Summer is a wonderful time for families to spend time together. When my own children were younger and still living at home, summer was also an extremely busy time for me. Organizing day trips, healthy snacks and lunches, and fun breakfasts, summer holidays increased my active duty as “mom”! I was fortunate as my husband, a college professor also had summer vacations with the family. I was the resident cook and he, the clean-up crew until the boys could pitch in the kitchen as well.
These months were sacred for our family and a time to slow down, relax, and play. In the early years, we did not have a lot of extra money for expensive trips. Instead, we generally stayed in Toronto enjoying our local beaches and parks. We also had access to a family cottage in Marmora where my sons learned to fish and swim in a muddy river making good memories with family and friends that last a lifetime.
By the end of summer, the local community of mothers agreed that getting back to school and a regular schedule was a good thing ! We enjoyed this time with our families as a community. We validated each other’s feelings that mothering was a full-time job when our kids were home.
My choice was to always negotiate time off during summer vacation in order to stay with my children. Before my career in education, I would take small leaves without pay in order to be with my sons. This was my choice and I am glad I had employers who agreed and supported my wish to stay with my own family when they were on vacation.
Partially, my choice to work in education was shared by this coveted summer holiday time. This was especially important when my boys were in elementary school and still enjoyed time with their mom and dad! In truth, all of my career and professional choices were shaped in tandem with my primary responsibility to be with my own children whenever they were home full-time.
How do you integrate your own family experiences in your use of self-care strategies with parents in your practice? What methods do you use to support new parents with their personal choice around child care, work, vacation, and domestic duties? Have you unpacked your values and biases around these options? #wellness #family #care #healthy #nurture
Living in a country with four seasons is wonderful. Every three months the local climate and ecology changes in rather significant ways. It is truly a gift of nature to observe these changes on large and small scales. It seems as though a local urban street transforms from a dark cloudy and grey bland of autumn and spring to the glistening white snow of winter or sparkly colourful meadows of summertime. Breathing in beauty that surrounds us is restorative and healing. We all experience the healing powers of nature when we allow ourselves to sit along a peaceful shoreline or walk quietly along a wooded path.
Daily Wellness practices include small acts of attentiveness to the beauty that surrounds us. Summer blossoms invite us to notice colour, scents, and stunningly pleasing views that truly have therapeutic impact. So, take time to let go of your daily work related stresses and allow nature to lead you on a path of healing. Your heart and breathing rates will calm down as your sense of wonder and awe emerge. Beauty is naturally attractive. Allow yourself to experience the curative experience that nature holds, and notice the changes it has on your mood, relationships, and productivity. Enjoy your mindful walks this summer and soak in all the beauty that nature has in store.
How do you help your clients develop deliberate and mindful practices in nature? Do you infuse reflections about beauty in your clinical work? What are your own biases about beauty that may interfere with the healing potential of seasonal health? #wellness #healing #mindfulness #stillness #awe
July 4th is American Independence Day and a time to reflect upon what freedom means to you. There are several ways to think about your personal freedom and the impact of your behaviours and choices on the people in your life at home, work and in your community.
Healthy dialogue normally helps to minimize conflict or confusion over the choices you make. Where breakdowns in dialogue or relationships occur in relation to decisions you have made, it is likely that your attempts to communicate your perspectives, values, and needs have failed to align with the people who are most important to you.
Liberty is truly a golden gift that we hold dear to our hearts and protect with care.
What does it signify when your values, beliefs, and choices are restrained by individuals or organizations whose power reduces your personal liberty and the freedom to respectfully voice dissent?
At the risk of running into profound waters on my blog, I do believe is important for all of us to reflect on the American ideal of liberty and where the world might be without this ideal.
Since I am posting this reflection, I also believe that we are all responsible for social media, online presences, and the tone in which it is created, marketed, and shared. Some of what I have read online is shocking and distasteful. Businesses ought to know better and some have paid a price for ill conceived ads and value positions contrary to the average peacekeeping and law abiding citizen.
Certainly, people have a need to express negative opinions and anger, but never at the expense of hurting or harming other people, especially those most vulnerable.
Freedom of speech is foundational to my personal sense of self. Where I am unable to express to speak up about my own points of view or perspectives, I move on to environments that in my view foster healthier dialogues. Speak up as your opinion matters – it’s healthy and it works to clear up any misinformation, myths, or bad actors. My motto is, we all have our say, but not necessarily our way. It is never too late to be the change you wish to see!
