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Branding 101: What is Brand Equity?

With the world becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace, brands are now presented with the challenge of capturing and sustaining market share and keeping their customers loyal to their brand. 

Branding elements have become more and more crucial in the marketing space. Brands are increasingly moving their focus from the product to the consumer, which makes the general perception of a brand is more important than ever. Let’s delve deeper to brand equity and know more about why it’s important and how you can make use of brand equity for your company.

What is Brand Equity?

Brand equity is the level of influence a brand name has in the minds of consumers.

Organizations establish brand equity by creating positive experiences that influence consumers to continue purchasing from them rather than their competitors who make similar products. This is done by generating awareness through campaigns that relate to consumer values, delivering on promises and qualifications when consumers use the product, and retention efforts. 

The three components of brand equity:

  1. Brand perception: Brand perception is what customers believe a product or service represents, not what the company owning the brand says it does. 
  2. Positive or negative effects: When consumers react positively to a brand, the company’s reputation, products, and bottom line will benefit, whereas a negative consumer reaction will have the opposite effect. 
  3. Value: Positive effects return tangible and intangible value – tangibles include profit or revenue increase; intangibles are brand awareness and goodwill. Negative effects can diminish both tangibles and intangibles. 

Why is Brand Equity Important?

A key benefit of establishing positive brand equity is the benefits it can have on your return on investment. Organizations that leverage the power of branding often earn more money than competitors, while spending less. 

For a brand strategy example, positive brand equity allows brands to charge price premiums. When consumers believe in the values of a brand and the quality of their products, they will pay higher prices to purchase from that brand. 

Managing brand equity over time is essential in achieving several competitive benefits, such as:

Price Premiums

Brands with strong brand equity can charge premiums, which, aside from the product-related benefits, are accredited to the value of attaching the brand’s name to that product. Such products will also enjoy a low-price elasticity, which means that consumers will be less likely to switch to competitors even if they have lower prices.

Product Offering Extensions

Brands with high brand equity are exposed to significantly less risk when introducing new products since the brand name alone carries trust and value. 

Increased Market Share

Brand equity improves confidence in the purchase decision. Therefore, a company with high brand equity can attract and retain a large portion of the market share by acquiring a loyal customer base and can withstand pressures from competitors.

How to Build Brand Equity?

Building strong brand equity is the foundation for a company’s long-term success. Marketers can reinforce brand equity by actively investing in the components of brand equity.

Building Brand Awareness

This can be done by creating positive, strong, and unique brand attributes which consumers will retain in their minds like advertising your brand on different media, engaging with various communities on social media, or creating viral content.

Building Brand Position

A brand’s overall culture, including its core values and differentiators, should remain consistent. A brand that shows consistency throughout time is a brand that can easily be recalled and has a stronger brand association. This doesn’t mean that companies can’t make strategic changes, such as introducing new packaging or rewriting their slogans. If changes are necessary to re-align with changing consumer needs, or external economic and social factors, then change might be good for your overall brand equity in the long run. 

Emphasizing Positive Brand Associations

Strong brand associations are crucial to building loyalty towards your brand, like using innovative means of advertising, highlighting the core benefits of your product, taking charge of social responsibility, and establishing ethical business practices, or celebrity endorsement.

Focusing on Building Relationships

It is the consumers who determine the strength and vitality of your brand’s equity. Therefore, it’s important to build and maintain positive relationships with your target audience by staying in touch with customers via multiple channels of social media, providing excellent customer service at all times (online and physical), and tracking any negative feedback then listening and responding to those feedbacks.

How Do You Measure Brand Equity?

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of brand equity is how to measure it because there is no standard metric or rubric that brands can use to measure consumers’ subjective emotions and responses. 

Nevertheless, it’s still important to try and measure brand equity since losing sight of the strength of your brand equity can impact your bottom line and your ability to compete with the ever-growing market.

There are two ways to measure your company’s brand equity. Quantitative measurements, and qualitative measurements.

Quantitative measurements

This involves measuring brand equity by looking at financial metrics, which reflect the requisite strength of the brand such as:

  • Profitability
  • Price elasticity
  • Growth rate
  • Market share percentage
  • Purchasing frequency

Qualitative Measurements

These measurements cannot measure brand equity tangibly but are essential in gathering insight. Brand equity can be qualitatively measured by:

    • Monitoring social media reactions towards your brand to assess the level of engagement your brand creates
    • Conducting surveys to evaluate consumers’ emotions and feelings towards your brand
  • Conducting focus groups to assess consumers’ knowledge of various brands within a market


Brand equity represents the value of a brand and comprises a consumer’s awareness of a brand, the associations they make with the brand, the way they perceive the quality of its products, and the extent to which consumers show loyalty towards it. 

Brand equity is a significant component of a company’s branding elements and marketing strategies because of its significant impact on a brand’s ability to sustain a competitive advantage. Brands must consistently monitor their brand equity by using quantitative or qualitative measurements so that their brand strategy can adapt to the ever-growing and ever-changing social and economic trends.


Everything You Need To Know About Cheques

Canada has one of the most efficient cheque clearing systems in the world and, while the use of cheques has been declining with the growing popularity of electronic and card payments, financial institutions in Canada still process nearly a billion cheques every year.1

A cheque is an agreement of payment between two individuals or organizations.  So when you write a cheque, you are agreeing to pay another individual or organization money that you owe them and you are instructing your bank to make that payment.

Here is some helpful information about the use of cheques and how they are processed by financial institutions.

How Cheques are Processed

All cheques must be processed – or cleared and settled – through the payments system.  Here’s how that works.  When you deposit a cheque into your account, your bank will send the cheque to the bank of the person who wrote the cheque. That bank makes sure that the cheque is legitimate and there are enough funds in the cheque-writer’s account to cover the cheque, and then sends the funds to your bank.

This process can take a few days but, for most cheques, the bank makes the funds available to the customer right away.  However, it isn’t until your bank gets confirmation from the cheque-writer’s bank that it knows for sure that the funds are available. What most people don’t realize is that, until it receives that confirmation, the bank is really advancing you the money.

Cheque Holds

Banks may apply a hold on funds deposited by cheque to manage the risk from losses in case there aren’t sufficient funds in the cheque-writer’s account to cover the cheque. This hold protects you too since you won’t be spending funds from a cheque that might be reversed because of insufficient funds in the cheque-writer’s account. Banks are required to provide their hold policies in writing when an account is opened. The maximum hold period for most cheques deposited to a Canadian dollar account is four business days, and banks must make $100 available within a day.

If your financial institution is currently putting a hold on your cheques, ask if there are alternatives to this hold.  In addition, rather than receiving a paper cheque as payment from your employer, the government, or individuals, see if the funds can be deposited directly into your account by direct deposit or ask them to send you an e-mail money transfer: then you will have immediate access to all of the money.

Non-sufficient Funds (NSF)

If you deposit a cheque and there is not enough money in the cheque-writer’s account to cover the cheque, the cheque will be returned to your bank as NSF or non-sufficient funds. If your bank had given you immediate access to the funds, it will then remove the funds from your account. If you were the cheque-writer, very often your financial institution will charge an NSF fee. You can avoid these fees by ensuring there is enough money in your account to cover the cheques that you write.

Post-dated Cheques Cashed Early

Sometimes a post-dated cheque is deposited before the date on the cheque. Banks have processes in place to look for post-dated cheques and do their best to make sure they aren’t processed early.

You can help in detecting post-dated cheques that are cashed early. Try to regularly review your transactions through online, mobile or telephone banking or at an ABM. If a post-dated cheque you wrote is mistakenly processed before its date, you should contact your bank to let them know. The cheque can be returned and the amount credited back to your account up to the day before the date written on the cheque.

