Mom! He Hit Me!

Sibling fights are right up there on the list of parental pet peeves. It can be annoying to hear your kids fighting in another room, and it can be agonizing to hear how they treat each other. I remember reading somewhere that research shows that siblings between the ages of 6-12 years fight on average every 10-20 minutes. Eek. If there is a silver lining to this research, though, it is the awareness that it’s not just your kids – all parents know this struggle!

If we think about the goals of misbehavior and why kids do what they do, fighting between siblings pretty much always falls into the “attention” category.  Who can ignore WWIII breaking out in your family room? Your kids are well aware of that. Don’t think that they haven’t come to rely on your speedy response to their crazymaking. As a child, if you’re not getting your way, when Mom or Dad comes in, at least the playing field is level again. You now stand a chance of coming out on top after they make their decisions about who was in the wrong and what’s going to happen now.

One of the best ways of handling sibling fights is to simply stay out of them. Let everyone know at your next family meeting that your intention is to not interfere with their disagreements because you have faith in their ability to sort out their own problems. Then you need to follow through and allow them to actually do it, regardless of what method of conflict resolution they take.

If this approach gets particularly tense and leads to some sort of physical means of resolving the issue, there may be value in letting them sort it out themselves. For example, an effective way of learning that you shouldn’t hit your sister is getting hit right back. But if you do decide to step in, do it in a different way than you have in the past. Be calm, treat them all the same, don’t get involved, and give everyone choices. “I’ll take the toy/game/tv remote and when you guys can sort out who gets to take a turn first/who gets to roll first/what channel to watch, come and get it from me. I’ll be downstairs making dinner/folding laundry/cleaning the bathroom, and if you can’t decide, you’re welcome to come and help me.” Not only does this method encourage them to sort out their own problems through (hopefully) communication and compromise, it also sends the message that they are in this together and that you won’t get involved. With you as a common enemy, instead of the judge and jury, they are more likely to be motivated to work through their issues together and reach a middle ground everyone can live with.

If they’re really struggling to find a solution they’re both content with, put it on the agenda for your next family meeting, and work at solving it as a family. Talk through some basic problem solving and conflict resolution skills, tailored to the age of your children, and walk them through the process of solving this problem together. With practice, they’ll pick up on the steps they’ll need to apply to solve other problems between them.

While this strategy may not eliminate fighting between kids altogether, it will certainly help keep the conflict from getting beyond the point where they can resolve it themselves, and it will keep you from having to wade into the middle to rescue everyone, every time it happens.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

Andrea Ramsay Speers, M.A. is a Psychotherapist practicing in Oakville. Her entire practice is built around one purpose: helping people enjoy their families more, whether that means coaching parents in learning new parenting tools, increasing connection and harmony between couples, improving relationships with teenagers, or helping individuals overcome their feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety and start enjoying their lives again. She can be found online at www.OakvilleFamilyInstitute.com.

The First Time I Realized Something was Wrong (PTSD)

downloadI didn’t fully understand everything that went on during my childhood, until I moved out and started college. As a child, I thought that my parent’s yelling, fighting and the physical abuse was how every family was. I remember trying to talk to a counselor in high school about it, but I don’t think they took me seriously. The counselor probably thought that my stories were a bit exaggerated and didn’t want to believe that it could have happened.

It was only when I started college and was away from home for 4 years, that I realized something was wrong. My surroundings seemed too quiet, as there was no longer any fighting in the background. I found I had to sleep with a radio or a fan on to drown out the silence. Most people like silence, but for me the silence would make me have nightmares and they would be the same ones over and over again. I ended up sleeping with some kind of background noise for years afterwards.

After college, I moved back home and got a job in my field of study, which was good. But eventually, I found myself applying for more jobs. I ended up with 5 part time jobs just so I could fill up my time and avoid being at home. I found that things between my parents were very different, as they grew distant from each other. My dad would stay in his room for days at a time and when my parents did speak, it was brief and at times not very pleasant.

