Mental Health Professionals’ Network: Music

Mental Health Professionals’ Network, Coffs Harbour Collaborative Network Meeting
2hrs of PD 

Coordinator: Dr Tom Benjamin
Topic:  Expressive Therapies – Music

The flurry of press releases in 2017-18 give the impression that in the treatment of Depression everything ‘works’ – except, sadly, poor old placebo. If you believe the hype, everything now seems to beat placebo. Drugs, psychotherapy, exercize, art, bright lights, and music all vie for consideration. This session reviews one of the 20th Century’s key musical innovations – karaoke. In many therapeutic settings, the karaoke machine has become a common denominator. While few people can play musical instruments, and few of those can accompany a singer, the karaoke machine provides thousands of studio backing tracks at the push of a button.

The issues regarding the potential of karaoke are reviewed in this article: therapy

Submissions to MIT Solve: Brain Health and Youth, Skills, & The Workforce of the Future

I have submitted Solutions to the MIT Solve Challenges Brain Health and Youth, Skills, & The Workforce of the Future under the Team Name: Dr Tom

, based around the Instant Play method as described in  the paper aace TIME proceeding_37089

The system includes a 2016 Australian Innovation Patent

The system has been in operation since 2014 for the Relief Teachers Association at

Benjamin, T (2016a) Simulation and Games on a Shoestring, paper presented to the Australasian Simulation Congress. August. Melbourne.

Benjamin, T. (2016b). Music Learning System:  Innovation Patent granted #2016101313



Benjamin, T. (2013a). Gamification. OpenLearning. Sydney.

Benjamin, T. (2013b). Gamification. SydneyEduTech Startup Spring Festival. Sydney Education Technology Group. Fishburners. Ultimo. 19 September

Benjamin, T. (2013c). Research Report Webinar. D-G lunch series. October. NSW Department of Education & Communities. Sydney

Benjamin, T. (2012a). Demo Mystery Game: The Great American Ballad January 25.

Benjamin, T. (2012b) Psychology of Multimedia. Splendour in the Class: Celebrating the Hunter’s innovative teachers. July. 26/07/2012 ,

Benjamin, T. (2011) An ‘Instant Learn’ Music Education System. Music Technology in Education Conference. Soundhouse Alliance. April. Burwood.

Benjamin, T. (2011). The ‘Lost City’: Development of a National-Level On-Line Mystery Game Using Freeware and Low Budget Technology. In S. Barton, J. Hedberg & K. Suzuki (Eds.), Proceedings of Global Learn 2011 (pp. 1210-1216). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Benjamin, T. (2011). Development of an instant-learn online Music education system. Virtual Brief Paper.  Global TIME -Online Conference on Technology, Innovation, Media & Education,  February 22-24.

Benjamin, T. (2010).  egames: Is imagination the forgotten ingredient? Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 26, Issue 3, May. Pp 296-301

Benjamin, T. (2010). Applied Technology Challenge: The Lost City. Tournament of Minds, Inc.

Benjamin (2007). Games and Virtual Worlds: Custom Training Materials with Standard Desktop Tools. TAFE NSW Conference on Teaching and Learning Practice. Australian Technology Park, Redfern, Sydney, NSW

Reviews and Interviews

Malcher, C. (2014). Games in Schools, featuring Giles Pritchard and Tom Benjamin. Podcast posted by ‘Capitan Typo’. Teachers’ Education Review. TER #014. 13 January. Sydney.

Duggirala, P. (2011). 3 February.

Randell, E. (2015). An Adventure in Gamification. Linkedin.



Mental Health Professionals’ Network

Mental Health Professionals’ Network

Coffs Harbour Collaborative Network Meeting

Forum Series: Evidence-based Mental Health -

Topic: Naming the Elephant

 Guest Speaker: Dr Rosie Ross, MBBS (Hons) FRACGP

Mental Illness: is there more to this picture?

  • • SSRI’s and how they work
  • • SERT transporters and the Methylation cycle
  • • Biotypes of Depression
  • • Mood Disorders and Nutritional deficiencies

Dr Ross’s talk will be of great importance to anyone working in a clinic. The ‘elephant in the room’ is the medication that so many patients will have been prescribed in concert with other therapies. SSRI’s in particular are widely prescribed and covered in both academic and popular press.

Date:                           Thursday 23rd March 2017

Time:                          5:30 pm – 7:00pm

Venue:                       Venue:           Northside Health

14 Edgar Street, Coffs Harbour

Registrations required

Catering:                   Snacks provided,

RSVP:  Please register to ensure catering and a Certificate of Attendance

MHPN contacts: register direct with Project Officer Ingrid Benge .

General enquiries:

Network enquiries:

Ausmusic Month and National Psychology Week, International Games Day, November 2016

For Ausmusic Month 2016: 1-30 November and National Psychology Week, the second week in November, and International Games Day I’ve scheduled a number of events:

During National Psychology Week Australian Psychological Society members have been encouraged to offer events to the general public. This year’s theme is Compass for Life and it promotes the Center for Technology Transfer of the University of Pennsylvania PERMA – profiler (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment) measures of psychological wellbeing.

My first event in the series is

Event name Ways to thrive: Accomplishment
Start date 10/11/2016
Time 4PM -7PM
Attendance Public event
Event website
Venue name Seminar Training Room
Street address Seminar Hut #6
Suburb / town Coffs Harbour
Postcode 2450
State NSW
Event description “Being able to set and achieve goals and enjoy some mastery and control over our lives has shown to help us derive a sense of purpose from life” is a pillar of this year’s Psychology Week. This live event reviews the principles that can lead to accomplishment in new activities. The case examples for demonstration will include “games & simulations on a shoestring” as presented at the Australasian Simulation Congress (2016) outlining principles for custom simple game creation and a recently patented ‘world’s easiest’ music-learning system. The methods minimize complex software and computer expertise, making it possible for therapists, teachers and community group leaders to instantly gratify total beginners in rewarding participation. In addition to the demonstration the underpinning psychological principles and evidence will be reviewed.

The next event will be

Coffs Harbour City Libraries participation in International Games Day – at Coffs Harbour Library.

The project is an initiative of ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association in conjunction with the ALA (American Library Association)

“Our event is being held on Saturday 19th November. Of particular interest may be the presentation / demonstration at 12:00 noon.  Psychologist Dr Tom Benjamin will demonstrate the principles through which any task can be transformed into a game with applications for teachers, therapists, online educators and community groups. The event is a collection of FREE drop in sessions, suitable for ages 10+ as well as adults, and no bookings are required.”

Music Club

The Music Club has been launched in 2016. The goal is to enlist participants from around the globe to learn and rehearse basic through advanced multimedia skills to share resources via digital technology. Online courses and activities will be conducted through and To date I have had over 7500 international enrolments in earlier courses such as Gamification, Personal Branding, and a range of psychology topics.

I conservatively hope for many times that figure for music-based courses. There are literally millions of guitars and ukuleles sitting in closets around the world, unplayed for lack of a simple learning system. My system evolved over many decades working in hospitals and educational institutions. It is logically the easiest-possible ‘learn to play’ system as it starts with 1-finger and even no-finger chords. What makes it revolutionary is that it re-writes the music to fit the player. The music makes the simple chords ‘fit in’ so there is no fear of playing a sour note.

Locally we have launched live sessions in Coffs Harbour through the Arts Council. We meet four times a month in a scenic park by a creek right in the middle of the CBD.

Open Forum Series: Evidence-based Mental Health

I’ve taken on Coordination of the Coffs Harbour Collaborative Mental Health Professionals’ Network. The established Counselling Services Inc. and Coffs Branch of the Australian Psychological Society will merge some of their meetings to make it an open forum. I am also Vice-President of the Medical Consumers Association and will ensure that the consumer perspective is at the very least not mis-represented.

The overall topic will be Evidence-based Mental Health. Presentations will consist of speakers and audio-visual materials to stimulate and inform discussion.

This is an important topic from any perspective. Medicine itself is already regarded by some authorities as in itself among the leading direct causes of death in the Western World. The dramatic rise in classification of millions of persons into ‘mental illness’ categories starting in childhood, has a big impact on their future participation in the workforce:

As Dr Allen J Frances put it: “We have a medical system that couldn’t’ve been conceived more brilliantly by an enemy of the United States. Our medical industrial complex is a brilliant conception if you wanted to destroy our economy and it’s working exactly to do that.”

