Author Archives: Curtis Stevens

Is Everyone Hypnotizable?

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on February 28, 2012 10:35 am

I’ve been asked if everyone is hypnotizable.  My answer to them is never a straight yes or no.  I truly believe that everyone is hypnotizable.  There are differences between clients and how well or how quickly they respond.  I believe there is a great deal of preparation one can do to increase the success of the session.  I have had two clients that struggled with getting into trance.  As a therapist, I often fall into the trap of…”if it works well, I did a good job… if it didn’t, it must be something the client did.”  Own my successes, blame the failures…. No, wait… that’s not true.

Anyway.  One male client just couldn’t go into a deep enough trance.  He responded well to relaxation, but couldn’t get any deeper.  My office building was particularly louder that day and my client simply did not respond to the suggestion of letting the sounds around him bring him deeper into trance (as opposed to not paying attention to them… it’s really hard to not pay attention to something… my favorite, and you can try this right now… is to not pay attention to the thought of a blue horse… what’s the first thing that popped into your head?).  Sometimes it just doesn’t work.  The other situation was with a lady that, for lack of a better way to put it, was just too high strung.  She could not (and I truly think this is the deciding factor contributing to successful hypnosis) get past the concept of locus of control.  Most people struggle with hypnosis because they simply do not want to give their power to someone else, and in their mind they truly believe they are giving their power up to me.  Those have been the only two so far.  Not bad.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Clinical Hypnosis and Pain Management

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on February 15, 2012 10:00 am

Pain in the Brain

Where is pain felt?  Where is it registered?  Where is it really experienced?  Pain seems to be experienced solely in the spot where it was inflicted.  We burn our finger, we feel pain in our finger.  I believe there is enough scientific “knowledge” out there to indicate that when pain is triggered in an area, the signal is sent through nerves to the brain, it is registered in the brain and a reactionary message is sent back through the same nerve system to the triggered area.  That would explain why, in simpler terms, a child does not notice the pain of a scratched knee while they are still playing; however, once they notice the injury, or someone points it out for them, the child feels the immense pain, begins to wail uncontrollably until they receive a bandage and a kiss.  It may also explain why a guy (such as myself) doing a chore from the “honey-do” list doesn’t notice the scratch on his hand until his darling wife draws attention to it; however, once he notice the injury, the guy feels the immense pain, wails uncontrollably until he receives a bandage and a kiss.  The brain was previously occupied by something more important to register the pain of the injury.  It was there, but the concentration of the involved act was more intense than the pain signal.  It wasn’t until other systems became involved that the brain had to notice.  The visual input (seeing the scratch), the emotional input (the reaction of others), the change in focus (the activity being stopped), all play an important role in noticing the pain.  With chronic pain, there is also the mental anguish; the emotional suffering (feelings of helplessness, the worry that it will never end, etc), the lack of sleep, the decreased physical energy that makes up  vast majority of the pain experience.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Counsellor’s Taboo

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on February 8, 2012 11:31 am

The views expressed in these blog entries are my own.  They are probably not completely endorsed by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, although they should be…

I’m sparked to write this entry partly by the book I’ve been attempting to write (check back on earlier blogs) and by my attempts to start my own private practice.  I’ve worked for the Alberta Government for some time now and was dismayed but not surprised to discover that even though I am an ethical practitioner and specifically trained to do clinical hypnosis, I was not allowed to use these particular skills with my clients.  I am also not completely surprised that a training that I took with the  police and social workers regarding  interviewing child sexual abuse involved relaxation and guided imagery to help people recall details of events, but they, too, were not allowed to use the word hypnosis.  What does surprise me is that, as I pursue EAP providers to supplement my private practice, there are still bodies that are involved with the direct counselling of clients that do not accept or support the use of clinical hypnosis with clients.  I get the general public being a little more on guard when I mention that I do hypnosis as part of my practice… we wouldn’t want to be tricked into clucking like a chicken, but major service providers?  Fear and avoidance can only mean one thing… lack of knowledge.  We fear what we don’t know, and most of us; even trained head shrinkers, don’t know hypnosis.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Mind Tricks

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 9, 2012 12:22 pm

This blogging thing, leads me in many different directions.  I’ve been thinking about my progression… evolution as a “cognitive therapist.”  I still hang onto that title, though, somewhere may have forgotten completely what that means.  My focus has been, and will likely always be,  about  the mental juggle that we all have going on in our brain.  We have random thoughts, thinking errors, mind chatter, under-currents all going on simultaneously with the actual “things” we have to think about throughout our day.  It is often this jumble of thoughts that get us into trouble mentally, emotionally, and behaviourally.  It may be truly dangerous that my thinking has been allowed to evolve without “supervision” to keep me in check.  My evolution has lead me into the world of solution focused thinking, clinical hypnosis and mindfulness… none of which are a far stones throw away from pure cognitive therapy.  I added thinking to the end of solution focussed in replacement of therapy, because I don’t just see it as a therapy, but, truly a way of perceiving things and, I as I see the clients thoughts in a certain way, I tend to manipulate my clients into seeing things a certain way (I’ve touched on this in a previous blog).

