Welcome Our Newest Associate-Intern2014-03-07 15.30.55

Jeff Packer MSW & Associates is pleased to welcome Dan Blomme to our counselling practice. Studies in counselling psychology, at OISE with the Universtiy of Toronto, along with specialized studies in addictions have prepared him well. Additionally, Dan brings a wealth of experience gained at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

Dan has significant expertise assisting individuals with substance abuse/misuse issues, addictive behaviours as well as people suffering from depression and anxiety. Adding to his years with CAMH, providing residential and outpatient counselling services, Dan is a professor with Durham College, in the School of Health and Community Services. His specialty teaching areas include addictions, mental health and social service work. Dan’s professional practice is strengthened by the latest research and practice applications available to help people overcome challenges and improve their quality of life.

Dan has openings a couple evenings a week for those individuals who would like a professional assessment and counselling interventions aimed to help get “unstuck” from negative thinking, emotions and behaviours.  Book an appointment with Dan today!


Photo credit: Pwin from morguefile.com

Narrative Approaches Help Conquer Disordered Eating

The approaches found most effective to recover from eating disorders and “disordered eating” behaviours include (but are not limited to) cognitive-behavioural, narrative, family systems and developmental theories. These knowledge bases help those struggling with body image issues and eating disorders to work alongside mental health therapists, dietitians and doctors to improve health outcomes. Today’s blog post provides a sample of the approach in one homework assignment completed by a teen girl. She was asked to first write from her perspective and then, second, re-write the story from the perspective of a five year old.


1-      “Stinkin Thinkin”

Once there was a girl named Rae. She went into the front doors of the school and walked up the stairs alone. When she got to the hallway of her locker, she stared down it and looked behind her. ALONE, she thought. She turned the combination key until it was open, and began organizing her locker and getting the books that she needed.

People started filling into the halls, some would say hi but they would still leave. They don’t really want to be with me anyways, she thought. The halls were now crowded and she just wandered until the bell rang, When it did, she walked into class and sat down. She acted happy and engaged in conversation; meanwhile she was feeling like complete crap.

At lunch time she debated on eating. DON’T EAT, you’ll lose weight, she thought. But she was hungry, so she ate anyways. Don’t eat when you get home, she thought. But she did, and became into a binging session, which lead to purging. PurgepurgepurgepurgepurgepurgepurgePURGE. The voice inside her head was loud enough to make her listen. She didn’t eat for the rest of the night.

After her shower, she regretted glancing in the mirror because now she was sad and angry. She grabbed the fat on her stomach and began to cry. I hate my body, she thought. She looked away, put some pj’s on and cried herself to sleep. I can’t wait until the day that I can love myself, she thought.


You can see here a small sample of how pervasive the thoughts can become underlying disordered eating patterns. Of course, the feelings of disgust, loneliness, anger, confusion, worry, anxiety, sadness and isolation will drive and increase the negative behaviours of over exercise, laxative use, food restriction, binging and purging. With these thoughts, feelings and behaviours the person’s story about themselves, their bodies and their options  for recovery, worsens.

When taking a narrative approach, combined with cognitive-behavioural strategies to change, people suffering are asked to consider the perspective from a five year old’s vantage point. In order to contemplate change and re-writing of the negative story, clients are to ask themselves; What would a five year old me say about eating, body, exercise, food etc.? The following is the second part of the teen girl’s homework; narrative “re-writing” of disordered eating from the five year old’s view;


2-      “Five year old”

Once there was a girl named Rae. She went into the front doors of the school and walked up the stairs alone. When she got to the school, she looked around her and thought, people will be here soon, I’m just early. She played and waited for people to arrive.

People started arriving, some would say hi but they kept walking past her. They’re just busy, she thought. The halls were now crowded and she just wandered until the bell rang. When it did, she walked to class and sat down. She acted happy and engaged herself in conversation, meanwhile she was feeling pretty badly.

At lunch, she debated on eating, if you’re hungry eat, she thought. So she did. You can always have a snack when you get home too, she thought. She felt guilty for eating and was contemplating purging. Ew don’t do that, that’s gross, she thought, so she didn’t.

After her shower, she looked in the mirror and felt confused about her body. Every body is different and unique, she thought. She looked away, found some pj’s and went to sleep.


Thanks to this courageous teen author for sharing her narrative homework above in her efforts toward a healthier and happier future.

For experienced, professional guidance in this area, book your appointment today.

Photo credit: jdurham from morguefile.com

Below is a well written testimony from one courageous person who decided to experiment with change, health and personal growth.

         What C.P.R. Means To Me

It has been almost a month since I quit smoking marijuana! I had been a daily user for about twelve years, with the occasional attempt to quit; the longest quitting period being about one year in 2005. I had attempted to quit a couple times in the last three years, but always relapsed after a couple of weeks. So, this time I decided to seek help.

Previous quitting attempts always consisted of going cold turkey and using willpower.  I could stick to it for a few weeks, but then would have a smoke with a friend and return to using every day. In 2005, I told myself that I could not have any weed in the house and would still allow myself to smoke socially if someone had it. This worked for almost a year until I had a stressful situation occur, and went back to smoking every day. Therefore, this time I wanted to quit and stay a non-smoker, but how?

