Blog Feed

My First Blog Post

What a dog taught me about fur management and unconditional love

On the weekend I was disposing of the dog poo in our back yard. The creator of that poo was a rescue dog we had adopted last year and there she was relaxing in the sun in her favourite spot while I scooped her poo, and I wondered at the unnaturalness of this situation…

She had outgrown her first owner’s coping capacity and we had the space to accommodate her, but we were not expecting what a handful this unruly, boisterous one-year-old canine would be.

On her first day at our house she left claw marks in our wooden doors, let herself in by pawing at the door handle, wandered around the house, stood up to sniff the food on the kitchen bench and jumped on us, to say the least. As we watched her snuggle up in her pet bed that night, we struggled to bond with this big white dog, with her big dome of a head, big pointy ears, lean body and long, muscular legs.

However, her short, white fur on the dark rug was the bane of our indoor existence. Every time she shook herself, the fur would plume from her body like fine dandruff. No matter how often we vacuumed, the fur would be back the very next second as soon as she walked near the rug. It was a losing battle, so we ultimately had to pack away our lovely rug and make do with the floor boards.

She also started pooing on the pavers, but the last straw was when she playfully knocked our young son as though he were another puppy and began pawing and nipping at him. We decided reluctantly that if she didn’t improve within a certain time-frame, back to the dog pound she would go, but we knew that she most likely would not get a third chance. In our state of desperation we paid for a private dog trainer to visit us at home and provide advice.

As we worked with her, she gradually improved as she grew into her full size and the funny thing was she grew on us at the same time. We could appreciate her beautiful eyes, her puppy dog waggling of body and tail, and her intense joy at being with us. And I realised that having her reinforced the concept of unconditional love. I learned this when I had my son and now I was learning it again with this rescue dog.

I used to joke about returning her to the dog pound, but now I no longer joke about it because I love this big, boisterous, unruly dog, and I know that the unconditional love she has for us and which she inspires in us makes it all worth it. As for the fur, well, we give that to the worms in the compost bin now…

(This is the first post on my new blog, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates).


(As featured in Northshore Mums –

Coronavirus anxiety is something many of us are facing, in different ways. Perhaps you’re worried about your parents, or the risk to a vulnerable loved one. Maybe you’re not coping with the demands of home-schooling, or perhaps the changes in our lives have left you feeling more stressed. With so much uncertainty to manage, it can be helpful to explore strategies to help, writes Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist Brigitte Tong.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about our lives. Just the other day I was in a public place and started coughing (into my elbow) after swallowing the wrong way. Immediately, I found myself cringing as people glanced at me with suspicion. And who would have thought, a few months ago, toilet paper would be a valuable commodity? Add to this the worrying reports about people panic-buying and images of the long lines outside Centrelink, and the sense of panic becomes palpable, increasing until you are gripped by coronavirus anxiety.

You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed or worried about what the future might look like.  But, in the midst of all this, what can we do? Here are some ways to manage your mindset throughout the pandemic that may help reduce your coronavirus anxiety.

1. Control the things you can control

The first step toward managing coronavirus anxiety is to identify what you can control in your life. The virus is now a fact of life, and you can’t wind back the clock and somehow stop its arrival.

Focus on practical action: Instead of focusing on what might have been, look toward what you can learn, and concrete actions you can take. For example:

– Keep up to date on hygiene advice and practice hand washing, social distancing and stay home to help manage concerns about catching the virus

– If your concern is cashflow, empower yourself by researching what assistance may be available to you

2. Distinguish between the ‘known’ and ‘the unknown’

People often struggle dealing with uncertainty, and right now we’re not sure about may happen in the next few weeks, months or even years.  Feelings of coronavirus anxiety go hand-in-had with our fear of the unknown.