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

An Ambassador for the Profession

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 13, 2011 10:26 am

Every once in a while I have to take off my individualistic hat and put on my collective hat.  Today’s blog is simply a reminder to people about the importance of the collective.  As individual counsellors, we are often isolated in the work we do.  We do find other, like-minded, people to associate.  We seek out peers for reflective practice.  We collaborate on projects.  When we work in isolation, we tend to forget that there is a bigger picture in the world of counselling.  We forget to remember (or is it that remember to forget) about all the larger collection of counsellors out there that creates the profession.  Without this larger body, individuals would struggle worse than they are now to form their identity as a counsellor.  It is likely that it is because of this larger body that the individual has a choice of their identity at all. It is also likely that due to this body, the community at large sees counselling as a professional body as one that is governed by a regulatory body and managed by a code of ethics; that counsellors are accountable to this governing body (though voluntarily) as well as to the public. 

I guess that the point of my preaching today is to remind people that that collective is coming together in Calgary, Alberta this Spring – May 24-27, 2011 in the form of a conference.  The newly formed Alberta/NWT Chapter will be there looking for ways to build its’ own presence.  The theme is fitting with this discussion;  Reflecting on Self and Practice.  The importance of these conferences is not just the education credits one picks up, but the actual bonding and building of the profession.  Among the social opportunities, there is the intrinsic value of developing a sense of belonging (something we all strive for).  Make sure to find your way to Calgary, Alberta for the conference, and, if it pertains to you… seek out the newly formed Alberta/NWT chapter of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.  Find out what they can do for you… or, more importantly, provide your input in what they will do for you.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Finding a Niche: What Kind of Counsellor am I? Is There Really a Difference?

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 15, 2011 4:30 pm

Usual disclaimer:  These are the thoughts and opinions of the author.  They do not necessarily reflect the whole of the counselling community or the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. 

Career counsellors, school counsellors, marriage therapists, e-counsellors, hypnotherapists, child therapists,  counselling online, telephone counselling, EAP counsellors, Wellness counsellors,.  There are all kinds of therapists seeking clients and trying to make their way in the world; finding their niche, so to speak.  The counselling process, across the board, is primarily the same.  A decision is made to approach someone to assist with a presenting concern; the development of a helping relationship; an interchange of talking and listening to address the issues and termination of the helping relationship.  So why all the different distinctions?  One can explain the differences in terms of specialization.  We – as therapists – feel drawn more toward one area than another, likely because of our own life experiences (i.e. we had a helpful experience with our own marriage, so start developing interest in helping others with theirs); whether good or bad; the recovering alcoholic becoming an addictions counsellor.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Blog #12

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on October 24, 2011 12:00 pm

O.k. now, after an extended tangent, my second observation as a counsellor attending counselling as a client; the stigma of going to counselling. 

I felt strange going to counselling at first.  I got caught up in the shoulds.  “I’m a therapist, I should be able to know how to deal with things.”  “I help people through their own depression, anxiety, worries, troubles, I should just use the same things I teach them.”  Truth is, I was embarrassed to be going to counselling.  I was telling people I had a doctor’s appointment when they asked where I was going or to get time off work to go.  Not aware of what possessed me, but I did mention it to a colleague, and she informed me she was also going to counselling.  As I talked to my colleagues and my friends about it, the more natural it seemed that I would be going for counselling. The stigma it seems, was coming from me; not some external source.  In an article produced by Alberta Health Services, “Stigma is the reason two-thirds of Candadians living with mental illness donot seek help. (Seto, 2011).  The same article also stated that “…one in five Canadians experience some measure of mental illness every year (Seto, 2011).”  That same article talks about the negative image that media portrays of people with mental illness, that one is looked down upon for taking time off work due to mental illness.  I don’t know that that is always the case.  I’m sure it still exists, but have an idealistic sense of hope that it has diminished.  As a therapist, I should be a steward of the profession.  I should be trumpeting the benefits to all.  I should be talking about what counsellors do.  After all, if I truly believe that counselling is helpful to others, am I not somewhat hypocritical for not seeking the same help myself, the same way I would seek out a doctor or a massage?  As a matter of fact, attending counselling may give me a better understanding  of the counsellor/client relationship.  Having had this experience, I can foresee addressing a client’s feelings around coming to see me; the support they have from their significant others.

 Seto, Colleen 2011; Confronting the Stigma of Mental Illness; Apple magazine; Fall 2011/Issue 5:  Alberta Health Services  (forgive me for not adhering to APA… it would take me forever to find my old manual).

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Blog #11

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on October 10, 2011 12:00 pm

As a reminder, the thoughts expressed here are mine alone – they do not, necessarily reflect the beliefs of counsellors in general or the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

Last time I started talking about my own experience with counseling.  I recognized two points:  1. that I don’t think I make a very good client and 2, that the stigma about going to counselling is real.  I talked briefly about the counsellor as the client and somehow went onto a tangent about crossing from the cognitive realm to the emotional realm.  As a matter of fact I don’t think I’m quite done talking about emotions.  Why do people struggle so much with accepting their emotions?  I know why I avoid my feelings (counselling must be working). My emotional responses played significantly into my ability to escalate or de-escalate high crisis situations working with children and families.  I also had to learn to de-personalize my emotional responses due to the nature of the issues I was dealing with (sexual abuse victims and perpetrators, suicide, victims of violence).  Basically, I had to learn to “shut off” if I were to have any longevity in this field.  People start being trained to not feel at a very young age.  As a baby, we cry and almost instantaneously we are lifted cuddled and nurtured until we stop.  When we cry, our parents change us, play, distract, and/or stick a pacifier or bottle in our mouths.  As we get older, our education continues.  When we are sad, parents, family and friends immediately start to cheer us up.  When we are angry, we are told to not be angry.  When we are afraid, we are taught to avoid the things that scare us, or are shamed into not being afraid (its only a little itty bitty spider, you shouldn’t be scared).  In fact, it seems that whenever we express anything other than happiness or love, others went well out of their way to make us stop feeling that way and to make us feel better.  From an infant we are taught that it is not o.k. to feel a certain way and that we should do anything including shoving whatever makes us feel better into our mouths (doughnuts, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs) to make it stop.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Blog #10

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on September 27, 2011 2:21 pm

It has been awhile since I last sat down to write for Counselling Connects.  I made it through the mountain climbing episode as described in the last post.  Let’s get out of the mountains and back into the counselling office.  We’ve talked (well I’ve talked, you’ve listened) about setting goals, being aware of the content and the process and we’ve discussed being aware of self talk.  I thought it would be interesting to talk about my experience as a counsellor going for counselling.  My daytime job is with Alberta Children’s Services.  Through my job I see a lot of sad, unfortunate and unsettling things on a day to day basis.  I have found that after working for the department for almost 20 years that I need to become more aware of my feelings (it’s amazing what a person can get used to).  To help me get in tune with my feelings, I’ve enlisted the help of a therapist.  I’ve noticed two significant things as a counsellor going for counselling:  1. I’m not necessarily a good “client” and 2.  The stigma about counselling is real, but not necessarily where you think. 

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Goal Setting – Revisited

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on August 29, 2011 12:00 pm

So, I didn’t quite finish the last entry completely.  Implications of my mountain climbing experience in counseling?  I think the most important thing I wanted to express and what really struck me during the climb was just how impactful the “chatter” that goes on in the conscious mind can be to achieving personal goals.  I trust, as therapists, that we already know that, but to be aware of the chatter myself perhaps gives me a better understanding of how debilitating it can be to our clients. 

The other thought that had exemplifies a belief that I have had for some time now.  I talked a lot about setting appropriate SMART goals as an important element of the counseling interaction; however, I do also realize that if you spend all your time looking for/reaching for/intensely focused on the end goal;  the summit of the mountain (just to carry this metaphor on further), there is the risk of not relishing in the moment.  I found, during the climb that although the breaks were necessary to prevent me from passing out, or from stumbling over the rocks, I sure enjoyed the moments to stop along the way and look around; to build a small inookshook, to snap a picture, or whatever. 

The completion of a goal lasts only a brief moment.  The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.  Somewhere between those two moments is the climb.  Helping our clients set their sights on a goal is important, but so is helping them realize that it is a process that they can be aware of.  Clients can know that there will be distractions or challenges that may take a person off track a bit or a lot.  They can also take some understanding of the control they have within themselves simply by being meta-aware of the process.  They can notice they are off track, be curiously scientific about the process, then simply, without judgment, return to the path. In fact, the journey may be more important to the actual achievement of the final goal.  Evaluation of this process has forced me to understand that my goal was not to reach the summit of the mountain, but to simply climb.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA