What is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt became part of the humanistic approach to psychotherapy and was groundbreaking in shifting the focus from the therapist as observer to the inclusion of self by the therapist, expressed in a dialogic relationship between therapist and client. In gestalt therapy, the therapist is focused on how they relate to their client. Does the client respond to the therapist’s energy? Do they even notice the therapist is there? This interesting approach to the dynamic/relationship begins from the very first interaction and is a body focused approach that aims to teach the client the language of their own body. This can begin with having the client identify sensations in their body. Gestalt is not a solution focused therapy, meaning the therapist is not there to fix or cure people but rather help them absorb the feeling of being with whatever is ailing them. This is especially important for those who have grown up believing that if we could only improve ourselves we could function better in the world, find a place for ourselves and have healthy relationships. In the words of Gestalt therapist and author Gordon Wheeler we have become “armies of one.” Gestalt therapy restores the forgotten knowing that we have never been separate from our families, our communities, our peers, our enemies, our planet but rather have given up essential parts of ourselves in order to belong. When, as children, we are faced with experiences that we don’t know how to respond to, we modify ourselves in some way in order to exist and persevere. This is why feeling connected to things, people and the world is so essential. Life experiences can create fog or block or hinder our natural ability to reach for something or someone or divert it to things, people and coping strategies that are unhealthy or not useful. It all depends on the kind of support we’ve had in our lives (who is in our field) and interactions with mothers and caregivers in early infancy. We were not taught how to belong without losing our selves, nor were we taught that relating through our differences is our strongest opportunity to expand our sense of self. This ability to keep on growing is why Gestalt therapists have such satisfaction from their work – every client reveals a new aspect of self. The same is true in all our relationships. This is why Gestalt has also been called a way of living. The Gestalt therapist works in relation to their client to deconstruct the “army of one” syndrome (that they can only depend on themselves) by making the therapy session a live laboratory for exploring new ways of being in the world. These are some of the principles of Gestalt therapy as taught at The Gestalt Institute of Toronto: The Gestalt therapist is more interested in meeting the client than in moving the client. For example, if a client presents with anxiety, my intention is not to treat the anxiety. I’m curious [...]

What is Gestalt Therapy?2024-06-17T19:00:50+00:00

5 Tips on how to manage and deal with job loss

1. Don’t listen to the ‘noise’ Everyone has an opinion and many will provide that opinion to you when it comes to what you ‘need to do’ now that you’ve lost your job. Some of the guidance and advice you can receive from other’s may be very well intentioned and even highly useful, but keep in mind that you are your own person with your own wants and needs. Be selective with who you listen to and what information is valuable and relatable to YOU, your personality, needs, and goals, in particular. 2. Be consistent Being mindful of ‘overdoing it’ when feeling panicked about finding new employment isn’t easy, but is something that is very beneficial in the weeks following job loss. Many people scramble to find new employment and this is very understandable for a multitude of reasons (E.g., financial stability, feeling judged for being unemployed, craving the value and pride having a job brings, etc.), but frantically searching for anysuitable form of employment can lad down a road of frustration, disappointment, and exhaustion. Make a promise to yourself that, for two hours, max, each day, 5 days per week, you will keep job search activities (resume and cover letter writing, online job search, networking, etc.) to that time only. I guarantee you that, if you push past this set timeframe, consistently, you will be no further in making your job search successful and will only be detrimental to your mental health. 3. Take significant breaks, even if it doesn’t feel ‘right’ to do so I have heard from many clients who have recently become unemployed that, despite knowing that they are working hard to find new employment, they feel ‘guilty’ taking a break and having any sort of relax-time or fun when they haven’t ‘earned it’ by working each day. While some people, generally younger adults, may feel pressure from older people in their lives that they must be persistent with their job search and be cautious with the time and money they spend on fun activities, finding a balance with self-care and time away from job search activities is vital to staying inspired and motivated when job searching. One should not ‘punish’ themselves for the things that were/are out of their control, such as being laid off from a job. Life must continue to be lived despite job loss. You only get one life, live it.  4. Network, network, network Possibly the most overlooked, disregarded, and underrated activity related to job search is networking, particularly in-person. Relying almost solely on online job searches and applications often leads to frustrations, hopelessness, and burnout. By actually getting out there and connecting with others in you career field of choice, you not only significantly increase your chances of forming relationships that lead to employment, you are taking part in many of the ‘ingredients of happiness,’ including a sense of community, connecting with other’s socially, and a gaining a sense of ability and worth. 5. Practice [...]

