People of all genders, ages, and origins are impacted by the stigma around mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are frequently not treated as seriously as physical illnesses due to this complicated and pervasive stigma. Mental health issues have long been stigmatized, which has mostly resulted from a lack of awareness of these diseases. For men, this stigma is prone to be more severe and convoluted.

One underlying cause of this issue is our society’s toxic masculinity tendencies. Some males may have a tendency to torture themselves on the inside in order to appear tough on the outside. This is typically done in order to avoid appearing “weak,” which is a quality our culture devalues mostly in men. 

Males often struggle to feel safe enough to reach out and get help for their depression, anxiety, and other problems because they are afraid of being judged and rejected. As a result, men in Canada are three times more likely than women to commit suicide. Men may find it more difficult to get mental health help before they commit suicide, which could be one explanation for this phenomena.

We must keep fighting these stigmas if we want to reverse this imbalance. As a society, we must change the way we think about mental health for people of all sexes. The need for mental health support must be normalized, and all people need to have access to these services. It’s important to understand that, regardless of our age, gender, backgrounds, or other characteristics, mental health issues are unquestionably genuine difficulties that can be incapacitating for anyone suffering them.

If you are a male experiencing mental health struggles, know that you do not have to do it all by yourself. Help is available, and being vulnerable and seeking it is a sign of courage. 

Sara Gharibi, MPsy, RP is a registered psychotherapist at Centre For Interpersonal Relationships. She provides trauma-informed psychotherapy with a focus on mental health of adults who experience social anxiety, generalized anxiety, burn out, depression, and other mental health difficulties as well. Sara provides psychotherapy in English, French, and Farsi.  

PERFECTIONISM – Is it Healthy or Unhealthy?

People tend to believe that perfectionism is an undesirable trait, but truthfully, it can be used as an asset rather than a liability. Generally, perfectionism is considered to be a tendency to believe there is a perfect solution to every problem, a schema that recognizes just two categories of performance—perfect or unsatisfactory, with nothing in between. Perfectionism is a multidimensional measure and it can be a personality characteristic. It is usually developed in childhood, primarily due to the perception of high expectations by parents (e.g., insecure children with low self-esteem seeking constant approval, acceptance, and affection from parents who are difficult to please). Given the perception of parental criticism, perfectionism may result in doubting the quality of one’s actions. Along with the preference for order and organization, it is also associated with procrastination and generally, individual tasks may take longer to accomplish because of a fear of mistakes. There is an argument that perfectionism can be healthy and unhealthy.

Research studies mention that perfectionism can be explained by understanding two main concepts (whether it is healthy or unhealthy): perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns. Perfectionistic strivings aim to achieve high-performance standards, positive emotions, and the motivation for performance by raising the bar when they reach the goal, not out of fear but out of the excitement of intellectual curiosity. This can lead to healthy perfectionism, and it can be underappreciated by individuals, their friends, and relatives. Some challenges occur with this perfectionism when it is all-consuming, overwhelming, or misdiagnosed. 

Perfectionistic concerns are associated with evaluating others: performance fear, meeting personal expectations, and fear of failure. These behaviours can be categorized as unhealthy perfectionism, as it can be a negative trait promoting self-defeating outcomes and undesirable behaviour patterns. For example, children growing up in a dysfunctional family are over-praised. When parents emphasize their accomplishments and felt the acceptance of love as conditional, they may grow up exhibiting signs of fearing failure, procrastination, avoidance of challenging activities, and generalized anxiety. 

Therapists at CFIR can offer therapeutic strategies to clients with healthy and unhealthy perfectionism. However, as these behaviours are often not recognized, the clients would manifest symptoms more like the feeling of overwhelm, exhaustion, and the inability to accomplish tasks resulting in anxiety, depression or lack of motivation, procrastination, imposter syndrome, work stress, burnout or loud inner critic leading to faulty thinking patterns. Therefore, please do not hesitate to contact us or inquire more to understand and develop strategies to cope with such behaviours or symptoms. 

