“It Takes a Village…”

As the adage correctly states, it takes collaboration between various parties to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. This is especially so if a child is going through a challenging time and demonstrating behavioral and emotional distress.  

Research has shown that parental involvement is essential to positive therapy outcomes for most children, regardless of age. Typically, the younger the child the more involved a parent should be. Parental involvement is especially important in the translation of therapeutic skills from the clinic to real-life situations in the child’s life.

In short, it is crucial that parents act as drivers of prescribed therapy at home. Active participation is key. As a parent, how can you actively contribute to your child’s therapeutic journey? Here are some suggestions:

  • Be engaged in your child’s therapy session where possible. Take notes and ask questions when in doubt. It is appreciated when a parent shares concerns about various skills or strategies taught in session and provides honest feedback about their child’s responses to the therapy. This enables the therapist to accurately pinpoint issues and appropriately adapt the therapy sessions to better accommodate the unique needs of the child.
  • Be prepared to do “homework”. One of the most important roles of a parent in therapy is to ensure that their child practices the skills learnt in session and to facilitate generalisation of these skills while in a home environment. This may involve parents taking some time out of their schedules in order to engage the child in some exercises. In addition, the parents should note any questions which may arise and document progress so that it can be readily addressed at the next therapy session.
  • Facilitate necessary communication between your child’s therapist and other stakeholders. Sometimes, it is important to engage other stakeholders in the child’s therapy such as the school and teachers. It is very helpful if parents take the initiative and open up the communication between all stakeholders. This will help everyone better understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses and how to better support in various settings.  
  • Finally, while it is encouraged to be involved, be careful about being over-involved and attempting to dictate the direction of therapy. As a parent, one might experience anxiety or impatience and feel the urge to act on these emotions. Should this occur, it is important to address these concerns with the therapist and work together as a team.  

Remember, while the therapist is the expert of the relevant theoretical knowledge and therapy process, the parent is ultimately the expert of the child! When parents and therapists collaborate, progress and empowerment inevitably results.

Written by:
Jamie Ong
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Learning to Surrender…

By surrendering, I mean allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Stop trying to control or prevent. Stop fighting against yourself. Stop struggling and pressuring yourself to feel differently from the way you feel. Stop the judgment of what you are going through and the comparison with others. Stop feeling shameful and weak for your own experience.

Allow yourself to just feel…

To just welcome whatever emotions you are feeling. To allow your mind and your body to acknowledge those physical feelings. To allow the discharge in the form of grunting, crying, or even cursing to yourself.

It makes sense to feel frustrated when dealing with frustrating people. It is natural to feel sad when you are missing your loved ones and longing to be reunited with them. It is organic to feel anxiety when dealing with a stressful situation or with uncertainty.

Those emotions are not proof of weaknesses or a mental health disorder. It is proof that you are alive, that you are a human being, and that you are facing adversity.

We tend to put pressure on ourselves to feel cheerful all the time and rush to wrestle and fix anything that feels “negative” and uncomfortable, in us or others. We can even feel shame or guilt when we experience unpleasant feelings such as anger or fear which result in negativity piling up. Yes, feeling bad about feeling bad makes us feel even worse! Your judgment and expectation on how you “should” feel or not feel create more pain than the feelings you are experiencing in the first place.

Based on her research, Doctor Maya Tamir points out that, “People want to feel very good all the time. Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.” On the subject of happiness, she also discusses that, “It is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think, are the right ones to have,” the ones that seem appropriate at the time, even if those emotions are negative or unpleasant.

Researchers also found that people who were open to experiencing both positive and negative emotions reported greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression. It suggests that being aware of and accepting your uncomfortable emotions without judging or trying to change can help you cope more effectively with stressors.

Judging, resisting, or trying to remove your emotional experience won’t help you recover, grow or even feel better. On the contrary, resistance prolongs your pain and may amplify the emotions that you are trying to get rid of. It also delays dealing effectively with the situation that causes pain. Repressed emotions may accumulate and wind up creeping up on you when you feel the most vulnerable and don’t have the resources to chase them away anymore.

