What is Self Care and Why is the Right Kind of Self Care So Important?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

For some people, the idea of self care can seem self-indulgent or selfish. There is a significant difference between being self-absorbed or narcissistic versus considered and thoughtful self-care.

Self-care is about taking good care of ourselves and our overall well-being.

That way, we are able to minimize mental and physical health issues and not cause problems at home or work or in our relationships.

Which in the long run, is also about ensuring that we can be at our best for others.

Author Audre Lorde has said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”

What is Self Care?

Over the past few years, there’s a wider acceptance that it’s not possible to do things very well, if you don’t take care of yourself first.

And it shouldn’t necessarily be considered to be a reward, rather, part of an overall balanced lifestyle.

There is a difference between avoidance and impulsive self soothing versus considered and strategic self-care.

And the difference can most often be made between a short term relief versus actions that contributes toward long term well-being.
The key here is that it’s ultimately about balance.

Why Self Care is Important.

As human beings, we have a finite amount of energy at any given time.

Self care, then, is about fuelling ourselves.

Because it’s one thing to practice self-care, but it’s also important to put that energy out into the world.

Taking time to eat nutritiously, moving regularly, and spending time with friends and loved ones can feel like “wasting time” or being unproductive. 

In fact, studies have shown that taking breaks correlates to being more productive by getting refocused and being more energized.

Additionally, self care can:

• Help to manage stress more effectively.
• Reduce the possibility of burnout.
• Help to recharge and re-engage.

Self Care Can Look Like Different Things for Different People 

Sure, vacations and nice nights out can be thought of as self-care, but not everyone has access to be able to do those things. 

Nor, is it possible to do for everyone all the time. 

It can be very basic: 30 minutes playing an online game, video game, or playing a musical instrument.  Or reading, cooking, creative writing or journalling.

The key is to finding right type of self-care that works for you.

Think About Self Care as Part of a Routine

When establishing a self care routine, it’s best if it’s:
• Simple
• Something that’s do-able on a daily basis

Essential Ways of Practicing Self Care

Finding balance is key and practicing self care might mean that there are a number of things that are a part of your specific routine.

They might include:

Nutrition, movement & sleep.
These are three essential areas that can get compromised especially when things are so full and busy, but without these fundamental building blocks, we can find ourselves unbalanced in our overall well-being.

Carving out dedicated time for personal self-care.
This is something that’s going to unique for everyone. Again, think about something for you that’s simple and repeatable on a daily basis.

For some people it might be a daily walk with a loved one, while for others, it can be sports or working out, or for others, it can be a daily meditation practice. It might also be a combination of things.

The important thing here is that everyone find something that’s do-able on a regular basis.

Engage in meaningful relationships. There are some experts that are calling loneliness a public health crisis. Feeling isolated and alone can increase the risk of overall health issues including more rapid cognitive decline to cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Practicing self care doesn’t necessarily mean doing things or having to be alone.

What is the Mind Body Connection?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Why the Mind Body Connection is Important to Understand for Better Mental Health

As a helping professional, those of us who work using a holistic approach, believe that overall health means having health and that there is a connection in all the area of our lives, including the mental and the physical.

This is often referred to as Mind Body Connection.

And while I work from the basis of this belief, I do want to be sure to clarify that I am not a somatic or body-based trained practitioner, but I will be providing some suggestions to gain more body awareness and therapies.

Mental Health is Not Just Noticeable By Differences in Mood and Behaviours

We often think about our emotions and mental health specifically in relation to mood or behaviours, but based on the Mind Body Connection philosophy, it can be valuable to also consider the impact our emotions can have on our physical selves as well.

Some people might think of the idea of the Mind Body Connection as ‘woo-woo’, but the National Institute of Health a government agency in the US, publicly acknowledges that overall health has a connection with physical and emotional well-being and uses the term “mind body connection” in their literature

In the US, it has been reported that over 75% of primary care visits were considered to be stress-related.

There may be people who don’t realize that they are having emotional difficulties until its noticeable in the physical body. Even then, they may not realize that it is emotionally connected.

Many people who consult their family doctor for a physical concern, such as issues with sleep, lack of energy, higher blood pressure, heart palpitations and so on, may find that many of those issues can also be connected to an emotionally-related concern, as well.

Chicken or the Egg?

There is so much inter-connection between emotional and physical health, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which came first: the mental distress or the physical ones?

Not exercising regularly, nor eating nutritionally, or practicing self-care may mean that there could be other less desirable behaviours like using alcohol, tobacco or other substances for self-soothing.  These can lead to poor emotional health. 

But then, feelings of anxiety and stress can make it difficult to practice consistent overall self-care.  It’s important to consider the on-going need to balance both the necessity for care of physical and mental health.

Compromised emotional health can lead to a weakened immune system, which can leave you more susceptible to colds, flus and infections.

Many people may not realize that their physical symptoms may also be a sign of emotional distress. 
They can include, but not limited to:
• Chest tightness or pain
• High blood pressure
• Shoulder, neck and back pain
• Headaches
• Heart palpitations
• Decreased energy levels and tiredness
•Upset stomach

Importance of Deep Breathing Properly

Something I learned a few years ago that was a total light bulb moment for me was that many of us don’t know how to breathe properly or at the very least, don’t know how to really take deep breaths.

Here’s something that totally illustrates the mind body connection: When we continually take shortened or shallow breaths, it keeps signalling to the brain and nervous system that there’s something stressful happening.

The shortened breath is the body’s way of getting access to do something quickly, like running away.

But when we continually breathe in this shallow way, we can habitually feel stressed or in some kind of danger.

Deep breathing practices are important because it’s an immediate way to signal to the brain and body that it’s safe to relax, and often the mood and physical symptoms of hyperarousal will turn itself down.

Tips to understand the connection between emotional and physical health better

(Especially some of the symptoms above are present.)

  • Speak to your family doctor. Consider asking your doctor, “I don’t think my physical concerns are emotionally related, but is it possible that they may be?”
  • Consider starting a mindfulness, yoga practice or other physical practices like martial arts. These practices can help with developing body awareness.
  • Seek out Somatic Therapies. A combination of talk therapy and specific training in understanding physical responses to emotions such as Sensory Awareness, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Traumatic Release Exercises.
  • Check out meditation and deep breathing apps. Like Headspace, Calm, Breathe or apps for that would guide through deep breathing.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the Mind Body Connection today, but to truly think about what’s required for overall health, it’s necessary to be aware of the health-related connections between the mental and physical.

What are the 5 Love Languages? And How Can It Help You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages is a relationship model and concept conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a couples therapist in the US.

After working for many years with couples in counselling, he identified that there was a pattern in the ways couples described dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

He came up with the concept that there are different ways that individuals express love and they can sometimes not align (or be speaking the same “Love Language”).

Before getting into the Love Languages, here’s ONE BIG IDEA to understand when it comes to relationships:

"No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love."

Your idea of love is not necessarily your partner or loved one’s idea of love.

No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love. 

Another way of putting it is, how we show love is also usually how we expect to receive love.

Understanding this one idea can make a big difference in the quality of a relationship.

There are Different Love Languages?

Right now, if you and I were trying to communicate in two different languages, we may get by being able to understand the simple things.

But eventually, there are going to be limits to the clarity and depth of trying to understand each other more fully. This may lead to only having a vague understanding to getting frustrated.

The same idea applies to being in a relationship where you and your loved one might have a very different way of expressing love, affection, and appreciation.

Especially in a romantic connection, the first few months to two years, the chemistry or the initial “in love” feelings might either mean that you don’t see or ignore things that you might have thought were quirks, which ends up becoming irritations or frustrations later in the relationship.

It’s at this point or even from the beginning, that understanding how you and your partner receive and express love can be helpful for the continued growth and lasting ability of the relationship.

What are the Five Love Languages?

A reminder that many of us are a combination of the five love languages, which again, is a demonstration of how unique and individual we can each be.

This post is meant to be a summary of the concept behind the Love Languages.

If you have been feeling that there are gaps in your relationships (romantic or other loved ones), it’s possible that by integrating these concepts into your understanding of relationships can be valuable.

1) Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments and meaningful, kind words, while negative or critical feedback can potentially be especially painful.

2) Acts of Service – Express caring through actions, such as planning time or an outing, doing chores or taking responsibility to do things for the relationship is seen as meaningful. In other words, doing thing you know that your partner would find meaningful. Unfollowed through commitments and lack of action may have negative impacts.

3) Receiving Gifts – It’s not so much about big, lavish gifts (although those who like receiving gifts, may in fact, also likes these kinds of gifts). But it’s more the thought and effort that’s appreciated. Little surprises or a personal handwritten note can hold deep meaning. Forgotten special occasions or gifts lacking meaning may feel difficult for those whose love language is Receiving Gifts.

4) Quality Time – What’s most meaningful for these individuals is to have the full, undivided and one-on-one attention of their partner. No cell phone and any other distractions. Cancelling, not paying attention or being distracted may be perceived as uncaring. In a nutshell, these those who crave quality time are looking to experience time together without distractions.

5) Physical Touch – Holding hands, hugs and cuddling goes a long way. And while sexual intimacy is also important, it’s generally not just about sex.

In fact, when it comes to physical touch as a love language it can be helpful to ask, “Does non-sexual touches make you feel love?”

I do want to mention an important caveat here, which is true for all the love languages, but especially for Physical Touch, if there is any trauma that an individual has experienced, there may be some challenges for someone to be able to be able to “speak your love language”.

This is where more ongoing discussions with your partner or work with a couples therapist can help to navigate having both safety and individual needs met.

What’s Your Love Language?

"Childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults."

Often childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults.

It can also be helpful to think about how you like to prefer to express care for those you love and care for.

And because the internet has pretty much everything, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages website has free tests you can take to get a better idea of your love language.

What’s Your Loved One’s Love Language?

Just as it’s valuable to know your own love language, for a more fulfilling relationship, find out your loved one’s love language.

While you can be attentive and be curious about your partner or loved one’s love language by noticing how they appear to express love, it can be much more direct to start an ongoing discussion about your individual love languages.

You can start by asking, “What can I do that feels loving to you?”

While we’re mostly discussing romantic partners here, love languages can be applied to family members and friends, too.

It can be especially powerful to have an understanding of your child’s love language.

Fill Up the “Love Tank”

Gary Chapman, who originated the idea of Five Love Languages, also offers the concept of the “Love Tank.”

When I work with clients, I have sometimes used the idea of making deposits into a relationship “savings account,” of sorts.

The “Love Tank” is a similar idea where you and your loved one can use it as a way of communicating about your love language and needs. For instance, if the two of you are on board with the idea, you can ask each other something like, “What can I do to help fill your love tank right now?”

Or if you’re looking to see how you can start improving a specific relationship, you can conceptualize the other person’s Love Tank and genuinely work toward speaking their language.

More Knowledge, More Self Awareness, More Personal Resilience

Just like the other personality models we’ve been discussing, understanding your love language is just a little more information that can provide you with details and insights about bettering all areas of your life.

While you and your loved one’s languages might differ, working together to improve your relationship through understanding each other’s needs can move toward a stronger and deeper relationship.

What are the Results from Wellness Wednesday Hosts Taking the Big Five Personality Test?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

A couple of weeks ago on Wellness Wednesday, along with The Spin’s hosts Michelle Sturino and Barry Davis, we discussed what the Big Five Personality Model is and some of the details around it.

Broadly speaking, it’s a way to measure and get a better understanding of the unique differences each of have in our personalities. This is done through getting a measurement of five specific personality traits, which is why it’s called the “Big Five Personality Model”.

At the time, I know that all three of us expressed an interest in learning more about our specific personality traits. To satisfy our collective curiosity, we went ahead and completed the Big Five Personality Test and we’re going to be talking about our individual results today.

And as mentioned previously, these personality models and tests can provide insights about our individual tendencies and if we choose, give us some ideas around specific areas of improvement. Or they can simply be something fun to talk about with friends, family and co-workers.

