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So far Spenser Dougley has created 33 blog entries.

Access to Virtual Psychiatric Consultation, Evaluation and Assessment through Brant Mental Health Solutions

We often hear from clients how challenging it is to be referred to a Psychiatrist (for those who are unsure, Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors who are able to diagnose mental health disorders and prescribe medication.) Even if our clients are referred to a Psychiatrist, it can take up to a year to get your first appointment. Registered Psychotherapist, Jennifer Ackford has partnered with the Psychotherapy Matters Virtual Clinic to offer clients access to Psychiatric referral and evaluation through video conference sessions. This provides Jennifer’s clients with quicker access to Psychiatric services and follow up appointments if necessary. She is pleased to be able to offer this unique service to her clients and explains how it works below: How it works. Jennifer begins working with a client. This process allows her to begin understanding the issues that are impacting the client and the opportunity to assess whether consultation with a psychiatrist (who is a medical doctor) could offer further necessary insight, evaluation, diagnosis and/or recommendations for medication, that would be beneficial for the client. Jennifer and the client make the decision together whether a referral for this kind of further evaluation might be a positive step. If yes, Jennifer will fill out a referral form and Psychotherapy Matters Virtual Clinic returns the referral with a form to be signed by the client’s family physician. When a client does not have a family physician Jennifer will work with you to find an alternate person (i.e., through an urgent care clinic). A date is set (usually within a month’s time) When the date for the appointment arrives, a videoconference between the client, Jennifer and the Psychiatrist is set up. Jennifer has an opportunity to consult with the Psychiatrist for a few minutes at the beginning and end,as well Jennifer is part of the consultation with the client. (The reasoning behind this is that sometimes it can be difficult for a client in this pressured situation to be sure that they are communicating all of the relevant information clearly and completely so that the Psychiatrist can adequately evaluate and make a solid diagnosis. Jennifer can provide the psychiatrist with relevant information both before and after as well as support the conversation between Psychiatrist and Client. In the aftermath, the Psychiatrist can help direct the type of treatments that may be helpful for the specific needs of the client which will make the psychotherapeutic appointments that much more focused and effective. If you have more questions about this brand-new service, please feel free to contact us either at 519.302.2300 or email reception@brantmentalhealth.com to request a free consultation with Registered Psychotherapist, Jennifer Ackford.

Access to Virtual Psychiatric Consultation, Evaluation and Assessment through Brant Mental Health Solutions2021-04-30T17:10:23+00:00

What To Expect At Your Child’s First Counselling Session

It can feel like a daunting and overwhelming situation. Your child’s first appointment with a therapist. Not only is your child likely feeling anxious, but you are too. As the parent or caregiver, you are wanting to help make the first appointment go as smoothly as possible and part of that is preparing your child for that appointment. Here are some helpful suggestions to prepare your child: Talk them through the process. - If they are old enough to know where the location is, tell them. If they can picture it in their mind, it isn’t an unknown place. - Show them a picture of the therapist from their bio on our website. - Explain to them that the first appointment is usually just getting to know the therapist and that they are welcome to have their parent/caregiver present for some or all of that first appointment, if it will make them more comfortable. - For younger children, let them know that there are toys, craft supplies, books and other things they can enjoy whilst waiting for their appointment and during their appointment. The child therapists make sure to find out what the child is interested in and they incorporate that into their therapy sessions. Let the child know that it is their appointment and that they can be honest and open about how they are feeling and that they are not obligated to share things until they feel ready. They are also allowed to ask for the parent to come back in the room, or ask if they need a break. Nothing about the process is supposed to be traumatizing, the therapist wants to listen and support without any judgement. No one is “analyzing” them. Many young people, in particular teens and pre-teens associate counselling with being analyzed, leading to worry about being judged. Therapists are not permitted to diagnose mental health disorders, and they are not trying to analyze you. They are just trying to connect with you so that they can help. It is important to learn to trust the therapist so that you can fully open up to them. Teens and pre-teens also worry about getting into trouble by sharing things. Please read over the confidentiality clause on their intake paperwork with them. It clearly outlines the times when a therapist is legally obligated to report things that have been disclosed. This will also be explained by the therapist at their first appointment. For my children, I always explain that going for counselling is like visiting your family doctor. When we have concerns about our physical health, we are usually comfortable booking an appointment and talking to our doctor about what we are experiencing. There is not much stigma associated with visiting a medical doctor for a checkup, therefore, try to “normalise” the therapy process Explain that taking care of your mental health is as important as going to see your doctor and that many people find themselves needing support for their mental health, they aren’t [...]