This Forum begins with these issues as a starting point and as Audio/Visual triggers for discussion, with templates and guidelines to evaluate the issues from the perspectives of the scientific method and its clinical, economic, sociological and historical variants.

The Forum will be held in the CBD Coffs Harbour. Current MHPN members will be contacted by email with venue details. Those wishing to register with MHPN can contact them at





How to Write a Romance Novel

Margaret and I are proud to accounce our collaboration on the first of our multimedia OpenLearning courses:

Course Description

Romance is one of the fastest-growing sectors of publishing, in both traditional books and e-versions. The biggest-selling book of all time, 50 Shades of Gray, is now among them. Regular readers worldwide consume these books like magazines so there is constant demand. Romance has expanded to mix with other genres such as crime, sci-fi, horror so that there is ample scope for creative writing.

This course provides a strategic approach to getting your romance novel published. As you do the activities you are building your marketing plan and learning how to write what the readers are seeking and, importantly, what the key publishers will be likely to accept.

Experience from judging writing contests, publishers’ guidelines and feedback, and readers’ reviews is synthesised for you so that you can save countless hours fine-tuning to increase the chances of your creative efforts being published.

Course Presenter

Margaret Penhall-Jones

Hi – As a romance writing contest judge I’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the misguided. I want to share with you what took me many years of study and writing. I can save you countless hours and disappointment by applying strategy. I’ve worked in the government, legal and private sectors, writing across the full range from government policy documents to short stories. I’ve seen how important it is to tailor your creative efforts to what your audience wants.  As a counsellor and psychotherapist I’ve seen the full spectrum of human drama so am familiar with the new directions romance writing is taking as it mixes with contemporary social concerns.

The course will launch in 2015 through Cost for this course will be $30Aus.

National Psychology Week Events

Neuropsychology for Forensic Psychologists

This free brief online self-study course is being hosted by OpenLearning for the NSW Branch of the APS Forensic College.

The international firm, Accredible, has offered its documentation services for those wishing to use the resource for self-study PD. Details are onsite.

The course will be expanded during 2015 and soundtracks for the full version are available at

Psychology in a Digital Age

A live talk is scheduled for National Psychology Week at the Deep Sea Fisherman’s Club in Coffs Harbour Jetty for Rotary. Those wishing to attend should contact the Club to add numbers for catering purposes.

One Sky May 2014

On the 9th of May 2014, people from across the globe will be  looking up and appreciating one of the things we all share: our sky. Astronomers from around the world will be setting up telescopes absolutely free for anybody who wants to look.


As part of this I’m here posting some classroom activities that can be used in daylight as prelude or follow up to the event. I refer also to my earlier podcasts and movies on the topic:

Benjamin, T. (2009b) The Best Views of the Universe are from our Backyards. Cloudy Nights.

Benjamin, T. (2010e) It’s what you can’t see that counts. Cloudy Nights.

Make a Star Map: Group or Class Exercize


Paper version:

  • sheets of paper – black and white;
  • coloured pencils, crayons, pens
  • toothbrush & toothpaste

Digital version:

  • Paint and draw programmes (MsPaint, Powerpoint or equivalent)


  1. Get photos of  constellations in the night sky from the Web or a book
  2. Read about them and each player select one constellation that has a variety of objects (for example Scorpio has a globular cluster and several open clusters)
  3. Draw on the white sheet the stars of the constellation then the clusters according to map symbols
  4. Exchange the map within pairs with each partner
  5. Partner reads the map,
  6. works out which constellation is depicted
  7. paint white spatter on black with toothbrush to show what it would look like in the night sky
  8. exchange spatter maps back to partner
  9. compare symbol map with spatter map
  10. compare maps with photo images and professionally-made maps of these constellations

Astronomy Quiz Item Pool

(starting from simplest to easiest – create your quiz from these)

Why does the Moon have phases?

Observe the Moon during daylight. Look at the angle of light & shadow. What does that tell you about the relative distance from Earth to the Moon and the Sun?

What is an eclipse?

What is the Zodiac?

What is the Ecliptic? (OK to cut & paste your answer)

What does the Zodiac/Ecliptic have to do with the night sky?

Refer to the following Zodiac Sun Sign Table

  •  Aries: March 21 – April 19
  • Taurus: April 20 – May 20
  • Gemini: May 21 – June 20
  • Cancer: June 21 – July 22
  • Leo: July 23 – August 22
  • Virgo: August 23 – September 22
  • Libra: September 23 – October 22
  • Scorpio: October 23 – November 21
  • Sagittarius: November 22 – December 21
  • Capricorn: December 22 – January 19
  • Aquarius: January 20 – February 18
  • Pisces: February 19 – March 20

Pick a particular day of the year.

What Zodiac ‘star sign’ corresponds to that date?.

On that date chosen would you be able to see that Zodiac sign?

What does all this actually mean in astronomical terms? –ie- what does it tell you about the positions of the Earth, Sun etc  on that date.?

How might remembering your personal birthday ‘star sign’ help you find astronomical objects in the sky?

How would a pair of objects in the evening sky  help you locate the Zodiac/Ecliptic?

What are some possible pairs of objects in the evening sky that would help you locate the Zodiac/Ecliptic?

Why is the Zodiac/Ecliptic a curved rather than straight line in the sky?

From the information in the Zodiac table derive the following:

A Zodiac constellation appearing centre sky around 9PM on May 30?

A Zodiac constellation appearing centre sky around 9PM on October 30?

How can you tell whether a bright object is a star or a planet?

Describe what each of these looks like in the night sky:

  •  Mercury
  • Venus
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn

The next set of questions was not answered by humans until the 20th Century

What is the Milky Way?

The Milky Way is easy to spot on a clear moonless night in the country but how might you recognise it from a lit up area in a city or suburb?

Besides the Milky Way what other neighbour objects in the Local Group can be seen from Earth with the eye or binoculars?

“We on Earth have some of the best views of the Universe” – discuss in terms of the following:

  • How would moving closer to the centre of the Milky Way affect our view?
  • What are some types of spectacular objects within the Milky Way?
  • How would moving closer to spectacular objects within the Milky Way affect our view?
  • How would moving to intergalactic space Milky Way affect our view?

What is meant by the term ‘deep sky objects’?

Besides stars and planets what sorts of astronomical objects might be seen with a pair of binoculars?

What is meant by the term ‘richest field telescope’ (RFT)?

What advantage might a RFT have over a ‘high-powered’ telescope?

What advantage might a ‘high-powered’ telescope have over a RFT?

What are some typical specifications of a richest field telescope?

What are some typical specifications of a high-power telescope?

What is a dobsonian?

What is meant by the term ‘exit pupil’?

What is a planisphere (commonly called ‘star wheel’)?

What is a torquetum?

What is an equatorial mount?

What is an altazimuth mount?

What is Right Ascension? Is it associated with longitude or latitude?

What is Declination? Is it associated with longitude or latitude?

What is a ‘deep sky object’?

What is an open cluster?

What is a globular cluster?

What is a nebula?

What is a dark lane?

Why is the view from a dark sky site in the country likely to be among the best possible in the entire Universe?



Free online Forensic Psychology Course

The course was launched as a live event in Sydney for National Psychology Week.

The international online course will launch on 3rd February 2014. For details see

It is also listed with the Australian Psychological Society

This is a general information course that follows on from my earlier courses on Gamification and Neuropsychotherapy. The Neuropsychotherapy course covers multimedia and is intended for teachers and therapists.  The Forensic course covers scientific method as applied to psychology in the forensic settings. It is a forum rather than a skills course.

The case material was obtained with permission from media sources and from persons who had taken their stories to the public domain. Warning – this is not suitable material for young children. These are genuine cases, widely described as ‘horror’ cases in the mental health sector.

As Vice-President of the Medical Consumers Association in Sydney and as a former government researcher into the mental health sector I became familiar with these public cases. The course target audience is professionals such as psychologists, lawyers, and insurance officers who deal with these issues as well as members of the general public who bear the consequences. It can also be relevant to science teachers as it addresses fundamental questions about scientific method.

The video modules of the course are live on YouTube. The full course is being finalised on OpenLearning. The course is free.

There is no certification for a course such as this as most nations and states have statutory regulation of professional accreditation. However, the course can be treated as any other textbook or video source. If instructors wish to use the materials in their courses it is fine with me as they bear all responsibility for accreditation. Any reproduction of the material would be subject to their local copyright laws.  Individuals wishing to cite open online courses of any kind on their CV should exercize caution as it is ‘self-study’.