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Group Therapy -Spring 2019

You are longing for a more fulfilling sense of connection with yourself and others. You want to improve your relationships and maybe even feel better about yourself.

Making meaningful connections is hard for you. You often wish you could connect in a more deep and meaningful way with others.

Perhaps you have noticed a recurring pattern in your relationships that you would love to change or understand better. You know you need to get better at creating healthy boundaries, but you have no idea where to start.

And social situations—UGH! You often struggle and feel anxious. You would like to know how you relate to others, but do not have anyone to give you an honest (and kind) opinion.

What if you had a safe and supportive space to explore your feelings, connect with others, and practice new behaviours to help you create more fulfilling relationships?

Imagine feeling more connected to the important people in your life. Picture yourself communicating in a way that feels good to you and helps you to feel seen and heard.

Envision that you are excited to sit down and have conversations with your friends, family, or your partner and are confident in your ability to be supportive of others, while asking for the support you need.

Finally!  Visualize feeling better about yourself and creating and deepening the relationships that matter most to you.

You can do all this in Group Therapy.

Group therapy is a powerful tool for growth and change.

In therapy groups, you will use the group format and a proven process as a mechanism to help you explore, heal, and change through developing and examining interpersonal relationships in the group.

What to expect:

7 Weekly Sessions: You will meet your group once per week for 90 minutes for 7 weeks.

Small Groups for Multiple Perspectives: This group will consist of 6-10 individuals who meet face-to-face to share their every day struggles and concerns with two registered social workers and relationship therapists, Kelly and Melissa.

Support and Encouragement:You will tap into the power of this group with the unique opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, encouragement, and feedback from other individuals in a safe and confidential environment.

Deepened Self-Awareness: You will have the opportunity to deepen your level of self-awareness to learn how you relate to others and to practice new ways of being in a relationship with others.

Topics That Matter Most To You: You will enjoy the unstructured nature of the group. Instead of covering one specific topic for each group session, you can focus on a particular theme or issue that’s important to you.

Practice Giving Support:You will become more supportive in your personal life as you get a chance to give support and feedback to others.

Are you interested in joining us? Great! We’d love to have you.

Join the waitlist here and you’ll be the first to know when our Spring group opens up!

Coverage: For many people, group therapy with a social worker (MSW or RSW) or psychotherapist (RP) is covered under their insurance plans.



In trying these new ways of interacting with others, the important thing is to do something that feels difficult. Old, familiar ways of behaving will probably not result in productive experiments. Moreover, a new behaviour may seem difficult at first, but with practice, it gets easier. Then the new behaviour may be added to your repertoire-your range options-and it’s available whenever you need it.


Cannabis in Canada

If you didn’t know, today is a big day for Canada as marijuana is now legal on a national level!

Here at Bliss, we want to take the opportunity to both celebrate and provide some further information on this new legislation. Although cannabis has been legalized nationally, the laws surrounding legal consumption will vary depending on which province and city you live in. It is your responsibility to know the laws in your city. Some information can be found HERE.

We also want to express the importance of safe consumption. Like alcohol, the laws surrounding cannabis are intended to protect and support appropriate use. At Bliss, we want to remind our readers that the age limits of both alcohol and cannabis are extremely important in order to protect youth as their minds continue to develop.

At Bliss, we want to welcome our clients to speak with us about this new legislation. Whether you are interested in exploring cannabis use, or feel unsure about how to navigate this new legislation, we are here to support you! We feel that at this time, it is crucial to address the importance of having a healthy relationship with cannabis consumption, and we would like to encourage our adult clients who are interested in marijuana to feel comfortable speaking with us about this topic!

We are also willing to work with those who are interested in exploring their concerns about this new legislation, and addressing the difference between healthy and unhealthy consumption. Remember that there are community supports available to you to help work toward a better understanding of cannabis and the laws surrounding its legalization in Canada.

Are you interested in attaining your higher self? Feel free to do so with the support of Bliss Counselling!

Sex Therapy Virgin? What To Expect

When you decide to go to sex therapy, you could be feeling a little nervous about what to expect. This is totally normal! Visiting a therapist can bring up all kinds of fears and questions about the unknown.

Many people toy around with the idea of therapy a bunch of times before they pick up the phone and schedule an appointment. Even if you have an appointment on the books already, you might be considering cancelling. The thought of sharing intimate details with a stranger can be a little overwhelming.