5 Tips on how to manage and deal with job loss2024-06-17T18:55:16+00:00

How To Support and Connect With Your Children As They Become Adults

As our children become adults and venture out into the world, carving their own path, it can be challenging for us as parents to understand how best to support them and how to continue to grow and nurture the relationship. Many of us struggle with the change in the relationship and knowing when we are and aren’t needed. Sometimes it is easier to parent a young child as most of our parenting is based on basic human needs, for example, providing shelter, food, emotional support, but the complexities of forming a relationship between a parent and their adult child can come with a wide range of emotions from both sides. In this blog we will share a few brief pointers to help those of you who are trying to navigate connecting with your adult child(ren). Connection is a lifelong endeavour: It is important to know we never truly arrive at a specific “destination” when it comes to connection with our child(ren) as they enter into adulthood. It is helpful to remain curious and compassionate observers and supporters in our children’s lives. Advice might not always be welcomed or warranted: Asking what they have learned, what they think and what they want to share is a way of learning. Remembering to respect our collective wisdom without placing ourselves in a position of being the “expert” over their lives is also important. Learn from your adult children: Let your adult children be your teacher, you might be amazed by what you learn! Understand and learn from your own childhood: Contrary to what many people believe, your early experiences do not determine your fate. If you had a difficult childhood but have come to make sense of those experiences, you are not bound to recreate the same negative interactions with your own children. Siegel and Hartzell (2003). Take care of yourself: Taking care of yourself encompasses physical, mental and spiritual care (whatever that looks like for each of us.) When we do this, we work towards being the best version of ourselves, which in turn helps us to take care of our relationships. Be humble and reflect on yourself: Adult children can continue to thrive when we remain humble and are able to apologize when we make a mistake or overstep. We are all fallible humans and need our children (whatever age) to see us as this to create a close and lasting connection. Avoid comparisons: It can be easy to look at our adult children and compare where we were in life at their age. Whilst it’s ok to have hopes and dreams for your adult children, it is important to remember they are on their own path and have their own goals, priorities and timeline, which is based on many factors. Reminding them that by their age you had achieved x,y,z will only create tension and distance in your relationship. If you are struggling to connect with your adult child and would like to see if [...]

How To Support and Connect With Your Children As They Become Adults2024-05-31T19:04:53+00:00

Happy Father’s Day to Single Dads

It takes a village, the saying often goes; parenting was never designed to be on one person and yet, the realities of life persist. Plans change, tragedy strikes, people change or they don’t and we all ultimately make decisions. Often times parenting begins as a team, being able to relate to a shared experience and be available to support each other emotionally.  The strength of a team is built on a foundation of similar values, having each other’s backs, and progression towards the same goal.  When there is a significant shift in the relationship and values feel strained, different, or unfamiliar it can be challenging to recognize how we approach the goal on our own, without the strength of a full team. There were no practices for this. Our initial response might be filled with a wave of overwhelm; how do I manage a job where I know the work wasn’t designed to be done by one person? At times, it feels impossible. A lot of literature discusses the impact on children when they don’t grow up in a two parent or multi parent household, but what about the impact on the single parent? How does the role of dad, for example, morph or adapt when there is no partner to lean on and spread the joys, pressures, and responsibilities of parenting with? Having a village means the load can be shared and you can more easily bring the parts of yourself that you want to your children. When you don’t have a village or are still in the process of trying to build one it can feel very lonely. Without outlets in place to share emotions, feelings, and what the experience is like for you, any heavy, troublesome or other feelings that we need to express or release can become trapped in our bodies. How we adjust to living with the remnants of feelings and energy that no longer serve us informs our behaviour or response to it. When you notice that this might be impacting your relationship with yourself, your children, and/or others you can reflect on these points below to see if anything resonates. Here are some tips to remember or things to pay attention to as you are on your journey Notice the plate in front of you and everything you have on it. Are things overflowing off the edges? Maybe you need a bigger plate (increase the size of your village) or you need a side plate where you can save your leftovers (what can be offloaded and be done tomorrow or another time in the future?) When you try and consume everything on the plate at once you might get bloated or feel sick and in turn you become less available to yourself and your children by extension. You can also reflect by asking yourself about the size of the load you are carrying and how might you be holding it? Perhaps a shift in the weight distribution over [...]

