Sometimes a new diagnosis for your child may release certain feelings: guilt, shame, embarrassment, or regret. We might tend to push these feelings aside and focus on the “main concern,” that being our child. Getting counselling or therapy help for our children is great, yet, this is not necessarily the only strategy for our family’s overall health and improvement.

Family systems theory points to the interconnectedness of all family members. We don’t always feel connected so how is it family members are connected? This “umbrella” theory suggests that we are connected by the vast array of rules and roles members have in the family and also by the emotional intensity so apparent in family relationships. Following this, one person’s diagnosis then impact us all, thus, is actually kind of a diagnosis for the whole family. 

This is a very positive and optimistic perspective that implies a change in one part of the system or family member will actually change all members. A difficult concept given all the negative press or thinking that states you can’t change other people.  False!  According to the science behind family systems theory we can. In therapy or counselling, when one person comes in to improve (thoughts, feelings and behaviours), we can expect to gradually also see a change in others in the family.

Rather than just wanting one person to get help, we may want to include as many family members as possible in the counselling or coaching process. Thinking systemically requires us to acknowledge that a health diagnosis, major event or situation can and will have an impact on the entire family.

We at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc. encourage all family members to join counselling sessions when and where appropriate, while also understanding one person can begin the process.


  1. By addressing the impact of the diagnosis for the entire family, it provides a better understanding of each member and the role they play in their family system.
  2. The more family members work together on solutions, the faster and more effectively we can adjust and/or improve.
  3. Increasing the communication of the diagnosis can create a stronger support system for the person diagnosed.
  4. Because family members have a profound impact on each other’s thoughts and feelings, learning how to cope with the negative thoughts and difficult feelings will create unity and promote teamwork.

Invite as many family members as you want, yet be ok to start the change process on your own. Remember, change is happening all the time. Our decisions influence the direction of change; either toward better or worse relationships. To change for the better... contact us today !

Sometimes we wander day-to-day wondering what is next or perhaps not even wondering at all… just living. After a while, this can lead to indirection, misdirection and a sense of aimlessly plodding through life. To avoid apathy and the awful potential to implode… it is important to set clear goals that provide direction for life.

Getting what we want out of life requires intentional effort.

Minimize the chance of setting vague goals by using the acronym SMART. This can give direction to your goal setting and improve successful outcomes:

S = Specific: we want to be sure the goal is clearly stated with enough detail about exactly what we want to achieve.

M = Measurable: goals that are measurable can be easier to attain because we’ll know when we have reached them.

A = Attainable: Ensure you are realistic when setting goals making them something within (or slightly above) your capacity at the time.

R = Relevant: motivation increases when we believe the goal is important and meaningful. A passionate feeling about the task helps.

T = Timely: Set exactly when you want to reach the goal. This can add motivation.  Timing can always be adjusted if need be.

Using this  mnemonic can help remind us of the important components to goal setting. If you want to be even SMARTER about the task;

E = Evaluate: Be sure to look back at your accomplishment and rate how you did, what got in the way and what might improve next time.

R = Reward: To keep our energy and motivation  to reach goals high, be sure to give yourself a little (or big) reward for your efforts and also for achieving success!

Be goal-directed. Set smart goals today and see your excitement and motivation for life improve?

Have fun! 


   “I’ve talked with my teen”  / “I’ve talked with my parent(s)”

Are you sure?

  • Did you openly talk about your hopes, dreams and desires for sexual choices?
  • Have you shared your beliefs and values on the subject?
  • Did you discuss ways to set clear boundaries, to discuss reasons for waiting or the pros and cons of either choice?
  • What about how to raise the topic with your boyfriend or girlfriend?

