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Send the Parents, Not the Child

When asked about counseling for a 4-year-old child, I explained that I work with the parents, not the child. Before I could even explain why, I was then confronted with the line, “So you blame the parents.”

The parent then went on to explain that they just wanted their child fixed and returned.

Truth is, I have heard this many times before. However, the issue isn’t “blame”.

In no other species but the human species is the ability to parent so much a learned act. While we are biologically determined to want to parent, the skills of parenting are typically learned on the basis of one’s own experience growing up with one’s own parents. In other words, how we were parented and what we were exposed to in terms of viewing parenting by others, is influential in how we then manage our own young.

Our exposure to the parenting of others, most notably our own, shapes our skills and beliefs which in turn translates into how we manage our children.

Some may argue that because of what they were exposed to, they have taken a different approach to parenting. However even in taking a different approach it remains that the approach taken was still influenced by the experience had. The choice to do something different is in reaction to that prior experience and so is still influential in choices taken. To add, knowing what not to do, doesn’t necessarily mean one knows what to do.

In addition to how our parenting is determined by our experience of having been parented, our experience is also influenced by the temperament we brought to the the situation when we were a young child.

Every child is different and so the approach used for one child doesn’t automatically mean it will be helpful with the next child. There are individual differences between children in terms of temperament, intellectual capacity, development, etc. What works with one child may not work with another child.

Beyond what we have learned and how we parent, children are also exposed to all things happening in the home. What they are exposed to influences their behavior. So regardless of how you parent what goes on in the home can influence how a child responds to any given situation.

If you want to address a child related matter then, it is important for the parents to first figure out how effective their parenting strategies may be; how well they match what the child brings to the situation and; to determine if there are other factors going on within the home influencing behavior.

In the end, the child doesn’t live with the therapist or counselor, but with the parents. As such, it is up to he parents to figure out how best to manage and influence their child’s development. Counseling can surely help, but parents go first.

Parents go first not out of blame, but to develop an understanding of what might work best for their child and then to develop the skills necessary or the most appropriate approach.

The issue isn’t one of blame, but to explain.

Parents go first.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

When You Know It Isn’t True

Some people lie. Some people misrepresent the truth. Some people have a distorted view of the world causing them to believe things which aren’t the case. Some people’s emotions lead them to misinterpret information to support their feelings. Some people’s need for recognition is so great that information is distorted to feed their need for validation. Some people are so scared of a particular outcome that they must hold on tight to a belief or point of view so as to mitigate that outcome.

There are so many reasons why what comes out of a person’s mouth may not reflect the reality of a situation. For any of those reasons, a person may strenuously hold on to their version of the truth. A person may hold on to their version of the truth so strenuously that it can actually create doubt in the mind of others who know better. So how do we differentiate between fact and fiction? How do we determine the truth?

The challenge is to turn down the volume and look at the picture.

The person who tries to have you accept their version of the truth will try to shape your view through their words. There will be twists, distortions and outright lies. As you concentrate on what the person says, you will get caught up in their reality.

Turn down the volume in your mind…. Look at the picture.

When your child tells you they didn’t take the cookie while their hand is still in the bag, you know the volume doesn’t match the picture. Then there’s the classic lipstick on the collar or the modern day version, the texting history on the smart phone: let the picture tell the story. In less obvious situations, you have to seek other data, other sources of information. You can trust your gut, but guts also misrepresent reality as your guts may reflect only your feelings and suspicions and not necessarily the accuracy of the situation.

Data or information is something more tangible and is independent of what a person says. Data or information is the traces of behavior. It includes description of events by other. It includes patterns of behavior over time. It includes discrepancies between what a person says and what is observable. It includes contradictions in the persons version of events. It includes more tangible bits of data or information such as found in emails, text messages and the behavior or reports of others over time.

It may be however, that no matter how much data or information you collect that contradicts the volume (what your are told), the person giving you a distorted version of events may still hold tightly to their version. In other words, for some people being confronted with solid evidence contradicting them, it doesn’t alter what they have to say. This can be the most crazy-making of situations, particularly if you need their validation on top of the evidence.

If you require their validation on top of the evidence, then the strategy to cope is finding support for yourself. Some people will hold on to their version of events no matter what and for any number of reasons. Get support for yourself.

In the end, to maintain your sanity, you cannot get inducted into the vortex of the other person’s distorted reality. You must build a stable view of your own, but one that is based upon the picture, independent of the volume. As a result, you then must make your own decisions for your well-being, based upon the picture and not the volume. Your supports can help you maintain a more realistic view of the situation against the persistence of the other.

Turn down the volume and look at the picture.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

 

 

Today’s Version of “The Talk”

These days “The Talk” takes so much more out of a parent.

