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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that uses a combination of strategies to foster psychological flexibility including, mindfulness, acceptance, commitment, and behaviour change.  Rather than the focus being on ridding oneself of ‘negative’ internal or external content (i.e. thoughts, feelings, emotions, pain), ACT focuses on inviting individuals to be open to experiencing all that life has to offer us, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and to learn how to move towards the people and things that are meaningful to us, particularly in the presence of challenges.

The way we see ACT is not only as a type of therapy used in a wide variety of clinical settings for a wide range of clinical diagnoses, but also as a way of life, that each of us at OHS have adopted.  Our work at OHS is broad and so using a type of therapy that is also very broad is quite fitting.  We have been able to incorporate components of ACT into each and every one of our services, and have seen plenty of success in doing so.

In September 2017, we will be launching our ACT for Mindful Eating course which uses components of ACT to address the challenges and barriers that typically come into play in other weight loss initiatives (i.e. dieting, counting calories, restricting).  In preparation for the launch of our course we have been exploring what researchers studying ACT’s role on weight control and eating behaviour have discovered.  We came across research that revealed that ACT has shown favourable outcomes for long-term weight control outcomes.

“At 3-month follow-up, ACT participants had lost an additional 1.6% of their body weight, whereas the control group gained .3% and overall a significantly higher proportion of the ACT participants had maintained or lost weight.  The ACT group also showed significant improvements in quality of life and reductions in psychological distress and self-stigma” (Lillis et al., 2009).

Check out this full article, to see what these researchers have to say about using ACT independently or in combination with Standard Behavioural Treatment for weight control:

For more information about our ACT for Mindful Eating course please contact Michelle Urbanc at 905-317-8890 or by email at


Lillis, J. and Kendra, K. (2014). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for weight control: Model, evidence, and future directions. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 3(1), 1–7


As a counsellor using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on a regular basis, I always enjoy sharing concepts that I come across that are interesting and have also had a personal impact on my life.

One such concept, that I try to remind myself of regularly, is the concept of the “Happiness Trap”.  I have to admit, before my work with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and ACT, I was probably in the same boat as many, in maintaining the belief that life is only “good” if we are feeling happy, excited, and full of laughter all the time.  Although we may wish this for many of our loved ones and self, the reality of life indicates that just experiencing positive emotions, all or even the majority of the time, is not realistic.

Take for example raising children.  To say that being a parent means you are experiencing “feel good” moments and feelings all the time probably would make most, if not all the parents reading this, giggle to themselves.  As a parent, you are sure to go through times of happiness and excitement, but there will also be times of sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger and frustration.  All emotions are not everlasting and what this concept is trying to do is to help us to realize that living a full and meaningful life doing the things you want to do, while making room for our ever-changing emotions, can help lead to healthy and balanced life.

This concept has not only opened my eyes, but also those I work with, in changing our perspectives on life and what we would like to get out of it.  In part, this concept highlights the use of acceptance. Acceptance that as humans, our actual “normal state” consists of an ever-changing flow of emotions, just like the weather.  It also reinforces the fact that when we do have to deal with negative emotions, that’s ok!  We do not have a character defect because we are not happy all the time and we do not have to let a change in emotions dictate what we want to accomplish on any given day.

I hope this concept helps you open up to the wide range of emotions we as humans all get to experience throughout life!!

To find out more about this concept I have attached a video by Russ Harris below.



  • Concept Sourced from “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris



In the last few years, more and more research has been published about the many health benefits of physical activity – especially for mental health.  When our bodies are healthy, our minds are too.  Physical activity, like walking, can play an important role in the management of anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain.  It doesn’t take much – as little as 30-minutes of daily physical activity can have can similar effects to meditation and relaxation[i].

circle-picThe trouble is that when we are facing depressive or anxious thoughts, going for a walk is not the first thing that comes to mind.  For most people who suffer with mental health, it is quite the opposite: you may feel like doing less and avoid doing the things that are of value to you.  The problem is, when you do less, you feel the impact of the symptoms even more and continue to miss out on living a meaningful life.  This is a common cycle for most people, but it can be broken.  Behaviour Activation (BA) can help disrupt the above stuck loops by introducing positive behaviours.  Walking is an ideal behaviour to introduce as it has so many benefits for mental well-being.  Improvements in mood and energy can be noticed almost immediately.  Over time, many other benefits can be noticed, including:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved memory & concentration
  • Weight management
  • Reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Improved self confidence
  • Better circulation

Consider walking like a prescription;

Complete daily for health benefits – regardless of the symptoms.

How to Get Started

Getting started is quite easy; below is a good check list to consult before beginning a walking program.

Medical Clearance: it is always important to contact your health care providers to ensure it is safe for you to become active.

Footwear: make sure you have comfortable walking shoes that fit well and still have good treads.

Walking Routes: map out a variety of routes to prevent boredom.

Schedule it: pick a consistent time of day that will be most effective for you.

 Start Small: start by going for a walk for a length of time with which you are comfortable.  Record this time on a calendar or chart like the one below.  Increase this time by 1 minute every day until you reach your end goal of 30-60 minutes.

Example: Baseline walk (how long you were comfortable with the first time): 15 minutes


For help on getting started with a walking program, Behavioural Activation, or assistance with Anxiety & Depression, book your FREE consultation today!






WHO are we?

OHS consists of a team of Cognitive Behavioural Therapists that have extensive knowledge and experience in helping individuals lead a more fulfilling life despite the challenges, struggles and barriers that typically get in the way.  We are skilled in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Behavioural Activation, and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.  If you would like more information about any of these therapies, you can find that here:

WHAT can we do for you?

Do you ever feel like you are living on auto-pilot?  Like you are just ‘going with the flow’ or simply ‘going through the motions’?  Do you feel disconnected from people and things that matter to you?  Or perhaps you know someone who has been feeling this way and could use some help.  If so, you’re not alone – and we can help!

We offer private, one-on-one counselling that can be tailored and targeted towards any challenges that you may be facing, including (but not limited to):

  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social Anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Grief and Loss
  • Anger Management
  • Addictive Behaviours (food, sex, drug, alcohol, work)
  • Stress
  • Phobias
  • Mood Disorders

You do not have to be diagnosed with mental illness in order to seek help!  Our team works with a broad range of clients and we ensure that each and every treatment program is individualized.  We will work with you to identify your goals and values and will help you move towards those goals and values, while using specific strategies to manage the barriers that show up along the way.  Our mission is to embrace the values that allow individuals to lead their lives with meaning and purpose in order to increase overall vitality.  Our knowledgeable team is committed to delivering evidence based services with respect, compassion and integrity to our clients and our customers.

WHERE are we located?

We have offices located in Burlington, Etobicoke, Toronto, Markham, Scarborough, and London.  We can see you at whichever office location is more suitable for you!  We also offer telephone or Skype-based counselling services if none of our locations are convenient for you.

 WHEN are we available?

Right away!!  At OHS we do not have a waiting list and can guarantee offering an appointment time within 5 business days of receiving your request.

WHY choose us?

  • We are dedicated to providing innovative, cost efficient educational and treatment solutions that lead to excellent outcomes in a timely fashion.
  • Our services are accessible and we strive to provide an initial appointment no more than 5 business days following a call to our office or our receipt of a referral form.
  • Our treatment is individualized and goal oriented and we monitor an individual’s progress in a very structured manner in order to determine whether we are being effective.
  • Our services are cost effective both in terms of reducing the duration of an individual’s suffering and reducing costs associated with work accommodation, absenteeism and work disability.
  • Our treatment is short term usually lasting 4 months or less.
  • We have worked extensively with employers and have significant expertise in return to work planning and implementation.
  • We can provide vocational assistance for clients who are not currently employed.
  • We understand issues related to absenteeism and disability and are able to help navigate through that system.

HOW to get started!

We are currently offering a FREE CONSULTATION for anyone wanting to explore our service.  The consultation will consist of you meeting with one of our Cognitive Behavioural Therapists, and going through a structured interview to help us understand your current difficulties.  Based on this interview, we will let you know what our treatment recommendations are, at which point you can decide whether you would like to engage in treatment with us.

In order to set up your FREE CONSULTATION, contact Michelle Urbanc at (905) 317-8890 or at



Does the thought of reading a self-help book make you cringe?  If it does, you’re not alone!  Many people do not like the idea of reading a self-help book for fear that the book may be “preachy”, “air-fairy”, or flat-out does not relate to them.  However, self-help books can be great tools both during counselling treatment, or if you are just considering a lifestyle change.

When choosing a self-help book, one of the most important things to consider is that the book is from a credible author and is backed by scientific evidence.  Try and seek out books that are from reputable clinicians, and based on research evidence, instead of relying solely on anecdotes (personal stories).

You can find out if an author is credible by doing a quick Google search of the author’s name:  Are they affiliated with a university?  Do they have a clinical practice and registration with a medical college (e.g. College of Psychologists, College of Registered Psychotherapists)?  Do they have any academic publications?

Academic publications (sometimes called journal articles) are a good way to determine if the content of a book is based on scientific evidence.  For example, if you would like to read a book based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), try and input these terms into Google Scholar ( to see if there is research on the subject.  The search below returned almost 700,000 results!  This is generally a positive sign that the topic has been heavily researched.  To learn more about what the research says, click on the article titles and you can read the article abstracts for more information.


Finally, it is helpful to check out the book before making the decision to purchase!  Flip through a few pages in the bookstore or on Google Books (, making note of the content, style of the writing, and the issues the book is addressing.  Some books naturally speak to some personality types more so than others, so it is important to find a book that you feel you can relate to.

For a little inspiration, here are three of our favourite self-help books, which have changed both our lives, and the lives of clients:

1. Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life by Steven Hayes

book-get-out-of-your-mindSteven Hayes is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and has authored over 400 academic publications!  Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life applies concepts of ACT to help readers move from feeling stuck in a struggle against their own minds to assess what is truly meaningful to them and then pursue a life guided by those values.

Why we love this book:

This book provides an educational background as to how human suffering occurs, and ways in which we can cope with that suffering.  There are exercises and spaces for you to complete activities throughout this book, which we have found helpful to make the book more relatable to your own unique experiences.

Who could benefit most from this book:

If you are suffering from depressed mood, anxiety, stress, or want to just learn more about how ACT can help you cope with everyday situations, this book is for you!

2. The Reality Slap by Russ Harris


Russ Harris is a medical practitioner, psychotherapist, and leading expert in ACT.  He is from Australia and travels internationally to train practitioners in the ACT approach.  In The Reality Slap, Russ discusses “Reality Gaps” (such as the death of a loved one, personal illness, or loss of a job), and how we can live a life that is meaningful despite them.  He then discusses ACT-inspired coping strategies, and provides guidance as to situations when these strategies could be helpful.

Why we love this book:

The Reality Slap features a style of writing that is conversational, as if you are speaking to the author.  Russ’ compassionate and sometimes humorous tone is comforting to the reader, and many have described that reading this book made them feel as though they are not alone.

Who could benefit most from this book:

Anyone who has recently been through a difficult time could benefit from this book.  This may include the death of a loved one, a major health diagnosis, divorce, loss of a job, an accident, or betrayal.

3. Living Beyond Your Pain by JoAnne Dahl and Tobias Lundgren


JoAnne Dahl is a prominent ACT researcher who specializes in the use of ACT to treat chronic pain and epilepsy.  Tobias Lundgren is a licensed clinical psychologist who has carried out applications of ACT in clinical research areas of epilepsy, diabetes, and chronic pain.  Living Beyond Your Pain reveals a new approach to living with chronic pain, which involves recognizing pain as an event in your life that does not have to interfere with the way you live.

Why we love this book:

Similar to Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life, Living Beyond Your Pain includes various exercises throughout the book to help the reader incorporate ACT into their lives and help transform pain from a life-defining preoccupation to just one thing in their lives that they experience.

Who could benefit most from this book:

Anyone who suffers from a chronic condition, such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, or chronic migraines could benefit from this book.


All of these books are available on and  Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life and The Reality Slap can also be found in some Chapters/Indigo stores.




When we suffer emotionally, we often try as hard as we can to change those emotions – we try to hide them, we try to push them away, or we try to not feel them at all.  In our attempt to do this, we realize that the opposite usually tends to happen.  In trying to hide our emotions, we may isolate ourselves from our friends and family so that they do not see our suffering.  In trying to push them away, we struggle and we fight and, most times, we fail.  And in trying to not feel them at all, we avoid participating in our lives with the hope that if we avoid situations that produce the emotions, we can avoid the emotions altogether.  The reality is, emotions – whether pleasant or unpleasant – are part of the human experience, and we cannot change that.

I love the words of the serenity creed authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):


Although we cannot control or change the emotions we experience over the course of our lives, we can respond to them differently.  Behavioural Activation (BA) can help us to do just this.  The goal of BA is to increase our engagement with meaningful activities no matter what emotions may be present.  For example, if you are feeling anxious, particularly in social settings, the goal of BA would be to follow through with a planned valued action, such as getting together with friends, despite that anxiety.  If you cancel your plans with friends because of how you are feeling, you are attempting to control the anxiety through avoidance, and you are reinforcing the idea that you can only engage with your friends when you are not feeling anxious.  The problem here is that avoidance creates a pattern in favour of short term relief, such that each time you feel anxious, you will avoid interacting with friends in order to feel less anxious.  Choosing to behave based on how you feel can cause you to lose sight of your values and lose your sense of purpose in this world, but behaving based on what is important or meaningful to you – your values – can increase fulfillment, pleasure, and achievement in life.

We must find the serenity to accept that we cannot control our emotions – they will come and go as they please – and the courage to change our behaviours and behave in a way that will enrich our lives.  In order to do this, take some time to think about what matters to you, and what gives your life purpose.  Remember, there are many different domains of life, so decide what you value in each of those domains – family relationships, social relationships, health, work, community, spirituality, personal growth – and then set goals to move in the direction of those values no matter what is going on in your internal repertoire of emotions.

Here is an example of how you can implement this in your life TODAY!

Domain: Health
Value: Physical Fitness
Goal/Planned Activity: This afternoon, at 5:30 p.m. I will go for a 30 minute run outside (even if I am tired from work, or sore, or fearful that I will not be able to run for a full 30 minutes)


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