Emotions are not good or bad in themselves; however, they can be pleasant or unpleasant. They are an important source of information that are useful to be acknowledged. Unpleasant emotions often arise from an unsatisfied need. For example, you can feel frustrated and sad with work if your need for recognition and respect is not satisfied; you can feel anxious when your need for security (emotional, financial…) is challenged.

Surrendering and accepting is not the same as resignation. It doesn’t mean giving up all hopes that things will get better and it doesn’t mean dwelling in your pain either. It means accepting and acknowledging that for now, this is what is happening at the moment. It is accepting that there are things you cannot control. If you are unhappy in your relationship, you can work with your partner on changing the dynamic, communicating better, and so on… while at the same time allowing the facts that right now, the situation is complicated, that this is a frustrating and tiring process and even maybe that “it sucks!”

Practicing acceptance and welcoming your emotions are about meeting you where you are in life and moving forward from there.

When you open up to a friend about something you are struggling with, before looking for their advice or opinion, don’t you appreciate it when they truly listen to you? When they validate your feelings and experience? And if they move on to problem-solving too quickly or suggest that you “just relax” or “snap out of it” you may end up feeling not understood and “wrong”. Then don’t do that to yourself! Give yourself that space and time to feel what you feel. You deserve to give yourself that much compassion.

Written by:
Lucie Ramet
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

References:

Brett Q. Ford, Phoebe Lam, Oliver P. John, Iris B. Mauss. “The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000157

Maya Tamir, Shalom H. Schwartz, Shige Oishi and Min Y. Kim. “The Secret to Happiness: Feeling Good or Feeling Right?” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Online first publication, August 14, 2017) DOI: 10.1037/xge0000303

Christine Carter’s article “How to stop being a control freak” in the Greater Good Magazine  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_stop_being_a_control_freak

Extinguishing Burnout

A few days ago, I ran across a Twitter feed that originally posted last November. The quote resonated strongly with me, begging me to sit with the question of why do we so often neglect ourselves for work? Is it to… get recognised? Prove our worth? Win? The quote came from Katy Leeson, Managing Director of the Social Chain. She wrote:

One of the reasons this struck such a deep chord in me is that not only have I seen this create a greater impact on people during the pandemic by eroding the mental and emotional well-being of my clients, but in my own life I have had to remind myself that I need to pause and take time to set limits on myself, to not use my exhaustion as a measure of my worth or to forego my own need to self-care in service to others. 

I have noticed that people are more willing to forego self-care to focus on what they feel “needs” to get done. What if we change this message? What if we begin to foster the belief that what needs to get done is self-care, setting limits on work, and putting ourselves first? Because in truth, we really aren’t doing anyone any good if we are burnt out; our work suffers, our loved ones suffer, and we suffer. We become defined by what we do and not who we are. And as the term burnout suggests, our light goes out.

So how do we change that? And how do we even know when our light is in danger of being extinguished? The Mayo Clinic explains that burnout can be caused by a myriad of situations and circumstances including:

  • Lack of control at work in your schedule, your resources, and your assignments. 
  • Unclear expectations at work or not feeling like you are not sure of your roles and responsibilities.
  • Lack of emotional connection and support at work- this could be difficulty with interpersonal dynamics of colleagues, feeling isolated, or having no feeling of purpose for your work. 
  • Extremes of activity or stagnation – meaning that you are expected to always be “on” or that your work feels monotonous and nothing new or developmental is occurring.
  • Work-life imbalance – the idea that so much of your time is dedicated to work and your relationships and abilities to connect socially and emotionally begin to suffer; if your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.
  • Having a high workload – this could be working long hours, having many calls/video conferences.

When any of these circumstances exist in our professional life, we need to be more aware of how we are impacted, what our internal experiences are throughout our days and nights. How do we change our expectations of ourselves to ensure that we are able to make it through the tough times in our professions and in our lives? 

Part of that change is being honest with ourselves about what is going on for us emotionally. If we stop long enough to notice if we are experiencing increased anxiety or stress, insomnia, irritability, sadness, or lower immune functioning we need to pay attention. We need to listen to what our symptoms are telling us and adjust our work. Each symptom is a little alarm, pointing out the need for something to be different. 

