Frequently Asked Questions
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Question: How can therapy help me with my problems?
Answer: The good thing about talking to a therapist is that the problem that tends to go around and around in your head, gets an outlet in a safe place. A therapist is trained in psychology and usually has a lot of experience helping people work through their issues. Unlike family and friends, therapists are impartial and don’t hold what you tell them against you.
Question: What is going for therapy like?
Answer: Sessions are usually every week or two. While therapy is aimed at helping you resolve issues, it is not always easy. You should feel a connection with your therapist and that he/she understands and cares about you. The therapy room has to be a safe place for you to let your guard down and talk about yourself. When you feel safe you are more likely to explore your feelings and issues and work to improve things that are problematic.
Question: If I suffered childhood trauma will I have to relive it if I engage in therapy?
Answer: One of the lasting problems associated with childhood trauma is that it tends to cause people to feel bad about themselves. I think it’s more important to explore the impact of the abuse rather than making clients talk about the specifics of it. The goal is to help to lessen the impact the abuse has on the client’s present and future.
Question: My partner and I aren’t getting along well anymore. Can couples therapy help?
Answer: Yes, its normal for couple relationships to hit some rough spots and couples’ therapy can help get you through them. Couples’ therapists know what traits go into successful relationships and can help you incorporate them into yours. In couples’ therapy your relationship is the client and the aim of therapy is to help it get better so both of you are happier within it.
Question: My partner doesn’t want to go for therapy but I think our relationship is in trouble. Is there anything I can do on my own to make it better?
Answer: Even one person changing their part in the relationship changes it. As with individual therapy, having an objective person to talk to about the relationship in itself can help. Relationships work best when the individuals are emotionally healthy. Therapy is a great tool to help achieve emotional health.
Question: How many sessions will I need?
Answer: That depends on what brings you in. Obviously, long-standing entrenched problems take longer to resolve than specific, current issues. Sometimes, just two or three sessions can help you gain clarity and resolve an issue. Sometimes the therapeutic relationship is the route to healing, that takes longer to develop.
Question: What if I don’t have childcare for my young child or baby?
Answer: I am always happy to see little ones. I love babies and am happy to cuddle them while you talk, if needs be. I have a play area set up just outside my room, with toys, books and videos. We can leave the door open and keep an eye on youngsters while we talk – and they can keep an eye on us too.
Question: How long do sessions last?
Answer: Sessions last from 50 to 60 minutes. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) usually lasts for 90 minutes, because it follows a more structured protocol.
Question: What forms of payment do you take?
Answer: I accept cash, cheque, debit, Visa, and MasterCard. I issue you with an official receipt, which you can then submit to your private health insurance provider for reimbursement.
Question: What if I can’t get in to your office for a session?
Answer: We can do telephone sessions if this works better for you. Usually you call me at the appointed hour and at the end of the session give me your credit card number and I put the fee through that way. If you prefer, you can send a cheque prior to the session.
Question: What age do you have to be to be in therapy?
Answer: I’ve worked with clients as young as six and as old at 80. People of any age can use someone to talk to about things that are troubling them. Sometimes, young children need shorter sessions to accommodate their shorter attention spans. Therapy with young children involves a lot of play and non-verbal communication.
Question: Why do you work with your dog?
Answer: I work with my dog, Minnie, because she is good company in the therapy room. She loves people and seems to like to be there. Most of my clients agree that she is a calming and soothing presence in the room. Minnie greets my clients when they come in and then after a cookie or two she finds a comfy spot to sleep. She is especially happy when clients bring their babies and young children in. She loves them!
Question: What does attachment-parenting mean? How can I make sure my child has a good attachment to me?
Answer: The idea of attachment parenting comes from the theory that children do best if they are allowed to develop close and safe relationships with their primary caregivers. Children develop working models of attachment about themselves and other people that tend to last across time. The theory is that if parents are close, safe, predictable and appropriately responsive during the first three years of life the child will feel good about himself and have trust and faith in other people.
Question: How can I make sure my child develops good self-esteem?
