Keep On Keeping On

Carole and I are working out how to “keep on keeping on” in the midst of increasing demands for our counselling time. We are both concerned about our long waiting lists and the urgencies caused by covid crises. And we are also aware that we can’t work as hard as we have up until this point.

We love the work of listening, wondering, consoling and challenging and we hope to continue our work with you for some time to come. So, to be able to do this and to do so effectively, we are making some changes. Here they are:

  • First — we are going to limit the number of new clients so that we can better serve the people we visit with now. This will begin on April 1, 2021.
  • Second — we are going to re-package our workdays so that we are not carrying as many hours each day. This will be in effect by September 2021.
  • Third — when covid has lifted, we are going to limit in-office visits and keep much of our work online.
  • Fourth — we will actively refer people who inquire about working with us. We have an extensive network of counsellors and we think we can match clients and counsellors quite effectively.

In summary, this means that we want to continue to work with you because we have a commitment to you, and we value the work we have accomplished together. But we are going to restrict new commitments to others.

Let us know your thoughts. Write to us at life@theducklows.ca. We will be sure to get back to you. And thanks.

“Bid Theory” and the Spirit of Marriage

Of all the people who marry, only 30 per cent grow towards a quality of marriage that they hoped for when they started out. So says Ty Tashiro in his book, “The Science of Happily Ever After.” A lot of us divorce or separate, and many maintain a “just reasonably content” compromise, and a few of us are “happily ever after.”

By the way, this is true if one is a faith-follower or if one is something else from the spiritual-psychological neighbourhood.

Seattle’s John Gottman, the current marital-parenting guru, has studied married couples for four decades and distilled the nature of their success – and it is completely ordinary. “Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity or contempt, criticism, and hostility?”

According to Gottman, people whose relationships thrived “scanned the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.” Those who gave up on their marriages more than often scanned for their partner’s mistakes.

This part of Gottman’s research is obvious to those who identify gratitude as evidence of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20).

Gottman found the key to success in the everyday interactions between couples. He calls them “bids.” Say my partner makes a thoughtful and generous dinner for the family and asks for my response with the hope of some appreciation. I thank her blankly because I’m immersed in my own thing. She has made a “bid,” according to Gottman, for my attention and appreciation and I didn’t deliver. And neither do the kids for that matter.

Did you know that the majority of “bids” between unhappy couples go unanswered or worse, dismissed with contempt?

Here is something interesting: when Gottman examined the decades of marital data, he found divorcing couples responded to bids only infrequently, less than a third of the time. What about couples that thrived? They approached and appreciated the bids nearly 90% of the time. They had “emotional intelligence.”

Seems simple enough but sometimes hard to do.

(Adapted from a July 2014 Vancouver Sun article by Michael Pond.) Updated December 2020.

Tele-Psych with Paddy and Carole (Video-Counselling with Doxy.me)

[Updated August 2020]

For the Fall of 2020, Paddy and Carole will be counselling, cajoling and comforting over Doxy.me, a hyper-secure teleconferencing system. (Did you see the pun? “Doc-see-me.”) As of September 1, Paddy will visit with some of his clients in-person and continue with others online.

Using Doxy, you don’t need to download anything — you just get an email from me on the time you have booked. Click that and you are in.

To go directly to Carole’s Doxy waiting room, click here.

To go directly to Paddy’s Doxy waiting, click here.

We are moving from Skype and FaceTime to something that is simpler and more secure. You can look up Doxy.me here. It will take you a couple of minutes to orient, but it is pretty basic and easy to use.

Having said this, if you wish to visit Paddy at our office, this is again being offered on his Monday and Thursday appointments and not on his Tuesday and Wednesday off-time mornings (“What the heck are those?”). In this case, please read my blog “Current Covid-19 Concerns.” This will explain our approach to minimizing contact and thwarting this disease should you visit our home office.

Prior to starting video-counselling, I want to go over a few things with you. Here is my list.

  • There are obvious benefits to video-counselling. If you are out of the Vancouver area or if you have some sickness. Some busy business folk who are trapped in meetings video-call me from their offices and cars!
  • There are some risks too. We are using technology (and wires and stuff, that I don’t know much about) to make this work. This is why we are switching to Doxy.me. It is just more secure.
  • Confidentiality still applies to all telepsychology services.
  • We will not record our sessions and I can’t see why we would wish a recording – so we won’t record. We hope that you won’t either.
  • Note that you need to use a webcam or smartphone during the session. Otherwise, it is much more difficult with simply voice.
  • It is important to be in a quiet, private space that is free of distractions (including a cell phone or other devices) during the session. Kids can be a problem too.
  • It is important to use a secure internet connection rather than public/free Wi-Fi (eg Starbucks).
  • It is important to be on time. If you need to cancel or change your tele-appointment, you must notify us in advance by phone or email. Can you give us a day or so? Sure helps us.
  • We need a back-up plan (e.g., a phone number where you can be reached) to restart the session or to reschedule it, in the event of technical problems. Make sure we have your phone number.
  • You should confirm with your insurance company that the video sessions will be reimbursed; if they are not reimbursed, you are responsible for the payment.
  • As your psychologist, I may determine that due to certain circumstances, telepsychology is no longer appropriate and that we should resume our sessions in-person.
  • Get your coffee or pour your tea and let’s get going. Connect with Doxy.me.

Best to you all and stay healthy.

Paddy and Carole

Couple Therapy with Individual Partners

Couple therapy is usually both persons in the same sessions working towards a common goal.

At times, it can be helpful for the therapist to visit with the individual partners and couples often request this. They have their own reasons, as do the therapists. And some of the reasons to meet individually have merit. For example, it might be helpful for one partner to talk through their “family of origin” without the other being there. Though, I have found it is helpful to have the less active partner to listen to the narrative again, even though they think they know it all.

But there are problems with the therapist visiting with individual partners and it is important to understand this prior to going one-on-one.

Triangles are a problem. “He said, she said” is what it usually sounds like. It can come back this way: “Did you really suggest that my husband leave me? Or were you working to have him finally make a decision about being with me?” “Hmm,” I muse. “Now how do I handle this?”

Spousal secrets are a big deal. “Please don’t tell Jack about what I am about to say…” I usually say something like, “I have a terrible memory of what I am supposed to forget. Are you sure you want to tell me?” They usually do tell me anyway and then we figure out how to disclose or the marriage-saving reasons to keep it a secret.

There are occasions when the partner uses the individual appointment to appraise the therapist of the spouse’s presumed faults. EG, “Did you know that Bob was diagnosed as ADD by our previous therapist? I think that is why he doesn’t help in the kitchen.”

Therapy is powerful. Deep listening results in feeling deeply understood and sometimes this results in a kind of fusion making for confusion. When the focus is on the individual, the person can experience herself differently than as a part of a couple. And say different things.

A few other thoughts when this situation arises: sometimes (seldom?), I will recommend the person wishing individual contact to visit with another counsellor while I continue with the couple work. This is helpful sometimes but it does result in another kind of triangle and a great deal of costly overlap. 

I also recommend that my clients understand the power of triangles. I have some articles on my website that I think are helpful and there is lots more on the web. When both parties figure out how doing individual work with their couple’s therapist can be a problem, they can often move forward with information and understanding. And that helps.

I think I have opened up a conversation without many conclusions in this blog. But I do want you, my client-friends, to be aware of some of this. Let’s talk about it during our next sessions.

My best to you.