Psychology support for Parents
The arrival of a new baby is usually full of intensity. The joy and amazement that comes from holding and gazing at our babies is awe-inspiring. The emotional intensity that we experience as a new parent might be truly unmatched. And yet - this can be a time of intense difficulty for many Mama’s and Dad’s.
Is it normal to feel anxious and depressed after having a baby?
Many women and men find the transition to parenthood overwhelming. Most new parents experience intense exhaustion, worry, feelings of incompetence, and frustration. Couples with a new baby often experience tension in their relationship as they feel their way through the surreal experience of going from two to three, from three to four, and so on. From those early days of breastfeeding to the seemingly never-ending sleep deprivation, the learning curve is steep. This can be a normal part of the transition that subsides as we find our flow as a parent. However, when these struggles don't go away - or when they feel like they are getting worse - talking to a professional can help.
Can counselling help?
The journey of pregnancy, birth and parenthood may be more difficult than you anticipated and counselling support may be a way to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to these challenges, in a safe and non-judgemental space. Short term counselling has been shown to be very effective for perinatal mood concerns and in effectively supporting the transition into parenthood. Counselling sessions may help assess and treat a wide range of perinatal difficulties, including:
- excessive worry/anxiety about health and safety issues regarding pregnancy, birth, and the new baby period
- symptoms of postpartum depression (may include: anger, anxiety, crying, difficulty sleeping, scary thoughts about self or baby, lack of appetite, negative feelings about being a mother, inability to cope, lethargy, loss of interest, and other symptoms)
- feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness in the first year following the birth of a baby
- struggles with your new role and the demands of parenting
- processing traumatic birth experiences
- relationship problems
- postpartum adjustment
- sibling dynamics
- challenging behaviours in children
I am keenly interested in the experience of being a parent: the shift in identity, the vulnerability, and the sometimes surprising range of emotions this can evoke. My focus during our sessions are to skilfully get to the bottom of the core issues, fears, and patterns that are creating struggling and suffering. From there, I can help you develop more strength, confidence, and emotional balance in this often overwhelming time of transition.
What happens in counselling?
Sessions are grounded in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy that is evidence- based and may also include psychotherapy interventions based on narrative and solution focused therapy frameworks. At the core of this approach is the premise that much of how we feel and behave is caused by our thoughts – that is, how we think about ourselves, others, and the world around us. I will adapt this approach to address your specific concerns and goals.
The First Session
How sessions will look depends a lot on the challenges you’re facing and your own goals for therapy. Speaking generally, in the first session we will usually spend time reviewing your background – including your family background, current relationship, medical history, and so on – and your present circumstances and expressions of anxiety and/or depression leaning behaviours and stressors you are experiencing. We will also explore your strengths and the expectations you hold of yourself, and of significant others. I will ask you about your understanding of the problem(s), and will likely share some thoughts that I have about these challenges as well. By the end of the first or second session, I will share with you my impression of the problem and how I envision us proceeding. Together, we will establish counselling goals and begin to explore some initial strategies and/or tools.
I view our working relationship as one of collaboration and partnership. I will use my knowledge and skills to assist you and I will look to you for problem areas that you’d like to work on, goals, and so forth. Good therapy requires effort, perseverance, and your active involvement in exercises we do, both in and between sessions. I have a large library of books on various topics that may be relevant to your situation, and I am happy to recommend them to you. I may also give you handouts and articles, and encourage you to learn as much as possible on the area in which you are having difficulty.
I think of my role as one in which I teach my clients the skills they need to actively cope with their challenges so that they can live their lives to the fullest extent. My goal is that you learn the skills you need so that you can solve your problems and manage your mood on your own. I pride myself on working efficiently and competently, and we will regularly look at our progress and goals to ensure that our work together is helpful and effective.