“When you are a perfectionist, you don’t know when to stop because there is no end, there is no ’best work.” The standard is unreachable. —Ruth Buczynski, PhD.


Prober, P. (2016). Your rainforest mind: A guide to the well-being of gifted adults and Youth. GHF Press. 

Roja Vivekanand, MA, MPsy, RP, is a Registered Psychotherapist at the Center for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto. She is an integrative therapist who works with adults and family clients from diverse backgrounds to help them resolve a wide range of complexities related to anxiety, depression, work stress, anger, trauma, grief, health psychology, and interpersonal relationship issues.  


There are many people in Black community with mental health concerns who are hesitant to seek mental health care. Why is this? My research set out to answer this question. 

I interviewed Black men and women from across Canada and asked them: “Think of a time when you had a mental health concern. How willing were you to seek help from a mental health professional?” Most of the people I spoke to said they were not very willing to seek mental health treatment.  

Throughout these conversations I found out that a lot of the unwillingness had to do with cultural norms. Some of these norms included experiences with anti-Black racism, relying on internal resources, and turning to social, familial, and spiritual sources of support. Essentially, seeking help from a mental health professional often clashed with cultural norms. As a result, people felt that seeing a mental health professional might mean being misunderstood by the mental health professional; feeling judged by oneself and people close to them; and feeling pessimistic that the mental health service would be useful or worthwhile. 

In addition, most of the people I interviewed had experiences with seeking mental health care. Many of them said that when they first began having mental health concerns, they were unwilling to seek professional help but after having positive experiences with mental health services they were more willing to go again in the future. 

Ultimately, we want everyone to be able to benefit from receiving mental health services. It is my hope that research like this will give us information that we need to make mental health services as culturally inclusive and welcoming to as many people as possible. 

Dr. Renee Taylor, C.Psych. (Supervised Practice) is a psychologist in supervised practice at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Taylor provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of challenges related to mood, anxiety, trauma, and relationship difficulties. In her work she integrates therapeutic techniques from emotion-focused therapy (EFT), psychodynamic therapy, and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).


I often wonder about capacity – my own and that of others. Will I be able to manage the physical and emotional demands being asked of me throughout my day? Where do I begin?

As autonomous individuals, we are required to make choices. We do so daily. Even choosing not to come to a decision is a choice in and of itself; inaction comes with its own set of benefits and consequences. Some of our choices come easily to us, and we do not tend to give them too much thought. Others weigh more heavily on us and require us to give more of ourselves to the decision-making process. Every choice we make is emotional.

In therapy, one is often encouraged to think about capacity as a finite resource. Often, clients are taught to conceptualize capacity as a battery that will deplete itself throughout the day. If every choice I make is emotional, I need to be aware of the implications. The more I expend my resources throughout the day, the less I have left to work with. By increasing my self-awareness, I can find ways to allocate my daily battery so that I have the capacity to show up in the ways that matter most to me. 

  1. Start with a check-in

It can be helpful to gauge my battery life first thing in the morning to determine my capacity meter for the day. This can allow me to lean into self-compassion and place realistic expectations of myself.

Example: After an adequate night’s sleep, a good amount of physical activity throughout the week, and sufficient nutrition and socialization, I am waking up with 100% battery.

  1. Prioritize by your values

Often, our days are full of non-negotiable tasks as well as personal responsibilities. If everything is important, nothing is important. Therefore, I need to know what is important to me. Asking myself what I value most can help me determine how much of my battery I am going to need to save for the things that matter most to me. Without doing so, I may deplete my battery on tasks that drain my battery, leaving me with less capacity to get through my day.

Example: As I am working on a report for a client, I receive a text message that requires my input on an upcoming family trip. I value work and I value family. I understand that making the decision regarding the family trip is one that will weigh on me, and one that will deplete more of my battery than I am currently willing to give. I can set a boundary by communicating that I will require some time to process the trip and I will not be responding until the following day. This allows me to hold on to more of my resources for the day, and allows me to allocate them accordingly.

