Life in Balance

Through this online art blog/gallery we can encourage, inspire and share hope with one another…We invite who you to share your “NAPS” (News, Art ,Poetry, Songs) or inspirations. Email if you would like to share inspirations. Please note we can not post advice with regards to nutrition and exercise.

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Multimedia Film Festival of York Region

We are encouraging individuals or groups to submit film and photography projects to the Multimedia Film Festival of York Region. For deadlines and details please visit

Get creative 🙂

Here are some films that were made for EDOYR by summer students!


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Professionals in Recovery

Professionals in Recovery: When Your Therapist has an Eating Disorder Too – Huffington Post

Ilene Fishman does not go out of her way to tell her patients about her past, but if they ask, she is honest with them: For 11 years the licensed clinical social worker, who specializes in treating eating disorders, was anorexic and bulimic herself.

“I was very, very sick,” Fishman, who works in private practice in New York and New Jersey, told The Huffington Post. By the time she turned 12, her problem developed into a full-blown illness. Fishman battled the disease while coming of age in the 1970s and 80s when treatments were scant and few people saw eating disorders as a real medical problem.

Now, Fishman sees her history as an asset to her patients, giving her insights into what she called the “dark, twisty aspects of eating disorder thinking” — insights that cannot be taught.

“It really gives me a depth of understanding,” she said. “Other therapists might be less comfortable with eating disorder behaviors, but I engaged in all of them myself. I’m not intimidated by them. [And] I’m not intimidated by really low weight … It’s all familiar to me, not only in my professional experience, but personally.”

Eating disorders now affect 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States. The range of treatments has expanded in the past 50 years — there are in- and out-patient programs, multiple forms of psychotherapy and various medications — but no one treatment has been identified as the best approach, leaving therapists and patients to muddle through together. Even less clear is what impact professionals’ own battles with eating disorders have on their patients, if any.

Studies analyzing the number of eating disorder professionals who are recovered suggests that a relatively high percentage of people who enter the field have a personal history with the illness — anywhere between 25 and 30 percent. But the topic has only started to be discussed openly in professional circles.

“Years ago, it was more secretive,” Fishman said. “It was something that people didn’t want to expose about themselves.” The thought was that working in the field would somehow be too much for recovered professionals, who would go on to harm their patients and perhaps even fully relapse.

Dr. Beth McGilley, a clinical psychologist who works in private practice in Kansas, was one of the first in the field to “come out” publicly in the mid 1990s at one of the biggest industry conferences in the U.S. She said she did so despite being warned by several top practitioners in the field that she would be forever marginalized by her colleagues.

“I began speaking at [professional] conferences very young, and I found it was a fraudulent experience to stand in front of the audience and talk about ‘them,’ or people with eating disorder as though they weren’t me,” she said. McGilley developed an eating disorder when she was a senior in high school after her mother committed suicide. That loss and subsequent depression, coupled with a difficult transition from the progressive all-girl’s school where she’d been a student for more than a decade to an image-obsessed university environment in Southern California, sparked her eating issues. Within a week of starting college, McGilley stopped going to the cafeteria altogether.

Like Fishman, McGilley dealt with her eating disorder in the 1970s and 80s, and largely figured out her own recovery. By the time she started her internship in clinical psychology with the intent of specializing in eating disorder treatment, McGilley was fully recovered, but as her career progressed, she felt wariness emanating from her colleagues.

“There was some backlash. I never overtly heard it, but friends have told me that they heard things,” she said. “People have remarked about me being recovered, suspecting I wasn’t.”

McGilley is now co-chair of “Professionals and Recovery,” a special interest group for clinicians who both treat and have been treated for eating disorders. Supported by theAcademy for Eating Disorders, a major professional organization, the group has presented at several industry conferences in recent years. One of its primary goals is to help define clear expectations for what it means to be a professional who is in recovery or recovered, and whether there are markers, measured either in years or some other unit, that a person must first hit.

“When are you ready to work?” asked McGilley. “That’s one of the foundational, core issues, and our field doesn’t have an answer for that.”

That lack of clarity is compounded by broader confusion within the eating disorder world about what “recovery” means — or if that is even an appropriate term to use. Relapse rates are high — some research suggests that approximately 30 percent of men and women slide back into their eating disorders after restoring their weight in treatment. “Recovery is a term that can be defined in many different ways,” the National Eating Disorders Association’s website states.

