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How can one decide between a treatment plan that is strict on abstinent behaviours and one that offers stages of reducing addictive behaviours (“harm-reduction”). Some may prefer the latter because, to them, complete abstinence seems unrealistic, overwhelming, and destined for failure. Families may encourage abstinence programs because of the impact that addictive behaviour has made on family members’ lives. Nonetheless, the difficulty in choosing the right treatment program is not made any easier from simple internet research.

Studies have shown that regardless of the method employed to become sober/clean, the number one factor for sobriety success is a permanent commitment to discontinue use permanently; a commitment to abstinence. It actually is much easier to just give it up entirely than punish yourself trying to moderate or control your addictive behaviour (SMART Recovery).  That said, the more times you work on quitting an addiction, the better your chances of reaching the goal of quitting permanently.

Data from several countries shows that treatment policies that insist on abstinence lead to a greater number of deaths than those that allow some kind of substitution therapy, with safer opioids such as methadone or buprenorphine (Subutrex) for heroin use. Although less well studied, the same is likely to be true for alcohol, where substitution therapies such as oxybate and baclofen exist but are less widely used (The Guardian).

Many recovery program staff and professionals espouse that abstinence is the only viable approach, and they reject any program that does not demand abstinence. This is such an obvious truth for these disciples that further thought is pointless. (Canadian Harm Reduction Network)

Despite their popularity, abstinence programs have come increasingly under pressure from research. Scholarly studies based on motivation theory, pharmacotherapy, and cognitive-behavioural therapy have shown that abstinence is not the sole route to recovery from addiction. Although proponents of the abstinence approach have argued that drug use is the defining feature between recovery and addiction, most experts believe that recovery is more accurately represented as a process in which clients move through a series of distinct stages, including relapse (Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1995).

The different forms of information out there are not providing much ease in choosing the right treatment program. The choice should not be made according to majority votes or majority statistics. The choice should be made based on the addicted individual’s (1) willingness to recover, (2) individual goals, and (3) understanding of the impact the addictive behaviour has on his/her life and the life of others. When these are established, treatment programs can effectively address the person’s specific needs as well as those in their family.

Contact us today for more information and to start an individual assessment and to explore your addiction treatment program options.


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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.


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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.


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What is Going Through Your Mind?

How am I going to pay the bills this month?

Am I spending enough time with my family?

What do I really want to do with my life?

Sometimes our daily routine can gradually appear redundant, unpleasant, and lacking excitement. But we’re in the real world, aren’t we? We have to go to work to make ends meet. We’re supposed to get along with others, build relationships, reproduce and have offspring. Right?

At times, we make choices that, at other times, we think are not what we really wanted to do. We may later think we went to college to please our parents or we did. We might attain a “good standing” job so that we don’t have to feel embarrassed when people ask us what we’re up to. We could possibly even fill our wallets and office walls with photos of a “picture-perfect” family fostering the appearance we have it all together? Are we genuine? Are we “for real”?

Is this what we worry about? Why do questions like those above flood our minds day in and day out? Should we not be happy with the choices we’ve made? How is it that after making decisions of the heart we can so readily abandon them?

What if those questions causing doubt are nothing more than thoughts floating around in our minds… like data on a computer hard drive? Increased focus on negative thinking quickly leads to more negative emotional and behavioural experiences. Of course, many of us will choose to just ignore these negatives, pushing them to the back of our minds, and go on with our daily routine. This can, however, leave us with little to moderate satisfaction.

Others may dwell on these negative thoughts, fueling feelings of dissatisfaction, disappointment and doubt. Eventually these feelings can seem to consume hope and joy, at which point many push away and leave behind the lives and people previously chosen. Still, there are other people who chose ways to manage their thoughts in a mindful and intentional way, finding information to help them develop a positive action plan. Taking the first step acknowledges the desire to change. Finding ways to improve our mental health by changing our thoughts goes a long way to boost confidence, integrity and authenticity.

Steps forward often require us to go back, waaaaaaay back, to discover what led us to make certain decisions and historical strategies that can help prevent problems. Unsure how far back to go? Counselling gives us that safe, confidential space to sort through our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Trained counselors ask questions to help guide us through both historical and current events, related thoughts and experiences in order to develop behaviours, relationships and goals fitting with our innermost desires.

Rather than harboring thoughts that lead to giving up on our families and our responsibilities, we can become agents of healthier change by making positive cognitive adjustments. Healthier constructs, precepts and schemata can then become foremost in our minds, fostering improved mental health and improving relationships with everyone in our lives. Counselling helps coach skills to think, feel and behave in a more satisfying and happy way. Call us today !


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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 .

Keep Your Eye On The Job

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Here are just a few reasons why hiring external counselling support for your business can be a great investment:

  • Objective assessment of human resource, personal strengths and areas for growth
  • Increase productivity and profit through improved working relationships
  • Improve corporate morale and job performance
  • Team building through training
  • Improve group cohesiveness and thus, improve performance
  • Assess job satisfaction, on an individual and group basis, and potential adjustments
  • Coach/conduct a variety of workshops (e.g., how to cope with work-related stress)
  • Address work conflict appropriately, effectively and in a timely fashion
  • Decrease biases when restructuring work roles & responsibilities

Counsellors in the workplace have shown to reduce overall costs, while still being able to improve employees’ well being (allaboutcounselling.com).

An additional benefit for a company to hire professional, registered counsellors on their team is to effectively coach how to provide candid and constructive feedback to each other (cross-training culture). The thought of giving feedback constructively is often seen as a daunting task. Many employees may fear losing their jobs, being scrutinized or treated differently as a result of providing feedback and may simply just fear any form of confrontation altogether.

As a result, management may end up with numerous unresolved or poorly resolved issues with their staff. Employees can then bottle up their concerns, which can lead to:

  • Increased work-related stress
  • Inhibition to concentrate or remain focused with job responsibilities
  • Decreased overall well being
  • Increased health-related concerns (e.g., hypertension, insomnia)
  • Increased conflict at home (displacement of the stress at work is very common).
  • Emotional outbursts

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The apprehension about providing feedback to others is often because people are concerned about communicating clearly and constructively without damaging the relationship. A workplace counsellor providing a non-judgmental and confidential forum can coach both management and front-line workers on how to provide constructive and candid feedback helping to create a workplace culture of openness and mutual respect.

Here are two starter tips when giving feedback: (1) offer a few words of encouragement and then describe what concerns you are observing, (2) communicate the impact of what you are observing, and 3) comment on the behavioural concerns and not about the person. To learn more, give us a call today!

 

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!