April 6, 2016

April 6, 2016

Finding Familiarity in a New Frontier: Psychotherapy for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Despite the increased numbers of children and adults being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in Ontario, and the knowledge that at least 1% of the adult population has ASD, relatively little attention has been given to the provision of support and treatment to these individuals and their families. Individual, couple, group and family psychotherapy, core components of a lifespan approach to intervention, will be discussed in this session. Considering the presentation of ASDs, Dr. Stoddart will highlight the issues that ongoing psychotherapy that can be useful in addressing, and some of the challenges that are unique to this group, reflecting on his practice of 25 years. Key Learning Points:

  • Identify Ontario trends in youth and adult ASD diagnosis
  • Understand the psychosocial and mental health issues that can be addressed in the context of psychotherapy
  • Articulate the lifespan challenges common to youth and adults living with ASD, from entry into adulthood to aging with ASD
  • Increase knowledge of resources and interest in working with this group

Dr. Kevin Stoddart is Founding Director of The Redpath Centre and Adjunct Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Since the early 1990s, his clinical focus has been children, youth and adults with primarily Asperger Syndrome and the co-morbid social and mental health problems that affect them. His second book with Drs. Burke and King entitled “Asperger Syndrome in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide for Clinicians” was published by Norton Professional Books (2012). He is Co-Chair of the Ontario Working Group on Mental Health and Adults with ASD and the Ontario Partnership for Adults with Autism and Asperger.


March 2, 2016

March 2, 2016

Anxiety and the Gift of Imagination. A new clinical model for helping children understand and manage anxiety

According to the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem occurring during childhood and adolescence (2010).  In the U.S. 13% of children and adolescents experience some kind of anxiety disorder.  The Public Health Agency of Canada 2002 reports that in Canada 6% of children have an anxiety disorder serious enough to require treatment.  In spite of anxiety being a debilitating condition that can prevent a child from participating in many of the critical aspects of childhood, including school attendance as well as recreational activities, many children are not motivated to receive psychotherapeutic help, preferring instead to use avoidance as their main defense against uncomfortable anxiety states. From the adult perspective, this is not a viable solution and creates many secondary problems. Dr. Alter will focus on a therapeutic formulation of anxiety that has worked extremely well for hundreds of children in her private practice. She will explain her discovery of the link between imagination and anxiety, and how this new understanding can be used effectively for the treatment of anxiety. This new approach starts and ends with an enhancement of self-esteem and puts children in a place where they are motivated to use many of the tools and strategies that have been developed by others.  You will also learn how children’s anxiety is different from adults’.  As well you will learn how children’s thinking is different from adults’ which will assist you in helping children with many other problems besides anxiety. Key Learning Points:

  • Understand and appreciate the difference between children’s and adult’s thinking processes
  • Understand the differences between children’s and adult’s anxieties
  • Make the connection between anxiety and imagination
  • Implement a concrete step-by-step approach to applying this new understanding of anxiety
  • Incorporate some effective strategies into your clinical practice to manage children’s anxiety
  • Find a new way to work with children around anxiety that enhances their self-esteem and empowers and challenges them to face their problems and their fears
  • Discover why motivating children to make changes is key to effective  clinical practice and find new ways to increase their motivation for change

Dr. Robin Alter was born in New Jersey and received her undergraduate degree from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York. She received her Master’s and Doctoral degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She then moved to Toronto, Canada, where she has been working in children’s mental health since 1980.

She has been employed by two of the largest children’s mental health centre in the Toronto area for over 34 years— the Hincks-Dellcrest Children’s Centre and Blue Hills Child and Family Centre. She also works with Anishnawbe Health Toronto, providing fetal alcohol assessments for the people of the First Nations community. She has taught psychology at York University. She maintains a private practice with Alter Stuckler and Associates in Thornhill, Ontario. She is trustee with the Psychology Foundation of Canada. She gives many public lectures to parent groups, teachers and principals, and has been on numerous radio and television programs talking about children’s mental health issues.

Her second book, Taming the Anxiety Monster: A Workbook for Kids, will be published by New Harbinger in the fall of 2015. You can find out more about

Dr. Alter by visiting her website: http://www.docrobin.com/


February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016

ACT in Practice

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is gaining recognition as a mindfulness-based psychotherapy.  Its aim is to increase psychological flexibility through 6 ACT processes, including defusion, acceptance, present moment, self-as-context, values, and committed action. As it is a functional approach, it can be adapted for a wide variety of applications in both clinical and nonclinical settings. It can also be flexibly conducted in both individual and group format from single to multiple sessions. This presentation will review the core ACT processes and discuss how it may be potentially used in various contexts.

