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!

 


Photo credit: jdurham from morguefile.com

Below is a well written testimony from one courageous person who decided to experiment with change, health and personal growth.

         What C.P.R. Means To Me

It has been almost a month since I quit smoking marijuana! I had been a daily user for about twelve years, with the occasional attempt to quit; the longest quitting period being about one year in 2005. I had attempted to quit a couple times in the last three years, but always relapsed after a couple of weeks. So, this time I decided to seek help.

Previous quitting attempts always consisted of going cold turkey and using willpower.  I could stick to it for a few weeks, but then would have a smoke with a friend and return to using every day. In 2005, I told myself that I could not have any weed in the house and would still allow myself to smoke socially if someone had it. This worked for almost a year until I had a stressful situation occur, and went back to smoking every day. Therefore, this time I wanted to quit and stay a non-smoker, but how?

I considered going to rehab, but did not want to leave my surroundings. So I googled “how to quit marijuana” and found a self-help program. It was an online program for $50 that included a manual, videos, audio sessions and a detox book. After previewing the material, I decided to go for it.  After I bought the program and began my reading, I was still smoking but that was okay.  The program talked about setting a quit date when I was ready. I watched the videos and listened to the audio sessions for about two weeks before I set my quit date.

Through the program, I discovered that willpower would not be enough to sustain a smoke free life.  I would need to re-focus my thoughts and the direction I wanted my life to go in.  This was very scary at first. But the more I read the manual and listened to the videos, the less scary it seemed.  I began to realize that all the benefits that I thought the weed was giving me were actually the opposite. That’s what the weed does to your mind. It made me think that I needed it for so many things in life. I thought it gave me more energy, made me a more creative person, made me better at sports, made me funnier, made sex better, made food taste better, reduced stress and anxiety and helped with depression.

So I thought, give it up and see what happens.  Will I feel better or worse? I made a quitting contract with myself that included a quit date and the reasons I want to quit. The program prepared me for the withdrawal period, which was toughest the first week and ended around the second week. Wow, I could really feel the difference without the weed. I had gotten so used to feeling good that it’s hard to remember how bad I was feeling on the weed.

I can tell you this though, my energy is way, way higher than ever before. I feel present, in the moment and just happier than I have in a long time. I dream again, and can remember most dreams, and they are very vivid. I have been keeping a dream journal as the program has instructed. Your dreams are a way for your subconscious to give you direction in life and writing them down as soon as you wake will give you the ability to figure out what they represent.

Two days after quitting, I dreamt that I was giving a friend C.P.R. but I did not recognize this friend. I went to my therapist a few days later and was discussing the dream as I was having trouble deciphering the meaning.  He suggested that maybe I was giving C.P.R. to myself; that in a way, I was saving myself from my addiction. He asked me to use C.P.R. as an acronym for quitting weed. I thought about this for a short while and decided it means Clear, Present and Responsive. Since quitting weed, this is how I am focusing on living my life, and that is what C.P.R. now means to me.

Learning To Express Anger Well

Growing up, I used to think some feelings are bad and some are good. We are supposed to have a whole wide range of emotions. While it may be common to believe some are better than others, all emotions are essential to our human experience. How we express emotions is key. Depending on our manner, our expression of feelings can either be good or bad, hurtful or helpful.

“Emotions serve an important role in human learning and development, guiding us toward and away from actions and situations. Our emotional system might be thought of like the GPS is to driving. I like to call our emotional system our EGS: Emotional Guidance System.

Research suggests most of us tend to describe our emotional experience using around five to seven feeling words… like: happy, sad, angry, love, excited and maybe even “blah”. We really have quite a vast array of emotions. Improving our understanding of these builds emotional intelligence, awareness and “expression ability”, qualities that improve our way of relating to others.