My father passed away in 2004 and shortly after I noticed things about myself changing. I was having nightmares again and I was blaming myself for his death. I was feeling like I didn’t help him enough with his Bipolar. It became hard to sleep and I would have flashbacks of certain incidents, which were easily triggered by things in my surrounding, such as seeing certain things on the television. I dealt with all this on my own for years after his death, since I found it difficult to talk to my family.

It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I stopped having nightmares and stopped sleeping with the radio on. There are still certain scenes in a movie or a television show that I cannot watch because it brings me back to a bad place, but I no longer carry the guilt of my father’s death. I have also since repaired my relationship with my family and we now have a great relationship.

Although I haven’t been officially diagnosed, I’ve been told I live with the symptoms of PTSD and I’m not ashamed. The PTSD is a result of what I’ve seen and heard within my house. Over the years I have developed strategies for how to deal with certain things. I want to bring awareness to mental health issues and I want you to know that it’s okay to talk about your experiences. I found that writing and sharing my stories helps me and it reminds me that I am never alone.

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

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Tips on how to Survive a Long Distance Relationship

imagesMy husband and I shared a long distance relationship for a year before we got married. Most of what I am writing today is in retrospect of our experiences. It is undoubtedly tough to sustain a long distance relationship, but it is not impossible.

The challenge in a long distance relationship comes from managing our lives in the real world and making time for each other virtually, as well as keeping track of the time differences. As testing as it may sound, long distance relationships help strengthen the bond between a couple as it encourages effective communication, which is the foundation of any strong relationship. In a long distance relationship it can be easy to become attached to your phone, as it’s the only way of communicating with your partner. However, just like any other relationship, it’s important for you to set boundaries for yourself in order for you to form healthy habits.

Here are some tips that worked for us, and hopefully they come in handy for you too!

1. Break-Up with your Phone.

We tend to get busy with work and school, so when socializing with friends and family, take a break from your phone and enjoy their company. A lot of times, especially during the initial stages of a relationship, your partner becomes the center of your universes and all you want to do is to spend every waking minute talking to him/her. It helps to be mindful of the company you are in and not be on your phone all the time. Drop your partner a text saying you are out with company and will call him/her as soon as you are done.

Having some time alone, or “me time,” applies as much for couples in a long distance relationship as it does for any other couple. A lot of times, couples in long distance relationship struggle to understand the need for “me” time because they are not physically together. It is healthy to have some time alone to do what you enjoy and recharge, be it, watching your favorite soccer game or reading a book without checking your phone in-between. Having some time to yourself is just as important in a long distance relationship as it is in a regular relationship.

Long distance relationships, for the most part, give you the opportunity to prioritize your time well, allowing you to make time for yourself, your friends, your family and your partner.

2. Fighting Long Distance.

Having an argument with your partner can be emotionally draining as it is, but adding long distance to the equation can make it a lot more challenging. When having an argument with your partner in a long distance relationship, it is always better to talk it out over a video-chat or phone call versus texting. Texting, as convenient as it is, could be the reason why a lot of couples get into arguments because it allows room for misinterpretation.

As with everything else, long distance relationships have evolved with time. From writing letters and sending it by post to WhatsApp messaging, calling and video chats, technology has given couples the opportunity to be present without actually having to be present. What helped my husband (then boyfriend) and I to get through our distance was planning our next visit and what we would do together. This gave us the strength we needed to go on with our relationship and have something to look forward to.

 

LOVING SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS AND VALENTINE’S DAY

downloadValentine’s Day is here and it’s a day to express love and affection towards family, friends and loved ones. It’s an emotional day for most, but it can be a frustrating day for others, especially for those living with a mental illness.

I remember the first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend. Even though it was a new relationship and we were just getting to know each other, we treated Valentine’s Day just like any other day. For me it was a day to show affection, but not it wasn’t for him. You see, my boyfriend lives with a mental illness and when he first moved in, 2 months prior, I discovered that he was not on any medication and as a result he couldn’t tell me how he felt. I didn’t completely understand then, but I do now.

