The Art of Effective Conversation

Communication, when performed effectively, (e.g. calmly, lovingly. sensitively. wisely, respectfully) enhances and fosters positive relationships. However, when done poorly, it leads to communication breakdowns which are draining on those involved. When we have difficulty communicating (causing increased arguments and stress), it is normal for us to feel like giving up.

Poor communication involves certain tendencies or habits that almost everyone resorts to at one point or another. Any of these following communication blockers can inhibit effective discussion, especially during stressful and crucial conversations:

  • Interrupting
  • Ignoring
  • Blame Game
  • Using Sarcasm
  • Insulting/Name Calling
  • Globalizing (i.e., using “always” or “never” statements)
  • Judging
  • Stating opinion as fact
  • Mind Reading/Assuming
  • Advising (i.e., providing solutions without permission)

In the heat of the moment, our body moves into “fight or flight”, a part of which leads to reduced oxygen to the brain. This blocks effective thinking from taking place. Effective communication coaching or counselling helps people identify the triggers in their bodies that prevent rational thinking. It also teaches creative and light-hearted ways to communicate under duress and high stress. Working together, counsellors and people develop strategies to decrease anger and confusion that arises in stressful situations making it more possible to approach tough situations and conversations with appropriate communication techniques.

Therapy also helps individuals, couples and families sort through crucial conversations and create strategies together to resolve conflict and improve relationship satisfaction. Call us today to enhance your communication style!

Discover How To Play It Well

Receiving the confirmation of the diagnosis that our child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder brings with it a wide array of emotional and cognitive upheaval.  There may be initial shock, disbelief and even denial, often quickly followed by the common stages of grief and grieving.  Moving through the initial stages of grieving, parents may then shift, with intentional effort, to discover the possibilities and opportunities that children with Autism can have and offer… yes offer.

Parenting a child who follow the “normal” or most common developmental pathway versus one with developmental difficulties is a significantly different experience, one that many parents who have a child with ASD can attest to. Focus, attention, and time investments are higher for parents caring effectively for children with Autism (e.g. parents report it feels a lot like “24 hours a day, 7 days a week”… even into the teen and young adult years).

Government funded programs have become filled to capacity and the waiting list is often not months but years long. Some families have to secure second or third mortgages for private therapy. When this resource is not financially or practically possible, the responsibility lies with parents to train, teach, and implement every aspect of social and life skills for their children. Finding coaching for themselves, the resources and materials to assist their work with the children becomes another challenge tapping into parents’ energy stores.

So it is a different ball game! This struggle can become overwhelming; at times, exhausting and consistently stressful for the entire family. As much as there are resources to help children with autism (i.e., personal support workers, weekend relief programs, and some daycare services), there are few programs that help and support parents sufficiently.

At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, we can help parents;

(1)   find new and creative ways to not just cope with life difficulties, but to excel at the game

(2)   by coaching you to design and practise a winning family relationship strategy, and

(3)   develop and maintain your essential support systems

To secure guidance and support for your parenting plan, Call us today … YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Actually… It’s Not a Competition

Research indicates depression occurs twice as often in women as in men. There are additional risk factors that account for the increased likelihood that females will suffer from depression over males. Some of these added risk factors for females include: variance in hormone changes, puberty and premenstrual problems (e.g. bloating, breast tenderness, cramping, headaches and irritability). Another factor which is quite different for adolescent girls and women over boys and men, at least in developed countries, is females experience significantly higher levels of dysphoria and vulnerability related to physical appearance and body image.

These gender differences do not appear in pre-adolescent children. Risk factors become more apparent when they interact with the challenges of adolescence (e.g., physical appearance, dating, sexual experience and expression, and academic performance).

Why the gender difference?

Some may attribute the difference to the different stressors that males and females experience (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002):

  • Single, teenaged mothers report higher levels of depression than married ones.
  • Women suffering from obesity tend to show more depressive symptoms.
  • Females have been statistically shown to be exposed to various forms of victimization than males.
  • Societal conditions can create more stressors on women than males, making feelings of empowerment more difficult for women to achieve.

Does Gender Difference Matter?

Although research may present the differences of mental health among males and females rather than gender, our attention should focus on adolescent healthy development.

How are we rearing and “coaching” both males and females as they approach adolescence? Are we preparing our children for this new phase in their lives? Do we parents and caregivers know what these conversations should look like? Is the communication within the family open, engaging, and supportive? How aware are we about their social, intellectual, emotional, sexual, spiritual and physical developmental changes and the impact upon their confidence and performance?

When we consider these questions, we become in tune to helping our children through difficult times and new phases in their lives. A strong, consistent and caring family supportive system:

  • increases the chance adolescents can effectively cope with their stressors and crisis points,
  • helps teens focus on more positive thoughts about themselves, their family members and friends,
  • promotes healthier behavioural choices related to daily challenges and experiences teens face.

