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So far Spenser Dougley has created 49 blog entries.

Anxiety and Phobias

Whilst phobias are focussed on a specific situation or object, generalized anxiety is much more broad. Many people with generalized anxiety find that day-to-day situations cause them to worry excessively. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes a person to feel extreme fear around something. This fear can lead them to completely rearrange their lives in order to avoid the thing that causes them such fear. Some examples of phobias would be: *A place *An object *A situation *A living creature. Whilst we know the fear is an irrational one, it causes extreme emotional distress for the person experiencing the phobia. The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, (Fifth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD) outlines some helpful tips for those experiencing phobias. Please note it is important to also seek the help of a trained mental health professional. "The most effective way to overcome a phobia is simply to face it. Continuing to avoid a situation that frightens you is, more than anything else, what keeps the phobia alive." This might sound like an impossible task, especially if you have been avoiding something for a number of years. The author of the Anxiety and Phobia workbook suggests, "breaking it down into sufficiently small steps. Instead of entering a situation all at once, you can do it very gradually in small or even minute increments." When the learned behaviour is to associate anxiety with a particular situation, for example, you were involved in a car accident on a particular intersection, it is likely that you acquired "a strong association between being in that particular situation and being anxious. Therefore, being near or thinking about it automatically can trigger your anxiety." Edmund. J Bourne, lays out the following steps for those who are genuinely committed to their recovery: 1. You must be willing to take the risk to start facing situations you may have been avoiding for many years 2. You need to be able to tolerate the initial discomfort that entering phobic situations - even in small increments 3. You must persist in practicing exposure on a consistent basis, despite probable setbacks, over a long period of time to allow for complete recovery (generally 6 months to 2 years). As always this is not designed to replace seeking the support of a trained mental health professional. When doing your research and looking for a therapist, make sure to ask what training/experience the therapist has in working with phobias and anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and Phobias2021-09-22T16:18:47+00:00

How to prepare for your free consultation

What is the purpose of a free consultation? People come to counselling consultations for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may include: 1. It is their first experience with counselling and they have a lot of questions. 2. They would like to meet with the therapist first to make sure they are a good fit for them and that they are able to work within the clients level of comfort. 3. They want to see the therapist's office and make sure it is a comfortable and calming environment for their therapy sessions. What are some questions I could ask at my consultation? 1.What will the sessions look like? 2. What types of sessions do you offer? 3. What is your approach as a therapist? What methods/modalities do you use with your clients? 4. What happens if I don’t feel like we are a good fit? Are there other options? 5. Is everything kept confidential during the session? 6. How long have you been a counsellor? 7. What is your experience with _____________________? 8. What are your views on __________________________? 9. What do you do to take care of yourself so that you can be there for your clients and avoid burnout? 10. How often should I come for counselling? Tips: 1.Understand the purpose of the appointment. A 15 minute consultation is not the same as a counselling session. Utilizing this time to ask questions that will determine if this therapist is a good fit for you is the way to get the most out of this time. 2. Arrive on time. Being late shaves valuable time off of your appointment and could make the consultation feel rushed/stressful. 3. Check in with yourself. Do you feel your questions are being answered and that you are being heard? Do you feel safe and at ease in the space with them? 4. If you have changed your mind, let the receptionist know and cancel the consultation. The therapist has limited spaces for consultations and they will be waiting around for you if you don’t show.