“Personally, I didn’t start practicing until I was ‘way’ recovered,” said Dr. Mark Warren, a clinical psychiatrist with the Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders who developed anorexia as a teenager and is co-chair of the Professionals and Recovery group. “But some people enter the field where there might be risk. If it’s been two to three years, you’ll want more support.” That is another aim of the special interest group, to make sure practices are able to help maintain the continued recovery of therapists or other professionals as needed.

If a provider fully relapses while treating patients, the path is clear: They should no longer practice, at least until they have firmly reestablished their recovery, Warren said. The hiatus is necessary not just for the safety of patients, but also to enable the clinician to focus on his or her own needs.

“As profoundly supportive as I am of people who are recovered working in the field, you have to look at the underbelly of things,” said McGilley. “There are some patients who have been harmed by therapists who aren’t recovered.” Some of her patients recall seeing clinicians who claimed they were healthy, but who proceeded to spend the bulk of the treatment talking about themselves.

It is unclear whose responsibility it is to monitor counselors to make sure they are not struggling, and some young therapists are “terrified” of coming out because they fear they will be penalized professionally, she said.

“By identifying yourself, you unintentionally give people permission to judge how ‘recovered’ you are,” McGilley added.

But many leading centers publicly embrace recovered professionals, among them, theEmily Program, which states on its website that it employs recovered individuals. So does the Monte Nido group, which has outposts across the country.

“I have hired many, many [recovered professionals] over the years and am known for that,” said Carolyn Costin, Monte Nido’s founder and a former anorexic. She has established her own guidelines for what she feels makes her counselors sufficiently ready to practice. “I never hire anyone unless they have two years of being what I call recovered. No symptoms, no thoughts, not dealing with it one day at a time, or in therapy for their eating disorder,” Costin said.

Ultimately, like Fishman, she views a personal history with eating disorders as a “huge asset,” saying it is one of the reasons why many of her clients seek out her practice. Her patients have likened seeing a therapist who has never had an eating disorder to going skydiving with someone who had never done it before.

“Some patients have said that it is the most critical factor in their successful recovery,” said Costin. “I never really expected that.”

But experts say there is a long way to go before such acceptance infiltrates the entire eating disorder field and before clear expectations for what it means to be recovered and how the topic is best worked into practice have been codified.

“The discussions have actually begun, which is exciting,” Warren said. “It has moved into the realm of a very reasonable thing to be talked about by serious people.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Warren is a clinical psychologist. He is a clinical psychiatrist.

From Huffington Post

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Toronto Star: All Bets are off for Former High-Stakes Casino Gambler

Jason Applebaum, former placement student with EDOYR, continues to purse his passion to positively impact gambling addictions, as seen in the Toronto Star article from the weekend edition. Jason has written an article about the Stages of Change in relation to gambling addiction, which can be found here.  Read another article by Jason about his recovery here.

“Recovery is possible,” he says. “All you have to do is reach out and tell someone. My friends and family have been very supportive. I know that they have my back no matter what.”

Read the full article.

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Front Line Training a Success!

May 31st, 2013 Eating Disorders of York Region (EDOYR) hosted a training for fifty front line professionals, “Eating Disorders, Addictions, Mental Health”!
The afternoon began with a warm-hearted welcome from EDOYR’s Executive Director, Janice Morgante.  Information about what are eating disorders, complications with the diagnosis and intervention, risk factors, possible indicators, psychological barriers, barriers to treatment, the referral process,  and myths concerning eating disorders were presented by EDOYR’s Advisory Council members, Dr. Judith Bercuson, M.D., Dr. Tiffany Rush-Wilson, Psychologist,  and Jane Alway, M.A. Psychotherapist.
Two members from EDOYR’s ‘Faces of Recovery” Campaign, Wendy Hughes and Liora Ginzburg, also provided presentations to bring a personal perspective to eating disorders sharing the challenges and successes on their own road to recovery.
Eating Disorders of York Region would like to thank and acknowledge the presenters, volunteers and community members for attending and participating in the training for front-line professionals. There was a wide cross section of the community present who were able to contribute to the panel discussion at the event and after.
Together, we can create a community of understanding to contribute to the resolution of concerns of eating disorders.  We are very appreciative to all of the professionals and community members who attended who are able to bring the knowledge gained in the training back to their own communities!
Thanks to our Advisory Council and Faces of Recovery members for their presentations at our “Training for Front line Professionals” May 31st.

