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All About 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.) We will be running a couples workshop event Saturday, January 21st 2023 from 9am – 12pm. The workshop, facilitated by Registered Psychotherapist Alicia Lawson, is $150+HST and will include learning about one another’s love languages, different types [...]

All About Couples Counselling2022-12-31T00:19:38+00:00

Family Estrangement during Holidays

It is common for human beings to experience feelings of grief during the holidays, particularly if we have experienced a recent loss, such as death of a loved one or a pet and this is the first holiday without them. However, when we are dealing with loss due to estrangement from family members, there is also a grieving process, one that is less recognized. The impact of a loss of relationship with family members due to estrangement can be devastating for people, and the holiday season brings constant reminders of the loss. Many people feel they are alone in their situation, and because of feelings of shame or guilt they may not share it with others. While family estrangement may not be openly discussed, statistics indicate that it’s more common than you might think- 1 out of 5 people are estranged from a family member. The following are some ideas to help with coping with estrangement during holidays:   Honour your feelings. Acknowledging how you feel, the range of your emotions and the pain you may be experiencing are important for your well being. Identifying supportive people you can talk with, safe spaces in your life and finding ways to release emotional energy from your body (e.g., yoga, walking, swimming, meditation) will all help with managing intense feelings. Grief, anger, sadness, guilt, and shame are some of the common emotions with estrangement.     Know that you are not responsible for all of the family dynamics at play, even if you have a big role. Whenever you bring people together, there will be dynamics, and the family system is a complex web of relationships with history. You are one part of a family system and can only be responsible for yourself and your own actions within the functioning of the family. Remind yourself of this especially if you are experiencing feelings of guilt. To move toward healing in relationships, one person cannot do this alone.     Write a letter to your estranged family member. Without considering that you will send it, sharing what you think and feel in the form of a letter can be helpful. Expressing how you feel and think at this moment in time may help bring clarity of thought, guide your decision making in the future, or open up some new insights.     Acknowledge holiday pressure. There may be pressure to reunite with the estranged family member, from yourself or others in your life. If you are wanting to reach out, consider whether this is the best time for you and for them, what the outcomes might be, and if you have the emotional bandwidth to deal with a rejection. If an invitation comes to you, take time to respond thoughtfully, and talk about it with a trusted person before you do.   Create new traditions. If estrangement has changed the holiday for you, create new traditions and rituals that represent what is important to you and works for your current life situation. Accept [...]

Family Estrangement during Holidays2022-11-28T15:39:51+00:00


**TRIGGER WARNING mentions sexual abuse, violence etc** This day was chosen in honour of the Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic. Minerva, Maria Theresa and Patria, were 3 sisters who were assassinated for their opposition to the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. As a result, they became a popular symbol of feminist resistance. November 25th marks the first of 16 days of the UNITE! Campaign, an official UN Activist Campaign to end gender based violence. The campaign runs from November 25th – December 10th. December 10th being International Human Rights Day.   Although it is vital to touch on the depth and breadth of the meaning of this day, it is also extremely important for us at Brant Mental Health Solutions to provide practical support to the population we serve. Generally, as counselors, we see gender based violence often in the form of relationships. This can be classified under several different subtypes, including: Physical Sexual Emotional Spiritual Psychological Financial Verbal It is important to note that these classifications do not apply solely to intimate partner relationships. They can be seen in many types of relationship (e.g family relationships, friendships and employment relationships to name a few). Are you or someone you love experiencing gender based violence in any form? Seek support! Whether you choose to leave or to stay in that relationship or situation, either way, support is vital. One of the most helpful, non-judgemental resources can be a support group of your peers who have experienced or are experiencing a similar situation as well. Reach out to or become a Signal for Help Responder! https://action.canadianwomen.org/signal-responder This program offers supportive stigma-free conversations and advice to responders on how to have those conversations. Remember that everyone copes with abuse differently. Being there to support others or being compassionate with yourself in terms of exploring what works for them/you is a great start. Be patient and open-minded. Figuring things out takes time! Abusive relationships can be complicated, confusing, scary and traumatic. If you are currently in an abusive relationship/situation, learn how to engage in order to optimise your safety: Find ways to communicate safely: have a safe phone, alternate computer to use, keeping lines of communication open with friends and family as much as possible. Create a safety plan with a mental health professional or an individual you trust to keep you and your children safe. Identify resources and support so that you know where you can turn if needed Practice self-care   WHY IS GENDER BASED VIOLENCE SUCH AN IMPORTANT TOPIC TO RAISE AWARENESS OF? Gender based violence has taken on different forms across the world. It is one of the most common and distressing human rights violations that still takes place in our world today. As cited by the United Nations, gender based violence is seen today in several forms across the world. In general terms, these are: intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide) sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, [...]


