Michal Baghlani is the head psychologist and founder of Aware Psychology & Coaching. She has worked for over 15 years in the area of employee health and wellbeing as a workplace trainer, coach and change facilitator. Michal has worked for some of Australia’s leading EAP organisations providing coaching, training facilitation, career transition services, counselling and crisis interventions. She also has extensive rehabilitation, and injury management experience, both in case management, and the assessment and treatment of complex psychological injuries and chronic pain presentations.
Her integrative approach to intervention combined with her authentic nature provides a welcoming and safe environment for clients who often express gratitude for being able to discuss concerns with ease.
Michal’s aim through intervention is to normalise her client’s experience through brain-based psycho-education and provide techniques that empower self-management and acceptance. Treatment modalities utilised by Michal include Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), Positive Psychology and Mindfulness.
From employee assistance counselling to the provision of psychological services to Australian Defence Force members it is evident that Michal has an ability to work with a broad client base from both public and private sectors. Her passion for anxiety and stress management sees her working face to face with individuals as well as within a training environment where she facilitates coaching on emotional resilience. Michal enjoys the rewards of empowering her clients to independently manage their mental health and general wellbeing.
Welcome, Michal, can you introduce yourself to us as the head psychologist and founder of Aware Psychology & Coaching?
Thanks for the welcome. I am a registered psychologist of 13 years with over 15 years of experience in the area of employee health and wellbeing as a workplace trainer, coach and change facilitator. I am also a certified resilience coach, incorporating neuroscience, positive psychology and lifestyle factors into my sessions when I am helping clients to implement change. It may sound odd, however, I love helping clients manage their stress and anxiety. As a treatment provider to the Australian Defence Force, I also have a strong interest in whole-body approaches in the treatment of trauma.
I have always wanted to know ‘why?’ As I developed as a psychologist, I found that psychology alone was often not enough to manifest change. As a result, I have extended my professional development to include areas of interest that go beyond psychology. My approach is, therefore, more holistic and I do my best to reach the core of the issue. It is often our lifestyle that promotes heightened anxiety and stress for example. Once a client is aware of how to reduce their symptoms by making changes to their lifestyle, they start to regain hope and feel empowered to take back control. I’m hoping this will then have a flow-on effect to reduce the stigma around psychology and mental health.
Why did you launch Aware Psychology & Coaching?
Nearing the end of 2014 I was finishing maternity leave with my fourth child. Having previously worked in corporate psychology, I knew I needed more flexibility with work so I could attend school events and take short notice leave when required. I had begun to lose passion in my chosen profession as a psychologist within the corporate world and felt that I needed to go out on my own to reignite my motivation.
I had no intention of building a company and commenced my journey into private practice on my own as a contractor. It did not take long for referrals to grow organically and I started to think business. The only issue being, I’m a psychologist, not a business consultant! My passion had been reignited and I commenced researching. I was then lead into the world of entrepreneurs and business ideas started to grow.
What are your marketing methods and what platforms are you using to promote Aware Psychology & Coaching to gain new clients?
To date, most of my business has been through word of mouth and developing strong relationships with my service providers. This year I started to concentrate more on social media and now have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Business.
More recently (as in the past two weeks) I have decided to start a second business on emotional and mental wellbeing coaching that will allow me to work online locally and internationally. I continue to witness the stigma associated with seeing a psychologist so I have decided to start a platform that has more of a coaching approach to encourage others to take back control from their overwhelm, anxiety and stress. I only have an Instagram account for this business at the moment however I intend to follow with additional platforms and a website that will sell programs.
How are you normalising your client’s experience through brain-based psycho-education and providing techniques that empower self-management and acceptance?
After gathering a full history from my clients, I educate them on the three main areas of our brain. This helps them to relate their experiences to their emotions and thought processes. I find that brain-based psycho-education helps clients to see that they are ‘human’ and that most of their responses to events are normal. They start to understand how they can make a few changes, such as reframing unhelpful thoughts, to assist with calming the brain’s response.
