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Some of us will say “Absolutely!” Some of us will say “Not for me!” And others may be too confused to decide. The reality is that sex plays a significant role in love relationships. While it promises so much joy and satisfaction, it can also be the deciding factor that destroys very loving relationships.

When we first choose to be in a romance or “fall into” a loving relationship, most of us are so infatuated with our partners. The sex drive is amazing… even through the roof (thanks dopamine). We can barely take our hands off each other. It’s exciting, engaging, enchanting and we just seem to connect on a level that we assume will last forever. So often we dive into a romance head first (Or is it “heart first”?) and the commitment to be together opens up new expectations and responsibilities, many unforeseen and under-discussed… “love is blind”.

Well not really yet it can certainly feel that way.  Diving in head first quickly becoming more committed than our understanding of one another can handle. As the expectations and assumptions increase, the pressure can overwhelm healthy relationship development. When certain steps are missed in almost any project, task or adventure something will usually falter.

Cracks in the relationship appear and couples can be found scrambling to save or salvage what wasn’t really well established in the first place. Many separated couples state that the connection “just isn’t there anymore”. The passion and excitement that was there when they first met is said to have “faded” until they felt like they were just friends, or worse, “roommates”.

Couples often agree that life and children and work get into the way of romance, however, isn’t this denying ownership and personal choice?  After all, who’s making the decisions? It’s about finding the strategy and skill set to balance our lives in such a way that are able to meet all our needs, not perfectly but sufficiently and satisfactorily for both partners.

Separated couples also share, retrospectively, that they become frustrated, disgruntled and then turn away from their spouse.  Gradually withdrawing to other distractions, many find other potential partners and their sexuality becomes sparked elsewhere. Relationship abandonment is frequently preceded by minimal effort, money and energy being invested into reading and seeking help to “tune-up” their run down relationship; finding ways to become new and adventurous in the apparently no longer “forever” relationship.

When couples seek counselling, many find it is often too late which is statistically supported. One or both have already “checked out” of the relationship and are thinking of lives without one another. What contributes to the decisions to give up on what was once a committed relationship, find another partner and go through the same thing all over again? Many factors can be draining on romance so it is important to have a thorough assessment.

Once we find ourselves moving toward a committed relationship, it is imperative to decide to invest time, energy and significant effort toward the ongoing improvement of intimacy skills; communication, sexuality, problem-solving, conflict resolution, assertiveness, moral and spiritual foundations and healthy family values and beliefs.

Don’t be a statistic. When you and your partner want to enhance ALL aspects of your relationship, contact us for a confidential and professional assessment / consultation.

 


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Goal setting may be, for some, quite a daunting task that is simply just too hard to do alone. Perhaps limited experience in childhood with setting clearly defined goals is the reason. Others may have had negative experiences associated with failing to reach goals. Some people may have been coached on this skill, achieved success, thus, finding goal setting to be a pleasurable experience. Creating a list of things to accomplish can make them already feel a sense of accomplishment.

So what gets in the way of setting clear goals? (creating them and writing them down or making up a motivation chart)

  • Time and energy?
  • Fear of failure… or success? (yes this is also a concern for many)
  • Not feeling good enough/low self-esteem?
  • Distractions and difficulty focusing?
  • Worry and anxiety about the future?

When we can identify the obstacles (real or imagined) then it becomes a little bit easier to begin setting smaller goals to overcome these roadblocks to our success. Facing our fears head on, with help as required, opens possibilities, builds confidence and increases our chance of success.

Setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals is a great first goal!

It also helps to identify our strengths, resources along with areas we struggle with or that require improvement so goal achievement is more likely to occur. Drawing upon our inner and outer resources is essential to our success so being clear about these aspects greatly improves our ability to set SMART goals.

Once we create our goals, what’s next?  When we set a goal to improve our marriage, get a promotion at work or perhaps even run our first Boston Marathon, we are then well advised to consider the small, incremental steps that need to happen for this big accomplishment to take place?

Sometimes, when we create our goals, write them in our notebooks or post them on our walls, we assume things will fall into place on their own.  However, two important elements need to be in the mix in order for goals to be accomplished:  intentional effort and accountability.

Intentional effort:  Making your goals present in your day-to-day life.  We may set a goal to fulfill a year from now but we need to be consciously doing our diligence each day.  The promotion we seek, the improved marriage or the goal of running a marathon requires thoughtful consideration and consistent attention in order to carry out the multitude of “baby steps” or objectives along the way.

Accountability: When we create goals, it is important to speak them, sharing these with others. Research shows that the more people you share your goals with, the greater chance you have to accomplish them.  Why?  People will ask, encourage, remind and even hold us accountable. Most will do so in a loving and supportive way.  When people hold us accountable, they believe we can accomplish what we have set out to do. This spurs us on to run a great race toward the prize.

