Individual, Couple and Family Counselling in Cambridge, Ontario

The Shock and Pain of Suicide

on Jun 26, 2015 | 0 comments

I had my first client complete suicide recently.  It sent shock waves of pain and guilt through me.  Thoughts such as ‘I had no idea’ (which I didn’t), ‘he was such a great guy’ and ‘could I have done something more or different’, circled in my brain.  It gave me a small glimpse into what must rack the minds and hearts of a person’s friends and family when they decide to end their lives.  Some don’t understand why a person would do this but I do.  They reach a point of mental anguish where the darkness takes over and it seems like the best option is to end the pain they are living.  Experts use to say that there are signs it may happen; they now know that’s not always true.  Sometimes, like with this person, there are no indicators.  In fact there are times when the person doesn’t even realize they’re going to do it.  Particularly in the case of children and teens it can be an impulsive act.  I’ve sat with many family members struggling with the ‘whys’ and the ‘if onlys’.  I too now wrestle with those thoughts.  To the loved ones left with the images and guilt I say there’s nothing you could have done if the person decided they would end their life.  When they’re serious they come up with a fool proof way to make sure it’s effective.  I’m sorry for your loss.  I truly am.  Know that, while you will always miss the person and wish it could have been different, the pain will lessen as you process the loss.  To those thinking they may attempt it, please seek help.  It can get better.  There are professionals to come along side and medications that are effective.  Sometimes it’s a case of looking until you find the right mix of both for you.  Remember that if you decide to act on your thoughts and impulses that suicide is a final act that takes away all hope for you and those around you.  The one thing that will remain is the shock and pain of...

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The Slippery Slope of Infidelity

on Mar 28, 2015 | 0 comments

I’ve written in past about the slippery slope of technology.  Now I’m onto another slippery slope…infidelity.  They’re actually somewhat related because sometimes one is used to lead to the other.  But that’s not always the case.  Affairs often happen with those you don’t expect it to:  a close friend, a co-worker, the mom or dad of a child on the soccer team.  It can be anywhere.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I have sat with partners, as they try to pick up the pieces and rebuild trust, who say things like, “I would never have guessed s/he would ever do this to me.”  So to those who think it would never happen to their relationship, you might want to rethink that and guard against the possibility.  You see, most people do not walk down the aisle on their wedding day wondering when the affair will happen or how long it will take until they ‘cheat’.  They have hopes and dreams, often idealistic, of a life together with the partner they have chosen who they love dearly.  But life gets in the way and it can become difficult to stay connected in this crazy fast paced world.  If the right set of circumstances arise, at the right time (when the relationship is at a low), then the slippery slope may be stepped on and away you go. What does the slope look like?  It’s a glance.  It’s a feeling.  And it’s full of energy and momentum.  It often begins emotionally (emotional affairs are real) and sometimes develops into a physical affair.  Either one hurts. How do you guards against it.  Spend time with the person you love and remember the commitment you made to them to love, honour and cherish (or whatever your vows stated).  If you feel that ‘flutter’ with someone else be honest with yourself and use it as a sign that your relationship needs a little work.  If you’re hesitant to tell your partner that you’ve had coffee, lunch or are texting with someone else it’s a sure sign that the ride down the slope has begun.  Stop rationalizing it (We’re just friends) and call it what it is…..DANGEROUS!!  Don’t beat yourself up,...

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Mountain or Mole Hill

on Mar 10, 2015 | 0 comments

Often, when people come to see me, they almost apologize for attending a session and taking my time.  They say things like “there are so many people who have problems worse than mine.”  I’m not sure why people do this.  Sometimes they may be trying to minimize their issues and other times they may have had life experiences that have given them the message that they’re not worth others investing their time in them.  Whatever the case may be the reality is whether a client comes to me with a mountain or a mole hill of an issue, it’s important that they come.  When I’m asked who should attend therapy I reply “I’m a therapist.  I think everyone should go to therapy.” And while I say this with humour attached, the reality is I do believe that everyone can benefit from it.  Sometimes a person needs to talk through or process a situation.  Other times the client may need to delve into dark issues from the past. Whatever the case may be, there really are no issues to big or small to work through with a qualified therapist.  For those who think their issue isn’t big enough I can only say that I wish more people would bring their issues to the counselling room while they are still small—before they become overwhelming.  Mole hills are easy and quick to climb; mountains take a bit...

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Parenting 101… Unconditional Love

on Feb 18, 2015 | 0 comments

I think that one of the most difficult roles we’ll ever have in this life is that of parent.  We start out with hopes and dreams for our little ones that include all of the blessings this life can bring.  However for some parents that all changes when the ‘Einstein’ that they gave birth to becomes the ‘Frankenstein’ they’re wrestling with today.  I have seen parents who are in utter shock that their child has made choices they would never have thought they would make.  This can happen at any age.  It might be the strong willed child, the teen who is exercising their need to differentiate, or the adult who was ‘straight as an arrow’ and all of a sudden decides they’ve missed out on too much.  While some of this is a natural and ‘normal’ process, it’s still difficult for the parent to process or know how to react. How is a parent to respond when things start going off the rails?  This very much depends on the age of the child and the situation they’re facing.  With young children it’s important to maintain the boundaries and have reasonable consequences for their actions.  For the teen it’s setting age appropriate boundaries while giving them just enough robe so they don’t hang themselves and for the adult it’s staying connected enough to support them when they need it, but allowing them to make their own choices even when you don’t agree. No matter what the age of the child the parent is a foundational and important relationship.  They continue to seek your approval no matter what the age, even if it doesn’t feel like they want it.  In the end we’re all looking for the same thing…unconditional love and positive regard.  Just like you they want to know that no matter what, the relationship will remain and you’ll continue to love them.  It doesn’t mean you have to approve of everything they do, but can you love them in spite of it. It sounds a lot easier than it is.  But as your children grow and develop into the person they are meant to be, having that unconditional love and positive regard will be the anchor they need...

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The Dark Days of Winter

on Jan 29, 2015 | 0 comments

It’s been a long winter and recently I’ve begun to become concerned for my clients.  Why, you might ask.  Because the long dark days of winter can lead to feeling down and depressed.  Sometimes it’s hard to see past the snow drifts.  We loose hope that the sun will shine bright again and the snow will melt.  We long for short sleeves and bathing suits.  I totally get these feelings, because I feel them too.  So what do we do with the ‘winter blahs’? The first thing we need to do is focus on any positives we can come up with.  I don’t care how big or small they are, a positive focus will give us hope.  The daffodils, crocuses and tulips may not be appearing in the gardens yet, but they are in the stores, which reminds us that they’ll be in the garden soon.  The days are getting longer.  I left my office at 6:30 last night and there was still a hint of light.  Daylight savings is going to help with that too.  It’s just another reminder that as we ‘spring forward’ in time that the snow is going to have to melt.  More importantly, the bitter cold that we’ve experienced this year will turn into the ‘dog days of summer’. To take all of this a step further, this is a great analogy for the winter seasons of our life.  I was recently reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by the Dali Lama.  What a wonderful man he is.  In the chapter on struggling he pointed out that our society seems to believe that we are all good people and that as such we deserve good.  Then when something bad happens in our life we’re unprepared to handle it.  A simple statement he made had profound impact on me.  He said, “We will have struggles”.  If we face this head on and accept it our minds will be prepared when it comes.  So, don’t panic when hard times hit.  Accept that it’s part of this life and that eventually the snow will melt and the sun will shine.  And focus on any small thing that will give you hope because hope is the foundation of...

