Dr. Pat's Psychology Blog

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]

Pleasure and mastery: Two kinds of activities are better than one

2017-09-24T23:45:35+00:00 By |Depression, Self-Esteem, Sport & Performance, Stress|

In this article, I discuss why it is important to include both pleasure and mastery activities in your routine. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I encourage my clients to have two types of activities in their spare-time routines--pleasure and mastery. Pleasure activities are enjoyable and relaxing ones which help you to de-stress and typically do not involve performing or being evaluated. These can be individual pleasure activities like meditation, listening to music, watching a movie or reading a novel. Pleasure activities can also include social interaction such as having coffee with a friend or going to a movie with a group. Mastery activities are those which entail performance of a task which requires use of your skills and talents.,,[more]

My experience at Ironman Coeur d’Alene: Lessons I learned which apply to many areas of life

2017-09-11T08:48:03+00:00 By |Psychology, Sport & Performance|

In this article, I discuss lessons which I learned in training for and completing my third Ironman triathlon. I recently succeeded in completing my third Ironman triathlon and first since 2011 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Completing the 4 kilometer swim followed by the 180 kilometer bike ride and 42.2 kilometer marathon run gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. The experience also taught me several valuable lessons which can be applied to many areas of life...[more]

Knowledge is power: Educate yourself about your issues to make progress in therapy

2017-08-22T18:29:37+00:00 By |Psychology|

In this article, I discuss why clients who immerse themselves in knowledge about their issues are more likely to make progress in therapy. At a talk I attended by psychologist Dr. Michael Yapko, I heard a statement which strongly resonated with me in my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist. Dr. Yapko, author of Breaking the Patterns of Depression, said, “Clients who are knowledgeable and educated about their depression make better and faster progress than uneducated clients”. Dr. Yapko’s statement struck a chord because I noticed that my clients who made the best progress in addressing their depression tended to be those who...[more]

Chicken and egg: Quality of the therapeutic relationship and progress in therapy

2017-08-13T22:51:59+00:00 By |Psychology|

In this article, I discuss how the quality of the relationship with your therapist can affect your progress in therapy – and vice-versa. A well-established positive correlation exists between the quality of a client’s relationship with their therapist and the client’s progress in therapy. That is, research indicates that clients who have a good relationship with their therapists are more likely to make progress in therapy compared with clients who have a bad relationship with their therapists. Many people assume this research finding necessarily means that therapists should focus on taking steps to improve the quality the therapy relationship...[more]

Two motivators to change behaviour: Hope for the good and fear of the bad

2017-07-30T23:14:12+00:00 By |Addictions, Anger|

In this article, I discuss how you can use hope for positive consequences and fear of negative consequences as motivators to help you change unwanted behaviour patterns. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, clients sometimes have the goal of changing unwanted behaviour patterns such as procrastination, losing one’s temper and excessive substance use. One of the best ways to help clients achieve behaviour change in these instances is to help them focus on motivators for the types of change they are seeking. Two types of motivators serve this purpose...[more]

To vent or not to vent: That is the question

2017-07-17T11:35:58+00:00 By |Psychology|

In this article, I discuss whether venting about difficult people and situations is helpful in and out of your psychologist’s office. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often encounter clients who choose to spend some or all of the time in a counselling session ‘venting’. This typically involves complaining about difficult people and/or situations affecting them. Given that people pay to see psychologists and that psychologists are ethically obligated to attempt to ensure that clients are benefiting from their services, it is reasonable to consider whether venting is a productive use of time in therapy. A related concern is whether it is beneficial to the client to vent to people other than their psychologist outside of therapy sessions. I will explore these questions in the following paragraphs...[more]

Viewing addictions as habits: An improvement over viewing them as diseases

2017-07-04T15:12:12+00:00 By |Addictions|

In my last article, I discussed a commonly held view of addictions as diseases. I indicated that while this view has some advantages such as removing shame and consequently making it more likely a person will come for treatment, it also has substantial disadvantages. These include interfering with the person taking the necessary steps to address their addiction if they come to therapy, instilling a passive ‘fix me’ mindset which is counterproductive to making progress, as well as establishing negative expectations for progress. At the end of my last article, I said that I would propose an alternative way to view addictions which is more conducive to making progress than the view of addictions as diseases. I will discuss this alternative view in the following sections.

Viewing addictions as diseases: The pros and cons

2017-06-16T09:37:18+00:00 By |Addictions|

In this article, I discuss the commonly held view of addictions as diseases along with the pros and cons of this view including its effects on progress in treatment. A commonly held view of addictions is that they are diseases. The view holds that if you are unlucky enough to be afflicted with such a disease, it will be with you for your life because it cannot be cured. Furthermore, because your addiction is a disease, you are unable to exert control over it. Acknowledging this lack of control or powerlessness is the basis of 12-step programs which are used to help people with addictions for issues such as...[more]