Photo credit: stockarch from morguefile.com

Our bodies are incredibly complex machines and part of this beautiful sophistication is the way they communicate with us. When we are acting or thinking in ways which are harmful to our body/mind/soul, we often consciously or unconsciously deny or ignore this reality for a multitude of possible reasons. However, if we continue to deny or ignore the current or potential consequences of our harmful thoughts and actions, these amazing machines called our bodies often do their best to let us know that we are heading down an ill-advised path and that we would be wise to take action.

What language does the body speak?

It is a universal dialect called pain and discomfort. No matter where in the world you live, or what your ‘mother tongue’ is, you understand the language of pain and discomfort. Headaches, stomach cramps, stiff neck, sore back, fatigue, frequent colds and infections, rashes and nervous tics are but a few of the most common ways our bodies let us know that something is wrong. However, because we have a long history in the Western world of separating the mind and the body, we often jump to the conclusion that our physical pain and discomfort must have a physical cause.

Now of course, this can often be the case, but for many people who suffer from the list of ailments listed above, a battery of standard medical tests often come up empty-handed. This is because many physical symptoms are the result of psychological distress. Many jump to the conclusion that this means that such ailments are ‘all in your head’ and as such do not actually exist. On the contrary, physical symptoms with a psychological cause are very real – they are simply the language our body is using to let us know that something psychological needs to be addressed.

There is thus, no physical cause which can be treated or cured, but rather it is a psychological – or even spiritual – problem which needs to be addressed. The ‘impress your family and friends’ word for the body’s ability to communicate psychological distress through physical pain and discomfort is called somatization.

In his 1996 book about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, Richard Harris points out that many of Freud’s early patients sought his help as a medical doctor and it was, in part, his interest in the very common phenomenon of physical symptoms with psychological causes which led him to develop psychoanalysis. In the present day, most diagnostic tools which are used to determine if a person is suffering from a mental health issue will include ‘frequent pain or discomfort with no known cause’ as one of the potential symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and several other conditions.

Turning your ‘crisis’ into an ‘opportunity’

So, while pain and discomfort can make it very challenging to live life to the fullest, it is the ability of pain and discomfort to capture our attention that makes it such an effective messenger that change is needed. If you are struggling with persistent physical issues, by all means, talk to your family physician or another health professional. However, if the standard medical tests come up empty, you may want to explore the psychological roots of your physical problems.

Chronic stress, unresolved shame/guilt, feeling hopeless and living a life that is not consistent with your deeper values are but a few of the psychological challenges which can manifest as physical issues or make pre-existing pain or discomfort feel even worse. As uncomfortable and frustrating as unresolved pain and discomfort can be, it may be an opportunity in disguise – an opportunity to explore, and perhaps even resolve, some deeper issues which are trying to get your attention.

To explore the psychological connections that may be underpinning your physical ailments contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.


Photo credit: bandini from morguefile.com

Welcome, Bienvenido, 欢迎, आपका स्वागत है, Fogadtatás

  • Canadian Birth Rate Low, Immigration To Thank For Growth
  • Canada’s birth rate is currently hovering around 1.67 children per woman, well below the minimum of 2.0 needed for natural population replacement.
  • For Canada, expanding our numbers means depending on immigration, which accounts for two-thirds of population expansion. About 250,000 immigrants, most of them from China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, are accepted into the country each year.
  • “Some come from countries where economic, cultural and religious traditions have made larger families common”, said Jeffrey Reitz, a professor of ethnic and immigration studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
  • At the current rate, if nothing changes, immigration — currently responsible for 67 per cent of Canada’s population growth — could account for 80 per cent of growth within the next 20 years, and nearly 100 per cent by the year 2061, Statistics Canada says.
  • I don’t see it really looking a lot different in the future than what it looks now,” McDaniel said. As older immigrants age and die, they will be replaced by new immigrants, changing and enriching the threads that make up the country’s multicultural fabric.

Between 2006 and 2011, around 1,162,900 foreign-born people immigrated to Canada.

Coming to a new country can be an overwhelming and challenging experience.

Why is it so stressful?

