Same Sex Relationships & Couples Counselling

Same Sex Relationships & Couples Counselling

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

Sydney’s 41st Mardi Gras is only a few days away, and the city is awash with rainbows and glitter. This is a special time of year when we get to participate in this joyous and spectacular celebration of LGBT+ pride. So it is in anticipation of this much loved event that we’re thinking more specifically of our gay and lesbian clients and couples, and the issues they face.

Same sex couples, like all couples, deserve to receive effective, tailored, and research-based therapy to strengthen their relationship and emotional bond. Going to couples therapy can feel daunting, and like all couples, gay and lesbian partners need to feel that their therapist is respectful, empathic and non-judgmental.

While all significant relationships share many similar features, there are some unique aspects to same sex relationships. Same sex couples face unique barriers that are likely to require strength and resilience, including social and cultural stresses and prejudice.

Strengths of same sex couples

The work of Drs John and Julie Gottman, renowned couples therapists and researchers, has contributed greatly to our knowledge base of the strengths of same sex relationships, and what makes them succeed or fail. Their research has demonstrated that:

  • All couples, gay or straight, experience the same problems and the same paths to staying happy together.
  • Overall relationship quality and satisfaction tends to be the same across all couple types.
  • Strengths like humour and the ability to calm down during an argument are especially important in the success of same sex couples.
  • Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humour when they bring up a disagreement, and partners tend to be more positive in response to this.
  • Same sex couples, in comparison to straight couples, are more likely to remain positive after a disagreement, which is important for repair.
  • Same sex couples use less controlling and hostile emotional tactics, which may reflect a greater degree of fairness and equality in these relationships.
  • In arguments, lesbian couples tend to be more emotionally expressive, both positively and negatively, than gay men.
  • When it comes to repairing after a disagreement, gay men find this more difficult than lesbian or straight couples if the initiator of the disagreement becomes too negative.

Potential challenges in same sex relationships

Same sex couples may face additional challenges to straight couples in navigating life’s challenges as a strongly bonded couple. These include but are not limited to:

  • Managing differences in approaching coming out and acceptance of sexual identity.
  • Coping with prejudice and others’ negative attitudes towards the relationship, which is especially challenging when it leads to conflict with family members or other important people.
  • Negotiating monogamy and a degree of openness in the relationship (both physical and emotional) that both partners are comfortable with.
  • Clarifying and establishing boundaries with each other, around issues such as the differences between a friendship and a couple relationship, negotiating living arrangements, and maintaining a friendship after separation.
  • Negotiating roles around areas like housework or parenting without the traditional gender role expectations.
  • Coping with parenting when there is a non-biological parent.
  • Managing sexual problems (e.g. mis-matched libido/desire).

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

Depression – Why Aren’t Men Getting Help?

Depression – Why Aren’t Men Getting Help?

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

We’ve recently had Mental Health Week, a wonderful national initiative aimed at raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing, as well as reducing stigma and supporting people to get assistance. While acceptance of mental health issues is improving, as a society we still have a long way to go and unfortunately many who need help still don’t seek it out. This is particularly true for men who often suffer in silence.

Depression is a serious condition and no one is immune. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender or factors such as economic or professional status. One in eight Australian men will experience depression at some time in their life, and men aged 35-44 years have the highest rates of depression. Overall, women experience greater rates of depression than men, but men tend to deal with the issue differently. Many men find it difficult to recognise and acknowledge that they are experiencing depression, and importantly, men are less likely to seek professional help.

So why is this? Most obviously, there is cultural pressure on men to fit the “bloke” stereotype which can make it very challenging to admit to any vulnerability, even for today’s generation of men. Many of our male clients describe the pressure they feel to appear strong, cope with problems on their own, and serve as “the provider”. Many feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings with others, especially their male friends.

Men can also tend towards a D.I.Y approach to life, believing they can fix everything themselves, including their mental health. Far from being a personal weakness, depression is a serious condition like other medical issues. Trying to fix it yourself is like trying to heal a broken leg without a surgeon.

Depression is very different than normal sadness or being down in the dumps. These are some of the warning signs to look out for in men who may be struggling with depression:

Physical signs:

  • persistent pain
  • reduced energy
  • lower sex drive
  • changes in appetite and/or weight
  • changes to sleep
  • increased use of alcohol and/or drugs

Emotional signs:

  • feeling more guilty
  • feeling more angry and irritable
  • less interest in hobbies and previous interests
  • lower motivation
  • feeling down or nervous
  • taking unnecessary risks
  • thinking about death or suicide

If these symptoms are very serious or have persisted for more than two weeks, it’s probably time to get a professional opinion on the situation.

The good news is that help is available. Depression is highly treatable. For most people, depression can be reduced or eliminated through a combination of changes to lifestyle, psychological therapy and possibly medication. Beyond Blue’s “Man Therapy” website is geared at Aussie males, and is a good place to get more information. The Black Dog Institute’s website is also very useful. If you think you or someone you care about has depression, then do something about it. Leave the D.I.Y for your home maintenance rather than your mental health.

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

Cultivating Self-Compassion

Cultivating Self-Compassion

This article was contributed by Tal Schlosser, Director of myLife Psychologists.

If you already thought I bang on a lot about self-compassion I’m about to take it to a whole new level! I recently spent two days with the wonderful Paul Gilbert and Dennis Tirch in an intensive workshop on Compassion Focused Therapy, and I’m now truly inspired to bring compassion even more into my own life and the lives of my clients.

Most of us are pretty familiar with the self-critic. That’s the part of ourselves that likes to put us down, point out our flaws and inadequacies, or maybe even hates aspects of ourselves. This self-critic tends to get a lot of air-time and yet it typically leads to nothing but suffering. When does it ever feel good to beat yourself up?

Often my clients hold on to self-criticism in the belief that it drives them to achieve, or that without it they’d become lazy, or even worse, a wanker! Have you ever asked yourself though whether your self-critic really is serving you? And even if it does lead to some positives, what is the cost to you?

We all stuff up, make mistakes or handle things poorly at times – it’s part of being human. What if you could be more gentle with yourself when you suffer, fail, or are inadequate – what might you have to gain?

Self-compassion is something that can be cultivated and practiced, just like any other skill. There are practical compassion building exercises that we can learn and practise to build up self-compassion, and in time this helps us to redress the balance between our self-critical and self-compassionate selves.

If you wanted to be a great guitar player – you’d practice; if you wanted to be a great tennis player – you’d practice. And yet we don’t spend a lot of time practicing being the kind of person we’d like to be.

In “The Compassionate Mind” Paul Gilbert states: “Research has found that developing kindness and compassion for ourselves and others builds our confidence, helps us create meaningful, caring relationships and promotes physical and mental health. Far from fostering emotional weakness, practical exercises focusing on developing compassion have been found to subdue our anger and increase our courage and resilience to depression and anxiety.”

What is one thing you could do in the next day to be more compassionate towards yourself?

What might you gain by being more compassionate towards yourself?

Let us know how you go!

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you by clicking here.

What to do if your child has an eating disorder?

What to do if your child has an eating disorder?

There is a line in Netflix’s controversial new series Insatiable which ought to raise alarm bells for any parent with school-age children.

It is: “skinny is magic”.

In case you have not heard of the US series, it is about a young teenager girl, Patty, who is bullied at school – her nickname is Fatty Patty.

In the series’ first episode, Patty is punched in the face resulting in her broken jaw being wired for three months; she is put on a liquid diet. Patty then transforms from a bullied overweight teen to a “hot” slim one.

Themes of body image, fat-shaming, bullying and a troubled relationship with food run through the series, which has been both praised and slammed by viewers and critics.