We totally understand! Our sex therapists see first-time clients all the time.

Before jumping into what you can expect, first know what it’s like for your therapist to see someone for the first time. Here’s what happens for many sex therapists:

  • We’re excited. It takes courage to decide that it’s time to do things differently or move past challenges.
  • We’re hopeful for you. By deciding to come to therapy, you’re actively engaging in your personal growth. You might feel nervous walking into the room, but we see your potential right from the first session.
  • We know you’re nervous. And it’s totally okay! We may even bring it up to help you feel comfortable. We’ll tread safely at a pace that works for you.
  • This is a no judgment zone. You could have ended up at any therapist in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, but you’re here with us and we’re honoured to be part of your story. We’re not judging whatever it is that brought you to therapy—no matter how you feel about it.


We hope that by sharing how it feels on the other side, you’ll relax into the idea of sex therapy too.

What sex therapy is not:

  • There’s absolutely no physical contact or nudity
  • We don’t use any practices involving judgment or shame
  • This is a no-pressure, safe place where we won’t suggest you do anything that will make you uncomfortable


Here’s exactly what you can expect from your first sex therapy session:

  • So, what is it, exactly?
    Sex therapists treat relationship constellations of all kinds, couples, and individuals and tackle every sex-related concern you can think of (and some you could never even dream up!) from erectile dysfunction and painful intercourse to low desire, lagging libidos and questions about fetishism, open relationships or gender identity.
  • Deciding if you’ve found the right sex therapist for you
    Sex therapists aren’t one-size-fits-all, so it’s important for you to feel like you’ve found a good match with your therapist. You can get a better sense of our sex therapists by exploring our team here. We are all compassionate, warm, and professional, and we all have our own unique personalities.
  • We’ll talk, but you’ll get so much more
    We don’t just talk about what’s going on; you’ll also get homework assignments and simple action steps to complement what you discover on the couch. We’re here to offer specific guidance, exercises, and techniques.
  • Your first session
    You’ll complete a confidentiality form before your first appointment. During your first office visit, we’ll welcome you with a smile! Then you might have to complete another form depending on your goals. You will answer questions about the sexual challenges you’re currently having and how they’re affecting your life. We’ll review your answers, which will assist us in tailoring your therapy sessions to meet your goals.
  • We’ll take the lead
    We like to start this way because it can help take the pressure off you to figure out what to say as you’re getting used to therapy. We know that your first session can feel a little intimidating, so we aim to make it as easy as possible for you! We’ll ask you some standard intake questions, share feedback from your answers to the questionnaire, and talk about ways you can start making improvements. We’ll also dive into your goals for moving forward, and what actions to take next.
  • Homework
    After your intake sessions, we’ll get to work. It’s common to walk away from your first few sessions with homework and oodles of ideas and exercises customized for your goals. These could be something as easy as writing in a journal in the evening or trying out a particular masturbation technique.
  • What happens next?
    Depending on your goals, you might only need a few therapy sessions. However, if you choose to go deeper with your exploration and commit to regular therapy sessions, we’ll take a more in-depth look at your relational and attachment dynamics, developmental and unconscious content, and therapeutic goals. More complex issues may lead to months of therapy, while others can be resolved in a few short sessions. It usually depends on the root of the issue, whether it’s biological (like erectile dysfunction caused by medication), behavioural (if lack of sleep is leading to a lagging libido) or psychological (when things like stress or anxiety interfere with intimacy and the relationship in general).

    If the issue is having a negative impact on the relationship as a whole, it may be helpful for couples to see a therapist together to help them navigate the situation. Often it involves managing expectations around sex and learning to communicate better. After your intake sessions, we’ll establish a therapeutic plan or framework and discuss your homework and what worked and what did not from the actions you took. We’ll tweak and make adjustments to the exercises to make sure they’re a good fit and maybe even give you some new ones. We want to help you feel confident that you’re headed in the right direction towards lasting change.


We’re thrilled that you’ve found your way to this article and are ready to start thinking about improving your sex life and can’t wait to help you on your journey.

If you’re ready to book your first appointment with us, you can do that here. And if you have some questions first, we’re happy to help! Get in touch here.

By: Bliss Sexologist, Kelly. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “tips from the couch” here.