I considered going to rehab, but did not want to leave my surroundings. So I googled “how to quit marijuana” and found a self-help program. It was an online program for $50 that included a manual, videos, audio sessions and a detox book. After previewing the material, I decided to go for it.  After I bought the program and began my reading, I was still smoking but that was okay.  The program talked about setting a quit date when I was ready. I watched the videos and listened to the audio sessions for about two weeks before I set my quit date.

Through the program, I discovered that willpower would not be enough to sustain a smoke free life.  I would need to re-focus my thoughts and the direction I wanted my life to go in.  This was very scary at first. But the more I read the manual and listened to the videos, the less scary it seemed.  I began to realize that all the benefits that I thought the weed was giving me were actually the opposite. That’s what the weed does to your mind. It made me think that I needed it for so many things in life. I thought it gave me more energy, made me a more creative person, made me better at sports, made me funnier, made sex better, made food taste better, reduced stress and anxiety and helped with depression.

So I thought, give it up and see what happens.  Will I feel better or worse? I made a quitting contract with myself that included a quit date and the reasons I want to quit. The program prepared me for the withdrawal period, which was toughest the first week and ended around the second week. Wow, I could really feel the difference without the weed. I had gotten so used to feeling good that it’s hard to remember how bad I was feeling on the weed.

I can tell you this though, my energy is way, way higher than ever before. I feel present, in the moment and just happier than I have in a long time. I dream again, and can remember most dreams, and they are very vivid. I have been keeping a dream journal as the program has instructed. Your dreams are a way for your subconscious to give you direction in life and writing them down as soon as you wake will give you the ability to figure out what they represent.

Two days after quitting, I dreamt that I was giving a friend C.P.R. but I did not recognize this friend. I went to my therapist a few days later and was discussing the dream as I was having trouble deciphering the meaning.  He suggested that maybe I was giving C.P.R. to myself; that in a way, I was saving myself from my addiction. He asked me to use C.P.R. as an acronym for quitting weed. I thought about this for a short while and decided it means Clear, Present and Responsive. Since quitting weed, this is how I am focusing on living my life, and that is what C.P.R. now means to me.

Photo credit: ardelfin from morguefile.com

Many families will come to counselling as a sign of support to help a loved one through a difficult time (e.g. addiction, cooperative parenting, disordered eating, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.). Sometimes families will provide financial support for a treatment program while others may attend sessions to improve overall teamwork. Still, other family members will change habits in the household to reduce the chance of addictive behaviours reoccurring.

How much family support is too much or not enough? This question is difficult to answer. As parents, we want to help our children (even if they are adults) to the best of our ability. However, sometimes this means we may be doing too much for them. Doing too much can often prevent individual growth and development. Parents may also want to take responsibility for the child/adult’s behaviour.

This is where family therapy helps, drawing upon family systems research and practice. It helps families clarify when to take responsibility or ownership and when not to, how to set clear boundaries and opportunities for change. Families can also establish new roles and expectations along with accountability measures for noncompliance and strategies for encouraging and increasing the behaviours desired.

Insufficient family support can be very debilitating for a person with mental health concerns and, thus, for the family as a whole. Strained and inconsistent communication is very common when there have been hurt feelings and years of promises broken.  As the support of loved ones grows thin, the person with mental health concerns can become even more distant and make even more harmful decisions. Balancing relationships within the family and keeping supportive connections while in treatment is a very important topic to discuss with a professional counsellor.

There are many ways in which a family can support one another through the difficult times. Start with this LISTEN acronym:

L: Learn to hear each other out more, increasing understanding and Love for one another.

I:  Inspire one another by having Integrity with your word and authenticity in your actions.

S: Solution-oriented state of mind helps focus on positive steps forward, finding solutions.

T: Treat others with respect, Teach caringly, Talk calmly and with Teamwork language.

E: Establish family goals together, Empower action and Encourage achievement.

N: Never give up on each other.

Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com

“My brother stays home Sunday to Wednesday, and parties the remaining days of the week. Sounds like fun, right? Sometimes he’s attending multiple parties per night. He stumbles into the house. On occasions, I find him passed out in the car in our driveway. He came to me once, the morning after a night out, shaking his head saying, ‘My tolerance has gone waaay down.’ ‘Really, bro? How much did you drink last night?’ Six shots, four beers, and five cocktails later, he doesn’t come to the realization that that amount is not normal drinking behavior. ‘Face it brother, you’re a binge drinker!’”

Like this person’s brother, many of us may justify the alcohol intake because it evens out the days that we don’t drink. Nonetheless, binge drinking is a serious problem and has become a socially obsessed phenomenon. The death toll in the UK has been rising due to a growing culture of self-filming binge-drinking activities (Misstear, 2014, walesonline.co.uk). Several deaths have been linked to drinkers binging on large quantities of alcohol while filming themselves and daring others to do the same. This social media game “encourages people to accept dares from friends to drink alcohol before nominating someone else to follow suit,” (Misstear, 2014). The term peer pressure has now gone to new heights via social media. As well, a strong culture of alcohol over-use has developed. People may now feel a huge sense of urgency to play out these activities because their name has gone viral or perhaps they would like it to. The repercussions of not abiding to the dare are unknown.

