Animals in Schools

Posted by: Derek Collins on September 20, 2019 11:28 am

Part of our mission at Vermilion Outreach School is to create a safe place for our students. Vermilion Outreach is an alternative school for students who have not had success in a regular program. Many of our students find it difficult to focus on their work; this may be for personal reasons or academic difficulty. As the principal and counsellor, I am constantly looking for strategies that would allow the students to overcome some of these barriers. I knew other outreach programs that had a school pet program but it was not something I thought I was ready for. That is until my own dog, Kona, needed to wait somewhere for her veterinarian appointment. With no other options available I brought her to school.

The effect on the students was immediately apparent to  the staff and me. Kona, an older miniature schnauzer-poodle cross, would trot to the door and greet everyone. She would then continue to walk around the school stopping at different locations where a hand would reach down and give a scratch or a pat. Some students would try to get her to jump into their lap, although Kona was not quite ready for that. But she loved the attention. Work only stopped briefly as she walked by but often the students would continue to read or work on an assignment as they gave Kona some attention.

There have been studies on the success of animal-assisted interventions. A systemic review of animal-assisted interventions found that there are some positives for students when dogs are in classrooms. Animals appear to be buffers to psycho-social stress. Classrooms reported that there was an improvement in motivation, focus and a sense of well-being. (Brelsford, Meints, Gee, Pfeffer, 2017)

The most impactful moment for me was when Kona helped me make a connection with a student. I noticed that a relatively new student to our school left her desk and headed to one of the side rooms. I gave the student a few minutes of quiet time before I knocked on the door. The student was crying and I offered to listen. The student nodded, I sat down, but the words were not coming. I tried to be patient. We heard scratching at the door.

“Is it okay if Kona comes in?” I asked. The student nodded. Kona strode into the room and looked up at the student. Then suddenly, she jumped up into her lap.

“You don’t have to hold her if you don’t want to,” I reminded the student, both of us a bit surprised.

“It’s okay,” the student answered. She started talking while petting the dog. Somehow Kona knew she was needed. Her presence gave that student something to focus on while she told her story. That event led to many other sessions.

I encourage other programs to consider a school dog or pet and I would love to hear stories and share ideas.

Brelsford VL, Meints K, Gee NR, Pfeffer K. Animal-Assisted Interventions in the Classroom-A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(7):669. Published 2017 Jun 22. doi:10.3390/ijerph14070669



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

Managing Teenagers’ Stress

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on September 9, 2019 3:00 pm

I have seen a number of teens who are adjusting to the demands and pressures of their last year of high school as they transition into college. In particular, American teens feel a tremendous pressure during this phase of life. Parents should be aware of these pressures and seek to assist their adolescent obtain balance, a healthy lifestyle, and good coping skills. Although I could provide my professional thoughts, I wanted to share some insights from teenagers who have experienced this phase of life stress firsthand.

As a 17-year-old teen who is about to enter my senior (4th) year of high school, I find that transitioning into adult life is stressful. I take a college class over the summer vacation which entails writing papers, researching, and reading a lot of material. My current college class has 12 required books. I am volunteering at a hospital to gain experience, preparing to submit my college applications, and attending practices for an All Star Cheer Team, to say the least. Here is how I manage my stress:

  • I listen to my favorite music. People suggest listening to “relaxing” music; my favorite music isn’t always relaxing music but that type is not for everyone. Listen to what you prefer, as long as your choice of music relaxes you. Another way I de-stress is by taking a shower. I also enjoy taking a 30-minute nap. Sometimes a nap as short as 15-20 minutes works as well.
  • If none of those approaches work, I try calling a good friend. Talking helps me relieve stress. I feel better after Face Timing (video conferencing) or after a long phone call with a friend. I feel more relaxed/distressed and ready to take on the world. Last, exercising or being active is another way to de-stress. Considering taking on a sport either in school or as an extracurricular activity. (Lathanise Cox-Moscatello, July 2019)

Life is both stressful and challenging, at times. I am 14 years old and going into my junior (3rd) year of high school. I am two grades ahead for my age and still take challenging classes like pre-AP Chemistry. As both an artist, and a soccer manager for our school team, I am very busy. I have attended both science and art camps like this over most summers. I also volunteer at a local hospital over the summer to gain experience. The following is what I recommend to maintain a healthy lifestyle (Ramona Cox-Moscatello, July 2019):

  1. Do not allow your stress to build up, because you may blow up or overreact to a situation.
  2. Find what works for you. Take some time to figure out [what you like].
  3. Cold showers wake you up and warm showers help to relax your muscles.
  4. If you can’t find anything that works, ask your parents about seeing a mental health professional.

I concur with their recommendations. Additionally, taking on a hobby such as gardening, playing an instrument, or art might be useful. Exercising is also important in our overall health. In a Vancouver study, older adults executive brain functioning increased between 11%-13% when the participants received resistance exercise training (Liu-Ambrose et al., 2010). Exercising can allow us to accomplish tasks better. In fact, additional studies have demonstrated that participants performed better over a range of cognitive tasks, when they exhibited greater muscular strength (Boyle et al. 2009; Narazaki et al. 2014). Choose an approach for managing your stress that is pro social, in which you can find balance, stay healthy, and obtain good coping skills for better managed teen aged stress.

