Psychology

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

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

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

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]

To vent or not to vent: That is the question

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]

Practicing skills: A formula for success inside and outside your psychologist’s office

In this article, I discuss how you can use the same route to success in addressing your psychological issues which you are already using in other endeavours in your life. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I offer prospective clients a free 30-minute consultation to allow them to determine whether the approach I use would be a good fit for them. In order to help people with this decision, I frequently remark that if you can be successful by learning and practicing skills in other endeavours in your life, you can be successful at using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to address your issues...[more]

Reducing self-injury behaviours: Identify and address the motives

In this article, I discuss ways to reduce non-suicidal self-injury behaviours by identifying and addressing the motives for these behaviours. In my practice as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, among the most challenging issues I encounter is clients engaged in self-injury behaviours such as cutting or burning oneself.  Referred to as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), these behaviours are not engaged in for the purpose of taking one’s life. However, they are often precursors to later suicide attempts and are most commonly displayed by adolescents. To help these clients, my strategy is first to identify the reasons they are engaging in self-injury behaviours...[more]

Being a fan of a sports team: How to enjoy the psychological benefits while minimizing the psychological costs

In this article, I discuss how you can enjoy the psychological benefits of being a fan of a sports team while taking steps to prevent the psychological downsides. Some of my most memorable times have been those in which I have been a fan of sports teams. Team Canada’s narrow win over the Soviet Union in the 1972 hockey Summit Series brought excitement and passion to me and millions of other Canadians who watched the landmark event. In my younger days, I also regularly enjoyed going to the games of my hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team which I attended with my father and siblings.  On the other hand, my support of sports teams has at times had negative effects on my mood. For example, I have recently seen my hometown Winnipeg Jets miss making the NHL playoffs and my adopted hometown Calgary Flames get swept out of the playoffs in the first round. For the last two seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays’ baseball success had me and many Canadians on a high as we followed their exploits. In contrast, so far this season I cannot bear to watch the Blue Jays as they currently sport the worst record in the major leagues. These examples illustrate that being a fan can have highs and lows...[more]

How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions: Combine outcome and process goals

In this article, I discuss how goal-setting concepts can increase your effectiveness at making and sticking to New Year’s resolutions. The start of the New Year is a time when many people make resolutions involving setting goals for everything from losing weight to being a better person. And a short time after the New Year begins is typically when many of those who made resolutions give up on achieving them. Although lack of a plan is often a key factor in people not sticking to their resolutions, there is an additional reason people fall short which often gets overlooked. This factor relates to the types of resolutions people tend to make with a focus too much on outcome-oriented goals in which achieving a particular result is the aim. If people were to have their resolutions based on measures of success in addition to outcome measures...[more]

Habits to make your relationships thrive: Part 2—Habits for a good relationship friendship

In this article, I discuss habits to help you have thriving relationships by building and maintaining a strong relationship friendship. In my last article, I discussed one of the keys to having thriving relationships—learning and practicing habits to allow you and your partner to discuss issues constructively. In this article, I will discuss habits which will help you and your partner to have a solid relationship friendship. Practicing habits in these two important areas is fundamental to having a good relationship according to Dr. John Gottman, creator of the ‘Sound Relationship House’ model of relationships...[more]

The key to achieving good emotional health and thriving relationships: It’s all about the habits

In this article, I discuss the key to achieving good emotional health and thriving relationships—having habits which help you to generate these positive results. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often have to dispel misguided notions in my clients regarding how I can help them improve their emotional health and their relationships. Many people come to counselling expecting to be ‘cured’ by my identifying and fixing some problem they identify as the reason they or their relationships are not doing well. Although addressing a major problem can often play a role in having good emotional health and fulfilling relationships, what usually makes the biggest difference is less dramatic...[more]