Let’s do a quick recap regarding each of the individual personality traits which can be remembered by the acronym: OCEAN

It stands for: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Each of these traits is measured between a scale of 1 to 100%. To keep our test results consistent, we all took it at Truity.com.

Openness to Experience (inventive or curious versus consistent or cautious)

Openness describes an individual’s tendency to think in complex, abstract ways.  People high in Openness are creative, unconventional and artistic. Whereas those who are low are more practical, conservative and conventional.

Average is around 58%
Michelle: 62.5%
Barry: 81%
Mio: 100%

Conscientiousness (efficient or organized versus easy-going or careless)

Conscientiousness describes a person’s tendency to be persistent and determined in achieving their goals. People high in Conscientiousness are orderly, ambitious and dependable.  Those who are low are spontaneous, impulsive and disorganized.

Average is around 55%
Michelle: 75%
Barry: 73%
Mio: 69%

Extraversion (seeking outside stimulation versus preferring internalized introspection)

Extraversion describes a person’s tendency to be energized by being around other people versus being by oneself. Those who score high are energetic, enthusiastic and excitable. Those who score low are more reserved, calm and introspective.

Average is around 51%
Michelle: 94%
Barry: 96%
Mio: 65%

As an aside specifically regarding the Extraversion personality trait: there were quite a few people who visited the SolidWellness blog following our discussion on Wellness Wednesday about the differences between Introverts and Extroverts, so it’s my feeling that this is an area of interest for folks.

I was also extremely grateful to get some feedback that it was helpful for folks to hear that having needs as an introvert and to take the time for self-care was a valuable reminder.

Agreeableness (friendly or compassionate versus challenging or detached)

Agreeableness describes an individual’s tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Those who score high are accommodating, helpful and selfless.  Those who score lower are competitive, argumentative and brash.

Average score is around 63%
Michelle: 71%
Barry: 69%
Mio: 60%

Neuroticism (sensitive or nervous versus secure or confident)

Neuroticism describes an individual’s response to stress. Those who score high are more anxious, moody and self-conscious. Those who score lower are more stable, resilient, optimistic and self-confident.

Average score is around 54%
Michelle: 23%
Barry: 56%
Mio: 23%

What Did These Results Mean to Michelle and Barry?

We were short on time and unfortunately, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to discuss their thoughts on their results.

However, what I feel I learned from Barry and Michelle sharing their results and getting a little slice of their take on them, was that I was given a sneak peak at some of the challenges that come with engaging in work that is consistently open to other people’s opinions, and the potential impact this can have.

I am not only thankful for this opportunity to speak to more people through my contribution to The Spin’s Wellness Wednesday, but I am also grateful for Barry and Michelle who do what they do, day in and day out, for the benefit of those of us who are looking to maybe have some company during the drive home or to learn something new by listening to their podcast episodes.

Core Personality Pattern Tendencies for Michelle, Barry and Mio

The one result we didn’t share on air was one of other results that Truity provides after taking the Big Five Personality test, which is called the “Core Personality Pattern

Michelle’s Core Personality Pattern
Barry’s Core Personality Pattern
Mio’s Core Personality Patter

In reference to what I mentioned above about Michelle and Barry doing the broadcasting work they do… putting themselves out there as they do.

From the results shown here from both of their Core Personality Patterns, they skew very heavily toward Empathic Idealist. In other words, they’re not just doing it for the glory, but because they empathically genuinely care about others.

Again, I would really like to thank them both for allowing me to share their results here.

As previously discussed, it is possible to use these test results for self improvement.

A couple of examples:

If you score low in Conscientiousness, you may find that you are having some difficulties with staying consistent with responsibilities and being reliable, which may have some undesirable impacts at work, school or in relationships.

Or if there is a lower score in Agreeableness, it can be reflective of having more tensions and conflicts in various relationships, which again can impact many areas of your life.

Because these tendencies are not set in stone, having an understanding of your tendencies can help you identify possible areas you would like to see have change and growth.

Interested in Taking the Test Yourself?

If you’re interested in taking the same test we took, head on over to Truity.com. You can take the test for free, but there is also an option to pay for more details regarding your results.

What is the Big Five Personality Inventory?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

With a name like The Big 5, I know that it can pique people’s curiosity, so I thought it’d be interesting to discuss here in more details about the Five Factor Personality Model.

Many people are familiar with Myers Briggs Type Indicator tests, but The Five Factor Model of Personality or the Big Five is another model that can help you have a better understanding of yourself by understanding your personality traits.

At the very least, it’s a fun discussion point to be had with friends, but it can also be a self-assessment tool to help you understand deeper patterns in your life.

Personality traits are natural tendencies, but they can be improved upon by understanding and possibly working on emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain traits.

I think it’s important to note that traits does not mean that our ultimate potential is set in stone, but it can give you a sense of where your baseline is at the moment.


While there are other personality trait models, the Five Factor Model emerged as one that is widely accepted as describing the more essential personality traits. 


Not only can it be interesting to learn more specifically about your traits, it can also pinpoint strengths, as well as areas of improvements if you are finding gaps in certain areas of your life.

For instance, if your score is very low in conscientiousness, it could be that you have a tendency to be disorganized and not meet deadlines at work. Having it come up in a test like this can give you an insight that it could be an area of improvement to work on.


The Big Five Personality Traits can be summed up the acronym: OCEAN and each trait is measured between a scale of 1 to 100%.

Openness to experience (inventive or curious versus consistent or cautious).

Openness describes an individual’s tendency to think in complex, abstract ways. 
People high in Openness are creative, unconventional and artistic.
Whereas those who are low are more practical, conservative and conventional. Average score is approximately 58%.

Conscientiousness (efficient or organized versus easy-going or careless).

Conscientiousness describes a person’s tendency to be persistent and determined in achieving their goals.
People high in Conscientiousness are orderly, ambitious and dependable. 
Those who are low are spontaneous, impulsive and disorganized.
Average is around 55%

Extraversion (seeking outside stimulation versus preferring internalized introspection).

Extraversion describes a person’s tendency to be energized by being around other people versus being by oneself.
Those who score high are energetic, enthusiastic and excitable.
Those who score low are more reserved, calm and introspective.
Average is around 51%.

Agreeableness (friendly or compassionate versus challenging or detached).

Agreeableness describes an individual’s tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs.
Those who score high are accommodating, helpful and selfless. 
Those who score lower are competitive, argumentative and brash.
Average score is around 63%.

Neuroticism (sensitive or nervous versus secure or confident).

Neuroticism describes an individual’s response to stress.
Those who score high are more anxious, moody and self-conscious. Those who score lower are more stable, resilient, optimistic and self-confident.
Average score is around 54%.


How can the results of the test be used for personal development?

There is a lot of different take-aways from these kinds of personality test results.

But using the test results to identify areas of improvement can be be helpful for overall well-being.

One example is that if someone scores lower on Neuroticism which would mean that working on emotional resilience or fitness to maintain more inner balance and sense of self, can improve quality of life by feeling more stable in general.  


Free test can be taken at the Open Source Psychometrics Project website.

Or a paid one that provides a lot more personalized test results can be found at a website called Truity.com

What are Introverts and Extroverts? What are the Differences Between Them?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Extroversion and Introversion are Innate Personality Traits

We all have specific personality traits (this would be more of the “nature” parts of who we are when we think about “the nature vs nurture” influences) and we all fall somewhere on the spectrum between being more of an extrovert or an introvert.

But they are exactly that: Personality traits.  Traits are something that are innately true of who we are.

I think about the difference between extroversion and introversion as measured by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or The Big 5 Personality Traits, which was developed by psychologist Lewis Goldberg, a personality model most commonly accepted in use today.

For what it’s worth, to understand the differences between extroverts and introverts provides us with the opportunity to understand ourselves, as well as others, a little bit better.

The Main Difference between Extroverts and Introverts

Again, it’s important to remember that we all fall within a spectrum.  But we can talk about the main differences to better understand and identify the differences. 

THE MAIN THING is that extroverts get energy from being social and being around others, while introverts refuel by solitary time, away from people.