What To Expect At Your Child’s First Counselling Session2021-04-30T16:16:17+00:00

How To Nurture Children During Divorce or Separation

Life is full of wonderful and sometimes very difficult detours. We may have a vision of how our life and relationships will be in the short term and long term, however, this vision may not always end up becoming our reality. The decision to move forward with a separation or divorce is often a difficult one. We know that whatever decision is made will impact each partner as an individual and as a parent/caregiver. We also know it will impact children. Frank Herbert once said, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story”. This is one way of looking at the changes in families; the other way is to recognize that with no real ending you also do need to stop the story and may just need to re-write some of the chapters. The research tells us that one of the most important things we can do for our children is cultivate a warm, welcoming, kind and predictable space for connections to continue to flourish. Connection and relationship are among the most important lifelines to wellness and belonging that we can strive for. Gordon Neufeld is a developmental psychologist and awell-known author who ascribes to John Bowlby’s attachment theory. https://neufeldinstitute.org Gordon Neufeld suggests   that “children need to trust and depend upon those who are responsible for them.” During a time of stress, it may be helpful to remember that literally “being with” your children and sharing the joy, laughter and sadness is one way of communicating, by your actions, that there is path ahead and together- you can be amazing as individuals and a family even if we have written some new chapters. It may also be helpful to notice when you think, or your child thinks, it might be helpful to talk to a professional about how they are feeling and managing. Think of how you feel when you look at the image in this article, and think about how you can create and nurture that kind of space for your kids. When you notice it is more and more difficult to do this- reaching out is always an option! At Brant Mental Health Solutions, all of our therapists offer free 15-minute consultations to talk about what counselling may look like for you, your child and family.   Written by Registered Social Worker, Sharon Walker. This article is not designed to replace seeking the help of a trained mental health professional.

How To Nurture Children During Divorce or Separation2021-04-30T17:07:23+00:00

COVID Grief is a Real Thing: Here’s What You Need To Know

Our world has changed. What initially felt temporary is now beginning to feel more permanent.  There is a collective grief being felt by many.  Additionally, with feelings of an uncertain future, many are experiencing anticipatory grief which can take our mindsto the worst scenarios.   Grieving an emotional loss, or a change in somethingfamiliar, is normal.  We have been taught to distract ourselves from the emotions we do not wish to face.  Burying or ignoring these emotions only delays our healing and leads to increased feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.Once we find the courage to confront whatwe have been avoiding, we can begin the healing process.   The Grief Recovery Institute believes there are mythsmany of us reach for in an attemptto heal our emotional pain.  We have been conditionedto believe our feelings do not matter and as a result many of us self-isolate and grieve alone.  We have been taught to be strong for others and in an effort to feel better we replace our loss.  We stay busy as we wait for time to heal our wounds.  These coping strategies are called myths for a reason.  Rather than heal our pain, these strategies keep us trapped in a never-ending cycle of grief.   How do these myths relate to COVID and our current protocols?   Grief can be the result of the death of a loved one. It may be the feelings which follow divorce.  Grief may be things we wished had been different, unrealized dreams and expectations, or unsaid communications which need to be heard.  Grief can be the conflicting feelings due to a change in something familiar.  COVID has robbed us of our familiar - removed our feelings of safety and caused many of us to feela loss of control and personal autonomy.  Couple all this with any previous unresolved emotions, and we find ourselves riding a never-ending rollercoaster of emotional uncertainty.   Intellectual statements differ greatly from those which come from our heart.  As humans we are programmed to want to be accepted, to fit in, and will do anything to achieve this.  With so much misinformation, confusion, and division surrounding COVID we mayfind ourselves afraid to share our thoughts and feelings for fear of rejection.  When we believe our feelings do not matter, we withdraw, shelter ourselves from the criticism, and wait for the storm to pass.   Waiting for the pain to go away can increase our feelings of isolation and anxiety.  Time is not a verb: it is a noun.  To resolve any unfinished business,which resides within us, we are the ones who must act.   Uncomfortable with the silence and isolation, many of us reach for short term energy relieving behaviours (STERBs) to distract us from our pain.  During COVID, our distractions have become even easier to access.  Alcohol and grocery stores remain open. Netflix provides endless hours of entertainment.  Phones and computers offer numerous applications to occupy our time.  STERBs do provide relief in the interim. However, once we [...]

