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ANTS: Our Thoughts or Not ?

The following contribution is from a middle-aged woman who suffered severe child abuse, sexual abuse, containment and physical violence as well as the early demise of her mother. Father’s subsequent downturn to alcoholism and grandparents scornful childcare assistance appear to have contributed, along with multiple sexual predators, to her ultimately suffering from complex post-traumatic stress “reaction” and dissociative identity symptoms. Despite the severe stress and strain on her psyche, she manages to strive to improve for her family and to attempt to regain her sanity. Her interpretation of how her brain works follows:

“I used to think that the four lobes of my brain just worked separately. Decisions made came from whatever lobe was healthiest at that moment. Like the wire connecting them together had a break in it. Over the years, I have tried to get control over which lobe would work but realized I don’t get to decide.

I have tried so many different attempts at control: changing my diet, adding different vitamins, punishment and rewarding the lobes that seemed to work best. Giving control to others who thought they could fix it for me using whatever methods they thought would work… (drugging, restraining, electrocuting, depriving, thought control, etc.). This has proved impossible so far.

Now I don’t think my four lobes work separately. I feel like my brain has turned into a giant anthill, each ant having its own job to do. Sometimes they seem to work together but sometimes they seem to eat each other and fight. It feels like a war inside the hill.

Sometimes, I think the poisonous ants are the big ones that overpower the small ones. The small ones have to fight and stay on alert at all times for the big ones. They have to follow the poisonous ants and do what they say, if they are not strong enough to fight. Other times, they get too tired and surrender themselves to the poisonous ants and get killed if they step out of line and do not follow. Sometimes, the small ants can win. It takes teamwork by many different small ants but they CAN choose their own job to do. It just takes more than one.

I can sometimes feel them in my skin and head. It makes me itchy. It makes me wonder if they are getting along or struggling. Sometimes, I see ants all over my bed or couch or wall…wherever I’m sitting. I think it’s the BIG ANTS making me see them and feel them, reminding me they are in control.

Sometimes, the small ants can be tricky and be poisonous too but you don’t know it at the time. You can’t assume anything with ants of any size. They switch jobs without notice. They fight without reason.

I don’t like ants. I enjoy spraying ant killer into their tiny hills. I like to put them out of their misery. I can’t imagine them being happy. God would likely disapprove, as he created such creatures but they can really torture you if they were to live inside your head. They have such a nasty sting for such a small bug.”

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A psychological term, from cognitive-behavioural theory, uses the acronym ANTS to refer to our “automatic negative thoughts” It almost seems as though the author of the words above has a hypersensitivity to her negative thinking processes. It would be nice, I suppose, if it were much easier to get rid of our ANTS or “Stinkin Thinkin” than it is. Help is available to reduce our ANTS.

Therapy is designed to help people uncover ANTS and find new ways to think that promote improved mental health. For help recovering from abuse, resolving relationship concerns or to improve your view of yourself, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.


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From Blame to Ownership

“I started working at sixteen. Wanting to make my own money and buy my own things. The only lessons on saving (if you’d like to call it that), came from my mom saying that I should put a little away and give some to the church. My young ignorant mind knew nothing about credit, debt, fees, or expenses. And that little bit that I was supposed to be putting away was rarely done. I’ll always be making money….right?

Well, after university with four credit cards and my line of credit maxed out, I was forced to wake up. My financial instability felt like walking with a heavy weighted ball chained to my leg. When pay day arrived, I felt a glimmer of sunshine beam down on my face, through this cloud of debt, only to have to contribute 90% of it to a credit card or bank debt.

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Many young adults can relate to this scenario. We ask ourselves if we will ever get out of this cycle of debt. Will we ever be able to make more than minimal payments? When we experience days of frustration, we sometimes place or want to place the blame on others. We might blame parents for not teaching enough financial lessons or we may place blame on creditors for making it impossible to make larger payments due to interest fees.

The trouble with placing blame on others is that it does not provide a solution for financial strain. What can provide a ray of sunshine and power is to look within. Taking ownership for the decisions we have made helps increase optimism and opens up opportunities. We actually get energy from taking responsibility for our situation. We can even become more open to assistance from others, professionals and family. Counselling helps many individuals achieve their goals of financial freedom.

Financial counselling helps by assessing behaviour trends in our spending. For example, many of us may use the phrase, “I need this,” rather than “I want this.” We have grown accustomed to using the word ‘need’ to refer to a ‘want.’ When we look into how and why we are spending, great changes in our spending behaviours can be altered.

