Psychological Treatment

The treatment approaches used in the Clinic have been selected based on research evidence of their effectiveness. For many difficulties, cognitive-behaviour therapy is the treatment of choice. In this therapy, individuals are expected to take an active role in bringing about desired changes. Psychologist and client work together to understand and change problem patterns of thought, feelings and actions.

The emphasis is on providing clients with the tools and skills for change in as few sessions as possible. Homework is typically assigned to be completed in the time between sessions. Initially sessions usually take place weekly, with less frequent meetings as clients become more able to work towards their goals independently. At the end of treatment, clients usually are better able to manage their moods, to control their anxiety, and to respond adaptively to stress. Increases in self-confidence and better relationships are also indicators of treatment success.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety problems often interfere with individuals' lives and cause them great distress. Sometimes the problem is one of persistent and excessive anxiety and worry (generalized anxiety disorder). Sometimes it takes the form of panic attacks, sudden periods of intense apprehension, fearfulness, or terror, accompanied by frightening physical symptoms and a sense of impending doom. In agoraphobia, individuals are anxious about, or avoid places or situations from which it is difficult to escape, or in which help for a panic attack may not be available. In obsessive-compulsive disorder, intrusive and inappropriate thoughts, such as repeated doubts about having done something or repeated thoughts about contamination, cause marked anxiety or distress. Individuals feel driven towards repetitive behaviours (compulsions) such as hand washing, checking, or counting.

Phobias, or fears associated with specific objects or situations, are also a treatable anxiety disorder. Social phobia, anxiety in response to certain types of social or performance situations, often leads to avoidance of the feared situation and severely interferes with individuals' lives. Specific phobias, such as fear of flying or anxiety while driving, can also cause intense distress and restriction.

Trauma can also cause ongoing anxiety problems. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a set of anxiety symptoms that persists for months and sometimes years after a traumatic event, such as an accident or an assault.

The Clinic offers cognitive-behavioural therapy for these problems. Clients are usually seen individually, but occasionally group treatment is offered.

Stress and Adjustment Difficulties

Stress is sometimes said to result when the demands made on individuals exceed their current ability to meet those demands. Demands may increase gradually or as a result of unwanted change, such as illness, divorce or job loss. Desired changes and transitions, such as moving, becoming a parent, or retiring, may also tax our coping resources.

Depression and stress symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, muscle tension, and irritability may then develop. Stress management at the Clinic helps individuals not only to reduce such symptoms, but also to develop more effective approaches to managing the stress itself. A cognitive-behavioural approach is taken to the treatment of depression.

Loss and Bereavement

The loss of a loved one is an especially difficult adjustment. Profound grief after such a loss is normal, and does not require psychological intervention. However, if support is lacking, the loss is particularly traumatic or there are persistent problems in resuming day-to day functioning, the Clinic offers grief counselling.

Health Concerns

Physical well-being is a major cause of worry and distress in our society. For individuals whose health is already damaged, the Clinic helps in finding better ways to cope with acute and chronic illness, including chronic pain. For individuals whose health is at risk, the Clinic helps in changing habits, such as quitting smoking. For individuals who are overly concerned about their health (hypochondriasis), the Clinic helps them to become less anxious and to take a more rational approach to looking after themselves.