COVID Grief is a Real Thing: Here’s What You Need To Know2021-04-30T16:17:50+00:00

First Responders and Unresolved Grief

Those who work in law enforcement, EMS, fire, air medical, ER, etc. are all very familiar with the complexities of witnessing trauma on a daily basis.  These caring and hardworking first respondersprovide us with much-neededpublic safety and support.  Unfortunately, many of these individuals overlooktheir personal reactions or do not have the necessary tools to process and healtheir own feelings of grief which results from their chosen careers. I can’t begin to imagine the rush of emotions which must flood first responders after an emergency call.  They often find themselves in horrible situations where loss is sudden and unexpected.  Without proper tools to work through the situations, they do what we all have been taught to do when grieving: suppress emotions; pretend to be strong for others; and wait for time to make everything feel better. For many, when time doesn’t ease the pain of suffering, the next strategyis to stay busy and replace the feelings of loss with something else.  While time may be filled with such things as alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, or whatever distract us, or helps us hide, from the feelings we do not wish to face, the healing remains unsuccessful. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to an emotional loss of any kind and first responders have additional losses the general public may never encounter: the death of a patient; the inability to find an abducted child; watching the results of a disabling car accident; or being unable to extinguish a house fire while the residents remain inside.  Without a way to diffuse the emotional triggers, memories of these incidents can lead to nightmares and years of anxiety. Grief can also be the change in something which was familiar; Perhaps a work partner dies, there is a reassignment to another team, a promotion is won or loss, or a retirement transpires. All of these daily situations can create feelings of loss. Feeling grief is normal and natural. Unfortunately, it is society’s reaction to loss whichcan make us feel uncomfortable with the emotions we are experiencing.  In the workplace, most corporate policies provide us with a few days to deal with thetraumaordeath of a loved one.  Within this short time we are expected to put the pain behind us and come back to work in a functioning manner. The Grief Recovery Method® (GRM) was designed by grievers for grievers.  It is an alternative to traditional therapy and is, at its core, an educational program.  Participants identify the losses they feel are incomplete or those which have been left unfinished.  Once identified they are taught a simple, yet effective, four step process to complete these emotions in order to actually “set these memories down”. As human beings we want to finish the story we have experienced. Many times, in finishing the story, we also attempt to rewrite the ending.  Our mind enumerates over and over the “would have”, “should have”, and “could have”scenarios looking to complete the experience differently.  This constant looping keeps us trapped in a [...]

First Responders and Unresolved Grief2021-04-30T17:06:19+00:00

Spoons Anyone?

Have you ever heard someone say, “I just don’t have enough spoons to do this today”? Or, I just used my last ‘spoon’ and I don’t have any left to do anything else?   The metaphor of the ‘spoons’ was first used by Christine Miserandino in her blogsite www.butyoudontlooksick.com.  She used the example to try to explain to a friend what it was like living with the chronic illness of Lupus. The example as explained by Ms. Miserandino went like this. Each spoon represents the amount of energy that is required to complete a task. Many people have an infinite number of ‘spoons’ (or energy) to use at the beginning of each day. They wake up and have infinite energy to take on whatever comes up in the day. They have freedom to pursue any and all activities that come their way from the necessary tasks like getting up and having a shower, to going to work, to cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards, to spending some quality time at the end of the day with spouse, children or friends. Because of the energy at their disposal, they also have the freedom to add in a quick fun shopping trip here, and a spontaneous fun walk or hike with their pet there.   Those who experience chronic illness, whether that is chronic physical illness, chronic disability or mental health issues (like anxiety, depression or trauma), often have a finite number of spoons each day. With those spoons, they have to navigate all of the tasks of the day, planning things out carefully to ensure they can get through the day with the spoons they have at their disposal. As Ms. Miserandino puts it, just getting out of bed and brushing one’s hair and teeth, perhaps taking a shower can easily use up 2 or 3 spoons before one even gets to breakfast in the morning (never mind getting out the door). This leaves a limited number of spoons with which to navigate the rest of the activities of the day.   When I first read about ‘spoons’, it struck me that this metaphorcould be a powerful ‘aha’ moment for anyone struggling with chronic illness or mental health issues of any sort. It is a way to understand and gain insight into the often confusing and frustrating situations that you deal with on a day to day basis. This metaphor can also help you to put into words your experience so that those around you can gain some insight into your reality.   When life feels so overwhelming that just accomplishing the mundane yet necessary tasks (like just getting up in the morning) is difficult, people more often than not, are left with a variety of emotions and self-judgements that are heaped on top of everything else. For example, it is easy to be left feeling guilty for not being able to act or accomplish tasks that others around you (or that you) expect; sad, because it feels thatyou are missing [...]