Firstly, children need to have it at younger age and in fact so much younger that it should occur before it is even on a child’s radar. Secondly, that “talk” needs to include pornography and the relationship of pornography to intimacy – emotional or otherwise.

Given that smart phones are more available to kids than water, parents must realize that their kids will be exposed to sexual material way before puberty and way before a natural interest in sexuality develops.

As such, the prepubescent child’s view of sexually explicit material is received more like a how to manual, much like a Lego project. Devoid of any aspect of relationships, caring, love or basic humanity the viewed sexual material sets up in the mind of the child that the activities seen on their devise are in a sense normal and indicative of how the equipment – their sexual apparatuses are to be used.

Today’s talk must include a counter-balance to that and while we always wanted to include comments about love, respect and perhaps waiting until marriage, we must now talk about what children can and will be exposed to – and before it happens.

As with any talk, we are not seeking to scare or admonish, but merely to inform. In so doing, we also wish to discuss and impart our values.

There has always been at least 3 reasons for engaging in one’s sexuality: recreation; procreation and; expression of intimacy and emotional connection. There is a fourth reason which unfortunately is sinister in nature and that is to hold power and control over another. This is an abusive form of sex and is seen in one-sided relationships and also seen used as a weapon of war.

Given the 4 reasons for engaging in sex, our discussion should include statements about our morals and values and about consent and about who experiences what in the sexual transaction.

That talk will be different depending on the age of the child.

With the preschooler, we talk of love, caring, relationships and privacy. Preschoolers will come to know about differences in the genitalia of girls and boys. They will naturally explore their differences and compare their body parts with the same fascination of favorite toys. We acknowledge the differences and inform about privacy and who may or may not have access to their private parts and under which circumstances.

Before the child has unsupervised access to the Internet through any kind of device, the talk includes that they may come across images of grownups undressed and/or playing with their private parts alone or with others (you can appropriately label those parts as you wish).

You can inform the child those are actors and that even if some may look happy with what is going on, being actors, they may not really like what they are doing. You can advise as to your feelings about such material and your views on what should happen if the child stumbles upon it or goes looking for it.

Clear and unequivocal statements as to what acceptable use of the Internet and any connected device is paramount. Clear and unequivocal statements as to what your course of action may be in the event a child is found to attend to such viewing is also advised.

Although controversial for some, I do suggest parents inform their child that the use of the Internet will be monitored by intermittent inspection of the browser history and by going through the history and content of any applications.

As for your younger teen aged child, you have got to know that on average most teens will have viewed porn on a regular basis. Boys likely view more porn than girls, but both do so and for different reasons.

Boys look to porn for the titillation leading to sexual gratification. Girls while at times looking to porn for the same reason, also look to porn to learn how to satisfy the demands of the boy. It is as if the girl’s access to a caring relationship is through the activity seen in pornography.

Forget the old adage, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. These days, girls are learning that the way to a relationship is through the sexual gratification by any means of their intended boyfriend.

As a result of porn, a misplaced sense of girl-power comes from the girl demanding sexual behaviors of the boy also learned through pornography. It is as if pornography has rewired many of today’s youth to see sexual gratification as the only way to form relationships and in the end, no real relationships are gained and intimacy is an elusive dream. In the wake of this path is left devastated and abused teens who then become adults whose ability to form intimate long-standing relationships is challenged.

So, now more than ever, that talk is of vital importance. Having a parental relationship with our kids is of vital importance. Appreciating that gender and sexual orientation are on a spectrum is important for parents to realize and that our kids have long since accepted that reality.

We as parents must learn to turn off our own devices and engage our children more regularly and more readily. It is only through a relationship with our children that we have any influence – social capital. On the basis of that social capital our views and concerns carry more weight for our children’s consideration.

Parenting is less about who you are by title and more about what you do. There is no such thing as good timing for challenging talks. Parents must make the time and open the discussion themselves, lest it be too late. Be frank about your values and morals without threatening or admonishing.

Be the parent. Have that talk.

Food for thought? I would love to read your comments. Please post them below and please share this blog with the links provided.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Preparation and Support in the Service of Peacemaking Between Separated Parents

Part of my work involves helping separated parents to sort out the care of children between them.

In the meantime and today specifically, the Canadian Prime Minister met with the American President.

In preparation for the meeting, members of diverse Canadian political parties set aside their differences to prepare the Prime Minister for this most important meeting. The Prime Minister met with former politicians of competing parties in what is known as a bipartisan effort to enable a high level meeting with plenty at stake.

The meeting took place and a press conference followed. Both events appeared to come off without a hitch. Preparation paid, everyone remained civil and a newly established relationship has begun.

This mirrors my work with some separated parents where the degree of conflict precludes my meeting with them alone.

I discuss matters with their lawyers and offer lawyer-assisted mediation. I advise the lawyers of their role in the process and we go ahead and meet. At the outset of the meeting, I explain the process and rules for deportment. As the meeting progresses and as necessary, I can meet with one parent and their lawyer to reinforce the rules of deportment and/or to coach and/or teach necessary skills to facilitate peaceful negotiation.

I have no doubt that our Prime Minister had much on his mind entering the meeting. Similarly, parents entering into mediation can have much on their mind. The process can be scary.

Today I am a proud Canadian.

I am proud that our diverse political parties came together for the national interest. I am pleased that our Prime Minister showed an openness to receiving the input of persons whose political views would differ from his own. I am pleased he was able to heed their input. I am pleased the process facilitated stability in the Canadian/US relationship despite such obvious internal differences. I am pleased that our Prime Minister knew where to hold his tongue to work towards the greater interests of our nation and serve as a role model to other heads of states around the world.

These are the goals we hold out with separated parents.

We seek to have separated parents manage their own behavior and not that of the other. We seek to have them be diplomatic, so as not to inflame matters. We seek to coach them to develop the skills necessary to continue the work independent of their aides.

We do this so they can carry on their task as parents to meet the needs of their children on a go-forward basis recognizing there may be tremendous differences of values, behavior and opinion.

I just thought that what happened today, between Canada and the US shows the best that can be achieved when people set out to keep the peace. This is what we strive for when helping separated parents resolve the care of their children between them.

So much depends upon people learning to get along. We can help.

If you are in a conflicted relationship with your parent-partner, consider lawyer-assisted mediation when sitting alone with the mediator seems too much.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

If you found this blog of service, please share it with the links below.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Counseling, Unique Approach and the Trajectory of Your Life

Behavior or relationships can take on a life of their own and careen out of control. It is as if the issues have their own trajectory that as time goes on, the problems gain in severity.

trajectoryEnter counseling.

The miracle of counseling is that it can affect change, not that change miraculously occurs in an instant.

If your life or relationship is out of control, odds are there were a series of issues leading up to it.

Unchecked or unresolved, those issues are likely to continue further distance you from your preferred destination.

Go to counseling. Involve yourself with the process. Give yourself the opportunity to nudge the trajectory in a better direction.

Get on a better track.

My first meeting meeting is always a good three hours. This is very different from most approaches. Most approaches to counseling is based on the 50-minute hour. That just isn’t sufficient time to nudge the trajectory. By beginning with a good three-hour meeting, there is a greater opportunity to begin nudging the trajectory from the get-go.

So while things may not change over night, at least there is a greater probability of getting things started.

Clients who have been to the more traditional approach of 50-minute sessions tell me they appreciate the opportunity of really being able to talk and work things through.

Please note, I bill for actual time used.

How extraordinary is that. More time to talk; end where it makes sense; pay for what you use with no need to fill time.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

If you found this blog of service, please share it with the links below.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

The Danger of Social Work

I don’t know if the general public realizes how dangerous social work is for the social worker.

In our role, we step between people in dispute, support disenfranchised persons, and champion the needs of those who  cannot advocate for themselves. We strive to keep people safe from harm and seek to promote equity, acceptance and justice.

There are those who through their own misfortune, alternate views, infirmity or disordered thinking who take exceptions to our aid and intervention. In so doing the social worker is at risk of reprisal. That reprisal can take the form of character assassination, verbal and physical assault, professional complaints to licensing bodies, disparagement on Internet sites, threats of harm.

This is more than a job, it is often viewed as a calling and it certainly isn’t for the feint of heart, although having a heart can be considered a prerequisite for the role.

I hear form fellow social workers and other mental health professionals who by profession must wade into the issues of others to themselves be villianized for actually keeping someone safe.

Just know that when there is a child in need of protection, a woman who needs a place a safety, parents in dispute over the care of their children between them, a homeless person requiring shelter, a social worker is likely involved. As a group or individual, we rarely are recognized for our efforts although you will hear the disdain when someone takes exception to our involvement, but take a moment to consider, on the other side of that disdain, someone else just may be better off.

Social Workers are recognized annually in Ontario. This year Social work week is March 6- 12.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

If you found this blog of service, please share it with the links below.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
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Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

 

Faith, Culture, Ethnicity, Counseling and Canada

The issue of faith, culture and ethnicity in counseling is a tricky discussion. There are many widely held beliefs in this regard. Notwithstanding one’s own beliefs however, I do feel it is the counselor’s job to be respectful on matters of faith, culture and ethnicity and to recognize the role of faith, culture and ethnicity in people’s lives. Understanding, learning and being curious about the client’s faith, culture and ethnicity can inform and facilitate the counseling process and the counselor’s ability to be of service.

