Over the years I’ve worked with a number of people trying to make hard decisions, and these hard decisions usually boil down to this: “should I stay or should I go?” What people struggle with most is knowing whether the situation they’re in (a workplace, a relationship, etc) is one that will get better by working on or not. I watch people struggle for months and sometimes years, caught up in the distress of trying to make a decision that’s best for them.
When You Don't Like the Person You're Becoming
One question I’ve learned to ask myself in any situation I’m not sure about is “who am I being in this?” If I’m being the Nicole who is grounded, and compassionate, and alive, then it’s probably okay to continue on. If I’m starting to act in ways that don’t feel like me, or that are wrapped up in stress and scarcity, then maybe it’s time to reconsider. For one friend of mine, that’s when she knew it’s was time to leave her workplace. She didn’t like the person she was becoming – both in the ways she caught herself acting, and even in the ways she started thinking about her work. Another friend recognized that when she started feeling snappy more days than not and had a harder and harder time leaving the stress of work at work, that was enough for her. She didn’t like how it was affecting her closest relationships and she didn’t like how much of her life was getting consumed by work. It left very little room for her – in her words, work started to edge her out of her own life.
Making the Decision When You're Ready
Intimate relationships seem harder to leave than any other. We might know that we’re not ourselves in a particular relationship, but it’s still hard to let go. I’ve often worked through a process with people where they’ve gained clarity about what they need to do, but they’re just not ready to let the relationship go. And when we know we’re not ready, the best thing we can do is be compassionate with ourselves, allowing change to happen when the time is right. In the meantime, we can ask ourselves, “What would help me feel more ready to let this go? Is there something I need to say or do in this relationship before I’m ready to move on?”
Ultimately, most people don’t reach a point where they feel 100% certain about a decision, or absolutely ready. Instead, we feel ready enough, clear enough, and centered enough to go forward.
Whole Body Decision-Making
So, how do we make decisions that are centered, clear, and in line with who we are? We're all trying to make our way within a culture that teaches us not to listen to ourselves. When we’re not listening to ourselves, though, we have to base our decisions off what other people value or believe, and that doesn't always work out very well.
To move forward, we need to consciously work at coming home to ourselves. There's a way of making decisions that involves listening to our heads, hearts, and bodies. I call this whole body decision-making, and it involves reconnecting with all parts of ourselves. The idea is that instead of ignoring or suppressing conflicting parts of ourselves, we bring everything into the light, and then try to find a way forward that honors our whole truth.
If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get my free PDF guide on whole body decision-making. In it, we use mindfulness to explore what your head, heart, and body have to share.
A little bit more on the newsletter: This can be a great way to get to know me and stay connected with my work. I send out emails about a dozen times a year with handy guides I've created, information about the latest groups and workshops I'm offering, news about community resources, and a curated collection of the best articles and resources related to mental health from a feminist counselling perspective. And remember, you can unsubscribe if it no longer works for you.
Hope you're all having a lovely Thursday - just a quick announcement on my end. After much consideration, I wanted to let you all know that I will soon be increasing my rates. As of September 1, 2018, standard fees will be as follows:
The other day I was explaining to my 3 year old why I’m not spending quite as much time outside as I’d like to. I explained to her that there’s a lot of pollen this year and that the pollen can make my nose itchy, and my eyes watery, and it’s not very much fun. “I have allergies,” I told her, “you know, just like how Grandpa gets.” I further explained that’s why I wasn’t using my lawnmower as much this year, and why her dad was doing the lawn instead. Without missing a beat, she asked, “so who mows grandpa’s lawn?”
It’s not uncommon in my therapy office to talk about social media. Specifically, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about wanting to not be on social media but having a hard time stopping.
When people bring up the topic of their social media use, it’s usually said with a bit of a guilty look, and can come across as a shrug off comment. “I really shouldn’t be using my phone so much,” they might say in an off-hand way. But, since people are paying me money to notice things, I don’t just shrug it off. Instead, I invite them to talk about it. So many of my clients are finding that they’re on social media more than they actually want to be, and that it’s causing upset in their lives. These are some of the things we’ve been talking about in those conversations.
It’s hard saying no. For a lot of new therapists, we really struggle with the idea of disappointing someone in our care.
It can be easy to feel that because our clients need something, we need to be the one to give it to them. I hear new therapists say things like “but they need evening hours – they can’t make it during the normal workday“ or “they need a sliding scale – they can’t afford the full fee”.
My good friend Lily recently did an episode on "mom pressures" for her podcast (the fantastic Lady Sh!t with Lily and Britt). She asked to write a few things about the pressures moms face, and I accidentally wrote her a novel about it. Here's what I came up with one evening.
"It's Actually a Good Thing": A Little Reassurance When Your Loved One is Working on Their Boundaries
As a partner/friend/lover/ally of someone who is working on boundaries, you may be noticing some changes. Like most changes, this can feel pretty scary and you might be unsure or hesitant about what’s happening. That’s why I wanted to write you this letter. I think it’s normal to feel afraid in times of change, especially when the change involves something unfamiliar.
Annina Schmid (M.A.) is a feminist counsellor who helps women recover from binge drinking and disordered eating, as well as families with young adults who "failed to launch". Annina employs Solution Focused Dialogue to support and empower her clients in making lasting life changes. She works from a strengths-based harm reduction approach. Annina works with all genders and people on the LGBTTIQQ+ spectrum.
As a counsellor who works mostly with women who struggle with disordered eating and binge drinking, I have started running monthly online support groups at the beginning of the year. Here are the four most important things I have learned from my participants:
Alright y'all, big announcement time! I'M MOVING... UPSTAIRS! I'm excited to share with all of you that as of May 31, I will be relocating upstairs, to the 5th floor of College Plaza. The new space I’ll be practicing out of is located within Transcend Psychological Services and Blossom Counselling, though of course I'll still always be Feminist Counsellor Edmonton. It’s a dedicated therapy office which means I get to work alongside some amazing therapists. It's got some big beautiful windows, a little more space... and I'm so looking forward to sharing it with all of you.
As health professionals in positions of power, we have certain standards of practice we need to adhere to it in order to protect the public. The Standards of Practice of the College of Alberta Psychologists are “the minimum standards of professional behaviour and ethical conduct expected of all regulated members”. These include informed consent, avoiding dual relationships, and acting within our scope, to name a few. These are incredibly important to know and adhere to, and yet it’s not enough to ensure that we’re working in a way that’s ethical and sustainable.
This is soon going to become quite obvious, but I still want to begin this post by saying that I wrote out these ideas based on my own experience of pain. They've helping me immensely in coping with what's probably been the most despairing experiences of straight up suffering I have lived through (and continue to live through). I continue to be humbled by it. So, from someone who's in it with you:
I want to offer some assurance for anyone struggling with setting boundaries. Ready for it? Deep breath.
It’s not your fault.
Yep, I said it, and I’m going to say it again. It’s not your fault.
Most people who have seen me in the last few years know how much I rely on self-compassion - in my own life and in my life as a clinician. I've seen so many amazing people struggle with never feeling good enough and self-compassion is the foundation I return to again and again.
I know some people aren't going to like this post. At the same time, as a Psychologist I think it's important to tackle difficult issues and share what I know from the research and from making a career out of helping people heal and move forward in their lives. Especially for those of us who are mental health professionals or are trusted experts in our communities, we need to make sure that what we tell others about healing and growth is safe, compassionate, and ultimately does no harm. I've been seeing more and more professionals suggesting books like The Secret, and it's extremely worrisome to me.
“I don’t want to get into some kind of unhealthy codependency,” *Lydia said, referring to her new relationship.
I gave her a quizzical look. I’m familiar with the concept of codependency, but I wasn’t sure what she really meant by it. Just by what I already knew of her, it seemed like a strange thing to be worried about, so I asked her to elaborate. She went on to describe not wanting to be in a position of needing her partner, or spending “too much” time together. I knew what she was getting at.
I wrote this critique while completing my Masters in Counselling back in 2008. Now that I’ve been practicing for awhile, I have different critiques, a more nuanced understanding of the humanistic style of therapy as it’s practiced today, and a more body-based approached to working with people who’ve experienced sexual violence. This critique is aimed at the more traditional style of humanistic therapy, and I've posted just the second half of it. Still, I thought some of you might appreciate the fierce, no-bullshit language of young Nicole and the references to the Garneau Sisterhood. (Who wouldn’t?). Enjoy :)
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.