Seasonal Affective Disorder – The Winter Blues

Most of us have heard the term ‘winter blues’ and associate it with winter arriving and having a sense of feeling ‘low’ or ‘down’ until our clocks once again ‘spring forward’ and the sunny warmer weather approaches. While the majority of us experience a level of the ‘winter blues’ at some point or another during the winter months, many of us experience this at a more intense and consistent level which can result in what clinical psychologists and psychiatrists consider a form of depressive disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is defined as a major depressive disorder that persists during the same season, typically winter, for at least two years consecutively (Psychology Today, 2019). Approximately 2 to 3 percent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime and about 15 percent of Canadians will experience a milder form of SAD in which more mild depressive symptoms are experienced, but a person is still able to go about their daily life (CMHA, 2013). What is Thought to Cause SAD and What are the Symptoms? Causes Though many mental health professionals believe those who experience SAD may have already experienced significant depressive episodes during their life, other factors may be at play. These factors could include experiencing other mental health issues (such as generalized anxiety, for example) and genetics and their role in mental health overall. Researchers also believe that sunlight plays a crucial role in not only our mood, but physical health and sleep hygiene as well. The reduced exposure to sunlight those who live in northern climates, like Southern Ontario, during the winter months, it is believed, results in lower production of vitamin D within the body. Researchers believe that vitamin D plays a significant role in the functionality of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a brain and gut chemical that effects mood and the development, and maintenance of, depressive symptoms (Psychology Today, 2019). Symptoms Persistent tiredness, whether or not one has had a ‘full-nights sleep’ Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep Tiredness that significantly affects one’s ability to carry out daily tasks like work, school, errands, etc. A ‘more than usual’ craving form carbohydrates and simple sugars like sweets, breads, pop, etc. Body weight gain Feelings of sadness, despair, hopelessness, low self-worth and/or guilt Persistent irritability Avoidance of social activities and hobbies/activities one used to enjoy High stress and feeling of being ‘tense’ often A loss of sexual desire and low urge for intimacy/physical touch What Can You Do? Whether you believe you are experiencing significant SAD, moderate SAD, or even the ‘winter blues,’ it is always a great first step to speak with your primary care doctor. This is an important first step as it allows your doctor to consider and eliminate any other health issues that may be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid issues, forms of anemia, and other mental health issues. An effective tool that does not involve medical intervention is ‘Light Therapy’ (also referred to as a ‘SAD Light’ or ‘Happy Light’). What this technology does is use a, proven [...]

