Establishing and maintaining your boundaries

Dr. Karine Côté, C.Psych.

The importance of asserting boundaries to promote healthy and sustainable relationships with others is more and more talked about in the media. Whether it is with your significant other, parent, sibling, friend or co-worker, being able to identify and assert your boundaries can be a significant skill to build. 

Boundaries are defined as limits and rules we set for ourselves within our relationships. They can be psychological, emotional or physical in nature, and require being mindful of your needs and limits within various situations (DBT.com, 2024). Boundaries can help you meet your interpersonal needs, promote closeness, limit over enmeshment, and increase your sense of self-efficacy. 

Here are a few key ingredients to keep in mind to help you establish and maintain your boundaries with others.

Identify: Your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations represent a guide to your internal needs and limits. Being attuned to them and building your ability to understand their underlying meaning and function can help you identify your needs and limits. 

Assert: Your boundaries will have a much better chance to be respected if they are clearly expressed to others. Speaking in I statements and communicating when you and the other are emotionally regulated will also give you the best chance to be heard.

Clarify: Sometimes, the intention or the meaning behind our boundaries can be misunderstood by others. Taking the space to clarify them as needed will also increase your chance of being heard and respected in your boundaries.

Reinforce: When the other has modified their behaviors or reactions to respect your boundaries, giving them acknowledgment and showing your appreciation can help confirm they are on the right track in meeting your needs – and therefore reinforce these positive changes.

Repeat: In some cases, asserting a boundary once may not be enough for it to be consistently respected by the other. After all, we are all creatures of habit! Repeating the boundary can also help sustain the needed changes in your interpersonal relationships.

Asserting boundaries and engaging in satisfying, respectful and sustainable relationships can present with challenges at times. Clinicians at CFIR-CPRI are here to support should you need help in navigating complex interpersonal dynamics.

Reference

DBT.com (2024). Interpersonal Boundaries. https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com/interpersonal-effectiveness/interpersonal-boundaries/

Dr. Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Côté provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relationship difficulties related to mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders, sleep disruptions, and interpersonal betrayal. She works from a humanistic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from gestalt and object relations psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Pause with Purpose: Unraveling the Secret Between Rest and Laziness

As we have now passed the month of January, the initial shimmer of New Year’s resolutions might be starting to fade. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the delicate balance between rest and laziness – a balance crucial for our productivity and well-being.

Rest is not merely the absence of work; it’s an intentional practice, a vital component of a balanced life. Unlike the often guilt-tinged idleness labelled “laziness,” intentional rest rejuvenates the mind, body, and soul, fuelling our next burst of activity. It’s choosing to pause, breathe, and engage in activities that restore our energy. On the other hand, laziness can sneak up on us, a passive state where time slips through our fingers unproductively, leaving us oddly unrefreshed.

So, how do we cultivate intentional rest and keep the shadow of laziness at bay? The answer lies in mindfulness and deliberate choice. Set aside time for activities that genuinely replenish you. Whether it’s a quiet walk, a meditative hour with a book, or a friendly games night, make sure these moments are marked with purpose. By consciously choosing how and when to rest, we honour our need for downtime without falling into the trap of aimless laziness.

Also, it’s essential to recognize the signs of burnout. It might be time to reassess your rest if you’re feeling uninspired or perpetually drained. Are you truly relaxing or just ‘crashing’? Intentional rest should leave you feeling revived and ready to embrace your tasks with renewed vigour.

In this dance of life, ensure each step – be it forward in action or sideways into rest – is taken with intention. Doing so creates a rhythm that sustains, nurtures, and propels us forward. Here’s to mastering the art of intentional rest, making every moment – active or still – a step towards a fulfilled and balanced life!

Laura Moore, MPsy., is an integrative therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences.

Co-Creating Change: The Fundamental Role of Therapeutic Alliance in Counselling

Key Points:

  • 1. Therapeutic alliance
  • 2. Therapeutic fit
  • 3. Compass for change

In the space of mental health, the importance of the therapeutic alliance is essential. It can be described as the trusting and collaborative relationship between a client and therapist that forms the cornerstone of successful therapy outcomes (Cuncic, 2023). This bond goes beyond professional interaction; it is a dynamic connection that fosters an environment where personal development and change can prosper (Ardito & Rabellino, 2011).