Happy Father’s Day to Single Dads2024-05-30T15:00:13+00:00

Anxiety and The Nervous System

Stress and Anxiety Due to the uncertainty of life events, stress is inevitable and can be triggered through a variety of reasons or events. The human mind tends to respond to stress in either an adaptive or maladaptive way.  A maladaptive response would be known as Anxiety. Anxiety causes symptoms related to a fear of the future and concerns around things that have yet to occur or may never occur. When this type of maladaptive thinking occurs, the stress it causes leads individuals to develop avoidance behaviours that can cause issues to last longer. Often, these symptoms may cause a person to ask themselves “what if” questions, which can create more maladaptive scenarios, further amplifying the anxiety and therefore leading to extreme feelings of worry. The Nervous System and Its Relation To Stress/Anxiety   With regard to the nervous system and its response to Anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands come in to play. Our sympathetic nervous system controls the flight, fight or freeze response during an event where stress is emerging. Adrenal glands help regulate our system when under stress by releasing necessary hormones that help with metabolism regulation, as well as regulation of immune system and blood pressure which are essential for human functioning. During an event where Anxiety is developed, the sympathetic nervous system sends a signal to our adrenal gland to release adrenaline, which leads to increased heart rate. With prolonged stress, the adrenal glands are also exposed to prolonged stress and essential hormones are surpassed from production leading to anxiety. Managing stress/anxiety   Often in therapy, mindfulness is a strategy that is discussed when working with stress/anxiety related concerns. With mindfulness, one can learn to focus on the present moment, as often anxiety leads to unrealistic future thoughts and worry about events that are not in one’s control. The present moment can help establish the perspective that one can control what occurs in front of them in the present time and then focus on the goals that they would like to accomplish to create a better future without the barrier. Some mindfulness tasks can include: Informal mindfulness such as reframing focus to what you are doing in the current moment, for example if you are drinking coffee, re-focusing your thoughts on the cup you are holding, the surroundings in the area you’re in, or even naming things that you can see to reshape focus to what is occurring now. Formal mindfulness includes deep breathing, taking deep breaths, focusing on the breath and guiding your mind away from maladaptive thoughts. Nature walks. Setting an agenda for the day. Therapeutic help can also be beneficial in supporting individuals as they reframe their thinking. It is the therapist’s job to work with the client to understand their concerns and to help try and reduce stress levels by providing psychoeducation and tools to better help them cope with and manage their anxiety responses. This blog was written by Registered Psychotherapist, Shiwan [...]

Anxiety and The Nervous System2024-05-30T14:54:27+00:00

Navigating Mother’s Day with Grief

This is the first Mother’s Day our family will celebrate without our mom, since she died earlier this year. Joining the ranks of those without their mothers on Mother’s Day, I’ve had some time to reflect on why this particular holiday is so difficult for those who are grieving. Losing a mother can feel like losing a part of ourselves. For me, when she died it felt as though I was untethered, left without an anchor. It’s going to take some time to reconfigure life without her. I know it is a process. I am also anticipating that Mother’s Day this year is going to be hard for myself and my family. We can suffer from the loss of relationship with our mother in many different ways- not just loss through death. Illness such as dementia, family conflict, estrangements and separation within families can all lead to a loss of connection with our mothers. No matter the reason for your loss, take some time to be gentle with yourself this Mother’s Day as you navigate your own difficult emotions. Whether it’s been a few days or a few years, the loss of your mother in your life is huge. The following are some ideas to help you. Give yourself permission to honour your feelings and grieve Losing your mother is a significant event in your life, regardless of the reason, and you will likely experience many different emotions. Sadness, anger, loneliness, regret, longing, despair, guilt and feelings of depression are all normal reactions to loss. Be kind toward yourself and make space for your feelings, while having reasonable expectations of yourself and what you can manage. Be willing to accept support and help from others. Surround yourself with supportive people. Establish an intention for how you want to spend Mother’s Day and with who If you need time alone to grieve and mourn, take that time for yourself and invest in self care. If you want to be with others, make a plan that reflects your intention. Be thoughtful about how you want to honour this day and let others know what you need. If celebrating is not going to work for you, give yourself permission to withdraw from those plans. Remember that holidays and special days are often when “grief bursts” will occur and we may feel that we are at the beginning of grieving all over again. As painful as it is, grieving is a natural and necessary process that will move us toward healing and growth over time. Expect that you may be triggered by external reminders of Mother’s Day all around you, such as advertisements, social media and displays in stores, as well as people making plans for the day. Give yourself permission to limit exposure to things that might intensify grief, and engage in self care to manage grief bursts, including reaching out to others. Have a self care plan. When we are grieving, we are suffering, which impacts us [...]