Lakawthra Cox, MA, MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC
Lathanise Cox-Moscatello, Contributor
Ramona Cox-Moscatello, Contributor

References
Boyle PA, Buchman AS, Wilson RS, et al (2009). Association of muscle strength with the risk of Alzheimer disease and rate of cognitive decline in community dwelling older persons. Arch Neurol 66(11):1339-1344, 2009 19901164. In Noordsy, D. L., editor. (2019) Lifestyle psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC.
Liu-Ambrose T. Nagamatsu LS, Graf P, et al: Resistance training and executive functions: a 12-month randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med 170-178, 2010 20101012. In Noordsy, D. L., editor. (2019) Lifestyle psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC.
Narazaki K, Matsuo E, Honda T, et al: Physical fitness measures as potential markers of low cognitive problems. J Sports Sci Med. 13 (3): 590-596, 2014 25177186. In Noordsy, D. L., editor. (2019). Lifestyle psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC.



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

How to Build Your Canadian Private Practice Website

Posted by: Julia Smith on August 21, 2019 2:47 pm
Note: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. 

Creating a private practice website should be your priority when starting a Canadian private practice! It’s important because most people find their therapist through the internet nowadays. There are so many options when choosing how to build your private practice website. You could build it yourself from scratch, create one through a website builder like Wix or Square Space, or hire a company! The two most important things that you need to consider when building a Canadian website are:

  1.   SEO (search engine optimization) – SEO is fancy tech coding for your website that helps it rank high on internet searches so that people can easily find your website.
  2.   Flexibility – You want to make sure that you have lots of options when developing your website so that when your private practice grows… your website can grow with it!

Because of these two considerations, I highly recommend choosing WordPress to build your Canadian Private Practice website. WordPress websites have AMAZING SEO and unlimited options for creating your website! With website builders you are confined to a template and the SEO is restricted.

Plus, if you choose a website builder, all of your content is stored on their servers, so if you ever decide to switch to another company or take full control of your website… you will have to start from scratch and will lose all your content and SEO that you’ve built! It’s best just to start with WordPress where you can easily switch from templates to having full control of your website.

Recommended Options for Building Your Own Canadian Private Practice Website:

Below are my suggestions on what companies to work with when building your Canadian private practice website. Most of the companies I am suggesting include a domain web address (ie. www.fearlesspractice.com). BUT, for myself, I like to purchase my domains outside of the companies that I work with so that I own them separately. I purchase my domains from I Want My Name as I find it easy to purchase from them and to revenue each year.

WordPress Website Options:

Level 1: WordPress.org ($5.35 CAD per month for hosting)

This option is great for Canadian counsellors who are tech-savvy and have a very tight budget! WordPress.org is hosted on your own server that you purchase through a hosting company. This means that you own your website completely. I recommend Bluehost. Once you have your host you can choose from free themes to help build your website! The downside is that you will solely be in charge of updates, security, plugins, and design which can take up A LOT of your time.

Click here to purchase Bluehost. Click here to learn more about WordPress.org.

Level 2: WordPress.com ($10 CAD per month for their premium plan)

This option is great for Canadian therapists who are NOT tech-savvy and have a very tight budget. WordPress.com will host your WordPress website and provide you with security for your website. You can choose from VERY cheap monthly plans and the best part is, as your Canadian private practice grows and you want more flexibility with your site… you can switch to WordPress.org! The downside is that if you use WordPress.com you will not have full control of your website and you will be limited to what you can create on your website. Plus you still will have to design your website solely by yourself which again can take up A LOT of time.

Click here to build a wordpress.com website! Also, here is a great article that reviews the differences of wordpress.com and wordpress.org.

Level 3: Brighter Vision ($100 (USD)/ $130 (CAD) start-up fee and then$59 (USD)/ $77(CAD) per month)

Brighter Vision is what I use for my private practice. With Brighter Vision you can choose from WordPress templates that have been specifically designed for counsellors! Plus you get free counselling content, amazing SEO, and it’s mobile responsive! Instead of putting hours and hours into designing your website… they do it for you! You also get unlimited support so if you want any changes made… they will do it! Brighter Vision freed up my time so that I could focus on building my private practice rather than building a website.

Click here to get one month free!

Level 4: Beam Local ($1995 CAD to build the website then $79 CAD per month)

I used Beam Local when I created my consulting website because they offer custom designed WordPress websites! I wanted the freedom to design my website instead of just using a WordPress template. Templates can get frustrating when you want to add personal touches to your private practice website. With Beam Local, you can start with one of their stylish templates and then the team will create animated features and design to meet your website needs! They also offer unlimited support, mobile responsive design, and SEO!

Click here to get 2 months free!

Happy building!

Julia

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.

Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!




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

Indigenous History – Towards Honouring and Healing

Posted by: Gloria Pynn BA, BEd, MEd, CCC, RPsych on August 13, 2019 11:42 am

In recent times, we see more and more reflection on culture, diversity and our history in Canada. I think we all talk a lot about cultural celebration and respecting all religions and cultures, but how do we translate talk into action? How can we not just “talk diversity” but move to true “inclusiveness”? Diversity focuses on differences whereas, inclusiveness intentionally welcomes  and celebrates diversity. Canada is diverse but we need to really focus on inclusiveness to thrive as a community.  In very simple terms, diversity is who we are whereas inclusiveness is what we do.