One key aspect of this alliance is the concept of the right therapeutic fit. Just as every individual is unique, so too are their needs and preferences in therapy. The right therapeutic fit is the interplay between a client and therapist where personalities, communication styles, and therapeutic approaches align. Like a tailor-made outfit, the right fit ensures that the therapeutic process is not only effective but also comfortable for the client.

When clients feel a genuine connection with their therapists, it creates a safe space for vulnerability, authenticity, and self-exploration – which serves as the greatest indicator of therapeutic success. A mismatch, conversely, can impede progress and leave clients feeling unheard, unresolved, or misunderstood.

Therapists who prioritize establishing a strong therapeutic alliance demonstrate empathy, trust, respect, active listening, and a genuine commitment to their clients’ well-being. The therapeutic alliance is not established overnight, however as clients navigate the often-challenging journey of self-discovery and growth, the therapeutic alliance becomes the compass guiding them toward healing and resilience. Research shas shown that the quality of therapeutic alliance acts as a dependable predictor of positive therapeutic engagement, motivation and clinical outcome – independent of the psychotherapeutic approach used (Ardito et al., 2011).

In essence, the therapeutic alliance and the right therapeutic fit are not just abstract concepts; they are the heart and soul of effective therapy. By recognizing and nurturing this alliance, clients and therapists co-create a transformative space where change and personal growth become not only possible, but probable.

Tips to make your therapy experience better include giving it a few sessions before deciding if the therapeutic alliance/fit feels right, not being afraid to ask questions about the process, making sure you feel heard, seen, understood and collaborated with, expressing your needs, providing feedback to your therapist, reflecting on your therapy journey, and keeping the lines of communication open about your changing goals and needs.

Natasha Vujovic, M.Psy, R.P (Q) is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at CFIR. She works with individuals and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relational difficulties including anxiety and stress, depression, mood and grief, relational conflict, trauma, life transitions, personality, body-image, marital and pre-marital, internal conflicts, family dynamics and self-esteem. Natasha is an integrative therapist pulling from psychodynamic/analytic theories and takes a collaborative and honest approach to session.

References:

Ardito, R. B., & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic alliance and outcome of psychotherapy: historical excursus, measurements, and prospects for research. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 270. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270

Cuncic, A. (2023, November 30). Why a Therapeutic Alliance Is Important in Therapy. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-therapeutic-alliance-2671571

The importance of emotions: Part 2 

Welcome to part two! In part one, we answered three questions; 1) what are emotions? 2) Why are they so important? & 3) What are primary vs. Secondary emotions? In this part two, we will address how to identify emotions and needs. I want to give a little reminder that this is something that can be practiced, learned, and developed! It is completely okay not to know how to do this instinctively.  

How to identify your emotions and needs?  

You will probably hear a lot of people say that you need to cope with your emotions. I prefer saying that we need to be with our emotions. Being with our emotions, making a conscious effort to feel them and sit with them, will then allow you to identify them. If doing that is difficult, I suggest that you try using a tool to help, such as the wheel of emotions: 

There are two ways to use the wheel :  

1- Start at the centre, pick what you are feeling (ex: anger) and take a look at the different types of anger that we can tend to feel (go towards the extremity of the wheel).  

2 – Start at the extremity (ex: you feel empty) and work your way to the middle of the wheel to see what emotion is tied to it (ex: sad).  

I also suggest that you look at other emotions (ex: if you feel angry, go take a look at fear, sadness, etc.) to identify primary vs. secondary emotions.  
 

Lastly, keep in mind that this tool brings you into a more cognitive type of processing, so it is important to go back to sitting with your feelings once you have identified what they are (see how they feel in your body).  
 

Additionally, it is important to identify your needs at the root of the emotions and feelings you have. For example, we have identified that your primary emotion is abandonment. You can then ask yourself : “what do I need (from myself or from the other) to not feel abandoned?”. Once you have identified your need, you can then communicate that to the other person involved. Identifying this is important as it optimizes healthy well-being and optimizes healthy relationship with others.  

Dr. Mélodie Brown, D.Psy., C.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of CFIR (St. Catharines). She offers psychotherapy for adult individuals and couples & psychodiagnostics assessments for adult individuals, in French and English. She also provides clinical supervision for students who are completing their masters or doctorate degrees in counselling/clinical psychology. 