Male? Female? We all have “issues” and challenges! For further resources on how to help your family through different stages of development and your young people with depression, anxiety or other common mental health issues, call us today!

January 1st fosters a desire for renewal, to seek ways to develop a better physique and a new mind set. For some reason, we feel the need to put the previous year behind us and start anew. We have the opportunity to create a year filled with possibilities and the potential to achieve great things.

The top two New Year’s resolutions that people make are financially and fitness-driven. We want to be better at managing our finances. We want to achieve that new promotion. We want to seek out connections to secure our dream jobs.

Our focus on fitness stems from the fitness and fabulous looking icons that show off their amazing bodies and tell us that we can achieve this look as well. They look better than we do; they appear to have better lives and are happier because they look amazing. We want to look and feel as great as they do and we want quick results. We look past their years of dedication and healthy lifestyle they worked on to gain such results.

Gym facilities, yoga studios, and bootcamp programs thrive this time of year. The big buzz on looking better is discussed in our offices, amongst our peers, and all over social media.

For people suffering with eating disorders, the buzz of fitness and body images can be overwhelming and difficult to cope with.

And why wouldn’t it be? You have worked so hard in the previous year to lessen the importance of body image and now it’s on blast everywhere you turn. You have learned to shift your thinking from a place of unrealistic body shapes to a place of appropriate concepts of health and wellbeing (sorry if this offends any of those wanting to look like Béyonce or are pursuing the JLO butt workouts daily).  A person suffering with an eating disorder has started to transform his or her mind to understand that looks do not equate to a happy life.

It is important that during this time when our society is consumed with looking good, to stay focused on YOU and what you are personally working on. Seeking additional or increased support does not equate to failure. Getting health coaching to improve eating behaviours, emotional balance and body image attitudes is a sign of strength. Call us today to keep your focus moving forward!

Extramarital Affairs Harden Hearts and Threaten Health

It may seem we live in an age where almost “everything goes”.  If it makes you happy, and it isn’t illegal, then it should be your choice as to whether you do something or not. This thinking seems to have made its way quite effectively into marriages. I’m no lawyer, however, taking risks that threaten another’s life and their physical and mental health seems like some sort of crime to me?

In an article titled; “New Hampshire lawmakers look to get rid of 200-year-old adultery crime” (The Associated Press December 14, 2009), a contemporary lawyer argues, We shouldn’t be in the business of regulating what consenting adults do with each other,” Horrigan said.  The article goes on to point out history;

“Convicted adulterers years ago faced standing on the gallows, up to 39 lashes, a year in jail or a fine of 100 pounds. The punishment has been relaxed to a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,200 – with no jail time.”

  • Remember that extramarital affairs are a chargeable offence under the United States Code of Military Justice.
  • As of 2011, adultery was still considered illegal in 23 of the 50 United States.
  • A joint statement by the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice states that: “Adultery as a criminal offence violates women’s human rights” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery).

Although the District of Columbia and approximately half of the states continue to have laws on the books criminalizing adultery, these laws are rarely invoked. Traditionally, states advanced three goals in support of their adultery laws: (1) the prevention of disease and illegitimate children; (2) the preservation of the institution of marriage; and (3) the safeguarding of general community morals.     (found at http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sexual+infidelity).

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines ‘adultery’ as: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband”.

The bible defines adultery more broadly, indicating significant concern should be given to even the act of lustfully looking. In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus states;  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In his National Post article in support of current Canadian laws criminalizing not telling a sex partner about having HIV,  Matt Gurney says, “It is a crime for a reason, and should remain so”. He adds the following rationale;

“The issue is not really about how likely someone is to become infected with HIV, or any other serious sexually transmitted disease or infection. It’s about who gets to make the decision to expose someone else to that chance of infection, whether it be 100% or 1%. How severe the risk is irrelevant — each of us should have the right, and expectation, to know what we are getting ourselves into. None of us should have the right to decide for someone else whether they are exposed to a potentially deadly disease. The only person qualified to make that kind of decision is the person accepting the risk. If they are denied the opportunity, they have not consented. That’s a crime.”      Matt Gurney| 08/02/12 | Last Updated: 08/02/12 11:15 AM ET.

I leave you to consider this matter for yourselves, of course, yet it seems strange to me that some of the things we actually charge people for are significantly less damaging and hurtful than the familial destruction and emotional devastation that most often accompanies adulterous behaviour. The long term impact on both adults and children, the loss of productivity in the workplace and the extensive use of mental health and medical services is a drain on society. While we may not want to place judgement on people or look down on them for their choices, it may be about time we reopened responsible discussions about adulterous behaviour, breach of marital trust and placed some judgment on this behaviour. Through these conversations, we may even develop more effective solutions and preventative strategies to incorporate into our legal, social and educational institutions?

