The Best Psychotherapies to Heal from Trauma and Anxiety

Do you ever feel like your emotions overtake you? It’s as if anger, anxiety, panic, fear, sadness or numbness, hijacks your body. Many times when we’ve experienced something that is overwhelming, or traumatic, be it little t or big t trauma, the brain can get hijacked by stressors long after the trauma is over. Here’s what happens and how you can feel like you’re more in control of your emotions. 

The Brain and Emotional Overwhelm

The brain is a complex organ. To better understand how our minds, bodies, and psyches respond to trauma, let’s simplify it. One way in which we can do this is to refer to the triune brain. It’s a simplified model that separates the brain into three, each with its separate functions and sense of timeToronto anxiety and trauma psychotherapist. read more…

Are Suppressed Emotions Making You Anxious?

I see a lot of clients wanting help for their anxiety symptoms. Sometimes their anxiety is connected to the things that are going on in their lives. Other times, their anxiety isn’t explicitly related to any situation or event in their life. They report feeling anxious for no apparent reason.

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Feeling Angry? Beyond anger management tools

Anger can be an intense emotion making many individuals afraid of their anger or view it as inappropriate. When anger is misdirected, it can lead to poor decisions, interfere with relatAnger management Toronto psychotherapistionships and can do harm to others. However, like all emotions, anger has a purpose. It serves to protect us. When channeled correctly, anger is a natural and healthy response to anything that is a threat to our emotional, mental and physical security. read more…


Codependency is a term that is thrown around these days. While there are various definitions, there are several characteristics that most therapists have agreed upon. Codependent relationships can exist between spouses, children and parents, friends, colleagues, etc. For simplicity, I’ll be using the term partner.

Symptoms of Codependency 

– Sacrifice your needs and wants for those of your partner
– Get a sense of purpose and self-worth by satisfying the needs of others, at the expense of your needs
– Take responsibility for others
– Feel happy and fulfilled when your partner feels happy and fulfilled
– Have difficulty finding satisfaction in our life outside of that person
– Attempt to control and change your partner’s unhealthy behaviours 

What Causes Codependency

Codependence typically originates in childhood. So thinking about your childhood may provide you with some clues. For instance, as a child, you may have had to suppress your needs and desires to receive approval from an unstable, challenging or addicted parent. Having to take care of such a parent at a young age, known as parentification, is linked with adult codependency. After all, the relationship between a parent and child is our first love relationship, serve as a template for future close relationships. Toronto Counsellor Codependent Relationship
Codependency isn’t all or nothing. You can have codependent traits to varying degrees. If you do have these traits, it’s helpful to explore them and the cause. If not, even if you leave a codependent relationship, chances are the patterns will repeat in other relationships. 

The Underlying Roots of Codependency

While the codependency traits play out in relationships, the root typically lies in how you feel about yourself. Individuals with codependent tendencies do not have a solid sense of self and self-esteem. Being overly responsible, striving for perfection and taking care of everyone, is in an effort of proving your self-worth. There might be a sense of, if I can do this right and if I can make others happy, then I am worth it. There might be a fear of being rejected or abandoned, as such, you might have difficulty asserting yourself and asking for your needs.  

Codependent Relationship

It can be challenging to distinguish between love, support, and codependence. One indicator that you might be in a codependent relationship is an underlying feeling of anxiety around your partner’s happiness. Your emotions are tied to those of others. You might feel like you’re on a roller coaster driven by your partner’s fluctuating moods. 
Codependent individuals tend to feel depleted from continuously giving. This dynamic can cause resentment in a relationship rather than love. A real connection between two people can only occur when both individuals come together in a mutually loving and supportive way. 

What Can You Do If You’re In a Codependent Relationship?

1. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are essential in healthy relationships. The give and take promotes growth and wellbeing of both partners as opposed to fostering dependence. Boundaries are learned. So if boundaries are not comfortable for you, chances are, you didn’t learn about your boundaries.
For many codependents, there’s a belief that if a boundary is set up with another, it can jeopardize the relationship. Boundaries are not a form of punishment. Instead, they are an expression of self-love. It takes time and practice to set effective boundaries.
The first step is to become aware of when you have difficulty setting boundaries. You’ll want to try to be assertive and calm when setting them. If you find yourself getting angry or resentful, be compassionate with yourself. It may take some practice before affirming boundaries feels more comfortable. Others might have a difficult time with your boundaries as they can no longer get what they want at your expense (even if they don’t realise what they’re doing it). Also helpful in enforcing them is communicating the consequences if boundaries are not respected. 