This shift doesn’t have to be momentous, but maybe it’s about setting a schedule that is more clearly defined. Maybe is it finding time to dedicate to ourselves, whether that is meditating, working out or spending more time with friends. Maybe it is taking off work for a week to re-evaluate what our core values are and if they are being met. It can feel challenging to begin to make those changes, especially if we are feeling that our worth or success are tied to the experience that is causing the burnout. 

Whatever the reason for the feeling of burnout, the important thing to remember is that if you begin to allow yourself time to be more than your work, to stop wearing your “burnout like a badge of honour,” you can begin not only to find more appreciation for who you are as a person, but you can be an example to those around you on how to live a more well-rounded and meaningful life. You may even shine a little brighter, feel a little healthier, for a little longer. As Rabbi Herald Kushner has said, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.”

Written by:
Kimberly Fisel

Counsellor, Marriage & Family Therapist, Leadership Development Coach
SACAC Counselling

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642

Don’t do that; you’ll hurt yourself!

I often write these blogs in a light-hearted way. I try to think of you, the reader (hopefully more than one, but you are important enough) – not necessarily an expert but perhaps someone with more than a passing interest in mental health. In trying to engage you, I offer something of importance while remembering that we all have other things in our lives too. So here is a quick question for you: which word links the 2 points from the APA Dictionary of Psychology below?

  1. a pattern of unnecessarily engaging in activities or behaviors that are dangerous or highly subject to chance.
  2. accepting a challenging task that simultaneously involves potential for failure as well as for accomplishment or personal benefit. 

Did you guess? Oh, well done. Yes, the word is risk.  Did you notice how they sounded different, but actually talked about the same thing? They are 2 sides of the same coin. Risk is a game of chance; it might be fun, but it might not. And it may be preoccupying more and more of us. 

A couple of years ago, you might have been less consumed by this topic, but along came a pandemic to adjust your thinking. Now we all regularly assess risk in a very overt way. It may not just be that, though. Perhaps it simply did what a virus does – reveal and feed off underlying conditions. You can’t get very far in daily life now without being accosted by a set of instructions; and 10 people lined up to tell you how to do it. Whatever happened to Lego? Didn’t you just build it? Not anymore – use the manual. Creativity is being increasingly managed.

Along with creativity comes risk. There is a chance something may not work, but you have the freedom to develop things that might. Yet much of life now is trained, instructed or more subtly guided. How many ‘gentle reminders’ have you had lately? Incessant calls you get to confirm an appointment are perhaps part of a concerted effort to eliminate risk. It may be something to guard against.

Risk has a very necessary role in life. At our core, we are curious beings and this is what fuels our development. Some of us do more with this than others, depending on our life circumstances and temperaments, but we all encounter it. Perhaps noticing how often we do is important; ever run down the stairs, or should I say escalators now – you could hurt yourself! Have you ever watched the fear that some people have when stepping onto them? We may all have very different approaches to balancing risk; I say balancing rather than managing, as to manage something may take the sting and the life out of it. 

This is very tempting to do with children. Armbands and stabilisers are very necessary to a point – which is always determined individually – but they also detract from the reality of an experience. It is frightening to give young people a role in their own experiences – you can usually smell the impending disaster from a long way off. This can encourage a desire in the grown-ups to control things. This is sometimes wholly necessary but when it doesn’t fit the child or the situation, it may encourage more than it prevents. It can be very difficult to work out the danger or benefit of an experience without involving your children in the thinking. If the level of risk may be determined by the context and the nature of support available, thinking about it together may be vital.

Written by:
Robert Leveson

Psychotherapist & Counsellor
Children and Families (Reg; TSP, BPC & APACS)

SACAC Counselling

References:

American Psychological Association; APA Dictionary of Psychology.  https://dictionary.apa.org 

Wider Reading:

Zuckerman, M. (2007). Sensation seeking and risky behavior. American Psychological Association.

https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2913.long

Introduction to Hypnosis

As the famous psychologist Professor Hans Eysenck stated, “Very few topics in the whole history of mankind have given rise to so many absurdities, misunderstandings, and misconceptions.”

