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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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Boundaries: What Does It Mean?

BBeing honest and

Oopen. Having

Uunderstanding conversations that

Nnurture positive feelings and thoughts.

Ddetermining your wants and values and

Aassertively helping others become aware of these.

Rrespecting yourself and others by making

I –  intentional efforts to improve your relationships.

Eempathetic and effective communication so all involved feel

Ssafe and secure.

For many couples after separation or a break up, or even those underneath consistent conflict, deciding to reconcile can be difficult to visualize. Sometimes reconciliation does not mean re-establishing a romantic relationship. Some couples choose, after separation, to establish a new relationship for cooperative and positive parenting to take place.

Without a doubt, it is quite difficult for most couples to reach an amicable closure of the romantic part of their relationship. This, however, is an essential step toward effectively developing a positive co-parenting relationship. For some, this may indeed seem almost impossible; moving from a couple once in love to negotiating and implementing a mutually respectful cooperative parenting agreement. Parents interested in the healthiest environment for raising children can benefit from professional coaching to reach this goal as soon as possible after their separation.

Feelings of grief, betrayal, hurt, confusion and disappointment can cloud perceptions, potential for forgiveness and severely limit healthy and clear communication. The identification and development of healthy communication and negotiation processes are central to building an effective co-parenting relationship. This is where boundaries come in to play. While emotions are high, and pools of uncertainty exist, boundaries establish clarity and safe measures to begin the process; deconstructing one part of the relationship while reconstructing another.

Examples of cooperative parenting agreements include guidelines for how and when to talk, what to discuss and with who (e.g. with children, family, friends), when to have flexibility and how to negotiate or renegotiate changes. Additional topics to be worked out include ways to stay child focussed, shared parenting time, drop offs and pick ups, extracurricular activities, holidays and the pre-planned calendar of events.  Boundaries that are firm, with modest flexibility, greatly reduce the chance for disagreements, enhancing the likelihood parents and families will have caring, calm and relaxed “post-separation” relationships. 

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

 

Ice Coated Trees – Dec. 2013

Pregnant profile III

How Will I Ever Manage?

We got pregnant and now, just before she is to be born, we’ve split up! Many thoughts and feelings overwhelm me now. Concerns regarding finances, work and being a stable provider flood my mind. Will I be able to provide for our child and provide her with a variety of possibilities? I’m worried about parenting period so now what about “joint” parenting. How will we ever parent together? Can I work with… do I want to work with an “ex” that I couldn’t get along with and now don’t even like?

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I don’t feel good enough to be this child’s parent, especially alone? Will I be nice to her… still holding onto the hurt and pain from this broken relationship? How do I even introduce this father to my baby if he does not want to be around? Is it okay if the father isn’t around?

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Scared and alone mothers-to-be have valid reasons to be afraid, and they are justified to have such concerns… even more. When a child is raised in a “lone-parent” family, there are increased risks threatening the child’s and family’s health and development. There are still other risk factors, common also in two-parent families, that are magnified in a single parent family. Research indicates clearly that two parent families have a protective quality, both reducing and preventing risks, thus, promoting healthier growth and development. The following research data is not for the faint of heart. Knowing the risks we face or may be facing can often help us take steps to address them and avoid or reduce their impact. Over twenty-five years ago, in the face of a tidal wave of propaganda promoting that a child raised with one parent is not concerning, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead courageously reported the following evidence-based statistics;

“According to a growing body of social-scientific evidence, children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being. Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to be poor. They are also likely to stay poor longer. Twenty-two percent of children in one-parent families will experience poverty during childhood for seven years or more, as compared with only two percent of children in two parent families. A 1988 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that children in single-parent families are two to three times as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems. They are also more likely to drop out of high school, to get pregnant as teenagers, to abuse drugs, and to be in trouble with the law. Compared with children in intact families, children from disrupted families are at a much higher risk for physical or sexual abuse.”

More recent reports support these findings, as follows:

  • Statistics show that children raised in healthy single parent homes have more problems emotionally and interpersonally, in school and with the law (Stevens, examiner.com, April, 2011).

  • Children from two-parent homes; specifically biological parent homes, typically exhibit more positive development outcomes than single-parent children (Thomas, Global Post, 2014).

  • Children [people] learn how to love from their parents, but if both parents are not there to teach them how to love, their love might be somewhat one-sided (White, Feb. 2011).

Lone parents, custodial parents, primary parents*  may find these previous comments very defeating  (*these terms tend to be more accurate to describe this family type than the age old “single parent” given that the other parent is quite often still involved to some degree, not to mention all the extended family supports which often include other parents). People rarely grow up intentionally planning to become separated, parenting mostly without the support and cooperation of the other parent. This is not how most of us grow up and expect our lives to turn out. So, given the new reality of separation, what needs to be done to improve our lives and the life of our child?

  • Co-Parenting ASAP: Find the strength to make room for the other parent whenever possible and as appropriate.
  • Assemble a Support Team: Whether grandparents, adult siblings, extended family and friends, it is important to decrease feelings of loneliness. This team is always there to support you and your child, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no reason to feel guilt or shame that you cannot manage on your own. This is the purpose of having a team.
  • Readjust your priorities (and don’t forget to have fun): Know that you do not have to be rewarded as a superwoman who can do it all. It is okay to take breaks, drop previous tasks, say no to others, and decrease your work time. It is important to prioritize in such a way that you be healthy.
  • Nurture and set goals for yourself: You have the opportunity to teach your child to create dreams and work for them to become a reality. Qualities of ambition, drive, work ethic, integrity, and responsibility go a long way towards positive development for children.
  • Parent co-operatively: There are seasoned (grey hair suggested), experienced professional counsellors who can help the adults involved decrease animosity, set aside previous struggles and hurt in order to increase effective and positive co-parenting. Developing effective parenting agreements that include clear communication agreements and strategies will improve mental, physical and spiritual health for all involved… even and including extended family.