Navigating Mother’s Day with Grief2024-04-29T14:31:34+00:00

Postpartum Depression in Dads

The experience of postpartum depression and anxiety or PPD for moms is under discussed but dads with this experience are even more rare. PPD in dads has been found to be linked to hormonal changes during pregnancy which helps to foster a father/child bond post birth. It is believed that the transition to parenthood may be inhibited if PPD is being experienced. Statistics show that up to 10% of men struggle pre and post delivery of their baby. PPD effects adult functioning and the parent-child relationship, thus, it is imperative that we draw attention to and address experiences of PPD in dads. Risk Factors for Dads Experiencing PPD There are risk factors that may predict the likelihood of a dad experiencing PPD. Identifying these risk factors early allows practitioners to address the possibility of PPD, resulting in support measures being put into place to preserve the parent-child bond. Risk factors include: Relationship challenges General lack of support Previous depression and anxiety Stressful life events Past trauma Communication problems Spousal depression Symptoms of PPD in Dads Isolation Restlessness Pessimism Aggression Irritability Violence Anxiety Depression Substance use Anger Barriers to Help Seeking Inability to recognize symptoms of depression Lack of knowledge about PPD Societal stigma of mental health and men Conforming to masculine norms Lack of screening Feelings of powerlessness in the new role as “father” Supporting Dads If you are experiencing symptoms of PPD it is important to reach out to your health care provider or mental health counsellor for support. Supporting someone you love may include listening, encouraging the person to seek professional help and offering to help with the baby or daily tasks. Resources Barooj-Kiakalaee, O., Hosseini, S.-H., Mohammadpour-Tahmtan, R.-A., Hosseini-Tabaghdehi, M., Jahanfar, S., Esmaeili-Douki, Z., & Shahhosseini, Z. (2022). Paternal postpartum depression’s relationship to maternal pre and postpartum depression, and father-mother dyads marital satisfaction: A structural equation model analysis of a longitudinal study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 297, 375–380. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.10.110 Johansson, M., Benderix, Y., & Svensson, I. (2020). Mothers’ and fathers’ lived experiences of postpartum depression and parental stress after childbirth: A qualitative study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 15(1), https://doi.org/10.1080/17482631.2020.1722564 Paulson, J. F., & Bazemore, S. D. (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression. JAMA, 303(19), 1961. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2010.605

Postpartum Depression in Dads2024-04-29T14:33:38+00:00

Grounding Technique For First Responders

Grounding technique for first responders Despite the best intentions from our departmental leadership, HR and wellness advocates, we’re sometimes not equipped with actual tools for self-rescue. The flyers and e-mail attachments are useful, I guess, but I’m interested in actual techniques that people can adopt, employ and engage with. We need real-world tactics to help us decompress. I picked this grounding technique up while researching ideas for our post-Jiu-Jitsu mindset development exercise. The thing that really speaks to me about this technique is that it is transferable. You could use this for yourself after a difficult call or an argument with your spouse. You can also use this to help comfort somebody else who may be experiencing distress. So, here’s how it works; TLDR: Isolate three things you can see, three things you can feel and take three big, deep, breaths.  This technique can help people focus on the present moment, which allows for a little bit more room for other coping strategies. So, this would be a useful thing to plug into if you’re just getting back on the truck after a VSA – but it would also be a great thing to coach a victim through to help decompress some of the psychological hardship in the middle of a call. First, you’re going to find three things you can see and say each one out loud. You don’t have to intently focus on each one. Also, you don’t have to blast through the list with the first things that are in front of your face. That’s the beauty of this exercise. It’s up to you. Find three things you can see. Say them out loud. Next, tune in just a small percentage more than you already are. Feel your body against the chair you’re in. Note the way your sweater hangs off of your forearms. Sense the tightness of your shoes. Physically feel three things. Say them out loud. Finally, take three big, deep breaths. Here, I like to use ‘belly breathing’. To work through this, place a hand on your chest and one hand on your belly – it works best if you’re laying down, but can be done in practically any position. Offer a little resistance on your belly. This allows you to focus your deep inhalations into your diaphragm as opposed to shortening your breath with your chest. Another way to explore belly breathing is by trying to ‘fill up’ your belly with air as you breathe in. Once your belly is ‘full’, focus on breathing ‘into’ your chest and finally, into your throat. This process should help you breathe a little slower and, alongside the previous focus points, is a data-driven method for battling unhelpful thoughts and feelings. The ‘333 Rule’ is a time-proven tool for learning how to decompress. It’s a helpful method for in-the-moment coaching that first responders can step their patient’s through, but it’s also a back-pocket secret weapon for battling your own difficult moments. This technique is something you can pick [...]

