Relevant and Practical Information about Wellness and Therapy
|Posted on 28 May, 2017 at 20:05||comments (0)|
Self-compassion is defined as extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Why is it we can be so compassionate to others but not ourselves? When others fail we encourage them, when we fail we often let it reflect on who we are as person such as "I’m not good enough".As a psychotherapist I know these patterns develop over time and are very common but we can break them by intentionally being more compassionate with our self.
One of the easiest ways to start being more compassionate is after a perceived failing just ask ourselves how would I feel if a loved one made the same mistake? Chances are you will immediately see the difference in how you react and notice you are much more critical with yourself. Another way to encourage self compassion is to view failings or suffering as an opportunity for growth and learning, we call this a growth mindset. Last but not least practice gratitude more in life, start each day listing three things your grateful for and practice gratitude in your daily life, it will reap a more compassionate mindset and attitude towards life.
Jim Squire MDiv. RP.
Individual, Couple & Famly Therapist
|Posted on 16 November, 2016 at 16:25||comments (0)|
One of the main reasons people seek counselling/therapy is because they are experiencing discomfort or pain in their life. Emotional pain is simply a part of the human experience and can have many causes including death, loss, broken relationships, disappointments, trauma to name a few. In addition, being disappointed in your life or career direction can lead many to experience emotional pain and disappointment. Although emotional pain and ensuing sadness is normal, prolonged suffering is not and it is usually a good idea to seek professional help if you cannot move past a difficult experience. It is quite common to feel overwhelmed by emotional pain and therefore try and avoid it but in the long term trying to avoid emotional pain leads to more suffering. Many studies have shown suppressing emotional pain can be exhausting and takes a tremendous amount of energy, so suppressing pain is not the answer.
In our Western society it is possible to grow up without much experience with adversity or emotional pain and lack of experience with pain can make us less able to cope when it appears. Addictions are a good example of a maladaptive way of coping with discomfort or pain which often only reaps more pain but offers a short term escape. There also seems to be an expectation of “being happy” in the West which was a foreign notion to earlier generations and most people in non-industrialized countries today. The prevalent Western belief that we should be happy most of the time leads many to disappointment when sadness and emotional pain appear. As a couple therapist one of the main complaints couples present is "I'm not happy", which is problematic because our happiness cannot be dependent on another. A relationship of course can have problems/challenges but it isn't your partner’s job to ensure you’re happy.
Many painful experiences modify beliefs about ourselves in some cases it can lead to negative beliefs about self being more prevalent. Painful experiences can make us less trusting and lead to avoid people, relationships or other aspects of life. By far the most effective way to deal with way through emotional pain is to embrace it, if embraced is an opportunity to grow and learn more about ourselves, see our strengths and receive support. For thousands of years’ writers have advised us to accept life challenges and the move towards pain not away from it, early Buddha teachings state “acknowledging and listening to pain is sufficient to lessen it”, the Apostle Paul wrote “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance”.
New research is showing that emotional pain is lessened when we are supported by a loved one and other studies have shown that the lasting effects of trauma or pain in childhood can be mitigated by having a good support system. A key ingredient for our support is that we are able to express our thoughts and feelings honestly, healthy couples and families do this often. Therapy is another way of getting support to embrace pain, people express their pain to a supportive accepting therapist and the experiences are processed which leads to a greater understanding and awareness. The bottom line is our beliefs or experiences lead us to feel we cannot embrace or share our pain but that is the very thing we need to do to work through it, avoiding it only leads to more suffering.
Jim Squire MDiv OACCPP
Individual Couple & Family Therapist
|Posted on 8 August, 2016 at 23:15||comments (0)|
During my recent trip to remote coastal area of BC I had a chance to reflect on the positive benefits of being immersed in nature and disconnecting from technology. The most dramatic aspect of my experience was a greater sense of peace and calmness. I could actually feel my system slowing down, tension or stress being released and I felt noticeably more introspective and reflective. I definitely felt that disconnecting from technology enhanced the experience and helped me to let go of much that occupies my mind on a daily basis.
Upon returning home and reflecting on my experience I also had to ask myself why I did not intentionally seek out nature on a more consistent basis considering the vast amount of research that is highlighting the benefit of nature for physical and mental well-being, Specifically research has shown exposure to nature or proximity to green spaces leads to reduced depression, anxiety, improves emotional regulation, benefits working memory, leads to increased energy and improves physical health (CMHA, 2013).
Although most studies just demonstrate a link between nature and wellness some studies are pinpointing why it helps us. A study by the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area showed decreased neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This is an area of the brain that is active during rumination, in other words repetitive thoughts focused on negative emotions were reduced for those spending time in nature. Other studies have shown reduced levels of cortisol which is indicative of reduced stress levels, a Swedish study showed that being in nature was most helpful for those with higher levels of stress.
A large study in the Netherlands showed even living near green spaces led to a greater sense of perceived general health, this study also showed the relation between nature and health was stronger for those with lower incomes and for youth and the elderly than adults. Exercising is widely known to benefit health however many studies have confirmed an increased benefit for mental and physical health if exercise is done outside rather than inside. With mental health issues on the rise and more and more people living in urban areas the question has to be asked is reduced exposure to nature contributing these mental health issues? That is difficult to answer since the way we live as a society is changing so rapidly however there seems to be overwhelming evidence that exposure to nature leads to increased well-being, and improves physical and mental health.
