• Surviving infidelity: Is there healing after an affair?
    Surviving infidelity: Is there healing after an affair?
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    After nineteen years as a Calgary couples counsellor, I now get the desperate emails and the frantic phone calls practically all the time:

    My wife cheated on me…

    My husband had an affair…

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  • How to win at the game of love.
    How to win at the game of love.
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    “After all these years of marriage, you still don’t know anything about me — do you?? Spend any time at all in the field of couples or marriage counselling and that snarled/shouted comment will, really quickly, become very familiar.

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  • Five key choices people make that result in addiction
    Five key choices people make that result in addiction
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    Really, no one wakes up one day and consciously chooses addiction. People do, however, make five key choices that, together, do amount to a choice of addiction. Or, perhaps another way of saying it is that the combined impact of those incredibly damaging choices makes addiction seem to be inescapable and seem to be something you are powerless over.

    Let’s look at those damaging choices:

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  • Why save your marriage?
    Why save your marriage?
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    “I’ve tried so hard for so many years, I don’t feel anything for him/her anymore and I really wonder if there’s anything left here. I’m just not sure my marriage is worth saving…”

    If I could get a dollar for every time I’ve heard that line, well, I’d have a LOT more dollars…

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  • Healing the pain of abortion
    Healing the pain of abortion
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    Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – have been, for years, a prescriptive definition of what every grieving person must go through. They are so culturally imbedded that, when I was writing our company page on grief & loss, I had to include her name and stages or Google wouldn’t even recognize our page as legitimate.

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  • Are you oversharing?
    4 Comments on Are you oversharing?

    Couple counselling communications intimacy

    Sharing. It’s a word we hear in so many contexts. Talk shows are no longer talking at us – we’re, “Sharing the conversation.” Churches are trying to stop laying down rules and invite people to, “Share,” or, “Participate in a discussion.” We don’t even post stuff any more, we, “Share,” on Facebook.

    With all these years of practice, we should all be good at communication and levels of emotional intimacy by now…

    Yet in 2015, for most of us, barely a day goes by without someone, “Sharing,” something utterly cringe-worthy in a highly public setting – who then then wonders why people back away in shock.

    The below is a rather well written cheat sheet from Psychology Today outlining standard steps of self disclosure:

    These 6 tips will help guide you in sharing your feelings:

    1. Your default option should be to keep it light (but not silly). The Utz study shows that people prefer messages that are entertaining. Start with this as your first approach until you feel you can confide more somber reflections, if those are warranted.

    2. Know your audience. Though starting light is a good approach, take the temperature of those you are with before you proceed further.

    3. Don’t be too self-indulgent. Sometimes we say things to make ourselves feel better at the risk of boring or even offending those we are with. You may wish to recite a poem at the beginning of a meeting (because you like it), but your co-workers just want to get on with business.

    4. Stop and think before you speak. People without filters just blurt out their thoughts without reflecting on the effect of those thoughts when they’re turned into words. Take a minute and decide if you really want to share your latest revelations, or if you’d be better off keeping them to yourself.

    5. Pursue deeper relationships by deepening your self-disclosures. In the right circumstances, self-disclosure can be great. Don’t hold back if you truly wish to bond.

    6. Listen to what your conversation partners are saying. The world of communication is based on people both talking and listening. Before you talk, make sure you understand what’s been said by others. If you’re not sure, ask.

    Generally, the sequence of emotional intimacy is as follows:

    (1). Courtesy speech.
    (2). Small talk.
    (3). Thoughts and ideas.
    (4). Dreams and visions.
    (5). Raw emotional intimacy.

    The ability to gauge where you are at on that scale both gives you a picture of which experiment or social risk needs to happen next and a measuring stick to determine if the person we are having the communication with has reciprocated – thus giving us permission to fully to explore the next level with him or her.

    The ability to practice that art form is the difference between building intimacy by way of self disclosure — and verbal/social exhibitionism.

    Should we have to go through this order of fancy-footwork to get real with each other?


    But, that’s really just the way it is and, we either follow those conventions – or we rarely get to connect at all.

