Dr. Pat's Psychology Blog

What to do if you’ve decided that therapy doesn’t work for you?

2018-02-11T20:29:40+00:00 By |Psychology, Sport & Performance|

In this article, I discuss how to proceed when you’ve determined that therapy doesn’t work for you. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often get clients or prospective clients who are reluctant to proceed with therapy, a particular form of therapy or a specific therapy technique because they have determined either that ‘it doesn’t work’ or ‘it doesn’t work for me’. Such beliefs about therapy, forms of therapy or therapy techniques not working at all or not working for the individual may be in many instances inaccurate. More importantly, these negative beliefs can interfere with the individual making progress in therapy going forward. In the following sections, I will discuss why these negative beliefs about therapy can interfere with progress and how to change them to beliefs which are more conducive to success...[more]

How to pick yourself up when you’ve ‘fallen down’

2018-01-29T22:14:46+00:00 By |Anger, Depression|

In this article, I discuss how to keep moving forward in the face of repeated adversity at the hands of others. One of my favourite movies is Falling Down from 1993 which stars Michael Douglas. It features a man having an extremely frustrating day in which he encounters one thing after another going wrong. His frustration is compounded by it being created primarily by people who appear to care only for themselves and who enjoy inflicting suffering on others. The film begins with Douglas’s character, referred to as ‘D-Fens’ in reference to the letters on his license plate, being let go from his job because he was ‘not economically viable’. On his drive home on a blistering hot day, he is stuck in the middle of noisy traffic because of construction work which does not seem to be serving any purpose. D-Fens abandons his car and encounters a series of frustrations to which he responds each time with a violent retaliation toward the source of his frustration. This includes taking a baseball bat to the...[more]

Improve your relationships by changing the way you think

2018-01-14T22:22:51+00:00 By |Relationships|

In this article, I discuss how to improve your relationships by using skills from cognitive behavioural therapy. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I see a lot of couples who want help in improving their relationships. Much of the work involves applying skills from Dr. John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House model. These skills focus on two main parts of the ‘relationship house’—how well the couple manages conflict and how good a ‘relationship friendship’ they have. Skills to manage conflict entail learning how to communicate constructively about issues while friendship-building skills involve the couple spending time connecting with each other and nurturing each other’s preferred ‘love languages’. Couples who consistently apply Gottman’s skills to manage conflict and build friendship typically improve their relationships. Unfortunately, in many instances couples struggle in having the motivation to use the skills and stay consistent at them to the point that their relationships improve. A factor which plays a key role in this lack of motivation and inconsistency is negative thinking the partners have about each other and their relationship...[more]

How to respond effectively to criticism: Part 3–What to think

2017-12-31T23:57:37+00:00 By |Anxiety, Self-Esteem|

In this article, I discuss thinking skills you can use to take the emotional ‘sting’ out of being criticized. In my previous two articles on how to respond effectively to criticism, I discussed how what to say and when to say it can improve your chances of giving an effective response. In this article, I discuss how what you think when you are criticized can also determine the effectiveness of your response. I will focus on strategies to help you think in a manner which will contribute to an effective response...[more]

How to respond effectively to criticism: Part 2—When to respond

2017-12-17T22:15:07+00:00 By |Anxiety, Self-Esteem|

In this article, I discuss how to choose the best time to respond to criticism. In my last article, I indicated that an effective response to criticism involves three elements: what to say, when to say it and what to think. After doing so, I discussed the first of these elements—what to say. In this article, I will focus on the second of these elements—when to give your response to criticism. As was the case with the ‘what to say’ response element, the ‘when to say it’ element partly depends on whether the criticism you are responding to is constructive or nonconstructive...[more]

How to respond effectively to criticism: What to say, when to say it and what to think