I then educate them on breathing, sleep, diet and exercise and how each of these factors influences hormonal change and the way the brain functions. They begin to identify where they can make changes to assist with rebalancing hormones which promote empowerment and their ability to self-manage. I often find that correcting a client’s breathing technique alone assists with a significant reduction in their symptoms. This then allows me to move into more psychological based interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT); Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT); Mindfulness; Positive Psychology and so on. Starting with lifestyle changes often reduces our stress response which brings our prefrontal cortex online to process, learn and problem solve. I love seeing this change in clients and can be known to shed a tear of joy when their mojo returns.
What methods do you use to measure the success that your clients benefit from after working with you?
I seem to have a knack for developing a positive rapport with my clients. The best measure is, therefore, observing their presentation over time. As William Shakespeare pointed out ‘The eyes are the window to your soul.” A person’s eyes, walk, tone of voice and stance speak volumes. If they have been proactive with their homework, their behaviour and presentation will change.
The more researched angle of measurement comes from gathering a client’s self-reported history during their initial session. This information will guide me towards appropriate testing scales. That said, I always administer the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS 21) at every initial and final session. This measures the negative emotional states of depression, anxiety and stress. If a client has progressed, their overall scores on each scale should have reduced by their final session.
As a member of the Australian Association of Psychologists inc and Associate Member of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience, how are you working on your own personal development and are you looking to study or go through any more training/workshops to extend your knowledge on further topics?
I do my best to walk the talk and know where I am lacking. I am generally aware of when my stress levels are rising and reflect on what areas of my life are contributing to this. I, therefore, adjust lifestyle factors where possible to assist with managing my mood. I implement mindfulness every day in everything that I do. There is no need to take time out to be mindful. We can be mindful of where we are holding onto tension, how we are breathing, how we are thinking etc continually throughout the day. I often close my eyes as I commute to work on the bus and do a mindful body scan to assist with starting the day as composed as possible. I then revisit this on the way home to assist with defusing any built-up stress from the day.
I have a list of books and courses that I intend to either read or attend. An upcoming event that I am excited about attending will be hosted by a psychiatrist, Bessel van der Kolk, “Clinical Approaches to Working with Trauma.” I am a bit of a nerd when I walk into a book shop as my reading list is generally focused on the brain or body as opposed to the top ten fiction novels. There is so much we don’t know about the human species and so much we are yet to discover. I don’t think my personal development will stop any time soon. The human mind, body and our purpose fascinate me.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
Through my own personal development in learning to accept, acknowledge and face every weakness I own in addition to acknowledging my strengths to help move me forward, #BEYOUROWN is about being your true authentic self. Taking ownership of our wrongdoings and making positive changes where we are able, yet not to our own detriment. We should all experience a little self-doubt, yet learn to view this as our next challenge and learning curve. Shift the doubt to the excitement and you will forever develop.
In which areas are you looking to grow and expand Aware Psychology & Coaching within the next 3-5 years?
I have recently hired a provisional psychologist and am now looking to hire a registered or clinical psychologist. My aim is to focus more on organisational training and online programs. I would love to continue to work one on one with clients, however, I would also like to develop a ‘one too many’ approach. There is a strong focus on mental health awareness within the workplace and I can see how it is becoming somewhat of a ‘tick box’ approach. The more I am able to help educate the masses, the better.
I am also working on a podcast with my sister, Rebecca Besly of Taking Charge Educational Consulting. The aim is to care for the wellbeing of our teachers which should have a flow-on effect to the classroom and enhance our future generations ability to learn. I would love to see psychology and brain-based education become part of our school curriculum. With the use of smartphones and a modern-day world of instant gratification, there is a strong need for interpersonal communication skill development in addition to an understanding of what the brain requires to flourish.
Gone are the days of me as a sole practitioner in private practice. The possibilities for expansion are endless. I need to keep reminding myself to focus on one step at a time!
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