Barbara Morrison, B.S.W., M.S.W., R.S.W.
Registered Clinical Social Worker
Please contact Barbara on her direct telephone line at 306.934.3003 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara’s Areas of Specialization:
Couples’ Therapy/Relational Therapy
- Marital, Common-law, Same-sex, Alternative lifestyles
- Repairing + Reconciliation after an Affair
- Creating Respectful and Honest Communication
- Parenting Issues
- Letting Go of Destructive Relationships
- Parent + Adult Child therapy
Loss + Grief
- The Beauty of Grief
- Resilience + Strength of the Caregiver
- How to Support the Caregiver
Anxiety + Stress
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Situational Anxiety
- Chronic Stress
- Work-related stress
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- The Upside of Stress
- Understanding signs of emotionally manipulative behaviour
I have been in private practice since September 2003. I completed my Master of Social Work Degree in the Clinical Program from the University of Calgary in June 2003. My primary focus in graduate school was in the area of couples’ relationships.
Prior to attaining my Master’s Degree, I worked in a family service agency for many years providing clinical counseling services.
I am committed to professional development work in my areas of specialty. During the course of every year, I participate in workshops and conferences, led by leaders in the field of couples’/marital therapy, mindfulness-based therapy and anxiety disorders. These workshops and conferences provide information on the latest developments in these fields.
Therapy Practice & Philosophy
My practice consists of working with individuals and couples experiencing emotional distress. I utilize a holistic approach to therapy and think of the individual and couple in context of the culture in which they were raised and the culture in which they have lived. One of my main beliefs about therapy in general, is that it is a starting place to liberate oneself from narrow and constraining views of oneself, others and the world. Therapy can also help individuals transform their suffering into joy. In all of my work with people, I use both a body-centered approach to working with individuals (by using mindfulness practice) and also by working the mind to address, among other things, beliefs and cognitive processes.
My two main areas of practice are working with couples and working with people with anxiety disorders.
I work with both heterosexual and same-sex couples who are experiencing difficulties in their relationship. There are many different models of couples’ therapy. I draw upon various therapies based on the needs of the individual and the couple. I tend to view relationships as having a developmental process, akin to child development, where there are common developmental stages that a couple will experience throughout their relationship. By viewing relationships through this lens, we see that all relationships tend to have a life of their own that looks quite similar to other couples. I borrow the following phrase from David Schnarch (now deceased), a marital and family therapist in the United States, when he stated the following: “marriage naturally stimulates a differentiation process.” By this he means that through the course of a relationship, a natural/organic process occurs wherein the couple in the early years focus on their bonding and when they have sufficiently bonded, it becomes undeniable that the individual must work on his or her own individuation process (becoming more of who he/she really is), while maintaining a loving, healthy, connection with their partner. This process can, and usually does, occur several times in a relationship. When it does, this is often when a couple attends therapy. A crisis is often happening in the relationship in one form or another.
Most often, couples attend therapy and say: “we are having communication problems.” I have come to understand that communication goes well for any couple under the following circumstances: when each partner displays excellent listening skills, when each partner displays an excellent ability to verbalize what their own experience is without attacking, criticizing or stonewalling the other, when each person respects the opinion of the other (even if they don’t agree), when they skillfully are able to negotiate a solution to a problem, and when they are on the same page about any particular issue! Conversely, communication problems occur generally under the following circumstances: when one or both people do not listen well, when one or both criticizes, defends, attacks or stonewalls the other, when one or both people disrespects the other’s opinion or thoughts and shuts them down, when they are not on the same page about any given issue and have a strong need to be right or get their own way.