2. Recognizing and Honoring Your  Needs

Individuals with codependent traits/tendencies typically do not have a good sense of what their needs are as they have taken care of other people’s needs ahead of their own for a long time. The first step is to bring awareness to what your needs are. 
Once you start connecting to your needs, you’ll be able to honour them. This will also contribute to the development of your confidence and self-worth, making it easier to communicate your needs to others.
Take time to explore what’s important to you, including activities, hobbies and your relationships. Start to reengage in what you enjoy. Work on connecting with your emotions and begin to communicate them to your partner. It’s important to commit to yourself, your self-esteem, and your happiness. When you’re able to to this, you’ll enter relationships with more confidence, knowing that you have the resources and energy to both give and receive. 


When you think of a phobia, what comes to mind? Perhaps spiders, flying, and heights? What about a phobia of your feelings and bodily sensations? Such fears and phobias are not as uncommon as one would think.
Fear Emotions Toronto CounsellingOur inner experience is what we think, feel, remember, sense, decide, plan and predict. Our inner experiences are powerful and influence negative beliefs and feelings or reactions to the past. This can interfere with your current life. While avoiding inner experiences allows you to avoid the uncomfortable feelings, avoiding them does not give you the opportunity to shift them so that they no longer have control over you. If your avoidance is significant, you might have a phobia of your inner experiences, including your emotions and bodily sensations.

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The winter months can mean hibernation for many with the dark and dreartoronto therapist seasonal affective disordery days of winter here in Toronto. The lack of sunlight and colder weather can have a profound impact on our mood. It can leave us feeling depressed, tired, withdrawn and unmotivated. If you live in Toronto, you’ve probably heard about or may have experienced seasonal affective disorder (SAD).


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months when the days get shorter, and there’s a decrease in daylight hours. It’s also referred to as the winter blues.

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The Benefits of Self-Compassion & 6 Steps to Get Started

Why is it so difficult to show ourselves compassion? Perhaps you feel undeserving of it? Do you associate self-compassion with self-indulgence or self-pity? Self-compassion can be challenging, especially when criticism rather than compassion is or has been used to motivate and modify behaviour. While breaking free from the pattern of self-criticism can be difficult, self-compassion is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Research shows that self-compassion is a powerful medicine, with a positive and restorative influence upon our physical, mental and emotional well-being

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The Benefits of Self-Compassion 

Self-compassion enhances our well-being by deactivating our threat system, which is associated with feelings of insecurity, isolation, defensiveness and self- criticism. Instead, it activates our self-soothing system, with makes us feel safe and interconnected.

Being self-compassionate is difficult, especially if one has experienced trauma. In such cases, I highly recommend working with a counsellor. If you’ve struggled with unconditionally loving and accepting yourself, the good news is that compassion is a skill that you can develop. I found that to become self-compassionate, I had to reprogram my subconscious since being critical was my primary way of relating to myself. I did this by creating new tendencies that were self-compassionate in nature. Over time, my subconscious mental patterns become stronger and I reshaped my habits to become more self-compassionate. Slowly self-compassion has become my main way of relating to myself.


6 Strategies to Practice Self-Compassion

1. Acknowledge challenges and let them go.

Recognize your challenges. Don’t get discouraged or let yourself be defined by them. Instead, experience your challenges. Resolve to overcome them and see what great things you can accomplish in the process.

2. Remember that you’re exactly where you need to be.

When you connect with yourself on a deeper level, you may realize things about yourself that you weren’t aware of. We can get caught up in how we ‘should’ be feeling or what we ‘should’ be doing. This can lead to self-judgement. Trust that you are where you need to be.

3. Focus on self-growth rather than self-improvement.

Self-improvement emphasizes fixing one’s perceived inadequacies. On the other hand, self-growth looks at going deeper and accepting who you are and building upon that.

4. Be mindful of your language and your self-talk.

You may be accustomed to criticizing yourself without even realizing it. Start paying attention to what you tell yourself. If you’re saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend, then you’re not being kind to yourself.

5. Meditate.

Meditation changes the pathways in the brain. It encourages the development of self-compassion so that eventually it can become second nature. Aim to meditate 20 minutes a day to reprogram your brain.

6. Comfort yourself physically.

Comforting yourself with physical gestures activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body. Try putting your hand over your heart or giving yourself a hug to provide comfort to yourself.


At first, it may be challenging or uncomfortable to show yourself compassion but with practice, it will start to feel increasingly natural. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you’re worth it.





Do you struggle with self-esteem or confidence? Or perhaps there are negative beliefs you have about yourself or the world. While it may seem that this is just how your life is and will be, I want to tell you that you do have the capability to shift the beliefs you have about yourself. 

Beliefs are Formed in Childhood

Typically our beliefs are shaped in our childhood. No one has a perfect childhood. Even if you’ve had a good childhood, with “good enough” parents, you’ve still had painful experiences, be it at home, at school or in your community, that have shaped you and influenced the beliefs you have about yourself and the world around you. In a way, you are telling yourself lies about yourself and the world.


This doesn’t mean that you had bad parents. Chances are that they did the best self-esteem counselling torontothey could. And sometimes it’s not enough, especially for a child. Parents carry with them their own painful experiences, and when left unexamined this will impact how they are as a parent.

Do You Take Care of Others and Neglect Your Needs?

Perhaps you grew up with a single parent. They are dealing with the divorce and the emotions that accompany the end of their marriage. They might also be stressed out financially and time-wise. As a result, you might have had to take on responsibilities of an adult, like taking care of your younger sibling or providing emotional support for your parent. This can develop into the belief of, “I have to take care of other” or “my needs aren’t important.” As an adult, you might suppress your needs, not ask for what you need, or you might not even recognize what your needs are. Instead, you prioritize the needs of others before your own. Can you relate?


Did you grow up with a parent who valued self-sufficiency and independence, first and foremost? They praised you if you can take care of your own needs, even if you were too young to. Or you were told to “suck it up”, whatever “it” was. Growing up in such an environment can be challenging, especially if you are sensitive to your emotions and the emotions of others around you. It can leave you feeling alone, or with the feeling that there’s something wrong with having and showing emotions.

Perfectionist Parents?

You may have grown up with a perfectionist parent. No matter how well you did, it was never enough. While they may have pushed you to be the best that you can be, the message that you may have received, whether consciously or subconsciously, was ” I’m not good enough, I am not enough.” This can evolve into low self-esteem, lacking confidence and questioning yourself and your choices.


As you can see, our experiences in childhood influence the beliefs we have about ourselves and the messages we tell ourselves. Can you see that these beliefs, messages, and feelings you have are not true? As children, we can things personally and take on what’s going on in our environment. For instance, if your father wasn’t around consistently while you were growing up, subconsciously, you’ve likely told yourself that this was your fault.


Or you might have had a good childhood and have an overall good life, however, you don’t feel as happy as you’d like to feel or live the life you want. You might have had a difficult time coping with stressors or find relationships difficult. These challenges can often be traced back to early relational wounds.

Developmental Wounds Impact your Beliefs, Self-Esteem, and Confidence

These examples are developmental wound. Developmental wounds are wounds that happen in relationships with family members and others, as such, they can only be healed through relationship. You can’t talk yourself out of these beliefs because they are deeply embedded in your psyche and so they feel like the truth – but they are not.


Counseling and therapy for self-esteem and confidence can be very helpful at exploring your beliefs. Also, you can heal your developmental wounds by having new experiences that challenge the beliefs that no longer serve you.


Do you have beliefs about yourself or others that no longer benefit you? What beliefs do you have that interfere with you being the best version of you and living a meaningful and joyful life?






The benefits of exercise have been long established. We know that sitting for extended periods of time is bad for many areas of our health. It reduces blood circulation, weakens your muscles, and increase the risk for diseases like obesity, heart disease and cancer. Inactivity is also detrimental to our mental health. Daily exercise is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your anxiety, panic attacks, stress, and depression. Research has shown the incredibly strong relationship between anxiety and inactivity.

The Relationship Between Lack Of Exercise And Anxiety

Here are two reasons why a lack of exercise and movement can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks.

1. Unused Energy: Unused energy is one of the most frequently cited reasons for anxiety. This is because your body was made to move, and when the body doesn’t move, tension develops in the body. We see this in dogs when they’re not taken out for regular walks. They become anxious and high strung. If they don’t have an outlet for their energy, that energy first turns into physical tension followed by mental tension.

2. Increased Stress Hormone: When you feel stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. Movement can lower cortisol, bringing it back to healthy levels. When you start to experience anxiety, your body is anticipating a fight or flight reaction. Being inactive can cause your body to misfire stress and anxiety hormones.

As you can see, moving your body is crucial to calming the mind and body. We’re hard-wired to move, especially when we’re feeling stressed. For instance, if you have an encounter with a bear, your primitive brain goes into fight or flight response, giving you a boost of adrenaline needed to escape danger. In our modern world, we’ve become disconnected to one of the most important ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

Exercising When You’re Feeling Anxious

It can be difficult to exercise if you’re not used to it or if you’re experiencing anxiety. Anxiety can keep you in a stuck or frozen state, making it difficult to move forward. Exercise can also be difficult for those who experience social anxiety as it can be uncomfortable to exercise around other individuals.