Or another way of putting it is, do you have more of a tendency toward focusing on the outer world or the inner world?

Here’s what to know about the two polar ends of the continuum and determining where you fall:

Extroverts are commonly described as gaining energy from the external world and socializing, may seem “always on the go”, get tired after spending too much alone, and often have the ability to think while speaking.

Introverts are frequently introspective, have fewer and deeper connections, and often prefers to think first and talk later.

Being introverted and being shy are two different things. (No, they aren’t the same thing.)

Everyone regardless of being an introvert or an extrovert can experience shyness, which can be described to be more of a social-related stress or anxiety.

So shyness can feel uncomfortable, which can have a negative component to it.

On the other hand, fulfilling the need for an introvert to be alone is a relief, as opposed to it being a negative in anyway.

Of course, introverts CAN also be shy, but ultimately they are two different qualities.

Emphasis on Extroverted Qualities in Western Culture can Create Difficulties for Both Extroverts and Introverts

Expectations for extroverts to be leaders and always being “on”, while introverts are often encouraged to have more extroverted qualities socially and professionally

There is more understanding about the differences between introverts and extroverts and as they say, “knowledge is power.”

And with a better understanding that we are all unique individuals and talking more about it as we are today, allows us to embrace ourselves and other people’s differences.

With that said, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of whether your traits lean more toward introversion or extroversion, which can help with choosing a line of work more suited for you, the same can be true for relationships, too

For instance, as we talked about on the Spin with Barry Davis and Michelle Sturino on Wellness Wednesdays, there’s a reason why the the two of them, as extroverts, chose broadcasting, while I, as an introvert, has mostly been working more one-on-one with people in our respective lines of work.

Relationships and Connections Between Extroverts and Introverts Can be Challenging Due to Differences in Traits and Needs

It’s helpful to understand the differences of others and it’s a good reminder to cultivate empathy and compassion for all of our individual uniqueness

This can especially be true with partners and family members.

It’s possible for introverts and extroverts in families and relationships to find a happy place and it’s all about respecting one another’s unique needs.

1 – Be curious with one another: Ask questions about each other’s preferences with a genuine curiosity for each other’s different needs and work toward finding a mutual area that can work for you both.

2 – Don’t avoid having these kinds of discussions. Your relationship will be stronger for having discussed and to have an understanding of each other’s differences than to try and sweep them under the rug. Understanding on all sides can go a long way.

Curious about where you might fall in the spectrum between extroversion and introversion?

There is a pretty comprehensive online test available on the Psychology Today website.

Four Common Misconceptions About Mental Health Help, Professionals and Approaches

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

I have been learning a lot through this process of contributing to Barry Davis’ The Spin on 960AM talking about mental health on Wellness Wednesdays (wow – that’s a mouthful!).

So incredibly grateful for this opportunity to share the knowledge I have that’s hopefully helpful, but to also be learning so much in this process.

A significant thing I learned this past week is that many people may not have a clear understanding of what therapy might be like, what kinds of professionals are available and also some confusion over different therapeutic approaches.

So in this post, I’d like to try and clear up some common misconceptions about mental health treatments, professionals and available therapies.

Misconception #1 – Therapy involves lying down on a couch and talking to a therapist with a notepad who says very little.

The most common representation of talk therapy in movies, TV shows and other entertainment mediums are of the therapy couch and a therapist sitting almost mysteriously with a notepad. Listening, but maybe not saying a whole lot.

This style, or modality, of this particular form therapy is called psychoanalysis.

And in terms of professionals that provide psychoanalysis, it can run the gamut of psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists and other qualified professionals. The thing to keep in mind is that it’s a therapeutic approach, not what all talk therapy looks like.

And the difference between psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, at least in Ontario, is that the majority of psychiatrists don’t provide talk therapy. And even if they do, their therapeutic approach probably would not be psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis involves meeting one on one and to bring the unconscious to the conscious awareness by talking.

The primary differences between psychoanalysis and other forms of talk therapy is that in psychoanalysis, it generally involves meeting several times a week.

But like other forms of talk therapy, it’s also focused on the ability to learn to talk about yourself and to put spoken words to thoughts and feelings without applying too much editing or filter.

Also, as thoughts and feelings are spoken, they can take on a different context or understanding when they are heard aloud, which can lead to insights.

This approach is only one specific approach to talk therapy. But if it is a style that you’re interested in exploring, I would suggest conducting a Google search specifically for “psychoanalyst near me” or something like that.

The key takeaway here is: Not all talk therapy is and looks like psychoanalysis.

Misconception #2 – All mental health professionals are the same. Aren’t psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists all the same things and do the same things?

The short answer is: No.

I believe that one of the biggest issues, specifically here in Ontario, is that folks out there who are looking for mental health help generally don’t know who or to turn to.

There are different titles and while the services they provide can be similar, the approach, style and expertise might differ.

There are a number of different mental health professionals who are regulated, in other words, registered or licensed, to provide mental health support in Ontario.

The registered professionals here in Ontario are Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Registered Psychotherapists.

For the purposes of today’s discussion, the main differences are:
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health issues and generally don’t provide talk therapy, but are covered by OHIP.

Psychotherapy services provided by clinical psychologists, social workers and psychotherapists, outside of institutional settings such as hospitals and schools, are out-of-pocket.

But if you have insurance coverage, it’s good to check with your benefits provider to make sure which professionals are covered under your plan.

One other thing here, since psychiatrists don’t often provide talk therapy, it’s not uncommon for individuals with mental health difficulties to have both a psychiatrist and a talk therapist (psychotherapist).

Misconception #3 – Psychotherapy or talking is the only option to treat mental health.

A lot of the conversations we currently have about mental health treatments seems mostly to be focused on talking.

Talking and learning how to effectively express thoughts and feelings are crucial components of treating mental health difficulties.

And to be clear: Taking the big step to talking, whether it’s to a friend, loved one or professional, is the first and very important step to take.

But as we mentioned a moment ago, consulting a psychiatrist or if you decide to talk to your family doctor, the likely treatment option that will be suggested would be medication, a medical intervention.

For some people, the help of short or indefinite term of taking medication may be one answer.

But there are also other kinds of mental health treatments like 12 step programs (such as Alcoholics Anonymous), body-based treatments, mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and biofeedback, just to name a few.

The right treatment fit is specific for every individual.

With that said, I want to make sure to stress, the first step is talking.

And if the chosen form of primarily treatment is medication, I think it’s valuable to note that studies have shown that the most effective outcome is usually a combination of both talk therapy and medication.

Misconception #4 – All talk therapy or psychotherapy is the same.

So another way that it can be confusing to seek psychotherapy help is that not all talk therapies and approaches are the same.

Psychoanalysis is different from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is different from Gestalt Therapy which is different from Psychodynamic Therapies.

There are more than 50 types of different psychotherapy approaches.

And to make it that much more complicated, a specific helping professional doesn’t necessarily mean that they practice a certain therapeutic approach.

For instance, one clinical psychologist may specialize in practicing CBT (which is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) while another might be focused on Emotion-Focused Therapy, while another psychologist might work from a Mindfulness-Based approach.

After all that, what’s a good way to start looking for a talk therapist?

We’ve talked about this before: Sometimes Dr. Google can have a whole lot of unhelpful health-based information.

But in this case, going to Google and typing in “psychotherapist or therapist near me” will pull up a list of private practitioners.

By going through the different websites and profiles, you can determine who might feel like a good fit for you.

It might be their bio, their area of specialization or perhaps their approach.

Or if you have a specific approach in mind, you can do a Google search on say, “Attachment Based Therapy near me” and it should pull up a list of therapists who specialize in that particular approach.

The important thing here is to find the right fit and approach for you, since studies have shown that this is one of the main indicators of therapeutic effectiveness.

Is There Something About Mental Health Help You’re Not Clear About?

Leave your questions in the comments below and I will either give an answer right here in the blog or maybe answer your questions on-air on one of the upcoming episodes of Wellness Wednesdays on 960AM’s The Spin with Barry Davis.