  • Feelings of loss
  • Parting from family
  • Language difficulties
  • Finding employment, housing, and education
  • Culture Shock
  • Enduring abuse, domestic violence and discrimination
  • Lack of understanding of healthcare system

Acculturative stress: My daughter is becoming too “Canadian”! I can no
longer relate to her!
Trauma: “I left my country at a time of war. Some of those thoughts still
haunt me” (Reena Hamid)
Discrimination: “My father left a great job back home. He now drives a taxi
in Toronto. I see how badly people treat him because his English is poor”
(Vivek Pratak)

Adjusting to a new culture and language is difficult as it is. Discrimination and multiple traumas (such as war and other types of violence in countries of origin) makes it even tougher. These challenges can weaken and challenge immigrants’ mental well-being. As a result, immigrants and their children can profit greatly from suitable psychological and social understanding and support.

Incorporating one’s culture of origin into one’s culture of new home is known as successful acculturation.

Our professional therapeutic approaches can help you and your children achieve successful acculturation by working with you on the following:

Learning to live with change

Understanding Canadian family law 

Separation from family

PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder or “reaction”

Solving issues within the family

Communicating with partners and children as well as coworkers 

Disciplining styles with children

Handling stress and burdens 

Welcome! At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc., we use effective and culturally valid diagnostic tools sensitive and inclusive enough to account for cultural variability. If you’re looking for confidential and non-judgmental counselling services, book an appointment today.

Social Connections Reduce Stress


Photo credit: vahiju from Morguefile,com

Stress is an inevitable occurrence in our lives. Sometimes we can manage easily. We may remain focused with our daily tasks, take a couple extra work breaks, exercise, joke around or eat a few more snacks to help us through the day.

However stress can also be, at times, too overwhelming to push aside with our usual coping strategies. We may have so many stressors we may not see a way out or can’t find enough outlets so our stress levels can subside. We may feel like the walls of stress we are surrounded by are narrowing in on us.

Then we get a phone call from a friend who would love to spend some time together. We may, at first, want to respond; “No, now is not a good time.”, however, what better time than to escape this reality for an hour or two? So we agree to meet up with our friend, and after five minutes of small talk, we take in a breath of relief.

When we push aside relationships because we are “too stressed out,” we may feel more stress and even a little anxious. Thoughts of being unsupported can fuel feelings of loneliness and isolation leading to even less motivation to seek friendships.  Limited social support has been associated with depression and cognitive decline (Harvard Women’s Health Watch).

Social relationships:

  • Provide support, encouragement, empathy, and humour
  • Encourage our physical health. “Social connections help relieve harm to the heart’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system (Harvard Health Publications).
  • Help us feel a sense of belonging, that we can relate and share similar life stressors (work, school, family, spouses, and/or children).
  • Build opportunities to engage in the same activities of interests (sport, music, artistic, etc.)
  • Provide stress-relief, financial aid at times and helpful advice

Professional counselling can assist you to better manage stress and develop improved interpersonal skills.  We can also help strengthen existing social skills and strengths helping you overcome challenges with friends and build up satisfying social connections. Contact us today.


Photo credit: SDRandCo from morguefile.com

Photo credit: mensatic from morguefile.com

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 !

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!

Is Something Getting In The Way Of Your Employability?

Some of us may ask ourselves: “Has anyone noticed how difficult it is to get a job, or is just me?” We focus our attention on job searching engines for 2-3 hours every morning. We search every possible key word that can describe our field of work. If we’re lucky, we will find about 5-10 new postings a day–and we apply to them all of course. We keep track of the application deadlines and as those days approach, we are consistently checking our phones, anticipating a call for an interview. But then no phone calls come in. Days without work turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. I won’t mention what months can turn into. Are we ready to give up?

Did you know that just that simple thought, those two small words, “GIVE UP,” can hinder our ability to find work? It’s true. Even if we don’t say it out loud, when we think about those two words, our feelings change. We can become sad and depressed. We may start to think that we are not good enough.

But we ARE good enough! We’ve gone to school, we’ve gained experiences, we are talented, and our personalities are contagious. These are the thoughts we need to have in order to improve our chances of finding an employer who will be thrilled to have us join the team. These thoughts are easier said than done, especially when the credit card, mortgage, and all other bill payments are due (or past due).