By the end of the seminar, participants will be able to

  • Describe the 6 core ACT processes
  • Identify potential applications of ACT
  • Discuss how it may be adapted to suit various clinical and non-clinical contexts

Dr. Kenneth Fung is a Staff Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of the Asian Initiative in Mental Health Program at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network.  He is also Associate Professor with Equity, Gender, and Populations Division at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.  He completed a two-year fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and his Master thesis was on alexithymia among Chinese Canadians.  His primary research, teaching, and clinical interests include both cultural psychiatry and psychotherapy. He co-leads the Pillar 4 Dialogue of the Department of Psychiatry Strategic Plan, University of Toronto, which focuses on issues regarding equity, social justice, and social responsibility, and is the Block Co-coordinator of the Cultural Psychiatry Core Seminars for psychiatry residents.  He is the seminar co-lead and psychotherapy supervisor in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) at the University Health Network, and teaches and conducts research in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  He has been involved in community-based research projects related to HIV, mental health stigma, and immigrant and refugee mental health.  He is psychiatric consultant to the Hong Fook Mental Health Association and is involved in various mental health promotion and education projects in the community.  He offers consultations at Mon Sheong Scarborough Long-Term Care Centre. He is the Vice-President (President-Elect) of the Society of the Study of Psychiatry and Culture.  He is the past Chair and current Historian of the Federation of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian Medical Societies.  He is the current Chair of the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science. He is enthusiastic about art, and dabbles in various expressions of art including sketching, painting, and piano playing. He is a supporter of the arts, and is a Board Member of the Little Pear Garden Dance Company.


January 13, 2016

January 13, 2016

Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame

Chronic shame is a powerful and pervasive outcome of relational trauma, but it is usually hidden behind other symptoms of pathology.  If chronic shame is ignored, treatment of those symptoms will likely be effective only in the short term.  If we can recognize the presence of chronic shame in the symptomstories our patients present, and if we can imagine its particular formation and operation within each patient’s self-system, we will be in position to treat chronic shame directly and effectively.  Effective treatment is grounded in understanding that chronic shame is a problem with patients’ right-brain integration of affect, relationship, and self.  Treatment requires attuned, nonshaming engagement with our patients, the co-construction of narratives that integrate their sense of emotional/relational (right-brain) self, direct attention paid to their shame whenever possible, including shame-reduction strategies, and our own skillful, self-reflexive handling of the many ways shame becomes enacted within the therapeutic relationship.

Key Learning Points:

  • A definition of chronic shame as a relational and right-brain phenomenon
  • Assessment markers for chronic shame across symptomologies
  • How to make reparative right-brain connections possible with and for chronically shamed clients
  • How to recognize and work through shame-disturbances in the therapy relationship
  • Strategies for life-time shame reduction

Pat DeYoung MSW, PhD is a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor in private practice in Toronto.  A founding faculty member of the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy, she has written Relational Psychotherapy, A Primer (Routledge, first edition, 2003, second edition, 2015) and Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobiological Approach (Routledge, 2015).


December 2

December 2, 2015

The Science of Yoga

Yoga and Meditation are becoming increasingly popular in the West for treatment of mental health and chronic illness. While often perceived as a mystical practice involving bends and twists, Yoga is actually an ancient secular philosophy describing how to cease or slow down the racings of the mind to achieve health and well-being.  This experiential workshop will clarify the misperceptions about this transformative mind-body practice, as well as present the scientific evidence for its neuroplastic and physiological effects. Through this workshop, participants will:

  •         Understand key principles of the Philosophy and Psychology of Yoga and its common roots with Buddhism and other Eastern Practices
  •          Understand the Neurological and Physiological effects of Yoga, and its benefits as an adjuvant therapy in Chronic Illness, Mental Health, and Trauma.
  •          Appreciate the different styles of yoga, and which patient is suited for which practice.
  •          Experience simple and accessible yogic practices, connecting, body, mind and spirit.

Dr. Shailla Vaidya practices Mind-Body Medicine for Stress Resilience in Toronto. She completed her MD at Dalhousie University, followed by a residency in Family and Emergency Medicine at the University of Ottawa. She went on to provide both Primary and Acute Emergency care to isolated First Nations communities, sub-urban immigrant populations and homeless, street involved youth. Gaining insights into what plagues our health and wanting to affect change, she went on to complete a Master’s in Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Upon return, she lead teams of health care providers to improve efficiency, patient access, and safety. She also worked to implement medical group visits, improving social connection and peer-support for patients. She has served as a faculty member with the Departments of Family Medicine at McMaster University and the University of Toronto. Dr Vaidya is also trained as Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist, and has been incorporating scientifically sound Yoga techniques in her medical practice since 2005. Her clinical interests lie in how the social determinants of health, attachment, and disconnection lead to physiological stress and the development of chronic illness. Combining her knowledge, she applies an integrative, compassionate approach to help her patients restore health and build resilience. To learn more about her practice, please visit http://www.theYogaMD.ca