How to prepare for your free consultation2021-09-16T15:14:36+00:00

Opioid and Substance Use During COVID-19

High rates of opioid-related deaths across Canada have been a significant and longstanding national public health issue. In 2019, there were almost 4,000 opioid-related deaths across the country, of which over 94% were accidental. The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the midst of this ongoing epidemic of opioid-related deaths, and resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency in Ontario on March 17, 2020 (Public Health Ontario, 2021). Within Ontario, the pandemic response has consisted of waves of public health restrictions of varying severity to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. (Ornell, Moura, Scherer, et al., 2020). These restrictions have included physical distancing measures that resulted in reduced service levels for health and social services, such as pharmacies, outpatient clinics, and harm reduction sites, that provide care to people who use drugs (PWUD (Ornell, Moura, Scherer, et al., 2020). Despite the intention to reduce the impact of COVID-19, there was also concern that these measures would lead to unintended harms. In November 2020, a preliminary report describing patterns in the circumstances surrounding opioid related deaths that occurred in Ontario during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic was released. The report noted a 38% increase in opioid-related deaths between March 16 and June 30, 2020 compared to the three months prior (Public Health Ontario, 2021). This increase in drug-related deaths was thought to be driven by a combination of numerous factors, including an increasingly volatile unregulated drug supply, barriers to accessing harm reduction services and treatment, and physical distancing requirements leading to more people using drugs alone (Ornell, Moura, Scherer, et al., 2020). This raised concerns about the potential risks of overdose among people being provided supportive housing in these settings during the pandemic. Given the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic and the continued rise in opioid-related deaths (Ornell, Moura, Scherer, et al., 2020). During the pandemic, there has been a statistically significant shift towards more opioid-related deaths occurring among males. Specifically, 70.8% of deaths in the pre-pandemic cohort were among males, rising to 76.3% of deaths in the pandemic cohort (Public Health Ontario, 2021). There was a small shift towards a higher proportion of opioid-related deaths among women aged 25 to 44 years (Public Health Ontario, 2021). As younger women are both disproportionately experiencing the mental health impacts of job loss and increased childcare demands during the pandemic and encountering additional stigma when accessing healthcare services related to drug use, these findings suggest a need for enhanced programming specific to the needs of younger women across Ontario (e.g., proactive out-reach, increased social supports, discreet provision of harm reduction and treatment services). (Ornell, Moura, Scherer, et al., 2020).The vast majority of confirmed opioid-related deaths in Ontario are accidental in nature, and this has increased significantly during the pandemic (92.6% vs. 95.7% in the pre-pandemic vs. pandemic cohorts). Overall, there were 1,893 confirmed opioid-related deaths that were determined to be accidental during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Approximately half of opioid-related deaths occurred among people who were unemployed at [...]

Opioid and Substance Use During COVID-192021-08-17T20:53:43+00:00

The Status Of Men’s Health in 2021

June is Mental Health Month and it is a month that focuses on the specific physical and mental health needs of men, adolescent boys and children. It is important to note that men and women experience and encounter much different challenges when it comes to their mental health, including stigma, symptoms and social and professional experiences and struggles. It has been approximated by researchers that men die five years earlier than women and die at significantly higher rates in approximately 9 of the top 10 causes of death. Perhaps the biggest challenge men face when it comes to their experience with mental health is the stigma attached to it and the fear of judgement that may follow if one self-discloses their personal struggles or shows any signs of ‘weakness.’ While I have recently seen in my practice, many young men from ‘Gen Z’ (those born between the years of 1997 and 2012) that have no resistance to or second thought of seeking help for any mental health issues they are experiencing… it is still evident in all older generations, that the unfortunate and unnecessary stigma that has lingered when it comes to being male and having mental health struggles continues in 2021.   Stigma, Facts and Myths Surrounding Men’s Mental Health As mentioned above, males who are considered to be a part of ‘Gen Z,’ and a significant number of males who are considered ‘Millennials,’ have shown that they tend to not show much consideration to any ‘stigma’ attached to their mental health experiences or fear of judgement from others. When it comes to other generations, such as ‘Baby Boomers’ (those born between 1946 and 1964), they often have much more difficulty revealing and speaking about mental health and personal struggles. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resources (2019), only 32 percent of Baby Boomers are comfortable with opening up about mental health issues. This is a statistic that I believe, through personal observation in my practice as a counsellor, has likely improved slightly. That being said, this statistic must improve even more if we are to normalize the fact, for men in particular, that it is healthy seek help for and view mental health as being as important and ‘normal’ as all other aspects of a man’s overall health.   Another thing I, and many other mental health practitioners, often encounter are the ‘myths’ and false beliefs a large majority of male clients either personally believe or are enforced upon them, by family, friends and/or coworkers. These myths and false beliefs include:   Men should always be tough and never reveal their feelings and struggles… and if they do, they’re ‘weak’… False. We must understand that we as human beings, no matter one’s gender or identity, cannot always control and ‘hold in’ how we are truly feeling if we are to live what I consider a genuine and healthy life. A common concern men face when experiencing mental health issues is that, if they admit to others [...]

The Status Of Men’s Health in 20212021-06-11T18:09:25+00:00

Building Resilience For the Prevention of Suicide

Building Resilience for the Prevention of Suicide By Registered Psychotherapist, Patricia James   Sometimes, overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and loneliness are enough for some individuals to consider, or attempt to take their own lives. Death by suicide is relatively uncommon but it is estimated that approximately 4,000 people die by suicide each year in Canada (Canadian Psychological Association, 2020). It is more common for individuals to engage in self-harm behaviours and/or entertain suicidal thoughts (CPA, 2020).   In Canada, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death children/youth age 10 to 19 years and young adults age 20 to 29 years. Although 73% of completed suicide occurs in males between the ages 45 to 59 years, 56% of women in this age category attempt or engage in serious self-harm behaviours resulting in hospitalization (Government of Canada, 2016).   Passive and Active Suicidal Thoughts Some individuals may have passive suicidal thoughts such as wishing to not wake up or that something fatal will happen. Others have more active thoughts about ending their lives. It is important to take both passive and active suicidal thoughts very seriously because it indicates that something is not right in the individual’s life (CPA, 2020).   Who is most affected by suicidal thoughts/behaviours Research indicates that suicide is generally more common in people who have mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. Other underlying mental illnesses may include depression, anxiety, or substance misuse disorders. Sometimes chronic pain or physical illness can have a devastating affect for an individual which may also lead to suicidal behaviours (CPA, 2020).   Do people who consider suicide really want to die? According to the CPA (2020), most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Sources of stress such as personal relationships, social status, school, work or worries about the future can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and pain. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideations or has a plan to attempt suicide, talk to someone about your feelings. There are people who can help you to feel better about life(CPA, 2020).   What should I look out for? Although depression and suicide go hand in hand, not everyone who dies by suicide is depressed (CPA, 2020). Never the less, if someone is depressed, it is important to find out if they are having suicidal thoughts.   Individuals who are demonstrating behaviours such as: 1. Giving away possessions, Have written a suicide note, Are talking about self-harm, Are gathering items to attempt self-harm/suicide are at risk for suicide. Individual who have experienced: 1. Recent personal loss, Have a history of past attempts are at an even higher risk for suicide (CPA, 2020).   Other signs are: 1. Changes in eating and sleeping habits, Withdrawing from others, Extreme emotional disturbances, Neglect for self-care, Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.   If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms or talking about suicide, suicide behaviours or in crisis, [...]

Building Resilience For the Prevention of Suicide2021-06-08T14:46:59+00:00

The Best Way To Navigate Blended Families

Navigating blended families By Registered Social Worker, Sharon Walker Many of us are experiencing life in a blended family. When we have experienced divorce/separation and are ready to start a new chapter in our lives, there are many things to consider, especially when one, or both partners are bringing children into the relationship. The transition period for these families can be challenging and it can be hard to cultivate new relationships within the family unit. Registered Social Worker and family therapist, Sharon Walker, acknowledges the struggles of these families. “Creating a new sense of “home” can be both a difficult and an amazing thing,” says Sharon. “The first thing that may be helpful to remember is to be kind to yourself as the parent/step parent. As with any change, it is completely expected that everyone may be thinking about what the new family will look and feel like, even the things the family will rejoice in.”   A few things to consider in this situation: When we feel anxiety we know that our body and minds may be moving more quickly than usual. It may be helpful to remember that literally slowing down your speech, gestures and listening may be helpful in seeing and understanding each other and the entire family unit.   Delight in the moments/reactions that make you smile. Say out loud in a clear manner what is so amazing. Acknowledging the good times is important. Physical touch that conveys love and comfort can never be under-estimated- a hug really is soothing and can help everyone connect. In the present moment there may be opportunity and challenge- act mindfully and be aware of the moments where no words are actually helpful and can actually be shared at a later point that may be “heard” differently. Reacting in the heat of the moment can create further tension.   Extreme Reactions: Whilst we try to avoid extreme reactions in ourselves, when navigating new challenges and big changes in our lives; extreme reactions can happen. It is helpful to remind yourself that regardless of who is reacting in this way, at the core of it is a need to reach out and connect and deal with BIG feelings.   A helpful tool/resource is the following link where Dr. Dan Seigel talks about the wheel of awareness. https://www.wheelofawareness.com/   The purpose of this tool is to “help you focus and direct your awareness.” This is something that would be beneficial for the whole family as you work to create a new sense of home and all manage the different feelings you have surrounding the changes.   As explained on this website, “At different times it may be helpful to focus your attention on the… 5 main senses: taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell 6th sense: gut sensations, breathing/respiratory, heart, muscles, bones, blood, etc 7th sense: mental activities such as thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs, emotions, images, plans, and anything else on your mind. 8th sense: interconnectedness, the ability to connect to yourself, your [...]

The Best Way To Navigate Blended Families2021-06-08T14:47:42+00:00

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