Cheque Cashed By a Different Individual (Counter-Signed Cheques)

Some banks allow cheques to be cashed by someone other than the person named on the front of the cheque if it is counter-signed. For example, if John Smith writes a cheque to Jane Doe, she can endorse the cheque on the back and give it to you in payment of a debt. You can then endorse the back of the cheque and deposit it into your account. This is called counter-signing a cheque. To protect against someone else fraudulently cashing a cheque, John Smith can write “For deposit only to account of payee” with his signature, which ensures the cheque can only be deposited into Jane Doe’s account.

Check with your financial institution to find out if they accept counter-signed cheques and if they have any specific requirements that apply.

Stop Payment

A “stop payment” is a service provided by your financial institution, usually for a fee, to prevent a cheque you wrote from being cashed. However, putting a stop payment on a cheque does not guarantee that the funds will not be withdrawn from your account. For a stop payment to work, your request must be made and processed before the cheque is cashed. In addition, occasionally, a cheque with a stop payment may still be cashed if incomplete or incorrect information is given to your bank regarding the amount or date of the cheque, or the name of the person to whom the cheque was written.

If a stop payment doesn’t work and your cheque is cashed, you are still responsible for the cheque. To get the money back, you will have to contact the person or organization to whom you wrote the cheque.

Fraudulent or Counterfeit Cheques

Sometimes criminals will create counterfeit cheques or change the name or amount on a legitimate cheque. This is fraud. There are a number of steps that you can take to protect yourself from cheque fraud.

  • Always keep your cheques in a secure location.
  • Review your monthly bank statement or regularly check your transactions through online, mobile or telephone banking. If you see transactions you didn’t do, notify your bank immediately and they will investigate.
  • If you close your account, shred any unused cheques.
  • If you receive a cheque that doesn’t look legitimate, ask for a different form of payment.

You can learn more about cheque fraud and how to protect yourself against becoming a victim in the Fraud Prevention section.

Mobile Cheque Deposit

You may have heard recently about a new way to deposit your cheques. Mobile, or remote, cheque deposit allows you to take a picture of your personal cheque, business cheque or money order (depending on the bank) and deposit it electronically using your mobile device. Many banks in Canada now offer this service.

The process is simple. Sign the back of your cheque and then log into your bank’s mobile banking application, choose the picture deposit service and follow the instructions. The process is secure and your financial information is not stored on your mobile device. All financial information is also securely encrypted. You can then write “deposited” on the cheque and store it in a secure place for a short period of time (two weeks is generally recommended) before destroying it.



Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Cheques

Any business, no matter what the size, generally relies on a steady cash flow to keep things ticking over. That’s why having a reliable and efficient method of payment is essential. While many businesses are embracing electronic payments and online transactions, there is still a sizeable amount of companies who prefer to use cheques for much of their business banking.

Although they are not as prevalent as they once were, cheques are still used extensively by many businesses and that suggests there are still some benefits to their continued use. However, there are some downsides to using cheques for business banking that need to be considered as well.

Pros of using cheques for business banking

Simple to Process

Many businesses, particularly small firms or new start-ups, may not have the facilities in place to process electronic or online payments. Receiving a cheque as payment is easier for them as they can leave the processing end of things to the bank.

Funds Leave a Bank Account Slower

Most electronic payments are instantaneous, meaning they leave a company’s bank account as soon as payment is made. For smaller firms, with cash flow issues, paying by cheque means the funds will leave their bank account slower and they have some leeway.

Cheques may Widen a Companies Customer Base

Even if you have the facility to process electronic payments, by indicating a willingness to accept cheques, you are increasing the amount of potential customers. If you shut off of one particular avenue for payment, you may be turning business away as many people are still more comfortable paying by cheque.

Cons of Using Cheques for Business Banking

Cheques can be Stopped or Returned

This is particularly pertinent when selling goods. If a person pays with a cheque and takes the goods, and that cheque later bounces, you will be out of pocket. In addition, you will also be liable to banking charges due to the returned cheque.

Cheques Take Time to Clear into the Bank Account

Many cheques can take up to five days to clear, meaning you will be made to wait before the funds find their way into your bank account. This is hardly ideal if you are in need of the funds to keep your business going.

Cheques are Open to Fraud

Even with the security pitfalls of online banking, cheque fraud still makes up a sizeable chunk of all financial fraud. Writing and signing a cheque is so easy for someone to do and can be quite difficult to trace. Whether it is someone writing fraudulent cheques from your firm or you are receiving fake cheques for payments, funds are extremely difficult to recover once they have been obtained in this way.

Should I Still use Cheques for Business Banking?

The answer to this is not straightforward. It all depends on the size of your operation, what payment facilities you have available to you and what method of payment your customers most prefer. You may feel that cheques are outdated, but if they make business sense, then it may be worth holding on to that cheque book for a while longer.

Are Cheques Still a Popular Form of Payment?

Every generation seems to have their own environmental wake up moment when they are suddenly made aware of the damage their behavior was doing to the planet.

First, we had Sting in the rain forest, then the hole in the ozone and, more recently, global warming and climate change has taken center stage.

Throughout all this, the push to recycle has been strong and, in many ways, our rapid journey towards a paper-free society has gathered pace.

However, despite that many businesses are operating in a largely cash-free environment and the fact that electronic payments have exploded in the last decade, there appears to still be a place for the humble cheque.

How has Cheque use Declined in the Recent Years?

Cheques have been around for longer then we may think, with the first cheque thought to have been written in the 17th century in England.

They, of course, came into their own in the 20th century though with almost every bank account offering a checkbook and balancing that book became just another household chore.

It would be naive to think that the use of cheques as a form of payment is still universally popular and it is a payment method which is on the decline.

A 2017 report commissioned by BNP Paribas found that cheque use fell by 13.5% in 2015, which followed a decade-long decline in the use of the paper payment from which has more than halved since the early years of the new century.

Why are fewer people using cheques?

It’s not hard to see why the use of cheques as a form of payment has fallen so rapidly. For a start, a payment by cheque can take longer to get into your account, and, as a result of this, more and more businesses are reluctant to accept cheques as payment.

The time taken for funds to be transferred is one major factor in the decline of cheque use but by no means the only one.

Processing cheques can take longer and incur costs and fees for all parties, with extra charges for cheques which bounce, also a factor that needs to be taken into account.

Why are Some Businesses Still Using Cheques for Payment?

There appears to be a sizeable number of businesses still using cheques as a form of payment, for a number of different reasons.

The majority of businesses still using cheques are usually small and medium firms with one of the primary reasons cited that it delays the time the funds will leave their own account, allowing them to better plan their finances.

Many SMEs also claim that they continue to use cheques for payment as it is the method they are most familiar with and that many payees continue to request as a form of payment.

While cash and electronic payments are the dominant form of payment for smaller amounts, there still a large number of individuals and business prepared to ‘cut a cheque’ to pay larger bills.



Advantages And Disadvantages Of Fabric Structures

While tensile structures offer great opportunities for covered areas, there are of course other construction methods by which a covered outdoor area can be achieved.

This brief articles aims to highlight the benefits of tensile fabric structures over other types of cover in an unbiased but practical manner. There will also be situations where alternative means to cover the area may be better, and we aim to bring these to your attention too.

One of the greatest benefits of tensile structures is that they are translucent. The woven base cloth combined with the appropriate coating allows a light transmission value of around 10%. This provides a very comfortable level of illumination compared to the full brightness of outside.

Glass and polycarbonate are also translucent, but the light levels under the canopy are going to remain quite similar to those outside, so on very bright days, these materials offer little respite.

The other factor that clearly puts fabric ahead of other materials is its clear span capabilities. Whereas all other possible roofing materials require rigid intermediate support, fabric can span from one boundary right across to the opposite side in one unbroken sweep. The advantages of this are that there are no awkward or difficult sealing details that need to be addressed.

