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Mental Health AwarenessMental Health awareness is growing every decade. The stigma surrounding mental health issues has been lessening but still has a long way to go. Campaigns such as Bell Canada’s Let’s talk really help in raising awareness. Continue reading

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The Business of Mental IllnessMental illness has become big business. Right now, 20% of Americans are on some kind of mental health medication. Continue reading

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Hot air balloons2011 is coming to an end. I’d like to share my most popular posts with you and invite your comments!

Relationship Advice

Lots of people want help in making their relationships better. Whether that’s through a couple’s counselling retreat, couple’s counselling, or reading blog posts like mine, couples are motivated to re-connect in more meaningful ways. Continue reading

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Elephant in the RoomI’m working with a lot of people these days who are being influenced by worry, anxiety, or panic. Some know exactly what’s worrying them. For others, it seems like a mystery. All they know is that the feeling suddenly hits like a ton of bricks and it can be quite debilitating, let alone frightening.

What do you do that helps when you’re worried, anxious, or panicking that helps you feel better? Do ideas around mindfulness make sense to you?

“The Elephant in the Room”

This now very common expression, is used when someone is trying his or her hardest to ignore or deny something that’s as obvious or as big as an elephant would be in a room.  This issue isn’t something you can just  ignore!!!

Some people find worry can be like that elephant. No matter how hard we try to push worry away, ignore her, force her away, or pretend she’s not there, she sticks around bugling loudly. What do you think about the idea of accepting her, noticing her, acknowledging her-and focusing on the here-and-now? Would focusing on your breath when these thoughts come help?

Let me explain a little more. The idea is to take the effort, the struggle, or the energy out of anxiety or panic by choosing to focus on the present moment. Think of the willow tree. Its narrow limbs bend with the wind. It doesn’t stand stiffly fighting gusts or steady gales. It merely bends, allowing the wind to blow around it without trying to make it go away. The wind will eventually go away and the willow will bend until it does. And if it doesn’t bend-it will surely break.

Awhile ago, I wrote about an exercise that may also help when you’re distracted or consumed with worry or anxiety called 5-4-3-2-1. It can be a really helpful way to bring you back to the here and now.

Another practice that can be helpful is to meditate or practice mindfulness. I wrote about creating mindfulness through your breath last week. I also wrote about it in the blog, Mindfulness is on my to do list.

I have heard people say, “I tried it once and it was too hard,” or “I never could slow down my mind so I gave up.”

Meditation, like anything new, takes practice, patience, and discipline. It takes a daily commitment. Start small. Spend 5-8 minutes a day and do it every day-no matter what else is happening in your life. If you’re looking for some information on various kinds of meditation and are a beginner, a good book is: 8 Minute Meditation.

With practice, mindfulness/meditation can become easier and something you can look forward to each day without having to ignore the elephant but rather as a way to deal with worry by accepting, relaxing, calming down and moving on.

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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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All of us worry sometimes. There are times though, when worry or anxiety can seem like it’s taking over your life. I often work with people who are troubled by worry or anxiety and collaborate with them to come up with solutions that are going to work for them. Continue reading

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