Answer: Self-esteem grows from having experiences that teach us that we are good enough. Children learn very early what is expected of them and how to react in certain situations. If the children get it right – that is they do well enough and are given praise and encouragement for that then they tend to feel good about themselves. If however, children are not given opportunities to learn, grow and achieve and if there is no feedback, they won’t know how they are doing or they will think they are not good enough. For example when a one-year-old is learning to walk… if the parents allow the child to try and to fall and to try again and delight in each little success, the child is given the message “I’m good. I can achieve things. I can do it” That is good healthy self-esteem. If, however, the parents didn’t let the baby try to walk and were always fussing and holding onto him and getting upset when he falls down the child would not develop the same positive belief about himself.
Question: Is there one ideal parenting style?
Answer: Research suggests that parenting that is high on warmth and high on control is the most effective(this is called authoritative parenting). Children need a lot of love and attention and they need to know that their parents care deeply for them. This is more about affection and admiration than gift giving or letting them do what they want. Children need to see that they are able to make their parents’ faces light up, that their parents are in-love with them. At the same time, children start out small and dependent. They need to know the limits and boundaries so that they can feel safe. Parents need to be attuned to and in control of making sure their children are safe, properly feed, clothed and cared for, learn the rules and expectations of their society and help them to achieve within them. That requires that the parents have the ability to say “no” when necessary and to make some tough decisions. It’s not ideal for parents to strive to give children everything they want. It’s ideal for parents to teach their children to have reasonable goals and expectations and the tools to achieve them.
Question: What can I do to teach my child to stop his/her bad behaviors?
Answer: Model the behaviors you want from your children. Pay attention to them and let them know what you expect and how to follow through. Don’t be afraid to set limits or consequences for bad behavior. Be consistent. Be calm. Use whatever leverage you have as a reward or a consequence for the behavior you want to encourage or discourage. Use logical consequences in reasonable amounts. Always follow though. Don’t set up a situation where you only pay attention to misbehavior… give lots of positive interaction and feedback for the good behavior. Provide opportunities for good behavior. Give praise and thanks. Try to maintain a ratio of five positives to every negative interaction.
Question: Is it a problem that my partner and I disagree on some basic child-rearing practices?
Answer: It’s only a problem if it causes stress or hostility between you. It’s okay to have one parent be stricter and the other more lenient if it works out well within the family. The ideal is to have shared goals for your children, so that you are working toward the same things. Parents often have to have private discussions about how to handle certain issues with their kids. The best approach is to find a solution that works well enough for both parents and then stick with that. It’s not good if parents undermine each other. Not only does this confuse the child, it causes stress in the family and erodes the child’s sense of safety and security. Children are very sensitive to the idea that they are to blame for marital problems especially if they witness fighting and hostility about child rearing.
Question: Sometimes I lose my temper with my child and yell. Am I a bad parent and will this have a lasting negative effect on my child?
Answer: Most parents get mad or lose their tempers from time to time. If you think about the demands of parenthood, coupled with how little training and preparation we receive and the frequent pile of other life stresses that we are dealing with, it’s no wonder that sometimes we lose it. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes. The best thing you can do if that happens is take responsibility for your actions and apologize to the child. Sometimes, of course yelling is a very good thing… like when a child is running out toward the street. Some families are louder and more expressive with their feelings than others and so this is normal and not threatening for them. However, a steady diet of yelling or berating a child would not foster great self-esteem. Parents sometimes need to take a breather and calm down before they discuss a problem with a child in order to be clear, firm and appropriate. This is also great modeling for children to witness!
Question: My partner and I are not getting along very well. Is it better to stay together even though we’re unhappy or split up and give our child two happier parents?
Answer: Kids do best in intact families. However, if parents are openly hostile and having a lot of conflict it makes for a very unsettling environment for the children. I think staying together for the kids is a good choice only if the parents are committed to improving their relationship so that they are providing a good safe environment for themselves and their kids. That being said, kids aren’t that aware of or concerned about parents’ unhappiness as long as the parents are not being obvious about it. Again, it’s great modeling to work to resolve marital issues rather than (or even before) deciding to leave the relationship. When parents split up many kids lose their sense of home being a safe haven to return to. Many kids lose their sense of having a real home where they belong. Even when parental relationships end, every effort should be made to support the children and disrupt them as little as possible.
