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How to Break Up With Your Therapist and Find a Better Fit

By | Blog

Not all relationships are meant to be, including the professional one you may have with your therapist.

Choosing a therapist doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, or just don’t feel like they are a good fit, it’s okay to break up with them.

But before you pull the plug and walk away, it’s a good idea to talk to your therapist first!

If you’re not sure how to approach a breakup with your therapist, here are some tips as well as how to find a therapist that is a better fit:

4 Signs It’s Time to Break Up With Your Therapist

1. You Feel Distressed After Every Session

Most people think they are going to leave a therapy session feeling uplifted and ecstatic about life. The truth is, it’s normal to leave therapy feeling unsettled and upset because of the emotions it can stir up in the process.

However, that is vastly different from feeling distressed after every appointment because you feel that your therapist isn’t listening to you or isn’t sensitive enough to your needs.

If this is the case, it may be time to break up with your therapist.

2. You’re Not Noticing Changes in Yourself Over Time

Therapy is not a miracle cure and it will take some time before you notice the benefits and positive changes in yourself.

How long it takes depends on the issues you are working through, the form of therapy you are seeking, how dedicated you are, and how often you see your therapist.

Generally, however, you should notice some growth and change within yourself over time – even if it’s just the sense of encouragement you feel because you are taking steps to work on yourself.

It’s important that your therapist motivates you and helps you progress. If you feel like you’re working through things on your own and not getting much reaction from your therapist, it may be time to find a better fit.

3. You Don’t Trust Your Therapist

Open communication with your therapist is built on a foundation of trust.

If you find yourself not trusting your therapist, you are likely going to hold back from talking about your thoughts and behaviors which will impede progress.

Your therapist will hold you accountable for your actions which can feel uncomfortable at times. But, your therapist should also establish a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can be honest about aspects of your life that are hard or shameful to talk about.

If you can’t trust your therapist, you can’t work with them.

4. It’s Hard to Schedule Time With Your Therapist

There are some logistical issues that may lead to breaking up with your therapist such as having difficulties scheduling with them.

It could be that their hours don’t match up with your free time or they have changed office locations.

If you can’t keep appointments with your therapists for logistical reasons, it’s time to find a better fit.

How to Break Up With Your Therapist

Breaking up with your therapist isn’t the same as ending a romantic relationship, so you don’t have to get too stressed out about it.

However, you do owe your therapist the courtesy of notifying them of your decision. Just as a therapist wouldn’t ghost you if they felt they weren’t helping you, you need to talk to your therapist before you end your relationship with them.

At the very least, see if you can solve your concerns with your therapist before moving on to someone else. Simply indicate to them that you feel you are not meeting your goals together – it’s possible that your therapist can impose new strategies to help you progress.

If you find that your therapist isn’t receptive to your concerns or that nothing changes after this conversation, it’s time to find another therapist. 

If you’ve been seeing your therapist in person for over a month, it’s best to break up with them in person. A good therapist will not guilt you into staying – they will explore your concerns, make recommendations, and respect your ultimate decision.

If you’ve only met your therapist once or twice, a simple phone call will suffice.

Here are a few suggestions for what to say:

  • “I appreciate the work we’ve done together but I need to go in a different direction with my therapy. Thank you so much for your willingness to help me.”
  • “Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me but I just don’t think we’re a good fit.”
  • “After I mentioned {concern} to you, I don’t feel like there have been enough changes for it to make sense that we continue our sessions.”
  • “I would like to end our sessions together. I have different goals right now.”

Be prepared for your therapist to want to talk this through a bit. They are going to want to explore constructive criticism to improve their own practice as well as ensure there is nothing they can do to continue to help you.

However, I completely understand how hard it can be for people to be forward in these situations. If you absolutely feel compelled to ghost your therapist, at least call ahead and cancel your future appointments.

Choosing the Right Therapist

Successful Therapy. Cheerful black man talking to psychologist on meeting at his office

Think About the Type of Person You’d Feel Comfortable Talking To

When it comes to choosing the right therapist, it’s okay to consider factors such as gender, age, and religion.  Even if you have no preference, You are allowed to choose someone you can feel comfortable with. 

Doing some internet research can help you learn more about a therapist. While you are not likely to find a ton of information about their personal lives, you can check out biographies to get an idea if they would be a good fit for you.

Also, pay attention to their areas of expertise and methods of treatment. Make sure they are able to provide the right form of treatment for your issues.

Look at Reviews and Ask for Referrals

Friends, colleagues, and doctors who know you are a great way to find a therapist who might be a good fit for you. Just remember that you have unique needs that may differ from the person giving you the recommendation.

But while a good match for someone else may not benefit you, it’s a good place to start.

Ask the Therapist Questions

Before you book your first official session with a therapist, you should have a meet-and-greet (either in person, over the phone, or online) to ask questions and determine if they will be a good fit.

You can ask them how much experience they have with clients in similar situations, what their approach is like, and what a typical session looks like.

Could We Be a Good Fit?

Who knows! But I would love to have a chat to find out.

Contact us today to book an appointment. We’d love to hear from you!

How To Get the Most Out of Therapy

By | Blog

There are so many people in the Greater Toronto and Greater Hamilton regions seeking therapy to help reach their mental health goals. 