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Technology’s Slipery Slope

on Jan 27, 2015 | 0 comments

Today I met with yet another person who had their lives shattered via technology. It begins with a simple text, a search on facebook or a peak on a tempting website. Everything and anything is so easily accessible to us with the mere tap of the finger. Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the advancements we’ve made technologically and I enjoy my computer and cell phone just as much as the next guy. It’s difficult to even think back to the days of carbon paper and typewriters (boy am I dating myself). What is wrong is how we use technology at times. Addictions are rampant and difficult to overcome and they are fed and fueled my the internet. Pornography, gambling and even shopping addictions can so easily be hidden when we don’t even have to leave our living room to indulge in our ‘guilty pleasures’. Affairs of the heart, if not the body, blossom as people connect with others who are as lonely as they are in their relationships. It’s much easier to get an emotional fix sexting instead of doing the hard work of confronting the issues and learning to truly connect emotionally with your partner. Especially when things aren’t going well to begin with. Most, if not all, resist spending the time and money required to get professional help. It’s a hard thing to do. Airing our ‘dirty laundry’ isn’t fun for anyone. The problem is that it’s a slippery slope and once you’re on it the momentum is hard to fight. There are many many people out there who has said, “I would never……”. And yet they hit the slope and it’s like skiing Mount Everest–downward at a fast a furious pace. So what can you do to safeguard yourself? To begin with, don’t start. Don’t look at that website, contact that old boyfriend from high school or flirt via text with that co-worker. If you don’t start you don’t have to worry about stopping. If you’ve already started decide to stop. If you need to enlist the help of friends and family, or seek out a qualified professional, do so. Stopping can be difficult but not impossible and you’ll be surprised how...

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Choosing How We Live

on Jan 25, 2015 | 0 comments

I’ve just finished sitting with a gentleman who lost his partner of over 25 years.  She’d been sick for the past five months or so, and last night she took her last breath.  His pain was palatable and his regrets strong.  Being the stoic and strong type, he was surprised at the depth of his pain and loss.    It has really made me sit and think about my life, the shortness of it and living the days I have.  It must be a ‘phase’ for me because a couple of days ago I put a question on the chalk board in my waiting area.  It asks, “If today were to be your last day, how would you like to live it?”  Reflecting in this way can be morbid if done without limits, but doing so occasionally can help to refocus us. For me, I’ve decided I want to live my life being kind to others and kind to myself.  I want to forgive often and easily.  I want to be as gracious to others as I would like them to be to me.  I think Jesus said something like that too in the golden rule, so I guess I’m in good company.  If I need to err I’d like to do so on the side of tolerance and acceptance.  I want to live a life free of worry and full of laughter.  I want a life of peace so strong that being in my presence brings peace to those around me.  I want to express myself openly and honestly in a manner that others can hear.  I want to be a blessing…. That all sounds like a tall order, and it is.  I won’t make it all the time, so I’ll need enough grace to bestow it upon myself.  So now, I offer the question to you.  If today were to be your last day, how would you like to live it?  Think about it, mull it over, and decide.  Then you might want to do what I did—call someone and let them know how much you love...

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Be Kind to Yourself

on Jan 23, 2015 | 0 comments

I went to the mental health unit (some would call it the psych ward) at our local hospital to see a client today.  It’s the first time I ever done that.  Some would say it’s a blurring of boundaries to do so.  I decided I didn’t care because this woman needed to know she has support—I follow what my ‘gut’ tells me a lot.  So I went. It’s a sad place to go.  You know there’s so much inner turmoil there; struggles beyond belief; unexplained thoughts, actions and feelings.  Medications are being poured out like a quick moving river in the hopes that the emotional rapids will be negotiated and calmer waters will prevail.  Try this one; try that one, until the right combo is be reached. For anyone who has not struggled with mental illness it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand.  Just stop thinking that way—pull yourself up by the boot straps and carry on—just eat that food, what’s the big deal.  Yes, no one knows the hell that these poor souls endure and all the education in the world will only bring a person a wee bit closer to understanding.  Experience is the only real professor in this classroom. As I sat and talked with this lovely young woman I knew that she can not see the beauty in herself that I can see.  She never does.  We’ve talked about it before.  So how do we as those ‘not’ fighting mental health issues help those who are?  The potential for greatness sits inside this woman waiting to explode.  She’s intelligent, charming and attractive.  She has every positive quality you could imagine that would catapult her to health and happiness.  The problem is, she just doesn’t see it or believe it.  The voices in her head are louder. I have no words of wisdom for today’s blog other than to say be kind to those who you do not understand.  Love them for who they are and not who you want them to be.  And be kind to yourself.  Embrace all the beautiful aspects of who you are and accept those parts of you that you don’t like quite so much.  If you feel down, depressed...

