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 Can You Relate?

As one person struggles with recovery from severe childhood abuse (multiple kinds), she writes here about her view of alcohol throughout her journey. In the absence of effective coping strategies or when the stress becomes overwhelming, we tend to turn toward less healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. These can unfortunately offer temporary relief which itself become desired, yet, over the long run, poorer coping choices contribute to worsening thoughts, feelings and of course behaviours.

Check out the following list of pros and cons for alcohol use and you can determine if any of these may apply in your way of thinking…

PROS

  • I feel like I am close to being human
  • I’m not scared of noises I can’t identify
  • I’m not paranoid of people
  • I laugh and I can feel happy
  • I can walk in public around other people and feel like I almost blend in
  • I can express my feelings better or at least some
  • I can’t feel my constant anxiety, worry and stress
  • Flashbacks don’t stress me out as much
  • I eat…because I need to….
  • I dance, sing, swim, listen to music, roller blade , bike ride, play with the kids, jog because it’s fun
  • It tastes so good and feels warm inside my body
  • I don’t focus on anything bad… I just enjoy floating around with no inside pain
  • It feels familiar and comforting
  • I don’t feel so alone and hopeless

CONS

  • That makes me an alcoholic = not a nice label
  •  My liver probably hates it
  •  My moods, emotions, memories, identity can change quickly
  •  I have less control over who is in charge… if any….
  •  Past experiences have led to many undesirable consequences, eg. abuse, jail, loss of a child, suicide  attempts, car accidents, homelessness, etc.
  •  Shows a bad example to my children so it must be hidden and it makes me a liar
  •  I can’t afford it
  •  Sometimes it makes me not human
  •  Sometimes it makes me forget my body belongs to me and I don’t care about it
  •  I can be too impulsive
  •  I can find myself places I don’t want to be
  •  I forget who I am or where I am and where I belong..

Using alcohol comes with risk. Why do I sometimes feel like it’s worth it? It’s not. I know that. It’s just so nice to have a break from my dysfunctional exhausting brain.

 


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We may fear heights (acrophobia), close spaces (claustrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), or even public places (agoraphobia). But how do these fears develop? Psychotherapists may believe that presenting phobias act as a defensive mechanism against a more underlying area of anxiety, which is fueled by unconscious, repressed impulses. Behaviourists usually discard the content of phobias and instead focus on what role or how the phobia functions in the person’s life. Cognitive theorists will look into how people’s thoughts can heighten, lower, maintain and reduce their fear.

phobia – noun    (Mirriam-Webster’s Concise Encyclopedia Definition)

“Extreme and irrational fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder (a neurosis), since anxiety is its chief symptom. Phobias are generally believed to result when fear produced by an original threatening situation (such as a near-drowning in childhood) is transferred to other similar situations (such as encounters with bodies of water), the original fear often being repressed or forgotten. Behaviour therapy can be helpful in overcoming phobias, the phobic person being gradually exposed to the anxiety-provoking object or situation in a way that demonstrates that no threat really exists.”

There is also evidence that suggests genetic factors that may predispose some to phobias rather than others. Sixty-four percent of patients with a phobia have at least one first-degree relative with the same fear (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002, pg. 167). Some may argue it is possible to learn or “adopt” a fear or phobia from a close relative as a function of repeated, chronic exposure to the behaviour.

Regardless of the specific fear an individual has, its symptoms can have a significant impairment on the person’s life and day to day functioning can be severely limited. Because the onset of phobias (especially social phobias), is usually during adolescence, when untreated, there is a likelihood of dropping out of school and experiencing a decreased quality of life.

“A parent who consulted us for treatment for her son, who had gradually decreased school attendance, was somewhat unaware of her own heightened social fear that restricted her behaviours to home and work for years. The son’s own anxiety was further exacerbated by the onset of puberty, transition to highschool and the development of compensatory behaviours such as excessive computer and video gaming activities. Eventually, school staff negotiated a reduced class schedule which, inadvertently, affirmed the problem. Through the assessment process using both the cognitive behavioural and systems lenses, changes in thoughts and behaviours helped this student to gradually improve school attendance and social involvement. His mother also became more socially involved throughout the therapeutic process.”

There are many approaches involved in reducing phobias, so it is important to create a treatment plan (which may include a combination of different therapies) that can serve you best:

  • Systems theory helps identify multiple factors contributing to a problem and quite accurately informs change options and solutions
  • Psychotherapeutic treatments (such as free association) attempt to uncover repressed conflicts that are assumed to be the underlying explanations for extreme fear and avoidance.
  • Systemic desensitization (exposure to specific fears while increasing the state of improved relaxation) has shown to eliminate or at least reduce phobias.
  • Depending on the severity of anxiety developed from phobias, some medications may be prescribed for fear-induced symptoms (e.g., sedatives, tranquilizers, or barbiturates).
  •  Cognitive techniques paired with social skills training (safe exposure to phobia-induced environments) can lessen people’s reaction to their phobias as well as enhance people’s sense of self-worth.

You may find it becomes necessary to seek professional help to gain a thorough understanding of a specific phobia or area of anxiety and how it impacts your life. For professional and confidential help contact us today!


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Social Connections Reduce Stress


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Stress is an inevitable occurrence in our lives. Sometimes we can manage easily. We may remain focused with our daily tasks, take a couple extra work breaks, exercise, joke around or eat a few more snacks to help us through the day.