However, it’s easy to believe that simply going to therapy is enough to reap the benefits of speaking with a professional counsellor.

If you’re taking time out of your life to see a therapist, it’s important to get the most out of therapy. Here are some tips you can follow to do just that:

1. Make Sure You’re Ready

You won’t get anything out of therapy if you don’t actually want to go to therapy. Make sure you are ready to start counselling before you invest your time and money into doing so.

Therapy is most effective when you attend voluntarily and are an active participant in the process. Don’t seek therapy to please anyone such as your family or employer – you will be less engaged in the process.

2. Choose a Therapist You Can Relate To

Getting the most out of therapy also involves finding the right therapist. All therapists are unique and diverse in their approach to treatment, so it stands to reason that not every therapist-client relationship will be the right fit.

Start by looking for a therapist that specializes in whatever you are struggling with. Check out their websites or book a meet-and-greet to see if they are someone you would be comfortable speaking with.

Once you start with a therapist, give them about 2-3 sessions before deciding whether or not they are right for you. If you decide it’s not working, let your therapist know and ask for a referral.

3. Have a Game Plan

Once you find a therapist that you are comfortable with, you need to have a game plan before each appointment. This ensures that the session is effective in addressing your needs and your situation.

That’s not to say that you need to have an entire plan mapped out for your therapy! Simply come to your appointments with an idea of how you want your life to look when you are feeling better.

Your therapist will help you identify and set attainable goals so you can track your progress along the way.

4. Be On Time for Your Appointments

Although therapists are dedicated to helping you overcome your unique challenges, they are also dedicated to other patients. This is why they need to schedule specific appointment times to focus their attention on you.

When you’re late, your therapist cannot give you the time you deserve so that you can fully express what you are feeling and address your issues.

To get the most out of therapy, show up on time for your appointments so that you and your therapy have as much time together as possible.

5. Takes Notes or Keep a Journal

young man at home writing writing down thoughts in journal on notebook, sitting on couch

It’s easy to walk out of a therapy session and forget half of what you talked about. When it comes to remembering key points or what you are to work on, it can help to take notes during your appointment. 

Or, you may have a breakthrough moment with your therapist and come to a new understanding about yourself, others, and the world. It can be helpful to jot these revelations down either during your therapy session or immediately afterward.

Keeping a journal between sessions is also useful in tracking your progress and applying what you have learned in therapy to your life. It can also be a great way to come up with questions or concerns you want to talk about in your next session.

6. Ask Your Therapist Questions

Speaking of asking your therapist questions, they are not simply a pair of ears to listen to your struggles.

Asking your therapist questions can help you feel like more of a participant in your therapy and clarify anything your therapist has said that you don’t understand.

There are no rules saying that you can’t ask your therapist questions and it’s up to the therapist to determine what they are willing to share about themselves. 

7. Try New Things

Therapy is a safe space where you can explore your feelings as well as your capabilities. Take advantage of this by trying new things with your therapist.

For instance, if you are a passive person who wants to be more assertive, rehearse a confrontation with your therapist. Or maybe you feel anxious about crying in front of someone – therapy is a great place to let your emotions out!

Sometimes we think that practice is reserved for specific skills like playing the piano or basketball. However, you can also practice certain behaviors as part of your therapy goals.

8. Be Open and Honest

Therapists are not lie-detector tests nor can they read your mind. They are there to provide you with a safe, judgment-free space where you can be completely open and honest.

Yes, some things are difficult to talk about even with a therapist. However, your therapist’s ability to help you depends entirely on how open and honest you are.

You don’t have to open your can of worms immediately but, to get the most out of therapy, you need to practice letting your guard down, being vulnerable, and being honest in order to grow and heal.

9. Do Your Homework

Think of therapy as taking piano lessons. How much better do you think you’d be if you practiced at home between lessons instead of only with your instructor?

Continuing your therapy outside of your appointments by doing your “homework” is going to help you get the most out of therapy. Real-life practice contributes greatly to the growth and changes you have been discussing with your therapist.

Taking what you’ve learned and applying it to your life is going to help you benefit immensely from therapy.

10. Prioritize Your Therapy

Seeing your therapist regularly is going to also help you get the most out of therapy. The frequency depends upon your goals and what your therapist suggests but, typically, sessions usually start at once a week.

Over time, your therapist may suggest something more or less frequent based on their observations, expertise, and your goals. Missing appointments or not scheduling appointments is going to impede your progress.

Commit to keeping your appointments to reach your goals more quickly.

Speaking of Appointments…

Are you ready to book one? My team of expert psychotherapists can often get you in within a week of booking your appointment. 

Let’s see if we’re a good fit! Contact me today to get started.

How Can I Convince My Partner to Start Couples Counselling?

By | Blog

Do you feel like your relationship is on the rocks? Are you willing to do what it takes to save it?

I think you are since you are obviously interested in seeking couples counselling to save and strengthen your relationship! This is great, but how do you go about convincing your partner to join you?

It’s actually less about convincing and more about approaching the topic with love and sensitivity. Keep reading to find out how you can talk to your partner about starting couples counselling:

Be Clear About Your Issues and Set Clear Goals

Before you can approach your partner about your issues, you need to have a clear idea of what they are first. Take some time to really think about what is bothering you and the challenges you face in your relationship.