Parents, young adults and teens alike frequently provide the following answers when asked what is safe sex;

   “Abstinence”… “Until marriage”

Many will guess this is truly the answer to the question, however this is not really the answer, at least, given how most view the definition of abstinence. Definitions indicate this means “to refrain from sexual intercourse”, some adding until marriage, yet, many other risky behaviours could lead to STIs/STDs. This answer also does not teach about safe sexual expression either… no sex is not sex. What is safe sexual expression then? The next answer from parents, teens or young adults often is …

   “Condoms and Contraception”

Again, school programs often phrase this strategy as “safe sex” quite commonly reporting statistics indicate safety ranges from 97% to 99% when used effectively. The titles of “safe” or “safer” are unfortunately quite misleading. This is magnified because we now know adolescents’ brains are not fully developed until their early twenties.  Further, contraception is rarely used as recommended heightening risk. When all factors are taken into account (e,g, forgetfulness, unwillingness and the just plain “not caring much”) contraceptive use safety hovers somewhere around 77% (seventy-seven percent).  Wow!… an over twenty percent chance of an infectious disease or pregnancy. Think about that.

    “Find one person you really love”

Finally, a smaller proportion of people will answer “safe sex is with someone you really love“, however there is huge ambiguity around what this actually means. At what age? Does this mean one person? What if you choose and then break up? Choose again? Committed relationship? What does that mean? What does really love mean?

With all the confusion, vague answers and poor safety percentages, it may be better for school boards and parents alike to delete the title safe sex and introduce an honest title (with a big banner), LESS RISKY SEX“.   We can give students a clearer message that sexuality and sexual expression carries extreme risk to both mental and physical health.  Given the lack of clear and consistent information, it is clear we can address this health risk with a more thorough health education strategy.

The answer to today’s question is none of the above. “Really safe sexual expression” is possible.  It involves activities with virtually no chance of disease (including mental illness) or pregnancy.  Sexual development is a normal part of human development and an important part of life that brings with it great responsibility on the part of parents, educators and caregivers to prepare youth well.

Healthy sexuality and sexual development requires an educational curriculum that provides evidence-based information, consistently delivered through ongoing, open and sensitive conversations.


Fighting off Type 1 Diabetes, day in and day out, is the job of a super hero!

Short of wearing the cape, (and some do as above…lol), people who have type 1 diabetes are doing what any good super hero would do.  Those with insulin-dependent diabetes expend amazing amounts of energy to stay on top of the tasks necessary to fight off the evil diabetes.  Most notably, these super heroes are required to inject insulin multiple times every day to stay healthy and alive.

After all, isn’t that what super heroes do… save lives. They also fight off injustice and any chronic, life-threatening illness certainly isn’t fair or just. Yes these things happen, but, can you tell a little five year old who has just been told she has diabetes this is fair? Now she is to learn how to calculate the carbohydrate amount for every and all food so she can calculate insulin doses.

images-1Whether she is five, fifteen or forty-five, she and her family members are now thinking almost constantly about life-saving decisions; carb calculations, exercise and activity levels, medications, stress levels, sites to inject next time, where to store the supplies, how to keep them available everywhere and what to say to friends, family and complete strangers when she pokes her finger to check her blood sugar or glucose levels. Super hero indeed!

The next time you hear of or see someone who has type 1 or “insulin dependent” diabetes, consider letting them know how amazing it is that they are fighting off the evil diabetes to save their life and combat injustice. 

To all who have type 1 diabetes… or “liveabetes” as one child called it… keep up the fight!

Diabetes fighting man from Alderville school calendar 2005

“Mental health concerns are dirty little secrets that should not be spoken about. They are problems that no one should know about except the immediate people that are affected. Mental health concerns show weakness and shame towards the family name. “

With thoughts like these rummaging through the family, no wonder difficulties with mental health go untreated. The socially constructed stigmas of mental illness can be suffocating. However, bottled up, negative thoughts about impaired mental health can do more harm than good:

We may come to believe those negative thoughts associated with mental health concerns. These thoughts lead to feelings of worthlessness, shame, low self-esteem, withdrawal from relationships, and depression.

Secrets regarding your mental health inhibit family members from understanding your symptoms and your needs to overcome it.

Keeping any impaired mental health information can prevent future generations from understanding your family’s mental health background.

The Canadian Mental Health Association states that 20% of Canadians will personally experience mental health concerns (or illnesses) in their lifetime. 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by disordered mental health. And, in Canada, only 1 of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.

So, why the BIG SECRET?

Whether you term it mental health concerns, mental illnesses, or psychological disorders, they can ALL be treated effectively.

At Jeff Packer & Associates, we assess your thoughts and feelings associated with your mental health concerns. Together, we help you create coping thoughts and strategies to overcome the barriers that you face with your mental health. We also help you establish healthy and effective ways of communicating your concerns with loved ones, so that they can support you in your process of recovery.

