There are many things that influence our well-being, but family culture is one of the most important factors determining mental and emotional health. The protective factor of having close family nearby to help you, to give advice, to guide or even to set you right, can be like an oak tree: solid, comforting and shady with deep roots that help keep you anchored. Sometimes it can be grandma’s understanding nod or smile, a sibling’s moral support or a parent’s quiet presence that helps you stay psychologically hardy. Turning towards loving family can be a buffer when facing difficult life situations and sometimes an effective enough alternative to psychotropic medications. The latest research on addictions treatment also points to strong family support as an indicator for successful rehab therapy, over-riding the significance of chemical hooks. People who enjoy this extra cushioning stay resilient and don’t need counselling.
On the other hand, sometimes living close to family can be emotionally taxing as boundaries are crossed (or never even established), and autonomy and independence may be hard to uphold. Relationships can become rigid and dry; managing family interactions can be like scaling the thorny, hollow limbs of a cactus tree. The sting of a perfectionist parent’s demanding expectations or a narcissistic spouse can result in feelings of low self-worth, unmanageable stress, anxiety and depression. Childhood emotional neglect causes long-term feelings of emptiness, an inability to prioritize one’s own needs, and shallow relationships. Many of my counselling clients present with these symptoms, and more than half the time they have to deal with deeply rooted family issues. When family values are embedded in a client’s worldview, internal feelings of self-loathing, blame and shame add layers to the problem, while clients from an individualistic culture often find it easier to detach and move on when faced with family conflict.
Family can be a stabilizing or a destructive factor. When clients talk about their oak tree, I invite family members to the session and involve them in counselling strategies – this usually helps. And when the client’s problem is aggravated by a cactus, we look for alternative positive relationships and activities, with more emphasis on problem- solving and self-soothing skills. The course of therapy and treatment planning is determined by whether the family is protective like an oak tree or thorny like a cactus. *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I’m breaking out. Pimples galore- small ones, big ones, very angry red ones, shy white head ones, and everything else in between. I’m not happy! Something’s going on internally for my face to break out like this. There’s no winning. It’s a constant battle. I pop one, another appears. The one that I thought I popped and cleaned out completely then comes back with a vengeance. And so the weeks continue in this order; feel a pimple from under the skin, begin face wash routine, it comes to the surface, eventually pops, and then another arises. The strategy that I’ve taken on is one that is managing the pimples as they come up, and not a proactive one to ensure they don’t come up at all. One day, after pointing to a pimple that I thought I had popped, but really came back bigger and angrier, my boyfriend finally said, “These are stress pimples”. He was right, I wasn’t denying that. He was referring to both my work and home life stress. As supportive as he is, he understands that there are only so many ways he can be helpful and the rest is on me. Work and personal life stress were accumulating and both began to bleed into each other. I was struggling with the boundaries. Became very emotional, struggled to get through the day without breaking down into tears, started getting very snippy with those I loved and the pimples were showing no signs of retreat! I needed a new strategy! I began by breaking down the causes of distress into a pie chart; the bigger the slice, the more priority. Then I decided on which slice I would like to metaphorically eat first. I started with the smaller slices. Some slices required more processing than others, but as the weeks went on, I began to notice the pie was no longer whole, but had a couple of slices left. These slices have now become common every day struggles, you know, like what to have for dinner, or what outfit will I wear? When I began to dismiss some of the stressors as unimportant and took away its power to ally with my enemy, the pimples, the pimple army also seemed to diffuse. Now, I’m left with battle scars on my face. At the end, I’m the one that is still standing and smiling, wearing my scars proudly. By working to solve a problem only as it is happening can be progressive for a short period of time. We need to be proactive in order to ensure that the problem doesn’t come back at all, and if it does, nip it in the bud before it becomes an army of pimples.
By Bhavna Verma *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
I am very excited to be writing my first blog entry for Counselling Connect. Every two weeks I’ll be bringing you information and opinions about Creative Arts Therapies including best practices, tips, techniques and news from the art therapy community in Canada and around the world. Many people in the counselling field have heard of art therapy but are still not quite sure what it entails. I look forward to sharing this wonderful and creative therapeutic modality with all of you.
Art therapists help individuals explore their feelings and emotions using a variety of materials. In my practice, clients have the option of choosing paints, pastels, markers, clay, fabric, collage materials and repurposed every day objects amongst other things. They often begin with art materials they are comfortable with but with gentle encouragement, others begin to explore new ways of expressing themselves. It is often an enlightening, exciting and safe experience for clients.
Continue reading *The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA