Article links, Relationships, Uncategorized

Honestly, I’m just trying to catch back up to all the links I save in OneTab with all the best intentions of writing thoughtful in-depth reviews of them… Then I just get busy or distracted and have to clear out the backlog in scattershot blasts like I’m doing this week.

I know, I know: “Therapist, manage thyself”. (We may hear this among ourselves all the time. I’m just sayin’… remember, your therapist is also a human being 🙂

Today I’m sharing a number of links that shape some commonly-held-to-be-true beliefs about what makes relationship more or less effective as an intimate partnership. As with many of these, especially the list posts that offer “Ten of These” of “Five of Those”, bear in mind these are topical suggestions at best. Good ones, but generally left to the couples to explore best-practices for implementation. In many senses left unexplored by these kinds of articles, it’s often not about the *action* itself, it’s about understanding the meaning(s) of these actions between partners. Or to put it another way, sometimes what makes a relationship strong is not following the letter of the law, but understanding the spirit of the law and finding adaptable ways of meeting the need in the spirit, rather than adhering to the limited code of the lettering.

As always, take most web-based advice with a grain of salt… including mine 🙂

The Ten Habits of Happy Couples
I’ve never been really good about the whole “go to bed at the same time”, because in most of my relationships, one or the other of us has been a night owl for whatever reason. But the rest of these are good suggestions, if sometimes challenging to practice in times of tension.

9 Qualities Of People Who Are Great At Relationships
Moving out of what makes *relationships work well”, we come to a nifty list of some common qualities of people most capable of having really good relationships. I aspire to many of these; like I tell my clients, some days are better than others when it comes to actively practicing anything that is an ideal. In the end, we’re all human, and sometimes under stress we resort to earliest patterning. The point is that people who are good at relationships know how to forgive… including themselves.

4 Surefire Ways To Make Your Partner Feel Loved
Number 4 in this list, “letting go of the need to be right”, is something a lot of my clients struggle with. Fighting in relationships makes us fearful, and when afraid, we dig the emotional equivalent of defensive trenches and prepare to defend our positions at all costs… even against our own partners. I’ve done it; I’ve lost relationships because of it. It’s a natural response to what feels like a hostile action from quarters we otherwise presumed to be friendly and supportive, trusted allies. And let me tell you, once you start digging those kinds of trenches through your relationship, it becomes increasingly difficult to dig your way out of them.

Finding Love, The Old-fashioned Way
I really appreciate PT’s ability to present complicated things in relatively simple language, including the complexity of human courtship rituals in the 21st century.

[P]eople feel forced to put up a false front for the suitor?or for their own families. The result is that their more complicated inner selves, personal issues, and needs are not revealed. When that is the case, disillusionment is around the corner. […]
Social media and the widespread use of internet dating sites have compressed the amount of time devoted to the getting-to-know-you process. This may produce a pseudo-courtship in which participants develop the illusion that they are getting to know one another, but there is no nuanced, deep level of mutual appreciation. Oddly enough, this kind of courtship is similar to the early 19th-century chaperoned relationships in which the incentive was to create a suitable persona for the occasion. In both cases, the real self may be omitted. This is akin to building a home on a sinkhole.

Article links, Self-Development

I’m pretty sure anyone who has been in the workforce long enough has heard the old adage, “A cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind; the empty desk is a sign of…?”

Television shows like “Hoarders” have shed an unsympathetic light on people who run the gamut from being poor housekeepers to having outright mental illnesses, and made a lot of people whose housekeeping skills slide during anxious or depressive cycles become increasingly ashamed of the state of their living spaces. I have had clients for whom the struggle to maintain a reasonable grasp on their living conditions is a repeating (sometimes constant) source of tension, so over the years I’ve collected a number of resources that help supplement the work we do in session around unravelling the internal stories these clients tell themselves about chaos and control.

Most people who deal with these kinds of issues have heard of Fly Lady, which is half environmental-management programming, half social networking and support. I used the program myself in its early incarnation, and I still adhere to the “ten minutes a day” approach to tidying and putting things away… most days, at least. I certainly got much better at managing my space when I moved the counselling office into the house; having clients walk through your living space makes it *really* imperative you don’t have a dazzling array of laundry and dishes and cat hair visible on the transit path. (Clients coming to a home office are a pretty forgiving lot, by and large, but all the same: if I want my clients to treat this as a professional space, I kind of have to lead the way in treating it that way myself.)

Not too long ago, a friend who had given up on Fly Lady when it started getting “too commercial” pointed me at a different site with a similar mandate, and much stronger language appealing to a different sense of humour, and sensibility in general: Unf*&k Your Habitat. I don’t mind the language, personally, and I find the slightly-edgier, less-hand-holdy-cutesy tone that was more pervasive on Fly Lady works for me. It’s a little more like being motivated to work by my Mom as I remember from childhood years, than my gentle and slightly-batty Auntie. It won’t be to everyone’s taste.

I’ve also been a longtime fan of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits for suggestions on how to approach decluttering and environmental maintenance; for example, this recent Quickstart Guide to decluttering a home is a great example of a simple, low-pressure way to rethink our attachments to our Stuff. Dig through the archive; there’s plenty more where that comes from.

This morning a friend sent me this link, about how clutter in our closets may reflect our thinking styles on other fronts as well:

Many powerful emotions are lurking amid stuff we keep. Whether it’s piles of unread newspapers, clothes that don’t fit, outdated electronics, even empty margarine tubs, the things we accumulate reflect some of our deepest thoughts and feelings.

Now there’s growing recognition among professional organizers that to come to grips with their clutter, clients need to understand why they save what they save, or things will inevitably pile up again. In some cases, therapists are working along with organizers to help clients confront their psychological demons.

Another recent article that touches on the related issue of motivation provides some useful scientific (or at least, plausibly-scientific; this *is* the INternet after all, and I take all such claims with a huge grain of salt these days. It’s essentially a link-bin for the supporting articles, but it’s worth the time to sift through most of them, especially the concepts of using optimism ? often explored in client sessions as finding ways to change the internal narratives, or the client’s internal perspectives on how and why things happen as they do ? and progress, or new metrics for measuring change, however incremental, toward a goal.

There are a lot of resources, and a lot of research, being done into how people approach their environments in conscious and unconscious reflection of their own internal states. It’s rarely as simple as the “cluttered desk/cluttered mind” scenario, but it’s all far more interconnected than we think, and disorganized thinking affects all of us to one degree or another, at one time or another. Being able to help people both find better solutions to the household clutter issue, and find ways of challenging or adapting the internal mental processes, is a part of what psychotherapy can do.

Practice News

The short answer is, as the Cool Kids these days say, “TB;DP” (Too Busy; Didn’t Post). There was a theatre production, with a lot of overflow into non-client time from that. There’s been some business development work, and especially since the show closed, simply a lot of catching up on every non-show aspect of my life. Now we’re into the muggy thickness of summer, and it seems like there’s always gardening to care for, or a lawn that needs cutting, or things that require me to simply be not-home more often than in the frigid confines of the winter months…

I have a backlog of links to post. I still read online most days, and I collect the links to articles that are especially thought-provoking in areas related to the practice, or specific communities I support, or even just ideas I think sound neat and seem worth exploring. The time-consuming part comes from trying to write wrappers around the links to provide some context on why I think the link is worth your time and effort to click through, gentle readers. I’m getting there; at the very least I need to clear out my OneTab listing so the browser stops choking every time I open Chrome… (little bit of my inner geek fell out there, sorry).

This is the first week in three or four where, now that most of the administration work is up to date, I might actually have time to get to those posts. A few people have asked my for my opinion on the whole #notallmen/#yesallwomen debate that rocketed around the internet a few weeks ago. I do have some thoughts but have mostly been keeping my toes out of the water on the grounds that I remember 1st Wave Feminism (barely) and the 2nd Wave that came later, and now that we’re back in the slippery mud again as a culture, we’re not getting anywhere by reactively flinging mud between the genders and trying to Other any side not Our Side. Nobody likes living in a climate of fear, but the way in which we (the broader-spectrum, societal “we”) are engaging the discussion about fears and concerns is perhaps less effective than it needs to be, with no easy road out of the swamp as long as the juggernaut of Media is selling us idealized, if out-dated, imagery of what it means to be “woman” or “man” without any regards to the growing backlash of diversity and lived experience.

So opening that can of worms, while a discussion that happens with increasing frequency in the therapeutic settings on a one-on-one experiential basis, is much harder to step into in the broadcast medium of the internet blog. Doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, just means I haven’t figured out how best to present them yet.

Please stay tuned while I get back in the saddle and back to work on building the resource links; postings will continue approximately every other day once I get my act together!


May was a good month for testing auto-publishing articles and posts to the website. Technology is great if you make effective use of it. I’ve had to put reading and writing on hold since late May to get a personal project out the door, but now that that particular commitment has finally wound down, I can get back to adding what I hope is useful reference content to this site.

There is also a non-zero chance that the practice hours may be returning to the original evenings-only format in the near future, as I am currently looking for supplemental employment. The nature of a private practice is inconsistent in terms of clients coming through the door and in terms of fees, as sometimes clients need to make use of the sliding scale for short (or long) periods of time, and that makes it harder to pay the bills in a practice this small. I’m not the only therapist I know working multiple jobs for this reason, but that doesn’t always make it easier on the clients impacted by the compressed and limited availability. When the employment situation changes for sure, I will communicate the new availability out to existing active clients, and will determine then whether or not I will still be open to new clients for the duration of any contract I take on.

