• Marriage Counselling with Tammy Laber

    "Marriages can become challenging, couples can fall out of love. Marriage counselling techniques can help recreate loving feelings."
  • Other Counselling Services Available

    "I’m very comfortable discussing what may be difficult topics for you, such as depression, anxiety and sexuality."
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Are You Drinking More Than You Should?

Has your drinking become a problem?  Counselling may help!

Traditionally people who find themselves drinking heavily, whether it be more than two drinks daily or weekend-only binge drinking, are advised to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.  Now, I am not knocking AA.  Several of my clients became AA members before they met me and it has worked wonderfully for them (they see me for other reasons, now that the alcohol doesn’t cover up their pain).

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However, not everyone WANTS to give up drinking totally.  As a result, I have found that some clients can benefit from what is called the “harm reduction” model.

What is harm reduction?  It’s being aware of what triggers excessive drinking for you and taking steps to avoid those triggers.  It’s learning how to enjoy one or two instead of always having five or six.  It’s making sure that every time you drink in public, you have a safe way to get home.   And these are just a few of the things I teach….

Essentially, harm reduction involves bringing mindfulness and planning to your drinking, rather than an “all or none” approach.  The benefits include better health, both mental and physical, and better relationships with others.

If you’d like to cut down on your use of alcohol, or your use of any substance, call me!  I have helped others with this issue, and I have techniques that can help you too.

Mood Swings and Bipolar Disorder

One of the misconceptions among lay people about Bipolar Disorder (which used to be called Manic-Depression) is that people with the disorder change their moods every few hours.  Not so.  Actually, the average length of cycles, whether they be highs (mania) or lows (mild or severe depression) tends to be about 13 weeks.  So if someone is “moody” and seems to go through extremes of mood in a single day, they are more likely to have a personality disorder – or maybe the person is just a teenager ; )

True bipolar involves differences in brain chemistry, and is a lifelong condition that definitely requires treatment.  A person in the manic phase may have delusions of grandeur, be hyperactive and irresponsible.  In the depressive phase, they feel may feel low, hopeless, and have difficulty doing anything at all.  Successful treatment of bipolar disorder generally involves both medication and therapy, and it can take time.

If you think you or someone you care about may be bipolar, I may be able to help.  I care, I am willing to work with your doctor or psychiatrist (if you have one), and I have successfully helped others with this disorder.  Give me a call today!

Are You Suffering from Stress and Burnout?

Recently I attended an educational seminar on job related stress and PTSD for people in front-line professions – police officers, emergency medical professionals, and so on.  Some of the information was pretty specific and will be hugely valuable next time I counsel such a professional.

For example, if you know a police officer who is having trouble with their marriage, that’s not surprising, because police work is one of the professions with the highest divorce rates (please refer them to me!).  But some of it applies to anyone in a really high stress job.  And I seem to see a lot of people in advertising, lawyers, and finance people…

Essentially, when you are in a high stress job all day, your nervous system gets revved up to an unusual degree.  At first this feels good – you are awake, alert and alive.  But over time it takes its toll.  You see, that high level of alertness comes with the release of a large amount of the stress hormone cortisol… and that can be bad for you in a number of ways.

Then when you get home, your nervous system shifts into a very low gear to recuperate from all the stress.  You feel “tired” and like “doing nothing”.  Plus, you may be withdrawn, grouchy and irritable with your spouse.  Engaging in normal conversation and making even small decisions like where to go for dinner seems like too much effort.

When you feel this way, what you really need is some exercise, NOT time into front of the TV or a few drinks.  Because it’s not your body that is tired… it’s your nervous system that needs to make an adjustment, and exercise will help you ditch the stress and get back to a normal range faster.  Also, make the effort to do things you enjoy like hobbies and engaging with people you care about.  In this state, you’ve got to “fake it ‘til you make it”… in other words, don’t wait to feel like doing something enjoyable, make the effort to engage in an enjoyable activity and let it produce the good feelings you need.

If you’d like to talk more about the many things I learned in this all-day seminar (this is a really short and simplified summary), give me a call.  I can help you!

Grief is a Process

Sometimes people who have just lost a loved one – a parent, a spouse, a close friend – come to me hoping I can stop the pain they are feeling.  Unfortunately, acute mourning doesn’t work that way.  Pain is part of the process.  And… talking to a trained counsellor IS a great idea.

Right after a death, most people need a safe place to feel their feelings without being judged.  Grief is a process that brings up lots of feelings, not only sadness.  For example, some people experience a huge amount of anger, which may come from a sense of having been abandoned by the person who is gone.  People going through grief may be shocked by how intense their feelings can be.

The most common initial reactions to a loss are shock, denial and numbness.  It may take a while to fully believe in the loss, and this is actually a defense mechanism.  A sudden loss especially may be too much to comprehend all at once.

