthy work-life boundaries. When I notice my wellbeing starts declining, that is a good indicator that I am starting to lose those boundaries, and I prioritise putting these back in place.
Q: If you could share one piece of wisdom about mental health and wellbeing, what would it be?
A: Mental health and wellbeing look different for everyone. Currently, there is a lot of preaching in the media about what it takes to be considered “mentally well”. Sometimes, a period of being mentally stable can be something as simple as being motivated to leave the house. It is more important that you set mental health goals that are realistic for you and the current circumstances of your life.
INLIGHT PSYCHOLOGY | BONDI JUNCTION
Carla Ryan is offering therapy at Inlight Psychology, which is situated in the heart of Bondi Junction. We have a lovely team of experienced and compassionate psychologists, all with tertiary qualifications in Clinical Psychology. The team sees a variety of concerns, including anxiety, mood, interpersonal and relationship difficulties, men's and women's issues, trauma, personality disorders, anger issues, emotion regulation difficulties, perinatal issues, sexuality and gender concerns, and many more!
If you would like to learn more about the team at Inlight Psychology, click here.
If you would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact Inlight Psychology on (02) 8320 0566 or firstname.lastname@example.org.