12 Reasons It Might Be A Good Idea To See a Therapist

You’re having a hard time lately. And it’s even the little things that never used to bother you. You know you have a lot to be grateful for, and maybe like you should just “get over it,” but it’s not that easy.

For most people, it’s tricky to know whether coming to therapy makes sense. So often people have so many positive things going on in their lives that signing up for therapy might feel like you’re admitting defeat or that you’re making a big deal out of nothing.

Therapy is a place for ALL feelings.

Consider a reframe. Instead of looking at therapy like either/or, try looking at it with a both/and outlook. The happiness, highlights, and milestones—as well as the difficult, painful and uncomfortable ones too. Therapy isn’t a place where you check all your good baggage at the door; it’s all welcome here to sit beside any negative thoughts that might have you feeling down.

Therapy can be helpful in the aftermath of trauma or crisis, and even during a tough transition. It can also be a place if you’re feeling “meh” or stuck and aren’t sure where to go next in your personal life or with your career.

Just like the classroom might not give us all the tools we need to thrive in the world today, our past and present relationships might also not be offering us everything we need to succeed. You can learn new ways of thinking and new life and relationship strategies in therapy too.

Here are some reasons why therapy could be a good fit for you or someone you care about:

  1. Your friends or family express concern. While it can be uncomfortable to hear from people we love, sometimes the people close to us notice when we’ve changed or if something is off. If people close to you are asking you questions like, “Are you okay?” or “What’s going on with you lately?” It could be a sign that it’s time to chat with a professional.
  2. Your motivation is MIA. If your energy is waning, and you’re finding yourself feeling irritable, sad, hopeless, or even having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, or you’re just no longer enjoying the stuff you used to enjoy, you could benefit from talking with a professional.
  3. Worry keeps you up at night. If you’re feeling like excessive worry is taking over your ability to do everyday activities, it’s literally keeping you awake at night, or you’re constantly running through stressful thoughts in your head, therapy might be beneficial.
  4. Abuse or trauma. If you’ve experienced any traumatic event or have been in an abusive relationship, it can feel difficult taking the step to talk to someone about it. Leaving trauma and abuse untouched could lead to lifelong scars that could continue to affect your future relationships and ability to feel joy. We often think these feelings of loss or grief will go away on their own, and this isn’t always the case. Even if you find yourself over-engaging with friends or family to help you deal with trauma or loss, this could also be helpful to seek professional support.
  5. Relationship problems. If any of your relationships have become tense or unfulfilling or maybe you feel like one of you is walking on eggshells, and your partner(s) feel the same, relationship counselling could help give you new communication tools and strategies to get your relationship back on track.
  6. A big life transition. We’re always changing, and sometimes that change isn’t easy. Maybe it’s a big move, the end of a relationship, losing someone we love, or even a job change. Whatever the transition, when difficulties arise, and you’re having trouble working through it on your own, talking with a therapist can help you process your feelings and work through the change.
  7. Addictions. If you find yourself drinking or using recreational or prescription drugs more often, or in larger doses, these could be signs that you’re trying to numb feelings. It doesn’t even need to be drugs or alcohol; it could be food, sex, spending money, or exercise in excess as well.
  8. Obsessive behaviour. If you’re finding yourself compulsively washing your hands or checking to make sure you’ve turned off the stove, obsessively avoiding germs, or feel trapped by looping thoughts, therapy could help you break this cycle.
  9. Feelings are extra strong. Maybe your feelings are feeling particularly intense lately and you’re feeling angry more often than you used to. Or, you could be automatically assuming the worst case scenario to even the smallest perceived setback. These feelings could be challenging and even lead to panic attacks.
  10. You had a poor review at work. Since we spend most of our adult life at work, this is often the first place changes are seen by others. Changes in work performance are common with people struggling with an emotional or psychological issue. Even if you used to enjoy your job and suddenly you’re resenting it, there could be a deeper cause.
  11. You’re physically ill. If you’ve developed sudden recurring migraines, have an upset stomach or a weak immune system leaving you vulnerable to more colds and flu, this could be a sign that emotional pain is showing up in your body and the stress of carrying this is manifesting into physical symptoms.
  12. You want to take your life, relationship or pleasure to the next level. Are you sick of mediocrity in one or all of these areas? Do you feel on fire in your work life but your relationship or sex life is lackluster? Taking things to the next level requires a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, stretch into new and unfamiliar territory, upleveling in every way possible. Therapy is a great way to create the changes you crave. A life that is in alignment with your values, your dreams, your best self possible.


There could be any number of reasons leading you to feel like you aren’t quite yourself lately. Even if you can’t put a finger on the feeling or lack thereof, talking to a therapist in an open and nonjudgmental space can help lessen the burden, and help you get back to your life and feel good about things again.

Curious is therapy could be a good fit for you? Get in touch!

By: Bliss Therapist, Kelly. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “tips from the couch” here.

Why You’re Too Tired For Sex & How To Get Your Groove Back

If your pillows could talk.

Not tonight.

Ugh, I’m soooo tired. Just let me sleep.

You’re just too tired for sex, and honestly, it’s the furthest thing from your mind and while feeling guilty is hard enough, you wish you had enough energy to have sex. Even just thinking about sex makes you tired.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How’s your diet? Is it mainly made up of unprocessed, healthy, and whole foods?
  2. Are you hydrated? Are you drinking at least eight glasses of water a day? Do you consume a lot of alcohol or caffeine?
  3. Do you move your body a few times a week?
  4. How’s your sleep? Are you getting enough, and are you sleeping through the night?
  5. Are you stressed? Do you have a way to handle your stress?
  6. Do you have time to yourself? Do you have a self-care routine?


If you shook your head “no” to most of these, it could be that you really are too tired for sex. Sex is a reflection of your overall health and the more you can look after yourself with healthy habits you’ll be more likely to enjoy your life, and thrive, in and out of bed.

Own your wanting

Now, before you start thinking, “I don’t have time for desire! I have a job to do, a family to look after, stuff to do,” Care taking can be a desire killer, so it’s important to take care of yourself first. Desire has an element of selfishness to it, and to reach orgasm, you have to pause the thinking about everyone else and think about yourself.

Know that desire is owning your wanting. If you desire something, it means you want it. First, you need to know what you want; then you need to be willing to get it. Desire is really a necessary expression of freedom.

Let’s get your groove back! Here are some simple ways to look after yourself so you can look after your intimate needs too.

  1. Eat with your energy in mind.

Cut back on or cut out processed food, dairy, and sugar (that includes alcohol too!) Fill up on plenty of water and caffeine-free teas and start eating better-for-you fats like avocado or coconut oil. Within a few days, you’ll feel an energy boost, feel lighter, and your digestion could improve too. All of these factors play into feeling groovy between the sheets.

  1. Move it, move it!

When you engage in exercise, you’ll build up your sexual vitality and help release orgasmic feel-great chemicals—serotonin, dopamine, and testosterone, which in turn, revs up your sex drive, gives you more energy and makes you feel happier in your day-to-day life.

It can be hard to find the time in the daily hustle for working out. Even if you don’t go to the gym or participate in a fitness class, simply start making some small changes. You can park far away from the door at work, do some squats or pushups while waiting for your tea to brew, or have a dance party in your kitchen after dinner. Once you start noticing the benefits of moving your body, you’ll want more. If you can make time for a workout at least three times a week, your energy, your body, and your mind will thank you. In general, find a movement practice that feels good for you, because the exercise you enjoy will feel the best for your body and mind and will be more likely to actually happen!

  1. Find some zzz’s.

I know, easier said than done, right? There could be any number of things affecting your sleep. If you have trouble going to bed at a decent hour, consider trying to set a bedtime alarm 30 to 60 minutes before you plan to be in bed. Then, over the next hour, find a bedtime routine that relaxes both your body and mind. Turn the screens off, dim the lights, maybe even light a candle or have a shower and read a few pages of a book. Avoiding stimulants and caffeine after about 2 pm will also help calm your mind so you can get the sleep you need. Also, consider blackout shades or wearing a sleep mask to block out any light from electronics or an early sunrise.

When you make sleep a priority, you’ll also be more apt to stick to your better eating and movement habits as well. It has a huge ripple effect on all of our activities, sex being one of them!

  1. Be nice to yourself.

If you’re constantly thinking to yourself, “I’m fat and ugly, who would want me?”—It’s going to be hard to turn yourself on and feel turned on. I often ask my clients, “Would you want to make love to yourself?” Because if you don’t, why would you welcome somebody else to? You aren’t going to value the person that wants you if you don’t feel radiant. It’s not about thinking you’re drop-dead gorgeous in a conventional sense, but, about giving yourself permission to feel good.

  1. Get your om on.

In other words, a meditation or mindfulness practice, which is all about diving into pleasure, being present in your body and the moment and slowing down. There’s no need to jump in and force yourself to sit on a meditation pillow for an hour though. Simply begin with just a few quiet moments throughout your day. When your alarm sounds in the morning pause for three deep breaths before you pull yourself out of bed, close your eyes for five minutes when you get into your car in the morning, take your time making dinner and just notice how food feels, smells and tastes. The more you can tune into these little pleasures throughout the day the more you’ll be able to enjoy sex.

Your mindfulness practice can be as easy as sitting outside during lunch and noticing the sun or the breeze on your face, listen to the sounds of the trees moving and truly take the time to notice how those sensations feel.

All of these practices are a form of self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so looking after your needs first will support your needs so you can show up fully in all areas of your life, including sex.

Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “tips from the couch” here.

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It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it….

Often when I have clients come in to discuss topics related to their couple relationships, family relationships or friendships, what I hear is:  “I can’t tell them because I may hurt their feelings.”

Well, one thing we know as therapists is that this exact type of thinking is what frequently keeps people stuck in unhealthy relationships or prevents connection.  When we withhold what we are thinking to ‘protect’ someone, we don’t allow opportunity for connection or growth. We stagnate, we build resentments, we create negative thought patterns. While you thought you were preventing something from happening to the other person, ie. hurting their feelings, you were actually denying an opportunity for connection, for dealing with your own internal struggles and for growth in the relationship. Is trying to spare someone’s feelings worth building up resentments and internal unhappiness?  

What if we spoke how we felt, shared our fears, discussed concerns with our partners and friends, considering the importance of the words we chose but thinking beyond the tragic impact we ASSUME those words will have? By taking the time to think about what is at the heart of our feelings, we can often tease out what it is that we really want to say.  

Let me give you an example: You’re upset because your partner has lost their job. You don’t want to say anything because you know your partner is already feeling upset, guilty, worried about the future. You assume that if you say something it will upset them further and you don’t want to do that. However, you are also struggling and worried about what that means for your future, so neither of you talk about it. You both fear responses from the other.  Over time this avoidance can become an unhealthy pattern, creating the disconnect and resentment that you are trying to avoid. What if instead you sat down with your partner asked if you could talk to them about the job loss? What if you acknowledged that you both have some fears about what this may mean? What if you listened to their concerns, and then communicated your own. If you approach these discussions with statements like “I am worried about“…, “My fear is“… etc.,  it allows an opportunity for open dialogue rather than blame or hurt feelings. A shared discussion of your fears will lead to a connection that can help you through a difficult time.



Tammy is a passionate therapist at Bliss Counselling. She believes in fostering a collaborative, therapeutic relationship within which clients are best able to direct their own care. In addition to providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families, Tammy’s work has also involved finding community supports for clients in distress, assisting with life transitions, and enhancing effective interpersonal communication styles. Book an appointment with Tammy online today!





She Means Business – An Interview with Certified Clinical Sexologist and Psychotherapist, Kelly McDonnell-Arnold

Today we’re using the hashtag #shemeansbusiness to shine a light on inspiring women and women-run businesses in celebration of International Women’s Day.

This interview with Kelly McDonnell-Arnold was a special treat. While her professional bio is certainly impressive, she makes us want to do better in our own lives and in our work. She could be the poster lady for #SheMeansBusiness. Let’s dive in!

Tell us, why do you love your work?

I enjoy explaining the mysteries of the human condition in simple terms everyone can understand. I like to help people feel understood, confront their joys and pains, and help motivate them to make positive changes. All this gives me energy when I wake up in the morning.

I avoid offering simplistic solutions, and instead I prefer to create a community around the paradoxes of our intimate lives. Sexuality lives at the intersection of multiple disciplines and the vastness of the subject of sexuality has always fascinated me.

I get to put this work to practice when I do couples therapy, which could very well be the hardest kind of therapy to practice. As a therapist, I see plenty of pain, deeply rooted patterns, and loneliness, even when in the presence of others. You’ll likely find me top-knot deep in depth psychology, neuroscience, systems, and attachment theory.

Getting started, and even today, I’m always excited by this work. As long as my brain works—and I’m always seeking ways to make it work better and faster, then I can be a good therapist for my clients.

It’s thrilling to think about the ripple effect of helping my one-on-one clients, and the hundreds of amazing clients who visit my clinic, and the many people who watch my sex and relationship advice on TV. It’s so inspiring to know that a business can grow to this size in just four years.

I also love advising magazines such as Chatelaine and Canadian Living and online spaces as well, such as elephant journal and mindbodygreen—it means that I can share what I’ve learned in practice with a broader audience!

I also enjoy putting together material that educates and empowers people to embrace themselves and their sexuality through Sexology International. This includes a magazine, online course, and coaching programs.  

Your passion is infectious! How did you get started in this business?

I started out by opening my own practice. I had a cozy one-person office. I loved working with clients, but it felt isolating. I craved a collaborative and open office, and when I moved the location to Uptown Waterloo, that’s when things really took off. I hired associates, which was a pivotal moment for me. I moved from being self-employed to an entrepreneur.  

Wow! That’s a lot of risk! How did you do handle it?

With the help of a healthy support system, including my partner, James, I overcame many obstacles while growing Bliss, including a difficult audit and the hiring (and firing) of the wrong people. Mistakes are part of any business, and it doesn’t mean you have to quit. If you get knocked down, you just get up and keep going.

What’s challenging about this business?

People often don’t realize how much hard work and dedication goes into starting a business from scratch. I’ve worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot in my personal life to build my practice to where it is, and that’s involved sleepless nights and working a lot more than 40-hour weeks for a long time!

There’s a flipside to this, however, now that the hard setting-up work is done, I can afford to enjoy a little time off, and amazing, professional colleagues are always inspiring and helping me on a daily basis.

A lot of people say, “I could never do your job because I’d be so sad hearing people’s upsetting stories,” but I find it the exact opposite. It’s wildly empowering to watch people take control and change their lives.

Something I learned early on (thanks to my parents) is that if you put your mind to something, you can do it. Never define yourself by other people’s standards. Always, always, try to set a new bar for yourself. You always set the bar high because you’ll always pass it.

Not only does it give me the lifestyle that I want, and the freedom to work with people and clients that I want to work with, but it also gives our clients a place where they can get care and treatment in a way that they want—a relaxed environment where everyone and everything is calm and completely judgment-free.

What advice do you have for women who are thinking of starting a business?

With starting a collaborative private practice, I wanted to bring together passionate, professionals from the field, where we could all grow together personally and professionally.

Supporting one another in working with our clients to the very best of our ability. I had to get comfortable with leading a practice where associates have more experience and education than me. I love that I can learn from every single person at Bliss.

How do you support women in business?

I love supporting my sisters-in-business. I encourage other women—with high-fives, encouragement, and with a genuine desire to serve. I mentor other woman, and ask women I admire to mentor me. I encourage others to reframe their thinking (and help others) to come from a place of abundance, not scarcity, When one wins, everyone wins.

What inspires you?

Possibility! I’m inspired by an entire tribe, professionally and personally—my sisters, clients, community, and mentors.

I’m fortunate to get to stand on the shoulders of giants and using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before to make intellectual progress.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself developing my therapy business (Bliss Counselling) even further, to allow busy and travelling professionals to access our therapy services. My goal is to maintain a healthy and balanced life—something we all need. Family and kids will also be a welcome part of my future.

What does success look like to you?

To me, success is doing what you love, getting paid for it, and having a wonderful balance of family and friendships.

To me, it’s not just about having material or career success. It’s about breaking through boundaries to get to your dreams and having the guts to go for it. People are going to tell you it’s not possible, you might get hurt, but you do it anyway. Your competitors are going to try and bring you down, but you keep going! You don’t have to follow the same path as someone else—why not create your own?

When you’re doing something original, honouring your unique talents, and inspiring others along the way, you’ll eventually find success on your terms. Sticking to it without letting anyone else get in the way is an admirable (and less-travelled) path.

Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “tips from the couch” here.


Avoidance versus Self-Care?