In my opinion, cultural appreciation has to start by acknowledging our collective Canadian history and the experiences (good and bad) of all our people, children and families. In saying that, we must honor our Indigenous history and the lived experiences that have created much inherent fallout for mental health as well. This is the first step in any commitment to moving forward toward reconciliation and true support.

So how do we do this? Again, the psychologist and thinker in me, sees the first step as being to feel and immerse ourselves as much as possible by listening, reading, watching and discussing those experiences with those who “hold that history”. That has been one of my goals over the last year: to take time and reflect, participate and hopefully, understand a little better the rich culture but also the many shameful parts of our history. We all own a part in these stories of Indigenous children and families and of all Canadians who allowed this narrative to occur.

The following are just a few of the amazing connections I have made over the last year to better feel and understand these issues. As often is the case, music touched me. The artistry of the seven young women of Eastern Owl in the song “Baby” transports you to the days of Residential Schools. Give it, and their full album Qama’si – “a call to action” a listen by click the image below.

“Baby” by Eastern Owl is a tribute to survivors of the Canadian Residential School System, and their families. It features the word “baby” in the three Indigenous languages of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As indicated in the YouTube description, “for more information on residential schools and their devastating impact on generations of people, please speak to Indigenous people in your community, or contact the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada at http://www.trc.ca/resources.html

I then decided to get out there and attend various events, like the Sunrise Ceremony in Bannerman Park, St. John’s NL to celebrate the Summer Solstice with prayers, drumming, singing, a “smudging” ceremony as well as the prayers, giving and laying of tobacco on a monument to Shanawdithit, the last Beothuk in NL to mark her death in 1829. The prayers, songs and “smudging” ceremonies themselves were open, inviting, family oriented but also very somber and respectful of hurt that accompanies such history. In the “smudging” ceremonies, healing is offered to all those needing it, in any way. It was very moving, beautiful, and absolutely inclusive.

It is vital to speak and listen to those who have experienced these unique stories such as life in residential schools. To listen to Inuk Elder Emma Reelis speaking and giving prayers at events such as ceremonies that honour Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women is truly amazing. Personally, having a first cousin murdered, these words are heartbreaking but it is reality and these are stories that have to be told and stories that must be truly heard.

Also, the integration of such elders in programming for Social Workers is invaluable for insight and understanding as well: https://gazette.mun.ca/campus-and-community/visiting-aboriginal-elders/

While honouring and connecting with the atrocities in our history, we must also acknowledge and absolutely celebrate the success and resiliency of Indigenous peoples such as Eastern Owl, Elder Emma Reelis, and Brian Pottle Engineer and his wife Megan Pottle, both amazing advocates in Newfoundland and Labrador. The following is Brian Pottle’s CBC interview, as a powerful Indigenous role model in NL and his need to give back. He is one of numerous talented Indigenous peoples and amazing children that can heal, and will grow to develop and shine bright.

There is also great honoring in creating more opportunities for awareness, learning and understanding like Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Indigenous Bachelor of Education with its first graduates in 2019.  The following article looks at this innovative, although time limited program.

These are just a few humble personal reflections I make as a psychologist, counsellor and a fellow Canadian and human being to help the healing process. I truly believe there are concrete ways that we can all build true empathy to honour and “hold our history” together to move forward and create a new narrative for our national story.

A saying I have always strongly disliked (because I hold no hate for nothing or no person) was “On a go forward basis…” My experience is that we must honour and “feel” our collective past to build any different future. The past and all stories must be shared, heard, held and honoured. Only then, can we begin to write a new narrative that is fully informed, inclusive and Canadian.

Think, talk, and always take care,

Gloria Pynn
B.A., B.Ed., Diploma in Behaviour Therapy, M. Ed Registered Psychologist C.C.C.

Gloria is a School Psychologist in St. John’s NL and owns a private counselling and consulting practice called PAX Psychological Services Inc. It is Gloria’s belief that we all need to support one another in life, wherever and however we can, to find happiness and peace. PAX is a place where she hopes to help others on that journey. We are all only “passengers” in this life, looking to find our own “peace”.



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

Playing the “Long” Game

Posted by: Derek Collins on July 26, 2019 3:29 pm

At Vermilion Outreach School, we become invested in our work. The result is that we want to see immediate change and growth in our students. The reality is that teaching and counselling are what I call a “long game”. I have a dedicated staff trained to assist students returning to high school; students attending our alternative school often face personal issues and past trauma. We have found that because students have not experienced success at school, there tends to be a reluctance to talk and work with us.

One particular student spent most of her first year virtually silent. Fortunately, she connected with one of the school coaches. During their conversations, the young woman revealed her anxious thoughts. It was clear to the coach that this student needed to connect with a community counsellor with proper resources and training to help her move forward. The coach offered the young girl the opportunity for that connection, however, the student remained uncertain and provided no definite answer.

It was not until nine months later that this individual approached the school coach and said she was ready to see a counsellor. It is no surprise that the staff member was full of excitement and energy at a staff-planning meeting. We needed to connect her right away, and we needed to talk to her mother as soon as possible in order to gain for permission for a referral to our mental health professional. The excitement was infectious and soon everyone on the team took on a task.

Days passed quickly. Mom said she was willing to sign papers but they were routinely forgotten or misplaced. My staff grew more concerned that the student herself was falling into a “silent mode” again. Staff excitement turned to concern and then worry.