Don’t get caught up in the unknown: Keeping up to date with coronavirus news is important, but information overload could fuel anxiety and lead to burnout or hyper-focusing on the what-ifs about every situation. Repeatedly watching and hearing the same news over and over again does not help, but only builds anxiety, leaving you worried about multiple possible futures.  Before you get to that point, set healthy boundaries around when and where you consume news, for example:

– Limiting time spent, or choosing just one platform instead of accessing radio, TV AND online news

– Ensuring you are balancing your consumption with other activities, like listening to an unrelated podcast, taking a walk, or whatever eases your mind

Focus on what you do know: When there’s so much we don’t know, it’s easy to lose sight of how much we do know for certain. Make a list of facts that will remind you how much progress has been made in coronavirus research, and add to it as you uncover new positive or useful facts, for example:

– We know scientists around the world are working on a vaccine alongside the Australia the University of QueenslandThe federal and state governments are taking fast, considered actions for our safety

– The federal and state governments are taking fast, considered actions for our safety

– The Australian coronavirus response has been effective in flattening the curve, limiting cases and our hospitals remain accessible and operational

3. Introduce yourself to ‘Now Time’

Our normal schedules have been upended, so now’s the time to introduce rituals into your new routine to give yourself structure, and a sense of routine. My suggestion is dedicate some time for daily ‘Now Time.’ What do I mean by that?

‘Now Time’ is a more user-friendly way to suggest you spend time focusing on yourself, finding some stillness in your day, and mediating

I call it ‘Now Time’ because people think of meditation as hard, disciplined sessions sitting, and trying to control thoughts

‘Now Time’ is simpler, and you probably already do it when you forget your thoughts and anxieties while you’re absorbed in a good book or movie!

How ‘Now Time’ works:

Take a break: This might simply mean pausing for one minute at a time at different moments throughout the day.

Use your ears: Hearing helps us focus and calm, so  wherever you are, (safely) stop and focus on what you can hear around you for one minute.

Let go of your thoughts: You will most likely be thinking, but don’t try to fight your thoughts, just keep listening for sounds with a light-hearted curiosity.

Continue to listen: Just noticing the different sounds that come and go, and noticing your awareness of them.

It’s amazing what you can hear that you would normally miss. As I sit at my desk right now, I can hear the sounds of the kookaburras and cockatoos in the distance; I can hear a fly that flew in through the open door buzzing at my ear; I can hear the whirring of the computer.

Coronavirus anxiety: Moving forward

There is a saying from the Upanishads saying, ‘When a blade of grass is cut, the whole universe quivers’. In the midst of this public health crisis, when an incident in one country has made the whole world shudder, it seems the saying is more relevant than ever. But while difficult, another perspective might be that in a strange way, the global coronavirus pandemic has the potential to unite a frequently divided world. It has given people the chance to reassess what is important to them and the community, such as collective health, our loved ones and the welfare of our wider community.

Brigitte Tong is a clinical psychotherapist and hypnotherapist with a passion for helping people overcome their issues to achieve their highest potential. You can contact her here for more professional help or guidance, or phone her on 0490 416 330.

How to be your own best parent

While Australia experienced unprecedented bushfires during the latter of half of 2019, my family and I were experiencing grief at a different level as my father passed away in November 2019. Even though we knew it would eventually happen one day due to his age and congenital health condition and that no one lives forever, it was still a shock when it happened. I found it difficult to accept that his death was preceded by a short, sharp burst of physical and emotional suffering during his three weeks in hospital after he had had a fall. His suffering became our suffering and I took turns with my siblings to care for him in hospital as he became completely dependent on us for help in all aspects of daily life. To make matters worse, in his final week he contracted an antibiotic resistant bacteria and we could not interact with him without face masks, gloves and gowns.

But I made the effort while he was still lucid to tell him how much I loved him and that I was so proud of his ability to find a way to bring us from the oppressiveness of our birth country to the magnanimity of Australia all those years ago. It was a hard thing for me to do as someone who has had a typical Asian upbringing where expressions of love with family members is not a regular thing, but I made the effort knowing that I may never have another chance. My father was a humble man who I later learned had experienced a bleak childhood of rejection by his own parents. Unsurprisingly, he had a pessimistic outlook on life and a debilitating sense of helplessness. Unfortunately, I learned how to be pessimistic from firsthand observation of how he dealt with life, and from a lot of trial and error I had to learn resilience and optimism from scratch, which has led me to the path that I’m on to help others who are now in the situation that I was in previously. After doing a lot of personal development on myself I learned as an adult to view him with understanding, compassion and finally gratitude.

