Building a strong therapeutic relationship in which clients feel safe and understood is a primary focus. From this foundation, tools from a variety of approaches are used including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness, and Emotion-Focused Therapy depending on the needs of clients. That said, therapeutic work is primarily based on the following theoretical premises:
Emotions are adaptive. They are a primary signalling system telling us what is important to our well-being. Each healthy emotion is associated with an underlying need. For example, sadness signals a need for comfort, anger signals a need to defend a boundary, and fear signals a need for safety.
Therefore, when we pay attention to our emotions, we are in tune with our basic needs. For example, in the event of the death of a loved one, a natural response is sadness. The need associated with sadness is comfort. In this case, being in touch with one’s emotions would mean reaching out to others for comfort.
Our emotion system is shaped by previous experience, and therefore, some emotions are residues of painful memories. These emotions eventually become maladaptive to current situations and impede people from meeting their needs and living satisfying lives.
For example, in some cases, when sad or grieving, people withdraw and pull away from others. These people have learned that reaching out when feeling sad is uncomfortable, not okay, or does not go well for them. If someone withdraws when sad, they are not getting what they need.
For other people, anger is uncomfortable. These people have learned that anger is scary, destructive, or hurtful, and therefore disown experiences of anger, often covering with sadness or depression. When this happens, one can become out of touch with the needs of the self that are apart from others.
When our emotion system is awry or emotions are too painful to bear, people often develop strategies to numb out. Depression, cutting, eating disorders, alcohol or drug use, gambling, or excessive screen time are all great ways to tune out. The problem is that they are temporary and the painful emotions return. The other problem is that shutting down the emotion signalling system makes it impossible to discover and pursue actions that meet basic needs for comfort, closeness, safety, or boundary setting. We therefore become disconnected from ourselves and others.
The good news is that ways of responding to the self and others are learned emotional processes that can be changed. Hebb’s Law states that “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. This means that neural pathways are changeable, and they are most changeable when they are firing. When we are stuck in patterns of depression, anxiety, or anger, we are best able to change these patterns when feeling the emotion. Therefore, at the Centre for Restorative Mental Health, we do not focus exclusively on teaching you how to change thoughts, behaviours, or emotions, but rather, we focus on transforming old patterns by generating new reactions to people, places, or other triggers. Stuck emotional reactions can be changed. This is a message of hope!
Academic and Research Foundations
Individual work is primarily based on the evidence-based principles of Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is propelled by the research of Dr. Leslie Greenberg, Dr. Antonio Pascual-Leone, Dr. Sandra Paivio, and Dr. Jeanne Watson.
Couples work is based primarily on the evidence-based principles of Emotion-Focused Therapy for Couples as guided by the research and clinical experience of Dr. Leslie Greenberg and Dr. Sue Johnson.
Family work is based on the evidence-based principles of Emotion-Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) and Emotion-Focused Skills Training (EFST). This work is guided by the research and clinical experience of Dr. Joanne Dolhanty and Dr. Adele Lafrance.