You’re at home watching your favourite TV show, when Netflix asks you the judgmental question: “Are you still watching?” (Yes, Netflix, This is Us brings me to tears every time and I need to know what happens next.) You realize that one episode turned into several, and more than a few hours have gone by. But, hey, what’s wrong with a little relaxation and enjoyment during your time off?

The answer is “nothing” if what you’re doing is practicing self-care. However, what we categorize as personal care can actually be its cleverly disguised twin – avoidance. Both can involve enjoyable activities and time spent on oneself, but they are actually quite different.


Avoidance and self-care serve distinct purposes, but because the means of expression are similar, we can easily fool ourselves into believing one is the other. Here are the primary differences between the two:

The purpose of avoidance: To numb out, ignore, or escape from a task, problem, or difficult emotion.

The purpose of self-care: To respond to your physical, mental, and emotional needs in order to care for your overall well-being.


Both of these strategies are forms of coping; however, only one of them provides a long-term solution. (I’ll explain that more in the section “Why it matters.”)

First, ask yourself what the intention is behind the behaviour or activity. For example, let’s say you cancel an outing with a friend. If you cancelled because you had a long day and need to rest, then that’s self-care. However, if you cancelled because you feel anxious about meeting new people, then that’s avoidance.

Next, check in with your ability to manage whatever you are trying to avoid. This is known as your distress tolerance. Part of healthy emotional management is knowing when you cannot deal with something in the present moment. For example, if you are dealing with a family crisis but also have to be at an important business meeting, it makes sense to intentionally put your personal matters aside during the work day. However, what differentiates this from avoidance is the awareness and the follow-up. With healthy coping skills, you will be able to revisit and address the issue when you have the time and space to do so.

It can be hard to distinguish between self-care and avoidance, but being aware of your emotional state can help you better identify your needs and act intentionally on them. It also requires some honesty with yourself. Is it that you can’t deal with a particular emotion or situation, or is it that you don’t want to?

Using our earlier example, perhaps you realize that meeting new people makes you anxious, but realize that you have developed some tools to help you manage those feelings and you could challenge yourself to keep the commitment.

However, sometimes the answer to “Can I manage this?” is “No, not today.” Great! Knowing your limits and meeting your needs falls under self-care. If the idea of meeting new people is overwhelming today, perhaps you reschedule for another evening and prepare accordingly.


Avoidance feels like it protects us from the things that scare or overwhelm us, but in reality it just sustains them. In other words, we feel better in the moment, but are worse off in the long run. For example, imagine that you have an assignment to complete but that you feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, so you end up on Buzzfeed instead. You now have to pull an all-nighter and are not sure if you will make the deadline in time. While procrastination (aka avoidance) decreased the stress temporarily, it ultimately created more anxiety and panic. This, in turn, can lead to further avoidance of those difficult emotions, with the subsequent sensation of “spiralling out.”

Instead of ignoring those overwhelming feelings, let’s imagine instead that you dealt with them directly and in the moment. Perhaps you don’t even start the task immediately because you think a 10 minute meditation might be helpful to ground you. Even though this is delaying the activity, it isn’t avoidance. If you look back to the purpose of self-care, you can see that you’re addressing an emotional need instead of ignoring the emotion altogether. By doing so, you manage the anxiety and proceed with the assignment.

Acknowledging your emotions and taking care of your needs allows you to get through a difficult situation, which brings me to my next point.


Whether it’s drinking to forget a traumatic memory, exercising to quell the feelings of loss, or scrolling through Instagram to drown out negative thoughts, these strategies prevent us from ever truly addressing the underlying causes of our pain. Try as we might, there is no way to cut out the bad without simultaneously cutting out the good. Therefore, these avoidant strategies deny us the opportunity to find joy, contentment, release, and forgiveness.

If we put aside the avoidance and acknowledge the hurts, then we have a real chance at living the lives for which we long.



Being with Stressful Moments Rather Than Avoiding Them

Whole-Hearted Living: Experiential Avoidance

(This article was originally published on Stephanie’s Blog).



Stephanie Huls is a Registered Social Worker and private therapist at Reflection Counselling Services in Waterloo. She offers counselling services to adults and teens on a variety of issues and is passionate about helping people find the path to the lives they wish to lead. She prides herself on being open about her own experiences in counselling and has a personal understanding of how bumpy that path can be.

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