The finality of death can often bring us realisation and acceptance of the flaws and good points of our parents, but it is better to reach that state while our parents are still alive because we carry inside of us whatever has been instilled in our childhood and death cannot heal that, only our willingness to heal our own wounds. The child-parent relationship is central to our lives as children growing up and later as parents for those who have children, where we hopefully learn from our parents’ mistakes while humbly acknowledging that we will most likely make our own mistakes with our children. It is a complex relationship as we were raised by parents who often have unresolved issues from their own upbringing and relationship with their parents.

It is a profound realisation that now as adults we are finally in charge of ourselves and can make our own decisions. However, how many of us relapse into the childlike behaviour of blaming our parents for our negative characteristics such as anxiety, lack of direction, emotional overeating, low self-esteem etc? But it is only from reclaiming our own authority as adults that we can heal from whatever childhood issues or trauma we experienced, as we realise that we are now indeed able to decide for ourselves and that we can also now give ourselves permission to heal hurts that were often inadvertently caused by parents who had not learned to heal their own hurts.

So if you feel this sense of despair, pessimism and hurt that just won’t go away, please contact me now as I’m here to help you.

Until next time,



Mobile: .0490 416 330

The Dog-Zen Doctrine

Recently we decided to go camping one weekend and our neighbour kindly agreed to feed her and check that the water in the bucket remained full. I have to say that the dog was constantly at the back of my mind during our trip, especially as we had no mobile coverage so I couldn’t phone our neighbour to check on the dog. My thoughts were on how she had been given up twice in the past and what anguish she may be feeling not having us there, and how she was going to cope for the remaining days.

You may be wondering what this new doctrine of Dog-Zen is all about. Well, quite simply it’s what I’ve learned about mindfulness practice from my own dog. She was abandoned at goodness knows where and a kind stranger picked up this little puppy and took her to the RSPCA. Then at eight weeks my brother went to adopt her assuming that she would remain her small puppy size, but of course she grew bigger and bigger and eventually he faced the dilemma of returning her once more to the RSPCA – when I stepped in and adopted  her and have now had her for two years. But technically, she’s been unwanted twice.

So when we returned I was anxious to find out how the dog had coped with our absence. And what happened? Well, she didn’t miss us at all… She didn’t bark, she didn’t whine. She spent her days sunbaking as usual and snoozing in her kennel when the weather got wet. What a relief!

Now don’t get me wrong; dog’s can also get psychological issues such as phobias and fearful behaviour due to past trauma, but I was interested in how our dog remained blissfully unconcerned about our absence. From her behaviour I could safely assume that she wasn’t doing doggy thinking such as, ‘Have I been abandoned again?’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Why is this happening again?’ ‘What’s going to happen from now on???’

Instead, her dog brain allowed her only to focus on the present moment and deal with the situation as required: sunbake when she got cool, lie in the shade when she got warm, go into her kennel if wet or windy weather and come out for food when called. Her rocky past did not affect her; the future did not concern her. She was confident that her needs would be met.

Of course, dogs’ ability to completely focus on the moment is an extreme example as they lack the important ability to plan for the future, but we can learn so much from this long-lost skill of just immersing oneself in each moment, taking things as they come and adapting appropriately to any changes that may affect us. This is what I learned from my own Dog-Zen master.

Clinical Hypnotherapy – What is it about?

When people ask me what I do and I say that I’m a strategic psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, invariably the first question they ask is, ‘What is hypnotherapy and do you use mind control?’ I explain that there is no mind control in the therapeutic application of hypnosis. The general public’s perception of hypnosis tends to be based on stage hypnosis which has the hypnotist as the authoritarian figure manipulating ordinary people to do things they would normally avoid, and this has perpetuated the misconception of forced control in hypnosis. However, in a therapeutic setting, hypnosis is a collaborative experience where the practitioner assists the client to be still and focus inwardly so that constructive suggestions can be made to the client to facilitate real change1 .

