Author Archives: Guest

Career Stories: Changing the Story You Tell

Posted by: Guest on April 17, 2013 3:53 pm

What story do you tell about your career? Who are you in your career story? Would you like that to be different? How? What story do you want to tell?

Clients I work with, who I call mid-career shifters, whether they have a job or not, come in because they feel dissatisfied at work. Something is missing and it’s hard to even articulate what or why. Those who are in their late 30’s and beyond may also communicate that they want to make a job shift but that change also terrifies them, not only because of general concerns about the economy and prospects for securing a new job, but also because of their age and stage in life.

To change or not to change – is also a question of letting go of a piece of identity that we have worked a long time to create and maintain. Who will I be if I am not the H.R. Manager, Financial Planner, or College Instructor?  

Even if the job that used to be satisfying just doesn’t anymore, making mid-career changes may seem like ending a relationship with an old friend. In fact, it’s a normal feeling to resist the change you want to make, so claims Harvard developmental psychologist Robert Kegan. It’s normal to not want to let go of a piece of identity you’ve worked hard to create and to maintain over the years.

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

Looking Back to the Future: Connecting Life Story to Career Decisions

Posted by: Guest on February 22, 2013 12:00 pm

“I don’t want to focus on the past. I just want to get on with finding another job. Something more fulfilling.”

This was the message I received after seeing a client who I’ll call Bill for the first time. He was calling me to cancel our second appointment. In his early 40’s, Bill had recently been laid off. He was shocked, he said, because although he had changed jobs many times, this was the first time he was let go. He also revealed during our initial session that he was unhappy at work, had been thinking about a career change for a year or so, and if anything good was to come from this experience, it was that he would use the time and severance pay to really identify what he wanted. “I don’t even feel like I’ve made a real career decision before. “ he said, adding that he had a feeling that he was trapped in some kind of work pattern that wasn’t serving him anymore, and he wanted to find out more about that so that he could change it. This story is one I hear often within the group of mid-career shifters I see in my counselling practice. “I’ve been pretty good at getting jobs, and some I really liked, but I feel like I’ve been surviving.”

As someone who made a major career change myself at about age forty, I can empathize with the mid-life search for meaning and a yearning to feel passionate about my work. There is a certain tension to these experiences when you are over forty, which sometimes reveals itself in a familiar dance between feelings of desire and panic. “What if I make the change, give up my pension plan, and blow it? What if I don’t change and I never get to find out if it could be better?” Making a “real career decision” at mid-life has its particular risks and tradeoffs.

One way I work with mid-career shifters is through story, and in particular, through a method called Guided Autobiography. Career construction theory, narrative methods and storytelling are not new to career counselling. These approaches highlight key concepts such as re-evaluating purpose, clarifying values, the creation of a career identity, managing change, and the importance of meaning-making. If telling stories is a natural way to make sense of our world and ourselves in it, then using narrative approaches within career counselling (a meaning-making process in itself!) can really support clients seeking hope and new perspectives as they prepare to make their next career move.

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

How to Handle Top College/University Career Centre Questions: Best Practices Discussions

Posted by: Guest on November 14, 2012 3:36 pm

When I finished my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology in 2006, I felt like I knew more about how to provide counselling, and at the same time I had realized I knew much less about what counselling might be about. I found a role as a career advisor, which included both employment advising and career counselling to a population of mature college students who were predominantly older than me. The wonderful manager who hired me displayed exceptional confidence in me, given that I had not worked in a career centre except for a few weeks as part of a practicum experience. To my knowledge I did not let her or the students down, but I found myself in a daily struggle to find what I needed to know about providing ethical, responsible service to the students.

I couldn’t find a lot of what when it came to best practices for providing career counselling with a particular client group, recent immigrant professionals, and after a couple of years I realized that I was going to have go and find out what I could do to better support this group, so I did something I had thought I would never do: I applied to doctoral programs in counselling psychology, because I needed (my own selfish need, probably) to find out what to do and also how to help this client group more effectively.

