5 Tips for Overcoming Issues in a Blended Family

5 Tips for Overcoming Issues in a Blended Family 

Maintaining a happy and healthy relationship in any kind of family has its challenges, but blending two or more families comes with its own set of unique problems. It can take a long time for stepfamilies to get used to each other and this new family unit. 

The beginning years can be especially challenging since the new couples are getting to know each other and developing their own relationship, as well as their relationship with their biological children and their step children. That’s a lot going on! However there are steps that you can take to work through these challenges. 

Here are 5 tips that can help you overcome some of the issues you may face with your blended family: 

  1. Communication

Try not to hold things in. This is all new and very likely you are going to have differing needs than your partner. Share them. Don’t hold them in or this can lead to resentment later. 

2. Be a Team

Family meetings can help. Once a week commit to a family meeting. Start by sharing what went well this week. And then everyone gets to speak about an issue that has come up. End the meeting with something fun, like a game or a nice meal. 

3. Keep Perspective

It is important that you try to understand each other’s perspective and not force each other to blend to your ideals. While it may take long for your families to truly bond, it is better to take your time learning about each other instead of moving too quickly. 

4. Stay Connected 

Staying connected is essential for being unified as a blended family. You can do this by sharing hobbies and interests, periodic check-in conversations and regular date nights away from the children to keep your relationship romantic and deeply connected. 

5. Seek couple’s and family counselling

Couple and family counselling can help provide tools to strengthen your relationships. Not only would it help you solve problems as they arise, but it can also work as a preventative measure from future conflicts between your family. We are here to help. 

Book a free consult: https://torontoneurofeedback.janeapp.com/

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How to Convince your Partner to go to Couples Counselling

Have you been thinking of couples therapy but putting it off? Couples counselling unfortunately carries a stigma in our society. It can sometimes be associated with failure to succeed in maintaining a good relationship. It can also be intimidating because you or your partner don’t know what to expect. Because couples counselling is more effective when one has an open mind to it, overcoming this stigma is important.

It is essential that you let your partner know that therapy is a safe and intentional space where you work through your issues and move towards a better future. Unlike family members who have a tendency to take sides during times of frustration, the goal of a good couple’s counsellor is to help illuminate both sides of a situation and hear from both parties without judgment. 

In order to convince your partner to go to couple’s counselling, it is important for you to point out the many benefits it has for your relationship. One of the benefits is that it can help improve communication, where the therapist encourages you to be more receptive to each other’s words, feelings and thoughts and express your emotions in a healthy way. Building your communication skills with your partner can help you resolve conflicts as they happen. A couple’s counselor can teach you conflict resolution techniques that you can practice in the safe environment of couples therapy, which you can then apply to your relationship. 

A common problem between partners is the lack of appreciation for each other’s efforts. Couples counselling can help lead you to a better appreciation between you and your partner by helping you identify the effort that either of you exert, thereby helping you to become more appreciative of the determination it takes to make the relationship work. 

It is also important that you let your partner know that couples counselling can be a preventative measure. It can give you the tools for the proper maintenance of your  relationship so problematic patterns do not develop. It can also help you find ways to give emotional support to your partner so you can avoid bigger problems later on. 

Most couples wait too late to go to therapy. Click here to book a free consultation at the Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre.

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What is Neurofeedback?

The human brain is made of more than 100 billion neurons that communicate with each other using trillions of connections. Holding this 3 pound organ, it’s humbling to realize how this bundle of cells defines our existence. The brilliance of this structure is its ability to soak up the information from our surroundings consciously (explicitly) and subconsciously (implicitly) to adapt and learn. This ability of the brain is defined as neuroplasticity, achieved by new or changed electrochemical connections. 

Neurofeedback harnesses the principles of neuroplasticity to help you take control of your mind and self-regulation. It is a sophisticated, non-medication form of treatment that teaches self control to the brain using the principles of operant conditioning (aka reward based training).  

While the principles of neurofeedback have been in practise for many many years, the modern protocols were first established using evidence-based research originated in the 1960s. Pioneering research completed by Barry Sterman and Wanda Wyrwicka showed individuals can consciously learn to alter brain waves. Initially discovered by ‘accident’ while studying cats and sleep patterns and subsequently in the study of seizures, neurofeedback  has since been shown effective for a multitude  of conditions.  These conditions include ADHD, Anxiety, PTSD and learning disabilities. Neurofeedback has also been used to improve cognition and balance in older populations and improve peak performance in elite athletes. 