Tips To Help You Start Exercising

Exercise Anxiety Toronto psychotherapist

Here are 6 tips to help you get started: 

1. Start slow if you haven’t exercised before: Start off by making small and realistic goals. For instance, you can start by going for daily walks at lunch. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew and get discouraged.

2. Chose an activity that’s fun. The most important thing is that you move. Chances are that if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you won’t stick with it. If you like to dance, then sign up for a dance class. If you like to be outside in nature, go for a walk or run outside.

3. Choose to workout at a time of day that works best for you. Some prefer to work out in the morning when their energy levels are at the highest, while others are active in the afternoon or evening because that’s what their schedule allows them to get moving.

4. Mix up your exercises. Studies suggest that cardiovascular activities and strength training work well together. Start with at least one day of each activity a week.

5. Listen to music. Music helps increase your efforts by helping you stay at a healthy pace. Music also puts you in the zone, and it makes you want to move.

6. Get outside. Nature helps reduce anxiety, so by exercising outside, the stress reduction is even greater.

As you can see, movement and exercise powerful are ways to tackle the symptoms of anxiety. Get moving today to help you to start feeling your best.




6 Tips to Help You Overcome Anxiety in 2017

The new year is here! The month of January tends to invite motivation, whether it is to face a new challenge, become healthier or make a change in your career. January can make you feel like a new person and conquerable all of your goals.

anxiety Toronto psychotherapyHowever, it’s undeniable that a time so full of determination also has moments of anxiety as you plan and reflect on the year ahead of you. Anxious thoughts race through your mind, ‘Will I accomplish all I have set out to do this year?’ ’ ‘What if I fail?’ and all the other “what ifs” that might come up. These questions can be more prevalent for those who worry, are nervous or experience anxiety. It’s easy to see how new year’s resolutions can be anxiety provoking. If this is something you can relate to, then I suggest you consider creating some of your goals around reducing your worries, nervousness, and stress.

Because anxiety can be all consuming, mind and body, when you’re able to minimize and heal anxiety, it will free up your focus, energy and time to work on your other goals. The last thing you want to do is live in fear and anxiety that prevents you from being the best you can be in 2017. The good news about anxiety is that it is entirely possible to manage and eliminate your anxiety.

Here are 6 new year’s resolutions every anxious person wants to consider right now – they’re worth the effort!

1. Talk about your anxiety instead of hiding it.

Don’t feel bad about your anxiety. Open up to those you feel safe with. It can be hard for people who don’t have anxiety to understand what it’s like to have anxiety. Opening up to others and sharing how you feel and what you’re going through can help others gain a better understanding of your experiences and also how to best support you. You might isolate when you feel anxious, which can be hard for others to understand what’s going on for you. Plus, you might be surprised to find others who also experience anxiety but didn’t feel comfortable sharing their struggles.

2. Prioritize putting yourself and your self-care first.

Think of the safety warning before taking off on an airplane, ‘Put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else with their mask.’ This is a great metaphor, if you’re not breathing, you’re not going to be helpful to others. Is this a tough one for you? Do you always focus on making others happy before taking care of your own happiness? If this is your pattern, it may very well be contributing to your anxiety and stress.

3. Exercise at least 20 minutes every day.

Exercise can be one of the most significant ways to help manage and reduce your anxiety and support your overall mood. To name just some of the benefits, exercise lowers the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Exercise enhances the production of the feel-good neurochemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It also helps to produce new neurons in the brain that raises the brain’s capacity to handle stress.

4. Try yoga or meditation.

Numerous scientific studies have found both mindfulness practices of meditation and yoga to be effective in treating anxiety. Chronic worriers often have increased reactivity in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with regulating emotions. Yoga and meditation help with one’s ability to turn down the reactivity of the amygdala. Mindfulness also reduces the number of neurons in this fear-triggering part of the brain. The focus on breathing also helps to slow down and calm the mind.

5. Get out of your comfort zone more.

Anxiety occurs when we’re outside of our window of tolerance and our body is in hyper-arousal. While everyone’s comfort zone varies, individuals with anxiety typically have a more narrow comfort zone. One of the things I work on with my clients is widening their window of tolerance so that their bodies are more resilient which increases their anxiety threshold. Widening your window of tolerance is something you can practice by getting out of your comfort zone. You want to be mindful and find the intensity that’s evoked just at the edge of your comfort zone.

6. Work with a therapist.

Working with a psychotherapist can significantly reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms, allowing you to get back to get back to your life and regain a sense of control. Psychotherapy aims to identify and address the source of the anxiety. This process helps people to understand, unravel, and transform anxiety and learn self-soothing techniques to use if worries flare up.