He lives with clinical depression and with that comes sleeping all day, not wanting to do anything or go anywhere, and emotions are put on hold (don’t want to laugh and don’t know how or what to feel). He also lives with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which adds anxiety to the depression. Now you add dealing with the fear of going outside and the fear of talking to someone (you don’t want to text, call or email anyone). When you’re in a relationship you may also see paranoia, at least I did. He would ask me questions like “Do you love me?” “Why do you love me?” “Why don’t you find someone else, someone with a stable mind?”

Something else that I noticed, was that he couldn’t be touched when he was upset, anxious or panicky. The best thing I could do in those situations was to just talk to him and provide reassurance. What helped me the most was reading all I could on other people’s experiences of mental illness. I found it helped me to better understand him and his needs.

I’m not afraid to say it was a rough year, but it was worth it. We made it through. For the past 2 years now, he has been going to therapy and taking his medication, and we couldn’t be happier.

If you have a loved one that lives with a mental illness, I have some advice for you:

1. Please be patient. I know it can be frustrating and upsetting, but it will be worth it.

2. Your loved one will need reassurance. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them even though they may not be able to express the same back to you.

3. Be sure to take time for yourself. What you’re experiencing may drain you mentally.

Overall, just remember that Valentine’s Day might look different for you and your partner, but the important thing is that you’re with your loved one and that you do love them and see them for who they are and not their mental illness. Also remember that they DO love you, even if they don’t always express it.

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

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Why Valentine’s Day can make you feel Anxious

170112799Valentine’s day is a day dedicated to celebrating LOVE with those closest to you. However, for a lot of us without relationships this can be a day filled with fear, anxiety, and sadness because we might feel like we don’t have anyone to celebrate with. Even for those of us in a relationship, this day may create a lot of stress and anxiety. It can be confusing to have these thoughts and feelings when you are in a happy relationship and feel pressured to be happy and exude feelings of love. I will be exploring some of the reasons for these thoughts and suggesting ways to combat them to prevent them from becoming harmful to you/your partner.

1. You FEEL pressured to be a perfect couple and have the PERFECT date.

Both in the mass media and on our social media feeds we are constantly being flooded with pictures and images of ‘happy’ couples, decadent gifts, extravagant dates, etc. These images can make us feel like we need to live up to these standards in order for our relationship to be worth something. Trying to live up to these high standards is unrealistic and can be a source of stress and anxiety. Just as in other aspects of the media, the misconceived notion that happiness is about money and material wealth is a lie. I encourage you to stay true to yourself and your partner and do something you both want/love to do, rather than trying to show the world how ‘perfect’ your relationship is. That could mean going to the movies, going out for dinner, or even staying in and ordering a pizza in your PJ’s. At the end of the day, whatever you end up choosing, you will always have fun together!

2. You FEEL pressured to show your loved one you care.

The very reason for the day is to express the love we always feel for our partners (also, family, friends, etc.). For some of the same reasons as above, Valentine’s Day can put pressure on us to find a way to go above and beyond in expressing our love. We have to plan the perfect date, pick out the perfect gift, and even ensure that the ‘I love you’ message we give or send to our partner is perfect. Some of us rely solely on the material objects to convey this message, while others also want to say it or write it in a note or card. Don’t get hung up on what to say or how much to say, just write down how you truly feel. Remember that this isn’t a test or a contest between you and other couples, or even between the two of you. Anything you could possibly say in a card on Valentine’s Day, I’m sure you’ve already said to your partner and will continue to express through the course of your relationship. Valentine’s Day should not be a day to measure your commitment to your partner, but more of a fun day to self-indulge!

