Helen Dugdale

Founder, Australian Brain Coaching

Roles in life and work:

Psychotherapist, wife, mother to two adult children, daughter, carer, soon to be grandmother and a community volunteer with our local Youth.
I have worked in agricultural science all my life, from 18 years old and I am now 63. I had a stint as a high school teacher in Ag Science in South Australia for 4 years and also taught unemployed and disadvantage kids in Melbourne for 4 years.   We moved to Narrabri 24 years ago when I got a job with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation as Program Manager. I started with them in 1997 and I still do a couple of contracts a year for them now.
I travel between Narrabri, Dubbo, Nelson Bay and the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney for my work now as a psychotherapist.

How did you transition from Ag Science to Brain work?

During the last few years with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, they sent me to do some workshops in Sydney and Brisbane focused on personal development and capacity building.

I was then given Human Resources Manager as well as soil, water and farm management programs, and I bought the workshops back to rural people.   A lot of people in rural areas cannot give up the time to travel to the capital cities, let alone pay for the courses, travel and accommodation.

After a while of organising these workshops, a few people said you should do this yourself, so I resigned from my position and started my own business focusing on personal development.  I ran workshops up and down New South Wales and Queensland on communication skills, confidence, leadership and goal setting. At this stage I thought I should go back and study Psychology. I signed up to UNE about 6 years ago. A friend of 40 years, living in Germany was also studying Psychology at the same time and told me about this brain coaching method.
I went over to Europe and studied the Wingwave method and bought it back to help people here. It’s all about retraining the brain and getting out of old habits and creating new habits but to do that you need to identify the trigger for the adverse behaviour.
Brain coaching has had some truly life-changing results. In all cases it is a matter of logic over-coming emotion. We all know, logically, what we should be doing but why do we let our emotions take control? For example: when dealing with a difficult person; over-eating; procrastination; phobias; motivation (or lack of).

Brain coaching helps to identify the original reason for the behaviour. The process to retrain the brain involves three stages. The first stage is identifying the real trigger, rather than what you are telling the therapist. Secondly, is to resolve the issue. By acknowledging and resolving the trigger you are reducing the emotionality of the issue. The third stage is re-programming our habits. We look at what the client does now in the event of stresses and then work out how to respond differently in those circumstances. I help the client develop strategies that they are more likely to follow through with.

The scientist in me has been studying and noticing how it works for five years now and it is brilliant how this method works, the success has been amazing with very happy clients as a result.

This method has helped issues like: procrastination, phobias, dealing with difficult people, smoking, physical response to stress and even improving your golf game!

Tell me about your work with Narrabri Education Foundation?

I was on this committee for 15 years since its inception, raising money for country students to attend University who otherwise would not be able to go attend. It was to help local kids go to university, sometimes 600km from their home, which some families just could not consider as an option due to the cost. With no government funding, it is all local fund-raising and donations.

For some students, the amount was as little as $500 – one man he tells us he wouldn’t have gone to university for his law degree without this $500 as he would have had to work for another year just to pay for his text books and probably wouldn’t have gone after that first year. All the students who have received a scholarship have said how much it meant to them to have the backing of their community.

Then about 5 years ago, my daughter and I started up the Narrabri Youth Centre as there wasn’t anywhere for kids to go after school if they were not sporty. It started off one day a week then went 5 days a week. It has the support from the Council for a meeting space, electricity and Wi-Fi. All other expenses are covered by donations and fund-raising and is supported by six wonderful volunteers. We are now transitioning as the building is being pulled down and we will move into another Council-owned building.
The Youth Centre is much appreciated, as many kids can’t bring friends home for a variety of reasons, so it’s a safe space to meet friends and plug their phones in, and to have some afternoon tea. Many kids often miss out on lunch, so they are quite hungry by the time they get here!

What are you juggling right now in your life? 

Recently I completed the French Camino trail as a challenge for myself and to meet people from all around the world. So, you could say that I do a fair bit of walking for fitness.
In addition to the Youth Centre and my business I am learning a new method to help anxious children and also setting up a new consultancy in Nelson Bay.

My business means that I need to drive a lot and so I listen to podcasts about the brain. I also read books and watch documentaries about the brain whenever I have a spare moment. Fascinating – I am always learning.
I am also looking after my elderly father who came up from Melbourne two years ago to live with us. We are busy with all his appointments and of course spending time with him. He has a great social life and knows how to age well! I am also about to become a grandmother and so lucky my daughter lives in Narrabri.

How do you value your time?

I don’t really think about it, but I do love a party, and reading and gardening. I can’t wait to get up each day and do all the interesting things that are on my list to do.

How do you manage your time effectively?

I try and structure my time and make lists to prioritise what to focus on and what can wait.

Plus I go with gut instinct – if it doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it.

How do you separate work and personal time?

Hmmm, this is a bit tricky, family comes first and when my clients need help I will make time for them to come and see me. Dubbo consultancy is usually booked out, so may need to structure an extra day in that town. Nelson Bay is a lot more structured. I work from a day spa and they schedule my appointments in a dedicated period, whilst in Narrabri I work from my home which is on 20 acres so it’s very quiet with lots of trees and is a more relaxed time schedule.

What does your support network look like?

My family support me in everything! They are awesome people and provide me with good grounding advice – especially on marketing ideas. I also have a monthly skype session with a meditation coach and visits to a masseur, who both give me tips for letting go mentally and emotionally. I try not to burden friends, as they have their own issues, and I really treasure the fun times with friends.

What kind of conversations do you have with your inner voice?

Like a lot of people, questions like: am I good enough? did I do a good job? could I have done better? That sort of thing, which can be healthy, makes me work harder!. I think what I do say often is “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” Whether it be climbing a mountain or starting a new business. Be Brave.

Not many people around here do what I do, I hope I am doing good for people and passing on some worthwhile skills. Helping people to enjoy life at the same time, making the most of what we have in life.

Brain coaching has taught me to value everyone. Appreciate people’s good points rather than be annoyed by their annoying habits. Everyone has a story, we all liked to be appreciated.

Do you have any time saving tips for the One P community?

I make lists for everything. In terms of clothing, I believe in choosing one style of wardrobe rather than a mix of styles. Instead of swapping from style to style, its easier to make choices. I try and stick to somewhere between corporate and casual. I like to look presentable; be relatable and look like I made an effort as I want people to know that I respect them coming to see me.

That’s why I like One P, you can easily mix and match and I am loving the natural fibres. I am sure this is why you set it up this way.

To learn more about Australian Brain Coaching, click here 

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