Since the fabric has this amazing tensile capacity, the effect is to reduce the supporting framework to a minimum number of components, all working efficiently as a whole system. This in turn leads to a much more lightweight structure than other types of construction. A downside of this is that large foundations are often required in order to prevent the wind lifting the canopy and taking it away. However, in terms of cost, foundations are a lot easier and cheaper to prepare than visible, above ground constructions that are exposed to weather and damage.

A tensile canopy is a great solution for an entrance canopy. It acts both as a shelter for those leaving and entering the building and makes the entrance area clearly visible from a distance.

The 3d nature of most canopy structures is quite unique as a building form, so it quickly forms a visual focus of attention. If you use a more traditional structure, such as a tiled roof, or a flat glass or polycarbonate canopy, these are unlikely to stand out so clearly. In all potential canopy locations, you have to take into account the type of structure you wish to use. If you are connecting to a building, you need to know that there is adequate supporting structure to accommodate the expected loadings.

If there is no suitable structure within the existing building, it would be difficult to make any meaningful connections to that building for a tensile canopy, but sufficient anchorage might be achieved for a rigid type of construction. That said, it is nearly always possible to design the canopy in such a way that it imposes identical loads onto a building as a rigid canopy structure would, but in these cases, the cost of the additional engineering, steel fabrication and installation difficulties is likely to make it an uneconomical solution.

Another situation where a tensile canopy may not offer the best solution in terms of cost is where the fabric structure, although bespoke, is very small. It would still require that all connections are engineered and checked, it would still require for patterning to be carried out, the steel fabricator would still need to fabricate awkward angles and special corner plates, so the overall cost per square metre could be much higher than if a fixed structure was used instead. Essentially, fabric structures offer great economies of scale – small structures can cost three or four times more per square metre than larger structures. While this is true to a degree with all construction types, we believe the effect is much more extreme with tensile structures.

Fabric structures, if properly engineered and installed are virtually immune to damage and weathering. Providing that they are not likely to be susceptible to acts of vandalism or accidental damage from passing vehicles or falling objects, they provide a reassuringly simple and durable solution.

It’s also reassuring for the client that for all the bespoke structures we install, we supply full calculations to justify every component of the system, which means we’re not relying on a generic specification to cover all eventualities.

An often overlooked advantage of fabric structures is that all of the manufacturing takes place off site, in specialist membrane fabrication units and steel workshops. When the membrane, the steelwork, cables and all other associated parts are complete and taken to site, the actual site work can be completed very swiftly and with little disruption to other trades or the public.

There can’t be any other ways to cover a large piece of land as quickly as with a tensile structure. All other construction methods involve a lot more costly work on site, and often cause considerable disruption. If you think about it, with a fabric structure, it’s quite normal that the area to be covered is only “out of bounds” for a short while just prior to lifting the fabric and the bulk of the installation work will take place at the perimeter, out of most people’s way. Compare this with a rigid structure that needs the construction work to be carried out exactly where you don’t want people working and obstructing the route.

All roofing materials will of course collect dirt and debris on the surface, whether glass, polycarbonate, fabric or an opaque material. With glass or polycarbonate, the dirt can be clearly seen, however the light diffusing properties of the fabric mean that the surface dirt is not easily identified. It’s quite surprising how good a membrane can look from below, and then when you actually look at the top surface you find there’s quite a build up of dirt.

Coated fabrics have very good UV absorbing and reflection properties. That means it offers safe shade to all users, whilst providing very comfortable light levels.

The unique properties of light reflectance and transmission also offer exciting possibilities for lighting after dark. Directing lights under the canopy to reflect off the underside is a great way to use uplighters, but more even lighting can be achieved under the fabric by shining lights down on the fabric from above.

Finally, one biased opinion about fabric structures – they’re beautiful to look at, they’re great fun to design, exciting to install, and a delight to own. And they sound great in the rain!



Benefits Of Fabric Structures

1. Fabric structures offer an easy solution for large, wide-open covered spaces.

Architectural fabric structures requiring a large interior, wide-open space are known as clear span structures. They do not require internal support columns for reinforcement in the middle of the structure because the high strength architectural fabric only weighs between .15 to .20 pounds per square foot. The clear span width of an architectural fabric structure can range from 50 to 300 feet.

Many structures require the use of a clear span design, such as participative sporting facilities for football, soccer, tennis, baseball, and swimming pools; sports stadiums; amphitheaters; airport terminals; rail stations; churches; and other public gathering locations.

Many industrial applications such as warehouses, aircraft hangers, and bulk storage facilities also require a clear span structure. If you have a need in your design for a wide space that is clear of posts and beams, an architectural fabric structure is a good choice.

A large athletic pavilion in the city of Martensville, Saskatechewan, Canada, constructed as a dual-purpose athletic facility for use by the local high school and the city, regardless of the outdoor elements. Manufactured by Sprung Structures. Photo courtesy of Shelter-Rite

2. Fabric structures reduce construction and installation time.

The time required to design, manufacture, construct, and install a fabric structure is substantially shorter then that required for a conventional building. Many fabric structures are considered “pre-engineered” with most of the engineering already complete. The architectural fabric is pre-fabricated at the manufacturer and arrives at the job site in large panels, ready to cover thousands of square feet at one time. In addition, job site work, such as moving earth, pouring foundations and floor slabs, and erecting metal frames, can all take place at the same time as the production of the pre-fabricated panels.

We recently supplied fabric for a large project that involved a company needing 225,000 square feet of office space, as quickly as possible. After reviewing their options, they decided on a high end, architectural fabric structure, mainly because of the speed of installation. After the contract was awarded, the manufacturer of the pre-engineered, tension frame structure was able to fabricate and install in six months. The trades were all finished and the customer took occupancy within 11 months. This state-of-the art fabric structure met their needs and saved the company money and time. From the inside you would never know you are in a fabric structure.

3. Fabric structures give you the opportunity to create one-of-a-kind, eye-catching, and high-profile structures.

Architectural fabric structures can be high-profile and designed to incorporate high peaks and sweeping lines. A good example of this is the main terminal at the Denver International Airport. Fabric structures can also use a wide variety of colored fabrics; in fact, PVC-coated architectural fabrics can be color matched to meet any architect or building owners wishes. Often customers request a color match to coordinate with corporate or school colors. Designs can include any number of different colored fabrics used on the same structure, creating a dynamic appearance.

Almost clear and high-light transmission white fabrics can also be produced, which allow a lot of natural sunlight to enter during the day time and produces a glow when the interior lights up at night. Many fabric structures incorporate both high-light transmission fabrics with panels of opaque fabrics. This allows for some sunlight while still controlling the amount of thermal gain.

This custom-designed tension fabric structure using Shelter-Rite architectural fabric by Seaman Corporation. This durable and aesthetically dramatic structure, owned by Nautica Stage in Cleveland, Ohio, is an outdoor venue for concerts. Photo courtesy of Shelter-Rite

4. Fabric structures offer permanent, seasonal, or relocatable options.

Most architectural fabric structure designs are meant to be permanent. They can have an internal metal frame, use an internal mast and cables, or use only air to support the architectural fabric skin. The architectural fabric itself can last 20 to 30 years and be replaced with a new skin after that time, just like shingles or single-ply roof membrane. The metal frames, masts, and cables will last 50-plus years. Permanent fabric structures are frequently insulated with fiberglass or other lightweight insulation and must meet all local fire and safety codes, just like conventional buildings.

A great benefit of architectural fabric structures is the ability to design them to be seasonal or semi-permanent structures. Air-supported fabric structures can easily install over artificial sports turf fields to provide a recreational facility during the winter. The structures can come down in the spring and stored for the following season.

Architectural fabric structures designed to be permanent can also relocate to a new site if needed. This simply requires a foundation at the new location for reinstallation of the fabric skin and any supporting frame work.

5. Fabric structures are cost-effective.

Architectural fabric structures are frequently more cost-effective to cover a given space, especially if a large clear span structure is required. The cost of a fabric structure will vary depending on the type of fabric structure you are considering; air-supported fabric structures and pre-engineered frame structures will cost less than a custom designed fabric structure. 

