Interview with: Dr Amber Johnston, Founder of Healthy Mind Psychology


Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.

Hi there!  

My name is Dr Amber Johnston, and I am a psychologist on a mission to re-write some of the old medical narrative to instead prioritise holistic health and well-being! I am a practising clinician (with a heavy active caseload!) specialising in Clinical, Health, Pain Management, and Neuropsychology. I work with those suffering from a wide array of challenges, including those with mild stress looking to explore themselves and build healthier emotional tools, to those with more significant clinical diagnoses needing more formal specialised treatment with greater severity of symptoms.  I additionally work with individuals who do not meet clear psychological or medical diagnosis, those requiring cognitive assessment or emotional support following a neurological injury or stroke, those with complex chronic medical conditions and those with medically unexplained symptoms/FND, including health anxiety.

Psychology is one of the few fields that impacts every single individual and therefore is completely relevant to everyone.  I am passionate about enhancing the general public’s knowledge of psychological principles and the roles of both the brain and mind on overall wellbeing.  My messages aim to provide greater understanding of the components of psychology not often talked about, or to break the stigma around individuals who seek guidance to support their mental wellbeing.  I find it particularly important to share the research on how the neurophysiology of our brain means that our thoughts and emotions have a significant impact across our physical body, and that this is a two-way street.

What is your business name and how do you help your clients?

Healthy Mind Psychology was founded in 2019 and aims to be a trusted, safe home for support and information regarding the holistic wellbeing of our clients and colleagues. We are a practice of over 12 doctoral-level Psychologists and a team of associated partners who are professionals in other fields that are relevant to emotional and physical wellbeing. We focus on offering high-quality education and emotional skill-development to both normalise and empower all people struggling in a world filled with stress and challenge. The Psychologists support clients through online or face-to-face therapy in four main areas of clinical specialty: Clinical Psychology, Neuropsychology, Pain Management, and Health Psychology.  Moving beyond traditional medical models, the Psychologists aim to help people understand the often-misunderstood links between emotion state, thought content, previous experiences and physical body responses.  This helps clients make sense and take control of their emotional functioning, as well as any physical conditions and medical symptoms (including those without formal diagnoses) that may be impacted.  But we do not work in silo. By linking Psychologists and other practitioners in healthcare or the well-being sector, we can help curate personalised approaches for full mind-body programs towards greater wellbeing!  

What are your current goals for your business?

The mission of Healthy Mind Psychology is to offer the highest standard of Psychological therapy and treatment while offering a safe and connected space accessible anywhere throughout the country. The mission goes further, though, to highlight modern understandings within the scientific literature of a newer model of healthcare highlighting the psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology (PNI) system. 

This model, though a mouthful, recognises the role of the entire body system in wellbeing; and that each piece of this system is connected to all others (where traditional medical models prefer to isolate the systems or treat diseases in isolation). The PNI theory explains how our thoughts/emotions, the neurophysiology of the brain connections with the body, the immune system functioning, and the hormone system all are constantly communicating and interacting with each other in a dance where influence in one area impacts all of the others.  Our Psychologists work with clients to pull apart the understanding of the psychological contributions to the neurophysiological systems (especially the role of the Stress Response), and how that influences all systems further creating a host of symptoms/dysfunction including mood, energy levels, pain, sleep, weight, and even disease processes!  

With new understanding of these complex processes, work can then begin to offer strategies or support developing a personalised understanding of how to optimise these functions or interrupt negative feedback cycles. And this is where many traditional therapy techniques can be inserted, everything from CBT therapies to trauma-informed treatment, to relational work or therapies addressing deeper defences or attachment issues from childhood influencing current adult functioning. Our aim is to be partners with our clients to make our clients the experts of their own wellbeing.  By providing a safe environment for both sharing and learning, we encourage our clients on a journey of discovering and optimising their own interactions between their mental and physical.  The client then can feel empowered to make optimal lifestyle changes or choices that focuses on value-driven existences with greater wellbeing.

Tell us about your greatest career achievement so far.

This service has been a particularly fast-growing practice within the last 12 months and is now on the road to engaging a greater audience to pass on information and awareness of our mission. We have grown from a team of 4 to 12 doctoral-level psychologists this year and have formed a network of other professionals to link with so that clients have access to trusted colleagues in many disciplines of support with which they can explore.  We have now just entered social media to further the cause, which is a daunting but exciting prospect for a lady with a tech-phobia! We are also always looking for more partnerships, connection is the name of our game. If our mission and the ideas reviewed here align with your interests or values, get in touch!  We are available to work with you as a therapist, a mentor, a colleague, or a partner, and we always look forward to making another valuable connection.

If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?

We are aiming to increase awareness of the basic tenets of our philosophy in the upcoming year. We want people to understand that the stress response is real and impacts everyone, the traditional medical model of disease is changing, and that psychology tools for emotion regulation should have been taught to everyone in school (yet never were)! These messages will hopefully turn the tide to help people feel validated in their struggles to gain support within healthcare but also to not shy away from the value of engaging in Psychological therapy – to maximise emotional functioning without fear of negative labels, as it will have impact across all of the body and lifespan also!

To overcome the challenges of outdated medical narrative and public scepticism, we aim to push our communications across six specific messages:

1.     The current medical narrative- why it’s outdated at best, harmful at worst!

2.     The physiology of thoughts and emotions- the physically measurable response of the body to intangible thoughts and feelings (and how to make sense of this mind/body nexus)

3.     The stress response- how our subconscious protective system both saves us and derails us, and the consequences of a system gone awry

4.     Psychology for everybody- why there is no hierarchy of deserving access to information and tools from a science everyone should benefit from

5.     Finding well-being in a world with warts- accepting what we have, warts and all, is a secret to getting more of what we want, and clarity of what we have the ability to change

6.     The shape of our past- our past experiences give us the lenses with which we view our current world, which is why we often need to go back to move forward

We will be focusing on expanding upon these six themes over the course of the next year across our website and social media platforms.  

Watch this space!

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