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Meet the Psychologists: Dr Rachel Hannam

When did you start at NBP?

I set up NBP in 2012 with my friend and colleague Karen Nixon who retired and moved to Maleny in 2016, leaving me the sole Clinical Director. Since 2012, NBP has grown from our little partnership to a large team of awesome Practitioners! It has been an interesting and fun ride. We started with the aim of creating a collaborative team who could support each other, as well as offer team-based care to individuals and families in north Brisbane.

Why did you get into Psychology in the first place?

My dream as a teen was to work in the performing arts. I enjoyed dancing, singing and acting. I loved performing in the highschool musical. (I love showing off! I am an ENFP after all). I studied Art and Theatre and enjoyed exploring the characters’ motivations and emotions. Key people in my life discouraged me from pursuing it as a career. I was good but not amazing. I’d read some of my mother’s self-help books in Year 12 and I knew Psychology was the only other subject area I could become equally passionate about. 

What would you have done if you didn’t become a psychologist?

I sometimes fantasise about how life would have been if I had become an actor. But I do get my little fix speaking on the radio, making vlogs for Facebook, doing stand-up comedy, co-hosting a podcast on ABC Radio, and running workshops and speaking events. I did also consider becoming a Psychiatrist but missed out on postgrad Medicine at UQ by 1%. So I became a primary school teacher for a while, completing a GradDipEd after my psych degree. Pretty soon the hankering to return to Psychology was too great, so I did Honours in psychology part-time by distance in 1999-2000, then a PhD with coursework at UQ. 

What do you like best about your job?

The stories! Also, the openness, emotional intimacy, and trust in the therapy room is unlike most other situations in life. And you never know what you are going to get each day. I feel very privileged to do this work and help people in this way.

Which are your favourite therapies to draw from and why?

Compassion-focussed Therapy (CFT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are all important to me because they speak to deeper philosophies I hold about life, including radical acceptance, self-compassion and taking conscious action. I also love Schema Therapy for arriving at a deeper understanding of what drives self-sabotage or compulsive behaviours, such as self-sacrificing and unrelenting standards (issues I have struggled with myself).

Most of all, I love using the Gottman Method and combining this with NVC. Helping couples is possibly my favourite kind of therapy at present because it is complex, challenging and rewarding.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

Being a mum of three and the Director of North Brisbane Psychologists, every day is different. On days I see clients, life is very hectic. By the time I have finished five to seven clients, I have a bunch of emails and phone messages to return. On the days I am not seeing clients, I can organise the kids, do exercise, make dinner, plus all the meetings, phone calls and emails required of a Director. I spend a lot of time supporting my fellow clinicians, both with practical and clinical matters, which I enjoy.

What activities do you enjoy outside work?

Socialising with friends is my #1 hobby. I also love the beach, yoga, jogging, music, books, poetry, and writing. I am currently writing a novel with my dear friend and Director of the Kooky Clinic. It is set in Brisbane and incorporates some key psychological theories. It may take a few years to finish, but I enjoy having long-term goals.

Rachel makes engaging and informative videos on a range of different topics. Check them out on YouTube or Facebook.

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