However stress can also be, at times, too overwhelming to push aside with our usual coping strategies. We may have so many stressors we may not see a way out or can’t find enough outlets so our stress levels can subside. We may feel like the walls of stress we are surrounded by are narrowing in on us.

Then we get a phone call from a friend who would love to spend some time together. We may, at first, want to respond; “No, now is not a good time.”, however, what better time than to escape this reality for an hour or two? So we agree to meet up with our friend, and after five minutes of small talk, we take in a breath of relief.

When we push aside relationships because we are “too stressed out,” we may feel more stress and even a little anxious. Thoughts of being unsupported can fuel feelings of loneliness and isolation leading to even less motivation to seek friendships.  Limited social support has been associated with depression and cognitive decline (Harvard Women’s Health Watch).

Social relationships:

  • Provide support, encouragement, empathy, and humour
  • Encourage our physical health. “Social connections help relieve harm to the heart’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system (Harvard Health Publications).
  • Help us feel a sense of belonging, that we can relate and share similar life stressors (work, school, family, spouses, and/or children).
  • Build opportunities to engage in the same activities of interests (sport, music, artistic, etc.)
  • Provide stress-relief, financial aid at times and helpful advice

Professional counselling can assist you to better manage stress and develop improved interpersonal skills.  We can also help strengthen existing social skills and strengths helping you overcome challenges with friends and build up satisfying social connections. Contact us today.


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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!

 


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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.

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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.

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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;

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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.

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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.


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What’s Wrong With Me?

“Mrs. A. was a 43-year old woman who was living with her mother and son and worked at a clerical job. She had felt depersonalized as far back as she could remember. ‘It’s as if the real me is taken out and put on a shelf or stored somewhere inside me. Whatever makes me me is not there. It is like an opaque curtain…like going through the motions and having to exert discipline to keep the unit together.’ She had suffered several episodes of depersonalization annually and found them extremely distressing. She had experienced panic attacks for one year when she was 35 and had been diagnosed with self-defeating personality disorder. Her childhood trauma history included nightly genital fondling and frequent enemas by her mother from earliest memory to age 10.” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002, pg. 220).

Usually a childhood trauma may contribute to the onset of a depersonalization disorder. The person’s perception of self is altered, making it difficult to experience situations in life normally. Increase in stress can trigger a depersonalization episode.

Symptoms of a depersonalization episode include (but are not limited to):

  • Sudden loss of self
  • Feeling of having an outer body experience (sometimes called “dissociation”)
  • Unusual sensory experiences
  • Feel “mechanical;” as though they have lost sense of reality
  • Common thoughts such as: “My body is not in harmony with my being,” or “My body does not feel like it belongs.”

The difficulties of depersonalization is that it creates:

  • Worries about feeling isolated and detached from others (imagine the trouble of relating to the people that love and care about you?!)
  • Vulnerability and embarrassment in social situations. This disorder usually begins in adolescence.

Depersonalization episodes usually occur in several other disorders such as schizophrenia, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Treatment will often be complex, involving a treatment plan that addresses multiple disorders and symptoms drawing upon a variety of therapeutic approaches.

Treatment of depersonalization disorder is sought out when episodes are reoccurring and disrupting quality of life. Individuals will establish goals to alleviate symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, as well as ways in which the person’s family can understand the nature of the individual’s disorder. Ways in which the family can support one another are also developed and strategies to implement and evaluate the plan are agreed upon.

To create a treatment plan specific to your needs, call us today.

Job Fair

How can I pursue my dreams if I’m stuck doing this job instead?

“Do you dread running into acquaintances from your past, like I do, because of the questions they may ask about your life successes? You know they are really looking to dive into your failures, right?  At family gatherings, relatives may inquire if you’ve put any your academic credentials to any good use, in hopes you are doing something ‘worthwhile’; asking “Have you found a job in your field yet?”

The ugly truth is that life has been difficult. We have credentials that make us qualified. We have personalities to blow our future employers away. However the calls aren’t coming in and interviews aren’t taking place. The phrase “looking for a job is like having a full time job” just doesn’t cut it for us. Sometimes we have to put those “dream career aspirations” on hold because we have other responsibilities to take care of: family, bills, mortgage/rent payments, and OSAP/line of credit loans to name a few. As much as we are thankful to be able to meet our basic needs at the temporary job, we are not happy, and it is difficult to view our dream career as remotely within our reach.

So what do we do?

The first thing is to shift our thoughts in order to believe in our full potential pushing away from thoughts like; “I’m not good enough!”, ” I can’t do this”, I’ll never get there or amount to anything”… Sound familiar? Where did these negative sayings come from?  How did it get into our minds? At what point was it whispered or even yelled at us (by strangers, our peers, from media or even by members of our family)?

Counselling helps us discover thoughts and thinking patterns (schemata) that have contributed to feelings of low self-worth, incompetence and insecurity. Further, professional counsellors can assist with developing an understanding about the events and life situations that may have contributed to negative self perceptions. Of course, discovering how we got into a particular problem can both help us avoid it in the future and help us find solutions to get “unstuck”.

Gaining insight into ourselves helps develop more positive and affirming attitudes that fuel increased energy and productivity. When we adopt new, more optimistic thought patterns, self-worth and confidence rise, positive emotional states emerge and then behaviours change positively as well. These proactive behaviour changes are necessary to keep our dreams alive and to takes the steps required to achieve them.

Get started today? Call our registered, confidential counsellors to book your appointment!