Spoons Anyone?2021-04-30T15:47:38+00:00

Supporting Your Child and Their Gender Identity

Part of growing up is figuring out who we are and what our place is in the world. For children, and even adults, this can be a struggle. Our sense of self is based upon values, beliefs, interests, relationships, sexual orientation, and of course, our gender identity. For parents, if this gender identity exists outside of cisnormativity (the assumption that all folks’ sense of identity and gender aligns with their birth sex) it can lead to a host of emotions. Parents may experience: * Confusion, * Hurt, * Disbelief, * Sadness, * Anger, * Grief, * Shame, * Relief, * Happiness, * Concern. Many of these feelings stem from a concern about how their child will navigate the world and in turn how the world will respond to them. Whilst these feelings are all normal and valid, it is important to manage those feelings once your child has identified their gender to you. Connecting with a therapist to help you work through these feelings will allow you to better support your child. When it comes to supporting your child’s gender identity, there are three key things you can do. 1. Validate and be Supportive – If your child comes out to you as transgender or gender non-conforming, provide a safe space to listen and practice understanding. Learn from you child what that means to them. It is important to provide a clear message of support to your child that you are there for them and love them for who they are. Being supportive and validating includes using your child’s preferred name (this may be difficult if it is different than the name you have given them) and their preferred pronouns. It also includes creating safe and inclusive environments for your child in the home, with others, and in the community to the best of your ability. Finally, it is recognizing that your child is the expert in their identity, including their gender. Reducing their experience to “just a phase” will make your child feel rejected and unaccepted. 2. Educate yourself – Cisnormativity, transgender, gender non-conforming, gender variant… what do they mean? Educate yourself on the terminology and the experience of gender variant and gender non-conforming individuals. There are a lot of great organizations doing this work in the community and across the country which are referenced below. Ok2bme has a great resource outlining the definitions (see link at end of report). Research LGBTQ+ organizations. Join a parent support group or reach out to other families who have a child that may be gender non-conforming or gender variant. Finally, remember your child is the expert of their experience and is a wealth of knowledge as well. 3. Advocate for your child - Advocacy can take many forms. It may be ensuring your child’s school is a safe environment where their gender identity is taking into consideration (i.e. there are non-gendered bathrooms). It may be encouraging other family members to use your child’s preferred pronouns and name. Talk to your child about [...]

Supporting Your Child and Their Gender Identity2021-03-08T14:45:50+00:00

All About Couples Counselling

Couples Counselling When is the right time and why should we seek the help of a couple’s counsellor? Many people ask when is the “right” time to seek counselling as a couple. There are many possible answers to this question, but often couples seek the help of a therapist when the issues have really taken root in their relationship. Often by the time both parties agree to start counselling the couple is dealing with a huge breakdown in communication, changing sense of connection, conflict and in some cases, infidelity. These are all things that could be managed with the help of a licenced mental health professional. The best suggestion that can be given, would be to seek help long before you think you need to. Most couples will admit that there were small issues that came up over the course of their relationship that “snowballed” over time and created much bigger problems within the relationship. Counselling could have supported exploring and possibly identifying these smaller issues and given the couple tools and techniques to deal with conflict when it arose. What are some things people seek couples counselling for? Communication problems Intimacy/Sexual problems (including infidelity) Financial concerns/disagreements Major life changes (newly married, starting a family, moving to a new area for work) Disagreements over parenting. Feeling less connected as a couple What if my partner doesn’t want to go for couples counselling? This is definitely an issue that comes up during couples counselling. One person may feel like they won’t be heard or understood or it may shock them that you are springing this on them. The best suggestion we can give you for this situation is: Discuss the possibility of couples counselling before committing to or booking anything. Talk to your partner about what you hope to get out of couples counselling and ask what they would like to work on. If your partner won’t agree to it, you can still have individual therapy which would be helpful as you navigate the difficulties within your relationship. The hesitant partner may see you grow in therapy and make positive changes and it may make them more open to the counselling process. Final Thoughts: When looking for a couple’s therapist, do your research! Make sure the therapist is a licenced mental health professional with experience working with couples. Ask for a free consultation. Many therapists will offer free consultations so that you both have an opportunity to discuss the issues you are experiencing and find out if the counsellor is a good fit for your unique relationship. The consultation will also help the couple decide if they both feel heard,understood and respected by the therapist. Make sure you both have set some attainable and measurable goals for the relationship (even if those goals are different.)   At Brant Mental Health Solutions, Registered Social Worker Sharon Walker, works with couples and families. She has over 30 years experience in the mental health field and as a social worker it is her goal [...]

All About Couples Counselling2021-01-25T14:11:48+00:00

What is EMDR and Could It Help Me?