For more information on goal setting and self-development, book an appointment with us today.

 


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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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             Photo by Alan Light

An invitation to the Oscars is quite the accomplishment, let alone what it would mean to be asked to present an award or be nominated for one. The big moment for celebrities and fans is that terrifying red carpet walk that leads to the venue’s entrance. The cameras, the eyes, the cheering for attention…all prepared for accidents, falls, and dreadful attire.

The best and worst dressed list is sometimes more important than those who actually win an award for their performances and artwork. What message is this providing to younger generations? There is an unrealistic idealism that celebrities have the most amazing lifestyles and that happiness is determined by the price of jewellery worn and the number of high-end cars in the garage.

Then we pay tribute to those who have passed away, whether to natural causes, accidents, heart attacks, or cancers, as well as those who take their own lives. Mental health issues plague celebrities just as much if not more than the general population.  Imagine if the relationship and personal struggles experienced by celebrities were showcased to increase awareness about mental health and the wealth of solutions available to resolve them.

If anything, famous celebrities with mental health issues are usually “pushed under the carpet”, “thrown under the bus” and/or exploited by tabloids. Sometimes the fame and fortune, and what it took to get, is difficult to cope with. Great difficulty faces them in finding work and being recognized, while somehow still providing for themselves and other family members too. They also experience great pressure wanting to make parents proud, maybe because they sacrificed so much on the dream they had or maybe because they didn’t.

Take out the words show business and fame and wealth and we can actually identify with these LIFE STRUGGLES. When struggles become overbearing and we are encouraged to keep quiet about them, mental health concerns are likely to develop. Many of us can understand the heartache of romantic break-ups, poor choices, substance abuse, addictions and career failures. Can we imagine what this might look like if we saw it broadcasted on the news?!!!

Mental health is not something to stay quiet about or to try to push under a rug. We all have struggles and difficulties in life. To manage and cope with these challenges, it is important to speak up about them. Awareness is the first step toward actions that can help you create a better quality of life. Contacting our professional registered counsellors is the second step… help is available.

 

 


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Are Our Phones Smarter Than We Are?

Smart phones are like our very own personal assistants (who we can even have a conversation with).  Appointments, dinner dates, meetings, and deadlines are recorded to keep us on track.  Email and Internet access are easy to use with the touch of a button.  We can even scan prices of items when we shop (who needs customer service?). We no longer even have to wait in bank lineups to manage our accounts.

Because of the accessibility that smart phones provide, we often feel a need to have them around us 24/7.  They wake us up in the morning (sometimes before) and even follow us to our bathroom.  Somehow, we have adopted the habit of our phones joining us at the dinner table or while eating in restaurants.  When do we consider our phones as intruders in our lives? Possibly when we can answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Do you have more conversations with your phone than with people around the dinner table?
  • Do you text members of your family within the same household when they are just in another room?
  • On vacation, is one of your first questions an inquiry about wi-fi?
  • Do you allow phone interruptions to take precedence over your current person-to-person conversation?
  • Does your phone accompany you to the bathroom?  (Really?)

Smartphones can have a significant impact on children’s social development.  An article from Dr. Michael Gabriel from GPM Pediatrics says that “children are missing out on how to learn language, learn about their emotions and how to regulate them, learn how to carry out a conversation and how to read each other’s facial expressions.”

Can we come to a consensus that we may be addicted to our phones and that, until now, we didn’t fully realize the impact they have on our lives, well being, and relationships with others?

There are easy ways to reduce the time with our phones.  Counselling isn’t likely to help you decrease dependency on your “smart” phones, however, short-term counselling can help rebuild relationships and develop the social skills required to maintain healthy relationships.  Contact us today!

 

 


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Addiction to Sex Hurts

Perhaps one of the less understood and less talked about addictions, the addiction to sexual activities can, just like drug and alcohol addictions, leave a path of destruction in the lives of those connected to the “one addicted”.

The following is submitted by a brave young woman who tells of her healing process and the importance of family and forgiveness.

“I was in a relationship for three years.  In the latter part, I got pregnant.  Needless to say, the relationship ended.  I was overwhelmed with feelings of hurt, anger, and sadness.  I could express the ups and downs of being in a relationship with a sex addict, however why bother? Why go back to those times?

One thing I could mention is the support I had from my family and friends. They saw my efforts to fight for that relationship and even his efforts to try to overcome his addiction.  Although there were subtle (and obvious) hints for me to get out, my family provided me with unconditional love.

So as the pregnancy progressed, I began to realize continuing to dwell in hurt and pain was not a healthy option.  To cope with the break-up, I kept busy, read books, wrote in my journal, and had my support system to lean on.  As the sad feelings subsided, I knew I was ready to start the forgiving process.