Be well and happy independence day to our neighbours and friends.
This past May, I attended the Annual Roots of Empathy Symposium here in Toronto sponsored by Mary Gordon and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers https://rootsofempathy.org/2019symposium/. Mary’s work has a strong hold in most schools in the Greater Toronto Area, surrounding regions, and across Canada. She also has research affiliates in Ireland and the USA. Her work, career, and extraordinary dedication to children and early prevention strategies is inspiring. Having started a clinical social work career in early years services, I was very fortunate to learn theoretical and practical approaches to parenting that really work to grow healthy and resilient children over the long term. Dr. Clinton, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, division of Child Psychiatry reminded everyone about the essential nature of human touch and infant development.
Close to thirty years ago, the Hanen Approach was just beginning to reap the benefits of its piloted projects across this city. A unique blend of psychiatry, speech and language pathology, and social work, the Hanen Approach aimed to support healthy attachments between moms and babies. Research showed that a consistently caring and nurturing response style, eye contact, touching, and communication improved overall health and wellness in all children and adults, but especially in children with identified developmental delays in areas of speech, behaviour, and pretend & cooperative play http://integratedtreatmentservices.co.uk/our-approaches/speech-therapy-approaches/hanen-programme/.
Healthy human touch is essential and natural to human growth and emotional wellness. There are countless studies that reveal the negative impacts of significant caregiving relationships impoverished of human touch. People with histories of early trauma, emotional neglect, sexual, or physical abuse often develop problems with creating healthy boundaries in relation to personal body space. Some people may be overly vigilant and self-protective becoming touch adverse. Some people have loose boundaries standing too close to people waiting in line, rubbing a woman’s breast or a man’s bottom while standing or sitting next to them on public transit, or touching someone’s arm, baby-bump, or face without permission for example. There are social and cultural norms as well as professional training that shape how, when, why, and where people engage in human touch. The key here is speaking up honestly when you feel uncomfortable about someone’s unwanted touch.
More research is being explored about the prescribed use of touch therapy with patients suffering severe PTSD and other debilitating health conditions. It is imperative that clinicians feel comfortable with setting appropriate professional boundaries created with clients seeking counselling therapies from you. Clinical practice with children, adolescents, and adults do not require deliberate practices of human touch. There are other effective strategies such as voice tone, eye contact, and humour that help to reassure and co-regulate human emotion as people talk and/or process feelings about experiences or situations with you. Referring clients to therapeutic massage is suggested for people you assess would benefit from healthy human touching in a clinical milieu.
People often refer to personal experiences or stories, both as happy or painful “chapters” of one’s life. It helps to think about the past when friends, school associates, work life, or romantic partners were different. It is also helps to mine these memories for both happy and painful times, and to see what made this difference. Who or what helped you feel well or unwell for example.
The view that a chapter of one’s life may come to an end is very helpful to people undergoing significant changes in their own lives. An end to a marriage, longstanding romantic relationship, a professional career, or voluntary or community position are all very stressful each in their own way. People often seek the support of a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, or counsellor to help mitigate normative emotional disturbances caused when one chapter of life comes to an end. What or who played a disruptive or agitating role in your life? Are you able to identify a repetitive pattern or trend?
To me these transitional times between chapters where one chapter is closing and another begins is a nanometricspaceof personal change. Tasks of identity are dynamic and constantly growing over time from childhood to senior living. The idea that people grow and change over a lifetime is widely accepted, and perhaps even expected more now than ever. It used to be common to remain in the same profession, marriage, house, parish, community or country for years and years.
Using this literary metaphor in clinical counselling sessions creates a conceptual framework in which to contain, and process otherwise overwhelming, and at times, debilitating emotions. This is especially true when events occur beyond one’s control or in unexpected ways. Most people experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety when marriages end due to infidelity or sudden death.
Knowing that everyone shares similar vulnerabilities is in and of itself healing. Knowing that there is a temporality or timeline for emotional disruptions caused by life is also healing. Believing that people are able to move on, grow from, and flourish after devastating events or unexpected change is a fundamental underpinning to all approaches of clinical social work and psychotherapy.