Many counselling and community resources tend to focus programs on anger management, due in part to the destructive and hurtful actions that can accompany this emotion. The poorest and most unbridled expressions of anger have resulted in abusive, aggressive and even violent behaviours, literally contributing to millions of “broken” relationships.  Learning how to express our emotions well is a skill that most of us develop over time, usually from experiencing a multitude of negative consequences from poorer expression.

As we mature, it becomes clear that our choice of thought drives feelings and actions. When we put little effort and time into self-reflection and introspection, we can easily be unaware, or under aware, of the actual thoughts fueling our anger and hostility. An examined life and mindfulness helps us choose healthier, more positive viewpoints, however it is rather easy to just unconsciously and unthoughtfully follow negative thoughts or “stinkin thinkin”.

Some examples might include;

“How could he/she do this to us?”,  “I can’t ever forgive that!”, “We will not put up with that.”, “This is absolute @!%!**$ !  , “He never…”, She always …” , or “I can’t believe he/she could betray me like that after all we’ve been through.” 

Holding onto these negative thoughts and repeating them in our heads over and over again, we can actually feel our heartbeat racing, our blood pressure rising and knots in our stomach. We may even start to sweat and feel like we are about to “freak out” or “lose it”! This can be the source of extreme “potty mouth”… quite embarrassing to say the least. When we feel these sensations, and experience poor behaviour, our body has likely moved into “fight or flight” mode. Solution #1 is…

                                        … breathe, breathe and breathe again

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Management of our emotions begins with management of our bodies, our faces and the tone in our voice. Oxygen is essential. Once calm, we can move into a process of learning to better understand ourselves and others, finding ways to better cope with troubling situations and feelings.

Our core beliefs also have an immense impact upon the outcome: values that involve concepts like forgiveness, love, equality, acceptance and empathy. When faced with stressful, difficult and frustrating situations, when the actions of others seem to be overwhelming and uncaring, when the pain and hurt caused feels unbearable, we must strive to express value in those hurting us, displaying a loving, compassionate and forgiving spirit and moving closer to them rather than farther apart.

Getting training, support and coaching as well as practicing the new skills learned can really help you more readily access a calm and assertive approach when under fire. Such an approach is indeed a developing skill, an art if you will. Are you ready to get the support and coaching to better manage your emotions and move forward in relationships/life?  Call us today!

Medication: One Possible Tool For Your Arsenal?

Many may be hesitant to take medication for depression; it is sometimes incorrectly perceived as a personal weakness. When we sprain an ankle or dislocate an arm, we require crutches or braces for support so that our bodies can heal. One may consider a similar attitude about the use of antidepressant medication.

It is very important to research the various types of medications that can be prescribed for depression, discuss these with your doctor and pharmacist and ask about side effects from various medications. Some side effects may include, yet are not limited to the following: nausea, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, decreased sex drive, weight gain, constipation, and headaches. Ultimately, it is your choice whether to use medications and for how long, however, it is important to work closely with your doctor to most effectively and safely use antidepressants.

A holistic approach to depression has shown to be the most effective treatment plan. Antipsychotic medications do not cure depression; they may reduce or eliminate symptoms which can help people address problematic areas of life. Pairing a medication plan with nutrition, exercise and counselling can help individuals suffering better cope with depression or possibly overcome depressive symptoms entiretly.

Counselling addresses factors medication cannot; helping people improve current relationships, heal past wounds, set healthy boundaries, reduce feeling overwhelmed by stress, and learn to cope with life’s challenges in a healthier and more effective manner.

As medication may improve the biochemistry factors associated with depression, counselling helps people resolve the psychosocial influences that heighten depressive symptoms. Essential life changes such as exercise, proper nutrition and healthy sleeping habits have shown to improve a person’s emotional state. Making significant lifestyle changes may be almost impossible without assistance, behavioural coaching and cognitive training. Cognitive-behavioural therapy, a well researched and evidence-based counselling approach, has been shown to be quite effective with helping those suffering from depression.