Other factors affecting cost include selection of the architectural fabric, the use of insulation, lighting, and HVAC systems. In all cases, when you do a side-by-side comparison of a conventional brick and mortar building to an architectural fabric structure of the same size, the fabric structure will always be a lower cost. In some cases, the savings could be as much as 50% or more.

This L-shaped frame structure serves as the headquarters at Sprung Structures in Alberta, Canada. Installed in 2005, the Tedlar exterior shows very little difference in color to when it was installed. Photo courtesy of Shelter-Rite

6. Fabric structures are energy-efficient and sustainable.

Architectural fabric structures have many sustainability benefits. The first factor to consider is that a fabric structure is extremely lightweight, enabling you to cover very large areas with very little mass. It takes less raw materials and less energy consumption to produce architectural fabrics and deliver them to the building site. That said, these architectural fabrics will last 20-plus years, so you get a long-life with low mass and energy consumption.

Many of the key parts of an architectural fabric structure are recyclable or reusable at the end of its life. For many of these structures, the majority of the mass is the metal frames or steel masts and cables. These metal parts (steel or aluminum) are easily recycled. Many of the architectural membranes are also recyclable, but more frequently these items are repurposed for other applications.

If properly designed, architectural fabric structures can be as energy efficient as conventional buildings. Designs with full insulation and significant translucent fabric panels allow plenty of daylight to enter the space and reduce lighting needs.

Consider an Architectural Fabric Structure for Your Next Project

Considering the benefits and the variety of structures available, I feel a fabric structure is an excellent alternative to a brick and mortar building. It is ideal for large groups to gather under an enclosed space to work, play, watch, and socialize. Put aside your reluctancy to suggest an architectural fabric structure and explore the possibilities for your next project. What’s holding you back?



Tips on How To Prevent Online Gambling Fraud 

Top Mobile Games 2017

Anyone who engages in online gambling understands that there’s a significant element of risk involved. Playing games of chance and letting the odds determine your fate always carries some danger that you’ll end up losing, but the rules you’re playing by are supposed to be fair.

Fraudsters upend this delicate balance by forcing themselves into online gambling scenarios where they can cheat, hack, and steal to take advantage of both the house and other players. How is fraud impacting the world of online gambling, and what can merchants to do get this problem under control?

New call-to-actionOnline credit card fraud is a huge problem for every merchant in e-commerce, from huge multinational corporations to small businesses serving niche markets. The total cost of cybercrime in the United States amounts to several billion dollars each year, and a significant portion of that financial burden falls directly on the merchants who sell goods and services over the internet. The costs of e-commerce fraud come back to bite merchants in multiple different ways.

The most direct cost is the revenue lost to online fraud, but it doesn’t stop there. Merchants also suffer damage to their customer relationships, as victims wonder, fairly or not, why the establishments they trusted didn’t do more to protect their money.

Merchants who process fraudulent transactions also get hit with added fees and higher processing rates by their acquirers and payment processors, and all of this takes place before chargebacks rear their ugly heads.

How Does Fraud Affect Online Gambling?

Fraud can reduce online gambling profits and damage the reputation of merchants in an industry where trust can be hard to come by. High fraud rates also make merchants more likely to have their accounts terminated.

Online gambling is both increasingly popular and highly restricted. It’s one of the fastest-growing markets in e-commerce, with a CAGR of just under 12%, but most US states don’t allow online gambling. The legal and moral peripheries that gambling inhabits in the eyes of many have long made it appealing to fraudsters.

Most forms of online fraud involve the use of a compromised credit card belonging to an innocent third party. When the cardholder finds out they’ve been victimized by fraud, they can demand a chargeback to get their unauthorized transaction reversed. For the merchant, this results in both the loss of the transaction amount and the levying of a chargeback fee.

The credit card networks monitor chargeback activity and may require merchants with “excessive” fraud and chargeback rates to take concrete steps to bring their numbers down.

Merchants who are unable to do so may have their accounts terminated and be forced to contract with “high risk” payment processors. As online gambling merchants are often categorized as “high risk” by default, a chargeback problem can quickly limit their options for affordably and reliably accepting credit card payments.

In addition, merchants categorized as high risk are often given less leeway when chargeback and fraud rates climb too high. Visa, for example, imposes additional fines for merchants with high rates of fraud or chargebacks at two levels: standard and excessive. Merchants categorized as high risk, however, skip the standard level and are placed at the excessive level immediately, resulting in higher fees and fines.

What Are the Most Common Types of Online Gambling Fraud?

A few of the common types of fraud merchants in the online gambling industry encounter are multiple account fraud, credit card fraud, and chargeback fraud.

It’s always good to be wary of fraud that takes unexpected forms—fraudsters know the extent of the resources deployed to stop them and will often try novel approaches to get around these defenses. Certain fraud schemes, however, are seen time and time again.

Multiple Account Fraud

The most common way fraudsters try to give themselves an advantage in online gambling is by controlling multiple user accounts. Fraudsters often create multiple accounts using different devices and IP addresses to try to avoid detection. Once the fraudster controls several accounts, there are a number of common schemes they may engage in:

Gnoming: This refers to the process of creating multiple accounts with the same bookmaker. In its least harmful form, gnoming may be used to circumvent maximum bet limitations. In other cases, these fake accounts may be used to more directly influence outcomes.

Bonus Abuse: Fraudsters create numerous fake accounts in order to take advantage of special offers for new customers. Fraudsters will often withdraw funds and abandon these accounts quickly once they’ve served their purpose, making the threat of account closure negligible.

Chip Dumping: A common method of fraud in online poker, where the fraudster controls multiple accounts at the same poker table in order to manipulate the game in favor of one of those accounts, thereby winning chips from the other players at the table.

Credit Card Fraud

Download your copy of An Introductory Guide to E-Commerce Fraud Prevention
It’s extremely common to see fraudsters using stolen credit cards at gambling sites. If they can get the card to work, they can quickly and easily cash out, allowing them to launder cash from the large batches of stolen payment credentials that are readily available on the dark web.

Chargeback Fraud

Also known as friendly fraud, this is when a legitimate customer files a chargeback under false pretenses to get their money back. It’s often seen in online gambling, where someone who just lost a lot of money can simply call up their bank, claim that their card was used without their permission, and get reimbursed for their gambling losses.

How Can Merchants Prevent Online Gambling Fraud?

The best way to protect against online fraud is to know who your customers are and what accounts they’re accessing. This is easier said than done when fraudsters are working hard to circumvent your defenses, but methods such as device fingerprinting and fraud prevention software can help.

Identity verification services that look at a user’s IP address, geolocation, email address, device fingerprints, and other identifying data, along with strong passwords and two-factor authentication requirements, can ensure that you know who’s really using your site.

These services can be bolstered with fraud prevention software that conducts automated risk scoring, putting additional scrutiny and verification requirements on suspicious accounts without adding friction to the experiences of known and trusted users.

Ultimately, there’s no getting around the fact that online gambling sites are especially attractive to fraudsters.

That means that online gambling merchants often have no choice but to uphold higher than average standards of security and identity verification in order to reach the same levels of protection that the typical merchant enjoys.

When online fraud comes back to haunt you in the form of chargebacks, it’s important to choose your response carefully. While you can’t fight a true fraud chargeback, a vigorous defense is the best remedy against chargeback fraud. Don’t leave the outcome of these cases up to a twist of fate—with compelling evidence, a strong cover letter, and the facts on your side, you can fight and beat these chargebacks.