Processes of healing are not possible without the view that painful chapters come to end. Processes of healing begin when the human heart opens up to the unfolding of life in a new chapter. This new chapter of life usually involves some of the people, roles, places and interests from the past, and sometimes not. You will know who or what you wish to remain in your life by the way you feel, and only you know that. Be confident in your personal feelings and embrace what your own heart and intuition reveals to you.
What are some of the ways you help your clients identify health and wellbeing following devastating news or events? How do you confidently and deliberately support your clients to recognize their own growth and support them in cultivating and growing health in new and exciting ways? How do you validate insights into harmful people or messages from the past? What approaches do you use to empower clients to move through and beyond this pain? Do you fundamentally believe that your therapeutic interventions work? If not, what are you doing to improve your own conceptual and practical knowledge base and skills to ensure therapy people deserve?
Loyalty is an experience you have with other people. It is more than an idea. It is a common human virtue you value in the home, at work, and in community organizations. It is something that most people hold dear to their hearts, and completely understand when it is absent. From a clinical perspective, people will often express many symptoms of emotional pain associated with experiences of betrayal with friends, professional colleagues, romantic partners, spouses, and business partners. It is not easy for people to articulate these feelings at first. It takes time for people to identify abandonment, rejection, and loss. Of course, the most profound and long-lasting effects of abandonment & rejection occurs in people whose primary attachment was insecure.
Attachment theory has been researched for years. It underpins most interventions that work to repair deep-seated experiences of fear and anxiety created by inconsistent responses used to nurture the baby in order to reduce distress. There are several studies that demonstrate the importance of your parent-child attachment in the first two years of life. Insecure attachments have been correlated with poor outcomes, even more so than angry attachments. Attachment has more to do with the quality of emotional connection you establish with your baby, than the number of hours you spend with your children.
There are some fundamental assumptions that underlie attachment theory that are contestable in some circles. It places responsibility on the parent, usually a mother for setting a responsive nurturing pattern with a baby. How a parent responds to a crying infant is one of the key indicators of attachment. Of course, early days caring for an infant creates emotionally and physically exhausted parents. Having two mutually supportive parents during this early stage is associated with better outcomes, especially where the primary parental connection is loving, strong, and respectful. Single parents are certainly working harder than two-parent households. It is during these early days that a baby learns whether the world is a safe and nurturing place, or not.
An angry attachment happens whenever a baby cries for help, and the parent responds with frustration, tension and anger. The baby’s temperament shapes this primary relationship as well. Some babies are truly fussier than others. The infant whose parent responds with an angry style learns to self-soothe and usually falls asleep. Insecure attachments occur when an infant is unable to predict the primary parents’ response, which may include both nurturing and rejecting styles. It is this unexpected response style that creates anxiety. A nurturing parent consistently responds to the child’s needs first; assessing what or when to intervene, reading the child’s emotional cues for pain correctly, and working to protect and care for the baby.
This secure attachment style has the best long-term outcomes and often leads to emotionally resilient adults who demonstrate stick-with-it-ness with loved ones when trouble happens. They grow with the people closest to them. They create a loving and mutually nurturing style of negotiation on big decisions in life like exclusive coupling, moving in together, getting married, going back to school, changing professions, investing in a home or the market, having a child together, and more. People with secure attachment styles are emotionally present for one another through serious acute and chronic illnesses such as cancer or depression, job loss, grief, and even deceit including extra-martial sexual affairs.
Adults with secure attachments seek emotional support from close friends and partners. They turn to one another, not on, or at each other. They lean on one another and decide next steps together. Of course, people with secure attachments decide to end marriages or to uncouple. However, this decision is usually addressed openly and honestly. It may include a mature conversation where one partner expresses the need to move on, feeling unhappy, emotionally or sexually unfulfilled. This decision to separate is painful, but true friends want people they love or loved in the past to be happy, even if that means moving on without them.
Loyal friends and couples are generally happy people whose love and respect for one another grows over a lifetime together. They are not threatened by their partner’s need to grow and are open to enjoy the journey together. They problem solve together. What have your reflections about your primary attachment with your parents revealed for you? How do you actively work to address or repair your own need for experiences of secure emotional attachments with people? Do you feel confident about co-regulating your clients’ anxieties around the reasons they are seeking therapy from you?