Call us today and overcome the stumbling blocks that prevent you from achieving positive mental health.

One courageous young lady reports her insights below on the negative thoughts underlying her bulimia behaviours. We sometimes call these negative thoughts collectively It or may simply refer to these automatic negative thoughts as ANTS.  In counselling others, I find it helps to take a more light-hearted approach and refer to that negative inner voice as, “Stinkin Thinkin“.

The blog post below was submitted anonymously from a person struggling with bulimia.

She wanted to share her story so others who struggle can feel validated and supported.          (Caution not for those with a weak stomach)

“The way ‘It’ sees eating”

“Every time you bring a mouthful of food to your mouth imagine hearing the following echoing with every chomp, swish and swallow. Even after it goes down the constant ringing of the voice always saying…”


  • “you pig, why would you do that”
  • “oh look who messed up again, shock”
  • “have another, it won’t do any more damage than you’ve already done, you’re going to throw it up anyways”
  • “Oh really another candy bar, well you’re already fat… go ahead eat it fatty”
  • “wait where are you going to throw up so no one knows/will hear”
  • “do you have perfume/gum nearby so no one can smell the vomit on you after”
  • “I’m so proud of you for figuring out which finger works best”
  • “don’t you dare get it on your clothing, people would be disgusted with you and your gross throwing up”
  • “ahh see there you go, now you don’t have to feel guilty for eating now that it’s all out of your system… but aren’t you a little hungry again, maybe go have some more to eat, just do it again… it was easy the first time”
  • “okay so you’ve already done it twice today… just do it once more, then that’ll be the last one”
  • “if they keep asking why you go to the washroom after every meal just blame it on PMS”
  • “okay so if I go do it on my lunch break that’ll leave me 5 minutes after eating, and I’ll go to the far washroom that no one ever goes to that way no one will hear me”
  • “you better hurry and do it quick, you know the longer it stays in you the more you’ll absorb, god forbid you need any more layers of fat on you”
  • “my favorite thing to throw up after anything I eat is ice cream, it comes up nice and smooth”
  • “think, if you do this for just a few more weeks you’ll be able to fit in and actually look normal”
  • “who cares if people want you to stop, it’s your body not theirs, you’re doing no harm to them, why are they being so selfish, let me make my own decisions”
  • “never give up on doing this, or you’ll never be worth anything”

pretty serious things to be hearing It constantly tell you. Most people eat three meals a day and barely think about what they consume. To someone with bulimia, it comes down to the moment the food touches your lips you start calculating how fast, where and how can you go unnoticed when getting it out. Crazy how It makes it seem like without the bulimia you’d be nothing.”

You can hear the contradictory and insulting messages.  These contribute to poorer emotional states and, of course poorer behaviour.

If you or someone you know struggles with disordered eating contact us today for information, support and counselling solutions.

Many people think and feel that the diagnosis of diabetes is overwhelming, a catastophe, something that is almost insurmountable. These feelings and the thoughts that flood our minds during and shortly after a diagnosis of a chronic health issue are common and quite normal. Despite all the negative press and general attitudes about diabetes and “what can happen”, diabetes is one of the few chronic health conditions that is a “life sentence”. One four year old child actually called it “Livabetes”. He said, after hearing his mother cry and seeing his father’s stoic facial expression during the drive home from hospital… “I don’t have diabetes… I have livabetes because the doctors said I’m going to live a healthy life”.

Such a condition brings people into contact with doctors, nurses, dietitians , social workers and other PWDs (people with diabetes). Learning more and more each day, week and year about health, nutrition, the mind and wellness becomes the “life” of those fighting off diabetes. Picking up the tools and strategies to combat this villain – diabetes- becomes a part of everyday life “until a cure is found”. Yes diabetes is a life sentence… pointing out the importance of enjoying health, fitness and life in general… Tell others.

There are many strategies, books and resources to help those who have diabetes and their families.

Live a Long & Healthy Life "Until a Cure is Found"

Live a Long & Healthy Life

For more information; contact the Charles H. Best Diabetes Centre or go to your local diabetes care team / clinic.