Codependency Counselling Calgary: 7 Strategies for a Healthy Life

Codependency, while not an official mental health diagnosis, is a term used to explain imbalanced relationships where one person inadvertently enables and participates in another person’s unhealthy behaviours, which are often connected with addiction, mental health, or poor physical health. Those seeking out Codependency Counselling Calgary and beyond can learn more about what codependency is, what codependency counselling and codependency therapy looks like, and 7 core areas to explore for recovery. 

What is Codependency?

Codependency can affect men and women, though women are more likely to identify as codependent and seek out support for these behaviours. There are some deep socio-cultural roots to this division that we will not get into here but, suffice to say, regardless of gender identification, if you resonate with some of the characteristics of codependency listed below, it would be encouraged that you consider codependency counselling Calgary or in your area. 

It is theorized that the five core symptoms of codependency are: 

  1. Low self-esteem. Over the years, people engaging in codependent behaviour neglect themselves and start to feel used and taken for granted. Many people who are codependent may not have had the highest self-esteem in younger years; however, participation in codependency further erodes self-worth and can leave people feeling very low about themselves. This creates a vicious cycle with codependency because the low self-esteem tells people they do not deserve more or better than what they have, which can further entrench them in codependent behaviour. 
  2. People-pleasing behaviors. The person with codependency, above anything else, wants to receive validation and approval. In order to acquire this, they say ‘yes’ to almost anything and everything others ask of them which can compromise their own physical, financial, and psychological health as well as lead to resentment, burnout, and low self-esteem, as mentioned above. Feel free to read one of our other blog posts ‘Are You a People-Pleaser? Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments’ to find out more about these behavioural patterns. 
  3. Difficulty setting boundaries. Those who struggle with codependency find communication of their own needs, values, and priorities difficult as they may struggle to even identify what they need due to the low self-esteem patterns discussed above and also not want to risk disapproval from others by speaking up. Codependency counselling as well as self-help can help.
  4. Caretaking. A desire to provide support to another human being is not inherently flawed and that is not what we mean when we mention caretaking. Caretaking is an extreme version of caring for others that becomes obsessive, controlling, and unnecessary as often the person with codependency is doing what they think the person needs rather than what is actually needed, they are often forcing their solutions and actions on others, and are resentful while doing it. These are not signs of healthy caring. 
  5. Dependency. As the term ‘codependency’ suggests, in this behavioural pattern there is enmeshment between two people that is fused with the other symptoms listed above of caretaking, poor boundaries, people pleasing and low self-esteem. 

You can see that behaviours that started off with the intention to help, support, and leave someone feeling good about themselves transitions to resentment, control, guilt, bitterness, and low feelings of worth where the person with codependency feels like they’re never doing anything good enough. These are often reasons that people seek out codependency counselling. While these patterns may be deep-rooted and reinforced over time, there is a great deal of hope in codependency therapy and it starts with codependency counselling Calgary and beyond. 

Codependency Counselling Calgary

Codependency Counselling Calgary

Codependency counselling Calgary and beyond typically starts with an initial 1-2 sessions of information gathering to learn about you, your history, current coping, and presenting challenges in relationships. The extent of the information gathered and exactly what is asked will vary depending on the clinician that you meet with but there will likely be a discussion of the following areas:

  • Family of Origin. For many with codependency, this is where modelling of relationship behaviour started and/or there may have been the beginnings of codependent behaviour in a parent-child or child-sibling dynamic that continues to grow over time and may bleed into other connections
  • Substance use. While this may seem unrelated to codependency, this pattern of behaviour can be looked at as an addictive behaviour in and of itself. Therefore, it is not uncommon that those who are dealing with codependency and seeking out codependency counselling may also be navigating a troublesome relationship with alcohol, drugs, or problem behaviours such as gambling, spending, workaholism, doaholism, sex, food, or other areas. It is important that you speak honestly about this with your clinician as it may be difficult to progress in your codependency counselling if active addiction is present in other areas. 
  • Relationship history. This will provide the clinician with information on patterns and other factors that influenced where you are today.
  • Trauma. If you have experienced any type of trauma in your past and your clinician deems that this may be unresolved and having an affect on your current functioning, this will need to be built into treatment to support mental health improvement. 

Codependency counselling Calgary and beyond can feel scary (any change is), but it is incredibly rewarding the changes and growth that can happen. Whether professionally supported or in self-guided recovery, there are a few key areas that will need to be explored and worked on to support recovery. 

7 Key Areas to Support Recovery with Codependency Counselling Calgary

In healing from codependency, there is no set roadmap or step-wise guide to follow but, in general, there will be 7 key areas that you explore and develop.

  1. Identification of preferences and needs. Often as a starting point, I send my clients out on a sleuth missing: To discover what they actually like and don’t like. For many of those struggling with codependency, there has been a dulled or even complete disconnection with preferences in the big areas of life right down to the small ones. This step of action involves paying attention to what you like/don’t like with: Food, household & hygiene products, media, weather, clothing, personal style, humour, entertainment, people, etc. It means a full scope evaluation of the things you are doing and using in daily life and which ones you actually like and which ones you don’t. People are often surprised to learn that they hate the toilet paper they’ve been buying for 10 years because their partner likes it right up to being shocked to learn they’ve neglected hobbies and activities that bring them passion and joy due to codependency. This step can also include an exploration of values, such as that encouraged in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  1. Identification of feelings. Another area that people lose touch with when overfocusing on others is their emotional world. Those with codependency may not be consciously aware of how they are feeling but recognize that their short-temper, irritability, and/or tearfulness must be coming from somewhere. To aid in the identification of feelings, I like to recommend that people use the Feelings Wheel daily to build a connection between what is going on externally and internally. 
  1. Improvement of communication. Many people with codependency use passive-aggressive communication which can include back-handed statements, sarcasm, humour, and avoidance of conflict and true feelings to maintain the peace. However, enough feelings are building in the background that they cannot be totally ignored and spill out eventually in behaviour that is often hurtful and disrespectful, which does not feel good for the person with codependency or the person on the receiving end. In recovery, working on assertive communication is key as this allows you to speak up about your thoughts, feelings, needs, and hurts as things happen rather than having them just build up and be ignored over time. 
  1. Establishing boundaries with time and action. In active codependency, time and energy is focused externally on others. This gives little time for a focus on self, which is something that the person with codependency desperately needs but may be scared to do and may not even know how to do. Over time, there will be a whittling away of time and action focused on others to create time for self. This will not mean the extermination of caring behaviours but, rather, a transition from a total focus on others (codependency) to true care, which involves a balance between others and self. 
  1. Improvement of self-care. People struggling with codependency don’t know how to take care of themselves and may be uncomfortable focusing energy and time on themselves and this seems wrong. Practicing taking time to be with self and explore hobbies, activities, and routines that help take care of you are an essential aspect of codependency recovery. For one of my clients, their start to this was putting lotion on their dry skin in the morning. For another, it was taking time to sit down and have lunch during the day. Wherever it begins, the rewards that come out of learning to spend time with and take care of self are boundless. Want some help in working on self-care? Check out our Free E-book on Self-Care!
  1. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Codependency, like other addictive behaviours, is all about avoiding discomfort (disapproval, guilt, rejection, abandonment, fear, etc.). Like other addictive behaviours, however, it does not work as we cannot avoid all discomfort and our attempts to do so eventually create more discomfort than we bargained for. Therefore, recovery involves learning to sit with feelings, acknowledge them, and tolerate them rather than running away from them. Setting boundaries, identifying needs and feelings, and having different conversations with people are uncomfortable but, with healthy practice, become easier over time. 
  1. Changing relationship dynamics. A lot of people fear that they will have to cut off relationships that are meaningful to them when pursuing recovery. This does not necessarily have to be the case, but relationships will change because you are changing. It is impossible for relationship dynamics to look the same as when you started as you take action on strategies 1-6. I know this is scary and I know you want to know exactly what this means today. Unfortunately I cannot give you an answer as to how relationships are going to change and what they are going to look like, but I can tell you that they will be better and you will feel better. This is a guarantee of recovery. 
Codependency Counselling Calgary

The journey of codependency is a winding road and there will be periods of strong growth as well as periods of remission or relapse. For more information about relapse and coping in the context of codependency counselling, please read our blog post here

While recovery is not always easy, it is always rewarding and gratifying as you will evolve into the person you always felt you wanted to be and find yourself living a life that is balanced, peaceful, gratifying, and comfortable in a way that codependent behaviour never was. 

I wish you all the best in your journey of healing!

Paige Abbott is a Registered Psychologist and offers Codependency Counselling Calgary and virtually in Alberta, Canada. She has specialized in Addiction and Codependency counselling since 2011 and has worked with hundreds of individuals who have revolutionized their lives and relationships. Paige and her team at Sana Psychological are happy to help with codependency counselling Calgary and other mental health and addiction recovery services. You are welcome to book an appointment or free 15 minute consultation online anytime.

Codependency Counselling Calgary