The only thing certain in life is change, and a therapist’s life is no different in that regard than anyone else’s. It’s a good reminder to practice mindfulness and groundlessness in the moment as things shift on many fronts!


It’s not uncommon for me to encounter clients who, for a variety of reasons, resort to eating as a coping strategy when bored, stressed, angry, sad or depressed… and who then often end up in a different cycle of disappointment or depression with self-esteem issues associated with their weight, looks in general, lifestyle and choices in general.

I have found some good resources on topics like mindful or emotional eating at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating’s website, particularly in their blog. Information covers not only nutritional topics in general, but looks at how individuals form relationships with food that affect everything from self-image to intimacy in interpersonal relationships. as with all online blogs intended to promote other products from an author, company, or institute, the articles are often teasers or light(er) reading on deeper subjects meant to be explored through dedicated coursework. But as starting points for personal reflection and thought provocation around individual habits, they’ve been good triggers for doing research on our own time and through other resources if we need them. At the very least, many of these blog posts can provide an excellent entry point into conversations we want to have with our partners, families, or our selves, on the topic of change.


Another really great resource link from Tiny Buddha, this one has been in my bookmarks folder since it was originally posted.

It was one of the first things I read that referred to the idea that “depression lies to you”, a concept I have since dealt with on personal and professional levels more times than I can count. And the author approaches the idea with a gentleness and compassion that comes only from experience, and speaks to the tiny light in all of us that never goes out even on the darkest, can’t-get-out-of-bed days.

One of the few non-psychotherapeutic authors I know who has dealt with depression as clearly is comic artist Allie Brosh, author of the weblog “Hyperbole and a half”, who almost single-handedly transformed a huge swath of the internet when she illustrated the devastating impact of depression in a pair of strips that went live, the first in 2011, the second in 2013.

These three resources have been invaluable in helping me work with clients who have slid down the rabbit hole and are working hard to bootstrap themselves even incrementally back up from the darkness.


Another Lifehacker article that proved to be surprisingly well-grounded in useful things to think about, is this one about the things we all wish we had learned about relationships before the one(s) we’re in fell apart.

Obviously, as a psychotherapist dealing with relationships, I’m always looking for ways to make repair attempts, but even I know that sometimes relationship will sink under the weight of failures-to-date, no matter how much bailing we do trying to save things (and I say that as a survivor of two failed marriages; I know, highly ironic for a marriage therapist, no? :). Sometimes all we can do is give our clients support and whatever tools might seem helpful in the moment to keep heads above water when the marriage falls apart. But if I could simply download this kind of information ? some learned by reading, some by internal reflection and contemplation, most by hard and painfully-gained experience ? to people on their way into relationships, maybe there would be a chance I’d see fewer of them coming into my office in the late or ending stages of relationship crisis.

(I’m particularly fond of how this article specifically addresses attachment styles, since Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” and attachment anxieties in relationship seem to be a big part of the work I do with many clients these days.)


In the wake of a seasonal surge in new client intake requests in the past week or so, I’m fielding a lot of questions from individuals and couples who have never done psychotherapy before and have no idea what to expect from counselling.

There are some good resources on the web discussing expectations, good questions to ask before you book the initial consultation or intake session, but this article has long been one of my go-to resources for people wondering what to expect from marriage counselling in particular. I’m not normally a big fan of LifeHacker articles, but once in a while they get it right (or their guest bloggers do).


The Toronto Star recently reported that arguing with loved ones may be contributing to a higher risk of stress-related health issues, and even death.

“Middle-aged adults who frequently fought with their husband or wife were more than twice as likely to die at a relatively young age compared to people who rarely fought, according to a study published online this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Frequent fights with friends were even more hazardous ? people who fell into this category were 2.6 times more likely to die prematurely than people who got along with their pals. Worst of all were persistent fights with neighbours, the researchers found. These types of argumentative people were more than three times more likely to die prematurely than the go-with-the-flow types.”

Moral of the story? Most of us need better ways to regain and retain a calm centre in the middle of confrontation, and to find better ways of grounding out the stress and tension of those encounters before, during, and after they happen.


Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog has been a must-read for me for a long time. He’s a minimalist who has streamlined his life in ways that thrill and terrify me simultaneously, and gotten his entire family on board with “simple living” principles in big ways.

Like most of us, his life isn’t entirely bread and roses and he’s had a previous marriage fail along the way as well as the usual intimate struggles with his current wife. But he’s done such an excellent job of documenting things along the way that even when he’s providing some fairly simplistic, superficial glimpses into processes that have worked out better for him this time around, I find he always gives me more to chew on than the simple words imply. And he’s breath-takingly honest about the places where changes are still very much works in progress where sometimes things work… and sometimes, not so much.