3. You FEEL like a bad partner if you don’t do something for them/you don’t know what to do.

Wanting to do something nice for your partner isn’t a bad thing at all. The only time this can feel uneasy is when you feel uncertain of what they’d like or uncertain if they’ll receive the message that you care and want them to feel loved. My advice would be to NOT overthink it. If you know your partner well enough, you’re bound to know a few things or dates that they’d like. All in all, I’m sure your partner will be happy simply with the idea that you thought about them and put time into planning a date or getting a gift, regardless of what you choose. If your partner is hung up on what you chose, there could be a reason for this. Do you express feelings solely through gifts, did you both set a limit that was or wasn’t met, or do they value your relationship only on gifts and dates, and not actual feelings? These are all questions that hopefully you don’t need to answer, but can be helpful if your partner is really unhappy when you try to do something nice for them.

The bottom line is: KEEP IT SIMPLE and HAVE FUN! If you’re single, take the day to treat yourself and relax! And if you’re in a relationship just tell your partner what you always do, that you love them, and be authentic if you are giving them a gift or going out. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By: Sarah Morrone

Sarah Morrone lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is an aspiring teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Life has taken her on a little detour and is currently managing a cosmetics shop while writing, painting, and getting to know herself.

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Mental Illness Portrayed in the Media

thumbnail_24715Chances are the majority of knowledge of mental health comes from the media. Researchers have suggested that most portrayals in the media are stereotypical, negative and incorrect. Stigma towards mental health has been in the media as far back as the 1800’s, with a prime example of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” depicting Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which was formerly called split personality disorder or multiple personality disorder. An inaccurate portrayal of people with mental illness has created negative stereotypes in all types of media (internet, television, and print material such as magazines and newspapers).

In most cases, the psycho killers, crazy girlfriends/boyfriends, stalkers and criminals all have some kind of mental illness, according to Hollywood. All too often, this results in a culture of fear and ignorance towards mental illness resulting in stigma. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that the majority of people living with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence, rather than being the perpetrators of the violence. However, popular TV shows like “Criminal Minds” that depict crimes being committed by people with mental illness only help reinforce this stereotype and continues to create a universal fear. Sometimes the stigma attached to mental illness is so strong that people are unwilling to seek help out of fear of what others may think.

The current movie “Split,” which came out in theatres on January 20, 2017, has a lot of controversy within the mental health community. I have read comments on Facebook from people who live with mental illness and still want to watch the movie because it’s just that – a movie. There are others who live with mental illness and are disgusted at how the movie presents DID, formerly known as split or multiple personality disorder, and is also frequently mislabeled as Schizophrenia. My boyfriend and I went to see “Split” and we didn’t find the movie as bad as it was made out to be. I felt that it did portray how someone with DID functions and what can happen. I liked how the psychiatrist in the movie defined DID by explaining how the brain works and how the personalities co-exist. Overall, I thought the movie was well done and that the trailers made it look worse than what it actually was.

It’s important to keep in mind that portrayals of mental illness in the media are only an issue when they falsely portray the illness by using negative stereotypes that affect those living with a mental illness. Here is a partial list of movies that honestly depict mental illness in their true form:

1. Rain Man (1988)-Autism
2.What About Bob (1991)-Anxiety
3. As Good As it Gets (1997)-OCD
4. A Beautiful Mind (2001)-Schizophrenia
5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)-Bipolar
6. Inside Out (2015)-General mental health
7. Benny & Joon (1993)-Schizophrenia

What can we do to help end this stigma in the media?

1. We can call or write to the publisher or editor of the newspaper, magazine, book, or radio and TV station and help them realize how their publication has affected those people with a mental illness.

2. Start a discussion about that movie, TV show, or article that you read. Explain to people what it’s really like living with a particular mental illness and highlight the discrepancies found in the media.

3. KEEP TALKING & KEEP LISTENING

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

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Why Relaxation is so important

relaxation-day-ideas-e1438839299801In a fast-paced world, it can seem nearly impossible to ‘relax’- we are constantly ‘plugged’ in, there are deadlines to meet, plans to be made/followed, errands to run, etc. Relaxation can take on many forms and looks different for every person. To me, relaxation is any time my mind is at ease and I am not necessarily focused on a specific goal (or if I am, it is at a leisurely expense). Often times when I am relaxing, I may be doing more than just sleeping or sitting on the couch- I may be writing, reading, working out, or even shopping. Nonetheless, it feels good to zone out to some reality TV. In either scenario, the common denominator is always the want to do so and the state of mental enjoyment/ease/focus. Obviously some of these methods do require more mental energy, but they are not necessarily exhausting tasks. Working out, for example, can be physically and mentally demanding, but it brings the mind to a state of pure focus that can block out all upcoming events or deadlines that seem looming during work or other daily tasks and can have a great impact on our mental and physical health. On the flip side, watching TV can allow your mind to wander into the storyline and help distract/calm your mind. Relaxation can occur with others around, in these relaxing scenarios, but either way it is what happens internally that makes a difference in our daily working lives.

A metaphor that I like to use is to imagine a computer with millions of new windows popping open, while also trying to run a certain program. The computer will run slower, may have some technical issues, and will likely crash. Most of us experience these same problems when we don’t ‘power down’ for even a small amount of time. Just like sleep, relaxation plays a key role in regulating mood, concentration, and overall wellbeing. Taking time for ourselves allows us to decompress, destress, and can also allow us to feel rejuvenated so we can be productive in areas such as work or school. Using the computer metaphor, I like to think of relaxation as a computer on sleep mode, still hard-wired and aware of all internal data, ready to go at any moment, but pausing to use less [brain] power.

As much as we like to think we’re super-humans who can achieve anything, if we don’t get an adequate amount of sleep and are always on the go, our minds will become mentally exhausted. There have been times when I neglected my relaxation and not only did my performance in areas such as work falter, but so did personal relationships. Most detrimental of all was my relationship with myself- I was overwhelmed and began to feel like I was losing control of myself, of my mind. When we are in this state of mind, nothing becomes enjoyable and depression/anxiety are in full force. What’s shocking to me is that relaxation is not at the forefront of our society, but work and constant future goals are. This is not to say that these are not valuable, but it’s to suggest that the balance is not evenly weighted. It becomes up to us to find that time when we can wind down and do something for ourselves. With that being said, I ask that YOU find that time to drink a cup of tea in the quiet, read a few articles, or watch Judge Judy. These simple pleasures are just that, but also sooth and reset our minds.

By: Sarah Morrone

Sarah Morrone lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is an aspiring teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Life has taken her on a little detour and is currently managing a cosmetics shop while writing, painting, and getting to know herself.

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How to Have a Hard Conversation (with your partner)

conversation_5556628632Sometimes it’s easier to not bring up things that can be bothering you in a relationship: wishing they were more attentive, not feeling the spark anymore, or even feeling unsatisfied with your sex life. However, what I’ve found worse than having these hard conversations is not having them at all. When you don’t face certain problems in a relationship with your partner, it can feel like you are silently suffering with issues of your own. Your partner may be unaware you are even having these feelings or could also be feeling in a similar way, but be just as uncertain about how to bring it up. More so, nothing can change unless we admit we want them to. Always trying to make sense of feelings, I’ve learned that hard conversations are hard for different reasons: admitting we are unhappy is hard, facing difficult problems in a relationship can seem solely like a personal fault, not wanting to hurt yourself in the long run, not wanting to hurt the other person, and also not wanting a hard conversation to be the last conversation. Because of these reasons, here are some tips that might help when having a hard conversation:

1. Write down or say what you really feel beforehand

Sometimes when you are in the middle of a hard conversation, your mind can become cloudy with so many emotions and thoughts. This makes it hard to say what you really want to convey and it can leave you feeling worse, rather than better. The point of this is not to say what you write or practice verbatim, but to clearly articulate how you feel. Even if you get nervous or overwhelmed during the conversation, you can usually remember some of the things you wanted to say (instead of trying to think about how you feel, while also trying to have the conversation).

2. Say what you need to say THEN allow room for them to speak

Hard conversations are hard because we care about the other person. Allow yourself to say what you need and don’t hold back. If you stop yourself from saying what you truly feel and only touch on some points, then you’re pretty much back to where you started. However, it’s also good to get their point of view as well. Knowing where they stand on the issue can help you understand their perspective. From there, it can be easy to make changes if you are both on the same page. If not, there are other conversations that might need to be had and perhaps it is worth working out, perhaps not. If anything, at least you get to be transparent and honest with each other and know where you both stand.

3. Be true to yourself

Sometimes we try to protect the people we love most but forget about ourselves. When having a hard conversation, it’s inevitable that you will always worry about the feelings of the other person or else it wouldn’t be a hard conversation at all. Empathizing with those we love is not a bad thing. However, you can’t let the possibility of hurting their feelings stop you from truly voicing how you feel. It will be tough, but keep in mind that 1) hurting your partner’s feelings is not (well, shouldn’t be) your intentions and 2) it’s worse for your relationship and wellbeing to bottle up your feelings just because you are afraid of the outcome.

By: Sarah Morrone

Sarah Morrone lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is an aspiring teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Life has taken her on a little detour and is currently managing a cosmetics shop while writing, painting, and getting to know herself.

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So You Want to Become a Therapist?

3D white people. PsychologistI did everything “right” as a student. I went straight from high school to university and proceeded to complete a master’s degree in journalism. By the ripe age of 23, I had two degrees under my belt and was working full-time. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I’d been so narrow-focused in gaining an education that I hadn’t even stopped to ask if I liked what I was doing.

To make a long story short, I eventually discovered my calling: psychotherapy. Finally, my curiosity about human behaviour could be directed somewhere and my search for a fulfilling, intangibly rewarding career could end. Now, I’m happy to report that I’m a Master of Science student at the University of Guelph taking Couples & Family Therapy.

But how on earth did a journalist like me with zero psychology credits under my belt break into the field? This post is for any of you who have considered a career in this field—and what steps you might need to take to make that happen.

 1.  Know the difference between being a psychiatrist, psychologist, and psychotherapist in Ontario.

These are all actually very different things, particularly in terms of the educational requirements and duties you can fulfill:

  • Psychiatrists are unique in that they can diagnose clients with mental illnesses and prescribe medication in addition to offering talk therapy. Visits to a psychiatrist are also covered by OHIP. To become a psychiatrist, one needs to attain a degree in medicine before completing psychiatry-specific training as well. It is only once their training is complete that one is able to become a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which enables him or her to be called a psychiatrist while also ensuring that they’re maintaining a particular set of ethical, professional, and legal standards.
  • Psychologists are also able to diagnose mental health issues but are not allowed to prescribe medication. Typically, one pays for a psychologist privately as these services are not covered by OHIP. (Keep in mind that some workplaces offer specific services in this area though.) To become a psychologist, one needs to attain 5,000 hours of clinical training and obtain their Ph.D. in psychology. Upon meeting the appropriate criteria, they’ll be certified with and regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
  • Psychotherapists are not able to diagnose mental illnesses or prescribe medication. Instead, they primarily use talk therapy to help others navigate their psychological and emotional issues. Like psychologists, they are not covered by OHIP. To become a psychotherapist, a masters degree in the field is required and the requirements designated by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, such as having 800 direct client hours, must be met.

Each governing body (i.e. the College of Psychologists of Ontario) has their own set of requirements that must be met in order for someone to receive the corresponding designation, so give their websites a look-see if you want more specific information!

2.  Specify your goals.

What do you see yourself doing when all is said and done? If your main interest is to provide talk therapy, becoming a psychotherapist is sufficient. However, if you would like to be able to diagnose mental health issues, then you’d have to become a psychologist. If you’d like to eventually become a professor of psychology-related subjects and/or conduct research, you’ll need a Ph.D.

For some, it’s important to know that only a psychiatrist and psychologist can receive the title “doctor”; a psychotherapist cannot. As a psychotherapist you’d be called a Registered Psychotherapist.

