My primary approach to individual psychotherapy is informed largely by Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP). The basic understanding of mental health disorders from an ISTDP perspective is this:
Human beings are social creatures. As such, our relationships, our attachments are critical to our health. Sometimes attachment bonds are damaged by things like loss of a loved one, abuse, or separation from parents as just a few examples. Damage to those attachments often trigger many emotions including love, grief, anger, and guilt. These emotions are either worked through and released or avoided and blocked up.
We might have learned to avoid unwanted feelings by becoming tense and worrying (anxiety), fearful of social situations (social anxiety), becoming hopeless and self-critical (depression), becoming physically ill (migraines, heart-burn, upset stomach), or turning to addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc).
Events later in life, such as divorce or death of a parent can often re-trigger old memories and the blocked up emotions connected to those old events. When we are faced with having to deal with the mixed feelings of both the present day and the past our symptoms of anxiety, depression, or relationship difficulties get worse.
There are two major goals in therapy:
1) Help you see the automatic ways you avoid mixed, often painful feelings, and
2) Work through these avoided feelings in order to release them
Once those emotions are worked through we no longer need to engage in avoidance behaviours because we no longer fear the memories or the emotions and the presenting symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc. subside.
ISTDP can be a very challenging form of therapy, but in my experience it is an excellent format for Physical Symptoms (often referred to as Somatic Symptom Disorders) and it is capable of producing rapid and sustained relief from the physical manifestations of emotional distress, including: tension headaches, migraines, Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS), Fibromyalgia, muscle weakness, fatigue, tic disorders, and some forms of cognitive difficulties. It is also very effective for many mental health difficulties, including – Anxiety, Depression, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), personality disorders, interpersonal difficulties, and many more.
In my experience, most relationship difficulties stem from communication challenges. One or both partners feel unseen, unheard, and not valued. Frequently, the sense of trust and safety has been broken and needs to be repaired.
My approach to couples therapy integrates Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) and a Systems Approach. In other words, we will aim to understand how each individual in the relationship tends to react when their own sense of safety is threatened and how those reactions affect their partner. We can then begin to find ways to open lines of communication and re-establish the bond that brought you together in the first place.
There are many different ways that the brain can be damaged – a car accident, a stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, depression, and more. Brain injuries often affect our thinking abilities and can interfere with normal activities such as going to work, paying bills, reading, or even remembering conversations with loved ones.
It is possible to improve our ability to pay attention, remember, and complete our daily activities through brain training exercises. Cognitive repair treatment programs involve:
pin pointing your specific thinking difficulties (e.g., can’t remember what I read, can’t cook a meal).
Working together to find out which strategies work best for you - one size does not fit all.
set regular homework to practice using the newly learned strategies in your everyday life.
Cognitive repair needs a lot of practice to be effective, but with time it can really help you improve your thinking skills, improve your self-confidence, and increase your independence.