This was a time for us to come to a realization we knew, but often forget. Change is not something that comes quickly. Often change is a long process; this is why we have come to label counselling as the “long game”. It is unfortunate that many of our students are not with us for long. A significant number enroll in school and withdraw during the year for many reasons. Sometimes, we are fortunate and honored to see them grow and graduate. For others, change takes many more years and they leave school and the community. We rarely find out what happens with those students. As for our young student, she eventually met with our community counsellor and made plans for more meetings over the summer. We all look forward to hearing more from her when school reopens in September.




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

Artificial General Intelligence and its Impact on Jobs

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on July 19, 2019 10:57 am

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is typically divided into Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). In our last blog, we dealt with ANI and its implications in the workplace. In this blog we will deal with AGI.

AGI focuses on developing and using deep artificial neural networks (a set of computer algorithms) to process massive amounts of data in a relatively short time. “Deep” refers to the number of layers of computer algorithms, which permit the computer to form connections between these layers. Because of these connections, computers are essentially able to program themselves after multiple trials of processing different sets of similar data. Once the accuracy and efficiency of the model is determined by humans, it becomes available to those who want competent analyses of information pertinent to operating their business and/or performing their occupation.

Predictions are that many new jobs will be created as the field of AGI develops. To illustrate these predictions, presently six different individuals are typically deployed when using deep learning methods to develop new computer models. The decision-maker secures funding and resources to complete the project. The stakeholder quantifies the business value of a proposed solution. The domain expert gets familiar with the work area and problem to be solved. The data scientist translates business problems into computer tasks. The data engineer determines possible databases to use in simulation; and a systems architect designs the infrastructure, such as servers to handle big data. Within a relatively short time, the number of individuals and specializations needed to develop computer models will increase and result in jobs with new specialized tasks.

The impact of AI on the workplace is anticipated to be swift and impactful. A report from the World Economic Form in 2018 projected that these computer programs are expected to create 133 million new jobs by 2022; however, 75 million jobs are likely be displaced. This leaves a net new jobs creation of 58 million due to growth in AI.  An RBC report suggests that Canada will add 2.4 million new jobs to the workplace in the next four years. However, it also suggests that the current generation of young people are not being prepared for these sweeping changes. Workers will need digital skills, that is, the ability to understand digital items, digital technologies and the Internet fluently.  They will also need human skills such as critical thinking, active listening, social perceptiveness, and complex problem-solving skills for job success.

Career counsellors face three immediate challenges: disseminating labour market information, counselling workers who are displaced, and helping existing workers find retraining or upskilling programs. Part of this challenge is the speed at which these predictions are coming true.  Career counsellors and their professional organizations will need to produce materials to provide clients with significant labour market information related to displacement and innovations in the workplace.  Individuals who lose their jobs often experience low self-esteem, depression, and lack of self-confidence. As well, prolonged periods of unemployment can lead to suicide ideation (Milner, Page & LaMontagne, 2013). Counsellors will need to deal with these issues before they help their clients make workforce changes. Counsellors will need upskilling themselves to understand the tasks being performed in these new jobs, and to assess their clients’ current transferable skills for the new jobs. They need knowledge of available educational programs that offer uptraining. Further, career counsellors need to be familiar with government support programs that can help their clients make workplace transitions.

Despite these dire predictions, we suggest it will be more “yellow light” than red or green. Many Canadian employers are small to midsize businesses and may not have the capital to adopt these AI technologies presently. To deal with these rapidly developing workplace needs, we think there will be local, provincial and national responses, a part of which will provide agencies with the needed help to deliver services.

Suggested Reading

A beginner’s guide to automated machine learning & AI. Retrieved May 27 at https://skymind.ai/wiki/automl-automated-machine-learning-ai.

Chowdhry, Amit. (2018). Artificial intelligence to create 58 million new jobs by 2022, says report. Retrieved May 27 at https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2018/09/18/artificial-intelligence-to-create-58-million-new-jobs-by-2022-says-report/#14a40f204d4b.

Human intelligence and intuition critical for young people and jobs of the future. Retrieved May 27 at http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/news/2018/20180326-future-skills-rpt.html

Milner, A., Page, A., & LaMontagne, A. D. (2013). Long-term unemployment and suicide: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one8(1), e51333.

Jeff Landine and John Stewart
Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B.



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

Building the Practice of Your Dreams: Selecting the Right Space and Paying For It

Posted by: Doc Warren on July 12, 2019 12:34 pm

Selecting space is one of the most important aspects of a practice, whether it is your first location, an additional location or if you are considering relocating an existing practice. Just as in politics and religion, there are many philosophies and schools of thought on this. This article seeks to explore some, but definitely not all the options and considerations. It should help to provide a good framework to build upon, however, it cannot replace what you could expect from hiring a business professional or consultant that can help you develop a comprehensive business plan.

It’s time to find a location and if you are like most folks, you may be feeling just a bit overwhelmed. Should you buy, should you rent, or should you do a long-term lease? You might ask such questions as, how close do I want the office to be to my house? Could my house be converted into two spaces, one to live in and one to use as my office? Would I be allowed to convert my house by law or would I have issued with the local authorities? How big a space do I need? What is my plan for future expansion? How do I come up with a budget and stick to it? How much remodeling will be needed and will they allow me to do it or do I have to hire trades? What’s my ability handy wise? The lists seems endless and your head begins to spin like a dreidel.