There are many myths about hypnosis, mostly coming from stage and media presentations, however, setting aside pop culture clichés, hypnosis is a well-studied and legitimate form of treatment for conditions ranging from obesity and pain to anxiety and stress. The word “hypnosis” has many connotations: for some people, it conjures up visions of a stage entertainer who uses hypnosis to make volunteers behave foolishly for the audience’s amusement. At the other extreme are those who, in our self-help era, see hypnosis as a quick and easy cure-all for their problems, from smoking to chronic back pain. Hypnosis is neither a tool to control others’ minds nor a panacea. It is, rather, a natural phenomenon that helps people harness their inner resources to improve their physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

The ability to hypnotize or to be hypnotized is latent in everyone. Hypnosis can be naturally induced without a formal induction procedure and is part of everyday human existence. When we become so absorbed in a book or a film that we are oblivious to external stimuli, we have put ourselves in a light hypnotic trance. When a mother kisses a child’s hurt to “make it better,” she is using the principle of hypnotic suggestion. In a clinical setting, these principles are applied in such a way that their effects are heightened and directed to specific problems.

Clinical hypnosis is entering a modern renaissance. In 1955, the British Medical Association formally approved hypnosis as a valid and supported therapeutic technique. In 1958, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association sanctioned its use in treatment. Research continues to explore the brain functioning in hypnosis and to support its efficacy and ways for it to be used more widely and effectively in clinical settings. We now know that hypnosis works by modulating activity in brain regions associated with focused attention, and several studies offer compelling new details regarding neural capacity for hypnosis.

When hypnotized, a patient is not asleep (recurrent misunderstanding) but in a state of relaxed attentive alert, able to hear, speak, move around, and think. The electroencephalogram (EEG) of a hypnotized person is that of someone who is awake rather than asleep. Reflexes, such as the knee jerk, which are absent during sleep, are present under hypnosis. It is common for persons who have achieved a light trance to argue that they haven’t been hypnotized at all.

“While most people fear losing control in hypnosis, it is in fact a means of enhancing mind-body control,” Prof. D. Spiegel (Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine) says. Instead of allowing pain, anxiety or other unhelpful states to run the show, hypnosis helps people to exert more control over their thoughts and perceptions. How does hypnosis do this? Spiegel’s research has shown it can act on multiple brain regions, including some linked to pain perception and regulation. Hypnosis has also been found to quiet parts of the brain involved in sensory processing and emotional response.

Hypnosis is not an otherworldly phenomenon, but a natural, fascinating, and valuable resource available to each of us.

Written by:
Laura Spalvieri

Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Transactional Analyst &
Hypnotherapist

SACAC Counselling

References:

https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/10/not-getting-sleepy-research-explains-why-hypnosis-doesnt-work-for-all.html

https://www.drgeorgepratt.com/hypnosis-myths-realities-from-a-clinical-hypnosis-primer/

https://www.ukhypnosis.com/2019/08/08/cutting-through-the-5-myths-of-hypnosis-part-1/

https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/january/hypnosis

What is EMDR?

What and Who is EMDR for?

EMDR, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy was first developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro. It is a well-supported, extensively researched, and efficient psychotherapy approach used to treat a variety of distressing life events and issues. This clinical treatment approach has been endorsed by many international organizations as an effective treatment modality including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the World Health Organization (WHO). EMDR therapy can benefit clients exposed to trauma, violence and who experience stress-related difficulties, mood issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and panic attacks, eating disorders, as well as grief and loss, chronic medical conditions, and pain. 

How EMDR Works

EMDR is a complex, systematic and integrative psychotherapeutic approach that draws upon multiple psychological orientations including cognitive-behavioral, motivational interviewing, somatic and psychodynamic therapies. 

EMDR is an eight-phase model that takes the client through a process that is thoughtfully and intentionally developed for clients to work through the alleviation of distress associated with their memories. Some of the eight phases include history taking, client preparation, assessment and desensitization. 