The question then should be asked should doctors consider prescribing time in nature instead of psychiatric medications or as a way of complementing mental health treatment, the evidence seems to say yes! At the very least time in nature should be recommended by health care professionals on a weekly or daily basis in the same way exercise is. Large urban centers generally have forested areas, parks and trails where someone can access nature. Why not join a local hiking club or help with urban forestry this would have the added benefit of increasing social interaction as well. In a world that is increasingly demanding… with stress levels and mental health issues a growing concern perhaps the answer is unplugging from technology and accessing nature more frequently.
Jim Squire M.Div. OACCPP
Individual, Couple and Family Therapist
|Posted on 20 June, 2016 at 18:05||comments (0)|
It is no secret humans need to be connected to others to thrive and emotional bonding is a basic need of all humans. Attachment is a term used to describe emotional bonding, if you’re a parent you’ve likely heard of attachment theory and the importance of ensuring your infant develops a secure attachment to their caregivers. Simply put when we meet the basic needs of an infant, child in a timely manner (feed, comfort) we condition them to feel that relationships are safe, trustworthy and predictable.
What is key to meeting these needs is attunement basically knowing something is not right, what the child needs and when, for example a child that is over stimulated does not need a parent clowning around with them they need space and soothing. Basically when a parent is in tune with the child and their needs are consistently met a secure attachment will form which fosters trust in these relationships or relationships in general. This has far reaching implications and generally leads to healthier relationships as an adult. Unfortunately not all parents can attend to a child’s needs for many reasons often they are overwhelmed by their own issues, concerns or mental or physical health issues. Dr. Dan Siegel a bestselling author on brain development states parental presence and openness has the greatest influence on whether a child develops a sense of well-being and optimism. Our ability to be open and emotionally available with another is greatly influenced by those we have the experience interacting and whether these people are supportive and affirming or critical. We naturally protect ourselves from hurt so when we experience people that reject us and hurt us we become less open.
As a couple and family therapist I see first-hand that attunement and openness are critical to having a healthy marriage and family. Unresolved hurts create distance in relationships and in many cases these hurts go unnoticed by partners or are mishandled in attempts to resolve them. Often the way of discussing or presenting the problem is taken as an attack or blame rather than an attempt to reconnect. Dr. Sue Johnson a prominent psychologist and the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) writes that lack of emotional attunement and safety are the reason desire and passion fade with couples rather than familiarity and time. As a couple therapist I encounter this time and time again with statements like “we are playing house” , “he or she is invisible”, “I feel like I’m single” what these statements mean is the person is physically present but not emotionally. Having your spouse be physically present but not be able to connect can lead to intense feelings of loneliness since after all they are physically present but emotionally distant ultimately there is no connection.
Therefore understanding the needs of those in our family is critical to staying connected or repairing any injuries that happen to the connection. Unfortunately when people don’t feel safe they do not allow themselves to be vulnerable and we cannot resolve problems in relationships if we are not willing to be open and vulnerable. Whether it is a child or spouse we will not always get it right but if we are attuned to the other we will be aware something is not right and takes steps to fix it.
Families or couples can increase attunement by having frank discussions about their relationships, checking in with each other regularly and being open to resolving issues or misunderstandings. Reflective listening is a great tool to ensure you understand what the other is saying basically we summarize what they say and ask if we have it right. “I” statements also help a great deal since they allow us to present whatever we are discussing as our interpretation rather than fact which creates openness to another’s view and perspective. The Lost Art of Listening by Mike Nichols is a great resource for improving skills needed for connecting. Striving for more attunement will also demonstrate caring for those around us and be a tangible reminder that they are important to us and that we care about the health of the relationship.
Jim Squire MDiv OACCPP
Individual, Couple and Family Therapist
|Posted on 22 May, 2016 at 16:50||comments (0)|
If you are concerned about your psychological well-being and considering therapy then chances are you wondering what therapy approach is right for you. With so much information available people seeking counselling or psychotherapy are often overwhelmed by technical information or meaningless acronyms. Although research has shown many approaches such as emotionally focused therapy (EFT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to be effective for a variety of issues there is more to a successful therapy outcome than the specific technique the therapist uses.
Would you be surprised to know that research has shown that the approach or technique used by a therapist accounts for a small percent of a successful therapy outcome. In other words, the differences between approaches is not often crucial to success in therapy.There has been extensive research done on psychotherapy outcomes and a large portion of the outcome is linked to something called “common factors” which include the connection with the therapist, the client and extra therapeutic factors such as ego strength and social support, expectancy or placebo factors and according to a research by Lampbert, (1992) only 15 percent of the outcome is attributed to the specific technique the therapists uses. In other words what approach the therapists only has a minor influence on overall outcome of therapy, surprised?
Over 60 years ago, Carl Rogers the pioneer of person centred and humanistic psychology was outspoken about the importance of the therapeutic alliance or relationship between client and therapist. Today it is widely understood by therapists that the fit between them and clients contributes greatly to the success of the therapy process. Allan Schore a leading trauma therapist and psychiatrist wrote that it is not what the therapists does or says that matters but rather “their way of being with the client” and this is the context under which change takes place (2009a) . The way of being is largely governed by empathy which is at the heart of all meaningful connection with others.
Based on this research people seeking help should be more concerned with the connection they have with their therapist since this developing relationship will greatly affect the therapy outcome. How do you know if a therapist is a good fit, that’s easy meet with them, chat on the phone see what they are like, are you comfortable with them, do you feel confident they can help you? Many offer a free consultation take advantage of that and see if they are the right person to help you. Lastly many issues are outside of a therapist’s skill set or training be sure to ask if the prospective therapist has experience in treating your presenting problem.
Jim Squire MDiv OACCPP