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  • Focus: Can you master your own mind?
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    In my mind, the award for the most incorrectly labeled disorder ever goes to the generalized mayhem that is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

    Think about it: We have a disorder that we know is the result of the brain continually searching for external sources of stimulation. We further know that children suffering with such can be treated with stimulant medications and that stimulant, paradoxically, calms the child — likely by providing enough internal stimulation.

    Clearly, it’s not a deficit of attention — if anything, there’s far too much attention being paid to nearly everything at once. (Well, other then the less exciting tasks the child should be focused upon…) Even a momentary glance at an ADHD child playing video games demonstrates that their attention can be stunningly focused and that the problem is much more a question of the regulation of attention.

    Since 1955, the treatment of focus problems or Attention Deficit Disorder has been dominated by one simple strategy: Drugs. Though, in recent years, non-stimulant medications have been tried, the dominant treatment still is the same psychostimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate) or derivatives of such used in 1955.

    But, things are changing. Driven by speculation that children can learn to control impulses and that there exists more then enough stimulation within one’s own self if attended to, more and more mindfulness based training is beginning to be tried with this disorder.

    And, it may be a much more effective strategy:

    In their (rather statistics heavy) paper, the researchers simply tried teaching ADHD children Tai Chi. The result?

    These results converge to suggest that tai chi training may help improve attention in healthy young adults.

    That’s typical academic understatement. The Tai Chi actually offered quite significant improvements in a remarkably short period of time.

    While the authors do caution that:

    Further studies are needed to confirm these results and to evaluate tai chi as therapy for individuals with ADHD.

    The truth is that there already is a substantial pile of studies already saying exactly the same thing. It is becoming increasingly clear that focus, self regulation and the ability to re-regulate a dis-regulated and disorganized mind can be taught along with the ability to simply learn to shut down and reboot your brain.

    Drugs are one option, but they are NOT the only option.

    And yes, we do work with ADHD — especially in adults. Contact us!

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  • Relationships: Let’s take it for a test drive?
    2 Comments on Relationships: Let’s take it for a test drive?

    Psychology Today

    Cohabitation: Taking a relationship for a test drive?

    Does your partner handle life well? Can you still see a future with her? Do you communicate just as well in the same house? These seem like logical questions that can be answered by living with your potential spouse prior to marriage, but couples who live together before marriage are more prone to marital troubles and divorce. Recent research has sought to determine why.

    Premarital cohabitation has become increasingly common. In the last 20-some years, the number of women aged 19 to 44 who cohabited increased by 82%. One-third of women in 1987 cohabited, compared with three-fifths in 2009-2010, and increases like this are seen for every age group. Just 15 years ago, only about half of women marrying were doing so following a cohabitation experience. Currently among all women 19 to 44, 23% are in cohabiting unions, a percentage doubling that of 20 years ago.

    Much research has suggested that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced or be unhappy in their marriages. However, the findings are somewhat mixed, and researchers are trying to unravel the mystery of the “cohabitation effect,? the increased divorce tendency among those who opt to live together before marriage.

    The above linked article is a really decent summary of the various ideas about why cohabitation generally does not bode well for the future of the relationship. Yet, strangely, the author seems unable to connect the dots to find the answers contained in her own research.

    So, why do marriages preceded by cohabitation test out as weak and prone to divorce?

    Relationships solidify in two separate stages:

    (1). When sex starts:
    Up to that point, the relational dynamics of touch, conversation, time together, love languages etc. are all fluid — as the couple pursues the full consummation of sexual intimacy. Once sex starts, a win has occurred. It worked — and those relational dynamics tend to change only in evolutionary ways after such.

    (2). When you start living under the same roof:
    That’s when the functional dynamics solidify: Shared or separate finances? Temperature of the house? Who does the dishes? Time spent together or apart? How friendships with the opposite sex are handled? Sexual frequency and desires? Generally it takes only a few weeks or months before those elements also solidify.

    When two people move in together but are profoundly uncommitted and focused on keeping their options open, that solidifies as their relational norm. Finally walking down an aisle and exchanging rings doesn’t change a thing.

