Clinical Counsellor

Warning Signs

Bullying is a serious problem occurring in children and teenagers. It can be difficult for parents to identify whether their child is being bullied if their child doesn’t tell them. If you are concerned about your child, here are some warning signs that may indicate your child is being bullied.

  • Shows an abrupt lack of interest in school, or refuses to go to school.
  • Takes an unusual route to school.
  • Suffers drop in grades.
  • Withdraws from family and school activities.
  • Is sad, sullen, angry, or scared after receiving a phone call or email.
  • Steals money from home.
  • Does something out of character.
  • Has torn or missing clothing.
  • Uses derogatory or demeaning language when talking about peers.
  • Stops talking about peers and everyday activities.
  • Has physical injuries not consistent with explanation.
  • Has stomach-aches, headaches, panic attacks, is unable to sleep, sleeps too much, is exhausted.
  • Plays alone, or prefers to hang with adults.

Remember, it is important to be supportive and listen to your child if they are being bullied. Speak with your child’s teacher and principal if necessary, and work together to help your child.


Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is beneficial to understanding our relationships with others. Bowlby developed attachment theory which initially focused on the relationship between mother and infant. He defined attached as an emotional bond to a particular individual who is seen as providing protection, comfort and support. This is a biological function that occurs during infancy and is important for an individual’s future relationships. During attachment in childhood, the individual develops beliefs and expectations about themselves and others. If individuals experience attachment-related anxiety or if they tend to seek out or avoid closeness when anxiety is activated this can continue into adulthood relationships. In adulthood, attachment occurs in romantic relationships. These differ from childhood attachment because it is reciprocal; both people become attached to each other whereas in childhood attachment, the child becomes attached to the caregiver.
Bowlby also discussed four attachment patterns; secure, preoccupied, dismissing and fearful. If an individual has a secure attachment they have low anxiety and low avoidance. They are capable of intimacy and interdependence, and they have positive views of self and others. Individuals who are preoccupied have high anxiety and low avoidance. They are preoccupied with close relationships and prone to anxiety. They also rely excessively on others for their self-worth. Individuals with a fearful attachment have high anxiety and high avoidance. They fear hurt and rejection, tend to have low self-esteem and avoid closeness. Individuals with a dismissing attachment have low anxiety and high avoidance. They tend to have high self-worth, low expectations of close others and deal with upsets on their own.
Thus, attachment theory helps us to understand our adult relationships. It can be difficult to identify which attachment pattern we are displaying, but individual or couples counselling can greatly help with this.

The Satir Model

Virginia Satir’s therapy model is based on the premise that change is possible and that we all have the internal resources we need to cope successfully and to grow. Thus, she believes that the person is not the problem, but rather, coping is the problem. Accordingly, therapy focuses on improving how an individual copes rather than solving problems.
Similarly, she states that feelings belong to the individual, and therefore we can learn to change them, manage them, and enjoy them. Furthermore, individuals have decisions in the way that they react, cope, and are. Therefore, Satir states that individuals choose their actions. For example, an individual chooses to be agitated. So, since feelings belong to us and we choose our actions, we can also choose to and learn to react in a positive manner.
Satir also believed that partners tend to repeat the familiar patterns from their childhood, even if these patterns are dysfunctional. It follows then that it is important to know a person’s origin and family, in order to better understand their current behaviours and possible problems. Similarly, Satir posits that the first caregivers an individual has will affect them dramatically.
Also in childhood, individuals learn certain stances. These may have benefited from them during their childhood, but they no longer need them. However, often individuals continue to use these stances and it is in therapy that they can be addressed. These four stances are being super reasonable, irrelevant, placating and blaming.
This is also a great book to better understand Satir’s model of therapy. It can also help individuals to understand themselves and how Satir views change, prior to or in conjunction to therapy.

Satir, V. M., Banment, J., Gerber, J., & Gomori, M. (1991). The Satir model: Family therapy and beyond. Palto Alto, CA: Science & Behavior Books.

Sue Johnson’s emotionally focused therapy focuses on attachment theory. She believes that the drive to emotionally attach to another individual is a primary need that all humans possess. Also, an individual’s family of origin is where attachment originates. More specifically, it is during childhood when individuals are faced with developing trust or mistrust. This is resolved when their needs are met by their caregivers and as a result, they are able to trust others in the future. However, when an individual’s attachment is uncertain, they can do a lot of different things in a relationship, most of which do not benefit the partnership.

Accordingly, individuals who are securely attached are comfortable with closeness and can rely on others. This also makes them less angry and easier to get along with. Ultimately, Johnson believes that having a secure attachment to another person is empowering. For example, this person can provide feedback and this can help their partner.

Ultimately, Johnson states that rejection and exclusion are equal to physical pain. Thus, when we are excluded and rejected, it is very painful. Conversely, having a positive connection with other people helps us to cope and deal effectively with stress. Johnson also believes that therapists can teach individuals these skills, to be less abrasive for example, in order to have more friends.

Also, she believes that most arguments are protests against emotional disconnection. It follows then that, a potential loss of a partner leads to primal fear and panic. Thus, Johnson believes that individuals are literally fighting for their lives, in order to keep their partner.

I recommend this book for both couples and single individuals because it provides helpful insights into understanding relationships and our human need for relationships. I hope that you also enjoy reading this book as much as I did.

Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. NY: Little, Brown & Co.


For Youth

Here is a very helpful website for youth provided by the Vancouver Crisis Centre. They have great information on many topics related to youth. I recommend this for youth and parents.

I also highly recommend their chat service. Although telephone counselling is also available at the Crisis Centre, this website allows individuals to talk to someone via instant messaging, which is often more appealing to teenagers and young adults.

Family Meetings

A family meeting is a regularly scheduled time where family members get together to discuss important issues. This is a great way for children to learn how to cooperate. Meetings can also be used to share good feelings, have fun together, make decisions about family issues, give encouragement, and talk about problems.
It is a good idea to set a meeting time that is convenient for everyone and to set a time limit (20 minutes to 1 hour) depending on the ages of children. You can appoint a secretary, and you can rotate this position so that everyone has a turn. This can help children feel included. Also, make sure that everyone has an opportunity to make suggestions during the meeting.
Some ideas to discuss at a family meeting are:
-old business (evaluate decisions made at previous meetings)
-qualities you like about each other
-something nice that you enjoyed last week
-something new you learned lately
-family chores
-how to spend family times
-concerns, feelings, complaints
-future plans and goals
-allowance and who will pay for what

I suggest trying to have the family meeting at the same time each week, if that is convenient for every family member. This way, it will become an expected part of the week for everyone. Most families today are very busy and the family meeting allows for some quality time to be spent together. Children also can feel capable as contributing members of the family. Although parents ultimately provide discipline and set the rules in the family, during meetings children can present their concerns and are able to see how problems are solved and addressed. Give it try and enjoy spending time with your family!

Bullying is common today, especially at school. For parents, it can be especially difficult to know how to help your child. Some may feel the need to teach their child how to fight back and others want to confront the bully themselves.

Here are some helpful tips on what you can do if you child is bullied:

  • Say ‘I hear you; I am here for you; I believe you; you are not alone in this.’
  • Say ‘It is not your fault’.
  • There are things you can do.
  • Report the bullying to school personnel.

Also, it is helpful if your child has at least one good friend who they can talk to and who can help them.

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t minimize, rationalize, or explain away the bully’s behaviour.
  • Don’t rush in to solve the problem for your child.
  • Don’t tell your child to avoid the bully.
  • Don’t tell your child to fight back.
  • Don’t confront the bully or the bully’s parents alone.