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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!

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

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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

· 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!

Is Guilt Stopping You From Leaving Your Relationship?

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 4 Comments

Have you ever been fed up with someone, but felt like you couldn’t leave them?

When you finally get fed up, a voice pops in your head: What if me leaving is the motivation they need to change? What if they’re different for the next person?

You tell yourself things will change. But they don’t, and you get angry – angry at yourself for falling into the same pattern, angry at them for disappointing you, angry because you’re alone.

Maybe you can’t tell anyone, or maybe you’ve told people so many times they’re sick of listening. Either way, you’re alone in the desert with your ball and chain, and you don’t know what the hell to do.


The Bullshit-Free Oasis Beckons


If the above resonates with you, you might be in a relationship that doesn’t serve you. Contrary to what you’ve been told for your entire life, breaking up doesn’t mean your relationship failed.

Too often I see clients staying in relationships because of guilt, shame, and fear. You tell yourself things will improve, you just need to be a better partner. Be more patient. Be more understanding. Be more supportive.

What you’re really doing is taking more than half the responsibility for the relationship. As they contribute less, you contribute more. Emotionally, mentally, physically, you’re exhausted. But you won’t leave.

You won’t leave because the world has told you two really nasty things: leaving is failure, and failure is bad.


I Have Some Questions For You…


Would you stay in a job that wasn’t paying you because your parents would call you a bum if you quit?

Would you eat food that makes you sick for the sake of finishing your plate?

Would you keep seeing a personal trainer who overworks you and causes you injury?

No – because the purpose of a job is to pay you. The purpose of food is to nourish you. The purpose of a trainer is to help you become strong. You can make these decisions quickly, easily, and without guilt or shame because they’re so clear.

If you’re struggling with guilt, shame, and a sense of obligation, it’s because you don’t know the purpose of your relationship.

Here’s a broad definition to get you started:

The purpose of a relationship is to enrich your life and the life of your partner.

Let’s dive a little deeper and look at what that means to you.


Free Relationship Counselling, Right Here


I’ve never really tried to translate what I do in session into an article, but if you’re down, so am I.

There are so many ways a relationship can benefit you. Since this is a huge question, it’s helpful to break things down into categories. Here’s something to help you get started:

Maybe your relationship meets basic needs like food, shelter, and a place to live. Maybe you aren’t social or outgoing, and your partner involves you in a lifestyle you have trouble creating on your own. They might provide you with acceptance, and that’s something you’ve never had before. It could be they push you to achieve your dreams.

Figure out what your relationship used to give you, and what it gives you now. Think about what you want from your relationship, and compare the two.

If your two lists are really similar, your relationship is successful. If they aren’t, it’s time to take action.


If Your Relationship Isn’t Meeting Your Needs


Needs change. What you wanted at 25 and what you want at 40 are wildly different. We change radically throughout our lives, but no one ever teaches us how to stay in sync with another person going through the same process.

The first thing to do if your relationship isn’t meeting your needs is to talk about it.

But what if your partner isn’t receptive? What if they won’t talk to you? What if you try again and again, but they just shut you out?


If two people make a commitment and one person doesn’t honour it, should the other person continue to do so?

When you say it out loud, it’s hard to answer with a yes. But actions speak louder than words, and there are a LOT of people in one way relationships.

Your relationship is defined by the roles you play in it. How many hours per day are you a woman, a man, a husband, a wife? How many hours are you a mother or a father? A room mate? A caretaker? A therapist?

If your relationship isn’t meeting your needs, if you’re spending more time being room mates or care takers than lovers, if your partner isn’t willing to change, why would you be willing to stay?


Lining Up Your Ducks


OK, so you understand your relationship sucks and there’s little to no hope of change. It’s been months or even years, and your partner is unwilling to take action. You know the guilt and obligation you feel is a load of crap, but you still feel stuck.

Here’s why:

Remember that triangle picture above that listed all sorts of needs? Well, those needs form your stability as a person. Your brain will fight tooth and nail any decision that leads to instability, so revisit that list you made earlier.

To make leaving easier, you need to find new ways to meet your needs. Look at all the things you’re getting from your relationship, and figure out how you can meet those needs in a different way.

It’s also a great idea to have a counsellor in mind to help you through the break up, or even beforehand to talk through your problems.


Are You Tired Of Your Relationship? Struggling With Guilt Or Obligation?


Adult Attachment Styles in Relationships

By | Blog, Psychology & Relationships | 2 Comments

She goes through my phone all the time, but when I go through hers suddenly I’m invading her privacy, being controlling, and acting paranoid.”

“It’s not my fault you do suspicious things. I don’t. If you didn’t flirt with other girls maybe I wouldn’t have to go through your phone all the time.”

Sound familiar?

This kind of exchange is something I hear all the time. It’s a perfect example of how adult attachment styles can cause conflict in relationships.

About 40% of adults have an attachment style that causes relationship problems. Why are some partners OK with you taking a vacation solo, while others are constantly suspicious? Why do some people want to argue, while others wall up? It has a lot to do with… you guessed it, attachment styles.

Your adult attachment style determines your relationship patterns. They shape how you act when you’re close, how you deal with conflict, and in a lot of ways, are the deciding factor in whether or not your relationship lasts.