Does Being Fascinated with Ethnic Ambiguity Affects Plastic Surgery Trends


On the cosmetic treatment informational platform RealSelf, surgeons around the United States submit before-and-after pictures of their patients. For a particular procedure called double eyelid surgery, also known as blepharoplasty, you’ll find around 1,000 example images. The people in the photos vary in age and gender, but one recurring factor is their ethnicity. The operation is sometimes called Asian eyelid surgery because the procedure involves creating a crease in a monolid upper eyelid, which is a common eye shape in people of Asian descent. In short, the operation has the effect of toning down the ‘Asianness’ of that particular feature, and on RealSelf’s site almost 90 percent of double-eyelid surgery patients say it’s “worth it.”

Blepharoplasty is the most popular cosmetic surgery in Asia and the third most popular amongst Asian Americans. Asia has a robust and unabashed relationship with plastic surgery. It’s so socially prevalent, it can be openly credited with someone’s aesthetic improvement in the same manner as, say, finishing puberty. And in the West, the stigma of cosmetic enhancement is dissipating.

Celebrities are publicly thanking their frequented clinics, and leagues of popular social media accounts are dedicated to documenting celebrities’ alleged cosmetic upkeep. “Botox babies” are so common now, the New York Times wrote a whole story about them. We collectively cackle at our selfies taken with the “pillow face” filter, which mimics the effects of getting too much filler. The days of clinics offering a backdoor entrance for discretion feel distant — just ask Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery founders and Bling Empire stars Christine Chiu, who both owns BHPS and is a producer on the Netflix series, and dermatologist Gabriel Chiu. Their clinic is situated in a ground-floor storefront.

But for Asian Americans, the more openly pro-surgery attitude in the West brings with it some interesting developments, creating a demand for a face tweaked and blended with Western features, and in some cases, strongly informed by an unrealistic Instagram aesthetic. But it’s not only Asian Americans who are gravitating towards this look. A growing obsession with ethnic ambiguity in the U.S. is changing beauty standards to include a mix of features from different races and ethnicities (like the almond-shaped eyes prominent in many East Asian people).

The Asian American Aesthetic

For inhabitants of East Asian countries, a proclivity for Western “corrections” remains. South Korea, for example, is home to the highest plastic surgery rate per capita. With regard to cosmetic adjustment, double-eyelid surgery is just the tip of the Westernization iceberg. Things start to get a little different when you consider the Asian American beauty aesthetic.

“Asian American standards follow the Western beauty standards, but even more closely: more contouring, more highlights, bigger, better,” shares Christine. “Whether it’s cheeks or jawline, breasts or butt, everything is highly carved… [The Asian look] is youthful and genteel, kind of fading away as much as possible.”

” I am seeing much more interest in Eastern aesthetic surgery even amongst my non-Asian patients.”

The procedure that bridges both Eastern and Western Asian beauty ideals, apparently, is the nose job. New York-based board-certified facial plastic surgeon Edward S. Kwak specializes in rhinoplasty for Asian patients, in which he says “treatments are made to address a poorly-defined tip and bridge.” In effect, this creates a higher bridge and a more traditionally Eurocentric nose shape. However, Kwak says over the course of his 15 years in practice, he’s seen the globalization of beauty with “more of a blend of beauty standards between the Eastern and the Western face.”

“I frequently have patients come in with photos of their ideal goals. In the past, the models skewed more towards traditional Western beauty,” says Kwak. “Now I am seeing much more interest in Eastern aesthetic surgery even amongst my non-Asian patients.”

Social Media and Unrealistic Expectations

Orange County-based board-certified plastic surgeon Goretti Ho Taghva opened her clinic in part because she felt that plastic surgery failed to represent her own “ideals of beauty” as an Asian woman. Classical medical training, she says, is “heavily based on Caucasian anatomy that in many cases isn’t applicable to treating Asian faces.” A few years ago, she noticed an influx of celebrity-influenced Asian patients wanting “exaggerated features” like large eyelid creases, high nose bridges, and fuller foreheads (achieved through fat transfer). Taghva is particularly uncomfortable with some of her patients’ expectations: the huge eyes, button noses, and perfectly full mouths informed by photoshopped social media posts filtered through third-party apps.

“If it seemed like something that was going to stay as a beauty enhancement then I would do it for that patient”

“[Beauty camera] apps like Meitu have made some of the beauty ideals unattainable, and sometimes quite strange looking in my opinion,” Taghva says. “What makes me most anxious are patients who have poor self image but also unrealistic expectations.”

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery experiences similar requests. “Something that comes up a lot, too, is anime: cartoon-y big eyes and shaved face and translucent skin,” notes Christine. Gabriel adds that while social media has enhanced the desire for “refinements” in lieu of major surgery, “flipping through your phone there are a lot of filters that are very unreasonable.”

Gabriel unravels the rationale for cosmetic enhancement with each of his patients. Christine says he often reminds her of a “therapist” in his attempts to devise whether his patients are seeking an adjustment to genuinely benefit their mental and physical health, or simply follow a trend. In the case of the “fox-eye” look, Gabriel attempts to dissuade consultees, fearing the trend may not last. “If it seemed like something that was going to stay as a beauty enhancement then I would do it for that patient,” he says.

The Fetishization of the Eurasian Face

Each doctor we spoke to notes that the prevailing shift among their patients — Asian or otherwise — is age. As procedures have become less invasive and social media has decreased their stigma, the younger generation is both looking to delay aging as well as, Gabriel articulates, better “refine” their features. Specifically, a newfound obsession with the jawline has arrived — and no where is this more evident than on TikTok. Along with increased interest in gua sha and treatments like Kybella (which reduces the appearance of a double chin), Kwak says that amongst his clientele, he has seen an upswing in Asian American patients in their 20s and 30s seeking to reduce facial jowling and remove buccal fat beneath the cheekbones to contour the face into a heart shape (for reference of a heart-shaped face, see Bella Hadid).

“In general, beauty trends tend to be highly influenced by the media,” says Kwak, who claims to be “uncomfortable” with patients seeking surgery based on trends alone. “These requests [often] propose changes a focal point of the face rather than creating balance and harmony.”

“It really depends on your surroundings and the culture you’re in,” explains Gabriel. “On social media, television, and in print, you have images of people you find attractive or look up to. So you see what’s popular; if nine of your friends are doing this thing, you’re going to give it a try for yourself.”

There’s little wonder why so many Asian Americans readily subscribe to Western beauty. Hollywood and the fashion and beauty industries alike have long privileged Asian talent with distinctly Eurocentric features. Kevin Chung, a talent agent in New York City who is well-known for speaking on the white-washing of Asian models and Asian appropriation, recently shared on Instagram a casting brief that reportedly called for two Asian models with “oval faces,” “pale skin,” and “very beautiful mouth/lips and nose.” “Just say you want an Asian who looks white,” Chung responded on social media.

Even when attempting to be inclusive, these industries often fall short. “It feels lazy to stick a very Chinese-looking [model] in a beauty campaign and say, that’s our job, we threw in an Asian,” says Christine. “The ‘China look’ isn’t a one-size-fits-all look for Asian Americans.”

Surgical Appropriation

For many, the adoption of an “Eastern aesthetic” among non-Asian people has raised red flags of appropriation. The “fox eye” trend, where the skin around the forehead has been stretched up and back for a dramatic almond-shaped eye, has been fueled by social media and people’s desire to emulate the look of models with similar eye shapes, like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. The fox eye effect is usually achieved by threading (which, Gabriel notes, is temporary and leaves scar tissue) or a more permanent temporal brow lift.

The last several years have seen many try to mimic this effect non-surgically for their social media followings by pulling back their skin for pictures. Chung has been a vocal advocate for the eradication of the forehead-tugging pose and has posted repeatedly on the subject. In an Instagram post last year, he wrote that for Asian Americans, “It’s taken many of us our entire lives to love our eye shape, and it’s inappropriate for others to turn this into a ‘trend’… I am truly so dumbfounded by the stupidity and ignorance.”