3. Figure out how much time and money you’d like to devote to schooling.

To apply to medical school or masters/doctoral programs, you need to have a four-year undergraduate degree. From there:

  • Psychiatrists must write the MCAT to apply to medical school, go through four years there, complete a five-year residency thereafter, pass an examination, and then apply to the appropriate college so they may become certified. You’re looking at a time commitment of 13-14 years from the time you start your undergraduate degree to the end of your residency (assuming that everything goes smoothly from day one).
  • Psychologists must complete a Ph.D., which typically takes between 5 – 7 years. If you include the start of your undergraduate degree, that’s a total of 9 – 11 years.
  • Psychotherapists must complete a masters program, which typically lasts 2 – 5 years, for a total on 6 – 9 years if you include your undergraduate degree.

 4. Do your research on which schools meet the requirements for different designations.

Not all schools and programs meet the necessary requirements for becoming a psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. For example, the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) has a list of recognized education and training programs so that people know the specific degree they’d need to get to receive the title of a Registered Psychotherapist. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you complete a degree, and find out later that the program didn’t meet the appropriate requirements!

5. Narrow down schools by identifying their admissions requirements.

The admission requirements greatly vary from school to school. Most importantly, some programs require that you send them marks from particular entry exams like the GRE—a standardized exam needed to apply to some graduate programs.

Rest assured, however, that some schools do not require marks from the GRE. If writing exams is not your forté, you’d want to stick to schools that don’t require these test scores. Affiliated with the University of Toronto, OISE offers a Masters of Education program in Counselling and Psychotherapy that does not require GRE scores, nor does the program I’m enrolled in at the University of Guelph.

Note that some schools also require minimum marks in particular courses, such as a 70% minimum in statistics.

Finally, many schools ask for relevant work experience. Go through the website to unpack what “relevant” means at each school. I chose to volunteer with a suicide hotline for a year and a half, which I was told from multiple schools is a great form of “work” experience.

It took me a full year just to prep my application; I needed to take two online psychology courses to meet Guelph’s admission requirements and spent the year volunteering to gain the relevant experience. During that time, I also completed schooling to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist as I’ve always been fascinated in the overlap between mental and physical health. It took a lot of work, but it was all worth it once I was accepted into the program I’m in now. Currently, I only have a year and a half of schooling left. I will be receiving my very first client at a clinic next week and I couldn’t be more excited!

By: Kristina Virro  

Kristina Virro is an intern therapist at the University of Guelph’s Couples and Family Therapy Centre as she attains her Master of Science in Couples & Family Therapy. She’s particularly interested in the connection between physical and mental health and uses her background as a journalist and Registered Holistic Nutritionist to write a blog about everything mental- and physical-health related, Fresh-Insight.

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Combating low self-esteem in relationships

imagesLow self-esteem is common in today’s era. Comparing ourselves to others happens every day, and realistically, whose self-esteem wouldn’t be hurt by this? With social media being a huge part of our lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the success of our friends, family, distant friends, and even people we don’t know — leading to harsh judgments on ourselves. However, what we don’t realize is how this can lower our self-esteem and inadvertently affect out relationships. So how can you tell if low-self esteem is affecting your relationship? Here are some key consequences:

  • When there is a negative relationship event, you (or your partner) take it personally (even when it may be a completely external force creating tension)
  • When there is a positive relationship event, you (or your partner) DON’T take it personally (credit should be given, where credit is due—feeling proud isn’t always a bad thing!!)
  • You (or your partner) doubts their value to others
  • You (or your partner) don’t have trust in your/their love and caring
  • You (or your partner) anticipate rejection and try to self-protect

So how can these affects be mitigated? Reassurance. Giving reassurance can boost feelings of security and lead to more confidence. The best way to do this is to reframe compliments in a more abstract way, making compliments more meaningful and more likely to be remembered. It is not uncommon for strangers to give you a quick compliment that can sometimes be hard to believe. But, when a compliment can be put into a sentence with background information, it shows that someone really put thought into it. When we know someone, like our partner, has thought about us, we feel flattered and reassured, giving us a boost of self-esteem!!

By: Rachael McAllister