Rent\Lease
While I personally am not big on renting or leasing, I have done it while in the process of buying a property or two. There are many advantages and disadvantages to not owning. I’ll start with the common disadvantages of renting/leasing so we can end on a high note:

  • Lack of control over aesthetics: You don’t own it so you are limited in what you can do to change the office. Depending on the agreement, you may or may not be able to change paint colours, may be limited in how you can decorate and what you can hang on the walls (some owners forbid nails or other mechanical hangers on their walls due to the potential need to fill in the holes and make other repairs once you leave). You may have no control over updating dated flooring, wall colors or other aspects of the office. You cannot make structural changes, change door sizes or door locations. Also, depending on when it was last updated, this property may not comply with accessibility standards. Depending on the owner, they may or may not voluntarily make the upgrades. Some property owners may refuse the upgrades which puts the renter in a tough space, others may refuse to pay for the upgrades but allow the renter to do so. It’s best to explore this before signing contracts. It should be noted that is you purchase the property, it all falls on you to make the improvements.
  • You will not build equity: When you own a property you will typically build equity as in most cases real property such as an office building, home, land etc. will increase in value as time passes. Upgrades, additions and other improvements made to the property typically will increase the appeal and resale price of a property. If you do not own the property though, every cent you pay to the owner is traded for the time you used it, it will not ever have a chance to earn you anything in the future.
  • No control over neighbors: This is most crucial in a larger building with multiple office suites for rent. As a tenant, you have little to no say in who your neighbors are. Over the years I have consulted with folks who have found that competitors rented space in their same building. Other times they found that an influx of new neighbors changed the feel of the building and became a detraction for them. One example was when a wellness and recovery program found themselves sharing space with a bar and microbrewery. While there is nothing wrong with bars or breweries, it proved to be a huge trigger for clients who were trying to stay sober. Had they owned the building, they could have done more to make sure that the renters all complimented one another.
  • Your contract may not be renewed: Many folks have found themselves having to relocate from a spot that they held for years and had grown to love due to changes in the ownership of the building, or changes in the use of the building. Once your agreement expires, neither you nor the owner is compelled to sign a new one. Should the owner have a new plan for the space, you may find yourself looking for a new location at the most inconvenient time.

Advantages of Renting/Leasing:

  • Repairs: depending on your contract you may find that you are not responsible for any repairs to the office. This reduces the need for maintenance staff and repairs (though these are often factored in the rental fees).
  • Mobility: As you do not own the property, you are free to leave when you want, though if you are still in an active contract you may receive some financial penalties.  Whereas if you owned the property, you would need to pay and maintain it until you found a new buyer.
  • Remodeling/renovations: Depending on your contract you may find an owner that is willing to build or remodel the office to your needs for no additional cost (though expect this to be a factor when they consider the monthly rental fee). Should this be the case, expect them to want to have you sign a lengthy agreement than 1 year. There may also be a penalty should you try to leave within the life of the agreement.
  • Size of practice: Many times when starting out or adding a location, you will need a minimal space, far less than an entire building. Renting may allow you to rent as little as a few hundred square feet of space and also allow you to expand in the future. Purchasing a property allows you to own it all or nothing. By renting just what you need as you need it, it can be far cheaper than having to buy much more than you will use.

Disadvantages of Buying:

  • Cost: The initial costs of purchasing a property can be daunting to say the least. Whereas renting may cost you a few thousand per month depending on size, location, etc., purchasing a property unless you are able to pay cash or have a super high down payment, will often cost you thousands a month for decades. This may be more than you can afford at the moment.
  • Repairs/ maintenance/ remodeling: As an owner, you will be responsible for all costs associated with the upkeep and improvements of a property. This may require hiring additional staffing and or having various trades on your speed dial.
  • Lack of mobility: Should you decide to relocate your office, you cannot simply move on once a contract has been completed as you could with a rental. Instead, you will offset need to either sell the property or find someone to lease it from you to help offset the expenses of keeping that property and opening elsewhere.
  • Availability: Depending on the market, it may be difficult to find your ideal property in the area that you wish to be located in. In some markets there is a very low inventory of specialty properties for sale. In our case, it took 4 years for us to find the right property, in the right area for a price we were willing and able to pay. This can sometimes be an issue when renting as well.

Advantages of Buying:

  • Building equity: Equity may help fund other projects or give leverage to better interest rates on a loan should you need funding. Some see equity as a nest egg in case an emergency should arise.
  • Build and remodel to suit your changing needs: As the owner of a building you have the ability to change it to suit your needs so long as you can afford to do so and you stay within government regulations. This can help you to totally transform a location as your practice develops.
  • Control your immediate neighbors: Should you own a larger building than you need and decide to rent out other areas, you can have control over who moves in so that they can complement, not compete with one another. This is not usually possible in a rental situation.

How close do I want the office to be to my house?
One of the most common questions that I am asked is how close is too close to have an office? Again, there is no right answer here. Each has its own pros and cons. Close to home offices are easier to get to in bad weather, offer short commutes and familiarity for sure. They can allow you to tap into a community that you already know, which may help with initial referrals but they also can cost you some much needed privacy and make it harder to keep firmer boundaries. I worked and lived in the same town for years and though overall I loved it, I have had some strange encounters such as when a few clients seemed to know my background better than I did. A few knew exes of mine and attempted to discuss the relationship before I reminded them that this was their session, not mine. I’ve also been “spotted” by clients when I was dressed in my worst outfit and trying to find a key part at the local hardware. Others new of my background and were inspired by it. You really need to explore this fully and decide what works best for you. In the end, I only moved my office because I found my dream location and it happened to be in the next town (about 4 miles from the office I had been using).