It’s also worth establishing some clear goals you would like to achieve. Are you looking to improve communication? Your sex life? 

Having goals will help you feel as if you and your partner are accomplishing something during couples counselling. Otherwise, you and your partner may feel that you are wasting your time and your money.

When you do approach your partner about seeing a therapist, communicate your goals. If your partner is on the same page, they are more likely to agree to see a couples counsellor with you.

Choose the Right Moment to Bring It Up

Choosing the right moment to bring it up is key in convincing your partner to start couples counselling. 

If you are considering couples therapy, it’s likely that you are frustrated with your relationship and your partner. However, in those moments of frustration and anger, it doesn’t help to throw in the idea of therapy.

This is a serious and sensitive topic, so you want to approach it when all parties are calm and less likely to get defensive (which we’ll talk about in a bit). Avoid bringing up the idea of couples counselling during an argument or a fight.

Find a time when you are getting along so that your suggestion doesn’t feel like a threat or blame. Frame the idea with the fact that these moments of getting along are valuable to the relationship and you fear losing these wonderful moments.

If you approach the conversation about therapy from a place of love and understanding, you’re more likely to get a positive response.

Make It An “Us” Thing

No one likes to be blamed for anything so it’s important to make your partner feel that therapy is a team effort and not an attempt to fix one person in the relationship. It’s important that your partner doesn’t feel attacked.

Ensure them that this is something that will benefit everyone and get both of you on the same page. Explain that professional therapists do not choose sides and they are simply there to help couples create their best relationships.

It would also help to tell your partner that you want to learn how to treat them better and work on improving aspects of the relationship such as communication, feeling understood, better sex, more confidence, and feeling connected.

Be sure that you take ownership in your relationship struggles. Your issues are a two-way street and the more you take responsibility the more likely your partner will be willing to try couples counselling.

Be Honest and Approach the Topic With Love

couple sits together between two heart pillows

When I talked about the right time to mention therapy, I touched on the idea of approaching the topic with love. This, and being honest, are important if you’re trying to convince your partner to start couples counselling.

The foundation of a healthy relationship is built on open and honest communication

It’s likely that your partner has recognized that your relationship is not ideal but if you simply throw therapy on the table, they may feel that you are not happy with them anymore and that the relationship is “broken”.

Being honest about your struggles to your partner, and communicating how much you love them and want to fix things, helps your partner feel that the relationship is still important and worth saving.

Don’t Place Blame on Your Partner

I touched on this as well but it’s worth mentioning again: Don’t blame your partner for your relationship issues.

As the saying goes: It takes two to tango. Nobody’s perfect and if you’re struggling in your relationship, you have both contributed to the situation in some way.

Pointing the finger while suggesting couples counselling will not work. Ensure your partner that you don’t care whose fault it is and that you want to make a personal effort to save the relationship and make it better.

Keeping blame out of the equation will keep your partner from getting defensive, which it what we’ll talk about next.

Don’t Get Defensive

When you mention the idea of couples therapy to your partner, they will likely get defensive. This is a natural reaction and one that you should avoid feeding into.

As a defense, they may turn the blame toward you. Your partner may project their shortcomings on you or make assumptions based on failed marriages they’ve witnessed.

You are going to feel the natural urge to defend yourself, but don’t do it. Becoming defensive is only going to make your communication problems worse and escalate the discussion into an argument or conflict.

Stay calm and let your partner say what they have to say. It may help to let the discussion rest for a bit before mentioning it again when you are both calm and relaxed.

Let Your Partner Make the Decision

You’ve already made the decision that you want to seek couples counselling to strengthen your relationship but there’s really no “convincing” your partner unless they choose to go as well.

As part of your discussion about couples counselling, make sure to tell your partner that they don’t have to do it. Simply list the benefits of therapy and you’re desired goals and let them make the final decision.

Don’t give them ultimatums or threaten to leave if they don’t comply. Coercing or manipulating your partner into therapy is not going to help at all.

It’s better to see a therapist later down the road when your partner is more open to the idea than to try and work through your issues with a stubborn partner who doesn’t want to be there.

Choose a Couples Therapist Together

In order for your partner to feel that they have an equal say in the decision to seek counselling, have them choose a couples therapist with you. 

This will also help your partner feel less like they are being ganged up on. 

If your partner is open to starting couples counselling, I invite both of you to get in touch with me or one of our trained psychotherapists today. We would love to meet with both of you to determine if we are a good fit.

Let’s chat!

woman with long brown straight hair in yellow sweater holding wedding ring sitting on couch. man in foreground.

10 Myths About Affairs, Cheating and Infidelity

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

We’ll all seen affairs and infidelity portrayed and popularized in the media – and with that comes all kinds of stereotypes and myths.

For those who have been the victim of an affair, as well as those who have played the role of the cheater, understanding the truth behind infidelity is an important step in not only healing but knowing where to go from there.

Let’s look at some interesting ways in which the pandemic has impacted the rate of infidelity as well as common myths that need to be debunked:

The Impact of COVID-19 on Infidelity

Throughout the pandemic, I noticed a significantly higher number of cases in my clinic that involved infidelity and affairs. Almost double, in fact.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic placed significant amounts of stress on couples and presented new challenges to relationships. Isolation, loss of income – these are all byproducts of the pandemic that were thrust upon us all with no prior notice.