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Do I want to Separate or Divorce?

on Jan 23, 2015 | 0 comments

So, you’ve been together for a few years (maybe many years), and things have changed.  You’ve changed; they’ve changed.  You’re wondering if it might be time for a separation or even divorce.  There are a few things to think through before you ‘pull the plug’. I think that all long term relationships deserve a chance, or at least some good long consideration.  You didn’t come together with the plans of moving apart.  There was something in the other person that you really loved.  That something is still there.  So before you make any quick decisions take some time to really look at the ramifications. The first thing that people tend to consider are the children.  How will it affect them?  What will it be like to be a part time parent?  Is this going to ‘mess them ‘up’ for life?  And it is a good thing to think about how they may be affected.  However, the children aren’t the only thing to consider.  They’re just one piece of the puzzle.  And, people tend to think it will affect them negatively.  But, if there’s a great deal of conflict and tension then you also need to consider how that’s affecting them and what you’re modeling in relationship through the conflict. (it can’t be good if the kids hear Mom call Dad a bastard or Dad call mom a bitch.  And yes, such name calling happens).  So you might want to think about whether there’s any possibility of the two of you making things different enough for life to be happy for you and them. Now, not everyone has children to consider.  But the balance of issues will touch most everyone at some level.  There’s the finances.  The loss of family (you’ll both lose an entire family system.  To some of you this might be a pleasant thought; to others it will be sad.)  You may lose some friends (couples hang with couples).  Your Identity will change–you’ll no longer be their spouse.  If there are children, your connection to your partner won’t be ending any time soon, if ever in this life time.  The bottom line is that there are many issues to consider and evaluate honestly in order to come to...

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Depression… let’s deal with it!

on Jan 21, 2015 | 0 comments

DEPRESSION!! What a scary word and an even scarier time if you’ve ever gone through it. There are different types of depression, such as depression brought on by a life change (situational depression), depression that can occur after the birth of a child (post-partum depression) or even depression that occurs from low levels of light during specific seasons (seasonal affective disorder syndrome). Some depressions are long term while others are short lived. Whatever the case may be, depression is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The feeling of hopelessness and loss of joy is terrible. So, what do you do if you’re feeling depressed and you either don’t know what’s causing it or you can’t seem to move out of it? All too often people rush to their doctor to get medications because they’ve felt depressed. Medications are their first line of defense and a way to deal with it without really dealing with it. Pills don’t ask questions or make you feel worse before you start feelings better. So, taking meds may feel a lot less risky than actually addressing what’s really bothering you. However, talking about what’s going in your life might be what’s really needed. A good friend but be all you need to do this. However, in processing the situation with a mental health professional you not only have a safe place to relieve the feelings, you also learn and develop techniques and tools that you will be able to utilize for life. You might wonder, “but what do I do if I really don’t know what’s bugging me?” Well, that’s the job of a good therapist. They will ask the right questions to help you get to the root of your problem. So a combination of talk, cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectic techniques can be extremely beneficial. That being said, there are times that medications are needed. When we’ve experienced depression for a long period of time our systems can become chemically out of balance and we really do need them for, at least, a short time. Seeing a therapist or counsellor while taking medications can be a great treatment combination. You also need to keep in mind that our bodies, minds...

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