    And, when real oneness and intimacy doesn’t magically appear along with a wedding cake, things often get ugly really fast…

    This is why the above linked author noted that engaged couples (those where there is a ring, a public announcement, invitations in the mail and uncle Bob already has his flights booked from Germany) who move in together mostly do not show the same negative effects of cohabitation.

    They already were fully intent on creating a relational singularity — and their early move-in also didn’t change a thing. They got the, “We.” They found the relational oneness they were intent on because they spent those first months building it instead of maintaining separateness.

    And, believe it or not, the above understanding is REALLY GOOD news!

    What it’s really saying is that we really do know why marriages preceded by cohabitation test out as weak or prone to divorce and that we know what can be done about it.

    Yes, it’s often difficult for couples to make this transition on their own. But, when a couple takes the time to sit down with us for (pre)marriage counselling and risks unpacking the separateness that cohabitation created, we can very easily help them renegotiate the collective agreement of marriage they bargained and replace it with the oneness they really desire.

    The earlier in the relationship/marriage a couple reaches out for that help, the easier and (Yes, really!) more fun making those transitions can be!

    If this is you, will you reach out before it’s too late?

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  • What keeps men from seeking help?
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    Good Men Project

    The shame experienced by men who have lost their position as the primary breadwinner in their family can be devastating. This is frequently more than just a lost job—it can also define the purpose of a productive life. The loss of purpose experienced in job loss can cripple self-esteem and destroy one’s concept of self-worth. This shame can create a solid barrier to discussion, particularly discussion with a stranger in therapeutic situations.

    In a poll sponsored by PacifiCare Behavioral Health and Psychology Today titled Therapy in America 2004, men responded with some discouraging feedback. They said they not only distrusted therapy and therapists, but they also would not even want to be associated with “the type of person? who typically receives therapy. That represents a level of contempt that makes a willingness to enter therapy a very difficult challenge, indeed.

    The poll also clarified three reasons why people who have identified themselves as needing treatment have still not gotten it. They said they stayed away because of the high cost, because they felt their problems were not serious enough to warrant treatment, and because of skepticism about the treatment actually working to solve the problems. A full 32 percent doubted the treatment would work.

    The image of the fully self-reliant man remains ingrained in the fabric of our social structure. Roughly 1,000 65-year-old males were the subjects of a 2011 study published by two Rutgers University sociologists, Kristen Springer and Dawne Mouzon. The “Macho Men? study reveals that avoidance of health care in general is the norm among macho-oriented males. These men were the most heavily invested in the belief that a “real man? is one who is strong to the point of virtual invulnerability.

    This same assumed invulnerability is, no doubt, the rationale behind the avoidance of health care even in the face of overwhelming evidence for its need. If a man is going to deny himself a visit to a doctor for a physical condition, he is even more likely to deny himself a visit to a therapist for mental conditions—especially any such condition that implies any weakness.

    Furthermore, the goals and benefits of therapy are frequently misunderstood. Therapists are not the only ones who hear things like “people can’t change? or “you can’t change the past.? But this is exactly what therapy is supposed to do. Therapy can change things for the better.

    While it obviously can’t change the past, therapy changes our emotional and cognitive reactions to the past. It can give us a new sense of awareness for the past and an entirely new set of beliefs and behaviours. With effective therapy, the emotional response to past events can change, and old beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us can be changed from limiting and negative beliefs to more positive ones. We can change a point of view from a belief in one’s limitations to expressions such as “I can handle life? and “I am in control.?

    Therapy can make a positive difference. The Therapy in America poll confirms that among those who have completed therapy, the vast majority of both men and women agree that it has helped. Getting a man through the door may present some serious challenges, but if he does manage to get there, the help is likely to be highly beneficial.

    The full article is well worth reading — but it misses one important point:

    The medical community, which used to be one of the primary referral sources to therapy, has now launched what is being described as an all out civil war against therapy.

    Oh, secure in the breathtaking arrogance of absolute certainty that all behavior results solely from biological/chemical interplay or imbalance in the brain, the medical community has thrown its weight behind one form of therapy they hold is the only scientifically proven form of therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and immediately claimed the right to license family doctors to practice such. Beyond that, they have virtually ceased even bothering to train psychiatrists in anything but the dispensing of psychoactive medications.