Next many people experience various forms of pining and yearning.  We long for the loved one to return.  Some people will dream about the loved one at this stage, or even imagine catching a glimpse of them.  Tears may come daily – or hourly.  We may also feel anger, anxiety, or just plain overwhelmed.  This is a painful and confusing stage, but is totally necessary to the grieving process.

After this, many people want to withdraw for a while.  They may not enjoy things they did before, and in fact may be apathetic.  This is where depression can take hold, but a brief depression in this situation is a normal reaction.

Eventually the person grieving moves into a form of acceptance – a new normal.  They will begin to notice the rest of the world again, and may be able to resume many of their activities.  Life will never be the same and sadness will continue to be a regular visitor for quite a while, but now the person left behind can enjoy positive memories of the deceased without being overwhelmed.

Mourning a loss takes work, and it is good to get help to make this journey in as healthy a way as possible.  Let me help you face your new reality and to find meaning, so that you recover more fully and live well in the years to come.

Why Date Night Matters to Your Relationship

Recently there was an article in the Globe and Mail (Feb. 22, “Date Night Dilemma”) that suggested the concept of Date Night isn’t worthwhile.  Having worked with MANY couples who have benefitted from incorporating a weekly date night into their lives, I say — it was a misleading article that missed the point.

Yes, it can take work to find a babysitter.  You may have to get creative with trading childcare with another couple to keep the cost down.  But most things worth doing take work.  The point it, if your primary relationship isn’t worth a little effort, what is?

One of the couples interviewed said bonding over the children is what does it for them.  Bonding as a family is great.  But some day the kids will be teens and not want you around so much… and sometime after that, they will move out.  You need more than the kids to keep you together for the long haul.

Actually, if you read the article all the way though, you see that more than half of the couples polled found date nights are crucial to the success of their relationships.  So the title is misleading — date night WORKS!

How do you do a good date night?  Well, it’s not about how much money you spend.  A walk in a snowy park and a shared thermos of hot chocolate can be just as effective as a $200 dinner out.  What DOES matter is attitude.  This is the time to celebrate what you LIKE about each other.  To talk about what’s going well, and to share hopes, dreams and plans.  We all get more than enough negative feedback in our lives.  Date night is your chance to make your relationship shine.

Done right, a regular date night can do a lot to improve your marriage or intimate relationship.  Want to know more about how to do it right?  Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Do You Suffer From Anxiety?

Many of my clients suffer from anxiety.  Some have a specific fear, like a fear of public speaking or a fear of flying.  Others seem to be a little bit afraid of almost everything – which may be a sign of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  If you find yourself obsessing about things that worry you or make you afraid, there are things we can do to help you.



One important step is to practice.  When you know what to expect, you may find that helps to reduce your fear.  For example, those who are afraid of flying often find it helps to familiarize themselves with the sights and sounds of flying, so they know just what to expect at the airport and on the flight itself.  Talking to friends who have flown may help.  Remember, they are still here to tell you their story!

Another step is learning to self-soothe, using techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.  The goal is to stop the cycle of worry, by getting your mind off fruitless regurgitation of “what if” scenarios.  It may help to remind yourself that what you fear the most rarely happens.  You can also use techniques like mindfulness that help you to fully experience the present moment instead of worrying about the past or the future.

I have helped clients who were experiencing panic attacks learn to use a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy techniques and self-soothing to reduce or even eliminate their panic completely.  If you are experiencing anxiety, contact me – I can probably help you!

Get Control of Your Anger: The Three Minute Rule

Ever say something that you soon regretted?  Ever lash out at your partner in anger and then find it took days – or weeks – to mend the damage?  The Three Minute Rule is for you.

To some extent, we are all prisoners of our emotions.  Emotional states are powerful, because when you feel strongly angry, for example, you are flooded by chemical signals created by your nervous system.  In other words, your brain is temporarily being influenced by natural drugs like adrenaline – and most of us know that drugs can influence how we think.  An old part of your brain, the amygdalae, takes over and temporarily blocks the ability of the neo-cortex – the newer part of the brain that controls rational thinking – and you experience the kind of black and white thinking that’s common with rage.  Your blood pressure goes up too.

So what’s the solution?  Learn to pause.  When someone says something and you start to feel angry, give your body at least three minutes of deep breathing before you try to respond.  You may want to excuse yourself and go down to the washroom and wash your hands and face.  Or take a walk around the block.  If you’re on the phone, you may want to say, “I need a short break; I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”  The key is to do something non-destructive to help to let the flood of emotion pass and get control of your thinking brain back.

Truly, when our brains are flooded with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortosol, we simply can not think straight.  So don't try.  Give yourself a chance to calm down BEFORE you speak, and you may find you have less to regret later.

It may take practice to learn to do this.  But it’s so much better to train yourself to pause and think before you act.  It will make you a better partner, a better parent, and overall, just a nicer person to be around.  And that makes you the ultimate winner, because you’ll enjoy the rewards of improved relationships.

Tammy Laber Contact

Marriage Counselling Toronto

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