The Basic Adult Attachment Styles in Relationships


Secure Attachment: If you have a secure adult attachment style, you have a positive view of yourself and other people. You don’t panic or freak out when your partner goes out. You feel a normal amount of worry if your partner is running late or doesn’t call, but you’re able to cope with those feelings. Dealing with anxiety, jealousy, insecurity, and other negative emotions aren’t overly difficult for you.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment: Out of all the adult attachment styles I see in couples counselling, this one is the most prevalent. If you have an anxious attachment style, you feel insecure about your relationship, question your partner, and struggle to trust your partner. Even if your partner tries to provide reassurance, the feelings of insecurity and anxiety persist.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment: If you claim you don’t need relationships, this might be you. You focus on your career, your hobbies, and love your independence. When someone gets too close to you, you feel like they’re interfering with your own interests and pull away. You like to wall up or walk away when conversations get too emotional. When things aren’t going well, you convince yourself you don’t care and create distance between you and your partner.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment: Imagine the source of your pleasure and your fear are the same person. You want to get closer, but if you get too close you might get burned. You’re really happy at times, but then you snap out of it for a second and remember that you have to be on guard. When your partner wants you, you feel suffocated. When your partner isn’t being affectionate, you panic and scramble to get reassurance.


How Do Adult Attachment Styles Develop?


Maybe a few of the points above seem familiar… but how did you become this way? And can you change? If so, how?

Anyone can change anything about themselves with enough knowledge and the right skills. It starts with understanding how your adult attachment style developed, and how it’s affecting your relationship.

Secure Attachment: Develops from healthy affection. You grew up with a relatively stable family and home environment. When you took time to do your own thing, your parents were there when you were done. For the most part, they encouraged and supported you.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment: Develops from inconsistent affection. It’s likely that you grew up with addicted parents. This style develops when parents are sometimes affectionate, caring and supportive, but other times absent or abusive. Because you don’t know which you’re going to get, you constantly need to test the waters. Once you know things are OK, you feel relief… but it’s only temporary.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment: Develops from a lack of affection. Your parents probably encouraged you to be independent, or didn’t pay attention to your needs. Maybe they were unable to care for your needs, and you became a little parent yourself. Because you developed an independent, self-sufficient role so early on in life, you became your own critic, your own guardian, your own care taker, and you don’t feel like you need anyone else.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment: Develops from abuse. You needed your parent to feed you, clothe you, and provide you with shelter, and they did. But they were also cruel, and abused you mentally, physically, emotionally, or all of the above. You walked the line – close enough to get the essentials, far enough away to avoid the abuse. You may tell yourself your parent(s) were good people, just bad parents. Many people I see with this style have a split view of their parents, loving the good side and hating the bad, and mimic that with their partner.

Special Note: Sometimes, I have clients with great childhoods who have negative adult attachment styles. As you’ll see in the next section, your style can change due to really good/really bad relationships. A secure person can become anxious or avoidant after an abusive relationship, for example. If you connect with unhealthy attachment styles in the first section, but not the explanations in the second section, chances are that’s why.


Change Your Attachment Style, Have Better Relationships


If you’ve ever heard that “people don’t change”, forget it – it’s bullshit. I wouldn’t have a job if that saying was true. I’ll talk you through the basic process in this section, but it’s no replacement for quality counselling and couples therapy.

The most important tool in your arsenal is a technique called cognitive reframing. If you don’t know what that is, make sure you read this.

Secure Attachment: Do your best to understand your partner. Openly discuss the patterns that are happening and work together to create new, healthy patterns. Follow the advice I give for each of the unhealthy styles and provide as much support, love, and patience as you can.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment: Being suspicious and accusing your partner don’t help. In fact, the more often you accuse and frustrate an innocent person, the less reason they have to maintain innocence. Your brain has created a pattern to help you, but it’s doing the opposite. To break this pattern, you have to take a giant leap. As long as you keep snooping phone messages, flinging accusations, and interrogating them, the pattern will continue. Your brain will tell you that the things you’re doing are preventing cheating and other forms of emotional pain. The only way to break the cycle is to prove yourself wrong, so challenge yourself – the next time you want to accuse or interrogate, try not doing it and see what happens.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment: Don’t take too much pride in being able to wall up or walk away. Walking away or shelling up when you’re angry isn’t a good thing (most of the time). Until you learn to continue talking to your partner even when you’re feeling strong emotions, issues will continue to come up again and again. As your casual relationship turns more serious it’s perfectly normal for you to spend less time doing the things you enjoy independently. Take a giant leap and rely on your partner for something once in a while. It feels really nice to have someone you can depend on, but you’ll never have that unless you give your partner a chance.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment: You have a lot of really deep work to do. Your parents are (supposed to be) the safest, most loving people in your life. When they abuse you, it sends a really nasty message about the world and people in general. You’ll have to make good use of the cognitive reframing technique I mentioned earlier, and question the conclusions you’ve made about the world. Ask yourself where your negative beliefs about relationships come from, and if those beliefs make sense.

The tough thing with this style is your beliefs are often so suppressed you won’t be able to access them. You might have to hack your brain a little bit and watch for emotional outbursts. Whenever you feel stronger emotions than make sense for a situation, something deep has been uncovered and is escaping through the situation you’re experiencing. Pay attention to those situations, and watch for common factors in your outbursts.


Here’s What To Do Next


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Post a comment below and ask me a question, or share your experiences. Nothing is more valuable than people who have personal experience sharing how they cope, progress, and succeed.

For all my psych nerds who want serious knowledge, here’s a really good in depth breakdown of attachment theory.