According to Statistics Canada:

  • Males were about 2.5 times more likely than females to report having engaged in heavy drinking (5 or more drinks on one occasion).

  • Including both sexes, people aged 18 to 34 were more likely to engage in heavy drinking.

Dealing with the pressure from friends, family, and social media can cause stress and difficulty to cope. The risks and costs involved with heavy drinking may seem obvious, yet rarely appear to deter habitual substance misuse. Financial, interpersonal, social, cognitive and physical impact my develop quite slowly, over time, initially being denied as “not a big deal”. At first this is probably true, however, as the body requires more and more alcohol, and becomes addicted, the costs rise. Social connections begin to decline, bills pile up, family becomes increasingly concerned and the person’s ability to change themselves deteriorates. Defensiveness toward those who request change is common. Resources with local hospitals, Alcoholics Anonymous groups and addictions counselors are essential components, along with family, to support recovery. Our professional counsellors in Durham Region are trained to assist family and loved ones find and utilize effective resources to support the person struggling with binge-drinking and other types of substance misuse. In addition, the person can discover ways to effectively change and regain control and efficacy in their lives. To have an objective assessment of current substance misuse levels and to determine next steps toward health Call us today .

Addiction Recovery: Hope May Be A Bit Blurry At First

Entering an inpatient addiction recovery program can be seen as the most difficult step and a very challenging experience in the life of those struggling with addictive behaviour. The full exposure of the person’s history is to be revealed and, depending on the specific program, exposure can be up to fifteen hours daily (most programs average 20 to 45 days). One requires an acknowledgment of and a “breaking down” of the old negative patterns in order to make room for new strengths and healthier behaviours.

Once deconstruction of the old ways occurs, the person recovering now has room to develop a new perspective, receive new tools for coping and to develop realistic and achievable goals. As the more positive outlook develops and an optimistic narrative unfolds, people in rehabilitation can begin the process of rebuilding relationship patterns with loved ones. Life changes need to be made, both during and after recovery, with the person in treatment co-writing the “how to” and positive choices ahead.

Following the short-term treatment program, however, it is a whole new ball game. While residential rehab may be quite intense, “aftercare” can prove to be even more taxing than the relatively brief inpatient process. One explanation is the significant decrease in support outside of the treatment facility. Twenty-four hour support is not possible like it was in recovery. In times of need and temptation, it is easier to feel alone and uncertain. It is very important to put an aftercare support system in place, prior to exiting, with many programs encouraging this to be developed from the very day of admission.

Here are some tips that can help people successfully transition back into the community:

  • Get a sponsor / accountability person
  • Seek a professional, experienced addictions counsellor.
  • Reach out to support groups (AA or SA have meetings every day of the week).
  • Take care of yourself and attend to your feelings and practical needs (food, sleep, work etc.)
  • Rediscover your inner child. You’ll be surprised by the peace and joy that can be experienced by simple, basic playful activities.
  • Work on your relationships.
  • Include  one or two loved ones in your recovery process
  • Have personal conversations about your addiction (e.g. mutually share each other’s thoughts, feelings, the impact of your addiction and hopes and goals)

Life after recovery programs can be quite challenging; Prepare for it in advance. Seek out and rely on the resources available to bolster the effectiveness of your success. Call us today so we can help you with this life transition.

How Can I Change?

“It has been one week with zero communication with my partner who has a sex addiction. It may seem like not a lot of time; however, when you have spent the last three years (every day) speaking with or seeing him, then you come to realize that these seven days can feel like a lifetime.

I’ve looked at my phone to see if there are any messages and I’ve “creeped” him on instagram to see what he has been up to; but I am now realizing that only one person called me today. So I start to look back on my life (or at the past 3 years) and wonder what I have done and whom I have neglected.

I’ve become aware that there are a number of people I’ve neglected in the past three years…myself included. Reading through google searches of how to help my sex addicted partner, I found the word codependency come up quite frequently.

I then read a little further and have identified that I am able to relate to almost all common characteristics of being a codependent.

So although I am sad about not having any contact with my addicted partner, I am realizing that it is time to work on myself. Perhaps that is the best way to help my partner….starting with me first.”

Some of the common characteristics of codependency, that others may also relate to are:

  • Spending a great deal of time focusing on the person with addiction and neglecting yourself and others.
  • Sacrificing self with the unrealistic expectation that it will foster loyalty.
  • Becoming someone you don’t like (e.g. angry, hopeless, helpless, untrusting, drained)
  • Giving the person struggling with addiction the unearned benefit of the doubt over and over again.
  • Enabling by seemingly turning a blind eye, compromising yourself, and trying to control or “parent” the person

To learn more about overcoming codependency and addictive behaviours, call us today .