Codependency

Codependency Counselling
Services in Calgary

In coming to this page, you are likely suspecting or aware that you are struggling in relationships, possibly to the point that life is quite unmanageable and feels out of control for you. At the very least, you are feeling frustrated, hopeless, and tired of the repetitive cycle. It takes strength and courage to get to this point, so congratulations on taking the step of starting to explore this aspect of your health.

The short story

 Treatment for codependency at Sana Psychological involves an initial 1-2 counselling sessions of background information gathering to get to know who you are at all levels, including the challenges and resources you have.

Typically, treatment will consist of process counselling as well as feedback, recommendations, and psychoeducation to help you learn to navigate codependency in your life. Codependency counselling services are available for those struggling with codependency as well as those who have been witness to it or impacted by it less directly. Treatment can be short-term (3-6 months) or long-term (6+ months) depending on needs and preferences. Cost is $200/session and these appointments can be accessed in person or by phone or video.

The long story

What is Codependency?

 In a nutshell, codependency is characterized by an obsession about another person and/or compulsion around behaviours that may include care taking, control, rescuing (financial, emotional, or both), excessive worry, and fantasy. Codependency is when the brain becomes unhealthily attached to relationships and the codependent person finds it difficult to let a family member or a loved one live their own lives and/or has difficulty focusing on their own health and life. Codependency is isolating, can be debilitating, and has a significant impact on the overall health of the individual struggling including low self-esteem and self-worth, as well as those around them.

Codependent behaviour is different from true help and support. True help in healthy relationships comes with boundaries. This means knowledge around and ability to act in accordance with your own needs and abilities. Codependency is a condition of extremes where people may be unable to see and/or act on their own emotional needs and health needs and become debilitated by this over-focus on the needs of others.

An Informal Self-Test: Please read the statements below and answer whether these are true or false for you within the past 3 months.

If you answered ‘True’ to five or more of these statements, then there is a strong possibility that you may be struggling from codependency. Again, this self-test is informal and not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This self-test can be used to give you an idea of problem areas and symptoms of codependency that you may want to seek further professional consultation to address.

Approach to Codependency

Codependency is a serious mental health symptom and may occur at the same time as other unhealthy behaviours, including unhealthy relationships with alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, media, and/or sex as some common examples.

Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist at Sana Psychological, approaches codependency as a symptom of Addiction. This may or may not be comfortable to you, and either way is okay. There is a lot of misunderstanding in the world about what Addiction is. All that is meant by treating codependency as part of Addiction is that it is important to appreciate there is a strong brain and biological component to the behaviour and it is not about choice, willpower, or personality. The brain can get unhealthily attached to people and relationships just as it can substances and other behaviours. The other important point about exploring codependency as a symptom of Addiction is that it means you are vulnerable to problems in other areas outside of relationship issues. These can be explored concurrently in codependency counselling as many of the patterns and necessary steps for recovery, healing, and well-being are similar.

Treatment Approach

Treatment for codependency at Sana Psychological includes an initial session to get to know you, your current life context including strengths and resources, as well as information about the current challenges you are facing. At the initial appointment, a collaborative treatment plan will be established based on your needs and abilities.

Treatment for codependency may be short-term (3-6 months) if you are looking for some immediate tools and guidance, as well as to start to build a platform of health in your life that can support you moving forward. It can also involve long-term counselling (6+ months) which may involve monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly check-ins to ensure accountability and movement with your health and wellness plan. There are no set expectations when it comes to codependency counselling and Paige Abbott of Sana Psychological is happy to meet you where you are at. The door is always open so even if you have engaged for counselling briefly, discontinued at Sana Psychological for a period of time, but are considering returning, we invite you to do so as there are no expectations or pressures when it comes to counselling.

Paige Abbott has been trained in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and also incorporates elements of solution-focused therapy, motivational interviewing, and Twelve-Step Facilitation into her sessions. Appointments generally involve a check-in to see presenting issues and immediate things that have come up that you may want to process, follow-up on any suggestions provided in past appointments to get an idea of progress as well as roadblocks that are coming up, followed by a more in-depth exploration of challenges, patterns, and coping. Sessions are active and engaged as Paige likes to ask lots of questions and provide reflections, challenges, and psychoeducation along the way. At any point, if the therapeutic approach or goals need to be changed, please speak up and this will be processed. Sessions come from a non-judgmental, compassionate, empathetic place. We are here to support you in doing different and being different.