Seasonal Affective Disorder – The Winter Blues2022-11-21T22:13:55+00:00

Understanding Grief During the Holidays

Are you or someone you know grieving? This article is to help you understand how to help yourself heal during the holiday season, or how to support someone you know who is grieving over the holidays. First, it is important to know that the experience of grief and mourning is different for everyone. No two people will experience the same loss in the same way. For some people, the grief they experience feels unbearable. Holidays can heighten this feeling. I hope the information that is provided in this article will be a supportive aid as this holiday season approaches. There are many different types of grief, here are some of the things people may be grieving this year: Personal health Food and economic security Future dreams Physical safety/stability Sense of personal freedom Physical/in person connection Death of a loved one It is also important to understand the difference between ambiguous grief and anticipatory grief. Ambiguous grief: A loss without closure, or an understanding of why/what happened. The loss may not be acknowledged by others. This can include losses that don’t involve a human being. Anticipatory grief: Grief that occurs before an actual loss (such as anticipating the death of a sick friend.) An individual may be feeling grief after moving to a new city and not being able to connect with friends or family, they may also feel grief after losing a pet, or after being diagnosed with a critical illness, and this list can go on. Therefore, if you feel like you are grieving something other than a loved one, the information in this article can still be helpful. In a typical holiday season, there is often pressure on grieving individuals (either internally, or from others) to put aside their sadness and hurt and be full of joy and thanksgiving. However, memories of the loved one resurface during events where the loved one would have been. What does grief look like? Common initial feelings of grief: Shock, denial, disbelief, numbness Common feelings and experiences: Anger, guilt, regret, blame, sadness, depression, panic, fear, worry, relief, confusion, doubt, questioning one’s faith, changes in sleep. This list does not cover all the emotions and experiences one may have when grieving. Thinking that you do not want to go one with life is normal, but thinking about suicide is not. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately by going to your hospital’s emergency room, or talk to a therapist, doctor, or crisis support line. St. Leonard’s 24 Hour Mental Health Crisis Line: 519-759-7188 or toll free: 1-866-811-7188 Are you grieving? Here are some reminders during this upcoming holiday. Love does not end with death. Our society wants you to join in the holiday spirit, but it may not feel that easy for you. Remember to be compassionate with yourself as you heal. Do what is right for you during the holidays. As you become aware of your needs, share them with trusted people. Talk about your grief and about the person [...]

Understanding Grief During the Holidays2022-11-21T22:09:15+00:00

What To Do About Bullying

November is Bullying Awareness month. According to Prevnet, a Canadian organization committed to violence prevention, bullying is a serious issue that requires adult intervention. Bullying is a form of abuse that preys on vulnerability and can lead to social and mental health problems in children and youth. When carried into adulthood, bullying behaviour leads to a lifetime pattern of abuse that shows up in the workplace, family, and community. While we cannot protect our children and youth from all of the social dynamics they will be exposed to in life, there are a number of things that we can do to support them to develop healthy relationships and social skills. Teaching our children how to recognize the various forms of bullying and how to respond helps them to stand up for themselves and for others, whether it is in person, or online.   What Parents Can Do To Help:   Value Inclusive and Respectful Behaviour Parents set the tone for family relationships and children learn relationship skills by watching their parents’ behaviour. Model the use of positive power by respecting and supporting others. Encourage positive relationships among children by praising respectful and inclusive behaviour whenever you see it. Try and focus on the positives of your child, even when they need correcting. Talk About Bullying Often, kids may not feel comfortable reporting or talking about bullying because they may be embarrassed, scared, or worried that it may make the problem worse. Sometimes, kids get involved in bullying others as part of a social group, even though they know it is wrong. Have open conversations with your child about their experiences at school, online and in the community, talk about what they notice, and what role they play in their social groups. Talk about the negative consequences of bullying and why it is important to take a stand against this behaviour.     Teach Your Child To Be Assertive – Not Aggressive Being aggressive in response to other’s negative or aggressive behaviour usually makes things worse. Teach your child how to stand up for him/herself without being aggressive. Rehearse phrases, responses, and words such as, “STOP!” to help your child stand up for themselves. Practice assertive body language such as standing up tall, firm voice, and eye contact.   Teach Your Child How to Ask for Help Identify people in the school, community and family who are there to support your child in standing up for themselves and for others. Draw parallels to when adults may seek help in the workplace or community, so that children understand that we all need help at times to solve problems and feel safe.   Teach your Child the Difference Between Conflict and Bullying Help your child to understand that some conflict within relationships is normal and that we all have different perspectives and experiences. Distinguish between the behaviour that comes from working out our differences during a conflict, and bullying behaviour, which is for the purpose of hurting or humiliating someone. Teach and model [...]

