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Anxiety – Automatic Protection

Anxiety and panic attacks are among the most common reasons people are referred to psychologists. An initial part of learning how to cope with anxiety is understanding what it actually is.

Looking at our modern world, it can be surprising to realize that the human brain still functions about the same as it did 40,000 years ago when we survived by hunting and gathering. Dangers were everywhere for early humans, including predators, exposure to the elements and unforgiving landscapes. Early ancestors who could react quickly survived to pass on their genes to future generations and we continue to benefit from that same fight-flight reaction system today.

Without any need for conscious thought, the brain sends messages to fight or flee to the muscles and organs whenever it senses a threat. Instantly, our attention goes directly to that threat and we feel unpleasant sensations that are impossible to ignore. We act, on instinct, and when the threat is over the body returns to rest and the entire system settles.

Part of the cure for anxiety comes from understanding that the body takes a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach when it comes to self-preservation. It doesn’t matter whether threats are real (eg, someone running towards you in a dark alley) or imagined (eg, a fleeting thought that an upcoming presentation might turn out badly). It reacts the same way regardless, instantly mobilizing all of the body’s resources just in case.

Anxiety is often less frightening when we realize that it’s just the body’s way of keeping itself safe.

Successful Spring Flight Seminar

Ten very brave people faced their fears of flying over the weekend of May 5-6, 2012. The group spent two days with psychologist Dr. Ian Shulman and commercial pilot, Captain Marc-Antoine Plourde working to understand what scares them about flying and learning how to cope more effectively”. Like most fearful fliers, many in the group began the weekend thinking they would feel less afraid if they learned more about flight and airplanes. However, by the end of the workshop each participant noted discovering that their fears had little to do with airplanes and far more to do with the strategies each had been using to deal with adversity throughout their life. When they dealt with that, many said they felt more confident about their ability to handle flying. Our next workshop will happen in fall 2012.

Ready to practice coping skills.

Dr. Shulman talking about fear and coping.

Take Control of Your Fear of Flying

May 5 & 6, 2012 at Toronto Pearson Airport

Openings are still available for Shift Cognitive Therapy and De Plour Research and Training’s spring session of our successful workshop on learning to control your fear of flying.

The session occurs in a comfortable boardroom within the SkyService Terminal on the grounds of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and ends with an actual flight to show you that you can cope with your fears. Between 80% and 90% of people who attend the seminar take the flight with us and are pleased with the results.

Three features of our workshop make it work:

  1. Most fearful fliers try to avoid airplane-related content to prevent scary thoughts and feelings, but that only makes it all feel more intense. We teach people to pay greater attention (that’s right: greater attention) to noises, emotions, thoughts and sensations because it’s only by doing so that we learn that we can manage with them.
  2. Many fearful fliers have also experienced difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences at other times in their lives. Frightening things, like car accidents, injuries, losses of important people, and abuse can leave us feeling vulnerable in situations where we don’t have much control (like, on airplanes). Working with the psychologist who co-leads the workshop, we help fearful fliers to talk about those difficult experiences because when they do, they untangle the links they have made between flying and the vulnerability they feel.
  3. Finally, we teach fearful fliers specific strategies and tools to use to cope with and minimize the worries and the bodily sensations we all sometimes feel when flying or doing something new.

Follow this link for prices and registration information.

Welcome to the new website for Shift Cognitive Therapy

This version is more flexible than what we had before, making it much easier for us to let you know about important happenings in the clinic and about how we can help you with the issues you’re facing.

Many people tell us that they waited a while before calling for an appointment after their doctor made the referral. They often say they just didn’t feel ready to take the step and that they were afraid consulting with a psychologist would mean something terrible about them (e.g., ‘I am weak!’) or open up an emotional can of worms that they’d then struggle to get back under control. We understand that. We know what it’s like for people to step into the unknown because we see it every day, and we do it ourselves in our own personal and professional lives.

If this is how you’re feeling, then please take some time to read through the site and come back to it often to see what else we’ve added. It’s going to grow over time and become a better resource on issues like anxiety, depression, dealing with stress, family and couples issues, the fear of flying, and coping with illness and injury. We want you to feel comfortable when you come in to see us, that’s our goal. Because when you feel comfortable, it’s easier for us to help you make the changes you’re looking for in your life.

Penny Smith, MSW, RSW

Penny Smith is an experienced social worker who approaches clients and their situations with humour, understanding and practical solutions. Penny is comfortable with a wide range of client ages, stages and challenges.

She is a registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, and a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. Penny received her Master of Social Work from Wilfred Laurier University. Her background includes front line and supervisory positions in Child Protection, and project management in research and community development for the Toronto Child Abuse Centre. Penny worked for the Halton and Peel District School Boards, and developed The Parent Watch Program for parents of high-risk adolescents, and Peers Empowering Peers, an orientation program for grade 9 students provided by grade 12 students. She has extensive experience in individual, family and group therapy, recovery from addiction and from the trauma of sexual abuse.

Penny has a dynamic presentation style and regularly provides workshops at parent conferences, and professional social work conferences on a variety of subjects dealing with the challenges of parenting.

Dr. Chris Parrish, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Chris Parrish is a clinical psychologist who enjoys working with adults and adolescents. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Concordia University in 2009. Dr. Parrish has a broad base of training and experience, having worked in the Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre, the Mood Disorders Program, and the Eating Disorders Program all at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, as well as at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Concordia University’s Applied Psychology Centre.

Dr. Parrish’s aim is to help clients grow as individuals by understanding how thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and environment all contribute to their struggles. He uses humour and a broad repertoire of treatment approaches to build a collaborative relationship where each client can feel comfortable sharing and learning. He seeks to connect with the real person behind ‘the problems.’

Dr. Parrish is a founding member of the Canadian Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies, and is a member of the Canadian Psychological Association, the Ontario Psychological Association, and the Association for the Advancement of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies.

Dr. Sheila Tervit, Ph.D., C. Psych.

Dr. Tervit is a registered psychologist with a warm and inviting style, who enjoys working with individuals to make changes in their lives. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the State University of New York in 2001. Her background includes professional positions with the Peel Regional Cancer Centre at Credit Valley Hospital, Trillium Health Centre, Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, and London Health Sciences Centre. She is a member of the Ontario Psychological Association and Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation’s Program committee.

In addition to her private practice work, Dr. Tervit works with Wellspring providing short-term counselling to individuals diagnosed with cancer and their families. She also facilitates support groups and is a frequent guest speaker with this organization.

Dr. Tervit lives in Oakville with her family and spends her free time running, playing soccer and tennis, reading, and travelling.

Dr. Ian Shulman, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Ian Shulman is a clinical psychologist with an energetic and creative style, who enjoys working with clients of all ages. Dr. Shulman is a member of the Canadian Psychological Association and the Ontario Psychological Association. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Calgary in 1999. His background includes professional positions with the Hospital for Sick Children, The Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, North York General Hospital and the University of Waterloo. Dr. Shulman has extensive experience in individual and marital/couples therapy and psychological evaluation.

Dr. Shulman maintains professional relationships with Family Physicians, Psychiatrists, Speech and Language Specialists, Academic Tutors, Social Workers, and medical facilities throughout the GTA should referrals be required.

Dr. Shulman’s approach is warm and engaging. He is a long time resident of Oakville, ON and is familiar with challenges particular to this area.

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