As a doctoral student in counselling psychology, I am daily tasked not only with the responsibility for self-reflection and assessment of my practice, but I will also be evaluated on the understanding I develop through the process of self-reflection and self-assessment, as well as on the practice. You may have had this experience yourself, as counselling or psychotherapy is “…an undefined technique applied to unspecified problems with unpredictable outcome. For this we recommend rigorous training” (Raimy, 1950, p. 150). I often suspect that our clients are more forgiving of us as counsellors-in-training than we are of ourselves. But I digress.

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


Posted by: Guest on May 17, 2011 9:46 am

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

Grief and the Art Therapist: A Journey

Posted by: Guest on May 12, 2011 9:12 am

The focus of therapists is almost always to help clients process their feelings as they bring their vulnerability into the therapy space.  This is most true when clients are dealing with grief, whether it stems from death, divorce or other loss.  But what happens when it is the therapist who is experiencing grief?  How do therapists deal with their own feelings within the therapeutic relationship?

As an art therapist, I have struggled with that question as I’ve dealt with the impending death of a family member. My experiences of grief come into the therapeutic space through countertransference and because I bring my most authentic self into each session. But of course I seek support from friends, family, my supervisor and my own therapist.  Since I am aware of my feelings of grief, I am able to use them to connect with my clients on a deeper level and to use them in a positive way.  Art therapy provides an ideal way to do so.

By creating art with clients during a session, art therapists can support clients’ emotional growth but also communicate in a non-verbal language that they understand the clients’ feelings and that they share in their experience.  The shared art-making becomes a means to create a stronger therapeutic relationship and it can serve as a representation of the joint work of therapy. Shared art-making can include creating a scene with clay in which both therapist and client contribute or creating a collage together which explores the feelings within the therapeutic relationship.

Art therapists also have the option of creating art in response to what the client makes as they experience grief.  Some time ago I was moved deeply by the sadness that a client expressed and as I touched into my own sadness I felt my heart open as we shared the experience together.  I made my client a small sculpture using clay, which I gave to her as a symbol of how I was moved by her gift of vulnerability, which she shared with me. Several months later that client told me that the art I gave her was significant in that she knew I understood how she felt.

Therapists’ grief does not have to be a hindrance within the therapeutic setting. Using art can not only help bridge the gap between therapist and client’s emotional selves, it can be essential when processing complex issues such as grief. By using creative methods, I have not only managed by grief expressions within the therapeutic setting but have used them to become a better art therapist.

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

Our Problem is Their Perfect Solution

Posted by: Guest on May 10, 2011 9:00 am

If only our kids came with a manual, or a how to guide so that when we come across puzzling moments that leave us scratching our heads we have some idea how to respond or what to do.  So often we are left puzzled by their actions and left to feel like no one else’s child could possible act this way? Or could they?

Recently I gave a talk to a group of parents on “Engaging our Youth Today;” I only got part way through my talk when the parents revealed what they really wanted: help! They wanted to share scenario after scenario about what was happening for them at home and what to do about it. Before I could respond to their situations an interesting thing happened, everyone calmed after hearing each other’s stories. We hadn’t even problem solved on best practices to deploy, but just hearing that no one was dealing with something that was being heard of for the first time was comforting. We may all be unique individuals, but socially we are all connected as well as challenged in similar ways.

Children (and adults too, but this article is focused on the tinier humans) all want the same two things deep down: belonging and significance. And what are those? Alfred Adler, the father of Adlerian psychology said that without belonging, the feeling of being connected, and significance, the feeling of having self worth, we act out. When children “act out” they do so with mistaken goals of behaviour. And thus is born, our problem their solution.

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

Helping – Doing It For Them Or For Me? Part 1

Posted by: Guest on April 29, 2011 10:29 am

In my work with non-mainstream clients, I’ve often thought that being an immigrant is a crucial advantage in counselling other immigrants and refugees. But it is not enough. Although once being an immigrant has helped me understand common issues brought by this population, I don’t believe it provides automatic credentials to help other newcomers.