If you are a “lone parent” (either expecting or have a child(ren) already), there is a lot you can do to reduce the chance of your child becoming a negative statistic. First… Get help! Working alone reduces the likelihood of success. To develop a clear plan, with or without your co-parent, learning the necessary adjustments to promote a healthy and positive development in your child’s life call us today.


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Many of the resources available for Autism and other developmental disabilities focus on children to the age of eighteen. Very few social service programs are geared to support people over the age of eighteen. So what about these young adults?

What career development assistance is available? What are the goals of formal career or vocational development planning? When should career planning begin? What are the life choices that an individual with Autism should explore?

Person-centered planning  (PCP) can help answer these questions.  PCP “takes a longer-term perspective, exploring how the individual, family, community, and funded supports can work together to achieve the individual’s goals,” (Northeast Alberta Community Board for Persons with Development Disabilities, 2006).

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This sets a plan of action in place. It is very important to plan ahead and be prepared for the transition into early adulthood to foster the best chance of a satisfying and productive life for young adults with autism.

Here are some strategies that may be set in place to prepare your young adult for his/her future (Autism Calgary Association, 2009):

  • A personal inventory/profile clarifies the strengths, challenges, and necessary supports that the individual requires. It also provides the individual’s unique characteristics and attributes.
  • A career profile lists the individual’s personal strengths, skills, abilities, and interests. It may also include: evaluation reports (IEPs), cognitive testing results, additional assessments (e.g. neuropsychological), functional vocational assessments, and resume and work samples.
  • A psycho-educational assessment is a standardized test (like an I.Q. test), of the individual’s cognitive ability. It provides further information of the person’s intellectual strengths and areas of weakness.

The key to remember is to plan ahead and to use available resources and people to develop the best plan possible. When this is done, possibilities and opportunities are increased for the young adult.


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“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 .


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When a mother holds her daughter for the first time, a number of overwhelming thoughts and feelings accumulate. We love our daughter so deeply and unconditionally.

As our princesses grow, we watch our daughters blossom. We observe them in their playgroups, we watch them play pretend housewives or have tea parties with their stuffed animals. Then they grow out of pretend play and school hours and then peers occupy the majority of their time. We may feel a sense of loss. We now learn more from our daughters and begin to realize that many other sources now influence their lives and choices.

As mothers, we might struggle with how to protect our daughters, concerned with exactly how to help them make it in this world. Becoming too lenient or too strict is easy and can quite quickly negatively impact parenting. Increased confrontations between mothers and daughters can stem from having fewer and fewer open, calm and honest conversations.

Common assumptions made by both can include:

  • Mom: “She doesn’t know what she’s doing!”
  • Daughter: “She doesn’t understand me!”
  • Mom: “I just don’t want her to make the same mistakes that I made.”
  • Daughter: “When is she going to realize that I can take care of myself?”
  • Daughter: “She should stay out of my business.”
  • Mom: “Maybe I should just leave her alone?”

With these assumptions, many miscommunications can form. This can lead to increased confusion, uncertainty and even hostility toward one another. Hurtful things can be said and done making it more difficult to mend an already tenuous relationship.

Relationship coaching for mothers and daughters who are having difficulty communicating can be very helpful. Boundaries may be adjusted, roles clarified and relationships reconciled in the counselling process. Counselling helps family members voice concerns, relate to one another differently, resolve problems effectively and listen to each other’s needs in the relationship.

Book an appointment with us today to improve your relationships.

Perhaps This Is Normal

In life we are faced with many challenges and obstacles to overcome. At these difficult times and during trying situations, it is imperative to have people to assist us, to provide support and guidance and to encourage our efforts to improve. In our families, at least ideally, we hope that we can come together and support each other through the tough times. This is not always the case, however, as our family members may also be struggling and, thus, are less able or unable to help. Of course, the stress we carry can be brought into the family and our loved ones can certainly add stress to our lives.

Family members may become more negative;

  • “We can’t cope as a family.”
  • “No one respects anyone else.”
  • “If I don’t raise my voice no one will listen.”
  • “We are a failure.”
  • “My parents could not possibly understand what I’m going through.”
  • “I have no power as a parent.”

Stress is a normal part of living and of any family experience. Life is hard on this planet and families constantly face a multitude of difficulties or stressors. How we handle stressful moments is the key to healthier and happier outcomes and relationships. When a family is in crisis, it is very difficult to get to a positive resolution without getting professional help.

Reading materials, joining community or on-line training courses and using counselling can provide the guidance and support families require. Registered, professional family therapists (“coaches”) can help identify areas for change together with the family and incorporate a wide variety of strategies to help families achieve their goals.

“Family counselling can be done in a lighthearted way, with an accepting and encouraging style that helps all family members feel accepted and valued.”

Additionally, drawing upon family members’ current strengths and resources, the counsellor can fairly quickly help the family improve teamwork, re-negotiate roles, expectations and boundaries, making it easier to resolve issues and function well.  Knowledge bases used include cognitive-behavioural, developmental, attachment, family structure, narrative, and family systems theory. Bringing these tools into the family arena allows for better clarity, communication and compassion through a more understanding and accepting view.

New strategies are introduced, in these “coaching” sessions, to overcome some of the negativity or “Stinkin Thinkin” that has developed and recover from past hurt. Through the therapeutic process, families can grow closer and develop more satisfying relations with each other. They redefine goals, assess and clarify shared values and beliefs and develop new ways to love, support and care for each other.

For more information on family “coaching”, call us today!