Articles

Adjusting to Parenthood

It’s been a year since I have entered into the world of parenthood.  It’s been one of the most stressful and emotional periods – filled with huge highs and lows.  During this time, I’ve seen new parts of myself and my partner that I haven’t known before (good and bad!).

This precious time with our babies has also forced me to really appreciate the challenges that many of the clients I work with face as they adjust to being new parents.  The sleepless nights.  The changes to your identity and your body.  The huge time pressures and responsibility.  And of course, new dynamics in your relationship.  These are just a few of the MANY challenges.  But does it HAVE to be so hard?

Online Preparation Course for Expectant Parents

I am on a mission to help more expectant parents learn the tools they need to help their relationship thrive during this time.  Recognizing that face-to-face counselling isn’t for everybody,  I’ve designed a self-paced, affordable option, delivering the same information I teach to couples in my office.

I’m really excited to announce the launch of my online course: “Baby-proof Your Relationship” – to help people PREPARE their relationship for the arrival of a baby.  As expectant parents, we get so caught in the practical things we need.  The crib, the stroller, the change table.

A Strong Relationship is Best for your Baby

We often forget to take the time to nurture and strengthen the most important part – the partnership.  By feeling more confident in our relationship, we can be the best possible parents to our new babies and ENJOY this incredible time so much more.  We can grow closer to our spouse instead of disconnecting or drifting apart.

To learn more about this course, watch the preview video below or go to: www.counsellorruth.thinkific.com

7 Truths about Commitment

As the leaves begin to fall and the chill sets into the air, I am reminded that another summer wedding season has drawn to a close.  In the spirit of celebrating committed relationships, I enlisted the help of anonymous participants (ages 25-40) to complete a survey on marriage and commitment.  On today’s blog, I share 7 Truths about Commitment, inspired by their responses as well as my experiences with clients.  A big thank you to all who contributed.

1. Commitment means more than saying ‘I do’

Weddings are an excellent opportunity for couples to celebrate their love and also vocalize their intentions in front of friends and family – who they want to be as a partner as well as what they cherish in the other.

It’s been said over and over, but I’ll repeat it here, that a wedding is a day and a marriage is a lifetime.  Practically, I believe this to mean that true commitment has to be demonstrated on an ongoing basis, and not just when things are going well.  This may be small gestures like thanking your partner, showing appreciation, and apologizing first, or it could be more significant moments such as buying a home together, supporting your partner through a difficult time, and making efforts to integrate into each other’s families.

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Counselling after car accident

I’ve been in a car accident – now what??

Whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, shock, tearfulness, sleeplessness, or countless other impacts, we all respond to and experience a traumatic event differently. When it comes to an MVA, this may depend on how much physical damage was done, the nature of the accident itself (how shocking was it – did you see it coming or not?), whether you are also experiencing physical injuries, and how you are making sense of what happened (are you blaming yourself? Or blaming others?)  These factors can absolutely play a part in a person’s recovery. But there are things that EVERYONE can do NOW to help them get on the best possible course towards healing. These basic principles may even reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:

1) Make self-care a top priority.

They may seem basic. But eating well, creating conditions where you can sleep well (enough), and maintaining some degree of a regular routine can really make a difference in the early days.

2) Change your expectations of yourself.

If you are physically or psychologically injured, you are not going to operate at the same level that you did earlier. Period. It is an adjustment for sure, especially if you are used to being very active and motivated. But meeting yourself at your current level of functioning will allow you to set reasonable, achievable goals and work upwards from there. Many people can get hung up on feeling frustrating with the disruption of the accident.

3) Acknowledge the ways in which you were able to respond.

Sometimes an MVA, especially if it was without warning, can leave people feeling completely blindsided, like they had no control over it. And although there is truth to this, it can be helpful to think about in what ways did you respond that were helpful. This may your reaction to hit the brake, or to call 9-1-1, or to try and protect your passengers. Sometimes it is simple things that you do after the accident, like checking over your body to see if you are ok. Sometimes people are in a state of shock – which can feel unhelpful but actually is our body’s way of protecting us from further trauma. Acknowledge the small ways you tried to protect yourself or others.

4) Stay connected with people.

Sometimes if an MVA is serious enough, you may be off work for a period or become isolated. In this case, it becomes even more important to be proactive in your connections with others. Especially if you used to rely on work and other activities as your main social outlet.

5) Journal or talk to others about feelings that you are noticing.

– be they negative thoughts, frequent worrying, guilt, sadness, or any other strong emotion.  These are often part of the expected response, but sometimes these can be indicators that bigger things are going on, such as clinical depression or anxiety, which would benefit from treatment.

6) Catch yourself using avoidance strategies. 

You will likely be tempted to avoid things that remind you of the accident – like driving or being a passenger. Do your best to continue to expose yourself, even if in small increments, to those things, while also using relaxation strategies like breathing to help you remain calm. The more you avoid, the bigger the problem is likely to become.

7) Connect with a counsellor.

…and other professionals as soon as possible. If you live in British Columbia and you’ve been physically or emotionally injured, you may be eligible for free counselling through ICBC. As of April 1, 2019, you are entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident, regardless of whose fault it is. So get started right away to maximize this benefit.

Anxious, depressed, or not feeling yourself after a car accident?

Why a Car Accident Impacts Mental Health

Even the most minor car accidents can really shake us up – and for good reason.  They can call into question our basic sense of safety.  It’s also easy to think about the “what ifs” – “What if I had been going faster?” “What if I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt?” What if I hadn’t been running a few minutes late?”  It’s easy and a natural part of the process to have these types of questions running through your mind.  It’s also common, as a result of what happened, to start worrying that it could happen again.

Even if no one was physically injured, sometimes MVAs can impact our mental health in a significant way, including our overall outlook, how we cope with stress, how motivated or energized we feel, as well as our mood.  There are many good reasons for this, and sometimes a negative feedback system can be created, where a change in one area causes a negative snowball effect.  From there, it’s easy to get stuck and not know what to do.

Signs and symptoms that it’s time to reach out for help:

  • You are having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • The accident keeps replaying in your head
  • You have noticed impacts on your relationship, such as withdrawing, feeling irritable or snappy
  • You have less energy or motivation
  • Self-care has gone down or feels like a struggle
  • Normal parts of your day, like going to work or getting groceries, seem overwhelming
  • You feel more negative or hopeless about the future
  • You’ve been avoiding getting in a car or driving all together
  • Anxiety or stress have crept into your life
  • Things that used to bring you joy or pleasure don’t quite feel the same
  • You feel more tearful, numb, on edge, or moody
  • Other people have noticed a change in you

Really, if there have been changes since the accident that are impacting your thinking, behaviour, relationships, or commitments (such as attending work), then they are likely serious enough to warrant professional help.

Feel Like Yourself Again

The good news is, any one of these symptoms can be addressed and treated.  You don’t need to suffer, and the sooner you get the support you need, the better your recovery is likely to go.  And then you can get back to doing the things you love to do and feel like yourself again.

As of April 1st 2019, if you are in a car accident, regardless of fault, you will be entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident (covered by ICBC for BC drivers). So don’t wait until things are really bad, because treatment is much more manageable when symptoms are mild.

Treatment following a Car Accident

Injury & Your Mental Health

If you have been physically injured or are suffering emotionally as a result of a Motor Vehicle Accident in British Columbia, you likely are eligible for free counselling.  It used to difficult for clients to get the treatment they needed; they would require a doctor’s note for counselling to be covered and sometimes this would involve a lengthy approval process for treatment.  Usually I wouldn’t see these individuals in my office until months or even years after their accident.  These sorts of delays would often cause their mental health and emotional state to deteriorate significantly, in the form of intense anxiety, depression, PTSD, relationship changes, self-esteem issues, and many other issues.

Changes to ICBC’s Care Model

Luckily, ICBC has recently adopted a more client-centered care model, which will allow people to get the treatment they need, when they need it.

As of April 1st 2019, if you are in a car accident, regardless of fault, you will be entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident.  So if this has happened to you, and you feel that your physical and mental health, lifestyle, or relationships are suffering as a result, connect with care providers as soon as possible.

To learn more about ICBC’s new aClient-Focused Care model, click here.

7 Signs that you may be Ready for Counselling

One of the most important questions I ask when someone comes in to see me is, “what has brought you into counselling now?”  The answer not only allows me to understand what is going on in someone’s life, but has helped me realize there are specific reasons why people decide it is time to get the help of a professional counsellor.  Below I’ve summarized the 7 signs that you may be ready to do the same.

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Succeeding in Your OCD Treatment

For sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the intrusive thoughts and accompanying compulsions can be an inconvenience at best and devastating at their worse.  That said, OCD is HIGHLY treatable with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and other complementary techniques. Obsessive thoughts

In the article linked below, Fred Penzel, PhD, discusses the 25 Tips for Succeeding in Your OCD Treatment.

 

I wanted to share these, as reading them before starting counselling (and throughout the process) may make a big difference in the success that you achieve.

By getting on the same page as your therapist, you are working as a team to minimize the impact that OCD or obsessive thinking is having on your life.

Click here to read the article – I hope you find it useful.

A Counsellor’s Struggle with Vulnerability

As a newcomer to the field of public writing, and well-aware of how uncomfortable this can feel, I thought it would be appropriate to talk openly about my own struggle with vulnerability, and maybe inspire a few people to be open too.

A few years ago, when I was first starting into private practice, I had convinced myself that I didn’t need a website for people to find me (and in my defence, was told by a colleague that this was the case).  I probably just really wanted to believe this.  It is so much more comfortable hiding in the shadows than being vulnerable. 

It didn’t take long to realize that having a website was absolutely necessary to a successful business.  Of course, I now know how ridiculous that sounds.  But I remember having a really hard time defining myself.  What my values are, how I work, what I believe in.  Even though I knew I could help people, and I know myself well, putting it in black and white seemed so final, so self-involved, and so arrogant.  I think it was also hard for me to take the risk and “be seen” because it meant also opening myself up to criticism and judgment.  Especially hard when you are first starting out.

Anyways, I finally got over that and realized that I could endure the discomfort of publishing some basic information for people to read, and even have a picture or two of myself.  Read more

Reduce Your Anxiety by Taking Chances

Avoidance: Fueling the Fire of Anxiety

It is human nature to want to avoid things that feel unpleasant or uncomfortable.  For example, if you were electrocuted every time you touched your toaster, would you keep your finger on it?  I’m guessing that you’d pull away.  We are wired to respond to our environment and learn ways of avoiding anxiety, pain or discomfort, as it has helped us to survive.  

 

I can think of many people who seem to actually love the adrenaline that comes with risk and/or pain, and have no difficulties with the inherent uncertainty that comes from taking chances.  But this is probably not the crowd who would be prone to the type of anxiety I am talking about here.

 

How Avoidance Contributes to AnxietyCycle of Avoidance & Anxiety

In the case of people who do struggle with certain types of anxiety, an association is established where a place or situation is seen as a threat, and avoided at all costs.  For someone with social anxiety, for example, there is usually a core fear of being judged by others, and so that person will avoid situations where there is a possibility for this to happen (parties, dating, job interviews).

 

But this approach can cause problems in the long-term.  As people avoid, the associated fear grows stronger.  Avoidance perpetuates the fear because it leads to reduced confidence in their ability to deal with the situation next time.  It keeps them stuck in the cycle and prevents progress from being made, as they are not allowing the chance to prove themselves wrong.

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Counselling after car accident

I’ve been in a car accident – now what??

Whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, shock, tearfulness, sleeplessness, or countless other impacts, we all respond …

Anxious, depressed, or not feeling yourself after a car accident?

Why a Car Accident Impacts Mental Health Even the most minor car accidents can really shake us up – and for good reason.  …

Treatment following a Car Accident

Injury & Your Mental Health If you have been physically injured or are suffering emotionally as a result of a Motor Vehicle …