For effective assistance Book an appointment with us today!

or… Post-Traumatic Stress “Reaction” (PTSR)

“The anger, the rage, the hurt, and the cold loneliness that separates you from your family, friends, and society’s normal daily routine are so powerful that the option of destroying yourself is both real and attractive….It appears, it grows, it invades and it overpowers you….You cannot put these things behind you…And the more people advise you to do so, the more you get mad because you know these things will not disappear. Time does not help,” (from Lt-Gen. Dallaire; Davison, Neale, Blankstein & Flett, 2002, p. 197).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly known to be experienced by those who have fought in wars and experienced combat stress; however, it may also occur to individuals exposed to prolonged abuse, trauma, and victimization at home, school, work and in other social situations. Personal tragedy, natural disasters, or overwhelming life experiences also contribute to suffering and potentially being diagnosed with PTSD. The term “reaction” has been used increasingly over more recent years with symptoms following after trauma.

When we are exposed to difficult situations, it can sometimes feel unbearable to cope with. Excessive memory loss, increased doubt and insecurity, thoughts that bad things are inevitable, trouble sleeping and eating are just a few symptoms of excessive stress. At times, our family and friends may develop unrealistic expectations that we are “strong enough” to overcome life’s challenges. This may inhibit sufferers of PTSD from seeking help and being able to move forward. Living with untreated or under-treated PTSD, people may subsequently, over time, “experience problems with anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, substance abuse (as a means of self-medicating), marital problems, poor physical health, and occupational impairment” (Blankstein, et al.).

Feeling stuck in this dark place, as Lt-Gen. Dallaire describes above, can make us feel like there is no way out. We may be reliving traumatic experiences on a daily basis and not realize that there are ways to overcome the situation differently—ways to cope, ways to feel loved and supported (not shameful or guilty).

One-to-one therapy can help address the specific needs of an individual with PTSD. Group therapy may create a space of support for those also suffering with PTSD; being in the “same boat” with others who are able to relate to similar symptoms and experiences. Together, both individual counselling and support groups can help individuals overcome the symptoms and impact of severe trauma and regain a positive perspective on life. Call us today for an appointment and additional resources to assist you.

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!

“I complained of a decline in vital energy; a weakened ability to enjoy the fulfillment of needs or of aesthetic desire. Even the most reasonable goals had become difficult or impossible to set, and when established, impossible to fulfill…I complained of sleep troubles, eating troubles. I found myself avoiding all but the most urgently necessary contact with other people. The ill feeling that, for some depressives, does not get much worse than a generalized unhappiness would in my case often degenerate into overwhelming self-loathing, climaxing in sudden, surprising relief, or thoughts or suicide,” (Mays, 1996, p. 64).

In Mays’ case, he did find some relief when prescribed Prozac; however this relief was only temporary.

This holiday season is upon us and some of us are listening to the 24-hour holiday playlists on the radio. Some of us have already decorated our homes to be in a constant reminder of the joy that this time brings. We anticipate the family visits and holiday traditions. With young children, we share stories of what this time was like when we were young. To some of us, the holiday season allows us to forget the difficulties we face day to day, and become grateful for the people in our lives; as well as the memories we get to share and create.

Unfortunately the joys, memories, and happiness is not experienced by all of us. Like Mays, people suffering from depression have an extremely difficult time participating in a festive spirit.

What is important to consider over the holidays is that individuals suffering from depression usually do not want to think and feel this way. The happiness and enjoyment seems unattainable.

Sharing time in such a joyous occasion comes easy when we are in the presence of those with the same joyful intentions. It can be difficult for families who have a member suffering from depression. Some families may feel guilty of feeling so happy around this time of year when they know that another member is suffering. Individuals with depression may withdraw from family traditions so that they do not “ruin” the holiday spirit.

There are ways for all family members to cope during the holiday season. Seeking support as a family increases cohesiveness, enhances your relationships and also provides insight into the impact that depression can have on the family. Call us today so you and your family can enjoy the New Year.