  1. Allocate accordingly 

If I know what I value, I can choose to allocate my battery accordingly. I do not attribute the same weight to every decision that I make. As well, the more choices I make throughout the day, the more I deplete my battery. By increasing my awareness of this, I can save more of my attention for the choices that tend to be more emotional for me.

Example: I can choose to schedule the tasks that demand more of me earlier on in the day, or I can arrange to take care of myself in ways that will help my battery ‘stay charged’. 

We all have the capacity to choose. I encourage you to lean into curiosity regarding some of the choices that you have been making lately, and whether they are serving you in the ways that you have intended for them to. As always, the choice is yours.

Oksana Halkowicz, M.Psy works under the clinical supervision of Dr. Ashwin Mehra, C.Psych and provides psychological services to children, adolescents, and adults experiencing a wide host of problems related to mood, anxiety, depression, and interpersonal relationships. She works from a psychodynamic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavoral therapy (CBT), and emotion-focused therapy (EFT).


It may come as no surprise to any parent to hear that anxiety is the number one mental health difficulty children and adolescents face today. There are a myriad of different factors that contribute to the stress that children and adolescents experience, such as school, social, and familial expectations. Youth can be excellent at hiding their anxious symptoms not only from their parents but even from themselves! Some symptoms are easier to see while others take a keener eye to spot and may take more effort to uncover. 

Look for Physical Signs…

  • Tenseness
  • Jitteriness
  • Restlessness
  • Fidgeting
  • Sweating
  • Complaining of aches and pains (e.g., stomach, chest, or head aches)
  • Trouble breathing

It’s important to remember that any of these physical signs of anxiety can occur during everyday events. Any one of these occurring on their own, or with others, can be felt by every person at one point or another for both positive and negative experiences. When these physical signs occur frequently and are consistently displayed before or during a specific situation, there is likely something anxiety provoking about that situation. 

… And Subtle Signs

Less easy to notice are actions, behaviours, and thoughts that can fly under the radar. Notice what it is your child is doing and when they are doing it. Are they often late to leave for school? Do they procrastinate on difficult subjects but not on easier ones? Do they check things repeatedly, like locked doors, before doing something else? It’s just as important to notice what your child is not doing. Are they not studying, doing homework, going out with friends, or attending extra-curricular activities? Refusal to do something can be a subtle way to avoid situations that provoke anxiety. If you suspect your child is experiencing anxiety, talk to them about it to better understand what they are thinking. Listening to what they say and understanding their perspective can help uncover what they are worried about. Anxiety can grow when left unchecked and your child needs your support to cope with it. 

Massimo Di Domenico, M.A., is a therapist working under the supervision of Dr. Nalini Iype, C.Psych. and is also working towards the completion of his PhD in Clinical Developmental Psychology. He provides both treatment and assessment services to individuals of all ages – children, adolescents, and adults. Working with an integrative framework, he treats those suffering from depression and anxiety, difficulties in social relationships, and concerns related to parenting and family dynamics. For those seeking answers on how they, or their child, learn or work best, he also provides assessment services for learning disorders and ADHD.


Attachment – One of our most fundamental basic needs as a human being. Attachment, in its simplest form, is contact, connection, to belong, to love and be loved. 

When a child is born, they have two primary needs. Their first need is attachment and they simply do not survive without it. Attachment remains important throughout our lives and continues to have survival implications as we need it to form societies and communities. The second need is the need for authenticity. At its core, this is the ability to know what we feel, to be in touch with our bodies, to trust our “gut feelings” and instincts. Authenticity is also to be able to identify and express who we are and manifest it in our activities, relationships, and day to day lives. Authenticity is also a survival need as we need to be in touch with our bodies and instincts to navigate potential threats. However, what may often happen, especially during our formative years is that our need for authenticity might conflict with our need for attachment: if I express my true emotions, wants, needs, I may sacrifice or lose out on my attachment need and thus not feel loved, worthy, or connected to those around me. This does not mean that it was done on purpose or that your caregivers did not love you or think you were worthy, but they might have had their own difficulties, stress, hurt, and were also suppressed. This is not about blame or figuring out who is at fault. Their distress and your distress can coexist and there can be space for both! 

As a child, when we experience this conflict, we ultimately learn that we need to suppress our authenticity and thus our emotions for our attachment that our life depends on. As adults, this might look like not knowing what we feel, what we want, or how to express ourselves. These experiences might have taught us that being authentic is too costly and thus we suppress those parts of us and over time lose touch with ourselves. This may then manifest in various forms of mental health and/or relational difficulties. Therapy can help you rediscover, connect and express these suppressed parts of ourselves and help regain your authenticity and identity while maintaining our forever important relationships! 

Kadir Ibrahim, M.Sc., M.A., R.P. (Qualifying) is a clinical psychology resident at CFIR. Kadir provides psychological services to adults experiencing a wide range of psychological difficulties related to mood and anxiety, trauma, grief and loss, and interpersonal relationships. 


Major life transitions can occur at any stage in life. Whether it is starting university or college and living on your own for the first time, starting a new job, becoming a parent, or experiencing a death or loss of a loved one, life transitions can evoke many complex feelings. When we experience a big life-altering change, we are often faced with many unknowns and a sense of unpredictability regarding our future. Confronting the unknown and uncertain can evoke feelings of stress, worry, fear, self-doubt, grief, and depressive experiences. While these feelings are normal when faced with a major life change, they can still feel intense and overwhelming. To support yourself or loved ones during a time of major life transition, it is important to remember to: 

  1. Acknowledge and validate your feelings—Sometimes our emotions can feel so overwhelming and intense because we don’t yet know why or what we are experiencing. Acknowledging that a life transition is likely to evoke strong emotions and finding new and healthy ways to identify and validate your feelings can help you navigate change. 
  1. Accept the inevitability of change— We are constantly changing, growing, and evolving in our lives and relationships. Change can be difficult and overwhelming, but it can also provide an opportunity for self-growth and development. Through experiencing change, we can discover new possibilities and parts of ourselves, which can be exciting and motivating!
  1. Reach Out and Connect—Sometimes experiencing a major change in your life can feel lonely and isolating. Connecting with loved ones, members of your community, or others who may be experiencing a similar life change can help you to navigate this difficult time. Engaging in psychotherapy can be another way to address any difficulties that you are facing because of a major life change. In the process of psychotherapy, you can learn new ways to navigate difficult emotions, and develop a deeper understanding and meaning about what this major life change means to you. 

If you are experiencing a major life transition, and wanting to better understand and navigate your experience, CFIR has counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists who are available to support you!

Jennifer Bradley, M. A. is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at CFIR. She works with individuals experiencing a wide range of psychological and relational difficulties including life transitions, anxiety and stress, trauma, depression, mood and grief, interpersonal difficulties, and issues related to self-esteem. Jennifer is an integrative therapist with a particular interest in existential, relational, and psychodynamic approaches to psychotherapy. 


By: Garri Hovhannisyan

What typically brings a client to a therapy room is not a problem that they just had last week but problems they’ve been having time and again, trapped in a cycle of repetition with no apparent way out.

It’s important to consider the situational factors that shape our problems into what we experience them to be. It’s also important to understand some of the subtle ways in which we, ourselves, might be contributing to the very cycles of distress we come to experience as already “there,” as part of the world we are in.

Consider, for instance, the case of the “lonely extravert” who has a strong need to be with and around others but whose demanding work schedule does not permit much time for socialization. Consider, alternatively, the introverted counterpart who remains unphased by the fewer opportunities to socialize and is able to go about business as usual. Consider, next, the person whose feelings of self-esteem and self-worth have been deeply affected because their high agreeableness has predisposed them to being taken advantage of by those far less concerned with the feelings of others. Finally, consider the disagreeable individual who is far less bothered by moments of social tension and conflict, and who does not come to view instances of this sort as reflecting deep faults with one’s own self.