Claire’s Story;

“I wake up, it’s 4am. The thought enters my mind, ‘Oh, it’s today. What am I going to have to face?’ Then I start ticking off all the things I have to face and with each one, I ask myself how I will cope with that. What if I can’t? What if I get anxious? What do I need to do in order to get myself through it? My mind fills with these possibilities and the anxiety starts to rise. I get this sinking nauseous feeling in my stomach and then the feeling of being broken and damaged washes over me again. I feel so vulnerable. I don’t undertstand why I am in this situation again. It feels like I am back at square one. If I can’t control myself, I am failing. All the things I have learned seem to be lost to me now. I feel so powerless,” (Grant, Townend, Mills, & Cockx, 2008, p. 162).

How many of us can identify with “Claire’s” “self”-defeating thoughts? We wake up, consider our responsibilities for the day, and then seem to give up on ourselves before we begin to accomplish anything. And even when we do accomplish our tasks, we may give luck the credit.

Like Claire, doubting thoughts may not be a daily reoccurrence. Some days may seem better than others. However on the not-so-good days, we feel that we are not progressing; one step forward and ten steps back!

“As the anxiety and feeling of being broken washes over me, the familiar image enters my mind. There I am, standing at the sink at 4 o’clock, feeling desperate, helpless, and anxious. I can’t go back to that place, I tell myself. It feels so dark and powerless,” (Grant, et al., 2008, p. 162).

The fear of once having experienced our lowest selves and not wanting to go through this again can have us feeling stuck. It is important to consider what we did to cope and overcome difficult times in the past. Ever wonder that thoughts may not really be ours? This includes the negatives that, along with all the positive thoughts, may just be a combination of thoughts collected over the years, beating up on us much like a virus beats up on a body or computer?

Some of us are able, at times, to talk ourselves out of it, stay focused and move forward. Some seek out their support system, calling upon a family member or friend. Our loved ones are often aware of our situation and, thus, can offer encouragement and even help to get through some of these troubling moments.

Some of us may choose to seek out professional counselling, getting coaching to get rid of “stinkin’ thinkin'” and develop a plan to get out of difficult times. It is important to note that seeking out supportive counselling is a strength, and does not indicate a failing or weakness. Some of us may benefit from monthly or bi-monthly coaching sessions to ensure we stay on track with our goals and receive the level of life coaching to help us improve our lives more efficiently and effectively.

Don’t give it up, “live it up” – call us today!

“My Dog Treats Me Better!”

“After years of lies, betrayals, and secrets paired with infidelity and inappropriate sexual behaviours, I ask myself why I’m still here. Why am I still in this relationship? He says he loves me, and I actually trust that he does; however who cares? My dog loves me and treats me way better than he does…and HE’S A DOG! I have never experienced such a magnitude of hurt from any of my family or friends, so why do I put up with this guy?”

We all may be able to relate to “Stephanie” to some degree. Romantic relationships are difficult to maintain and even more difficult to cope with when the relationship is in trouble. When trust has been broken, couples spiral through a crisis and without healing and recovery work, often begin the dynamic or pattern of living crisis to crisis. This is often referred to as a chaotic or crisis-oriented relationship.

Stephanie’s dilemma is common in that we tend to compare our romantic relationships, albeit without sufficient facts or data, to those of our friends, family members and even to examples from popular media and literature. Our perceptions and misperceptions of others’ relationships colours our view of “what intimacy should be”, often leading to us setting the expectations for our relationships too high. With limited and inaccurate information, our expectations can easily become unrealistic, gradually contributing to worsening and even quite hurtful communication.

Of course, when our intimate relationships are in a crisis state, like Stephanie, we start to question why we are still in the relationship. By obtaining more accurate information about relationships and doing some analysis, we can improve our understanding and thus our ability to resolve relationship troubles. Robert Sternberg from the University of Wyoming, proposes the “love triangle” framework in which he presents love’s three main dimensions: intimacy, commitment, and passion and the seven relationship types below have more or less of these qualities (Psychology Today).

When couples consider their place in this model, they can identify their relationship to one of 7 types of relationships (Psychology Today):

  • Consummate (the highest form): a high regard on all three dimensions of the love triangle
  • Infatuated: high on passion only
  • Fatuous: high on passion and commitment
  • Empty: high on commitment only
  • Companionate: high on intimacy and commitment
  • Romantic: high on intimacy and passion
  • Liking/friendship: high on intimacy only

Some couples experiencing a crisis in their relationship escape, withdraw or give up. Consideration toward getting assistance and more research-based analysis helps individuals and couples understand the dynamics underlying their dilemma. This then helps us negotiate the type of relationship we want to achieve and navigate the journey to it. Couples counselling can create a space to work together to heal the hurt, achieve goals, rebuild trust and, ultimately, get the loving relationship you want.

Let us help! Book your appointment with us today!