Counselling also helps us create a plan. A counsellor may hold us accountable to our plan, in a non-judgmental way, helping us chip away at debt with a consistent and calculated approach. Creating a plan to better manage our income, savings, and our debts is an approach to get us out of being in a stressful financial cycle. The plan shows us what we are moving towards. Money troubles??? … get help!

A friend of mine explains his life like this:

“My relationship is up and down, I have serious demons that have gone untreated for years, I am expecting a child, and all of it makes me unhappy. I don’t do anything with my days; watch television aimlessly, sleep, or feed my addiction with the temptations that surround me. And my eating? Well it’s not a nutritional plan that’s for sure. I am lucky to fit in two proper meals a day; otherwise it’s cereal, crackers and cheese, or canned tuna. I try to think about my life…I just go through the seconds, minutes, and hours of each day. If a subtle reminder of my previous life becomes present, I get really upset.”

It is easy for outsiders to simplistically say, “Well if you’re not happy, then make a change!” It may come easy for some of us to read this and assume this person is lazy and child-like. Some of this person’s family members or friends might become more argumentative because they have tried for years to provide support, advice, and resources for my friend to seek help. When it seems like your family and loved ones are giving up on you, it can make it even more difficult to make changes.

Nonetheless changes need to be made. This person is not alone. Many of us have had times when we are unhappy with some, many or all aspects of our lives. Changing things, situations, or the people in our lives, factors that fuel our unhappy thoughts, is difficult to do. So difficult sometimes that giving up or not trying at all seems like the better options.

What about just changing ourselves? Changing our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours can be the best approach to create happiness in our lives. What if we didn’t have to worry about other people, other situations, or our environment and just focused on ourselves; our attitudes and our actions? The possibilities of what this looks like and also what opportunities can arise for us can and WILL be life changing. As we change ourselves, our thoughts, how we handle situations, deciding positive shifts we want for our lives, the people, situations, and events in our lives will also shift.

To speed up the positve and developmental work on YOURSELF, call us today.


How Can I Change?

“It has been one week with zero communication with my partner who has a sex addiction. It may seem like not a lot of time; however, when you have spent the last three years (every day) speaking with or seeing him, then you come to realize that these seven days can feel like a lifetime.

I’ve looked at my phone to see if there are any messages and I’ve “creeped” him on instagram to see what he has been up to; but I am now realizing that only one person called me today. So I start to look back on my life (or at the past 3 years) and wonder what I have done and whom I have neglected.

I’ve become aware that there are a number of people I’ve neglected in the past three years…myself included. Reading through google searches of how to help my sex addicted partner, I found the word codependency come up quite frequently.

I then read a little further and have identified that I am able to relate to almost all common characteristics of being a codependent.

So although I am sad about not having any contact with my addicted partner, I am realizing that it is time to work on myself. Perhaps that is the best way to help my partner….starting with me first.”

Some of the common characteristics of codependency, that others may also relate to are:

  • Spending a great deal of time focusing on the person with addiction and neglecting yourself and others.
  • Sacrificing self with the unrealistic expectation that it will foster loyalty.
  • Becoming someone you don’t like (e.g. angry, hopeless, helpless, untrusting, drained)
  • Giving the person struggling with addiction the unearned benefit of the doubt over and over again.
  • Enabling by seemingly turning a blind eye, compromising yourself, and trying to control or “parent” the person

To learn more about overcoming codependency and addictive behaviours, call us today .

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of because in the silence you hear truth and know the solutions,” (Deepak Chopra).

It isn’t necessarily the fear of being alone bothering us.  It may be we fear self-reflection, examining our mind and the potentiality of discovering answers or solutions stemming from the past? An unexamined self can contribute to stagnation; continuing to do the same things over and over again, yet hoping for a different outcome.

To keep this hope alive, we might fan the faith in our external environment and the people in it to change our circumstances for us. Maybe they will “see the light”, they will start to value our relationships with them, treat us better, and then our lives will be more meaningful and fulfilling.

Want a meaningful and more fulfilling life? Are you watching this holiday season go by, ensuring everyone around you is taken care of — everyone except yourself? The people around us are not primarily responsible for determining fulfillment in our lives. The choices we make every day, every hour and even every second can either distract from or add to our satisfaction and to that of the people around us.

Our lives may be “busyed” up  so long we are unclear how to refocus.  We may want help to discover the steps required to move forward.

