We get a lot of calls to our office asking about relationship counselling – What is it? How can it help me? What can it do for my relationships?

Relationship counselling is a form of therapy specifically focused on improving your relationships – at work, at home, with friends, with family, or with your partner.  Unlike family therapy or couples counselling, you engage in relationship counselling on your own. Part of the work is improving communication skills  (including assertiveness) and ability to emotionally connect with the other person, but relationship counselling goes beyond that to include:

  • Better understanding yourself and who you are in relationships
  • Learning about your patterns, games, and dynamics in relationships
  • Better understanding the other person – who is it that you are actually dealing with?
  • Articulating the meaning behind your relationships and better understanding what exactly you are looking for from different relationships
  • Unpacking points of contention in relationships and unmet needs
  • Coming up with creative and intelligent ways to resolve conflict
  • Learning to manage your relationship with the other person in a different way – if what you are currently doing is not working, what else can you try?
  • Overcoming ambivalence about relationships you are uncertain about – should you stay or should you go?

Phobias are the most common anxiety disorders. Although they are among the most treatable anxiety disorders, overcoming a phobia without professional treatment can be challenging. There are a variety of phobia types, including phobias focused on the fear of an animal (e.g., fear of dogs, spiders, or snakes), an element of the natural environment (e.g., fear of heightsor storms), medical practices (e.g., needles, dental or medical procedures), or a variety of other situations (e.g., driving, closed spaces, flying). Regardless of the type of phobia, most individuals’ fear is focused on the idea that some aspect of their feared object or situation will cause them harm. Therefore, one of the key elements of overcoming a phobia is by confronting one’s fear directly.

The most effective way of overcoming a phobia is through exposure-based treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The first step in treatment is to develop a list of your feared situations, with the most anxiety-provoking ones at the top of the list and the least anxiety-provoking ones at the bottom. This “hierarchy” provides a roadmap that guidesyou through a series of exposure exercises that involve directly confronting the feared situations, starting with the easier items on the list and working up to more difficult ones. As you progress through the list of exposure exercises, you have the opportunity to learn information that disconfirms your fearful beliefs about the object or situation.As a result, the anxiety that you experience when confronted with the feared object or situation reduces over time. With the support of a trained therapist, phobias are highly treatable and can be overcome relatively quickly.

Bieling and Antony (2003), in their book Ending the Depression Cycle, provide an enlightening look at the interplay of depression and intimate relationships. Depression, as described by many professionals, is often conceptualized as mainly an intrapsychic issue—that is, “it is an experience that the person feels inside of themselves, including the many internal signs and symptoms related to the emotion, as well as the physical symptoms (Bieling & Antony, 2003, p. 213). At its core, this definition holds true. However, for anyone that has ever experienced depression or known someone who has, it is apparent that depression is an interpersonal issues well (i.e. pertaining to the relations between persons). As Bieling and Antony denote, there appears to be a bidirectional link between depression and relationships. On one hand, as the symptoms get worse, someone experiencing depression may not want to be around people at all, including those close to them. Additionally, those people who reach out to support someone with depression, over time, may feel as though they are being pushed away or become frustrated that they cannot help. As such, depression can severely impact one’s relationships with others including intimate partners, friends, family, and colleagues. On the other hand, interpersonal relationships can have a great influence on the experience of depression and at times, even trigger depression. So what can be done? Interpersonal Psychotherapy is an evidenced-based, scientifically proven treatment option for depression. Unlike couples or family therapy, this type of therapy is carried out individually and can decrease symptoms of depression by directly focusing on exploring and improving one’s relationships, whatever the issues may be. Check out our web page www.drcohen.ca for more information on how we can support you or someone close to you with depression.

Attempt at humour aside, David Brooks give a great introduction to the role emotions play, and should play, in our daily lives via this TED video. David Brooks, author of The Social Animal, examines how society is entering a “revolution of consciousness”. Despite the many technological and scientific advances of recent years, it is becoming ever more apparent that we are not entirely, or even primarily, rational creatures.  We are governed in great part by unconscious forces and our emotions are central to this process. Emotions tell us what we value. Instead of ignoring, dismissing, or suppressing emotions, we should seek to learn more about them.