The uncertainty about hypnosis and its clinical application in the West can be seen in the 18th century when a German physician named Franz Mesmer started using it to treat his patients and incorrectly assumed that it was ‘animal magnetism’ that flowed from the practitioner to the patient. The term to ‘mesmerise’ originated from this period. We now use the term, ‘hypnosis’, thanks to the English physician, James Braid who, along with other physicians elsewhere in the 19th century, demystified hypnosis as a psychological response to suggestions2 . The next major development occurred in the 20th century when an American psychiatrist, Milton Erickson, transformed the practice of hypnotherapy from an authoritarian approach to a permissive, indirect style that utilised clients’ inner resources3.

There are a few myths about hypnotherapy that I want to clear up along the way: firstly, you are in control of the process and you can’t be forced to relax or focus on anything if you don’t want to do so. Secondly, you cannot remain stuck in hypnosis because you are in control and can stop at any time, just as you can stop watching TV at any time although you can appear to be ‘glued’ to it. Thirdly, you are not asleep or unconscious but will be highly alert and focused inwardly4 . Clients’ responsiveness to hypnosis varies and this can depend on whether they are more imaginative or analytical; their ability to concentrate on the internal landscape; and their expectation of hypnosis; this is where I adapt my approach to facilitate the best outcome for each client5 .

Having said that, I would not recommend hypnosis for people with mental health issues, such as psychosis and certain personality disorders, as it could worsen their condition6 . I strongly recommend that they continue with the specialised expertise of their medical team or get a referral to a medical team if they don’t have one already. I also would not use hypnosis on a client unless they come to see me of their own volition after making up their own mind.

You might also notice that I use ‘hypnosis’ and ‘hypnotherapy’ interchangeably, because when used in therapy they have the same meaning, but for semantic purposes ‘hypnotherapy’ is the dedicated use of hypnosis in therapy, whereas ‘hypnosis’ would imply that it is used as a tool in therapy along with other methods7. I am also asked if there are variations in how hypnosis is applied. The most common method in the past was the traditional/authoritarian approach where the practitioner gave direct orders for clients to go into trance and change their behaviour. This approach is best used in self-hypnosis where there tends to be less resistance from the client, but is ineffective for the practitioner-client interaction.

There is another approach which uses standardised scripts with clients regardless of their issues and inherent resources. This cookie-cutter approach may be effective if the client’s issues are a direct match with the content of the script being used, but its efficacy is limited for all other cases. In contrast, the Ericksonian approach I practise uses indirect techniques, such as metaphors and stories to elicit the clients’ resources, with the hypnotherapist in the role of facilitator and guide and the client in complete control of what they choose to accept from the interaction8. This is by far the most effective form of hypnotherapy.

The use of hypnosis is increasingly becoming more common and is being applied in various ways as our understanding of the mind-body connection grows. It is used to complement traditional medical treatments to empower patients to control their mind, attitude and emotions to their medical condition. In the field of dentistry, hypnosis has been used to reduce anxiety in the patient and in pain management when the use of chemical anaesthesia is inappropriate, as it reduces blood flow in the area undergoing dental work. In the arena of sport, hypnosis is used to enhance the athletes’ physical performances and their mental preparation for successful outcomes9.

As mentioned, the type of hypnosis I use in my practice is the Ericksonian approach, because it is flexible and allows me to tailor the therapy so that I have an individual approach to each client. Of course, there are variables with each client which may affect the efficacy of hypnotherapy but in general, the results my clients get are a testimony to this life-changing form of therapy.

If you are at the stage where you’re sick and tired of your issues holding you back and are ready to move on once and for all, I look forward to hearing from you so that we can work together for your brighter future.




4 Essentials of Hypnosis, Second edition, 2015, Michael Yapko, pp 25-27 (hereafter referred to as ‘Yapko’)

5 Yapko, pp 44-53


7 Yapko, p10


9 Yapko, pp 11-14, 17

The meaning of ‘Aquila’

According to mythology, Aquila was the divine bird of Zeus and carried the god’s essential tools: his thunderbolts. As one story goes, with Aquila’s help equipping him with the right tools at the right time, Zeus was able to defeat Cronos to become master of the universe.

We can look at this mythology and see that each one of us is our own version of Zeus in our journey through life, which includes the epic battles we often go through to become the master of our own universe.

So that’s why I started Aquila Hypnotherapy: To empower you with the best tools at whatever stage of life you’re at, so that you can overcome whatever has been holding you back, so you can be your highest potential and do your highest potential.