Stress is inarguably the main driver when it comes to infidelity and, with stress levels skyrocketing during the past year or so, it’s not surprising that more people are straying outside of their relationships.

The people who cheat and have affairs are often using the activity as a form of escape. Infidelity shares many similar behavioral patterns with substance abuse – but instead of reaching for a drink, it’s reaching for another person.

This is why the most common answer to the question, “Why did you cheat?” is not something like, “Because I wasn’t getting enough sex from my partner,” or, “I resent my partner and feel disconnected from them.” 

The most common answer is, “I don’t know.”

Busting 10 Common Infidelity Myths

Before I start busting through these common infidelity myths, I want to point out that these explanations are in no way excuses for cheating or having an affair. There is never a situation that involves infidelity in which someone doesn’t get unjustifiably hurt.

The point of debunking these myths is to show you that, no matter what end of infidelity you happen to fall, you don’t have to be pressured by societal “norms” when it comes to deciding your next step.s

Think of it as expanding your knowledge and digging into the core of infidelity so that you can make a personal and informed choice.

1. Infidelity Destroys the Marriage

While this may be true in some cases, it is the exception and not the rule. In fact, many marriages survive affairs when both partners are committed to saving the marriage and changing the dynamics that led to the infidelity.

2. Cheating Happens Because of Sexual Attraction

There are many different reasons for having an affair and, although sexual attraction can certainly be a reason for cheating, it is usually an unfulfilled emotional need that drives people to stray from their relationships.

3. Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

There is such thing as serial cheaters but not everyone who cheats will cheat again. It is possible to for couples to work on their relationship and overcome issues of infidelity.

4. You Can’t Love Someone and Cheat on Them – It’s One or the Other

The media tends to portray the cheater as an evil person who doesn’t care about their partner. The truth is, someone can love their partner and end up having an affair. These individuals are often confused, insecure, or hurt.

5. If You Stay With Someone Who Cheats, You Obviously Have No Self-Respect

There are so many cases of infidelity in relationships where cheating was a symptom of other underlying issues. While cheating is inexcusable, it can provide an opportunity to create a stronger and healthier relationship. Having no self-respect would look more like accepting a partner’s unfaithfulness and making no efforts to fix the core issues.

6. Infidelity Only Happens in Unhappy or Troubled Marriages

The truth is, infidelity can happen in good marriages as well. Affairs happen for many reasons other than a “faulty” spouse or unhappy marriage – stress (both inside and outside of the marriage) is a significant predisposing factor.

7. Only Morally Bankrupt People Cheat

As I mentioned before, cheaters are not all heartless when it comes to having an affair. Infidelity can be a random, unplanned act that develops unexpectedly. Does it result from bad decisions? Yes. Does this mean the cheater has no morals? Not at all.

8. Cheaters Are Looking for a Younger or Better Looking Sexual Partner

Yes, we’ve all seen movies and shows where the old spouse is traded in for the “newer model”. Statistically, however, many affairs take place between same-age couples or with an individual that is equally attractive as the spouse. 

9. The Best Thing to Do is Leave Before You Cheat

As I mentioned before, infidelity is often the result of an unplanned act – those who stray typically do not plan on having an affair. Therefore, how can you know to leave the relationship before one happens? Also, infidelity often results from underlying issues in the relationship. It would be more effective to work on these issues than to simply throw in the towel because someone might cheat.

10. You Can’t Have a Good Relationship After an Affair

Surveys have shown that almost 80% of people who divorced their partner because of an affair regretted the decision. Divorce is a difficult process that, in some cases, causes more pain than healing. Of course, if addressing the marital issues doesn’t work out, divorce may be the only recourse.

Infidelity is Ruining My Relationship: What Should I Do?

Knowing what you should do when dealing with infidelity in a relationship isn’t as easy as Googling an answer.

Recovering from an affair is a major challenge that involves rebuilding trust, admitting guilt, learning how to forgive, and reconciling struggles.

Remember to take some time before making a decision. You can always consult a couples therapist to help you put the affair in perspective and identify any issues that may have led to the affair.

As a couples counselor, I can start you on your path to rebuild and strengthen your relationship as well as avoid divorce. If you and your partner are ready to fix your relationship, let’s get in touch today!

man with navy sweater sitting next to woman in green turtleneck on couch. they are speaking to a couples counselor.

Individual Therapy or Couples Therapy: Where Should I Start?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

This classic breakup line may seem like a cliché but it does reinforce the idea that the breakdown of relationships is caused by one person. It ignores the fact that relationships are collaborative efforts.

So when a relationship is on the brink of collapse, what does a person do? Seek individual therapy to work on their own struggles? Or do they bring in their partner for couples therapy to hash out differences and express concerns together?

In all honesty, both forms of therapy are beneficial to strengthening and maintaining a relationship – especially when integrated into a complete relationship-saving plan.

How Individual Therapy Can Help Your Relationship

Identity Loss and Confusion

Everyone changes because of the relationships they are in but sometimes these changes happen in a negative way. You may be worried that you are becoming someone else in order to appease your partner.