Is virtual counseling an option for you?
With the ever changing climate and the advancement of technology, more and more clinicians are considering tele-health and virtual counseling as their mainstay in practice. Though regulations vary depending on the country, state, province etc. that you are located, this area promises to be lucrative to those that decide to take it on. It requires that you have the specialized training in the area (many of these trainings can be had via online courses), equipment with the proper privacy software and a quiet room in which to conduct your sessions. I’ve known some clinicians that did this in a spare room and at least one that did it in their bed room; they put a screen behind them to hide the bed and other “private” items. However, virtual counseling is not for everyone. More and more folks are indeed giving it a go, so it is worth exploring. Here in the states, payment for these types of sessions is an issue with only certain insurance companies being willing to cover such care. Be sure to check in your area.

Could my house be converted into two spaces, one to live in and one to use as my office? Would I be allowed to convert my house by law or would I have issued with the local authorities?
Many people are remodeling their existing homes in order to build an office on site. This offers a very low overhead as it typically results in possibly a bit more insurance and an increase in utilities but little else other than the cost of the remodel. It’s important to work with local government agencies however to make sure that this type of use is allowed in your neighborhood. If it is, a separate entrance, separate bathroom and an office area that is separate from your living space is recommended.  Speaking with a tax specialist may be key here as well as there may be tax considerations that may make it more or less enticing. If you hold a mortgage, be sure to make sure that there are no provisions prohibiting the use of the property on a commercial basis as well. It is best to head into this with eyes fully open. Lastly, be sure to be considerate of your neighbors. Be sure that target population, hours of operation etc. will go well within the exiting neighborhood. For instance, working with violent populations such as sex offenders, those with histories of violent crimes etc. would not set well with most suburban neighborhoods. Should this be your population, much may need to be done in terms of educating and working with the neighborhood prior to opening so that you may avoid vocal and legal opposition. Being open and honest with the neighbors is typically the best policy. Please note however that this does not mean that you would ever disclose information on any particular client, just that if your program is to specialize with the above mentioned clientele, it is best to make sure the local laws and those around you are aware so you can calm things prior to opening. For general practices, this is not needed but it is wise to always properly screen clients for proper placement.

How big a space do I need? What is my plan for future expansion?
These questions will help steer the search for sure. How big do you want your office to get? Do you want to have many clinicians or just yourself? For me, I would like to see that every clinician get an office that is at least 12ft by 12ft. There needs to be a bathroom, waiting area and reception/ medical records area (even if you are all electronic, there will be a need for certain forms and other resources.

How do I come up with a budget and stick to it?
Most of us have not won the mega bucks so we need to make sure that we keep our costs affordable. If you are not great with budgets it may make sense to hire a consultant that can assist you with making a basic budget and teach you how to stick to it. Many places that have failed have done so in large part by spending beyond their means. Be realistic with cost projections as well as with income projections. Personally speaking, I try to be ultra conservative when planning on income to fund a project so that I do not find myself overextended. You can always increase your budget later should you have the ready cash. When doing an expansion, I never count on an increase in income as a result of the new space or programming and only spend what I can afford at that time. Many will disagree with this premise of course and may recommend a more aggressive approach. Their way may indeed bring faster growth but it also brings more risk than I personally care to take on. I’d rather grow slowly and surely than risk overextending and closing down after financial failure.

How much remodeling will be needed, and will they allow me to do it or do I have to hire trades? What’s my ability handy wise?
No matter if you rent, lease, own or borrow space, it is helpful to have a solid idea as to what your abilities are remodeling wise. Some projects are expensive to hire out but require little in the way of special tools or advanced skills. Taking these projects on may help you save thousands of dollars. It is imperative however to check with local codes to make sure that you are allowed to do this without a license. Also check with the property owner and get all the permission required. In the case of my program since we owned the buildings and grounds, we were allowed to build a bathroom with a composting toilet system but were not allowed to install our own septic system. We were allowed to do much of the electrical, structural, sheetrock, windows etc. based on our ability. Local codes will vary however.

Case study:
For the first office of the charity I founded, we looked for office space all around our target town. We found that the quality and the price of each rented space varied greatly, with some of the cheaper ones appearing to have better quality. Each office space we looked at however left us saying that we wish it had the feel of the neighborhood where we lived. Eventually, we decided to look into the local laws and found that we could indeed have an office out of our home. Our home offered two floors, each with a bathroom. Instead of paying up to $15 per square foot in rent for 1200 square feet, we elected to remodel our existing space. As we owned the building, we were able to move walls, enlarge the bathroom, paint, and do flooring etc. by ourselves. This enabled us to keep costs low while still being in our target neighborhood. The fact that we still had our own private living area was a real plus.

We kept that space for years, expanding it once to add another office (we remodeled an attached garage into an office) and changing the interior from time to time. The space served us well until finally it became obvious that we needed far more space than the building could offer us. We started looking for a space to purchase as we had grown accustom to having the final say on what we did with our space. After much search and a false start or two (somethings look good on paper or in person but not vice versa) we found what we felt was a diamond in the rough just a few miles up the road from us.