When couples enter therapy, there are already established patterns of communication with each other. This is what is referred to as the couple’s “dance.” He does this, then I do that, then he does this…etc.etc. As a result of this dance, each person tends to have a “knee-jerk” reaction to each other, which results in one or both people escalating the conflict or withdrawing. Neither of these behaviors results in any resolution, leaving both people frustrated and emotionally distant. When this pattern is repeated over and over again, couples usually refer to their relationship as “we are living like roommates.” When this goes on for a long period of time, without finding a way through this gridlock, couples get “stuck.” There is often a significant amount of emotional distance created between the individuals by this time and therapy becomes a way for the couple to learn ways of becoming less reactive, so they can have a different kind of conversation. This is where body-centered therapy via mindfulness practice becomes crucial to developing a mindful or conscious relationship.
I also draw on the work of Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson (developmental model of relationships) of the Couples Institute of California (www.couplesinstitute.com); Terry Real (relational recovery) of the Relational Life Institute in Boston (www.terryreal.com); Esther Perel,(a new way of thinking about monogamy) in New York City (www.estherperel.com); David Schnarch (differentiation model) (www.passionatemarriage.com) and Sue Johnson (emotionally-focused therapy) of the Ottawa Couple + Family Institute in Ottawa (www.iceeft.com ).
In addition, I use the following approaches to working with couples:
Mindfulness-based Therapy – integrating Buddhist psychology and Western approaches to mindfulness-based therapy.
Bibliotherapy – including the integration of literature, music, meditation and mindfulness resources, art + philosophy
Ellyn Bader, to whom I have listed above, describes the couples’ therapist’s job as “navigating a storm in a helicopter.” There are most often, many, many things going on at once for a couple. For example, the couple could be working through the above-described differentiation process, while at the same time, there can be and usually are, other significant stressors happening such as: affairs, parenting difficulties, in-law challenges, job stress, illness, alcoholism, other addictions, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, narcissism, etc., financial difficulties, mid-life issues, and others.
Affairs are often a reason that a couple attends therapy. The discovery of an affair or the disclosure of an affair will catapult the couple into crisis. My recommendation for couples that are dealing with this issue is to seek counseling in order to get assistance in navigating this very difficult time. I would highly recommend reading : After The Affair + How Can I Forgive You, both written by Janis Abrahms Spring, The Monogamy Myth by Peggy Vaughan – all three books written for both people in a relationship where there has been an affair. For a bold and daring looks at sexuality, monogamy and affairs, I would highly recommend reading: Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esher Perel.
It is the role of the couples’ therapist to meet the objectives of the couple by assisting the couple in sorting through these various elements, to assess what is happening in the relationship and to help the couple develop a mindful, compassionate relationship and to develop skills necessary to navigate the marital difficulties when they surface.
There are a several approaches I use in working with people with anxiety disorders. Utilizing a holistic approach to treating anxiety is most beneficial. In other words, we need to look at what is happening in all aspects of a person’s life. It is my belief that an individual must first understand what is happening inside their body and, in particular, their central nervous system in order to demystify what anxiety is about. Thus, I utilize a psycho-educational approach initially. An initial assessment will be undertaken to determine both physical and psychological symptoms. I will also assess with an individual the external stressors in his or her life. Sometimes, the onset of anxiety symptoms is due to a present circumstance (situational anxiety) and other times anxiety symptoms have been experienced by an individual for a longer period of time or for an entire lifetime (generalized anxiety). Some people experience social anxiety or phobias and others may experience obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
In addition, I use a body-centered approach through the practice of mindfulness and breath work to desensitize the nervous system. By using this approach, an individual can help him self or herself self-soothe in order to find equilibrium. I will also work with the individual to develop other coping strategies that help discharge adrenalin such exercise (examples: yoga, running, fast walking, cycling). I also recommend for individuals the use of guided meditation to use in conjunction with exercise. Developing good sleep habits is important, as lack of sleep will exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Eating healthy also, of course, aids in helping our nervous system to be less agitated.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another approach I utilize in treating anxiety. It is a model of therapy that, simply put, pays attention to what an individual is thinking and how that thinking impacts on his or her behavior. In therapy, we put on our private investigator hat, so to speak, to try to determine what beliefs are impacting negatively on an individual. As a young person, we internalize many different beliefs about our self, others and the world around us. This is not often a conscious process, but rather an unconscious process. By bringing into awareness the beliefs that impact on us in an unhealthy way, we can live more consciously by making a choice as to what beliefs serve us better.