These brief vignettes are meant to illustrate how we sometimes come to suffer in repeated ways because certain needs that are associated with our unique traits aren’t being met by the contexts we are in; and that, moreover, those who possess traits that are different than ours simply do not suffer in the same ways because they do not share our needs.

In my research (some of which can be found here and here), I’ve been studying the relationship between people’s personality traits and the pervasive patterns of distress they succumb to in their daily lives, patterns they are repeatedly having to suffer but ultimately hoping to escape.

My work draws on the Big Five theory of personality, one of the most widely researched and esteemed theories in all of psychology for predicting human behaviour. As the name suggests, the Big Five describes personality along five major traits or dimensions: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion (an easy way to remember these traits is with the acronym CANOE or OCEAN). At the bottom of this page, you can find a table of basic definitions of what each trait says about a person’s general style of behaviour. If you are feeling especially curious, you can even complete the Big Five test for free by following this link. Completing this test takes about 25-35 minutes (a simplified 10-minute version can be found here) and gives you an opportunity to learn about how you compare to others who have taken the same test.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for guaranteeing a pathway out of suffering of the kind that I have discussed here (i.e., repetitious cycles of distress). Rather, solutions have to be carefully individualized to fit the unique needs and personality profiles of the individual. Having a basic understanding of your personality traits and dispositions can therefore give you a good sense of what kinds of things you might “need” psychologically to better orient yourself toward your situation, a process that is often helpfully leveraged with the expertise of a therapist.

Indeed, learning about your personality traits has the potential to enrich your sense of what counts as “psychological oxygen” for you and offer you clues on ways you can proactively bring important aspects of your Self to fuller realization in the world.

ConscientiousnessHigh scorers tend to live in the future and structure their time around tight schedules and rules for completing long-term tasks
Low scorers tend to be more concerned with life as it can be lived in the present moment
AgreeablenessHigh scorers tend to be polite and compassionate, regarding others’ thoughts, feelings, and points of view as more important than their own
Low scorers tend to place their own thoughts, feelings, and point of view in centrestage even if doing might cause conflict
NeuroticismHigh scorers tend to be more sensitive to negative emotions like anxiety, anger, or depression, and perceive the world as a place of hostility and threat
Low scorers tend to experience less negative emotion and see the world as relatively habitable and safe to their personal projects and concerns
OpennessHigh scorers tend to be more imaginative, artistic, and curious, inhabiting the world of images and ideas and enjoying intellectual conversations
Low scorers tend to be more concrete in their cognitive style and conventionally minded in their approach to learning and navigating ideas
ExtraversionHigh scorers tend to be enthusiastic, gregarious, and assertive, quite opportunistically minded and especially enjoy being around other people
Low scorers can be rather indifferent to opportunities to socialize and to be moved to action through feelings of enthusiasm or excitement

Garri Hovhannisyan, M.A., R.P. (Qualifying) is a clinical psychology resident at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships where he provides psychological services to adults and couples. His approach is integrative as it draws on existential, psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive-behavioural perspectives. His dissertation research studies the relationship between people’s traits and their patterns of distress and seeks to develop novel uses of the Big Five theory of personality in the clinical context.


By Cherisse Doobay MSc.

One of the first things I ask people about when they start working with me is their nutrition – why would a therapist do that? There is a strong connection between the food we eat and our mood. The relationship between diet and mood is complex, and the specific effects of different food on mood can vary from person to person. However, research has shown that certain dietary patterns and nutrients can have a significant impact on our mental health, most notably depression and anxiety symptoms. 

One important factor is the balance of nutrients in our diet. A diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and low in processed and sugary foods, is generally considered to be healthy and can have a positive effect on mood. These types of foods provide the body with the necessary nutrients it needs to function properly, including essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. On the other hand, a diet high in processed and sugary foods can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels and contribute to feelings of irritability, fatigue, and low mood. 

Another factor that can affect mood is the presence of certain nutrients in the diet. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish and certain plant-based sources, have been shown to have a positive effect on mood and cognitive function. Similarly, vitamin B12, which is found in animal products, has been linked to improved mood and cognitive function.

In addition to the types and balance of nutrients in our diet, the overall quality of our diet can also have an impact on our mood. Research has shown that following a healthy, balanced diet can lead to improved mood and cognitive function, while a diet high in unhealthy foods can have the opposite effect.

It is important to remember that the relationship between nutrition and mood is complex, and the specific effects of different foods on mood can vary from person to person. However, following a healthy, balanced diet and getting adequate nutrients can have a positive impact on mood and overall well-being. So, the next time you’re feeling down, grab a broccoli crown! 

Cherisse is an integrative therapist and cognitive nutrition practitioner with a specialty in addictions for 17 years. She works with individuals, couples, and families to address a multitude of issues such as relationships, stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, depression, anxiety, and addictions. 

  1. Harvard Medical School (February 15, 2021) “Food and Mood: Is there a connection?”
  1. Firth, J, Gangswisch, J., Borsini, A., Wooton, R, Mayer.E. (November 9, 2020) “Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?”


When we get angry or are in heightened conflict, we lose the ability to think complexly. This process is commonly referred to as the fight-flight-freeze response, which is the body’s automatic, built-in system designed to protect us from threat or danger. The fight-flight-freeze response developed early in human evolution and continues to impact our psychology today. While this response was helpful when we were running away from predators as early human beings, it’s less helpful when we are having complex interactions with our partner. It’s important for all couples to recognize when they are angry, as this can trigger their flight-fight-freeze response. Taking a break is one-way couples can reduce this response and be better able to navigate complex discussions.


Any partner at any time can ask for a break. Remember, it’s important to tell your partner a) you need a break, and b) when you will return. Unless your safety is at risk, never leave a partner without telling them when you will return. You may need to take multiple breaks throughout an argument – that’s OK, just ensure you follow the same process each time.


Using the 20-minute break wisely…

Starting a Break:

Begin by letting your partner know you need a break by saying “I need a break; I’ll be back in 20 minutes”. It’s important to always let your partner know how long your break will be and when you will return.

0-15 minutes:

Spend the first 10-15 minutes on a task that’s unrelated to your conflict. Read a book, listen to an uplifting song, or read a magazine. Focus on an activity that is either relaxing or pleasurable.

15-20 minutes:

Spend the last few minutes reflecting on what primary “hurt” emotions you want your partner to better understand (avoid simply using Anger). Think about how you might communicate these emotions using an “I-statement”. Also spend some time being curious about how your partner may have understood the conflict. To gain greater insight into your partners experience, try to imagine their life “as a movie”, in which you are only a “secondary character”. Now imagine how their movies “narrator” might describe the conflict from your partners perspective.


  • Try your best not to use breaks as a “rebuttal” or as a punishment.
  • Avoid spending your break thinking about rebuttals or “who’s right”. Instead, focus on relaxing your mind and body.
  • If you find yourself returning to the same problem repeatedly, this is a good sign that you might benefit from couples therapy to deal with the issue.

Remember: Breaks will not solve every problem, but they should help you think more clearly about the ones that do occur.

Try your best!

Joshua Peters is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Resident and Registered Psychotherapist (RP) with the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships, Ottawa. Over the past decade, he has presented at several notable conferences, including the Guelph Sexuality Conference, the National 2SLGBTQ+ Service Providers Summit, and the Community-Based Research Centre’s Atlantic Regional Forum. Joshua also regularly contributes to online, radio, and television news stories for the CBC, Global News, the Toronto Star, and other organizations. In his clinical practice, he is particularly interested in providing psychotherapy, mental health research, and advocacy for the 2SLGBTQ+ community — especially for those from rural and other marginalized backgrounds. Joshua has obtained a specialization in Psychology at the University of Ottawa, a Master of Arts in Counselling at Saint Paul University, and is currently completing his final year in the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island under the supervision of Dr. Aleks Milosevic and Dr. Lila Hakim.