The importance of emotions: Part 1

In this 2-part blog, four key questions about emotions will be answered. We will talk about what emotions are, why they are important, the difference between primary and secondary emotions and how to identify emotions and needs. This is something that most of us do not learn growing up as there is usually no class in school on this topic or education from parents, and so I am excited to share this wonderful knowledge with you! 

What are emotions? 

The American Psychology Association (APA, 2022) defines emotions as “conscious mental reactions subjectively experienced as strong feelings usually directed towards a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioural changes in the body” (APA, 2022). I like to think of emotions as little messengers – our brain and body sending us a message on something that is happening in our world. This goes for comfortable and uncomfortable emotions – as much as we don’t like to feel uncomfortable emotions, they are as important.  

Why are emotions important? 

As mentioned above, we usually don’t like to feel uncomfortable emotions. They are, however, a part of life and very important to pay attention to. We will all feel them at some point in time, and that is totally okay! Emotions are extremely important as they can help us understand how we feel about a situation or a person, communicate with others, act quickly in urgent situations, identify when we need to set boundaries, identify unmet needs, process situations, and much more! In order to accomplish this, it is very important that we learn to identify what we are feeling, differentiate between root feelings and secondary feelings, as well as our needs. 

What are Primary vs. Secondary emotions? 

A primary emotion is the feeling at the root of our reaction and a secondary emotion is an emotional reaction to an emotion or situation. For example, often when I meet with couples in therapy I will hear one partner say something like “my partner makes me so angry!”. When we sit with this anger, we will realize that there is something underneath it, something deeper. Often, we find out that the person is feeling hurt, or abandoned or not seen or heard. In this situation, the primary emotion would be feeling abandoned for example, and the secondary emotion would be anger. The person is angry that they are feeling abandoned. When feeling an emotion, it is always important to sit with it and see what is really there – identify the primary vs. the secondary emotion. Doing so will then help you identify what you need, to feel better. 

Part two of this blog will look at how to identify emotions and needs.  

Dr. Mélodie Brown, D.Psy., C.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of CFIR (St. Catharines). She offers psychotherapy for adult individuals and couples & psychodiagnostics assessments for adult individuals, in French and English. She also provides clinical supervision for students who are completing their masters or doctorate degrees in counselling/clinical psychology.

Emotional Regulation Toolbox- Part 2 

Because our emotions are necessary and part of the human experience, it is possible to develop emotional regulation to learn how to better manage them. Below, you can find techniques and tools that you can use to develop and improve your emotional regulation and tolerance (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012). You can also add them to your toolbox to feel more prepared when you need them (for example, during a time of heightened emotions).  

  1. Grounding exercise: 5-4-3-2-1  

When experiencing difficult or intense emotions, we can bring ourselves back to the present moment by doing a grounding exercise and using our 5 senses. This can also help us feel like we can better manage our emotions.  

Start by taking 3 deep breaths and then:  

  • Name 5 things you can see.  
  • Name 4 things you can hear.  
  • Name 3 things you can touch.  
  • Name 2 things you can smell.  
  • Name 1 thing you can taste.  
  1. Breathing exercise  

You can also try a breathing exercise to relax your body, slow down your sensations, emotions and thoughts and feel calmer. This can lead to a level of emotional stabilization.  

Start by putting your hand on your belly and then:  

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.  
  • Breathe out through your mouth for 6 seconds.  
  • Continue for 1-2 minutes or until you feel calmer.  
  1. Self-soothing activities  

Once we have practiced a breathing or grounding exercise and our level of emotional activation is lower, we can move on to self-care practices. For example, it can be helpful to practice a soothing activity to relax and calm our physical and emotional experiences and sensations. It is important to take care of ourselves and find an activity that makes us feel good.  

For example:  

  • Grabbing a cup of tea or coffee  
  • Taking a hot bath or shower  
  • Going outside and getting fresh air 
  • Listening to music  
  • Dancing, moving, or doing exercise  
  • Your turn to explore and find an activity! 
  1. Self-awareness  

When you have regained a level of emotional stabilization or the emotion you are experiencing is tolerable, it is suggested to develop self-awareness by reflecting on your emotional experience. Try to observe how you feel and try naming your emotion. Explore the emotion without judgment. Does it bring any physical sensations? Does it lead to an action, behaviours, or thoughts? What led to the emotion? 

If you have difficulty regulating, identifying, and recognizing your emotions or you believe that your emotions can cause difficulties in your life, therapy can be a process that can help you develop emotional regulation skills. CFIR-CPRI therapists are available to support you in this process and can help you develop your understanding of the function of your emotions and how to manage them. You can contact us at admin@cfir.ca and a member of our team will be happy to help you.  