One critic described it as “an insufferable hot mess”, while the series’ creator, Lauren Gussis, says what is portrayed in the program “is the reality of what still happens” [to young teens who are bullied because of their weight].

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are common in Australia with about one million people diagnosed each year.

As a concerned parent, here’s some things you can do if your teen has an eating disorder:

  • Monitor the changes in your teen’s behaviour such as whether he or she talks more about body image, is fixated on exercise, suddenly decides to only eat certain food groups, seems preoccupied with weight and avoids social outings with friends or family
  • Talk to your child in a non-judgemental way about their relationship with food and encourage them to share their feelings with you regularly
  • Think about possible causes for their eating disorder such as whether your teen has experienced events such as bullying, a family death or divorce, concerns about their sexuality, or they demonstrate a lack of self-confidence
  • Try to better understand what is going on in your teenager’s mind
  • Explore your child’s social media platforms, peer groups, role models and other popular culture influences
  • Talk to your child about who they look up to? Are they, for example, following popular social media “influencers” such as UK fitness model Krissy Cela (who shares what her troubled teenage years were like), Instagram stars Georgie Stevenson and Steph Claire Smith who are great role models who regularly discuss their health and fitness “journey” and their now balanced diets.
  • Try to develop better problem solving skills and reach out to trusted friends and family for help

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional for you Radiant by clicking here.

 

Men, fathering and depression

Men, fathering and depression

About five per cent of Australian men develop postnatal depression in the first year after their child is born. While many men and first-time fathers are thrilled by the arrival of their newborn, it can also be a time when anxiety, stress and depression are triggered.

It may be that their expectations of being a father do not always mirror what is going on in real-life. It may seem like a scary and bewildering time. Perhaps it is not surprising then that about one in five men experience anxiety after the baby is born – this can be prevalent if the infant is premature or unwell.

Some men may put enormous pressure on themselves to be the “ideal” Dad, while others may find it hard to come to terms with all the upheavals experienced in the early stages of fatherhood; they may even feel a sense of loss about changes in their relationship, including intimacy, the lack of me-time and so on.

While there is not one reason why men experience postnatal depression, the possibility of developing it after a baby is born is greater if a man has:

  • He has been depressed before;
  • He experiences a lack of practical, social and emotional support;
  • His relationship with his partner is under strain;
  • His partner is already experiencing depression and anxiety;
  • There are ongoing financial difficulties;
  • He suffers from poor physical health and does not look after himself;
  • He does not bond with his baby;
  • He is worried he will be considered “less of a man” if he reveals his feelings, fears and concerns or find help.

Dads, including first-time fathers, may not even be aware that they show signs of postnatal depression, as it is easy to dismiss it as exhaustion or feeling moodier than normal.

However, if your symptoms include: irritability, feeling hopeless, poor concentration, crying a lot or feeling teary, feeling numb, a low mood or negative feelings for a period longer than two weeks, you may want to see your GP or seek help from a mental health professional.

Accept that it is at this time that finding support from family and friends can be really beneficial and not a sign of weakness.

What can fathers with postnatal depression do to help themselves?

  • Recognise that you are feeling this way, acknowledge it and accept that it is okay to feel all your feelings;
  • Talk to friends, siblings, work colleagues, other Dads and people you trust about what you are going through. You may well find you are not alone and this will help give you perspective;
  • Try and establish daily healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, schedule some time to exercise and find some regular me-time to relax and reflect;
  • Consider seeking professional help such as a counsellor;
  • Ask around for men’s support groups in your area;
  • Talk to your partner on a daily basis, even if it is for less than half an hour as keeping the lines of communication between both of you is one of the best ways to help each other understand how you are each feeling;
  • Try to avoid thinking that you need to “fix” everything and accept you will make mistakes;
  • If, a year after your baby is born, you are still feeling irritable and tired, see your GP.

 

Finding the right counsellor, therapist, or support for you is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards mental wellbeing. Start your search for the right mental health professional with Radiant by clicking here.