At the crux of EMDR treatment is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model that allows information to be adaptively processed to a point at which the associations made to a distressing incident are integrated into positive cognitions and emotions. With the use of directed eye movements, the information processing system is activated. Eventually, clients may find resolution in that helpful learnings are made available for use in the future.

What Clients Need to Know about EMDR

It is important to consult with an EMDR-trained therapist as this is a mental health intervention. You could ask your therapist questions about whether EMDR would be an effective approach for you and address any questions or concerns you may have about it. It is also important that you feel comfortable collaborating with your therapist.

Written by:
Isabelle Ong

Clinical Mental Health Counsellor for Individuals & Groups, Children, Adolescents and Couples
Ph.D., LCMHCA, NCC (USA)
SACAC Counselling

References:

EMDR Institute, Inc. (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.emdr.com/

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. (2017). American
Psychological Association. Retrieved from:
https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing

“I need closure!”

“Need for closure” first coined by the social psychologist Arie Kurglanski in the 1990s refers to a framework for decision-making that allows us to resolve ambiguity, obtain clarity and achieve serenity. Obtaining closure means knowing why something ended, and no longer feeling any emotional distress associated with the event. This is oftentimes not something that can be easily achieved during a relationship break-down. Within the period of that phone call, dreaded conversation or the split-second of reading a sent text (or even being ghosted!), your world could metaphorically fall apart, and your mind begins searching for reasons as to why and how this even happened.

The need for closure can be explained by several cognitive phenomena. Firstly, a relationship breakdown results in cognitive dissonance – that is, the sharp contrast between what you thought you knew (e.g., loving relationship, being a ‘significant other’) to the sudden reality of your new single status. The disparity between both realities is oftentimes very jarring which leads to the search for answers and meaning. Our tolerance or intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity is a second cognitive factor at play as we try to make sense of what has just happen, why did the relationship end, and there is the need to understand if the relationship was truly significant or special, and for ourselves to be validated. Individuals who report a greater need for order and predictability usually report more emotional distress than those more comfortable with ambiguity and the sense of not-knowing.

Relationship dissolution results in a chasm where our lives as we knew it once stood, and we often feel bereft. Yet this makes perfect sense when we think of how much of our lives were previously entwined with that of a significant loved one – your sense of self, your friendship groups, maybe you were close to each other’s family, or were perhaps cohabiting or planning the rest of your lives together when that relationship bombshell goes off. Our self-concept takes a real hit when the relationship ends, especially if there had been self-expansion or a sense of growth as the result of being in a relationship with someone else. The loss of sense of self can result in a sense of loss of control, and achieving that closure becomes the way to feel more in control.

In trying to achieve closure, it can be useful to ask ourselves:

What did this relationship mean to me, and therefore what does the end of the relationship signify, and to grieve for that.

The dissolution of any relationship, no matter how welcomed, is tinged with sadness due to the loss of an attachment relationship. Giving yourself time to grieve and not judging yourself for that is important for recovering from a relationship break-up. Take your time to heal from those losses.

Acknowledging that the dissolution of a relationship is never one party’s fault – rather it is a combination of you, me, and the dynamics that take place between us and with our environments.

Research has shown that negative beliefs about the self and cognitions reflecting self-blame were the strongest correlates of break-up related emotional distress. Recognising that it is not “all my fault” allows us to begin to repair that self-narrative and rebuild our self-identity, even though it can be hard especially when it was the other party who broke it off first.

Look for patterns in my relationship history and reflect if these patterns might be getting in the way of finding sustainable love, and learn from those experiences

Oftentimes the lack of closure results in us wanting to make things different, to figure out why the relationship ended, and blaming ourselves paradoxically gives us that. Looking for these patterns in a more wholistic manner can be an alternative for repairing that cognitive dissonance and can help us not only begin to make sense of the relationship dissolution, but also to begin to feel more in control, and therefore in a position wherein we can begin to make a difference for ourselves and to plan our lives, rather than to figure out what it was that we may have done.

Finally, find purpose in the pain.

Research has indicated that when people adopt ‘redemptive appraisals’ or positive appraisals to negative situations, they reported reduced emotional distress. However, this effect was cumulative and occurs over time. Hence, while it is essential to give ourselves time, it is just as important that we reappraise the situations and reappraise ourselves, and to make meaning of what happened in the way that makes sense and allows us to begin to see that silver lining.

Fortunately, research has also shown that we get better at choosing partners with age.

Written by:
Daphne Goh

Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

References:

Boelen, P., & Reijntjes, A. H. A. (2013). Negative cognitions in emotional problems following romantic relationship break-ups. Stress and Health, 25(1), 11-19. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1219

Harman, J. J. (2013, October 21). “I need closure!” Why it is not possible to get it. Luvze.  https://www.luvze.com/i-need-closure-why-it-is-not-possible-to-get-it/

Lewandowski, G. W. Jr., Aron, A., Bassis, S., & Kunak, J. (2006). Losing a self-expanding relationship: Implications for the self-concept. Personal Relationships, 13, 317-331.

Ramsden, P. (2018, October 9). The psychology of closure – and why some need it more than others. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-closure-and-why-some-need-it-more-than-others-104159

Slotter, E. B., & Ward, D. E. (2014). Finding the silver lining: The relative roles of cognitive appraisals in individuals’ emotional distress after the end of a romantic relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,32(6), 737-756. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407514546978

Creativity, Leadership and Psychological Safety

We want to make good relationships with others, and want to lead people well. This applies not only to an organization, but also small groups including families.

You may have heard about Google’s research done a few years back, interviewing hundreds of executives, managers and team members, where ‘psychological safety’ was found to be the most important factor in the team effectiveness. (Inc.com)

When ‘Psychological safety’ is promoted in a team, an individual feels safe to take risks, i.e. sharing new ideas, making mistakes, and asking questions, without having fear of being looked at as ignorant, incompetent, or disruptive. It is an environment where team members feel comfortable to be true to themselves, become creative, and feel free to put positive energy towards one’s inner child of playfulness.

A few of our counsellors have talked about importance of play for both children and adults. (Oct.,2020 by R. Leveson,  Sept. 2020 by I. Ong.) Play is a creative process in which one’s yet to be discovered talents, curiosity, and capacities flourish. It is the source of human development.

As a leader of a team, family or an organization, you would want your members to be effective; for instance, you may want them to think, and perform better, to be in better relationships with others, to increase sales, and to be enthusiastic about developing new products. Therefore, it is essential for you to create an environment to secure members’ psychological safety.’  Think of the place where you feel comfortable voicing out your mind.  It may be where (1) curiosity is encouraged, (2) there is healthy debate (without blame), (3) failure is taken as a sign of growth, and (4) asking for help when needed is regarded as a strength rather than a sign of weakness.

Those are the important factors to make a good team or family. Children need this ‘psychological safety’ to be successful members of a family, community, and school. We can ask ourselves as parents or leaders of a group: are we encouraging play and creativity? Listening to members’ opinions without scolding or judging? Celebrating members’ failures, and providing support when they ask for help? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” we know we are building a good team!

Written by:
Rie Miura

Counsellor
Masters in Social Work

SACAC Counselling

Shall we talk about sexual intimacy?

First of all, this entry is not meant to judge whether you do or don’t talk about sexual intimacy. This entry is written to motivate you to reflect on yourself regarding this topic.

Why do you like or not like to talk about sexual intimacy?

Most people don’t talk openly about sexual intimacy with friends, family or even their partners. Even though research shows that people would like to express their sexual preferences. Some of the reasons can be:

* It feels too vulnerable to open up about these desires, needs, feelings or maybe people are scared to feel rejected.

* Don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings or create an argument.

* Maybe we’ll realise we both want something different.

* We haven’t learnt to talk about sexual intimacy in our upbringing or our culture.

* Someone could find it difficult to express what he/she wants/likes/needs.

* Learned that it is something you don’t talk about and should come naturally.

Is it something that we shouldn’t talk about and should come naturally?

