common issues in my practice
We can find ourselves having grown up learning limited tools for dealing with difficult emotions like anger, grief, or insecurity. Sometimes life throws so much at us, our resources to cope become depleted. We may feel ourselves shutting down around the negative emotion, acting out impulsively, or overwhelmed.
Anxiety and depression are related, and generally involve negative thoughts or feelings crowding out other things that are important to us, like our relationships, work, hobbies and health. When we are struggling with anxiety or depression, we may find that we are spending more and more of our time trying to manage our negative thoughts or feelings and less and less of our time engaged with other areas of life.
You may feel anxiety most in your body, in the form of tension, agitation, stress, difficulty sleeping, breathing, or other health issues. You could notice it more in the way you are thinking: worrying, obsessing, panic, procrastinating, difficulty in concentrating or making decisions. Emotionally, you may feel high strung or irritable. Sometimes it can be hard to notice anxiety, until you realize that you are missing out on things you value because you are trying to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
Depression may involve feelings of sadness, numbness, hopelessness, guilt, shame, or smouldering anger. You may find that your thoughts are stuck in a negative loop. You may have difficultly concentrating or making decisions. Physically, depression can involve changes in sleep, eating, intimacy, and a lack of energy or interest. You may find that you fluctuate from numbness to agitation and back again. You may be experiencing thoughts of self-harm. You may notice that you are retreating more and more from the things you care about and that your range of emotions is shrinking.
Psychotherapy provides a safe supportive environment to get closer to the difficult emotions, learn about them, and build compassionate habits of self-care that can transform the role emotions play in your life.
Trauma involves reactions that happen in our nervous system when we have survived or witnessed a life-threatening or deeply disturbing experience (or series of experiences).
In response to trauma, our bodies and brains undergo changes designed to keep us safe. Unfortunately, the changes that evolved to protect us have troubling side effects. They leave us anxious and easily “triggered” into acting out or shutting down. We will experience unwanted flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive thoughts about the event(s). We may avoid activities and relationships and have difficulty connecting with ourselves and with others. It can feel incredibly isolating to be a survivor, thinking that no one will want to hear about your experience, or be able to understand it, feeling shame about it, frustrated that you can’t seem to “get over it and move on.” You may feel that something in your past experience or in your body needs attention, but not know how to approach it without being overwhelmed.
Recovery from trauma involves working with these physical and neurological reactions to gradually retrain the body-mind to feel safety and trust.
Psychotherapy provides a safe environment and a safe relationship to do this. A trauma therapist will help you cope with the effects, and target the trauma that often underlies other issues including depression, anxiety, self-esteem or relationship problems. In the face of racialized, discriminatory or sexual traumas, it is revolutionary to embody joy.
Living in a culture that surrounds us with judgment, we internalize these judgments in the way we learn to talk to ourselves. Inside of us are negative messages absorbed from our upbringing, education, media, and bullies, perpetuating feelings of shame and self-doubt. This is especially the case when we have survived assault or abuse, or when we experience discrimination. It can be transformative to start seeing these thoughts as just thoughts, and actively practice self-kindness and self-trust. Psychotherapy can help you stay in contact with your goals while treating yourself with love and respect.
Change is a fact of life, and sometimes it is something we welcome with open arms. Often however, it can leave us in a lurch, confused about who we are and what we want, unsure, upset or angry about our choices, or lack of choice. We lose loved ones. We struggle when a relationship ends, when we experience a change in health or ability, a change in employment, or we when move to a new city or a new country. We will often struggle with what we tend to think of as “good” changes such as coming out, retiring or becoming a parent. Life transitions will involve some grief, a period of uncertainty, and also a creative process – getting to know yourself again and nurturing a new identity.
Whether with partners, family members, friends, coworkers or others, relationships are powerful mirrors that show us where we excel and also where we feel most stuck, hurt, or confused. Relationships stir up questions of trust, power, identity, and direction. They dare us to be vulnerable and also to develop and communicate our boundaries. One of our greatest human challenges is to negotiate conflict while maintaining loving respect for each other.
Therapy offers a unique environment where these questions can be addressed and these skills developed.