    (Unfortunately, even the growing tsunami of evidence for parallel levels of quantum signaling in the brain has utterly failed to dissuade most from this dogma… )

    And, the value they see is real. There is much that is really good and beneficial about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but it’s only one of so many tools — and it’s a limited one at that. Modifying a few distorted thoughts and beliefs is hardly an answer for the kind of internal turmoil men experience during the above defined sort of crisis situation. Trying to solve it with such creates a pressure cooker of unprocessed emotion in a man that likely WILL have him needing said psychoactive medications in fairly short order…

    Women, typically, will seek someone to talk to first. Men, if they seek help at all, will usually start by somatizing what they are feeling and seek medical help. If a doctor will tell a man to go for deep emotional or psychoanalytical therapy, then most men will take the risk.

    But, if the doctor displays their profession’s increasing bias against that deep heart level work, the door slams closed and men are left with little more then behavioral formulas and drugs.

    That generally results in nothing good…

    (Oh, and as to the insanity of the claim that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the only scientifically proven form of therapy, I leave you this.)

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  • The real reason parents refuse to vaccinate their kids…
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    Mind Hacks

    There are other psychological factors at play in the decisions taken by individual parents not to vaccinate their children. One is the rational selfishness of avoiding risk, or even the discomfort of a momentary jab, by gambling that the herd immunity of everyone else will be enough to protect your child.

    Another is our tendency to underplay rare events in our calculation about risks – ironically the very success of vaccination programmes makes the diseases they protect us against rare, meaning that most of us don’t have direct experience of the negative consequences of not vaccinating. Finally, we know that people feel differently about errors of action compared to errors of inaction, even if the consequences are the same.

    Many who seek to persuade anti-vaxxers view the issue as a simple one of scientific education. Anti-vaxxers have mistaken the basic facts, the argument goes, so they need to be corrected. This is likely to be ineffective. Anti-vaxxers may be wrong, but don’t call them irrational.

    Rather than lacking scientific facts, they lack a trust in the establishments which produce and disseminate science. If you meet an anti-vaxxer, you might have more luck persuading them by trying to explain how you think science works and why you’ve put your trust in what you’ve been told, rather than dismissing their beliefs as irrational.

    Science was always a rather agenda driven sport with very few scientists ever really able to have been considered practitioners of, “Pure Science.” It always was driven by the need for funding and the interests of those who would fund it. And, though this may offend those who hold science so dear it almost approaches a faith, no one should ever have blindly trusted the pronouncements that came from such.

    True, there were times — the Apollo missions for example — where the funding source was purely public in origin and some of that research tended to be shockingly unbiased. But, in truth, those were rare and, currently, are even more so.

    But, even up to only very recent times, the general public still placed enormous trust in the voices of science. When the scientific community spoke, people listened and they followed the recommendations of such.

    Today, not so much.

    Science, of course, is engaged in rumination that, bluntly, boils down to if it should adopt the polemic style of those the public seems to be listening to. But, that’s ignoring the real problem.

    And, it’s not that the level of corruption, massaged research findings, statistical manipulation, warped confidence intervals, shameless agendas and brazen shilling for the wealthy and powerful are any higher then they ever were or that the pronouncements of the scientific community are any less valid then they were either.

    It’s just that, in the past, so few people in the general public knew what was really going on behind the curtain. Today, all of the above is plastered all over the internet — and a new one hits nearly daily.

    Oh, the same thousands of properly peer reviewed pieces of legitimate research are still getting published and acknowledged — but the never ending streams of scandal have convinced a good part of the public that the emperor really is completely starkers anyway… (And, yes, they still believe that even if the last thing they heard happens to be true…)

    Science, of course, has many members furiously mocking faith and claiming that the internet will ultimately allow so much information about the hypocrisy of religious leaders to flow out that religion will be erased.

    And, there is lots of evidence for such.

    But, if the current Measles epidemic sweeping the USA proves nothing else, it proves that hypocrisy is hardly in short supply within the hallowed halls of science either and it’s just as good at eroding trust in institutions of science as in institutions of religion.

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