Individual therapy can help you address these changes and explore how you feel about them. It may be that you need to learn how to set boundaries or have your voice heard.

Being able to do this without your partner present helps alleviate the pressure of worrying about how they may feel or react to your concerns.

Past Trauma

Trauma can either be obvious or subtle depending on what you have experienced but both forms are equally powerful and can affect your relationship.

These experiences can be easily triggered when you are in a relationship, even if the relationship is healthy. In individual therapy, your therapist can focus on your past trauma in an environment that is safe and intimate.

Big Life Transitions

Life events such as getting married or having a baby are huge transitions, especially if they happen very quickly. 

The resulting stress can put a strain on the relationship. Seeking the support of a therapist through individual therapy can help you come to terms with these changes and strategize how to accommodate them in your life.

Gaining Clarity of a Situation Before Taking It To Your Partner

Most of the time, people are nervous to bring issues to their partners. They may feel that their perspective is unwarranted or they may be fearful of how their partner will react.

By discussing these issues in individual therapy, you can gain clarity of the situation and organize your thoughts so you can present them to your partner in a caring and constructive way.

How Couples Therapy Can Benefit Your Relationship

Improve Emotional Openness

Even the best relationships can fall apart if the couple cannot fully express themselves emotionally. Both partners need to be able to express their emotions as well as be receptive to their partner’s feelings.

When emotional openness is achieved in a relationship, emotional needs can be properly met. A therapist can help mediate emotional expression between partners in couples therapy.

Identify and Address Differences

Relationships involve a fascinating dynamic of similarities and differences. However, sometimes those differences can negatively impact the health of the relationship.

In couples therapy, you and your partner can learn how to accept each other’s differences by identifying deal-breakers and non-negotiables as well as clarifying beliefs and ideals as well as emotional and physical needs.

Help Partners Know Each Other

So many times in couples therapy I hear a patient say, “I feel like I don’t know him/her anymore.”

Just as I mentioned above, we often change when we are in relationships. While this can be difficult to accept in ourselves, it can be equally challenging to accept in our partners.

Couples therapy can help you identify your partner’s ideals as well as their quirks to get to know them better and address any deep-rooted issues you may have.

Address Future Issues

Being able to predict your partner’s reactions is important in preventing issues from occurring.

Couples therapy can help you solve conflicts before they even start by focusing on communication, comfort, and openness between you and your partner.

Integrating Individual Therapy Sessions Into Couples Therapy

Even though individual therapy and couples therapy can benefit your relationship in their own particular ways, you can also use these forms of these therapies integratively.

Before choosing one therapy over another, it’s important to get out of the “you need to work on yourself first” in order to save your relationship mindset. This creates an environment of blame and shifting that blame onto one person in the relationship, whether it’s you or your partner, is not helpful.

Individual therapy should be sought out to gain clarity and express honest feelings about your relationship to see why the relationship is struggling. It’s not about “fixing” you to save the relationship.

Alternatively, it’s also not helpful to assume that having your partner present during therapy sessions will impede your healing. There are issues and struggles brought into relationships that are bigger than the relationship itself.

Think about all of the situations I mentioned above where individual therapy would be beneficial: past trauma, identity loss, transitions, and gaining clarity. I recommend individual therapy for these challenges because it offers you the opportunity to express your feelings freely and without fear of judgment.

But does the healing of the relationship happen there? No. While it’s important to address these barriers individually, they must be explored in the context of the relationship as well.

Being able to explore how these struggles impact your relationship with your partner can help them gain more insight into what is really going on.

That’s why integrating individual therapy with couples therapy is the most effective way to maintain a healthy relationship.

Where Do I Start?

Each couple I’ve worked with is unique and requires flexible and individualized treatment plans.

It’s hard to say definitively that you should start with individual therapy or couples therapy – the starting point depends on you and your situation.

So why don’t we have a chat? Get in touch with me today to start your journey to healing your relationship!

 

man and woman wearing medical masks making a heart figure with their hands

Pandemic Stress Relief for Couples: Tips for Decreasing Stress and Increasing Communication

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships

2020 threw the entire world into a tailspin in emotional, physical, and mental ways. Many couples found themselves facing relationship issues seemingly out of the blue – or dealing with huge issues that didn’t seem so dire before.

The truth is, the pandemic put us in a unique situation where relationship dynamics were drastically altered.

Does that make COVID-19 a doomsayer for all relationships? Not at all!

If you find your relationship suffering because of COVID, it’s important to understand how the pandemic affected relationships as well as how you can decrease stress and increase communication with your partner.

How COVID-19 Affected Relationships

It Created Financial Hardships

Finances are the leading cause of stress in relationships. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many people who lost jobs and revenues due to the closures caused by the virus.

Not only does a sudden lack of money cause tension between partners but differing views and values related to money can cause stress as well.

This can lead to couples arguing about money as well as hiding transactions from each other.

It Created a Demand for New Routines and Responsibilities

Working from home, homeschooling, job loss – these are all situations that can cause significant disruptions in daily routines and dramatically shift responsibilities from one partner to the other.

The working partner who lost their job may find themselves frustrated with their lack of work and increase in household responsibilities. Likewise, someone who suddenly begins working at home may feel overwhelmed by the constant presence of their partner. 

The changes in routine and responsibilities resulting from the pandemic can cause tension and strain in a relationship.

It Added More Stress to Pre-Existing Vulnerabilities in the Relationship

Successful relationships often rely on creating space between partners either by going to work or having individual hobbies. When couples find themselves holed up at home during COVID-19 lockdowns, the resulting lack of solitude can have a negative effect on the relationship.

Not only does can the diminished space between couples cause tension in a relationship but it can actually add more stress to pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Those little quirks or annoyances that were once easy to overlook when there were moments of escape are now at the forefront and can cause added strain to couples.

How to Decrease Stress in Your Relationship

Couple is upset and irritated after quarreling.

The end of the pandemic may be visible on the horizon but the resulting effects it had on relationships could be everlasting if not addressed.

COVID-19 was a rough go and our natural responses to it stripped away many of our regular coping mechanisms. And it also brought to light activities that we didn’t even know we relied on to reduce stress such as going to the movies, going to work, and socializing with friends and family.

Because our old sense of “normal” was unceremoniously thrown out the window, it’s important to give yourself and your partner some grace. These changes were traumatic to some degree and we need to allow ourselves some time to heal.

Whether or not any relationship issues arose during the pandemic, now is not the time to make huge relationship decisions like getting a divorce. Instead, give each other a break and see if things get back on track.

Remember that the pandemic aggravated those little irritations that were easy to brush aside when you weren’t stuck at home with your partner. It’s important to relax and ease up on things that are actually subjective, such as how your partner folds the laundry.

By doing so, you’ll put yourself in a position to better appreciate the differences between you and your partner instead of letting them divide you. You may even begin to recognize and find gratitude in the things your partner does that you used to overlook.

How to Increase Communication With Your Partner

The key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner is to develop good communication skills. Once you have reduced the stress in your relationship, follow these tips to improve those skills:

Learn How to Actively Listen

There is a vast difference between hearing someone and actually listening to them. The first step in healthy communication is to learn how to actively listen.

Active listening involves responses and body language that assures your partner that you are listening and registering what they are saying.

A good first step to active listening is to put down your phone while talking with your partner. Maintaining eye contact and giving verbal confirmation that you are listening also work to demonstrate active listening.

Don’t Expect Your Partner to Read Your Mind

Another term for this phenomenon is “passive-aggressive” which occurs when one partner expresses negative feelings instead of openly expressing them. 

For example, one partner may give the other the cold shoulder until they figure out what is wrong with them.

Holding back your feelings is not helpful in creating an environment of healthy communication. Don’t wait for your partner to figure out what’s wrong – tell them in a calm and constructive manner.

Make Time to Talk

When you are placed in a situation in which you are sharing more space with your partner than you are used to, you may fall into the habit of only talking about things that “matter” such as spending money and household responsibilities.

While these conversations are important to have, they shouldn’t dominate the way you communicate with your partner all day. You need to reserve space in your conversations to discuss your feelings, your wants, and your needs.

You also need to make time to talk about the mundane things such as hobbies and interests that you each have. This will help you maintain a sense of personal connection.

Pandemic Stress Relief for Couples

The pandemic may have had a detrimental effect on your relationship but that doesn’t mean this is the end of the road.

If you find yourself unable to dissipate the stress in your relationship, it may be time to seek the support of couples therapy.

Let’s have a chat and see how couples therapy can strengthen your relationship and help you and your partner overcome the hurdles COVID-19 has thrown in your path!

How to Choose the Right Therapist

By | Blog

Having a hard time choosing the right therapist? Not sure where to start?

The first thing you should know is that therapists are people too – they each have their own unique personalities and approaches when it comes to helping individuals overcome their challenges and struggles.

So, as skilled and knowledgeable as a therapist may be, working with them will only be effective if you feel a connection.

When you don’t feel that connection, you are likely to wonder if the therapist is going to judge you and you’ll be hesitant to share your innermost thoughts and feelings.

If you don’t talk about these things, you’ll never get to the core of your issues and gain the information and support necessary to create change.

This relationship is actually referred to as “therapeutic alliance” – the framework in which you bond with a therapist as well as agree to the goals of therapy and the methods used to achieve these goals.

Overall, there needs to be good communication between you and your therapist and a mutual willingness to work together.

Consider Who You Would Work Best With

You, as an individual, are not expected to agree with the choices and lifestyles of every person you meet. This holds true for choosing a therapist as well.

It’s okay to consider factors such as gender, age and religion when it comes to finding the right therapist for you.

Perhaps you feel more comfortable talking to a man or someone closer to your age. If you have a religious affiliation that you feel clashes with the therapist’s religious affiliation, there’s nothing wrong with passing on that therapist.

Otherwise, perhaps you have no preference or aren’t sure what kind of individual you would be most comfortable talking with. 

In that case, some internet research can come in handy. While therapists typically don’t share their personal lives online, you can gather some pertinent information from the biographies – this can give you an idea of whether or not you can relate to that therapist.

Also, pay attention to their areas of expertise and method of treatment. A child psychologist may not be particularly helpful when it comes to adult addiction. Likewise, you may not be comfortable with the way they carry out their therapy.

Look for Credentials, Education and Experience

Did you know that being a counselor doesn’t require an advanced degree? Or that a therapist can hold a Master’s degree in a number of different disciplines (not just psychology)?

Yet, both can offer valuable services to help struggling individuals overcome their challenges.

Therefore, it’s important not only to consider a therapist’s credentials but also additional education and overall experience.

Reviews and feedback are a great way to gauge whether or not a therapist’s approach is effective and backed by research, knowledge and experience.

Check out the therapist’s website and look into their completed courses or programs. A quick Google search will help you determine if they have been earned from reputable institutions.

Questions to Ask a Therapist

Woman seated on a couch talking to a therapist

Before you book your first appointment with a therapist, you should ask questions to further determine if you and the therapist will be a good match.

Here are some questions you should consider asking:

  • Are your services eligible for health coverage?
  • How many clients have you worked with that had similar circumstances to my own?
  • What are your strengths and limitations as a therapist?
  • What is your approach like?
  • How many sessions do you think this will take?
  • What does a typical session look like?

The answers you receive will give you a better idea if this is a therapist you are willing to meet with. If they are, go ahead and book your first appointment!

Accessing a Therapist Online

Online therapy has exploded in popularity which is great for those who would prefer to access their therapist virtually instead of in-person.

This also opens the door for more choices when it comes to therapists since you are not limited by seeking therapy solely in your area.

Virtual therapy encompasses not only online video but also written methods (email, text, chat, etc.) and even speaking on the phone.

One consideration you need to make when it comes to receiving therapy online is your privacy. You need to confirm that your sessions are conducted on a secure and encrypted platform.

Otherwise, online therapy is a great choice if you feel more comfortable communicating via the internet instead of trying to articulate your struggles and mental health issues face-to-face.

What if My Therapist Isn’t a Good Match for Me?

Again, therapists are people too and it’s perfectly okay for you not to feel comfortable or get along with the first one you meet.

Therapists are focused on helping people even if that means being supportive of a patient seeking another therapist. In fact, many therapists will make recommendations for colleagues who may be a better match for you!

If you’re not feeling supportive or comfortable during your therapy sessions, you are not going to experience any of the benefits therapy can offer.

However, if you have been working with your therapist for a while, don’t be afraid to mention that you are not feeling a connection. If there’s an issue that can be addressed and fixed, your therapist is going to want to make the efforts to ensure you continue to receive valuable therapy.

Ultimately, if you don’t feel comfortable bringing up your lack of connection with your therapist, you can always just indicate to them via email or their receptionist that you will not be continuining therapy.

Never feel bad about changing therapists! The most important thing is to make sure you work with someone that will help you get the most out of treatment.

Get the Help You Need!

Is the right therapist waiting for you at RyanAnswers? They very well could be!

Get on track to having your mental needs met by getting in touch with one of our trained psychotherapists today – we would love to meet with you and determine if our therapists and services a good fit for you.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Does Cheating Mean They Don’t Love You?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 7 Comments

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people say stuff like “If you really love someone, you won’t cheat on them.”

The problem with this perspective is you’re basically saying that actions reflect what a person truly believes. If you care about someone, you don’t hurt them, and since cheating is hurtful, you can’t cheat on someone if you truly care about them.

Any time you try to explain someone’s behaviour without taking environmental factors into account, you commit what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error (FAE). Contrary to popular belief, environmental pressures play as large a role in determining behaviour as a person’s character. What does this mean, exactly?

Let’s try an experiment

 

Consider the amount of people who would kill another person just because they’ve been asked to as part of a psychological experiment. Prior to studying psychology, I would’ve said zero or close to zero. Maybe a few psychopaths or murderers if one just so happened to be asked. Would it shock you to hear the number is above 60%?

Obviously no one was actually killed in the experiment, but the people who were part of the experiment didn’t know that. They were asked by a scientist to apply shocks to a student for every wrong answer the student provided, with each wrong answer providing a larger shock. Eventually the student stopped responding, at which point people expressed concern. The scientist simply said they had to continue, and 65% of people did.

This experiment has been repeated around the world, and across several decades. The results are consistently between 60-65%. Does this mean 60-65% of the human population are horrible, murderous savages?

Of course not!

The experiment I described is just one of many, many examples of how people can behave in radically different ways when exposed to environmental pressures.

Environmental factors that affect cheating

 

In the case of cheating, environmental factors could be drinking or drugs, locations like bars, night clubs, or strip clubs, certain types of people, different forms of stress, and so on. There are dozens of factors at work.

Take a guy who’s in love with his wife but is under a ton of stress from work, goes out with some office guys he’s not really close with, has a few too many drinks, gets caught up in the moment and does some coke. Starts dancing with a girl and makes out with her. They go to the bathroom to do another line and stuff happens.

This is a real life scenario I encountered during a couples session. Were these bad decisions? Yup. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Were there multiple points at which this could’ve been avoided? You bet.

But none of this means he doesn’t love his wife.

Despite the evidence, his wife initially disagreed that environmental pressures are a valid reason for doing stupid things. There’s a very good reason for this denial – it can be terrifying to accept that people you trust can act in horrible ways.