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The Smallest Change

Matt Gerber is a singer-songwriter who contributed his talents and voice in support of “Songs to Recovery” which takes place the third Saturday of every February.


My thoughts at the time were about trying to compose a song that had different levels of meaning.  At first I was only thinking of external changes, and ways that we can make the world better for ourselves and for others.  Now I think that it also is true for internal changes, because all change comes from within to begin with anyway.  What we decide to do, or not to do, will always make a difference.  To borrow a phrase, the longest journey starts with the first step.

“The Smallest Change” – listen to it at (click play on the player at the very top of the page!)


I count my pennies, my nickles and dimes,
To see me through, leaner times.
And I am lucky, they've been few.

I can't be blind, and claim to care,
When there's enough, with more to spare,
And when the balance, sometimes fails,
I can tip the scales.

The smallest change.....

One by one by one by one by one by one,
It all adds up to something amazing.
Every little bit, every little bit, every little bit helps.
It don't take much, but it goes a long way.

The smallest change, the smallest change.
The smallest change, the smallest change.

The smallest change, the smallest change,
Can make all the difference in the world to someone else.
The smallest change, the smallest change,
It don't take much but it goes a long way, it goes a long way, a long way.

The right word, at the right time,
Reaching out with a helping hand.
Taking a moment to listen,
Taking the time to understand, to understand.

The smallest change, the smallest change
The smallest change, the smallest change.

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Resisting Labeling and Defining People by Their Mental Health Diagnosis by Alannah Sheridan

Resisting Labeling and Defining People by Their Mental Health Diagnosis:

“I’ve been labeled with ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, addictive personality disorder and poly-substance abuser,” describes Nick Carveth, a social work student at Ryerson University.

Growing up with a psychoanalyst as a father, Nick quickly learnt that he was an uncommonly anxious child. Beginning at the age of 16, during the most extreme period of his addiction, Nick completed psycho-educational testing and scored in the 98th percentile for anxiety, meaning that only two percent of the population tested had more severe symptoms.

“Much of the need for this test resulted from my parent’s dismay at my apparent disinterest in getting an education or job because I had become hopeless about the prospect of graduating high school, preferring instead to keep my anxiety at bay by chasing cocaine highs all day” explains Nick, “I tried a few different therapists and addiction treatment programs and mostly felt manipulated and patronized in environments that were abstinence based.”

Although psychiatric treatment programs can reduce individual’s symptoms dramatically, the official labeling that accompanies this treatment can affect individuals negatively. For those struggling with mental health problems, recovery often involves overcoming stigma, particularly perceptions of dangerousness and incompetency.

The stigma associated with mental illness presents a serious obstacle both for individuals looking for mental health treatment and for diagnosed individuals in the community. When individuals are officially recognized to have a mental illness, they are placed into a cultural category that damages their social and psychological well-being.

 The effects of a person being labeled with a mental illness are translated into actual behaviours. Discrimination against people with mental illness in the workplace, when seeking housing, or when applying for loans or insurance has been well documented, as has rejection by acquaintances, friends, and family.

These negative consequences of psychiatric treatment are rooted in cultural definitions of the ‘mentally ill’. When an individual is diagnosed with a mental illness, cultural ideas about the ‘mentally ill’ (e.g., incompetent, dangerous) become personally relevant and are transformed into expectations that others will devalue and discriminate against that person.

In the case of diagnosing mental illness, the power to label is a significant one and is entrusted in the psychiatrist. Once an individual has been diagnosed as mentally ill, labeling theory would assert that the patient becomes stripped of their old identity and a new one is ascribed to them. A process which usually leads to the labeled person internalizing this new identity and social status and taking on the role of the psychiatric patient with all its associated set of role expectations.

Nick states that, “at some points I have definitely internalized some of the stigma about madness and substance use, thinking myself to be incompetent to perform certain tasks safely, which of course creates a vicious cycle of symptomatology for a person experiencing severe anxiety.”

Stigmatization is another aspect that follows, which has the effect of excluding the labeled ‘psychiatric patient’ from normal interactions. Nick describes moments when he recognizes stigma in the way that others perceive him. One example of this happened after being expelled from an alternative school for his substance use in grade 12. The principle told his parents “let him hit the streets, if he survives he might learn his lesson.”

Another common incident where Nick is aware of his stigmatization by others is in his interactions with police officers. “I am often perceived to be dealing drugs or pan-handling when I am just walking along the street.”