2017-12-03T22:26:49+00:00 By |Anxiety, Self-Esteem|

In this article, I discuss the various components which combine to form an effective response when you are criticized. One of the most challenging tasks we all face is responding to criticism. Like it or not, it is part of living that we are going to get criticized. This can happen at work, in our relationships, and in various activities in which we engage. Some of the criticism may be constructive—delivered in a respectful way—and other criticisms may be nonconstructive—communicated disrespectfully, often with negative labels, insults and even verbal or physical aggression. Whether it is constructive or nonconstructive, criticism can be upsetting emotionally and result in negative effects on your self-esteem and your ability to perform effectively in various life situations.  Fortunately, there are effective ways to respond to criticism which can lessen the negative emotional impact on you and allow you be resilient in the face of it...[more]

Dealing with getting ‘triggered’ in post-traumatic stress disorder: A two-step process

2017-11-19T19:54:31+00:00 By |Trauma|

In this article, I discuss how to deal with reminders of traumatic events which produce strong emotional reactions. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I have had many clients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD have had exposure to one or more traumatic events leading to lasting negative emotional effects which significantly interfere with their lives. One of the most difficult PTSD symptoms to cope with is unexpectedly encountering reminders of the traumatic event which ‘trigger’ a strong and unpleasant emotional reaction. This emotional response is often comprised of intense anxiety accompanied by strong physical arousal and negative thoughts. When using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help my clients address their PTSD symptoms in trauma counselling, I give them a two-step process to deal with triggers. The first step...[more]

How to enhance your performance in front of an audience: Use the social facilitation effect

2017-11-05T20:42:06+00:00 By |Anxiety, Sport & Performance|

In this article, I discuss how you can channel your nervousness in front of an audience into a tool which can spur you to better performances. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, clients sometimes seek my help in being able to perform effectively in front of an audience. This issue is relevant to clients who engage in activities such as public speaking, acting, singing, music and sports, to name just a few endeavours which can involve public performing. These clients often seek help in coping with nervousness they experience when performing in front of audiences, citing instances in which they performed poorly and even ‘choked’ as a result of the pressure they felt from having people watch them perform. In helping these clients, I raise with them the possibility that applying psychological skills and knowledge may not only help them to perform well in spite of an audience watching them, it may actually spur them to a better performance. This notion is referred to in psychological research as the ‘social facilitation effect’...[more]

How to make habits out of enjoyable and fulfilling activities: Take the path of least resistance.

2017-10-22T22:44:37+00:00 By |Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem|

In this article, I discuss how you can use the concept of activation energy to make habits of activities which will bring you the most enjoyment and fulfillment. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, one of the challenges my clients often face is making habits out of activities which will bring them the most enjoyment and fulfillment. These activities typically fall into the category of ‘active leisure’ and include examples such as participating in a hobby or interest, socializing, and exercising individually or with a group or team. Although research indicates that active leisure activities bring the most enjoyment and fulfillment, many people have difficulty making habits of such activities even when they schedule them. Instead, they typically will engage in passive leisure activities such as watching television, playing a video game or surfing the internet on their computers or smartphones...[more]

Choosing a good hot thought: Situation-specific or general

2017-10-05T20:57:16+00:00 By |Anger, Anxiety, Depression|

In this article, I discuss how to choose a good hot thought which you can check and change to feel better in difficult situations. Much of my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist entails helping my clients to change how they feel by changing the way they think, a key process in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In this process, clients use a tool known as a thought record to track the negative thoughts which come into their minds in everyday difficult situations they encounter. These negative thoughts are known in CBT as ‘hot thoughts’ and are largely responsible for the person experiencing undue distress in response to these situations in the form of emotions like anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt and sadness.  Fortunately, these hot thoughts are typically beliefs which are not completely accurate and, with the help of a thought record, can be changed to more accurate ‘balanced thoughts’ which reduce emotional distress to a more manageable level. An important consideration in deciding which hot thought to work on is whether it is a thought which is specific to the upsetting situation or one which is ‘underneath’ the situation-specific thought and is more general in scope...[more]