Question: How can I get my child to do what I want?
Answer: Model the behavior that you want. Give praise and positive feedback. Engage in the desired behavior with your child. Talk to the child about your expectations and why you have them. Point out how the desired behavior makes life easier, more pleasant, etc. so that the child understands why the behavior is desirable. Be consistent, be positive, be tuned-in to what your child is doing and find opportunities for praise. When children are very small paying attention to what they are doing and redirecting them rather than scolding them works well.
Question: I feel very alone in raising my children, other parents seem to be enjoying it more or doing a better job. What can I do to feel better about myself as a parent?
Answer: Child rearing is often a really big and scary job. We feel very responsible for doing a good job but we have so little training and sometimes had poor role models in our own families. Some of the things you can do to help you with this are: go to parenting workshops, read books on parenting, participate in play groups and drop-ins for parents & children in a similar age/situation to yours, confide in a trusted friend or family member, especially one who you admire as a parent, talk to a therapist. Sometimes having our own children awakes in us hurts that happened to us when we were children. If that happens to you it is a great idea to do some therapy/counseling to work through those issues and explore ways to limit the impact of them on your own parenting.
Question: Is family time important?
Answer: Yes! You want your family to operate like a unit, where each person can feel that they belong and have a safe place to return to. Spending time together as a family increases closeness and support for each member. Having fun together feels great. Dinner times spent together go a long way to keeping the lines of communication open. Talking, exploring, discussing, experiencing life together teaches children a lot about how much you value them and the world around you.
Question: Is couple time important?
Answer: Yes! A good couple connection increases everybody’s happiness. You and your partner will be happier and more relaxed if you still get your own needs met for closeness, support and intimacy. Children thrive in happy families. Think of couple time like putting your oxygen mask on… you need to have plenty of good clean air yourself before you can take good care of your kids.
Question: Is it important to have a set schedule or routine?
Answer: Yes, at least to some extent. Predictability is a great thing for people at most life stages. It’s good to know that there will be a good meal at a certain point in the day. It’s good to know that at a particular time, the kids will be in bed asleep and we can take a break. Most people do well with a certain amount of routine because it gives shape to the day. Some people like a really rigid schedule and some people like a looser schedule, choose what works best for you and then put it in place. If your schedule isn’t working then figure out why and let it evolve in to something that makes things work better for your family. It’s often helpful to take stock of what the goal is in order to find a way to put it into practice. (I want the kids in bed by 7:30 on school nights because they need their sleep. To do that I have to make sure supper is ready by 6 and the bedtime routine is started by 7. To do that I’ll have to have the house pretty quiet and calm from about 5:30 on. Maybe the kids can play in the backyard or watch TV between 5:30 and 6 and my partner can clean up the kitchen while I start the bedtime routine. I won’t try to fit other things in between 5:30 and 7:30 so I can really focus on the kids and help them unwind in time for bed).
Question: What do you think about the idea of the “family-bed” where the babies and young children sleep with the parents?
Answer: It’s a matter of personal preference. Some parents really like it because the children are close to them and they don’t have to get up out of bed at night. Some people think it fosters attachment security. Personally, I don’t think it’s great, certainly after the baby is about three months old, for a couple of reasons. The more people in the bed, the more risk of waking each other up, or interfering with each other’s sleep. Babies don’t learn to sooth themselves back to sleep if there is always a parent there to do it for them. Couples need to have alone time and to have space to be together without their children. Parents don’t need to go to bed as early as their children and children/babies need to go to bed earlier than parents/adults. I think that too often parents end up really exhausted and burned out because they are not getting enough rest and enough breaks from their children. This negatively impacts their relationships with each other, with their children, their family and friends and their work and other commitments. I think if this happens it adds too much stress to the family. To me its part of developing healthy self-esteem for a child to learn that they are safe in their home and their parents will come to them if they need them to but that they are also capable and competent to calm themselves down and go back to sleep. All of us need to learn how to soothe ourselves when we are tired or upset. That being said, of course if a baby or child is crying at night and not able to calm down on her own, parents need to be appropriately responsive and help the child with that.