“Why not build a campaign celebrating the beautiful Asian almond eye? ”

The Chius are similarly uncomfortable. “I’ve been personally made fun of by a seven-year-old [saying] I had ‘ching chong eyes,'” says Christine. “If there wasn’t an association with a racial aesthetic, then it might be different. Why not build a campaign celebrating the beautiful Asian almond eye? By instead attributing it to an animal, it feels like a slap in the face.”

“[It’s] Asian appropriation,” echoes Gabriel. “And crazily enough, certain people didn’t want to attribute it to where it began and compliment a culture for their look.”

At this point, cultural appropriation by the dominant society seems par for the course. But no matter how homogenous the Facetuned and filtered Western beauty ideals appear on Instagram, Kwak says a wide spectrum of individual preferences still prevails among his Asian patients. While cosmetic trends undoubtedly persist, as will so-called universally-attractive features, representation will always be key to avoiding nip-tuck uniformity — and that’s 100 percent worth it.



Benefits Of Couple Therapy On Your Relationship

Couples therapy (also referred to as marital therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling, etc.) is a specialized type of family therapy where romantic partners are the targets of the intervention or therapy. Family therapy is a specialized type of group therapy where more than one client who is related is treated by one or more therapists at the same time (in the same sessions).

Therapists or counselors who perform couples therapy come from diverse backgrounds, including specialized marriage and family therapy programs, clinical psychology programs, counseling programs, social work programs, etc. In addition, the therapist or counselor performing couples therapy can use any number of different counseling or therapeutic orientations that can include the cognitive-behavioral paradigm, psychoanalytic paradigm, humanistic paradigm, etc.

Individuals seeking the assistance of couples therapy would be best advised to choose a therapist who has training and experience in this type of intervention. It is important always to ask the potential therapist or counselor about their background and credentials before committing to treatment with them. This can ensure that the therapist has the right background to address the couple’s specific needs.

Why Couples Therapy?

Long-term relationships require an investment of time, energy, and commitment. In most cases, partners can address issues without professional help. However, in some cases, partners may need professional assistance to give them a different perspective on their issues and to help them work together.

Research into the factors that are associated with successful therapeutic or counseling outcomes indicates that both the working bond between the therapist and clients, and the motivation and commitment of the clients regarding wanting to change and being willing to work toward change, are important factors in successful treatment outcomes. When couples have waited too long and decided that they no longer wish to invest the time and energy into maintaining the relationship, even the most skilled and committed therapist is significantly challenged in helping them.

 Part of the issue is that there is a misconception that getting into therapy should be a last ditch effort for couples. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While couples therapy can be effective at resolving serious long-term issues for couples, it is not a panacea that can correct every issue. Like all interventions, it works best if it can be initiated early enough for the individuals involved in the treatment to benefit from it.

Assumptions and Goals of Couples Therapy

Therapists specializing in couples therapy first attempt to learn and understand how the particular structure of the relationship is related to the issues that have brought the couple in for treatment and then they address those issues. Issues that bring couples in for treatment can be quite varied and can include feelings of resentment, declining displays of affection, financial issues, infidelity, and substance abuse issues. The ultimate goal of the therapist is to strengthen the relationships between the couple, help them to communicate, and address their particular issues in a manner that reduces stress and allows the couple to work together.

Although different therapists who use different approaches will vary in their conceptualization and approach in how to address the specific issues of the couple, according to the book Couples Counseling.

  • The partners represent separate individuals who have an independent existence as well as being part of the family unit. An individual’s personal experience can either contribute or detract from their bond and relationship with their partner.
  • The couple’s relationship is also a separate and intertwined entity that interacts with both individuals.
  • Events occurring to a member of the couple not only affect them as a person but can also influence their partner.
  • Events that are shared by the couple also affect them individually.
  • Events can affect the relationship in a negative fashion and result in dysfunctional relationships. There can be numerous issues here that can include keeping secrets, isolation, issues with trust, issues with attention, issues with control, and the development of alliances outside the relationship.

The above issues can be related to numerous factors associated with the relationship, including issues with infidelity, seemingly being indifferent to one’s partner, financial issues, other disagreements, etc. When these issues affect the couple, they may also affect the individual. Feelings of depression, anxiety, or being overstressed, etc., can lead to the development of other issues, including problems with substance abuse or infidelity. The couples therapist attempts to understand the issues from both the individual perspective of each member and from the perspective of the couple as a unit. Then, the therapist attempts to restore or develop a more functional approach to dealing with issues and to having the couple work together on their problems. The idea is to get the couple to work together as a unit and not to place blame on either one of them, although in some instances, it may be clear that one member of the partnership is acting in a manner that contributes to the problem to a greater degree than the other.

According to the book Counseling and Therapy for Couples, the therapist then attempts to:

  • Establish clear goals for the therapy based on the needs and desires of the couple
  • Focus on the specific issues affecting the couple
  • Treat the relationship itself as opposed to focusing on one individual separately (In some cases, the therapist may recommend individual therapy for one or both of the members of the partnership if the therapist deems that they need additional and more specialized treatment.)
  • Attempt to adopt a change-oriented and solution-focused approach to treatment

The process typically begins with an interview and assessment of the relationship, including its history, the values of the members, their cultural background, etc. The therapist then assists the couple in identifying the specific issues that need to be addressed and developing goals for treatment. The therapist attempts to help the couple gain insight into the dynamics of the relationship that affect and maintain their issues and then tries to help them change these problems.

Even though understanding the needs and patterns of the relationship is important for the couple, it is also important that the therapy is solution-focused and addresses the specific issues that brought the couple to the therapist. The therapist typically works with couples in sessions in order to help them understand one another, develop new skills, and address their goals. The therapist then assigns homework to the couple that helps them address their issues in the real world.

Who Should Be Involved in Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is appropriate for any relationship. Couples therapy can be effective over all ages, all ethnic groups, and all socioeconomic statuses. In addition, couples who are dating, engaged, married, living together for years, etc., are able to experience the benefits of couples therapy. The therapy can be used to resolve current problems, address issues with parenting, address issues with conflict, issues with stress, etc., to apply the skills they have learned in therapy to their day-to-day interactions.

Most couples come away from couples therapy with gained insight into their relational patterns, increased emotional expression, and the skills necessary to communicate and problem-solve with their partners more effectively.

The book Foundations of Couples, Marriage, and Family Counseling lists numerous benefits of couples therapy that include:

  • Understanding how to resolve conflicts in a healthy manner
  • The development of communication skills that will foster a healthy relationship
  • Learning how to be assertive without being offensive
  • Learning how to express one’s needs without resentment or anger
  • Learning acceptance and forgiveness
  • Actually processing and working through unresolved issues, as the therapeutic environment allows the couple to express their feelings in a safe environment
  • A deeper understanding of oneself and of one’s partner
  • The ability to address and work through a crisis (e.g., the death of an important family member)
  • Increased honesty and trust
  • The development of a supportive environment where partners learn to avoid issues with isolation and apathy

In general, five major areas are addressed:

  1. The intervention helps both partners conceptualize their relationship in a more objective manner, stop blaming, and understand that what happens to them happens to them together. The partners change their views of the relationship in a more positive manner and approach their relationship in a manner more conductive to keeping them together as a unit.
  2. Dysfunctional behaviors are modified, such that the partners learn to act in manners that do not need to psychological, physical, or emotional harm. In some cases, such as domestic violence, the therapist may recommend that one partner be referred to a shelter. In other cases, the therapist can work with partners on the relationship aspects and may recommend individual treatment, such as anger management or substance use disorder treatment for a partner, depending on the issue being addressed.
  3. Communication is improved by fostering closeness and commitment to one another. Often, the therapist coaches the partners on how to communicate in a more supportive and effective manner. Empathy and understanding are stressed.
  4. Emotional isolation or avoidance is decreased. The therapist assists individuals who are reluctant or even fearful to express their feelings to their partner to learn to do so in a manner that promotes sharing and intimacy.
  5. The therapy emphasizes the strength of the relationship and each partner, and uses these strengths to help the individuals develop themselves and their relationships.