Alexie Carrière, M.Ed., R.P.(Qualifying) is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) that offers therapy services in French and English to adults. She uses an integrative approach and has experience supporting individuals with different concerns, including emotion regulation, anxiety, sexual functioning, trauma, depression, self-esteem, and body image.  

Emotional Regulation Toolbox- Part 1 

Every day, we experience many emotions. They influence our behaviors and our thoughts, and guide our actions. They have different functions, such as motivation and communication. For example, fear can motivate us to run from a situation or hide from danger. Sadness can bring tears to our eyes, and we may bow our head. In a social situation, these expressions and physical changes can communicate to another person that we are sad (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012).  

As human beings, it’s normal and necessary to have emotions. Some are more difficult than others, such as anxiety and anger, and it is normal to want to stop feeling them or even try to get rid of them. Because our emotions are necessary, it is not possible to get rid of them completely. We can, however, learn to regulate our emotions. Emotion regulation is the ability to understand, name, express, manage and tolerate our emotions.  

Emotion regulation is a skill that can be learned and developed. By learning to regulate our emotions, we can develop a better quality of life, feel like we can better manage and tolerate our emotions, improve our interpersonal relationships, and reduce the impact of difficult emotions on our well-being (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012). Among other things, a mental health professional can help you better understand the physiological signs of your emotions and help you put your internal experiences into words. For example, an accelerated heartbeat, rapid breathing, and a feeling of “butterflies in the stomach” can indicate anxiety. A sensation of heat, tension in the chest and clenching of the jaw can indicate anger. You can then learn emotion regulation strategies to manage these physiological signs.  

Please see Part 2 of this blog for techniques and tools that you can use to develop and improve your emotional regulation.  

If you have difficulty regulating, identifying, and recognizing your emotions or you believe that your emotions can cause difficulties in your life, therapy can be a process that can help you develop emotional regulation skills. CFIR-CPRI therapists are available to support you in this process and can help you develop your understanding of the function of your emotions and how to manage them. You can contact us at admin@cfir.ca and a member of our team will be happy to help you.  

Alexie Carrière, M.Ed., R.P.(Qualifying) is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) that offers therapy services in French and English to adults. She uses an integrative approach and has experience supporting individuals with different concerns, including emotion regulation, anxiety, sexual functioning, trauma, depression, self-esteem, and body image.

Finding the Magic in Modern Dating: Navigating Disenchantment and Rediscovering Joy

In the era of swiping right and instant connections, the quest for love can sometimes feel more like a relentless grind than a romantic journey. With an array of dating apps and ever-changing social norms, it’s not uncommon to feel disenchanted by the modern dating world. Whether you identify as heterosexual, LGBTQ+, or are exploring your identity, the challenges of forming meaningful connections in this fast-paced era are universal.

Understanding the Root of Disenchantment

The first step in overcoming dating disenchantment is understanding its source. Are you overwhelmed by the paradox of choice, finding it hard to connect deeply when there are so many options? Or perhaps, you’re fatigued by the ‘game’ – the endless cycle of matching, chatting, and often, ghosting. Recognize that these feelings are normal, and many others share your experience.

Embracing Authenticity

One of the keys to revitalizing your dating experience is embracing authenticity. Be true to yourself in your dating profile and interactions. Honesty about who you are and what you’re looking for not only attracts the right people but also sets the stage for genuine connections.

Quality Over Quantity

Instead of swiping endlessly, focus on quality interactions. Take the time to read profiles thoroughly and engage in meaningful conversations. This approach may mean fewer dates, but it increases the likelihood of those dates being more satisfying and compatible.

Balancing Hope with Realism

Maintain a balance between hope and realism. It’s essential to stay optimistic but equally important to have realistic expectations. Not every date will lead to a love story, and that’s okay. Each experience is a step in your journey of self-discovery and understanding what you truly desire in a partner.

Taking Breaks is Healthy

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a break. Use this time to engage in activities you love, reconnect with yourself, and nurture other relationships in your life. A break can provide a fresh perspective and re-energize you for when you’re ready to dive back in.

Remember, the path to finding a partner is as much about self-exploration as it is about finding another. In the modern dating world, it’s the journey of understanding yourself and what you need in a relationship that eventually leads to the magic you’re seeking. Stay true, stay patient, and let the journey unfold.