This extends beyond cheating and infidelity, and into all areas of life. Accepting that good people can do bad things is scary. Accepting that you can do bad things is really uncomfortable as well. Try to imagine yourself cheating. Tough right?

Every person I’ve met who has cheated is ashamed to some degree, and I often hear things like “I can’t believe I did that.” So are we all screwed then? Is environmental pressure like a black hole for morals?

No, definitely not.

Although 65% of people “killed” the student in the experiment, 35% of people didn’t. That being said, it’s a lot better if you don’t have to fight an uphill battle. The strategy I recommend is avoiding the pressure in the first place. If you’re married, maybe getting bombed with the boys at Club BJ isn’t the best idea. Get what I’m sayin?

We can help

 

I know it’s tough to accept, but you can cheat on someone and still love them very much. The couple I worked with did end up working things out.

If you’re going through infidelity, it IS a real possibility that your partner doesn’t love you. But don’t be too afraid to accept that just maybe, they do.

If you’re ready to seek help, contact us today!

Episode 5: Dr. Chris Friesen on Biohacking, Focus, and Mental Performance

By | Podcasts | No Comments

We’re back! For those who don’t know, I took a 6 month break to relocate across the country. I’ve interviewed some incredible guests since moving to the Toronto area, and one person I was fortunate enough to meet is Dr. Chris Friesen.

He works with Olympic athletes, pro athletes, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other high achievers to maximize their performance. Today, he shares the keys to success, and answers the questions you sent in last week.

In This Episode You’ll Learn About:

2:45 – Listener question: How does the brain’s dark energy effect sports performance?
3:20 – The secret to getting into “the zone”
5:00 – The keys to mental focus
7:10 – Learn which types of brain waves result in the best performance, and how you can measure them
9:45 – Listener question: How do you deal with adrenaline dumps and high pressure situations?
11:45 – Why being too calm is actually bad for performance (this one surprised me)
15:00 – How fighting your thoughts only makes them worse
17:25 – Biohacking your anxiety to de-stress
27:30 – Doctors were stumped… learn the simple biohack than can cure stomach problems
29:00 – Staying focused and being true to your values in the age of constant distraction
33:00 – The one major mental mistake that sabotages your ability to achieve

Listen to Episode 5: Dr. Chris Friesen on Biohacking, Focus, and Mental Performance

Download this episode as an MP3 here

Listen to it on iTunes

3 Easy, Free Ways to Instantly Improve Your Relationship

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 2 Comments

It’s been 7 years now. More than 1,000 people. And through it all, there has been a consistent pattern in all the couples I’ve seen.

The pattern is simple – three things that are easy, free, and have an instant impact on your relationship.

No more excuses! Take the advice in this post and I promise you’ll see immediate results.

 

1) Go To Bed Together

 

If you aren’t going to bed together, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to connect. I know sometimes people have different sleep schedules, and it can be frustrating for both of you. If you commit to doing this, your schedules sync up and it becomes second nature.

As a general rule, join your partner within 30 minutes of them going to bed. But what about couples that work opposite, or very different hours?

If you’re the one who stays up late, go to bed with your partner until they fall asleep. Bed is one of the few times you have privacy and the chance to be intimate (both sexually and emotionally) so it’s important not to skip out. On top of that, it can be hard to fall asleep before your partner joins you.

Falling asleep alone has this weird exaggerated mental effect. People who fall asleep alone tend to report feeling more alone and unsupported in the relationship, even if they aren’t. I’m not a neuroscientist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re hard wired on some level to crave closeness at night, and to feel more isolated than usual if we don’t have it.

 

2) No Electronics In Bed!

 

Creeping around on your phone is a bedtime ritual for many people, and it’s absolutely horrible for your relationship. It totally defeats the purpose of going to bed together.

I get that for some people it’s a way to unwind, and that’s cool – just do it *before* bed. Scroll through your feed, catch up on sports, read forums, do whatever you want as long as it’s not in the bedroom. When you’re done, put your phone on silent and leave it under your pillow or on your bedside table (facedown).

This goes for TV as well. And if you aren’t sold on the relationship benefits, consider that your brain forms associations between things very easily. It won’t secrete as much melatonin (sleep chemical) if it doesn’t think you’re going to your sleeping spot.

You have to train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleep… and sex! But watching TV and creeping your phone are definitely not associations you want to build.

 

3) Spend At Least 1 Hour a Week Dating

 

The vast, vast majority (I’d say 90%+) of couples I see don’t even spend an hour a week together doing stuff.

You don’t need to be going out for fancy dinners, expensive outings, or extravagant locations, a simple picnic in the park is enough. The key here isn’t so much what you’re doing, but that you’re doing it together with no interruptions.

If you have kids, get a sitter. Turn your phones off. I don’t care if you use your phone for work or if you’re on call. If you can’t be away from your phone for an hour, you’re lying to yourself about how important you are and disrespecting your spouse at the same time. Period.

Ride bikes together. Get some gelato and go for a stroll downtown. See a fortune teller, even if you know it’s a bunch of BS. Halloween is coming up… grab a latte and go pick pumpkins together.

 

Have Your Own Tips?

 

Have your own date ideas? Tips that have helped out your relationship? I’d love to hear about them! Post a comment below the article, and subscribe to my weekly email for free dating and relationship tips!