Grounding Technique For First Responders2024-04-18T15:08:34+00:00

Power and Control

When we think of domestic violence, we tend to think of physical abuse. In more recent years society has begun to understand the impact emotional/verbal abuse can have on a person, but we often forget that there are many ways an abusive partner or family member can exert power and control over the abused. Many therapists will use the “Power and Control Wheel” to help their clients understand the various forms of abuse that can happen in an intimate relationship. Many clients will say that the first time they saw the Power and Control Wheel, what they were going through suddenly made sense. But what does each section of the wheel mean? And what can you do if you feel you, or someone else is in an abusive relationship? Section by Section 1. Coercion and threats This information, shared from Domestic Violence Services Network explains how an abuser will threaten harm to what the victim values as a way of getting what they want. The threats can include: Harm to the victim or to someone they care about (such as children, pets etc) It can involve the abuser making a threat towards themselves, for example threatening to commit suicide if the victim doesn’t cooperate. The abuser may tell the victim that they will take, damage or destroy valuable or sentimental items. The abuser may say they will expose secrets if they know the victim values certain relationships or their privacy. There are many ways coercion and threats can play out, these are just a few examples. 2. Intimidation Intimidation often involves violent acts and involves taking coercion and threats and acting upon them. Intimidation can be a broad range of behaviours from looks, actions and gestures to destruction of property, or physical violence towards the victim, their child(ren), family pets etc. Often those who have experienced domestic violence will say the intimidation can become so bad, that even a look causes the victim to feel instant fear and live in a state of constant anxiety. This is of course, the goal of the abuser, and helps them to exert further power and control over their victim. 3. Emotional Abuse Some examples of emotional abuse include the following: Insulting comments, Name calling, Frequent attempts to belittle the victim and make them feel as though they can’t do anything right. Silent treatmentMany victims of domestic violence will say that the abuser would play mind games with them and that it created a situation where they felt unsure of what their reality was. This can be even more present if the abuser uses “love bombing” as a way of manipulating and controlling. Love bombing is where an abuser will shower their victim with gifts, and make over the top gestures. This can draw the victim back in and make them question or disregard the abuse they have been experiencing.Emotional abuse can be quite devastating for the victim as over time they lose their sense of self and they [...]

Power and Control2024-04-02T16:13:50+00:00

Grief – How to be an Informed & Effective Supporter

Grief is a normal and natural experience. Regardless of our education or experience, at some point we all experience loss. This loss may present as the death of a loved one. It may also be the conflicting feelings brought about by a change in what was familiar; the things in our life we wished had been different; all our lost dreams; or even unresolved emotions driven by unsaid communications. Regardless of the cause of our loss, as a griever, we are usually ill-equipped to identify and process our emotions. As someone offering support to a griever, we have even fewer tools. We have never been taught, nor fully understood, that grief is an emotional experience. It is not something we can think our way out of. This is an opportunity to understand the grieving process on a deeper level and gain helpful strategies to use when stepping into the role of supporter.  You will become not only more informed but more effective in your interactions with those who are grieving. From a griever’s perspective, they may reach for 1, if not all, of the 6 common myths. These include: a belief their feelings don’t matter; it is safer to isolate from those who could support them; they may replace the loss with food or activity; they could attempt to be strong for others; stay busy; or even wait for time to heal their wounds. As an individual in the role of supporting a griever, with our desire to help our friend or family member process their emotional pain, we may unknowingly substantiate these myths. Many times, it is because we don’t know how to support someone who is grieving. If we change the subject because their grief makes us feel uncomfortable, we deny them the time to express their emotions. Or we could unwittingly push their experience aside as we share our own journey of loss, mistakenly believing that our sharing offers support and understanding. Both examples send a message that it is not safe to be vulnerable and to be totally honest with how they are feeling. These messages, even if unintended, encourage the griever to pull away. We may hesitate to mention the name of the person who is no longer in our friend or family’s life, believing this will only remind them of their loss. In fact, the person is very familiar with the loss, they need no reminding. However, mentioning their name sends a message to the griever that we remember the person and their life, or their time with that person, mattered. We have been taught by our well-meaning parents that when a loss is experienced, we can lessen or remove the emotional pain, by replacing the loss. Our first experience is usually the death of an animal companion. Our parent(s) will tell us not to feel bad, they will get us another dog. In our teen years our friends encourage us to find another partner, immediately following a painful [...]

Grief – How to be an Informed & Effective Supporter2024-03-28T18:40:19+00:00