Sometimes we do not have the space to experience solitude, as Deepak Chopra suggests. Ready to get help? Want to improve your journey? When considering change, counselling can help you identify obstacles blocking progress and help generate specific strategies to improve yourself and, subsequently, your relationships.

For some, the space of solitude might be found in counselling; the opportunity to intentionally examine yourself more fully, to explore the dynamic patterns in your relationships and to learn ways to develop healthier ones.

We hope that you do take time for yourself, as well as friends and family, over this Christmas holiday season. It may just be the best gift you’ll ever give and receive.

CBT-  Breakthrough to Reduce Anxiety

Anne’s presenting problem was preoccupation and fear that she had breast cancer. Five days a week, she would spend up to 80 per cent of her day thinking about the possibility that she might have cancer or that she had the symptoms of cancer in her breasts. On the other two days, she would have fleeting ideas that she might have cancer, but was able to dismiss them and continue with her normal activities. She sought reassurance from her husband at least ten times a day and visited her general practitioner, again for reassurance at least once a fortnight. She was unable to look at herself in the mirror as these evoked images of herself with cancer (Grant, Townend, Mills, & Cockx, 2008, p. 182).

Although Anne’s assessment and evaluations do not detect cancer-related symptoms (Grant, et al., 2008), the worry of possibly one day being diagnosed is all she seems to need to live with fear. The anticipation of a diagnosis of a life-threatening health concern can be overwhelming and consume much of our daily thoughts, feelings and routines.

Like Anne, we can have reoccurring thoughts that foster feelings of anxiety, anger, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, and depression. Experiencing these feelings each day may also create excessive and harmful behaviours. In Anne’s case, she avoided all forms of appropriate self-examinations for months at a time, however every three to four months, she would become so overwhelmed with her thoughts of having cancer that she would spend several hours examining her breasts (Grant, et al.). As a result, she would experience tenderness which she interpreted as a sign of cancer.

The cycle of stinkin’ thinkin’, where our overwhelming thoughts create excessive feelings that lead to harmful behaviours can be exhausting. It may have us feeling hopeless, living a life we do not want or enjoy and disrupting relationships with others.

Professional help can help you find the solutions to break this cycle so it will not continue to be debilitating. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy provides tools like cognitive or thought shifting, behavioural strategies and a safe professional place to identify the factors contributing to concerning behaviours. It has been proven to be helpful for re-balancing emotions.

If you are finding thinking cycles and the emotional upheaval unmanageable, call us today!

Changing The Way We Think About “Diet”

Everywhere we turn, we are hearing about a new diet craze. Whether it be endorsed by a favourite celebrity or health professional, or it seems to produce fast results. However, we quickly come to realize that after trying about a dozen of these fad diets, the results don’t last. So on to the next one, right?

We tend to dread hearing health professionals and personal trainers use the term “life-long change” when it comes to losing weight and looking great. Why? Well, perhaps because of the word “LONG!” It seems like a lot of work. When we consider other aspects of our lives that take up so much of our time (e.g., education, working, or raising our children), we often desire something that will be quick and come easy to us.

So are you ready to “just do” this new diet view? I hear that its success rate is 99.9%. Most people who have done it report that it wasn’t easy, but it changed their lives for the better.

Consider this interpretation of the word DIET:

D        – Distinguishing between

I          – Intentional

E         – Effort and

T         – Trying

We try the latest fad diets. We try to be better people. We try to maintain healthy relationships. We try to raise our children the best we can. We try to perform well at our jobs. We try to be the best partner in our romantic relationships. We try, we try and we try.

Do we try to pee? lol… Think about it… do we? Do we try to pay bills or our mortgage? When our furnace breaks, do we try to fix it? When we fall, do we try to get up or do we just get up?

Most of the time we do not try any of these — we just do it! The results indicate that when we just do things (i.e., when we set an intention to take action), it will work. So what is holding us back from doing (with intentional effort) rather than attempting or trying?

Intentional effort involves actively changing our thinking (catching and replacing negative thoughts) in order to improve our feelings and behaviours or habits. When we learn how to do this well, we can change our lives, our relationships and our health.

Effectively shifting our behaviours from attempts into action allows us to take control of our lives. It allows us to think and plan accordingly and execute a new way of behaving. It inhibits us from giving up. When we are driven to positive action, our thoughts and feelings are also more positive and solution-focused. An intentional approach to change significantly improves our emotional state, providing more balanced emotional sense and expression.

So are you ready to take action and apply this new attitude about the term “DIET”to your life? We can provide you with the support and guidance you need to be a part of that 99.9% success rate. Call us today!