Logistics

Sessions are offered in-person in Calgary, Alberta or by using Technology Assisted Counselling which can consist of phone or video sessions depending on need and preference. Cost is $200/session. Sessions are available to anyone who is in the province of Alberta at the time of appointment as this is Paige Abbott’s jurisdiction of licensure. Payment options include cash, credit card, e-transfer, and direct billing with a number of different insurance carriers. All it takes to get started is an e-mail, phone call, or text to request an appointment. Appointment confirmations are provided by e-mail and reminders are available through e-mail or text. Initial paperwork will be sent to you electronically for completion at your own schedule and on your own time prior to the initial appointment. We respectfully ask for 24 hours’ notice of rescheduling an appointment.

The Face of Codependency – Alice’s Story:

Here is an example of a woman, Alice, and her story. Alice is not one real person but, rather, an amalgam of many people’s journey’s put together. We encourage you to take some time to get to know Alice and see if any of her story resonates for you.

Alice grew up in a family with two younger siblings and two parents. Her dad was a hard worker and rarely at home. When he was home, she remembers him being quite distant and absent, or else angry and disciplining her and her siblings. It was not until adulthood that Alice realized her father struggled with Addiction, in particular alcoholism. She did not remember him drunk but learned later about the connection between his nightly whiskey drinks and the unhealthy behaviours she saw in him. Alice’s mother was a quiet, passive woman who was there to serve her children. She often entered “slumps” and would spend much of the day in bed, leaving Alice to care for her siblings much like a parent. Alice was exposed to caretaking from a young age.

Alice grew up being a very studious and serious individual. She was involved in some activities at school and thrived on performance and competition. She did not have many close friends, rather acquaintances. As she entered adulthood, this pattern continued. Alice had some interest in dating but was unsure how to do it and felt insecure, doubtful about herself. Besides, she still had her hands full with her family as she supported her siblings with their finances and kids, as well as helping out her parents who were ageing and ailing. This left little time for Alice to focus much on herself or her own life.

Alice’s turning point of change came when she met a man through work that she was quite attracted to. She became frustrated as she realized that she had limited time or skills to pursue that relationship. She started to date him but he quickly became frustrated by the amount of time she spent supporting her family and would tell Alice that he felt unappreciated and disrespected. Alice wanted to commit more time to him and their relationship but she felt pulled in many different directions. They dated for a while but then he ended the relationship. It was at this point that Alice decided to explore therapy and was open to looking at boundaries with her family.

For the next year, Alice spent time working on detaching from her family and creating more time for herself. She involved herself in different activities and also engaged with journaling, meditation, exercise, and a support group in addition to individual counselling. Through this time, Alice started to feel that she had more connection with herself. She then felt ready to start dating and met someone. She is currently in the early days of that relationship and is happy to take it slow and get to know this person while continuing her personal development work.

This example is just one of many. Alice’s story pulls in many life stories from numerous clients over the years but has some of the key elements of a lost sense of self, resentment, and missing out on life due to relationships. If any of Alice’s story resonates with you, this is an important point of reflection as it may be telling you there is more to explore here in terms of codependency, relationships, and boundaries.

The Recovery Journey

For most, the journey of recovery with codependency involves an initial detoxification period which may mean no contact with the people where this behaviour is most active or, at a minimum, very strong boundaries with minimal and limited engagement.

During and after this period of detoxification (which is ideally around 3 months but can be less or more depending on people’s willingness and needs), recovery action will be occurring. This can mean an exploration of underlying patterns and vulnerabilities, getting to understand triggers, identify other areas where compulsive or addictive behaviour may be active, as well as starting to explore and spend time developing a relationship with self. Relationships will continue during this time but, hopefully, be limited to ones that do not have as much triggering potential as the ones you are detoxifying from. The first 3-6 months of recovery will be a period of tremendous growth and feeling, it’s often uncomfortable and is a vulnerable time where the likelihood of relapse is high. Withdrawal and change are uncomfortable. After six months, changes are more established and have become routine so things feel less effortful. The lifelong work involves continued awareness of triggers, vulnerabilities, poor boundaries, and ongoing development of a relationship with self.

Wherever you are in this journey, it is an honour and a privilege for Sana Psychological to be a part of it.