Dr. Pat's Psychology Blog

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]

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]