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Starting Therapy? What You Can Expect in Your First Session

Starting Therapy? What You Can Expect in Your First Session

If you’re like most people considering going for therapy, you probably have some questions about what to expect.

Your first session is a chance for you to share a bit about yourself and what brought you to therapy.

Some therapists choose to use a structured assessment that asks a series of standard questions as a way to get a comprehensive understanding of you. Other therapists may opt for a more flexible session during which they ask more general questions such as “what brought you in today?”.

In either situation:

Feel free to ask questions. 

This time is for you, and it’s important you feel comfortable.

Remember that everything is voluntary. 

In an effort to get to know you better, your new therapist will likely ask you a lot of questions. If at any point you’re uncomfortable with answering the question, remember that everything is fully voluntary and it’s perfectly acceptable to say you’d rather not talk about that topic or would like to wait until you feel more comfortable before answering that question.

Share what’s helped and what hasn’t been as helpful before. 

This can include lessons from past therapists, as well as other strategies you’ve used to cope up to this point.

Give feedback to your therapist. 

Remember that this is your time and as such, it’s important to let the therapist know how they can best help you.

Expect that you may show different feelings during therapy. 

Some people feel embarrassed if they start crying or show other emotional reactions, but it’s important to remember that these feelings are understandable as you’re purposely focusing on topics that are often uncomfortable, painful, or can make you feel vulnerable. Take your time when sharing and remember that your therapist is not there to judge, but to support you and your emotions.

Extra Tip

I always encourage my clients to take care of themselves after their first session. While it’s important to practice self-care at all times, it can be especially helpful to do so after your first few sessions of therapy. It can be a strange experience talking openly to a stranger about difficult areas in your life. Expect that this level of vulnerability may stir up different feelings for the next day or two after your initial session. Try to go easy on yourself during this time.

If you have any other questions, consider booking a phone consult to talk directly with your potential new therapist. This is an easy way to ask more questions and start to decide if they are the right person to support you.0 Likes

7 Tips for Changing Negative Behaviour

7 Tips for Changing Negative Behaviour

Sometimes we catch ourselves behaving in a way that surprises us.

Sometimes the feeling is a positive one: we accomplish a major goal that we weren’t sure we were going to accomplish, we crush that job interview that we were certain was a total failure, or we find the courage to ask for that big promotion at work.

However, there are times when we do or say something that surprises ourselves, but in a negative way. We snap at our coworker for taking too long to finish a report or we have an argument with a loved one that ends in tears.

So, what can you do when you find yourself engaging with others in a negative way?

Did You Read the Situation Right? If you find yourself responding aggressively to another person’s comments to you, it might be helpful to take a moment to double check that you read the situation correctly. Did your friend intend to insult you or were they simply making a joke? Sometimes, we or the people we love say things that we don’t mean. Taking a moment to determine if that was the case might help put things into perspective.

Be Accountable to Yourself. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re surprised by your negative behavior or someone close to you calls you out on it, try your best not to make excuses for it. Attempting to justify hurtful behavior or getting defensive isn’t a step in the right direction. Before you can start to make changes to your behavior, you first have to accept that you do those things in the first place. If you can’t do that, then you’ll trap yourself in a vicious cycle where you won’t be able to break the pattern and move toward a better mental state.

Don’t Put Yourself Down. When we become aware of our hurtful behaviors, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap where we feel guilt and shame for the way we acted. While this is certainly better than celebrating the fact that you just made a stranger cry by yelling out the passenger-side window at them in traffic, it still isn’t a productive reaction. If you get into a routine of shaming yourself into oblivion every time you display hurtful behavior, you might convince yourself that it can’t be changed. Acknowledge the incident and look for solutions that’ll help you not do it again.

Put It in Context. What was going on when you snapped at your coworker? Did you not get enough rest the night before? Were you stressed about a major deadline and felt the pressure? When you find yourself in situations where you exhibit this negative behavior, take a moment to reassess what might have been the cause of your stress or act out. Oftentimes, when we are feeling a certain way, we fail to notice other important contributing factors that might explain it.

Find the Pattern (So You Can Change It). If you can catch the pattern of decisions that you make or certain situations that feed directly into those negative behaviors, then you’ll be able to know how to correct them. If you regularly notice that not getting enough sleep at night contributes to a cranky morning the next day, then work to change your sleep schedule so you don’t put yourself in that cranky situation. Even making a slight change to your routines can help you find a steadier emotional state.

What Sets You Off?Sometimes certain people, situations, or places can contribute to our negative emotional states. For some people, it may be running into the wrong people at the bar or a coworker who loves to do exactly what you find annoying (like always talking to you about their personal life). A registered therapist can walk you through those moments where you found yourself unnecessarily agitated and help you find the things that set you off.

Once you have an idea of what those things are, you can then work on them. If you pinpoint those environments that push you over the edge, you can then work to change, accept or disarm those triggers. For others there may be need to engage in activities that ‘spark joy’ or add value to one’s life. That is because sometimes we engage in negative behaviours because we are unhappy. The simple act of taking a walk during your lunch time or even talking to a trusted friend can do wonders for your emotional state.

Practice Forgiveness. Forgive yourself and practice forgiveness with others. Humanity is messy; we all have our own personal problems that can lead to sticky situations when we interact with one another. Practicing forgiveness and working together to make interactions less of a negative experience can take the stress off and help us all feel a little bit better.

Therapy Can Help.If you find yourself engaging in harmful behaviour but you’re unsure of how you can start making changes to those behaviours, working with a registered therapist is a great place to start.

Therapists are trained to help you navigate through your emotional confusion and pinpoint the areas that are causing you the most grief. They can act as an unbiased third party that will help you examine those moments of anger or anxiety and work toward long-lasting solutions. That way, there won’t be so many surprises in the future.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

With age, I have become increasingly fearful of flying.

If, like me, you are determined to not let your fear of flying get in the way of your travelling goals, here are some tips and facts that can help alleviate your stress:

In clinical terms, this is described as a phobia, which is an irrational but intense fear or aversion. Flying phobias can be perpetuated by many factors, including claustrophobia, fear of having a panic attack on a plane, fear of heights, fear of a plane crash, terrorist hijackings, or panic at the idea that you don’t have control of the aircraft that’s carrying you.

1. Breathe.

As anxiety increases, breathing can become shallow and breaths can shorten, which perpetuates panic. Deep breathing and mindfulness strategies can be an instant stress reliever. Of course, it’s important to practice mindful breathing beforehand while still on the ground. A meditation app can be very useful for this.

2. Know the Facts.

Knowledge is power. Air travel is the safest mode of transportation. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than get into a plane crash. It’s important to have the facts to challenge your assumptions. Speak to a pilot and learn about the mechanics of a flight.

  • According to a study at Harvard University, the chances of dying in a car crash is 1 in 5,000 and in a plane crash, it’s 1 in 11,000.
  • Most aviation incidents are not fatal. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that 95% of people survive after aircraft accidents.
  • Commercial Aircrafts go through extensive testing before they’re sold to airlines. Airlines want planes to fly safely just as much as you do. If they don’t, nobody will buy them.
  • Turbulence is safe and natural! It’s just a plane gliding into an air pocket. If you want to avoid turbulence, try booking flights early morning or close to sunset when the sun isn’t heating the earth’s surface and creating a less stable atmosphere.

3. Small popcorn, please!

It can be helpful to distract yourself while feeling anxious on a flight. Listen to a movie, podcast, or read a captivating book. Immerse yourself in an enjoyable activity.

4. Stay hydrated.

Although the idea of a cocktail or a glass of wine can be appealing on a flight, try to stay away from alcoholic beverages and stick to hydrating liquids. Alcohol can worsen your anxiety and make you feel unsettled.

5. Talk to a professional.

If you have a flying phobia, it can be helpful to seek professional help around 2-6 weeks before your flight. You can then create a “cheat sheet” with your therapist and bring it on the flight to remind you of your coping strategies or “self statements.”

I hope you find these tips helpful before your next journey. Repeated exposure with helpful coping strategies is a key ingredient in making a phobia become more manageable.

Bon Voyage!

6 Ways To Stop Your Brain From Overthinking

6 Ways To Stop Your Brain From Overthinking

Believe me, I know all too well how it feels to go into monkey-mind mode. You know, those times when you literally cannot get out of your head and it feels like you are spiraling deep into a rabbit hole.

How do we stop overthinking? Here are my top 6 go-to strategies for overthinking, that I use to loosen the grip my thoughts have and help get me back into the present moment.

1. The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique.  

Being able to connect yourself back into your body is important to do when you notice yourself getting stuck in your head. When you are thinking, you are no longer in the present moment. A great mindfulness technique to help you reconnect to the present moment is by using all of the 5 senses of your human body. You can do this simply by:

Naming 5 things you can see.

Naming 4 things you can feel.

Naming 3 things you can hear.

Naming 2 things you can smell.

Naming 1 thing you can taste.

2. Deep Breathing.

Deep breathing is another helpful tool to combat anxious thinking. As soon as you become aware that you are stuck in your head, take 3 conscious deep belly breaths. I love this one especially because you literally cannot think and take a deep inhale at the same time! It’s also a simple strategy for overthinking that you can do anywhere.

3. Worry time

How do we better manage worrying? A helpful technique for worrying is to give yourself a boundary for worrying and only allow yourself to worry during a specific time. Set a timer for 5 minutes and use this time to think, worry, and analyze. Then set another timer for 10 minutes and use this time to write down on a piece of paper all the things that stress you out and give you anxiety. When the timer goes off, rip up the piece of paper and do something pleasurable for yourself. This is a very helpful strategy for managing overanalyzing.

4. Write a Gratitude List.

Sometimes when I get into an over-thinking mode I spend so much of my time and energy focusing on the negative. I find taking the time to reflect on the things that are actually going ‘right’ in my life as a great way to re-shift my focus in the moment to more loving thoughts.

5. The STOP Technique.

This one is one of my personal favorite strategies to help me combat my negative thoughts, especially the ones that lead me spiralling. What I do when I notice I’m totally in my head (and after I make sure no one is around) is literally yell as loud as I can, “STOP!” This is a great way to release some tension and reset yourself. A modification to this one (especially if you are around others) is to imagine a humongous STOP sign and use that imagery to anchor yourself back into the present moment.

6. Mirror Talk.

When you notice you are battling with yourself in your head, turn to a mirror and have a conversation with yourself, preferably out loud. I do this when I am especially critical or angry with myself. There is something about looking into the mirror directly into my eyes and telling myself exactly how I feel, that allows me to access the loving-kind part of me. I almost always end my mirror talks with a heart-to-heart conversation with myself, leaving me feeling really nourished.

Try experimenting with these techniques and see which ones resonate with you the most. We’d love to learn what you notice. We’d also love to hear some of the strategies that you use!

How to De-Stress Student Life

How to De-Stress Student Life

You complete your exams, hand in all of your assignments and then just like that the break is over and a new semester has begun. As a student, it can be difficult to manage the demands of school with work, family, friends, etc. Here are 5 tips to feel less overwhelmed as a student..

1. Know the signs

Many of us know when we have too much on our plate and we are feeling stretched too thin or “not like ourselves.” Warning signs that you’re overwhelmed may include:

  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Problem sleeping
  • Loss of Motivation/Lack of Energy
  • Loss of focus/concentration
  • Drinking too much, smoking, overeating, or using drugs to self medicate
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, chest pain, stomach problems

2. Find a Balance

It may seem that between all the readings, assignments, tests, quizzes, discussions, classes and studying, you couldn’t possibly have time for anything else. The thing is, it’s important to have a life/school balance. Believe it or not, it is essential for optimal academic functioning. Focusing primarily on academics and neglecting other factors such as sleep, exercise, eating a balanced diet, socializing with friends, etc. can actually lead to a decline not only in academic performance but overall health and wellbeing. Don’t feel guilty about getting lost in a series on Netflix for a while—time for yourself is important. It’s all about balance!

3. Use School Resources

Use your school resources. For example, if you find yourself wondering where to start, learning strategists can help you learn to manage time and address procrastination issues and stress. For some students transitioning from high school or having difficulty keeping up, they can help you develop new strategies, including active studying, reading and note-taking, and exam preparation, improve your research, writing, and presentation skills.

Join a study group! You are not the only one looking for support. Forming an informal study group or joining your school’s Recognized Study Groups (RSGs) can help you connect socially with other students, increase understanding of course material, compare class notes and prepare for tests and exams in a supportive, collaborative environment.

4. Seek Support

Sometimes feeling overwhelmed means something more. Often times, admitting you need help and then seeking the support can be a difficult task. If you are dealing with a disability that is causing barriers to your academic success, find out if your school offers Accessibility Services.  Accessibility Services can support students with a permanent or temporary disability (such as ADHD, ASD, learning disabilities, and/or mental illness) navigate their disability and related barriers, provide appropriate accommodations, facilitate peer support and interactions, and provide various academic and social opportunities.

5. Enjoy yourself!

Have fun! This time will fly by so fast and be over before you know it. Take in the whole experience. Get involved with some clubs on campus, attend social events, and get involved with the school community. This is the time to learn new things both in and out of the classroom.

How to Stay Grounded When You’re Feeling Anxious

How to Stay Grounded When You’re Feeling Anxious

Do you feel overwhelmed juggling school, work and personal life? Perhaps you’re in class and instead of listening, you’re thinking about all the tasks you need to get done for the day including finishing your assignment, studying for your exam, doing laundry, going grocery shopping or squeezing in time to talk to a friend. Do you ever have racing thoughts about how you’re going to get everything done? Think that it’s impossible to finish everything? You may stop paying attention in class, feel your heart beating faster and your palms getting sweaty. It can feel as though your world is closing in.

If you can relate to feeling stressed out about all the demands of life, you’re not alone!

Living in an up-pace society, we are often placed with multiple demands, which can easily make us feel overwhelmed. In turn, this can make it more difficult to be able to focus and concentrate, making getting everything we need to get done for the day that much harder.

Our minds are often racing between thinking about the past or the future. We rarely stop to be present in the moment. If we can begin to learn to center ourselves back to the here and now, we can reduce anxiety and increase concentration by putting the breaks on in our brain.

Here are 10 some simple, easy grounding techniques, which can help to reduce anxiety when we notice it creeping up.

  1. 5-4-3-2-1: Look around the room and name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  2. Box breathing: Picture a box in front of you. As you move up the side of the box, take a deep breath in for 4 seconds. Next as you move along the top of the box, hold your breath for 4 seconds. Then as you move down the other side of the box, breath out for 4 seconds, and finally as you run along the bottom of the box hold for 4 seconds. Repeat.
  3. Mindful eating: Take a raisin or other piece of food. Examine it. What does it look like? How does it smell? How does it feel? Slowly begin to chew it. How does it taste?
  4. Counting backward: You can do this several ways, my personal favourite is to count backwards by 7 starting from 100.
  5. Ice cube technique: Take an ice cube and move it along your arm. Notice the temperature, if it melts, how it feels, and what it looks like- again, tap into your 5 senses.
  6. Teddy bear technique (for children): Lie on your back and place a teddy bear on your belly. As you take deep breaths in and out, watch the teddy bear move up and down with each inhale and exhale.
  7. Progressive muscle relaxation: Start with your right hand in a relaxed state. Slowly begin to clench your hand. Notice the tension as you begin to do this, as you transition your hand from a relaxed state into a fist. Next, slowly begin unclenching your hand back into a relaxed state, again noticing the difference in tension. Repeat these steps with your left hand and then move along to other body parts such as your foot or leg.
  8. Naming colors: Name everything in the room that is blue. Now name everything in the room that is red. Now everything in the room that is yellow, etc.
  9. Mindful walking: As you walk, notice the weight of each foot on the ground and how your weight changes as you take each step. If you are outside, notice if it is sunny, hot, cold or rainy. If it’s sunny, notice how the sun feels on your skin. Notice if you can hear cars passing or birds chirping.
  10. Monitoring your heartbeat: Place your fingertips together from both of your hands. Notice your pulse in your fingertips and pay attention to the rhythm of your heartbeat.