My working definition of anxiety is this: anxiety is a response to a real or imagined threat to our physical, emotional, mental or spiritual wellbeing. When we feel threatened in any of these ways, our central nervous system becomes sensitized to some degree. It can’t help but do this. When anxiety symptoms are heightened and if they stay that way for a long period of time, people usually feel distress and this distress impacts on their life in a negative way. This is when people often see their physician or naturopathic doctor for an assessment – a course of action will be suggested for an individual - therapy, medication or both.
There are many books available on the topic of anxiety. A few of my favorites authors are Claire Weekes, Lucinda Bassett, Robert Gerzon, + Martin Anthony.
Areas of Practice
My preferred areas of practice includes the following:
- Couples' and Marital Therapy/Sex Therapy, including same-sex relationships
- Healing After An Affair
- Anxiety and other Panic-related disorders: Social Anxiety, Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety, Chronic Worry
- Adult Child and Parent Relationships - Repairing the Past and Re-connecting in the Present
- Women's Issues: Self-Esteem, Assertiveness, Personal Empowerment and Transitional Growth and Development, Self Care; Emotional, physical, hormonal and spiritual changes that accompany post-partum depression and anxiety, peri-menopause and menopause
- Separation and Divorce Coaching and Counseling: Working with couples negotiating a separation, working with individuals who seek supportive counseling through a separation, working with children who are affected by their parents' separation
- Grief and Loss Therapy
My professional development over the past many years includes the following:
- Crucible Neurobiological Therapy: Six-Day intensive Training. Presented by Dr. David Schnarch, Bellevue, Washington, November 6-11, 2017.
- How to Work with the Train and Body to Reverse the Effects of PTSD. On-line course. Presenters: Ruth Lanius, MD, PHD; Ruth Buczynski, PhD; Ron Siegel, PsyD; Joan Borysenko, PhD; Bill O’Hanlon, LMFT; Rick Hanson, PhD.; May-June, 2017.
- Treatment of Trauma Series. On-line course: Presenters: How to Target Treatment to Help Patients Reclaim Their Lives After Trauma, Bessel van de Kolk, MD; How to Work with the Part of Trauma That Can’t be Verbalized, Peter Lavine, PhD.; The Body’s Critical Role in the Treatment of Trauma, Pat Ogden, PhD.; The Power of EMDR to Treat Trauma: Identifying, Reprocessing, and Integrating Traumatic Memories, Francine Shapiro, PhD.; The Neurobiology of Trauma — What is Happening in the Brain of Someone With Unresolved Trauma, Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD; Tiring Trauma Out: How to Activate the Body’s Natural Defense Mechanisms Against Trauma, David Berceli, PhD.; An Unexpedted Culprit: How the Body’s Incomplete Response to Trauma Can Aggravate Symptoms, Robert Scaer, MD; Finding Meaningful Change After Trauma: The Unique Strengths of the Affect-Based Approach, Diana Fosha, PhD.; How to Help Clients Take Back their Aliveness from Trauma and Depression, May-June, 2017.
- Healing Trauma With The Body. 6-week on-line course. Presenters: Michael Stone + Molly Boeder Harris, May-June, 2017 (see www.michaelstoneteaching.com).
- The Power of Awareness: A 7 Week On-Line Mindfulness Training To Cultivate Clarity, Compassion and Wellbeing. Presenters: Dr. Jack Kornfield and Dr. Tara Brach. October, 2015.
- Mindfulness Inside & Outside the Therapy Hour: 3 Day Intensive Training, July 15-July 17, 2015, presented by Dr. Ron Siegel, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, presented in Banff, Alberta.
- Loving, Resilient Relationships, February - April, 2015, presented by Tara Brach of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine.
- The Immune System: The Mind-Body Connection: Who Gets Sick and Who Stays Well, February 27, 2015, presented by Dr. Margaret Kemeny, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and the Director of the Graduate Academic Program in Psychology at the University of California San Francisco; presented in Palm Springs, California.
- Treating Extra-Relational Affairs Workshop, April 25-27, 2014, San Diego, California, presented by Drs. David Schnarch and Ruth Morehouse of the Marriage & Family Health Center of Evergreen, Colorado (see www.passionatemarriage.com) (see www.crucibletherapy.com)
- Couples Institute Therapist Training - Developmental Model 1: September, 2012 to June, 2013, presented by Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, The Couples' Institute, California (www.couplesinstitute.com)
- Mindfulness and Beyond: Essential Clinical Skills, presented by Michael Stone of Centre of Gravity, Toronto, September 24 + 25, 2012, University of Toronto (see www.centreofgravity.org + www.leadingedgeseminars.org)
- Rethinking Couples Therapy: A Radical Approach to Sex, Love & Infidelity, presented by Esther Perel, MSW, LMFT of New York, NY, May 3 & May 4, 2012, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON (see www.estherperel.com)
- The New Rules of Marriage: A Relational Life Therapy Approach to Couples and Couples' Therapy, with Terry Real of the Relational Life Institute, Boston, MA, November 10 and 11, 2011, Toronto (see www.terryreal.com)
- Love and Bonding in Couples Therapy: New Advances in the Practice of Emotionally Focused Therapy, with Dr. Sue Johnson, of the International Center of Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, February 5 & 6, 2010, Edmonton (see www.iceeft.com)
- Couples' Therapy - Teleconference, September 2007 - June 2008. Presented by Ellyn Bader of The Couples' Institute, California (see www.couplesinstitute.com).
- Buddhist Perspectives in Clinical Practice, April 2008, Toronto. Presented by Michael Stone of Toronto (see. www.centreofgravity.org)
- Imago Therapy - Working With Couples, Level 1 Workshop; Presented by Dr. Harville Hendrix, Founder of Imago Therapy, Calgary, AB, October, 2006
- Emotionally-Focused Therapy - Working with Couples and Individuals; Presented by Dr. Leslie Greenberg, Professor of Psychology, York University, Co-Founder of Emotionally-Focused Therapy, Saskatoon, SK, May, 2006
- Sexual Medicine: Male and Female Sexual Dysfunction - Biological and Psychological Factors; Vancouver, BC, February, 2006
- Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Calgary; studied with Jaci Hull, Certified Hakomi Therapist, Boulder Colorado
- What Works in Therapy, Vancouver; conference with Scott Miller, Barry Duncan, Roger Greenberg, United States
- Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, Red Deer and Saskatoon; studied with Antony Martin, Hamilton and Reid Wilson, North Carolina
- Bowenian Therapy, "Defining a Self," Loma Linda University, Lacombe, Alberta; studied with Michael Kerr of Georgetown University
- Finding the Energy to Heal, Saskatoon; studied with Maggie Phillips
- Redecision Therapy Workshop, Saskatoon; studied with Mary Goulding
- Intensive Sex Therapy Training Weeks, University of Guelph, Guelph Ontario; studied with Claude Guldner
- Reality Therapy, Regina; Diane Gossen
- Participant in the 1999/2000 Federal/Provincial/Territorial consultation process of Best Interests of the Children; acted as an advocate for children affected by their parents' separation; this consultation process resulted in mandatory parenting classes for both parents in order to be granted a divorce
FULLY HALF COMMITTED - Conversation Starters for Romantic Relationships
— by Barbara Morrison and Ed Risling
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Listen to this clip of an interview on CBC Radio 1, November 25, 2019. Barbara Morrison speaks with Jennifer Quesnel about her newly-published book, Fully Half Committed.
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