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Making Meaning

Cracked egg

There is meaning hidden in the small changes of everyday life, and wisdom to be found in the shards of your most broken moments.

Elizabeth Lesser

 

Broken Open

There is a book entitled, Broken open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser that contains many pearls of wisdom about change, loss, grief, and devastation that is a natural part of our lives.

 

One of the many things that I really appreciate about Lesser’s book is Continue reading

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Learn the alchemy

true human beings know.

The moment you accept

what troubles you’ve been given,

the door will open.

– Rumi

 

Blooming flower in the desert

A flower blooming in the desert

Helen Rose

Recently I read a book entitled, 53 Grove Rd by Helen Rose. It’s a short memoir written by a woman I know who lives in the Bow Valley. It chronicles her childhood with her adopted parents: a verbally abusive and cold-hearted mother and an alcoholic and disengaged father.

 

The book vividly outlined Helen’s disturbing memories of trying to navigate childhood in a family where the rules just didn’t make sense. It was at times beautifully written and at others shocking and disturbing. As a parent, I can’t imagine telling my child that I wanted a blue-eyed blonde girl but got a dark-eyed brunette instead as Helen’s mother did. I can’t imagine the impact on a child who heard messages like that repeatedly.

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man with magnifying glass

The last few months I’ve been reading books on subjects such as couple’s therapy, introversion, sex drive, infidelity, and mindfulness. As I’ve been reading, a growing sense of unease has lead me to re-consider labels. Continue reading

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sad man

Years ago I read a fascinating book by Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and World War II survivor of the Holocaust entitled, Man’s Search for Meaning. It was an incredibly moving autobiography of his experiences as a prisoner of war and his well-considered thoughts on the meaning of life. Continue reading

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DSM books

Diagnosing someone with a mental disorder such as anxiety or depression requires ensuring the person meets a certain number of criteria of a particular disorder. The disorders and their criteria are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-4th edition, text revised (the DSM-IV-TR). There is growing concern that more and more disorders are being “discovered” and are shrinking what is considered normal.

The sickening of our society

The first DSM manual was published in 1952, was 132 pages and listed 128 disorders. The current DSM-IV-TR is 886 pages and lists 357 disorders. Are we getting sicker or are normal problems in living becoming pathologized? When did shyness become a sickness? Isn’t it normal that we grieve when someone we love dies? Do we have to get over it by a prescribed period of time to prevent being labelled with major depressive disorder? When did eccentricity become a problem requiring medication?

What’s considered normal is shrinking

A vocal critic of the new draft of the DSM is Dr. Allen Frances. He was chairman of the taskforce for the current edition of the DSM and participated in the previous two versions. His concerns include “the shrinking domain of the normal” and the possibility that innocent bystanders could become pathologized, labeled as having a mental disorder and given unnecessary drugs and other treatments.

Unfortunately, increasing numbers of people are being diagnosed with a mental disorder. In 1955, 1 out of 468 Americans were hosptalized because of a mental illness. By 1987, 1 out of 184 were disabled enough to require long term disability.(Source: Anatomy of an Epidemic)

Children are being diagnosed and medicated at alarming rates. The number of mentally ill children in the U.S. grew exponentially between 1996 and 2007 while the number of kids with cancer and other life threatening illnesses declined. Are we all going crazy or is something else happening? (Source: Anatomy of an Epidemic)

What’s the problem?

All of us experience troubles in living at various times in our lives. But it seems that life’s troubles are being usurped by well intentioned professionals and transformed into diagnosable disorders.

Obviously, there are times when a diagnosis is warranted and even helpful. But sometimes problems can occur when drugs are considered the only solution and a quest is begun to find the right drug that’s going to work. Unfortunately, drugs have side affects, are more or less effective for an individual, and seem to lose their effectiveness after a period of time. Some may end up with a cocktail of drugs of increasing potency that contribute to decreased functioning in everyday life.

As a psychologist, I’ve unfortunately worked with people who have been encouraged to believe their “disorder” is life long and medication is the only treatment that is going to be effective in “managing and controlling symptoms.” What does this do to the person’s sense of personal control and responsibility? At what point does the diagnosis become the person and take over a person’s life completely?

As a solution-focused therapist, I can work with you to help you move past troubles, to discover what works for you, and to help you live the life you want. I provide counselling in person, online, or by phone.

 

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Peaceful personI’ve been doing a lot of thinking about health and wellness and its relationship to moving past troubles–both emotional and physical. I’ve been thinking about ideas such as whether meaning, purpose, and belonging make a difference in helping people live the life they want; I’ve been thinking about the relationship between mental health and physical wellness or mind-body medicine; have been pondering the relationship between food, mood, and the body; and the relationship between hormones and mood. Maybe I’ve been thinking too much eh?!! Continue reading

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Woman on couch with petChristmas on TV: We watch commercials of a family at Christmas. Mom and dad are there with the kids, everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves, there’s lots of presents and good food to eat amidst a beautifully decorated house.  But what do those commercials do to you when you don’t have a family¸ you’re estranged from them, can’t afford to visit them, or they live too far away? How do you make the day meaningful for one? Do you connect with others or spend the day solo? Continue reading

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