How do you think counselling can help? Counselling may help us land our next job. With coaching, we can find the root to our stinkin’ thinkin’: the negative thoughts that have us discouraged and telling us to just forget it. Those thoughts did not simply emerge because we are having difficulty finding work.

Those same words came from way back in our past. At some point in our lives, we heard these thoughts, we heard examples of people “giving up”.  After that, at some point, these words turned on us as we told ourselves to give up or that we were not good enough. This stinkin’ thinkin’ has stayed with us all this time.

Counselling helps us to create new ways of thinking that improve beliefs about ourselves. Shifting stinkin’ thinkin’ in the background and bringing new positive thoughts to the foreground shifts our energy, demeanor and then the employment/career search also improves.

With help, we can learn to stay focused on the amazing qualities we have. This will increase our confidence in applying for jobs that truly interest us. Coaching will also help present the best parts of ourselves in interviews. And we will be able to celebrate our efforts and the process that gets us to our success; rather than viewing it as a struggle. If you feel other stresses are getting in the way of finding or keeping employment, and you want help –  give us a call .

In a time where technology is the driving force of communication, we can be bombarded with too much information, much of which is quite negative.  Currently, Toronto is a media target, both nationally and internationally, due to Mayor Rob Ford’s numerous indiscretions. Negative media attention can easily fuel undue upset, anger, discouragement, and embarrassment.

Negativity is every where. People Finger-pointing and complaining inhibits growth opportunities, reduces possibilities and effectively stifles productive conversations and creative solutions.can feel blanketed by it like being shrouded by a thick fog when driving. This contributes to nervousness, confusion, frustration and anxiety. So how do we release such negative energy? Because “bad things” are happening all the time, and when we feel like we cannot take it anymore, what do we do about it? How can we move forward?

What follows are views, ideas and precepts that can help turn a negative experiences into a positive ones?

Gandhi once said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall,” (from Joe Vitale’s Life’s Missing Instruction Manual).

An ancient biblical reference in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7  refers to love as follows: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

During what sometimes feels like our darkest times, when we feel betrayed, hurt and defeated, what will bring us into the light is love. Love involves taking a higher road, putting aside our destructive attitudes, feelings and behaviours (e.g. like blaming and complaining), in favour of more positive and caring approaches.

Though this can feel like a major uphill climb, a loving view of others can lead to growth opportunities, increase possibilities and foster effective, productive conversations that generate creative solutions.

Love is a verb! It can be seen in a vast array of behaviours or actions. One such expression of love is forgiveness. Research supports this premise, suggesting that forgiving past wrongs can be helpful in the aid of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and chronic pain—it can alter the state of our health (University of Wisconsin, Department of Family Medicine).

Some may think of forgiveness as a process to make the other person feel better; however those who forgive may reap as much of not more benefit than those forgiven. In the material on The Nature of Forgiveness” (University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine) we learn the following:

  • Forgiveness is a transformation. The key is to release suffering and increase inner peace and understanding.

  • Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. In fact, you have to remember and acknowledge negative emotions and events before forgiveness can occur.

  • Forgiveness is NOT pardoning, excusing, or saying that something will be treated as acceptable behaviour in the future.
  • Forgiveness is, first and foremost, done for the person doing the forgiving.
  • Forgiveness is a path to freedom. It frees you from the control of the person who caused the harm. They lose their power to cause you to feel negative emotions.
  • Forgiveness can break old patterns that might otherwise interfere when you try to create new relationships.
  • Forgiveness can take a lot of time and hard work.
  • Forgiveness need not require ‘making up’ with the person who caused the harm. It is an internal process. It is primarily for you. The goal is to help you heal, to help you grow.

Thinking about forgiveness may not be enough. For many, tapping into principles described in various spiritual traditions from around the world is necessary. Prayer, meditation, intrapersonal and interpersonal dialogues, mindfulness, and developing emotional intelligence may be essential parts of the forgiveness process for many people.

It is essential to our physical, spiritual and mental health to seek ways to surround ourselves with positive examples of life, qualities and relationships.  Learning ways to increase our ability to love and forgive helps us let go and move toward a happier and more satisfying life.