At its core, the process of neurofeedback involves utilizing EEG feedback to help  you alter your  own  brain function. While looking  at a computer screen and attempting to ‘control’ what you see on the screen, your brain is actually learning to  regulate its own brain activity. This is through the sensors placed on your scalp  that are  recording your EEG data in real time. This data is  presented to you through different computer tasks or games. You receive both visual and audio cues to inform you when your brain is making positive changes towards regulation or when it is defaulting back into dysregulation. For example, if the treatment goal is to decrease anxiety, your brain may be rewarded when it reduces some fast wave (e.g., high beta) activity. Your brain will both learn implicitly and explicitly and in the process of learning, it brings awareness of your body and mind as well as real life changes (e.g., relaxation, focus, mood regulation). 

At Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre, we have an intake process that allows Dr. Presniak and her team to first start with gathering your clinical history and goals, followed by a QEEG brain  mapping assessment that helps the team see how your EEG functioning may relate to your  symptoms. Together,  this information allows for a systematic, clinical and evidence -based  development of a treatment plan.  Your neurofeedback treatment is tailored to meet your specific needs and goals. 

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How To Find The Right Therapist For You

While there are a lot of therapists offering their services, finding someone you like can take a lot of effort, especially if you have never seen a therapist before. Here are some of the more important issues you should consider when picking a new therapist:

  • Is the therapist licensed? Each province is responsible for making sure therapists are competent to provide their services. Only those with proper training receive a license.
  • If you have health insurance, will it cover the therapy from this provider?
  • Are there limits to the number of sessions covered by your insurance?

A good website for locating psychologists and psychotherapists is Psychology Today. Another way is to ask friends or your family doctor to suggest someone they trust. While it is not too difficult to find the names of therapists in your area through these means, it may take more time and effort to find a therapist that you consider to be a good fit for you. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Call the therapist’s office to find out if the therapist you are interested in is familiar with evidence-based treatments in their practice that is best suited to address your concerns. Ask whether the therapist has had experience in dealing with your specific concerns. Find out, if possible, how much experience they have. Many therapists offer a free consultation call that you can book prior to your first appointment in order to discuss these issues.
  • Find out in advance what the fees are, the charge for missed appointments and how long the therapy might take.
  • Find out where the therapist is located and what hours are available for your treatment.
  • Find out what kind of therapy your potential therapist is likely to provide (for example, individual or group therapy, virtual or in-person therapy) and see if that fits your expectations.
  • Remember that choosing a therapist is a very personal matter. There is no one therapist that is a good fit for everyone. It is important that you feel a sense of trust and that this therapist can help you.

After you have gathered all of this information, or as much as you have been able to obtain, give yourself a little time to think about all this. You may want to set up initial appointments with one or two potential therapists and see how comfortable you are with them. Take the time to find the right therapist for you.

The Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre offers psychotherapy services with several qualified practitioners. Click here to book a free consultation today!

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Try Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help you stay calm during the COVID-19 pandemic

A recent survey done by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of Mental Health Research Canada has found that anxiety levels among Canadians has quadrupled since the beginning of the pandemic. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 61% of those surveyed said that they have experienced some or more anxiety, which is a jump from the 28% who said that they had some anxiety before COVID-19.  In times like these, it is more important than ever to be diligent about your mental health.

ACT therapy is a well known method used to treat stress and anxiety.  It is a mindfulness-based behavioural therapy where you learn to accept your inner thoughts and feelings instead of suppressing them, allowing you to face your problems head on while also employing methods to solve them. ACT uses 6 core processes in order to achieve this: 

1. Acceptance 

Through ACT you learn to embrace all of your experiences, including the unwanted ones.

Example: Accepting that while you are confident person, you have certain insecurities that weigh you down.

2. Cognitive Defusion 

This method of ACT requires you to stand back from yourself, and take a look at your thoughts in an objective way. Defusion means noticing your thinking processes, without trying to alter them.

Example: You might occasionally have intrusive thoughts about losing a loved one. Instead of stopping the thoughts, you acknowledge their presence while realizing that these thoughts are not reality. 

3. Self in Context

This component of ACT is seeing yourself in a context, which means that you get in touch with your sense of self and be observant of who you are which is distinct from your own thoughts and memories.

Example: You reflect on your life and your upbringing and see how it may or may not influence experiences in the future. 

4. Values

ACT teaches you to recognize what matters to you the most and what you truly want your life to be about. 

Examples include Relationships, friendships, your career and so forth. 

5. Being Present

ACTs goal is to have you experience the world more directly so that your behaviour is more flexible and consistent with the values that you hold. It emphasizes living in here and now and being aware of your experiences as they happen at this very moment in time. 

Example: While taking a walk in the park, you notice the sun shining in the clear blue sky. And in your mind you say to yourself: I see the sun, and I feel the pleasant warmth on my face.  

6. Committed Action

This means to make concrete goals in order to do the things that bring value to your life.

Examples include starting your own blog, learning to meditate, or going to bed earlier. 

The Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre offers ACT therapy services. Click here to book your appointment today!