As counselors we need to have knowledge of ourselves and important issues in our own biography, so we can not only use our strengths in session but also navigate wisely through the muddy waters of our traumas. And it is particularly within such waters that we need to look closely when trying to figure why we decided to help in the first place.

I remember vividly Dr. Alfried Langle’s lecture in which he explained how help must come from a free place within ourselves. By ‘free’ he meant that help must be a conscious decision, one in which we are not feeling obligated or compelled to help. If I feel so overruled by impulse that I can’t resist (“I can’t help it”) but to throw myself into assisting someone, there is a great danger I am feeling triggered to fix it. When in a place of trigger, I am more susceptible to reacting automatically and not fully being there for my client.

I take every experience of being triggered as an opportunity for exploration of my muddy waters. These are usually clients that I feel either very compelled to help or that I feel tremendous difficulty in helping – the common factor being that I feel the work as extremely easy or difficult.

If I am unaware of my motivations to help newcomers, I could be perpetually triggered into helping, seeing only my suffering in the client and, in fact, treating my own. The impulse to help gains an element of compulsion: I must always offer my hand in order to avoid the greater task of healing myself first.

This posting will be continued…


Bianca Buteri, M.A., M.Ed., is a Child and Youth Mental Health counsellor, working with diverse and mainstream clients in Metro Vancouver, BC. She became a Canadian citizen and busy mom in 2010 and shares her time with her husband and 11-month-old daughter.

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

Bullying as Instinct: The Neufeld Paradigm

Posted by: Guest on April 29, 2011 10:25 am

Leading researchers in the field of bullying appear to agree on the definition of bullying as deliberate, repeated aggression in which there is an imbalance of power between the child who bullies and the child who is victimized (Juvonen & Graham, 2001; Olweus, 1991; Pepler & Craig, 2000). But I’m wondering: is it correct, strictly speaking, to think of bullying as the result of a deliberate thought process? Or is it not more accurate to look deeper and think of bullying as having its roots in instinct?

Certainly, there are some compelling reasons for wanting to question the former view. Chief among them is the everyday experience teachers and administrators have when they interview students who have been caught bullying.

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

Inner Work On Your Own For Counsellors and Psychotherapists

Posted by: Guest on April 21, 2011 3:17 pm

Avraham Cohen, Ph.D., R.C.C., C.C.C.
[email protected]

I have the view that as a psychotherapist, I am in the enviable position of being paid to receive feedback that will further my own growth and development. Everyday when I sit with clients I am receiving feedback. This feedback is coming in a variety of forms, most of them indirect and without my client even realizing that I have received something from them that constitutes feedback about who I am as a person, or perhaps better put, who I am not.

I take anything that sets off a strong reaction, a reaction characterized by physiological, emotional, and idea responses that subjectively seem to be bigger than the situation warrants, as a signal that a potential inner work experience has been opened up. I am alert for any tendency to marginalize these responses.

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

Healing Images: Reflections On An Expressive Art Therapy Session

Posted by: Guest on April 19, 2011 10:35 am

Expressive arts therapy uses various arts – movement, painting, sculpture, voice, music, writing and dramatic improvisation – in a supportive setting to experience and express feelings.  When we use the arts for healing it is most beneficial if we are not concerned about the beauty of the visual art, the grammar or style of the writing or the harmonic flow of the song.  We use the art to let go, to express and to release.  We also gain insight by looking at the messages and meaning contained in the images.  Our art speaks back to us if we take time to listen to those messages.

What is imagery?  Imagery is the thought process that uses the senses – vision, smell, taste, hearing, touch and sense of movement – to evoke emotion.  Images, like dreams, contain the essence of reality and often clarify and define our emotions better than our waking thoughts.  Images want to speak for themselves which can conflict with our natural tendency to define things literally or intellectually.  If we are willing to surrender our own interpretations the image will tell us what it has to say.  The image will often surprise us, surpass our expectations and bring us to a deeper understanding-even healing.

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