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We are very excited to introduce Tessa Murray, a summer student here at the SJPC. She is going into her second year of university at UNBSJ in the Bachelor of Arts program. She plans to major in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Tessa's career goal for her future is to become a clinical psychologist.

Stay tuned for monthly blogs from Tessa's Corner which will provide tips on topics such as stress management, as well as behind the scenes insights into the SJPC.

Blog Post #4
October 2019

Psychology in the News: "Perfectionists tend to procrastinate:
York U. psychologist"

MacLean's magazine recently published an article entitled: "Perfectionists tend to procrastinate: York U. psychologist," outlining research by York University psychologist and Canada Research Chair Gordon Flett. According to Flett, students are more likely to procrastinate when they feel others are expecting them to be perfect. In this research, he found that procrastinators tend to have negative thoughts and put a disproportionate amount of attention perfectionism, fear to fail and guilt. Therefore, Flett provided some suggestions on ways for students, like me, to move past the negativity and become high achievers.

1. "Aim for excellence, not perfection"

Flett distinguishes between the importance of striving for excellence versus perfection, stating "students should work strenuously - but not obsessively - in order to achieve their goals." He states that "[their] goals should focus on excellence and doing well rather than being flawless," and that "the focus should be on learning effective and adaptive ways to learn new material and developing good study skills."

2. "Don't get bogged down with external expectations"

In other words - don't worry too much about what other people think of you! People who strive for perfection often end up procrastinating because of fears that they won't be able to live up to what other people expect of them.

3. "Learn to muzzle that negative inner voice"

As students, we often experience stress. And according to Flett, that stress is magnified if we are constantly putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect - whether that is on assignments, essays, tests (Flett, 2012). He has demonstrated that students often ruminate about their procrastination and have thoughts such as "why didn't I start earlier?"  or "next time will be different." (I can certainly attest to having some of these thoughts as a second-year university student!) He suggested that students learn to fight against these thoughts, particularly since such thinking patterns can be associated to depression, anxiety as well as lack of conscientiousness, and avoidance.

4. "Get help if you need it"

He proclaims that "the biggest problem is that perfectionistic procrastinators do no seek help, whether it is for assistance with their learning style or for their psychological issues." This reluctance to seek help might be present for a variety of reasons - sometimes students don't want to admit that they're struggling because of the need to seem perfect or to live up to those external expectations. If you are struggling with this, it is important to know that there is help available.

As a student who strives for perfection, it can be quite exhausting at time as I find myself working obsessively to try and achieve my goals. By aiming for excellence rather than perfection, not worrying about external factors, learning to not listen to my negative inner voice and not being afraid to ask for help has certainly increased by confidence and self-esteem with my work!

Blog Post #3
September 2019

 SJPC Top Picks for Self-Help Books

The purpose of self-help books and resources are to instruct its readers on solving personal problems. At the SJPC, it is important to the psychologists on staff to share helpful resources and books on self-improvement. Listed below, are some of the psychologists' top picks!

Dr. Jane Walsh is the Director of the SJ Psychology Centre. Her areas of specialization include depression, anxiety, trauma-related disorders, chronic pain, personality disorders, adjustment disorders and relationship problems.

1. One of Dr. Walsh's top picks is "The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8 week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional  Distress" by John Tesdale, Mark Williams, et al. She recommends this self-help workbook on mindfulness as it has been quite useful to many of her clients.

2. She also recommends a website ran by Brene Brown (https://brenebrown.com/videos/) that contains links to multiple videos that are on perfectionism, shame, vulnerability, and courage.

Kristina Hobson is a licensed psychologist at the SJPC who specializes in chronic pain, depression, anxiety and trauma-related disorders.

1. One of Ms. Hobson's top picks include: "I Hate You--Don't Leave Me: Understanding Borderline Personality" by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus. She recommends this self-help book as it is an awesome resource for individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and for anyone trying to better understand it.

2. She also included "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder" by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger on her recommendation list. This is a great resource for family members impacted by a loved one's experience with BPD.

Dr. Beth Seamans is SJPC's Pediatric Psychologist who specializes in parenting skills, sleep/feeding difficulties in children, behavioural management, disruptive behavioural disorders, toileting, anxiety, depression and school difficulties.

1. Dr. Seamans recommends a website that provides information on multiple anxiety disorders as well as information outlining the way parents can support their children and it included some strategies for kids also. https://anxietycanada.com/

2. Also, she often recommends the book, "Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors" by Pat Harvey and Jeanine Penzo as it teaches parents how to help their children regulate their emotions as well as pointing out the importance of managing one's own emotional responses.

Dr. Theresa Fitzgerald is a licensed psychologist as well as the Assistant Director of the SJ Psychology Centre whose treatment areas include anxiety, depression, trauma, chronic pain, chronic medical conditions, adjustment disorders, relationship problems and personality disorders.

1. "Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Think" by Dennis Greenberger, Christine A. Padesky, et al. is one of Dr. Fitzgerald's self-help book recommendations as it contains basic worksheets and thought records that help people identify the connections between the way they think as well as the way they feel.

2. Dr. Sue Johnson's "Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love" is another book Dr. Fitzgerald always recommends to couples as it is a great resource which helps couples have some of the conversations required to increase their awareness of the impact of their behaviour on their partner. She notes that this book also helps couples forge a deeper attachment and/or connection in their relationship.

Don Townsend is a licensed psychologist at the SJPC who specializes in trauma-related disorders, stress-management, anxiety/depression, workplace stress, grief and couples counselling.

1. Dr. Kristin Neff's "Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself" is one of Mr. Townsend's top picks because of it's clarity on the issue of self-compassion, which he believes is receiving more and more attention as an important factor in cognitive therapy that addresses a fundamental issue that it important to most people.

2. "The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness" by Mark Williams et al. is another recommendation of Mr. Townsend as mindfulness is often very helpful in overall stress management. The book also comes with a CD, which provides mindfulness training exercises.

Blog Post #2
August 2019

Evidence-Based Treatment

As an aspiring future psychologist, I am soaking up some knowledge regarding the different types of psychological treatments available. If you look around other sections of our website (which we encourage you to to!) you will notice that the SJPC Psychologists emphasize the fact that they provide evidence-based treatment (EBT) for psychological disorders. The following blog post will provide some information about what they mean by EBT and why this is important to consider when choosing a therapist.

What is Evidence-based Treatment?

EBT is defined as treatment that is back up by scientific evidence. What does that mean? It means that rigorous (i.e.,good quality) research studies have been conducted on a particular treatment methodology and has supported its effectiveness for a particular disorder. Psychologists are particularly skilled at conducting and interpreting research studies, which means at the SJPC you can be guaranteed to be provided well-supported treatment.

What are some goals and benefits to EBT?

Our goal at the SJPC is to help clients meet their needs - whether that is coping with a psychological disorder such as depression or anxiety, or simply improving their life with skill development (i.e., assertive communication, setting appropriate boundaries). EBT ensures that the treatment clients are paying for have been shown not only to be effective but also not harmful for the clients (i.e., causes significant distress, results in no improvement in symptoms which might lead clients to believe therapy doesn't work). Another benefit of EBT is that clients undergoing this type of treatment will likely spend less time getting treatment than clients who are undergoing treatment plans which have not been proven.

So, is EBT guaranteed to cure my psychological difficulties?

There are many types of EBT available and what a psychologist offers will vary according to the clinical issue, their training, and the client's needs. Psychotherapy is never 'one size fits all', and what works best for one person will not necessarily work for everyone (even if it is evidence-based). Also, keep in mind that other factors also play a role in therapeutic success - including the relationship between the client and therapist, client motivation and/or the readiness to change, and the amount of work done in and outside of session.

What is an example of EBT?

An example of EBT is Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a form of psychotherapy that helps clients manage their emotional distress by identifying and challenging unhelpful and/or unhealthy thinking styles (cognitive) and by encouraging more adaptive and/or healthier behaviours (behavioural). CBT has shown that by changing the way you think and act, you can also change how you feel. As opposed to other type of treatment that may focus on looking into the past to acquire a better understanding of current feeling, CBT focuses on the present thoughts and beliefs.

**CBT is just one example of EBT and is one style used by all psychologists on the SJPC staff.

Blog Post # 1
July 2019

Top 10 Stress Management Strategies

All of us (even those of us here at the SJPC!) experience times of increased stress. During those times, it is easy to wallow in the stress and feel as though we are helpless to combat it. Check out some easy changes you can make that will help you learn to keep that stress in check!

1) Physical Activity:

Having regular physical activity blended within your daily routine is probably one of the most crucial habits to benefit your health and help you manage your stress. Stressful situations increase levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. This method is beneficial when dealing with stress and anxiety as physical exercise can be used to metabolize the intemperate stress hormones. An added benefit - regular exercise can help with maintaining healthy body weight and the prevention of illnesses!

2) Getting Enough Sleep:

Getting enough sleep is very important for daily function, general health and for your mental health. Not getting enough sleep daily can cause feelings of anxiety and tension and can lead to longer-term problems. Exhaustion lowers your patience level, making us more irritable around others. Exhaustion can also make it more likely for us to use maladaptive coping strategies, such as avoidance and unhealthy habits instead of more adaptive ones (like exercise - see above!). Good sleep and sleep hygiene (habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well) are effective strategies for helping you combat stress.

3) Mindfulness:

Practicing mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular in the western world. It is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Mindfulness is described as the psychological process of bringing your attention to the external and internal experiences happening in the present moment. You can try practicing mindfulness with some basic exercises, including living in the moment, focusing on your breathing, and paying more attention to your surroundings and your sensory experiences(i.e., identifying things around you can see, smell, taste, hear, and feel).

4) Time Management:

Poor time management is a major contribution of daily stress! Good time managements skills (such as organizing and prioritizing your time, planning, making a list of tasks that you can accomplish during a fixed period) can prevent and help you cope with stress, furthermore, effectively managing your time allows you to have a balanced professional, personal and social life which increases happiness and reduces daily stress.

5) Talk to Someone: Another strategy to help manage stress is talking to someone. By doing this, it may help put things into perspective, and may help to release some of the tension. Also, talking to others reduces social isolation and makes us feel more connected to the world.

6) Avoiding or Reducing the Consumption of Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine:

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, which increase the level of stress rather than reduce it. This can lead to feelings to shakiness and restlessness. Alcohol, while considered a depressant when consumed in large quantities, acts as a stimulant when consumed more regularly. Swapping caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages with water and other healthy drinks (i.e., herbal teas) helps keep you hydrated, which will enable your body to cope better with stress.

7) Write It Down:

Keeping a journal is an effective stress management tool as it can help you become more conscious of any of the situations which cause stress. When writing in your journal, keep track of the date, time, place of each stressful episode, what you are doing, who you are with, how you felt emotionally and physically, and how you coped with the stress. You should use the journal to learn more about triggers and how successful you are in stressful situations. Journaling is also a great way to see your progress in improving your stress management techniques over time!

8) Learning to Say "No":

So many of us feel the pressure to take on more than we can handle - be it to impress others, add to our resume, or come across as the "super human" who has it all. To reduce stress, learn to take on what you know you can manage. An everyday stressor is having too many tasks to do and not enough time to complete them. Learning how to say "no" to extra nonessential tasks will help reduce stress and establish healthy boundaries.

9) Healthy Eating:

Your diet can help you boost your mental energy and your brain power. Improving your diet can make you feel better physically, which makes it easier for us to tolerate stress. It is important to eat regular and balanced meals. Preparing healthy meals and snack ahead of time is a great way to ensure that you are getting a healthy diet without adding to your daily stress - without a plan, it is a lot easier to stop for take out on the way home after a busy day than ear the healthy meal prepared in your fridge!

10) Make Time for What You Enjoy

Making time for hobbies or activities you enjoy helps alleviate stress and puts your mind at ease. Partaking in hobbies or activities you enjoy is a good distractor from stressors and can lead to other positive benefits (e.g., increased social contact, more pleasure/enjoyment in life, reduced use of more maladaptive coping strategies).

Now that I have done this research, I realize as a Psychology student at UNBSJ, I need to do more physical activity and make sure I get enough sleep, so I am able to perform well studying, doing assignments/projects, and writing tests.