Laura Moore, MPsy., is a psychodynamic therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences. 

Tap into Rich Emotional Intelligence data and see the possibilities this insight can offer your workforce!

What if you could conduct an Emotional Intelligence audit in your company? What types of changes could you influence based on the results? What core improvements could your organization implement in order to reach and positively affect more employees? Want a healthy organization that achieves high levels of success? Tap into the key insights that an emotional assessment provides you and your employees.

Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that guide the way we perceive and express ourselves, cultivate and maintain social relationships, assess change, cope with challenges and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

It is important in your work life to communicate effectively by using emotional data to better understand how your message is being interpreted and send more meaningful information about your intentions in meetings and with team leadership.

Not just for leaders, EI assessments provide immediate insights on how individuals are coping, creating and maintaining relationships, self-awareness and empathy, employing decision making styles and more.

As a certified EQ-i 2.0 assessment provider, we offer robust EI leader, individual and 360 assessment tools. Employees gain new insight and actionable takeaways from EI data. It speaks volumes about what workforce the organization supports and what type of community they want to foster.

Those results could be further developed with leadership coaching and or career counselling to enhance core areas that might need more skill development.

EQ-i 2.0 is an online accessed, self-administered assessment and takes up to 20 minutes to complete. The report is processed and delivered by a certified EQ-i specialist who assists the participant or organization team with interpretation, goal setting and follow-up analysis derived from the EQ-i data.

Key Features are:

  • Total EI score with five composite scores measuring distinct aspects of emotional and social functioning
  • Deeper understanding of how the results affect a participant’s performance (conflict resolution, change management, teamwork, decision making and leadership)
  • Make instant connections between subscales, forming decisions based on EI strengths and potential to improve EI weaknesses
  • A Well-Being Indicator to measure your participant’s level of happiness; resulting in additional developmental opportunities
  • Reporting designed with results-driven content and insights for action

As a career strategist, Erin Leslie provides career counselling service as well as the Career & Vocational Assessment Service at CFIR; certified in EQ-i 2.0 to compliment one-on-one coaching tailored specifically to individual client needs and corporate training on emotional intelligence development for teams and leaders.

Weaving the Fabric of Female Friendship (Part 2)

Strengthening Threads: Fostering and Sustaining Friendships in The Seasons of Life

In our quest for friendship, qualities like loyalty and kindness shine brightly. However, deep-rooted relationships require traits that aren’t always in the spotlight. Research points to the importance of confidence, rooted in a clear self-identity, as we navigate life’s changing scenes. Indeed, friendships serve various purposes: some for a reason, others for a season, and a few for a lifetime.

Essential Traits for Enduring Friendships:

  1. Adaptability: A friend’s capacity to adjust to life’s flux is invaluable. Their flexibility in the face of change is a testament to genuine support.
  2. Confident Self-awareness: Friends who know themselves well offer authenticity and stability, fostering real connection and collective growth.
  3. Attentive Listening and Boundaries: A trusted friend knows when to offer advice, when to listen, and when to simply be present.
  4. Encouraging Personal Growth: Celebrating each other’s growth is crucial. A true friend supports you not only in stillness but also applauds your successes.

Cultivating New Bonds Later in Life:

As the casual social settings of youth evolve into the busier crossroads of adulthood, finding new friends requires intentionality. Friendships formed later in life often possess an unparalleled richness.

  • Common Interests: Shared activities or clubs can be fertile grounds for new friendships.
  • Volunteering: Offering time to causes can connect you with like-minded individuals.
  • Rekindling Old Friendships: Revisiting past relationships with maturity can rejuvenate bonds.
  • Embracing Vulnerability: Authenticity and openness pave the way for meaningful connections, transcending the barriers of time and age.

The Dynamics of Friendship:

Friendships are as fluid as life itself. Some acquaintances teach us lessons, others are companions for particular phases, and some become lifelong partners. By embracing the transience of some friendships, we can fully engage with them. Recognizing the role each friend plays, allows us to appreciate their unique impact.

Friendships enrich our lives with their varied textures and depths. Identifying key attributes of a solid friend and mastering the art of building connections as adults is incredibly rewarding. Through life’s intricate ballet, friends—whether they’re with us for a reason, a season, or a lifetime—harmonize our dance.Laura Moore, MPsy., is a psychodynamic therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences.