Why see a Marriage and Family Therapist

I have to admit… the title is misleading! I see all clients, inside and outside of the terms “marriage” and “family”. You may be someone who is looking to see a therapist by yourself, you may be someone who is not married but in a committed relationship, you may be someone who is wanting someone to help you and your partner end your marriage. These are all acceptable and normal. I say normal only to say that every version of a relationship is relatable, experienced by others, and something a marriage and family therapist (MFT) can help with.

MFTs are specifically trained in the realm of relationships. If you see someone who is a master of marriage and family therapy (MMFT) that means they have graduated from an accredited program (like mine at the University of Winnipeg). That also means that they have completed 500+ hours of therapy already! No other programs in this province, and I think I can be so bold to say the whole country, require that sort of rigorous training. So not only do they have a lot of experience before hitting the field, but those hours are also supervised by other MMFTs. So they’ve learned from all the experience and feedback given in the program.

Ok – enough about logistics. Why pick an MFT over counselors, social workers or life coaches? Aside from the miles of experiential training, our background in relationships aren’t only applicable to the relationships we form with others. It’s is also applicable – may even the most applicable – to the individual’s relationship to their self. My work in particular takes an internal family systems (IFS) approach which means I focus on the different parts of a person. Have you ever said “one part of me wants to do one thing, and another part of me wants to do another”? Those are the parts I’m talking about. I’ve never met a person who was bad, worthless or inadequate – but I’ve sure met a lot of people’s parts who have told them they are. Once we get those parts to quite down a bit we can let some other kinder parts have a voice.

When you are seeing an MFT for work within an intimate relationship (or set of relationships for those throuples and polyamorous folks out there) we come set with the training to find ways for the couples to deescalate the tension, miscommunications and disconnections. We know how to help couples bring up the tough emotions, regulate through them, support each other, and find space for reconnecting to each other. Whether issues are addictions, infidelity, sexual dysfunction, trust, or just general distance, we can help. Some MFTs specialize beyond the masters program into fields of interest so keep an eye out for someone who offers a particular area of experience. If you like someone’s site or profile, you can see if they have space in their calendar for an appointment, or they may know someone in the field who does!

Families are the cornerstone of all systems in our society. MFTs are trained to look at families as systems and all of the parts of a system. As a family, you are especially lucky to see an MFT – that is the bread and butter of the program! MFTs are looking at the hierarchies in the family that are in place, the role of each member, the rules of the family (explicit and implicit), the scapegoats and the structures. Family issues can range in severity, age, and duration. Families bring in very young children, tweens, teens, young adults, and sometimes it’s adults bringing in their parents. Sometimes we see siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. You name it, we work with it. Our family dynamics matter. We’re here to help.

So no matter what kind of stuff you’re working with – we’re working with it too! MFTs are here to help you with struggles we humans face on the daily – whether it’s an internal struggle or one with those around you. Let us help you grow out of the patterns you’ve grown into.


Natalie Koleric, MA, MMFT


When I first heard about brainspotting I’ll be honest… I thought it was a kind of surgery. Not the case! In spite of the creepy sounding title – brainspotting is actually very gentle and totally non-invasive. It’s a relatively new type of therapeutic intervention that was created out of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The creator David Grand was trained in EMDR and started to notice that clients would often look off to certain spots while they spoke about the issues they were facing. He started to play with that observation and birthed a whole new kind of therapy.

Brainspotting works with the gaze of clients, either their natural gaze or by getting them to focus on a particular spot. In most cases the therapist will have the client find a spot to look at on their own, but some folks struggle with that process and the therapist can help them find a spot. Once the client has their spot, the client just simply takes the time to notice what their physical response is – the different sensations in their body. The therapist may also pair this with having the client listen to bilateral music using headphones. Bilateral music is the kind of music that moves from one ear to the other throughout the song. This bilateral process helps the client move into a deeper emotional space for processing. We call that space the mid-brain. The mid-brain is the place where we store memories, trauma, addictions and emotionally charged experiences. So to re-cap! While the client listens to the music, looks at a spot, and notices what is happening in their body, the client is moving into the mid-brain. Once the client is in this space, they are better able to process emotional blockages. I know… it sounds like voodoo.

But it works! There is a ton of research about the validity and scientific findings of brainspotting therapy. EMDR uses similar principles which is also highly researched. Brainspotting works in-depths with the mind-body connection. So you might notice a tightening in your chest while you think about the problem that brought you in, and then suddenly you’re noticing a memory from childhood, and then you notice a twinge in your back, and then you think about an upcoming work issue, and then you feel your foot twitching. On and on. Back and forth. It might sound a little scary or unnerving to have your body reacting in ways you are not feeling in control of, but if it’s ever too much, you just say so. You just look away. You just take the headphones off. The entire model is based on being client-led so that you feel comfortable and in control. The therapist won’t “push” you to go to places or memories you don’t want to go to.

So what’s the catch? You just look at a spot, listen to some music and wait to see what happens and then suddenly you’re healed?! Maybe not quite. Everyone responds differently to all forms of therapy so of course there are no guarantees. Primarily someone has to be willing to engage in the experience and can’t be actively shutting down the natural process that is occurring. Just like all therapy, you have to be open to change. Some people are more prone to it’s kind of magic, while others aren’t. Some people struggle to engage in this kind of process. And all of those are okay. No aspect of therapy is “one size fits all”.

Some folks may experience some adverse affects. There are a range of affects it can have – twitching or tics, worse sleep for the next few days, fatigue, feeling “out of it”, delayed speech, emotional or increased physical activation. This is all a way of your body working out the brain’s processing. Some folks notice more/less symptoms and to varying degrees. It’s a lot of work for our brains to create new neural pathways.

But! With all that processing that is happening after session many clients report a lessening of the intensity of the initial issue that they were brainspotting. Some people even report not feeling activated by the issue after just one session. This is why I call it magic and voodoo! Yes there is science to explain it, but it’s just a bit phenomenal. The brain creates new pathways for you to see, understand and feel things differently. It really all depends on you, your brain, and your body. But as someone who has experienced and practiced its power, I am a believer! If you feel like it might be something you’re interested in trying, get in touch with a brainspotting therapist to chat about readiness and appropriateness.

If you’re interested in trying brainspotting with me, let’s chat, or book a session!


Natalie Koleric, MA, MMFT

The Importance of Anti-Oppression Work

First thing’s first – what does anti-oppression mean? It’s basically an all-encompassing way of saying no types of discrimination of people’s identities. That means I don’t discriminate people based sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, ability, age, nationality, political or religious affiliation, class or socioeconomic standing. But anti-oppression work isn’t just not discriminating against people, it is also actively working to undo systems that keep oppression in place. It is working towards equality for marginalized groups and balancing power where it is creating a disadvantage in a relationship. On a society scale this might mean gender equality, fair working wages, or LGBTQ* rights.

How does this apply to therapy? I look at the sub-systems that are built into the relationship(s) or person that comes to see me, and look at the power imbalances. If one person in a relationship has all of the financial control, it strongly disadvantages the other person. If one child is always blamed for issues in the family, they are scapegoated and that creates a power imbalance.

In anti-oppression work people often take a look at their self to recognize their privilege (this is called reflexivity). I have a lot of privilege. Let me share my social location – I am a Middle-Eastern and English/Irish/Scotish mix. I am a woman. I am cisgendered. I am heterosexual. I am middle-class. I am able-bodied. I am Canadian. I am pretty left-wing and have no religious affiliation. All of these have given me the advantages to be successful in the ways I wanted to be. I recognize that I bring in a certain form of power to the therapist-client relationship. I cannot undo that power, but I can do everything within my power to share it. My approach is client-led, I see clients as the key holders to their own success, and I build on the strengths that the client has coming into the room. I merely help clients find the right key to the door in front of them.

Like I’ve said in my bio, it is so important to me to have a strong relationship with my clients. If someone feels I’m being exclusive based on something like race or gender, how successful will our therapy be? Not very… if at all. Trust is the most important thing we can establish and I try to be as egalitarian and non-judgemental as I can. That is a core value for me as a therapist, as well as a fellow human.

So how is charging $120/hour anti-oppressionist? I keep space in my schedule for sliding-scale work so that I can share services with low-income clients. If you are in need of some assistance with getting access to resources or want to talk about that sliding scale, get in touch with me.


Natalie Koleric, MA, MMFT