EMDR stands for ‘Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing’. It is an approach that was developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980’s initially to treat individuals who had experienced various types of trauma. At this point in time it is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ of effective trauma treatment and has been widely researched particularly for those who experience PTSD.  The focus ultimately is to help individuals to begin reprocessing the traumas they have experienced so the traumatic memories can be stored differently (and more effectively) in our brains. When you think about PTSD, often the image of a soldier returning from combat comes to mind who relives traumas experienced in combat as if they are present in the moment. Sometimes a sound, like the backfiring of an engine, brings to mind the sound of gunfire and takes the soldier right back to the traumatic moment where it is relived again and again. While this is a popular image when considering PTSD, trauma comes in many different forms and it is important to remember it is unique to the individual. One person may experience a traumatic event but be able to move through it and process it adequately so that it does not continue to intrude in any way on his or her daily life. Another person might experience the same event and find himself or herself stuck in that moment and unable to move beyond it. The reasons for this are many but often have to do with earlier experiences in our lives that have shaped how we respond to a traumatic experience. When this happens sometimes individuals get ‘stuck’ in the event and in the emotional part of our brain where time is absent and experiences are recorded in images, emotions and sensations. When the memories remain unprocessed, they are incomplete and can be retriggered/brought to mind again by a sound, a touch, a sensation, even a colour or smell, which somehow causes us to re-experience the trauma in the present moment. Reprocessing involves taking those memories from the part of the brain that has stored them incompletely without a coherent sense of time to the part of the brain that is verbal and can re-organize the trauma story in a way that understands it has a beginning, middle, and most importantly, an end. With this, the trauma can ultimately be understood as a past event and can be filed in the rational, logical part of the brain. The memory doesn’t disappear; the triggers just lose much of their emotional power. EMDR is being used to address many types of trauma-based issues. Along with PTSD, EMDR may be helpful in providing relief for ‘small t’ traumas that underlie different conditions ranging from depression to anxiety and developmental traumas. At Brant Mental Health Solutions, we are now able to offer the S.A.F.E. approach to EMDR therapy which focuses on a Somatic and Attachment Focussed EMDR. Although it employs bilateral stimulation (rapid eye movement or tapping), EMDR is [...]

What is EMDR and Could It Help Me?2021-01-21T20:11:04+00:00

10 Steps Towards Rediscovering Your Hope

“Hope involves planning, motivation, and determination.” Dr. Valerie Maholmes It is human nature to want to grow, to change, and to expand our life experiences. Hope is our desire for a positive outcome, something that will make life better. For many of us hope motivates and encourages us to press forward in the most challenging of circumstances. Fear can be what stops us in our tracks; Hope is what provides us the courage to take the necessary steps forward. How do we nurture and embrace hope when life appears to be hopeless? Despair has been described as the complete absence of hope. When we have lost hope, we tend to give up under the immense weight of our current circumstances, asking ourselves, “What is the point?” Hope is what counters this feeling of helplessness; It provides the motivation to dig a little deeper and to intentionally search for a solution to our problems. Hope is essential to our mental and emotional health and is one of the most powerful contributors to our survival. It is something we should intentionally incorporate into our daily routine. How can we accomplish this? It is important to set a goal. It is difficult to have hope around anything unless you know what the desired outcome looks like. Change begins with an awareness we want something to be different. Being specific allows us to engage our imagination, it allows us to dream, and that is where hope feels most at home. Hope is a belief everything will work out. It allows us to find calm in the roughest waters. Our minds can only hold onto one thought at a time and as humans we get to choose our thoughts. Intentionally focusing on a positive outcome can help us to feel better in the moment. Are you able to see a vision bigger than yourself? Are you able to take a step back, move away from the details, and expand the vision you see? When we are able to shift our focus from ourselves, to include others, it automatically seems more powerful and more attainable. It is always easier to wish good on others. Along the same lines of including others in our vision, volunteering can be inspiring not only to ourselves, but to those who are receiving our support. With our actions we are providing hope to others. Hope comes from a belief, or faith, the current situation will change. Dreams have a much greater chance of succeeding when we share them with others. When we share our vision with others, our faith expands as we receive support from the most unexpected places. We all tap into inspiration differently and each of us must do the same for hope. Where does hope speak to you directly? Is it the lyrics of a song? Reading or watching a biography? Between the covers of a book or a magazine? Is it a speaker, a workshop, or a course? Engagement with the word around us can be [...]

10 Steps Towards Rediscovering Your Hope2021-01-15T18:18:25+00:00