Many counselling professionals may suggest that the process of forgiveness is to benefit you and not necessarily the other person.  In addition to this, I knew that for the sake of my child’s growth and development, forgiving her father was non-negotiable.  My family and friends, on the other hand, have not been able to reach the point of offering forgiveness to him.  So how do I help them get there?

People may initially assume that a love relationship consists of just two people. It is true that it may start out like this, however, as the relationship evolves, we expose our significant others to our families and other friendships.  Years of involvement makes it more difficult for everyone to witness the loss of that person when the relationship ends. In the case above, her family and friends were probably exposed to more of the relationship than the average.  Setting healthy boundaries in relationships protects and provides clarity for how much to involve others in personal matters.

Involvement of family and friends in the couple’s personal struggles can actually serve to destroy family supports and eat away at the relationship as well.  While loved ones may have observed happy times, they likely find it easier to recall the stories of bad behaviours and not-so-good times before and when the relationship ends.  While focus on negatives is quite common, all it does is reinforce pain and foster feelings of anger.  Staying stuck in blame and judgmentalism blocks movement toward forgiveness. Unfortunately, this can stand in the way of a healthy relationship with the person about to become a co-parent.

In this particular case, the mother’s modelling forgiveness can be a powerful and influential message for her friends and family.  Most adults and children can pick up on the energy in a room and the emotional states of others from nonverbal communication (face and tone).

Given this, we are all responsible for the quality of relationships by our actions and choices… to forgive and extend grace or not. 

Individual, co-parenting and family counselling can help to overcome addictions, improve relationship skills and heal woundedness as well…  Contact us today!

 


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I am sitting in a make-shift auditorium and am choking back tears. Although I have sat through similar ceremonies numerous times, they invariably move me this way. 8 men and 3 women sit proudly at the front of the room – two of them with their young children on their laps. 3 short weeks ago these 11 souls ran, walked or crawled into this inpatient treatment program – most of them dishevelled, beaten down and/or spiritually wounded. This morning they are graduating from what is commonly referred to as ‘Rehab’. It is a symbolic graduation of course, but the pride, renewed hope and healthy fear in each of their voices as they speak is palpable and incredibly moving as is their clear connection to one another. They are a victorious troop – forever connected by their mutual struggle.

There are many misconceptions about what ‘Rehab’ actually is. Many people think of it as a mysterious place where celebrities go when they hit ‘rock bottom’. The idea of ‘Rehab’ is more of an American term and here in Southern Ontario, similar treatment programs are referred to as Inpatient Addiction programs or Residential treatment programs. While the dramatic depictions of ‘Rehab’ in American television and movies involve a good deal of confrontation and ‘drama’ between counsellors and those in the facility, the clinical approach in the vast majority of inpatient programs in Southern Ontario more client-centred, respecting the importance of building a supportive relationship between addiction counsellors and the people they work with. Most programs are 21-days long and most of them are covered by OHIP. Although most programs support either long-term abstinence or moderate use goals, people attending inpatient programs are typically required to abstain while in the program as well as for at least a week prior to entering (so they are not going through intense withdrawal symptoms while in the program).

Most inpatient programs are designed in a way that requires the people in the program to be very busy for much of the day. Some of the day will usually be spent in ‘psycho-education’ groups, which focus on teaching about concepts relevant to overcoming addiction. There are often daily group therapy sessions, physical activity based sessions and art or music therapy sessions as well. People in the program will often have a counsellor assigned to them to help them to successfully navigate personal challenges they are encountering while in the program and to start to make plans for the important changes they will make in their lives after they leave the program.


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Inpatient programs have been primarily designed to help provide a type of jump-start or model for the type of healthy lifestyle which is most likely to allow graduates to maintain their treatment goals. The days are very structured – people eat regular meals and develop regular sleep routines, they engage in regular physical activity, spend most of their time engaging in positive social interactions and try to develop practices which help them to manage their emotions in less destructive ways. These lifestyle-related habits have been well researched and the evidence shows they lead to positive treatment outcomes. This is why these strategies are the focus of most treatment programs, including outpatient follow-up therapy.

The biggest change I usually observed in people after they have completed a 21-day inpatient program was in their ability to have faith in people again – including themselves. While most people seemed to come in with their guard up and their head down, the vast majority of graduates left the program more open to others and with more faith in themselves. I have often said to both my colleagues and graduates of 21-day programs that if we were all required to complete a 21-day inpatient program every few years – addiction issues or not – we would all be more grounded people and our society would probably be a much happier and healthier place.

If you are interested in exploring options for addressing addictive behaviours, either in your own or a loved one’s life, please contact us today.