Your Holiday Stress-Busting Tool Belt

For many, this is the time of year for entertaining, cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping, wrapping presents, seeing family, and creative budgeting. It can also be a time of increased stress and tension. For this reason we have decided to do this month’s blog on stress management. If the sound of Christmas music makes your blood pressure rise and the smell of nutmeg causes your neck muscles to tighten, this month’s blog may be especially helpful.

First, let review a bit about stress and the stress response. When we interpret a situation as being potentially dangerous our bodies release stress hormones (i.e., cortisol and norepinephrine). These hormones mobilize energy from storage to our muscles; increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate; and shut down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity. In a dangerous situation, this response helps to defend and protect ourselves (i.e., fight or flight response). Left unchecked stress can, however, negatively affect us in a variety of ways including physically (i.e., headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension), emotionally (i.e., anxiety, restlessness, increased irritability, sadness) and behaviorally (i.e., over/under eating, anger outbursts, drug/alcohol use, social withdrawal).

So what triggers us to feel stressed out? Many people consider stress to be something that happens to them, such as an injury or a promotion, whereas others believe that stress is a response to an event. While stress does involve events and our response to them, our thoughts about the situation is the critical variable in determining the level of stress we experience. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA, 2013), when something happens to us we automatically assess the situation and decide if it is threatening, how to deal with it, and what skills we can use. If we determine that we do not have the skills/strategies to manage the demands of the situation then we label the situation as “stressful” and stress levels begin to rise. If we decide that our coping skills outweigh the demands of the situation, however, then we will not view it as threatening. A helpful way of decreasing holiday stress is to therefore remind ourselves of the skills and coping strategies we do possess and learn some additional coping strategies so that we feel more confident and prepared to manage the holidays stress-free. The following are some strategies you can add to your holiday stress-busting tool belt.

Remember the four A’s: Avoid, Alter, Accept, and Adapt

Although some things are unavoidable and healthier to be addressed it is amazing how many things can be avoided to reduce stress over the holidays. Even small steps can have a big impact such as not having alcohol, sweets, caffeine or politely declining invitations that would create unnecessary stress.
Take control of your surroundings– If going to the mall is a stressful event for you, try online shopping. If holiday music is triggering, throw on a CD or listen to your favourite MP3.
Avoid people that bother you– If you can’t avoid a holiday party where someone you dislike is present, limit the time you are there or try to spend more time socializing with others.
Learn to say “no”– Know your limits and stick to them. If uncle Bob in Burlington is asking you to come over for a holiday celebratory tea but you have already been to aunt Susie’s in Oshawa and your best friend Mike’s in Sutton, its ok to politely decline.
Reduce your “to do” list– Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” on your list.

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, decrease the impact of it by altering your response. The way we think about a situation often has a direct impact on our experience of it. Commit to believing you can handle the extra workload or party schedule…and you will.
Compromise-If being with family all day is too difficult agree to come for the afternoon and volunteer at a soup kitchen in the evening.
Express yourself– Instead of bottling up your emotions challenge yourself to share them as well as what you may be needing from others.
Take a time out– Take a break when tensions rise as opposed to saying or doing something you may later regret.

Although it can be challenging, sometimes it is easier to accept certain stressors than trying to resist or fight them. Nothing is perfect. People say dumb things. Shopping malls are crowded. Some stress is inevitable.
Talk with someone-Prior to family gatherings talk with a close friend or a therapist who can help to support you.
Forgive-If your brother forgets to bring the stuffing remind yourself that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes.
Practice positive self-talk– Remind yourself that you’ve gone through similar experiences and have the skills to cope.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable– As opposed to yelling at Jimmy for burping at the dinner table, accept that his manners may differ from yours and take it as a compliment to your cooking instead.

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. “My best is going to have to be good enough.”
Adjust your standards– Although everyone wants a nicely decorated house for the holidays there is no need to compete with Martha Stewart.
Reframe the issue– Rather than fuming about the line up or traffic jam, take it as an opportunity to call a friend or your mom.
Adopt the mantra “I can handle this”
Consider at the big picture-Is getting the perfect present reallllly the most important thing or is it about being with friends and family?

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, stress-free holiday.

Kerry & Philippa

Canadian Mental Health Association (2003). What is stress? Retrieved from

Interventions – A Structured Plan for Help

Perhaps you are a parent that is exasperated with having to see your son high regularly or a partner that is devastated that your loved one is choosing to spend more time at the casino rather than with you. Or perhaps you are someone feeling helpless as you watch your friend succumb to an eating disorder. These are but a few examples of people who are distraught over a loved one’s choices and who may benefit from an intervention. This month’s blog details the ins and outs of an increasingly popular therapeutic strategy known as an “Intervention”.

There are two different forms of Interventions that can be performed: indirect and direct. A direct intervention involves a group of people (typically family and friends) coming together and confronting someone about the unhealthy choices he/she is making. The process involves fostering collaboration between the family/friends and the individual without the guilt and blame that often prevents people from seeking help. An indirect intervention is similar, however, the targeted individual is not present. The purpose of this type of intervention is to allow participants an opportunity to share and discuss how the individual’s actions have negatively affected his/ her own life and to come together to create clear boundaries and limits moving forward.

Issues addressed in interventions vary. They do, however, tend to be severe in nature and affect multiple people. Examples include serious drug use, compulsive gambling, alcoholism, eating disorders, as well as excessive computer, television, pornography or video game usage. These issues significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to function and negatively impact relationships.

So, what are the benefits of an intervention? Well, the obvious answer is to motivate a loved one to seek help and enter treatment/rehab/counselling. Through family and friends confronting the individual, denial of the problem is often overcome motivating the individual to contemplate change. Another benefit of an intervention, that people sometime overlook, is that friends and family get an opportunity to express themselves. For some this allows relief from the pain, anger, and resentment. Being able to say what you have been waiting to say for perhaps years can be both cleansing and freeing. This is an especially significant outcome when involved in an indirect intervention where the person is not ready, willing or able to attend. Another benefit includes participants receiving support in establishing clearer boundaries and limits thereby creating consistency between all parties.

It can be devastating seeing a loved one succumb to unhealthy, self-sabotaging, patterns. It takes strength and courage to recognize when “enough is enough” and seek support. Although, there are many alternative options interventions provide a concrete, structured strategy to help break the cycle of abuse and restore diminished hope.

Assertiveness and Your Personal Bill of Rights

Assertiveness is a form of communication in which needs, feelings, and opinions are clearly stated with respect for oneself and the other person(s) involved in the interaction. Being assertive allows others to know what you want/need thereby making it easier for them to support you. Assertive communication differs from passive communication, in which people avoid expressing or speaking up for themselves, and aggressive communication, in which people do not take into consideration the feelings of others when expressing themselves and use blaming or accusing language. Many people confuse aggressive communication with being assertive. One of the significant differences is the words used when expressing oneself, namely, using “I” statements as opposed to “You” statements. To highlight this difference consider the following two statements: “You never listen to me!” versus “I feel ignored”.

Choosing your words wisely is, however, only one component of being assertive. More important is believing that you actually have certain basic rights as a human being that include expressing yourself. Many people seem to have forgotten or may have never been told that these basic human rights exist. We, therefore, thought it might be helpful to review some of these rights. By no means is this an exclusive list. We encourage you to consider if there are any rights that we may not have included that are important to you. Reminding yourself of these rights can validate your own needs, opinions, and boundaries with others and, in doing so, make it easier to assert and express yourself. As always, we invite your thoughts, opinions, and questions.

Personal Bill of Rights
I have the right to express all my feelings, positive or negative.
I have the right to ask for what I want
I have the right to determine my own priorities
I have the right to not be responsible for other people’s behaviours, actions, feelings, or problems.
I have the right to say “no” to others without feeling guilty.
I have the right to take time to slow down and think.
I have the right to be uniquely myself or “my own person”.
I have the right to say, “I don’t know”.
I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings
I have the right to be in a non-abusive relationship.
I have the right to make mistakes
I have the right to be safe
I have the right to put myself first.
I have the right to dignity and respect
I have the right to love and be loved
I have the right to be human-not perfect
I have the right to my own personal space and time
I have the right to privacy
I have the right to be angry and protest if I am treated unfairly.
I have the right to earn and control my own money
I have the right to grow and change, including changing my mind.
I have the right to decide if and when, I choose to forgive my mistakes or anyone else’s mistakes
I have the right to be happy.

Philippa & Kerry

How much is too much?

It’s the time of year for poolside parties, bonfires at the cottage, BBQing your favourite meat with family, and hitting the links with friends. For many, a cold beer or other frosty alcoholic beverage is a complimentary addition to these activities whereas for others, consuming alcohol is an activity unto itself. This month’s blog will be focusing on exactly this: alcohol consumption and identifying when it may be a problem.

Alcohol, also known as ethanol or C2H5OH, is the most widely consumed drug worldwide (Gowin, 2010). Alcohol is considered a depressant, which may be a wee bit confusing when you are watching an intoxicated friend streaking naked across the campground. A few drinks can, indeed, increase energy, excitement, and sociability. What is so depressing about alcohol then? Well, the impact of alcohol on our bodies is that it inhibits or “depresses” the function of the central nervous system (CNS) so normal physical and psychological functions are impaired. This is why when a person is intoxicated they often have slurred speech, are more clumsy, and typically can’t think clearly. So, although depressants such as alcohol “depress” the central nervous system they do not actually cause a person to be emotionally depressed while under the influence. It is important to note, though, that when alcohol is abused long-term it can lead to depression and other mental and physical health issues.

There are a variety of factors that influence people’s alcohol consumption including such things as gender, race/ethnicity, cultural background, environment, and psychology. Going into depth about all these variables is beyond the scope of this blog, however, one thing worth mentioning is the media’s influence as this is especially relevant in our industrialized society. What do all beer commercials have in common? You guessed it, everyone is laughing and having a great time. Unfortunately, this gives the message that drinking is “cool” and that if you are not drinking then you are not part of the party. Media influence is especially persuasive during adolescence. In fact, researcher have found that teens who see alcohol use in movies and on television are more likely to start drinking alcohol at a younger age (Moreno, Furtner, & Rivera, 2011). For this reason, is it vital that parents speak to their children about how the media falsely portrays alcohol use and to also discuss the not so glamorous side of drinking.

So, when is drinking considered a problem? Problem drinking means different things to different people and signs and symptoms of alcohol dependency can vary from one person to another. There are, however, some generally agreed upon signs that indicate a problem may be present. These signs include neglecting responsibilities; drinking more than you used to in order to get a buzz; having repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop drinking; experiencing legal problems related to drinking, using alcohol as a means of de-stressing or feeling better; continuing to drink despite the negative impact it is having on the relationships in your life; or experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which could be physical in nature (i.e., nausea, excessive sweating, or shaking) or emotional in nature (i.e., anxiety or depression). Generally, those who have an alcohol dependency require outside support to help stop. This could entail detoxification, medical treatment, counselling, or self-help group.

Taking a personalized drinking assessment can also provide insight into your drinking habits. The one that particularly appeals to us is The Personalized Alcohol Feedback Assessment ( This is an online assessment and is completely confidential and anonymous. It is comprised of 21 multiple choice questions about your drinking that takes 5 minutes to complete. Once your answers are submitted you receive feedback on such things as how much money you spent on alcohol over the last year, how many calories you consumed in alcohol, where your drinking fits in based on others who are of the same gender and in the same age range, how quickly you burn alcohol, and if your drinking is considered a problem or not. If for no other reason than to contemplate what you would have bought with the money you spent on alcohol last year, we believe it’s worth the 5 minutes it takes to complete. If it happens to be a Bugatti Veyron, it might be worth giving us a call so we can help you out.

Kerry & Philippa

Gowin, J. (2010). Your brain on alcohol. Retrieved from

Moreno, M.A., Furtner, F., & Rivara, F.P. (2011). Media influence on adolescent alcohol use. Retrieved from

“Get over it”: Moving Beyond the Pain and Anger

Whether it be a failed relationship or rejection of a partner; the loss of a job or a promotion; a hurtful comment your mother or father made to you as a child; or even a totally untrue and unflattering rumor posted on Facebook by your best friend’s, little sister’s, ex-boyfriend, we occasionally have a difficult time letting things go. Chronologically they may be history but emotionally and psychologically these incidents can truly become obstacles to our inner-peace and happiness.

The implications of not resolving or letting go of past painful events vary, however, can include anger, resentment, bitterness, and/or depression. Holding on to past pain essentially hits where it hurts the most-ourselves. As Mark Sichel (2011) points out, “living with resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other guy will get sick”. So, what is it that makes letting go so difficult? This is not an easy question to answer and certainly not the same for everyone. For some people it may be about not feeling ready to work through the past, for others it may be a fear of how things will change when they let go of the anger/resentment, and for others it may simply be about not knowing how to let go or work through past pain.

Assuming readiness, a good place to begin is to consider how holding on to past hurt impacts us and to then acknowledge that we cannot control the scripts of the past nor undo the wrongdoings of others. It is also vitally important to acknowledge and honour our feelings and allow ourselves the opportunity to express and release these feelings in a healthy manner (i.e., letter writing). Through accepting the past and honouring our feelings we become more able and empowered to control the narratives of today. Through letting go, we validate our strength, power, and right to self-determination.

Let us not mislead you though, as this is not always an easy task. Counselling can be especially beneficial for those who experience a blockage in moving forward or for those who prefer the cathartic nature of reliving emotional pain. Counsellors can assist individuals to get “unstuck” and find alternate, healthier, more empowering strategies to cope and manage difficult emotions.

We hope this blog has provided hope that, when ready, people can choose to break free from the chains of the past and reclaim their future. As always, we welcome your feedback, opinions, and personal example(s) of how you were able to “let go” and move forward.

Philippa & Kerry

Sichel, M. (2011). The therapist is in: What I know about therapy. Retrieved from

“M” is for May, Mother’s Day, and Mindfulness

Have you ever finished reading a page in a book and realized that you hadn’t a clue what you just read? Have you ever started eating a snack, had a couple of bites, then noticed all you had left was an empty wrapper? Or been driving and arrived at your destination only to realize you remember nothing about the journey? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone; most people have experienced one if not all of these things. These are common examples of not being mindful. In our busy, modern lives where we attempt to juggle work, family, finances, and other demands we are often required to multi-task and our brains are put into over-drive. As a result, it becomes easy to be distracted from the present moment. One solution is to practice mindfulness. This may sound a bit cliche, however, there is a lot of research that supports the notion that by being more mindful you will also become more relaxed, focused, physically healthy, and happier.

So what exactly is this amazing thing called mindfulness? According to the founder of modern day mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn (2012), “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally…” (p.17). Mindfulness helps you get out of your head and more into the “here and now”. Through this change in focus you become more of an observer of your thoughts and feelings, which will allow you to more readily notice when your mood starts to change. This will, in turn, allow you to “nip it (e.g., anger, anxiety, depression) in the bud” before the emotion becomes too intense and unmanageable. By being focused on the present moment you are also not reliving the past or trying to predict the future, which can trigger negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, and/or depression.

So now that we have sold you on practicing mindfulness, how about some instructions on how it can be done? Mindfulness may sound complex and something that takes a lot of time and effort but let us reassure you that it is actually the opposite and quite simple and easy to integrate into your daily rountine. The best way to begin practicing mindfulness is to bring awareness to those things you do every day that you typically do on autopilot. Examples of this may include brushing your teeth, walking the dog, getting dressed, taking a shower, or eating a meal. While doing these things simply focus on what you see, hear, smell, taste, and physically feel. That’s it! Pretty simple, eh? Another easy and quick way of practicing mindfulness is doing a one minute meditation. Find a quiet place and simply focus on your breath. If your mind wanders (as it most certainly will) take notice of where it goes and then gently bring your attention back to your breath. The more you practice being mindful the easier it will become and the more benefits you will ultimately reap.

So, being mindful of what month it is we encourage you to pay particular attention to your mother’s physical and emotional reaction when she receives the wonderful gift you got her. If you forgot to get your mom a gift, we strongly recommend you call us today so that we can give you a one-to-one practice session on mindfulness so that you are better prepared for next year 🙂

Philippa & Kerry

Kabat-Zinn, J.(2012). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming the present moment and your life. Retrieved from

It’s time for a change!

As promised in last month’s blog, spring has indeed arrived. The trees have started budding, crocuses are popping through the ground, and the distinct smell of steaks grilling on the barbeque fills the air. Spring is considered by many to be a time of renewal and transformation; a time that is symbolic of change. It seems fitting to, therefore, have this month’s blog focus on exactly this.

In discussing the topic of change it is important to remember that it is a process, not an event. It is easy to see this in nature (i.e., winter shifting into spring, a caterpillar changing into a butterfly) and yet when it comes to making changes in our own lives, we often expect it to occur instantaneously and become frustrated or give up when it doesn’t. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente took an interest in the topic of change and in 1983, while studying individuals with addiction issues, developed the Transtheorectical Model of Change (TTM). In addition to substance abuse, TTM has proven to be quite effective in promoting healthy behaviour change in other areas such as dieting, beginning to exercise, increasing self-esteem etc.

The Transtheoretical Model of Change proposes that people pass through 5 distinct stages in the adoption of healthy behaviour or cessation of unhealthy ones. TTM research has shown that there are certain predictors of progression through the stages. As you continue reading we encourage you to consider which stage you are at so that you can also identify what may assist you in progressing forward and/or maintaining change.

Let’s begin with the first stage, Pre-Contemplation. As the name denotes, at this stage there is not yet any willingness or consideration to change. In short, it is the “I’m not ready” stage. At this point people are not aware of their behaviour being an issue.

Following Pre-contemplation is Contemplation. At this stage, the individual acknowledges there is a problem but is not yet ready or sure they want to make a change. At this stage it may be helpful to get more information about the benefits and costs of modifying your behaviour. You can also ask yourself, Why do I want to change? What are some things that could help me make this change? What obstacles lie ahead?

The third stage is Preparation. Individuals at this stage have made a committment to change and are gathering information about what they may need to do to alter their behaviour. To improve the chances of success, identify social supports, review coping strategies, and determine a plan of action. Writing down some motivating statements may also be helpful at this stage.

The fourth stage is marked by significant movement. As such, it is called Action. In this stage the individual is putting effort and energy into creating change. This is the stage when work is really being done and when people are most dependant on their own willpower. It is vital at this point that you access supports, reward successes, and work through feelings of loss by reminding yourself of long-term gains/benefits.

Maintenance is the final stage and hopefully the longest. This is where change has been sustained and the individual is able to avoid temptation of returning to his/her old behaviour. When we talk about recovery from substance use/abuse it is important to note that relapse is, however, still a real possibility in spite of “x” number of years free of the drug. Relapse from dieting or exercise is no different. It is therefore important to continue rewarding yourself for successes and determine/plan coping strategies for temptations.

While Prochaska and DiClemente’s model of change ends at maintenance another stage was later added to address the successful change in behavior, that being Termination. This is where the individual exits the change process and when old behaviours are no longer desirable.

Change can be anxiety provoking and frustrating; it can also be exciting and liberating. One thing that has consistently been shown to be helpful is to have someone who can support and work with you as you move along the continuum. An ideal support person would be an understanding, empathic, knowledgeable counsellor who is well versed in the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Counsellors such as those employed at YRPCS (wink, wink). We look forward to hearing from you.

Philippa & Kerry

Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 390-395.

Winter Blues

It is quite normal for the weather to have an impact on our mood; a cloudy, dark day may make us feel a bit gloomy whereas a warm, sunny day may energize us. These mild fluctuations in mood do not typically interfere with our ability to cope. There are, however, individuals who are more affected by changes in weather especially during the winter month (Jan-March). For these individuals, the change in season has a direct effect on the ability to function. If you notice a marked shift in your mood when the seasons change, this blog may be of interest to you.

It is estimated that 15% of Canadians experience the symptoms of Winter Blues while 2-3% experience severe Winter Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD; Canadian Mental Health Association, 2009). The difference being that winter blues is characterized by less positivity in the winter months whereas SAD is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, oversleeping, and weight gain.
There are a few different theories out there explaining the cause of this seasonal mood change. Mark Pottier, a psychologist in Nova Scotia, speculates that a combination of lack of sunlight, less physical activity, and less socialization is to blame. Others believe that seasonal depression is linked to our circadian clock – you know, that internal alarm that tells us when to get up and get going and when to shut down and get some sleep. These theorists believe that during the winter months, as a result of days being shorter, our circadian rhythm is thrown off resulting in depressive symptoms (Nordqvist, 2012). Others believe that the inadequate amount of sunlight during winter months may change our body`s hormone levels and brain chemistry; namely serotonin (the mood, sleep, and appetite hormone) and melatonin (the sleep hormone) (Nordqvist, 2012). Researchers have found that those with SAD do, in fact, produce more melatonin and less serotonin. More melatonin causes sleepiness and lower energy levels while a drop in serotonin may result in feelings of depression, lethargy, and carb cravings resulting in…. (gulp) weight gain. We crave carbohydrates because carb consumption increases serotonin levels making us feel calm, content, and full.

So you might now be asking yourself, “what can I do?” Well, there is definitely not a blanket solution that will work for everyone. Some trial and error may be required. Depending on the severity, photo or light therapy, psychotherapy, and/or medication can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of winter blues and SAD. Research also suggests that integrating physical activity/exercise into your day can help to alleviate depression. In fact, according to Ehrman, Gordon, Visich, and Keteyian (2009) exercise can be as effective in the treatment of depression as medication.

The good news is that days are becoming longer and spring is right around the corner. As always, send us your feedback and suggestions.

Kerry & Philippa

Canadian Mental Health Association (2009). Shedding light on the winter blues. Retrieved from

Ehrman, J. K., Gordon, P.M., Visich, P. S., & Keteyian, S. J. (2009). Exercise effective treatment for depression. Retrieved from

Nordqvist, C. (2012). What is Seasonal affective disorder. Medical News Today. Retrieved from

Attachment & Romantic Relationships

Being “the month of love” it seemed fitting for this blog to focus on attachment styles, which may help to provide you with some insights into your pattern of behaviour in romantic relationships. If you have ever wondered why you have a hard time trusting your partner, fear getting close to others, or wonder why your partners accuse you of being too smothering this blog may be exactly what you need to read.

So what exactly does attachment mean? Mary Ainsworth, a student of leading attachment theorist John Bowlby, described it as “an affectional tie that one person or animal forms between himself and another specific one – a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time. Attachment is not just a connection between two people; it is a bond that involves a desire for regular contact with that person and the experience of distress during separation from that person”. Over the past 40 years a lot of interest and research has gone into investigating attachment and results indicate that the manner in which caregivers respond to us during the first 18 months of life, greatly determines our pattern of attachment later in life.

Mary Ainsworth identified three main attachment styles: secure-attachment, avoidant-insecure attachment, and ambivalent-insecure attachment and a fourth attachment style called disorganized-insecure attachment was added later by Main and Solomon (as cited in Segal & Jaffe, 2003). The following is a description of the parental style that corresponds to the type of attachment formed as well as the resulting adult characteristics/pattern in relationships:

Attachment Style: Secure
Parental Style: With a secure attachment the parental figure is aligned with the child and attuned with the child’s emotions. These caregivers are both sensitive and emotionally available.
Resulting Adult Characteristics: Those who experience a secure attachment in childhood are able to create meaningful relationships as adults. They are empathetic, able to set appropriate boundaries, and have a strong sense of self. These adults are secure in their independence as well as in their close relationships.

Attachment Style: Avoidant-insecure
Parental Style: The attachment figure is unavailable and/or rejecting. They are insensitive to and unaware of their child’s needs.
Resulting Adult Characteristics: Those who experience avoidant attachment in childhood tend to avoid closeness or emotional connections, seem distant, critical, rigid, and intolerant. These adults tend to be emotionally removed from themselves and others.

Attachment Style: Ambivalent/Anxious-insecure
Parental Style: The attachment figure’s communication is inconsistent and sometimes intrusive. At times the caregiver’s responses may be appropriate and nurturing while other times they are intrusive and insensitive.
Restulting Characteristics: Those who experience this type of parenting style as a child grow to become anxious and insecure adults. In relationships they fear being rejected which, in turn, results in them becoming clingy, mistrusting, and overly dependant on their partner.

Attachment Style: Disorganized-insecure
Parental Style: The attachment figure is abusive and is a significant source of distress for the child. Parental behavior is frightening/traumatizing.
Resulting Characteristics: As a means of coping, these children detach from their feelings; as adults, they continue to be somewhat detached from themselves. These adults desire relationships, however, as soon as they become emotionally close to others they withdraw. These people tend to be chaotic, insensitive, explosive, abusive, and untrusting.

Clearly, there are many challenges that result from having an insecure attachment. This in no way should be construed to mean a life of unfulfilling and emotionally detached romances. By becoming aware of your pattern of attachment and seeking support through counselling you can learn how to establish secure bonds and will be able to maintain long lasting, meaningful adult love relationships.

Kerry & Philippa

Seagal, J., & Jaffe, J. (2003). Attachment and Adult relationships: How the Attachment Bond Shapes Adult Relationships. Retrieved from

Positive Intentions for 2013

So it’s that time of year when you have decided on your resolution and you are actively attempting to stick with it. The thought of creating a positive change in your life may have initially been exciting and energizing, however, our great intentions for change are notoriously abandoned a few weeks into the new year. What is it that makes sticking to resolutions so challenging and is there a different way of conceptualizing our positive intentions that might increase the likelihood of them coming to fruition?

There are actually a variety of reasons why people abandon their resolution. Some of the more common reasons include having too many resolutions, not clearly determining how it will be accomplished, setting the bar too high, being scared of change, or it not being significant/meaningful enough. Although many of these issues can be tackled by utilizing the S.M.A.R.T mnemonic (see, some reasons may require a bit more self-reflection and awareness. Gaining an understanding of what got in the way can help to determine how to get around it in the future; thereby increasing the odds of sticking to your resolution.

With all that being said and done it does seem that more and more people are expressing disdain for setting resolutions and looking for alternatives. One new concept that seems to be gaining momentum is choosing a theme word to guide your path for the upcoming year. The simplicity of a single word makes it easy to remember and focus on and can pertain to different parts/aspects of your life; thereby being more holistic in nature.

To determine your theme word select a word that holds meaning and significance to you (e.g., adventure, activity, balance, love, etc.). Brainstorm a few different words and take note of which one elicits the most excitement. Once you have chosen your word write it down and display it somewhere you will see it regularly; then simply allow it to motivate and inspire you to create positive changes.

We’d love to hear some of your theme words for the upcoming year as well as your thoughts on this new concept.

Kerry & Philippa