The cumulative lived experiences of adversity many of us face, from early instability in the family home, daily microaggressions to outright racism, sexism to sexual violence, discrimination because of our religion or disability, and trauma due to circumstances we could not control and for which we continue to blame ourselves, can weigh us down and take a toll on our nervous systems, our psychological health, physical health, and sense of identity. Some of us have lost our life as we knew it, because of a sudden illness or injury. It feels like death, but we are still alive. Yet those closest to us do not understand because it’s an “invisible injury.”
While we cannot change our families, our pasts, the society we live in, or undo an injury or tragedy that never should have happened, we can heal by telling our stories, feeling validated, gaining perspective and processing difficult emotions. We can move forward by recognizing our resilience, drawing from our inner strength, rewriting our story, and gaining meaning and purpose from the adversity we have experienced or overcome. Sometimes it is OK to lighten your load by sharing the weight in a safe space where you feel understood and heard.
At Toronto Brain Health we listen and strive to understand your challenges as well as your strengths through the assessment process. The assessment process begins during your initial consultation, and we continue to get to know you over the course of treatment. Prior to your initial consultation you will be asked to fill out a few background and screening forms to help us understand your circumstances and what you would like help with before our first meeting. While many of us have our challenges, diagnoses can be helpful for informing treatment. A clearer psychological framework through which to understand your challenges lends itself well to use of evidence-based therapies with proven effectiveness for particular conditions, such as specific types of anxiety (e.g., social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorder), depression or trauma. We recognize that few of us fit into one box, therefore we rely on an eclectic approach, drawing from various evidence-based therapies, to work with your individuality and personal goals.
Evidence-based therapy approaches we draw on include:
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Client-Centered Therapy
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
- Mindfulness based stress reduction methods
- Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)
- Strategic Solution Focused Therapy
- Various biopsychosocial approaches to treat chronic pain, somatoform disorders and medically unexplained symptoms.
FAQs about psychological conditions and treatment
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What are common symptoms of anxiety?
Some of the common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Heart racing
- Tightness/pressure in the chest
- Trembling, feeling shaky
- Tingling in the hands, feet, or face
- Nausea, diarrhea or stomach upset
- Hot flashes/chills
- Feeling nervous
- Trouble falling asleep
- Difficulty concentrating/paying attention
- Tiring easily
- Excessive worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mind going blank
- Feeling as though one is going crazy
- Obsessive thoughts/rumination
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear that triggers many symptoms including (e.g., racing heart, tightness/pressure in the chest, tingling in hands/feet, dizziness etc.). The symptoms can be so severe, that people often fear that they are having a heart attack, are suffocating, or that they are in danger of dying.
A panic attack typically reaches it’s peak after a few minutes. Panic attacks generally subside within a few minutes to about 20 minutes; however, it is possible in more severe cases, to have several panic attacks in a row, or throughout the day.
How is anxiety treated?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that has a solid grounding in science, with proven effectiveness in treating anxiety-related disorders such as Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, Health Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Agoraphobia, and Specific Phobias.
A psychologist trained in CBT can work with you to identify the negative thoughts and behaviours that are maintaining or making anxiety worse.
For more information, read: How a Psychologist Can Help You Better Manage Anxiety
What are the symptoms of depression?
Individuals with depression may experience some (or many) of the following symptoms:
- Sad or depressed mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
- Mood swings
- Feeling irritable or frustrated
- Less interest or pleasure in things usually enjoyed
- Having trouble thinking or concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feeling guilty
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping more or less than usual)
- Being more fidgety or restless
- Feeling slowed down
- Being more fatigued/ having low energy
- Feeling worthless
- Withdrawing from or avoiding people
- Decreased sexual desire
- Difficulty starting tasks
- Decrease in appetite and/or significant weight loss (not intended)
- Increase in self-critical thoughts
- Thoughts of self-harm/suicide
How is depression treated?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that has a solid grounding in science, with proven effectiveness in treating major depression, dysthymia as well as other mood disorders. A psychologist trained in CBT can work with you to identify the negative thoughts and behaviours that are maintaining or making negative moods worse.
Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is another empirically supported therapy for the treatment of depression. A psychologist trained in EFT can help individuals with the development of strategies that promote the awareness, acceptance, regulation and transformation of negative emotion.
What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically begin within 3 months of the traumatic event, but some symptoms can develop later. Symptoms last at least one month and cause a significant disruption in day-to-day functioning.
- Reoccurring distressing memories and/or dreams of the traumatic event
- Distressing thoughts related to the traumatic event
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event (where it feels as though it were reoccurring)
- Intense, prolonged psychological distress/stress when exposed to trauma-related cues.
- Staying away from memories, thoughts, feelings, related to the traumatic event
- Staying away from people, places and/or things related to the traumatic event.
Negative Changes in Cognition and Mood
- Having difficulty remembering an important aspect of the trauma
- Negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world
- Negative beliefs about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event
- Ongoing negative emotions (e.g., fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame)
- Significantly less interest or participation in important activities
- Feeling detached or estranged from others
- Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
Significant Changes in Arousal and Reactivity
- Irritable behaviour, angry outbursts, being “on-edge”
- Engaging in reckless or self-destructive behaviour
- Being easily startled
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having difficulty falling or staying asleep
Symptoms may also present with feelings of depersonalization (feelings of detachment / as if one were an observer of one’s mental processes/body) and derealization (altered sense of reality).
How do you treat post-traumatic stress disorder?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that has a solid grounding in science, with proven effectiveness in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other trauma-related disorders. A psychologist trained in CBT can work with you to identify the negative thoughts and behaviours that are maintaining or making trauma-related symptoms (e.g., emotional and physical reactivity) worse.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is another form of therapy that has been shown to effectively reduce the symptoms of PTSD. A psychologist trained in CPT will work with you to identify, challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs related to the traumatic event. Together, this would help you to form a new understanding or conceptualization of the trauma in a way that will minimize (or eliminate) it’s negative impact on your current functioning and day-to-day life.
How can CBT help with anxiety?
A psychologist trained in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can formulate a treatment plan with you to help you manage and ultimately improve anxiety symptoms and everyday functioning. They do this by working with you to interrupt and challenge the negative thoughts that trigger anxiety. They also help you target and reduce the behaviours that make anxiety worse (e.g., avoidance)..
Some of the conditions and challenges we can help with
We provide assessment and psychotherapy for the following conditions and challenges. We can provide a comprehensive diagnostic psychological assessment with a written report if needed.
- Anxiety including social anxiety which may take the form of performance anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, health anxiety, and others.
- Problems with low mood or depression
- Obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders (OCD)
- Trauma or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Insomnia or difficulties sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Assertiveness and healthy boundaries
- Stress related to work, school, recent retirement, or other life transitions.
- Chronic pain, tension migraines or headaches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, foot pain syndromes, medically unexplained pain, and symptoms.
- Somatoform disorders including somatic symptom disorder, conversion or functional neurological disorder
- Coping with or adjusting to a chronic condition or injury
- Stress related to providing care to an individual with an acquired brain injury, dementia or chronic health condition.
- Depression, anxiety, trauma, somatoform disorders, chronic pain and persistent symptoms within the context of sustaining a concussion (connect to concussion page) or acquired brain injury (connect to ABI page).