A big change in Nick’s life occurred when he entered the Recovery and Education for Adolescents Choosing Health (REACH) program at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) located in Toronto. The program works to make both treatment and education more manageable for youth ages 15-21 in mental health treatment and specializes in addressing concurrent disorders.

“I entered REACH and learned they practice from a harm-reduction philosophy, I was amazed when I found out that I could still use substances and attend the program as long as I didn’t come to groups high or bring drugs on the property,” Nick reflects on his first impression of the REACH program at CAMH.

“It was so unlike the negative rehab experiences I’d had in the past. It was liberating to be able to set my own goals with regards to my substance use and to work on them at my own pace, in a setting where relapse was viewed as just another part of the recovery process.”

Nick graduated high school through the REACH program where he was also inspired to enter the social work program at Ryerson University. Knowing that agencies are looking for more people with personal experience to work in the field, motivated Nick to continue on his journey towards recovery, where he has now abstained from cocaine, crack, and other similar drugs for nearly four years.

Having completed his third year in the undergraduate social work program, Nick argues that he continues to struggle with being taken seriously within an academic context because of his identification with the drug culture.  Although he also explains, “there are two sides to this, because even though I feel I am not taken seriously in some settings, social work courses at Ryerson do provide me with a space in which my lived experiences are valued.”

Recent reviews suggest that attitudes are actually worsening when it comes to society’s views on mental illness, which is why it is important to take on new approaches to reduce or possibly eliminate the negative outcomes of diagnostic labeling.

Several studies have examined the impact of education on public attitudes about severe mental illness based on the finding that people who seem to be knowledgeable about mental illness are less likely to endorse stigma and discrimination. Education, which seeks to replace stigmatizing attitudes with accurate conceptions about the disorders is one strategy that social psychologists suggest can be done to reduce negative outcomes.

A second strategy to assist in changing public attitudes about mental illness is to facilitate interactions between people and persons with mental health issues.

Nick suggests that imposed labels and stigma can be resisted through altering the words used to describe the ‘deviant’ behaviour. He explains that in written text “I like to use the post-conventional technique of bracketing certain phrases to break down binaries such as use and abuse or normal and abnormal.”

Examples of these phrases can be written like substance (ab)use, (dis)ability, or (ab)normality. “In this way a synthesis is created from two seemingly opposing discourses which leaves an open question that allows for true self-identification.”

Another suggestion to break down stigma with regards to written text is the concept of the person-first language movement, which began some 20 years ago to promote the concept that a person should not be defined by a diagnosis. By literally putting the “person” first in the language, what was once a label becomes a mere characteristic. No longer are there “mentally ill people,” instead there are “people with mental health issues.”

By suggesting that a diagnosis is a person’s most important characteristic reinforces the all-too-common opinion that people with mental health issues have limited potential and society should expect nothing from them.

Nick also argues an important piece of the puzzle for activists and advocates is to “get the word out there that these labels are merely social constructs, basically the opinions of a committee of psychiatrics who get together and vote about what they believe constitutes so-called ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’ behaviors and cognition.”

Nick suggests, “another way people can resist labels is through the reclamation of the terms that have been used against us, adding our own emancipatory connotations.”

For instance a term with growing popularity is “madness”, which is an umbrella term for those who identify as ‘crazy, mentally ill, insane, psychiatric survivor, users, consumers, or inmates.’

In the past “madness” was used as a way to belittle people who had psychiatric experiences but these days “madness” is a word that has been reclaimed and re-possessed by the people it originally hurt.

Historically there has been a dependence on identifying Mad people with only psychiatric diagnosis, which assumes that all Mad experiences are about biology as if there wasn’t a whole wide world out there of Mad people with a wide range of experiences, stories, history, meanings, codes and ways of being with each other.

Overall there are three main approaches for changing stigmatizing attitudes: education, which seeks to replace stigmatizing attitudes with accurate conceptions; contact, which challenges public attitudes about mental illness through direct interactions; and protest, which suppresses stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness and behaviours that promote these attitudes.

The Author:
Alannah Sheridan is currently a fourth year social work student at Ryerson University with an interest in the field of mental health.

This article’s focus is to provide the reader with a counter hegemonic perspective of diagnostic labeling and the importance of resisting imposed labels. By interviewing Nick Carveth, Alannah was able to place knowledge back into the hands of a person with lived experiences and values a perspective, which is not often heard or seen in the media.


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