The Second & Subsequent Sessions
After the first session, we will tailor your sessions to speed your improvement. I will likely ask you to do specific exercises – for example, deep relaxation and guided imagery or communication exercises – or I may spend time explaining “homework” exercises that I would like you to do between sessions, in the privacy of your own home or out in the community. These may relate to changes in the way you think about and react to situations in your day-to-day life, how you think about your health, how you structure your day and spend your time, and so on. Sometimes we will “just talk”, but always in a purposeful way. For example, I might encourage you and/or your family to explore how particular thoughts or beliefs are impacting on your life and relationships, and what other beliefs you can “practice” that would better support your health and happiness. I may also challenge you to reframe or reflect on a different way that you can tell your story in order to process different experiences. Of course, I will always explain the rationale of any technique I use and you are free to decide whether you’d like to proceed, or try another strategy.
Most of my clients see me once a week, or once every two weeks, for a few months. After that, we may meet less often, ensuring that things are on track and that you’re continuing to make good progress. My goal is to work as efficiently as possible, such that no more time, energy, and money are invested than need be. I’m most interested in assisting you in the here and now, so that you can live your tomorrow with the skills and perspective to enjoy satisfying lives and relationships. You are absolutely free to stop therapy at any time, and I will be happy to provide you with alternative resources and professionals to contact should this be your choice. As we work together, we will collaboratively decide when stopping therapy would be a good choice.
Psychology support for Children
Counselling support may be beneficial if you have observed that your child is struggling mentally, emotionally, or behaviorally. Some common concerns include aggression, sad mood, big worries, intense emotional upsets, social difficulties, changes in sleeping or eating, avoidance or disruption to routine activities. Because children are still developing across all domains, many of the issues that present in childhood reflect the areas in which they simply do not have (or know) the tools to use. Counselling can also serve to help parents make sense of challenging behaviours and to help strengthen the parent-child relationship.
What do child counselling sessions look like?
Depending on age and need, I may request to meet with you and your child in the first session, or I may ask to meet with parents only during the first session. Depending on the circumstance, I may recommend continuing to meet with parents only or I may meet with your child the second session. During the first appointment, I want to get to know you and/or your child. In this session, I will ask you to provide any necessary information to help me identify your concerns and determine the most effective course of action (therapy plan and goals). I will ask you to describe your current challenges, share background information, and tell me about your child’s/family’s strengths. I may ask you to complete paperwork as part of this assessment process. I will also work with you and your child to establish confidentiality, an essential ingredient in the therapeutic relationship. Often the first couple of sessions involve a “warm-up” period for your child, before they feel comfortable working with me.
My framework is based on evidence-based practice, meaning that I use therapeutic interventions that have scientific evidence to support their effectiveness as treatments for specific clinical problems. The most commonly used evidence-based approach for the treatment of childhood psychological symptoms is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). The efficacy of CBT has been demonstrated for a wide-range of symptoms in adults, adolescents, and children. CBT is an approach that focuses on helping people understand how thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all connected.
CBT empowers children and parents by teaching coping strategies to manage present challenges in a more effective and healthy way. This may involve learning more about how the brain and body work, recognizing and accepting feelings, understanding what behaviours might be trying to communicate or achieve, learning ways to ride out or cope with uncomfortable physical symptoms (e.g. relaxation skills), paying attention to our thoughts and interpretations, and collaborating on an action plan to try out new brave behaviours.
While I primarily use CBT principles, I also integrate other well-researched therapeutic approaches (e.g., Mindfulness-based interventions, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, play based, parent-child relationship or attachment-based interventions) into my work with children.
How many sessions will my child need?
The number of sessions will depend on the type and severity of the issues your child is experiencing. Following initial assessment, I will be able to give you a rough idea of how many sessions may be required. Through on-going consultation with parents, I will update you on your child’s progress in reaching their counselling goals. As parents, you are always welcome and encouraged to ask questions and participate in the treatment plan. That may involve direct involvement in sessions, or supporting your child through their goals at home by implementing specific tools or strategies.