Can we know exactly what someone wants or needs or feels or likes or expects if we have never spoken to the other person about it? In a lot of relationships we think we know this exactly, but research shows that a lot of the time we don’t know.

How can we know what someone’s favorite color is, or their favorite food is, or their favorite drink is? We know this because we communicate about our feelings, wishes, thoughts, needs, desires.

Talking about sexual intimacy is something we can learn to do. We can give it a try and open up to your partner about your sexual preferences and pleasures. When we give it a try; talk in a respectful manner to create a safe environment, be curious, also talk about what you like, give each other compliments, if you want something different try to formulate that as a wish or something you like instead of being critical. Say what you would like (desire/wish) instead of what you miss (blame). Talk with the “I”- message (desire/wish), not with the “you”-message (blaming). Plan in time if it is a difficult conversation.

Written by:
Flo Westendorp

Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate

MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)
SACAC Counselling

Together is Better: The Social Nature of Learning and Problem-Solving

The research is abundant regarding the superior results of working, problem-solving, and studying together. When faced with multiple assignments, exams, and/or problems with friends and family, teamwork always makes things more manageable, and the determined results more efficient and effective.

Knowledge is gained and created both faster and better when we participate as members of a team. Socially guided problem-solving
results in solutions which are of better quality.

Over this past year, we have been separated from family, friends, colleagues, and fellow students. Within only a few weeks my students went from viewing the lockdown as an extra holiday to realizing how many benefits they were losing through learning in isolation from their classmates. They reported that they were experiencing increased difficulty in thinking and in studying in isolation.

Many fellow educators believed that because of the technology available, students would not suffer any real harm because of the lockdown. While educators were trying to convince themselves and others that learning in isolation would not cause any negative impacts, the students themselves, talked about learning being constructed through active engagement. They remembered what we had told them about the exploratory nature of building knowledge. They did not require a degree in psychology to remind us of the sociocultural aspects of coming to know something new. They surprised me with how quickly they told me that because they were lacking the collaborative processes, their learning was not going deep. Without the discussions with others, without hearing multiple perspectives and ways of solving problems, they were losing confidence in their ability to find novel and creative ways to move forward. They were finding the quality and strength of their solutions to be lacking.

One student told me that only a few months before the lockdown had they come to realize and appreciate their infinite capacity to learn. They continued by saying that it was likely they would have never come to this understanding without the collaborative work that they had done. They saw that their personal evolution into a thinker and a problem solver was being shortchanged by the epidemic. The student lamented the fact that they only had a few of the answers. The process of refining ideas and skills they saw as a continuous learning and relearning, a process of making connections between themselves and their world. The changing, adapting, and improving was slowed by not learning together with peers. They were adamant that coming together through technology was a poor substitute for the real thing. The attitudes that are known to promote learning, such as perseverance and organization of thoughts, assignments, and materials were also more difficult to gain outside of the social context of the classroom. The students went on to tell me that self-esteem and self-confidence came more quickly and effortlessly when observed in others. They reported that enthusiasm is contagious. Getting along with others is something that they are being told is now indispensable. Social development and social responsibility are only learned through social interaction.

Another girl shared that it was through discussion that she became brave enough to share her own beliefs and values. Hearing others ask for clarification of concepts and requesting help provided her with the courage to do the same thing. She then smiled and added, that it was only through the support of teachers and classmates that she became able to clarify, elaborate, and dig deeper into ideas.

It will be years in the future before we have an accurate accounting of all that has been lost due to our planet-wide epidemic. The lost opportunities to learn and think as members of a team is something we need to work to limit in every way possible.

In closing, I want to remind us of the well-known dangers to our student’s learning in isolation. Students working alone are more prone to acquire mental illness. Multiple surveys tell us that seven out of ten teens reported mental health struggles. Being isolated impairs executive functioning skills. Social isolation is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia. Learning in isolation has many negative, and cognitive consequences including difficulty in thinking and remembering information. We are a social species. We really need each other to survive.

Written by:
Ms. Vivian Colvin
Tutor & Mentor
SACAC Counselling