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3 Ways Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Can Help Improve Your Mental Health

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that utilizes a cognitive-behavioural approach in helping people learn new skills and strategies so they can build better lives. It is an evidence-based method for treating several mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Through DBT, you can learn how to change the behaviour patterns that you are struggling with by applying the following strategies:

1.       Distress Tolerance

By working with a DBT therapist, you can develop distress tolerance, which is an essential skill for coping with a stressful time in your life. Some of the important distress tolerance strategies you learn through DBT are called TIPP Skills:

T stands for Tip the Temperature: Guickly changing the temperature of your face and body by putting an ice pack on your cheeks or splashing cold water on your face will cause a sudden drop in your temperature and cause your pulse to drop, thereby relaxing your body.

I stands for Intense Exercise: When suddenly engaging in aerobic activity, your mind will get distracted from the emotional distress and focus instead on the physical activity.

P stands for Paced Breathing: Slowing down and focusing on your breathing will help calm down your body.

And the final P stands for Paired Muscle Relaxation: Starting from head to toe, tense and release each major muscle group for 5 seconds. Paying attention to the tension and relaxation of each muscle while breathing deeply. This can help slowly bring your heart rate down.

The TIPP skills can help improve your ability to regulate strong emotions, manage stressful situations and feel better. Working with a DBT therapist will ensure that you are applying these steps properly and eventually mastering the skill of distress tolerance.

2.       Interpersonal Effectiveness

Learning about interpersonal effectiveness through DBT can help improve the way that you communicate with others. This skill is important because how you communicate with others has an impact on the quality of your relationships with those around you. DBT teaches how to communicate with others in a thoughtful and deliberate way as opposed to reacting impulsively due to stress or intense emotions. Two of the main components of interpersonal effectiveness are the ability to ask for things when you are in need and the ability to say no. These skills can help you get and keep important relationships which can have a positive effect on your mental health.

3.       Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another important technique that you can learn through DBT that helps with your emotional regulation. Mindfulness means paying attention to what is in the present, and then accepting it. When you practice mindfulness, you can take control of your mind instead of having your mind control you. Mindfulness exercises you learn through DTB can help distract you from emotional distress and live a calmer and happier life.

The Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre offers DBT therapy. You are not alone. Book a free 20 minute phone consultation today.

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6 Ways to Cope with COVID-19

It is normal to have feelings of stress, being constantly on edge or being hyper vigilant during the outbreak of corona virus (COVID-19). Whether your children are out of school or you are out of work, making the best decision for you and your family is key to managing anxiety during this time. Here are 6 strategies that can help you reduce anxiety as you deal with the  COVID-19 pandemic: 

Keep A Routine

During these uncertain times, it can be very helpful to have a sense of control of what is going on in your daily life. Keeping a routine can cultivate positive daily habits for prioritizing self-care, such as making time for things that are most important to you. Practicing these self care habits daily can make it easier to keep up with them because they will become your new normal.

Eat Well Balanced Meals

Simple things from skipping meals to having too much caffeine can affect your levels of stress and anxiety. A large part of practicing self care is to nourish your body properly, so it is important for you to not skip meals even in times of stress. It can also be easy to overindulge in some unhealthy foods while spending long periods at home because you have easy access. Instead, try eating nutrient rich foods that will help improve your mood, energy and your immune system.

Exercise

Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. While many of the gyms are closed during this time, you can find ways to exercise at home through work out videos or going out for a simple walk in the park. Doing this can also help give you more energy and have better sleep.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness means having the ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings and not being overly reactive and overwhelmed by what is going on around us. We can do this by incorporating meditation into our daily routine which helps restore balance, has us feel less stressed and think clearer.

Stay Connected

While a lot of us are practicing social distancing to fight the spread of corona virus, it is important that we reach out and connect with our loved ones via phone call, a text or a video chat. Talking to people in your life that you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling can positively impact your mental well being. 

Get Professional Help

Most therapists in Toronto, and throughout Ontario, are now offering virtual therapy on phone or video. It can help speaking to a professional who can  give you tools to get you through this difficult time. If you don’t have a lot of privacy right now in your home try going for a walk and talk. Grab your phone and treat yourself to some fresh air and support.

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Treating PTSD with Cognitive Processing Therapy




Many individuals are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a daily basis. The experience of a trauma can be difficult to process and can lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, fear, and panic, an inability to focus and concentrate, loss of self-control, avoidance behaviour and social withdrawal, flashbacks to the traumatic event, and in severe cases thoughts of suicide. Treatment to reduce symptoms can help individuals return to normal functioning and prevent symptoms from worsening over time.

At the Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre located in Etobicoke, Ontario, we offer Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) to treat PTSD. CPT is an evidence-based treatment that is effective in treating individuals diagnosed with PTSD or struggling with stress symptoms associated with traumatic events. This includes, but is not limited to, work-related trauma as may be experienced by first responders, child abuse, rape, and major life-threatening accidents. This type of cognitive-behavioural therapy focuses on client goals as well as their thoughts, emotions, behaviour, and physiological responses to reduce trauma symptoms and improve psychological well-being. CPT uses a combination of assessments, psychoeducation, worksheets, and homework to help clients challenge and alter unhelpful beliefs and thoughts related to their traumatic event and modify their behaviour, while promoting a new and healthier understanding of their lived experience.

It is highly recommended that clients commit to 12 weekly therapy sessions to get the most benefit out of the therapeutic process. Reach out to our office to find out more or book your first session with one of our therapists.


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EMDR, PTSD and Neurofeedback

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects the lives of many across the world. In Canada alone 9.2% of individuals will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetimes and many more will suffer from symptoms associated with trauma exposure. Experiencing a trauma can leave an impression on the brain and body triggering emotional and physiological responses. These can include feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, fear, and panic, an inability to focus and concentrate, loss of self-control, avoidance behaviour and social withdrawal, flashbacks to the traumatic event, and in severe cases thoughts of suicide. Individuals may also experience physical symptoms like sweating, heart pounding or racing, headaches, and muscle cramps especially when triggered or recalling memories of the traumatic event. Treating PTSD by targeting the body, brain and mind can result in successful reduction of many of these symptoms. If not treated, symptoms can worsen over time and have a devastating impact on daily functioning, relationships, and life in general.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score, provides a wonderful account of his work with real-life trauma experiences, a worthy explanation of changes that occur in the traumatized brain and body, as well as a description of the evolution of trauma treatment. Dr. van der Kolk highlights two trauma-specific interventions that have gained popularity and success in the treatment of trauma symptoms in recent years, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and neurofeedback.

EMDR is a type of psychotherapy that can help you process the memories associated with your trauma. The goal is for you to no longer find the experience distressing. In sessions, you will work with a therapist who assists you in engaging in a series of eye movements while recalling and focusing on specific details of the traumatic memory. Through EMDR, the memory becomes less pervasive and intense as it becomes integrated with other memories of the past.

Common results of EMDR sessions include:

  • Reduction in distress and flashbacks brought on by the memory
  • Diminished emotional and physical symptoms
  • Improvement in daily functioning and living and interpersonal relationships
  • An ability to recall the traumatic event without being triggered
  • Improved stress management

Just like EMDR, neurofeedback can help you recover and heal from your trauma. When you experience a traumatic event, there are changes that occur in their central nervous system and body. Brain patterns and frequencies are rewired and dysregulated which affects trauma symptoms. Neurofeedback works by gently pushing the brain out of stuck patterns and stabilizing the brain and thus weakens the client’s response to the trauma. It does this by focusing on brain wave frequencies and sends a slightly different frequency back to the brain. For a few seconds, the brain is given something to do by copying the new frequency. After a few sessions of neurofeedback, clients may begin to experience the following:

  • Improvement in executive functioning (i.e. improved ability to plan and organize activities, move from one task to another with more ease, improved and clearer focus, attention, and concentration)
  • Improvement in sleep and reduction in flashbacks and nightmares related to trauma
  • Reduction in thought looping
  • Reduced emotional and physical symptoms associated with the trauma
  • Improved control over one’s emotions

EMDR and neurofeedback have been found to be effective in treating PTSD and trauma symptoms even when compared to other forms of trauma treatment like medications. One major benefit to EMDR and neurofeedback treatments is that clients experience little to no side effects and the approaches are considered safe. At Nicole McCance Psychology and the Toronto Neurofeedback  and Psychotherapy Centre, we are pleased to offer our clients struggling with trauma the option of EMDR therapy, neurofeedback, or a combined therapeutic approach.  

“Unlike other forms of psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality.” 
― Bessel A. van der Kolk,

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What is Play Therapy?

Play has always been an essential part of child development and is the main communication tool for children. Since play is a natural form of self-expression it can be utilized as a way of working therapeutically with children that are experiencing behavioural and emotional difficulties.

Play therapy incorporates many activities called ‘tools’ for children to utilize which help them express themselves and process events in their lives. Some of these ‘tools’ include art, sand, role play, and music. Using these tools, play therapy allows the child the opportunity to play out their feelings and problems. For children to partake in play therapy, they do not need to be able to verbally share what is happening for them, their world is expressed through their play!

Virginia Mae Axline (1911-1988), an American psychologist and a pioneer of play therapy, is known for the non-directive technique and establishing eight key principles for the therapist to follow. With this technique the therapist supports the child in being able to process their experiences at their own pace in a non-overwhelming manner. The therapist creates a therapeutic rapport which provides the children with acceptance, helping the child feel capable within themselves, and supports the child in gaining insights. Non-directive play therapy creates an approachable therapy for children to engage in.  Helping them feel confident, find their voice and process the tough stuff in life!

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