By working through issues together, the couple can reconnect with one another, learn to address future issues in a healthy manner, and resolve any feelings of resentment or anger that detract from the relationship. The goal of the therapist is to help the couple develop a more proactive and healthier approach to dealing with their issues and to keep the couple working together as a unit. However, couples therapy cannot fix every issue.

When Couples Therapy May Not Be Effective

Counseling or therapy is not magical. A large meta-analytic study published in the journal Contemporary Family Therapy in 2015 supported the overall effectiveness of couples therapy, but not every couple in therapy experienced a successful outcome. Just becoming involved in therapy and going to sessions is not sufficient for the resolution of issues. The Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy lists several conditions that often detract from the effectiveness of couples therapy.

  • The therapist does not recognize that one of the members needs to address specific personal issues that affect the couple, such as past abuse or trauma, substance abuse issues, or specific mental health disorders, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, etc.
  • One or both partners are reluctant to discuss the personal details of their problems with the therapist. Often, this falls on the therapist to get the couple to disclose their issues; however, some couples/individuals may never be forthright or comfortable discussing their personal feelings, issues, etc.
  • One or both partners continue to practice infidelity despite attending sessions.
  • One of the partners is not committed to working on the relationship (e.g., one of the partners is forced into attending sessions, has already decided that they want a divorce, is not motivated to do the work, etc.).
  • The goals of the intervention are not clear and the couple or the therapist has not identified specific goals to be accomplished.
  • The therapist or the particular intervention is a bad match for the clients. Typically, the therapist should recognize this and suggest that the couples try a different approach or refer them to a more suitable therapist.



The Benefits Of Couple Counselling

Couples Counselling can be of huge benefit to any relationship, regardless of the nature or severity of your problems. With the help of a professional therapist, couples can learn to manage conflict, improve their bond and create healthier communication habits. Research shows that the positive outcomes of couples counselling can last for years after therapy ceases.

Below are just a few of the major benefits that can come out of couples counselling:

  • Improved communication
  • Deeper connection and renewed intimacy
  • Re-negotiating commitments and making decisions.

Couples generally come to couples counselling when they realise that their relationship is in trouble. Sometimes the problem is so significant, or has been ignored for so long, that the relationship is already in severe crisis. Ideally, a couple will seek help as soon as they realise they’re struggling to solve problems on their own.

The way a couple interacts, their communication style and way they manage conflict can predict, with significant accuracy, whether a relationship lasts or not. The sooner problems are addressed and resolved, the less chance there is that the couple will hit crisis point or that the relationship will dissolve.

No relationship is ever entirely smooth sailing. Sometimes the problems are overtly present from the beginning of the relationship, sometimes they surface after years of being together, or as a result of unexpected stresses. Whatever trouble your relationship is in, almost all couples can benefit from couples or relationship counselling at some stage in their relationship. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney)


In order to understand how relationship counselling can benefit your relationship, it is first important to understand what couples counselling is and why couples attend. In short, relationship counselling takes place with a professional counsellor, psychologist or therapist and is primarily focused on helping a couple resolve issues that are causing distress or distance between them. Although we tend to think of relationship counselling as being limited to romantic relationships, it can also include other family relationships, friendships and work relationships.

In some cases, the issues are substantial, like chronic or constant fighting, infidelity, or struggling with differences in sexual desire. In other cases, a couple may attend relationship counselling to help them make decisions about something specific, like where to live, whether to get married or whether to have a baby. Sometimes couples come to relationship counselling as a way of understanding each other better and making a more informed decision about a long-term commitment.

Many couples find themselves choosing relationship counselling as a method of helping themselves through difficult periods or periods of transition in their relationship.


The primary benefits of couples counselling include:-

1. improving the way you communicate with one another, reducing the number and intensity of your arguments, enhancing your understanding of each other’s needs and reactions
2. revitalising lost intimacy and restoring a sense of loving connection in your relationship
3. negotiating or re-negotiating commitments. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney)

Each of these benefits is considered in greater detail below.


A relationship is made up of individuals, and as individuals, we bring our own personal history, personality, needs, hopes and desires to our relationships. As a result, even the most exceptional couple will not see eye to eye on every issue. Coming together with another human being to share our lives, or part of our lives, requires discussion, compromise, negotiation and communication.

Our ability to communicate with our partner – to share our own needs and fears, and to listen properly to their needs and fears – is therefore an essential tool for any healthy relationship. Australian research shows that communication problems are the main cause of relationship breakdown.

A qualified couples or relationship counsellor is trained to recognise and challenge your current communication habits, and to teach you how to communicate more effectively with one another. Often, just being encouraged to talk openly and honestly during your couples counselling session can already set you on the path to more open and calmer communication.
Strong communication skills (talking and listening) will allow you to resolve problems big and small, and will help keep your relationship strong even during times of severe stress.


The early stages of a new relationship are generally filled with emotional intensity, strong sexual desire for each other, and feelings of warmth and generosity towards one another. During this ‘honeymoon period’, the attraction and excitement is strong and couples often want to spend a great deal of time bonding. Over time these feelings become less intense as the novelty and excitement wears off, and couples can find their general relationship satisfaction declines.

The daily grind may also interfere with quality time spent together and couples can start to lose their sense of connectedness. Some people find they’re too tired to enjoy each other sexually. Or perhaps we are simply allowing minor irritations about our partner’s habits to get in the way of our deeper feelings. Whatever the cause, lost intimacy and feelings of agitation towards each other are not uncommon amongst couples who have been together for an extended period of time. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney)

Indeed, long term couples often find that they actually need to spend less time together in order to restore their sense of personal identity and individuality. This process commonly recurs from time to time during a relationship – a couple may go through many different periods where they come together and then pull apart to become individuals again. This process of separation may take the form of an emotional separation, or it might be more practical – one member of the couple might decide to study again, embark on a new career, or pursue a new interest. One way to think of this is as a pulsating circle. As the circle of the couple comes together and intensifies the pulse becomes brighter. But from time to time, the couple needs a breather and pulls apart in order to recharge and reconnect with themselves, only to be drawn back together again.

Whilst this process of coming together and then pulling apart to individuate is a normal developmental phase of any relationship it can place enormous pressure on the relationship. A qualified relationship or couples counsellor can help a couple understand each other through this process and help restore lost emotional and physical closeness.


One of the most problematic areas for couples can be focused on commitment. Commitments can take many shapes and forms, including a commitment to the relationship itself, a commitment to having children or a commitment to supporting a particular career choice or life path. We all have fears and concerns about making commitments on some level. Working with a relationship or couples counsellor can assist both members of the couple to voice their concerns and fears about what the commitment will mean to them and how it may change their relationship.

One of the ways in which a counsellor or psychologist can be of assistance is to not only help with airing concerns and fears, but also in negotiating responsibilities that may arise as a result of making a new commitment within the relationship. For example, if a couple decides together that one of them will begin new studies in order to pursue a new career path, that may change family and home maintenance responsibilities for both of them. Working with a professional relationship counsellor can help the couple to reach clear and workable agreements.


Tori and Emily have been together as a couple for almost 10 years. While they love each other dearly and have committed to raising Emily’s daughter, Stacy, together, they both feel as if they are drifting in the relationship. One night as Emily is preparing for bed, she realises that she is actually looking forward to a time when she has the house to herself and does not have to worry about Tori’s work intruding on her. As she realises that what she really wants is to reclaim some space and time to herself, Emily suggests that she and Tori attend relationship counselling to help them negotiate some changes in their relationship. Emily is clear that she does not want the relationship to end, but she does want some changes in how she and Tori spend their time together. She also knows that if she brings the topic up with Tori on her own, Tori will spin into her own insecurities and it will blow up into a big fight between them. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney)

With the help of a relationship counsellor, Emily is able to talk to Tori calmly and clearly about what she needs for herself and why she needs it. She is able to talk to Tori about needing an outlet for her own emotional needs and a source of emotional growth that she can then bring back to the relationship and share with Tori. Emily is able to clearly state to Tori that she loves Tori, but that she needs to find her way to herself again. Even more importantly, the couples counsellor helps Tori to be able to really hear Emily’s needs, and actually empathise with her. In this way, she is able to see Emily’s desire for some separation as a personal need that Emily has, and not as a reflection on her


If you and your partner feel you would benefit from relationship counselling or you are eager to learn how to connect more deeply and emotionally, you may find that talking with a professional counsellor, psychologist or therapist may be helpful. For more information or to schedule a consultation with a qualified counsellor, contact Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors Sydney.



The Benefits Of Coworking Space

You’ll meet other inspiring professionals at coworking spaces.

Unlike a group of employees who work in an office, in the traditional sense, a coworking space is the professional home for people who have all sorts of jobs and talents.

Before I left home to travel and work remotely, I had never worked in the same room as web developers, graphic artists, software salespeople and e-commerce specialists.

Coworking spaces introduced me to so many types of professions I didn’t even know existed, and to the types of people who have these professions. Just being around the buzz of people coding websites, writing novels and designing startups was far from the corporate talk and dry meetings I’d known to be an integral part of ‘professional life.’ It was awe-inspiring.

Coworking spaces are more inspiring than a traditional office.

Have you ever done work with your laptop while in a human-sized net? On a deck? In a cubby?

All in one day, while coworking at Selina in Medellin, Colombia, I did two of these three things (can you guess which?) and there are many other types of creative designs with which coworking spaces have been planned.

Sometimes switching your surroundings is the best inspiration of all, which is why the best coworking spaces have been designed with meditation rooms, outdoor deck space, social kitchens, high-top tables, couches, zip lines… you name it.

Some coworking spaces are open 24/7.

While not all coworking spaces are open 24/7, you can usually find one that is, in some of the best cities for working remotely.

That makes it easy in case you need to work late, come in early or take a call on the weekend. You might not even be alone, when working on an urgent deadline or packing in some work on a Sunday in order to get ahead for the week.


We recommend remembering that working TOO much is one of the biggest mistakes to avoid when you work remotely, so keep that in mind – a healthy work-life balance is key!

Coworking spaces usually host activities and networking events.

At Comunal Coworking in Lima, Peru, I attended a weekly event called Spanglish, where English-speaking professionals have the opportunity to link up with Spanish speakers and answer get-to-know-you questions in the form of a language exchange.

Not only was it fun, but I walked away with some new colloquial Spanish knowledge and some new people to say hi to in the workspace for the next few weeks.

Coworking spaces are making it possible to work remotely and travel.

If you want to figure out how to work remotely and travel, coworking abroad may be an option, or a solution, foryou.

In Medellin, Colombia, I met a bunch of digital nomad professionals who had been traveling anywhere from months to years, mostly alone. They would seek cool coworking spaces wherever they went, in order to have consistent WiFi, a guaranteed spot at a workspace setup and the familiarity of seeing familiar faces day after day.

This is how coworking spaces are a more consistent solution to working remotely and traveling than doing work from coffee shops and restaurants or hostel lobbies.

Coworking spaces show that it’s not crazy to be a freelancer.

The digital revolution, the rise of remote work and all the factors that have made creative careers possible have given many people the opportunity to start their own businesses and begin freelancing. Freelancing only became possible for me once I became in-tune with the remote work lifestyle and the belief that work can take place anywhere.

This drift from the traditional full-time office job has naturally allowed for coworking spaces to be places where freelancers can feel like they fit in perfectly. In fact, there’s no better place to be a freelancer than at a coworking space – where else would you find community, while meeting individuals so similar as well?


It’s no surprise that coworking spaces and ‘digital slowmading’ for freelancers have made it to our list of the top trends in the future of remote work this year!

Coworking spaces encourage entrepreneurship.

As I mentioned above, coworking spaces are for those who work remotely already, or any group of employees working for a small company that has sought office space at a coworking space.

Coworking spaces (due to being a relatively new phenomenon) are usually somewhat newly-built and therefore have incorporated creative and modern designs into their builds.

Entrepreneurship, because it can be so outside-the-box, requires a certain level of inspirational environment as well. Whether you and your team are a total three people or fifteen, being in a coworking space and using all its dynamic locations and benefits will likely inspire new ideas.

Some coworking spaces offer multi-city memberships.

As coworking spaces rise in popularity along with the increase in professionals who work remotely, coworking spaces that have multiple locations bring a great benefit.

If you’ve read this far into the article, you’ve probably heard of WeWork, one of the most global coworking space brands. Dan and I have worked from WeWorks in Colombia and the US. More on the ‘digital nomad’ side of coworking spaces are the Selina spaces, which are often coupled with traveler hostels, making for a type of ‘coliving’ experience abroad.

Check out our list of the best cities for working remotely, which were rated by us on the availability of coworking spaces.

A coworking space community manager will help curate your experience.

A coworking space community manager is typically a person whose job is to make sure that your coworking experience is excellent.

This person will typically send community newsletters that detail new members or new companies joining the space, upcoming events and opportunities to give feedback about what you’d like to see.

Depending on the size of the coworking space, there may be several community managers who manage a single floor out of many. Typically it’s a great idea to become friendly with the community manager so that you can make sure you’ll be getting the most out of your coworking space membership.

No one will shame you for working from a hammock, cubby or outdoor space.

In a traditional office, if you’re not at your desk, your coworkers may wonder where you are. Or, their assumptions could jump to the fact that you are slacking off. Worse yet, they could think you left for the day, if they don’t notice that you’re indeed online. There are so many misconceptions that can occur when people take ‘being at your desk’ very literally.

At a coworking space, the ‘desk’ has a new meaning. Your desk can be wherever you feel comfortable, whether it’s outside at an outdoor table under an umbrella or sitting at the bar in the social area near the cold brew coffee. This is one of my favorite parts about a coworking space, personally – that your ‘desk’ has a new meaning.

Coworking spaces help reduce anxiety and loneliness for remote workers.

For remote workers or people who’ve started working from home, figuring out how to avoid burnout and isolation are real concerns. Anxiety and solitude often stem from feeling isolated while working from home or working alone without any company.

Coworking spaces help solve these issues by providing a constant social (or, as social as you choose to be) atmosphere, where you’ll see other humans and you can continue to meet people and make meaningful connections.


Still looking for more meaningful ways to stay connected while working remotely? Don’t miss our list of ways to stay connected virtually, even when you’re working remotely and traveling.

While coworking spaces are not the answer for everyone, especially if you don’t live very close to one and would need to commute, they do solve the problem of feeling alone while working remotely. This is one of the greatest benefits of coworking spaces by far.

Coworking spaces give stability and routine to digital nomads.

Being a digital nomad can be overwhelming – the freedom to make your own remote work schedul, work in different time zones and figure out how to balance productivity and motivation.

One of the biggest struggles of becoming a digital nomad, for me, was sticking to a schedule and making weekdays feel like weekdays, and weekends feel like weekends, before I had a coworking space to go to.

Going to a coworking space brings back the feeling of going to an office, but it’s an office – rather, a work environment – that you choose, if you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or digital nomad on the road.

Going to the same coworking space day after day creates more of a sense of belonging and routine than going to a cafe that might be closed some days, or may have no more available seats, or outlets, at the time you show up for sitting down at your favorite table.

Going to a coworking space is more social than working from home. It’s easier to focus at a coworking space than at home because you can’t slack off and start cleaning. It’s also easier to be productive and stay motivated at a coworking space where you see lots of people working, compared with a cafe, where there may be some kids running around distracting you, or a cute puppy, or the rattling sound of an espresso machine interrupting a call you had to take (I’ve been there!).