What To Do About Bullying2022-11-02T17:47:07+00:00

What to consider when you have decided you are ready for therapy

We all know therapy is a deeply personal process that at times can feel overwhelming. Opening up to someone we don’t know and sharing the challenges we are facing in our every day life is not something anyone takes lightly. Often we are going to therapy to share things about ourselves that we haven’t shared with anyone previously, so it is important to enter into the therapy process having done some research or at least being aware of what we are looking to achieve.   Things to consider: What is the designation of the professional you are seeking out? Make sure you are looking for a registered professional. This ensures they are regulated by a college and have completed specific training to support those with mental health concerns. For more information about different mental health providers, download our free report here https://brantmentalhealth.com/reports/which-mental-health-professional/ Are you looking for a specific type of therapy? For example, are you interested in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)? CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)? These are specific modalities that require additional training from an accredited program. Make sure to ask questions to ensure the therapist is qualified to offer specific types of counselling. For more information about EMDR and it’s uses click here https://brantmentalhealth.com/emdr-an-introduction/ Are you looking for a therapist who will be direct with you, or are you in need of a gentle approach? This is where a free consultation can be beneficial. Most therapists will offer a 15-30 minute free consultation prior to beginning therapy, this is the perfect opportunity to bring up any concerns/preferences you may have to ensure you and your therapist are a good fit. Our blog on getting the most our of your consultation can be found here https://brantmentalhealth.com/how-to-prepare-for-your-free-consultation/ Do you want homework between sessions, or not? Some people like having additional tasks related to their therapy sessions between appointments and others don’t have the capacity to complete “homework”. A therapist will be able to work with you, whatever your preference is. Have you thought about your commitment level when it comes to time/money? Taking time out of our busy lives for appointments can be a challenge, however, it is important to prioritize mental health care and to follow a care plan. Employers and schools are expected to accommodate time off for medical/mental health appointments, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask for the time you need. Embarking on counselling can help you be a better, more productive employee/student. What goals have you set for yourself and the therapy process? This is something that can be discussed with your therapist too, but it is important to have in your mind what you are hoping to achieve. Maybe you want to find better ways to manage anxiety, or you are looking for support as you transition to a different stage in your life, or maybe there is a specific event you need support around?   We hope you have found these suggestions helpful, do not hesitate to reach out to us at 519.302.2300 [...]

What to consider when you have decided you are ready for therapy2022-10-26T17:28:58+00:00

Identifying and working your way through triggers

Whether we are aware of it or not, at some point in our lives we develop triggers tied into something we have experienced in our past. Another identifying word associated with triggers is known as “stressors”. These are situations or actions that lead to an adverse emotional reaction. In the mental health realm, stressors are not talked about often enough in terms of prevention - the conversation typically occurs after the individual has reacted. Helping people name and work through their stressors can be extremely helpful and empowering.   Types of triggers: There are 4 commonly known types of triggers that can be caused by various stimuli. These can vary depending on the individual's past experiences.   External triggers; most commonly associated with the senses (sight, smell, sound, taste etc). For example; smelling cologne of an abusive ex-partner could trigger unpleasant thoughts of memories of their time together. Internal triggers are explained as bold feelings that emerge based on past experiences. For example; making a doctor's appointment when you’ve had a negative medical experience can trigger feelings of fear. Trauma triggers are strong feelings that are brought on by past trauma. For example; the sound of fireworks could bring flashbacks to a veteran. Symptom triggers are classified as physical and emotional changes that can trigger larger mental health issues (lack of sleep etc.)   No trigger is too small to be treated seriously; for some people it will lead them to have big negative feelings/thoughts or even lead to self-harm.   How to identify and cope with your triggers: There are many ways to learn how to identify and cope with your triggers but all should focus on reducing the impact of the trigger and strengthening their emotional response.   Identify your triggers by taking some time to observe previous occurrences where you have been triggered and focus on the who, what, where, when and why of that event. Take note of recurring patterns to narrow down what triggers keep resurfacing. Find a mental health professional that you feel comfortable talking with to further work through your coping skills. Making a space that you feel comfortable talking with a registered professional can help validate your experience and make a plan to address your trigger(s) Look for trigger warnings on social media, television content and even books can have trigger warnings at the beginning to warn people of potential triggers. Try to avoid any content that you feel could cause an intense emotional reaction from consuming that content.  Practice self-care. Taking the steps to identify and work through your triggers is a huge accomplishment that anyone deserves a pat on the back for. Whether it is talking to someone you love, journaling, taking time for yourself etc; it is important to take a break for your mental health.