My appreciation of the role of faith, culture and ethnicity came early in my career. It actually started at least in 1986 when my then supervisor took me aside and advised that my presence and loud voice was closing down team discussion during case conferences. I am Jewish of Russian and Polish decent. Not that I ever considered our family to be loud, but it seems that relative to my colleagues who were predominantly White Angelo Saxon Protestant of British decent, I was relatively loud. As per the guidance provided by my supervisor, I modulated my volume and literally invited others to speak during the next case conference. It resulted in greater input. My cultural background was a factor in these professional relationships.

Later, in the same children’s mental health centre, the Director hired a black Jamaican psychologist to help us with our work with inner city black youth. To date we had a poor record of being helpful. Dr. Lowden talked with us about cultural differences and how those differences could be accounted for in the delivery of family therapy. Whereas a more facilitative approach was the mainstay of family therapy, the approach he suggested was directive and authoritative. We saw an improvement in our outcomes.

When as a volunteer in coop housing, the coop manager brought to my attention a resident who complained about noise in the apartment below. However, there was no apartment below and the real issue was mental health. I contacted the elderly resident’s family who took no action to support their parent. I next spoke with their religious leader, an orthodox Jewish Rabbi who in turn spoke with the family. It resulted in the elderly resident receiving the psychiatric attention required.

Since those times in the 1980’s and then since establishing my private practice in the 1990’s, my curiosity about the role of faith, culture and ethnicity has continued. As a result I have found that under certain circumstances including and facilitating a client’s beliefs or practices from those perspectives could be quite helpful.

For example, a couple was in conflict over their wedding. One side’s parents had been intrusive with regard to the wedding plan and the choice of faith under which they were married. The couple agreed to have a private ceremony on the faith of their choosing. The ceremony took place in my home office by a clergy of their choosing.

On other occasions and having worked with many persons who have had affairs, it is not uncommon that the guilt for some causes the person to feel distanced from their faith and the practice of their faith. I explain that while I may be of service person to person, I cannot serve in the capacity of clergy to repair one’s relationship with their faith. I have recommended that people speak with their clergy directly and for those who have been Catholic, to attend the process of confession. These suggestions have always been well received and felt to be respectful.

Recognizing at times the limits of my influence and cultural competency, I have at times sought a “cultural consultation” and have at other times included other members of one’s faith or culture in meetings.

For instance, working with separated parents of one faith, they presented very different perspectives on the practice of their faith and influence of their faith in family life. I spoke with a colleague of their faith to obtain a more neutral understanding. In bringing the more neutral understanding to the discussion table, the parents were able to resolve their differences.

In other situations, I have invited members of one’s faith or culture to join the meeting. Typically that person attends in the role of respected elder. From that perspective, the elder has influence upon the persons in conflict and we were able to co-facilitate their resolutions.

Respecting people’s faith, culture and ethnicity sometimes requires accommodation. On one occasion in order to accommodate the timing of a meeting the client’s requested a time out from the meeting for prayer. These requests can be easily accommodated. Recognizing one’s faith practices as reasonable and appropriate facilitates trust and a sense of acceptance in the counseling process and service provider. We took a break from counseling; I provided privacy; the couple prayed at the appointed time; and then we continued.

There are other occasions where a client requests a ceremony to facilitate the meeting. I have joined in prayer and we have held smudge ceremonies in my office.

Canada is a wonderfully diverse community of persons representing a multitude of faiths, cultures and ethnicity. We must do more than tolerate differences. To tolerate says we simply put up with the differences of another. In being more, we accept our differences. Acceptance lends itself to integration. Not integration in the sense that we give up our differences, but in the sense we can peacefully live with and work with each other, respectful of differences and demonstrating strategies to allow and celebrate our unique differences. We learn, grow and develop. We move from a narrow version of familiar to a wider version which then becomes familiar and comfortable with exposure. Then we can become friends.

Counseling is a very unique circumstance where the openness of the counselor to individual differences can facilitate adjustment and more peaceful living between the clients we serve. This can be a model of respectful living in a multi-cultural and diverse society. It is enriching.

The strategies of the counselor such as self-reflection, openness, curiosity and flexibility can hopefully serve the general public. We are seeing times when individual differences with regard to faith, culture and ethnicity are seen as threats to safety and social cohesion.

While it is wise to be vigilant for the person who could be dangerous among us, we learn to differentiate and otherwise accept people more broadly. We do not villainize whole groups of persons on the basis of faith, culture or ethnicity. We do not get inducted or goaded into base arguments or binary thinking carving whole groups of people into good or bad. We do not spread falsehoods to smear someone with an opposing view for our own benefit. We invite support, facilitate, make peace and provide shelter and safety. We get along with others and we are respectful and curious. We are Canadian and our counseling values and approaches are consistent with that reality.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

If you found this blog of service, please share it with the links below.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships