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Feeling Swept Off Your Feet, But Not In a Good Way?

Has COVID-19 left you feeling like you have been swept off your feet, leaving you feeling off-centered?? Perhaps the emotional and mental stress surrounding the virus, the worry about your health and the health of your loved ones. Or maybe you have had to be a full-time caregiver to your family while also balancing your full-time job that has left you feeling not like yourself?

We all cope with stressful situations differently. While some may come out unscathed, others may be experiencing difficulties sleeping, greater anxiety, irritability, changes in their job performance, low moods, changes in eating habits, and feeling like they have to be constantly alert. Stress responses can show up in a variety of forms and often impede our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and can even cause physical changes in our body. It is not uncommon for the effects of stress to linger, even after the stressful situation has ended.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that what you went through was unexpected, unprecedented, and not easy. In these situations, it is especially important to offer yourself self-compassion, which can involve recognizing that the situation is hard, that everybody experiences suffering, and showing yourself kindness. Some other helpful techniques can include deep breathing to help bring you back to the present moment, taking control of your thoughts, creating a routine, adding back the things that you love into your schedule, like reading a book or taking a bath, or connecting with loved ones. 

Sometimes the effects of prolonged stress may last longer or be more severe for some people. If you are experiencing such effects, counselling can help to process and integrate your experience. What you are experiencing is not uncommon, you are not alone. Let me help you start feeling like yourself again.

Has Googling “Psychotherapist Near Me” Not Turned Up the Results That You’ve Been Hoping For?

Didn’t realize that finding a therapist would be the first hurdle in your search for the new and improved you? You are not the only one. Finding the right therapist can sometimes take time, research, and persistence but if you use these tips as a roadmap, you will be headed in the right direction. 

The first step in finding a mental health professional is to identify which mental health services you are looking for. While we all provide mental health services, the types of services that psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists offer differ. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is licensed to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications for psychological disorders. If you think that you might benefit from medication to help with your psychological distress, your family doctor would be the best person to turn to as they will either address and manage your concerns or refer you to a psychiatrist. A psychologist has obtained a doctorate degree and is licensed to assess, diagnose, and treat problems with cognitions, behaviours, and emotions. If you are looking to get a diagnosis or tested or a learning disability, for example, they may be the right professional for you. Psychotherapists hold a master’s degree and proper educational training to enable them to register with the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario. While psychiatrists and psychologists may also offer psychotherapy, psychotherapists can offer counselling to address “disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgment, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning” (CRPO).  

Once you have decided on which mental health professional is right for you, it is time to begin your search. When looking for a professional, it helps to keep your presenting problem at the forefront. While therapists are often trained to address a wide range of presenting problems, they often have areas of specialization. This means that they have taken extra training or received supervision in a specific area, and may be better equipped to address your concern. If you have gone to therapy in the past, reflecting on the aspects of what you liked and didn’t like about the therapy may help you narrow down your ideal therapist. For example, some might appreciate the structured, goal-oriented, and skill-based nature of CBT while others may appreciate how DBT helps you walk the middle ground in life by bringing together the wise mind, the emotional mind, and the reasonable mind. I encourage you to research the various treatment modalities used in counselling (e.g., narrative, solution-focused, strength-based, emotion-focused , acceptance, and commitment therapy). 

Before you get bogged down with all of the different forms of counselling, it is important to note that the type of therapy has been shown to only account for 15% of the overall effectiveness. The relationship that you have with your therapist accounts for 30% of the overall effectiveness and 15% comes down to whether or not you think therapy can help. 

 Given the impact that your relationship with your therapist has on achieving your goals, I encourage you to find someone who makes you feel safe, comfortable, heard, and understood. Do not just settle for just ok. Just like listening to a new song or dating a new person, it sometimes takes some time for you to settle into a groove and feel comfortable. However, if after the third session you still aren’t feeling it, I encourage you to look for another therapist who might be a better fit.  

Now that you have a better idea of what you are looking for, you can more confidently browse through Psychology Today and find your ideal therapist. Alternatively, if you are comfortable, you could ask family members or friends, your family doctor or religious figure, and of whom may also be good resources to help you find a professional in your area.  

Reference: https://www.crpo.ca/definitions/ 

Demystifying Change

Change  often feels like a mystery: some times it feels like a breeze, while other times it can be painstakingly difficult. For example, why is it that I can add more healthy foods into my diet or add ten more minutes at the gym but I can’t seem to get rid of my anxiety or elevate my gloomy mood?

Recognizing that change is a complex process, researcher James Prochaska and colleagues (1994) created the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change to help individuals identify where they are at in the process of change.

The first stage of this model is pre-contemplation, when the individual has no intention to change. Even more so, they might not even recognize that something is wrong despite family s, friends, and co-workers noticing that something is wrong. When the individual is forced to change, some change might occur but it will be temporary, at best. The following stage, contemplation, is when the individual recognizes that something is wrong and begins thinking about ways to address the issue. With no concrete commitment made, this phase can often last a while. It is here where we often weigh the pros and cons of changing. Stage three, preparation, occurs when the individual is ready to take imminent action.While some changes may be noticeable, full fledged change is still to come.

Stage four, action, is when what we typically recognize as change starts to occur. In this stage, you might see changes to one’s behaviours and environment lasting from a day to six months which is congruent with the type of change that is desired. The final stage in this model is maintenance and is where people work to maintain the changes that they have made and preventing relapse. 

Although this model appears to take a linear progression, it is important to remember that the process of change is not linear. It is not uncommon for people to shuffle forwards and backwards through the stages several times before change occurs. 

Remember, while change can be difficult at first and frequently requires persistence, achieving your goals are within your reach. Together we can work to identify where you are at in the process of change and create a plan to help you overcome the obstacles in your way.

 

Reference: Prochaska, J., DiClemente, C., & Norcross, J. (1994). In search of how people change. American Psychologist, Vol. 47, No. 9, 1102-1114