Identifying and working your way through triggers2022-10-25T18:59:02+00:00

Trigger Warning – Pregnancy Loss

I remember hearing the baby was gone; the word “miscarriage” for the first time. It just so happened to be on Mother’s Day. I was heartbroken, shocked, and wondering what went wrong. The word miscarriage carries a lot of weight, and for me, equated to that I must have done something wrong for this to have happened. Perhaps it is the “mis” in the word. Regardless, I was devastated and alone as it was during the height of the pandemic and my partner was not allowed to be in the hospital with me at the time. Losing a baby is a gut wrenching, heartbreaking experience I never thought I’d have, or for a while, didn’t think I would survive. I grieved hard. But grief is just an umbrella term. What I really felt was never ending sadness, heartbreak, anger, disappointment, shame, comparison, anxiety, loss, and a whole host of other emotions. I had to avoid social media for awhile as seeing everyone else’s pregnancy announcements or child-related posts hurt. My partner and I had to navigate our own grief while figuring out how we could still be there for one another. I tried hard to figure out how I could get my baby back. But life doesn’t work that way. I read once that grieving a pregnancy loss is like having all this love to give but nowhere to put it. I felt that statement deeply as my heart had grown so much for this baby and now I didn’t know what to do with that love or all the complicated feelings I had. I was fixated on the dreams and hopes we had for our baby that were not realized. That baby is still so loved and is a part of our story. I share this now because it quickly became apparent to me the lack of resources around the loss of a baby and how much a silent topic this still is. If this too is a part of your story: I see you, I hurt with you, and please know that you are not alone. Please reach out for support if you are feeling any of the feelings above and are needing somewhere to process your loss. Also, stay tuned as we fundraiser for a support group for those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. Brianna Kerr

Trigger Warning – Pregnancy Loss2022-10-11T20:01:16+00:00

Pregnancy and Motherhood – Part 5 – Empty Nesting

Pregnancy/Motherhood – Five-Part Series   The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Women do not always feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve.   In this fifth, and final entry of the series, we explore the empty nester: a term used to describe a parent whose children have left home.  After years spent nurturing and caring for her children, a woman can experience feelings of grief when her children move out.  These can include feelings of loss, fear, even loss-of-self, as she adjusts to the change in her parental relationships with her children. Shifting from being the guardian, to a mentor or friend, is a normal and natural part of parenting. However, it can feel sad and lonely as the family dynamics change.Each and every woman will pass through this stage of parenting in their own unique way.  There is no predisposed plan for how she is to move forward.   The experience of watching her children “fly the coop” can be accompanied by many conflicting emotions as she celebrates their combined independence and perhaps mourns a loss. Discovering, and expressing honestly, the unique emotional challenges of learning how to “let go” is essential to a woman being able to enjoy her newfound freedom, as she creates a new relationship with her adult children.   This can be one the best parts of being a mother. A time to witness the amazing person her child has grown into, embrace them with pride, and celebrate their successes. To fully accomplish this, it is vital to identify and complete any unfinished emotional business; otherwise, she can remain stuck in her previous role. It is essential to honor the emotions which present themselves, without analysis or judgement; so, she may embark on the incredible adventure empty nesting can be! --- --- --- Part Five: Empty Nesting   She will always be ‘mom’ to her adult children but the tasks and duties which have defined motherhood have changed. There are no more diapers to change, skating costumes to sew, homework to supervise, and her taxi duties have been retired.   Learning to let her children stumble and fall is part of this new adult experience. Her role becomes that of mentor, offering advice and support only when asked. There can be a loss of identity which accompanies this shift, a loss of purpose, a feeling of disconnect, and an insecurity of how to move forward.   As she tidies their room for the last time, grief can carry so many conflicting emotions. She may feel excited to have the sewing room she has longed for. Perhaps she can create a home office or an art studio. The excitement of fulfilling a dream for herself can leave her feeling regretful, selfish, and unsure of how [...]

Pregnancy and Motherhood – Part 5 – Empty Nesting2022-09-27T14:30:47+00:00