We were able to negotiate a better than prime interest mortgage with only 10% down and to purchase the property well below its estimated value. Thankfully, at closing we had 40-50% equity in the property which gave us a safety net should we ever have to take out a loan for repairs or to help the charity get over a trying time. The building and grounds were rough to say the least and required a ton of work before we could move into it. We started by building a working bathroom, using a composting system, as we did not have access to city sewers and the property lacked a septic system. We then framed the building out for offices and a waiting area and installed basic heating. We opened on a limited basis, a day or two per week at first and made a slow transition with our existing clients. Most made the move without issue though a few were upset with the additional 4 mile commute and were referred elsewhere.

Over time we made more and more improvements to the building and grounds. We added two large greenhouses, added hiking trails, gardens, “pocket areas” that became attractions in their own right, including an interactive animal sanctuary area, meditation spaces, benches, orchard areas and other items of interest. In time the original building which we still owned, became the administrative building and also served as a location that had back up offices should there ever be a catastrophic event the necessitated the short term closure of the main location. The building is currently about 7800 square feet over 3 floors. It contains many offices, a few large community rooms, shop space for occupational training, art based therapy space and several clinical offices. We have elected not to subdivide and to enjoy all the space for ourselves. We initially bought about 24 acres but recently purchased the neighboring 25 acres, this combined with right of way land gives us 50 acres for programming.

Due to careful financial management, we have been able to renovate the property in stages without incurring mountains of additional debt beyond that of the mortgage. The mortgage we took out only covered the purchase price. We elected to pay for the remodeling as we went along in order to keep our monthly payments. Low. As of today, our only outstanding non-mortgage debt is what is left of the HVAC system bill. That amounts to about fifteen thousand US.

In consulting with other programs in the area, we have found that our combined mortgage payments (the main property and the new acreage) are typically far less than some folks are paying for rent on offices that are only a fraction the size of ours and offer little to no outside space.  While our model would not work for everyone, it has enabled us to grow year to year since we were founded. By keeping overhead low but program quality high, we have thrived at a time when many other programs have closed. We have also been able to do so with no formal advertising other than a website and signs for the office.

A dream practice is possible if you are willing and able to put in the effort. I’m rooting for ya.

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren
“Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




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

What Happened to Rites of Passage?

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on July 4, 2019 1:54 pm

When was the last time you heard of a bunch of boys being taken out to the wilderness by the men of a village to experience a Rites of Passage? My guess is that not many of you have. Fortunately for this writer, I have been involved in this work for both boys and men over the past dozen years.

My first exposure to this work came through a men’s group that I joined in Indianapolis (of all places). It was a safe place for men to gather to share their truth without judgement. I later learned that the man who founded the group was initially involved with a larger organization that was then called: “The New Warriors”.  It would take me seven years until I met up with this organization again. By that time, it had changed its name to: “The Mankind Project” (MKP) – an organization based in the mid-western United States that has spread to many parts of the globe.

Once I connected with MKP, I was invited to attend a Rites of Passage weekend for men called: “The New Warrior Training Adventure”.  This was a very powerful rites of passage experience that invited me to take a deeper look at my life.  Since going through my weekend, I have invited many men to experience the weekend and it has changed many lives and rippled out into the world.

After being involved with MKP, I realized that I wish I had experienced this rites of passage when I was much younger, and was hopeful that my son could experience this for himself. Low and behold, I came across Boys to Men, a rites of passage experience for boys.  I wasted no time in bringing my son to a weekend and, following that, organized several men in my community in order to bring the weekend to us. We  ended up delivering the rites of passage several times in our own community!

This is powerful healing work for boys and men that I would invite therapists to investigate for clients with whom they believe would benefit from this empowering experience. There are a number of YouTube videos that are worth watching for further insights.




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

Additional Insights into Preserving Client Confidentiality

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on June 12, 2019 8:38 am

Glenn Sheppard wrote the article, Notebook on Ethics, Standards of Practice, and Legal Issues for Counselors and Psychotherapists in Cognica’s Winter 2018 Edition. His article reviewed ethical considerations for mental health service providers to uphold privacy and confidentially. I believe that he provided good merit and I wanted to continue and augment the dialogue to address other ways to uphold privacy and confidentiality when confronted with antagonistic attempts to gain unprivileged information.

I wanted to share my personal professional experiences. While acting as a regional director of one of the largest non-profit organizations in the US, both officials and family members made several attempts to gain unprivileged information.

Family Members
The instance that I recall most vividly were the attempts made by a few people to gain information on a domestic violence victim. Initially, the first caller claimed to be a family member. As for anyone without a signed disclosure or a warrant, we were neither able to confirm nor deny providing services to a client. I reminded my staff that even when family members make inquires that we cannot provide information and breach a client’s confidentiality.

Investigators
I believe that we had three attempts to gain information on the same client within a 1-2 week period. On one of the final attempts, a man claimed to be an investigator. Despite the inquirer’s credentials, my or my staff’s responsibility to maintain confidentiality had not changed. Fortunately, I had sat down with my staff and requested that they be vigilant during this time, because it appeared that requests for confidential information had increased.

I too was a domestic violent survivor who had to flee an unsafe situation. I had personally experienced service providers who did not understand the scope in which to preserve my or my children’s confidentiality. Unfortunately, officials were oftentimes the worst at maintaining my family’s confidentiality. I learned how to put safety features in place for me and children and my clients later benefited, as I understand firsthand the scope of avoiding breaching confidentiality.

Attorneys
Whenever an attorney would call, my staff would forward the call to me. Some attorneys were seeking information on behalf of their client. Nonetheless, my client would still need to sign a release prior to my submitting any information to their attorney. Another attorney sent over a court order not signed by a judge. We were not required to respond to any request by attorneys that do not have a proper endorsement by a judge.

Oklahoma State Laws
Oklahoma State Board of Behavioral Health, Licensed Public Counselor Rules (2016). Title 86, State Board of Behavioral Health Licensure, Chapter 10, Licensed Professional Counselors; Subchapter 3. Rules of Professional Conduct.

Confidentiality

LPCs shall maintain the confidentiality of any information received from any person or source about a client, unless authorized in writing by the client or otherwise authorized or required by law or court order

American Counseling Association
Code of Ethics Section B, Confidentiality and Privacy
B.1.c. Respect for Confidentiality

Counselors protect the confidential information of prospective and current clients. Counselors disclose information only with appropriate consent or with sound legal or ethical justification. p.6

Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
Standards of Practice, B. Counselling Relationships, Confidentiality

Counsellors have a fundamental ethical responsibility to take every reasonable precaution to respect and to safeguard their clients’ right to confidentiality, and to protect from inappropriate disclosure, any information generated within the counselling relationship. This responsibility begins during the initial informed consent process before commencing work with the client, continues after a client’s death, and extends to disclosing whether or not a particular individual is in fact a client. p.10

It is important that as mental health professionals we are aware of the guidelines of our prospective licensing, certification, and professional boards. National professional organizations, such as the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association and the American Counseling Association also provide guidelines for us to follow. In addition, if there is ever any question as to what you should do when confronted with such a situation, consider 1) Consulting with a colleague and 2) Researching your laws and regulating bodies of your profession. You may also consider finding out the requirements of horizontal mental health professions. For example, I am a Licensed Public Counselor but I may want to keep in mind requirements of Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, and Psychologist who may have a more stringent state requirement.

Lakawthra Cox, MA, MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC

References
Oklahoma State Board of Behavioral Health, Licensed Public Counselor Rules (2016). Title 86, State Board of Behavioral Health Licensure, Chapter 10, Licensed Professional Counselors; Subchapter 3. Rules of Professional Conduct. https://www.ok.gov/behavioralhealth/documents/Permanent%20Rules%20-%20LPC%20-%209-11-2016.pdf
American Counseling Association. (2014). Code of Ethics: Section B, Confidentiality and Privacy. B.1.c. Respect for Confidentiality. p.6. https://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf.
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy: Association. Standards of Practice, 5th Ed. (2015). B. Counseling Relationships, Confidentiality, p.10. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/StandardsOfPractice_en_June2015.pdf

 




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

Mothering Others…

Posted by: Gloria Pynn BA, BEd, MEd, CCC, RPsych on May 31, 2019 4:07 pm

Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on May as Mental Health Month and also on Mother’s Day. This is typically a day of celebration, but for some individuals Mother’s Day is a day of mourning, and triggers much grief, loss and trauma – most definitely a very complex and multifaceted day to say the least. There can be huge love associated with being or having a mother but also much trauma associated with having, being or trying to become a mother. An awareness of these unique experiences is necessary for therapists in helping clients cope with these “special occasions”. I wanted to highlight just a few interesting mental health initiatives or ideas related to maternal and caregiver mental health.

The Lloydminster Region Health Foundation  and My Why are partnered to highlight many mental health concerns but in particular, and more recently, maternal mental health and women facing postpartum depression. The effect of PPD on women and their families is far reaching and the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation  and My Why are jointly sharing these women’s stories to raise awareness, validate their lived experiences and reduce stigma. The following is a link to this project and wonderful work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHpuesp_A3w

Locally on the east coast, we see new mental health initiatives that are to be commended and aim to bring mothers out of the shadows and stigma, such as Newfoundland’s own Stella’s Circle. One of their innovative support programs has targeted incarcerated mothers and their separation from their children. The staff at Just Us Women’s Centre (at Stella’s Circle) works with mothers and the NL Correctional Facility for Women to record a storybook. The book is then delivered to the child, offering them something all children like – to have a story read to them by their mother: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxXQUsvhVaR/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Even in daily living, we can find important reflection about parenting and mothering insights. On my most recent trip to Costco, I found a wonderful new read and finished the book ironically on Mother’s Day: Jann Arden’s Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss.  It is an intimate look into the artist’s not perfect but very authentic relationship with her parents, and especially her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s. In my mind, it really captures one lived experience of becoming your “mother’s mother” that I’m sure hits home with many caregivers:

Arden, J. (2019). Feeding My Mother Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss. Toronto, Ontario: Vintage Canada Penguin Random House Canada.

So, wandering back to my own thoughts… I have always loved words (hence my dual BA degree Psychology and English). The older I get, the more I think of “mother” as a verb, not a noun. It’s the act of mothering that’s key and the connection this act creates is magical and humanly vital to teach empathy and love in our world.

Looking at “Mothers” in this way, allows us to appreciate every person that has ever mothered and truly loved children – biological, adoptive, stepmothers, teachers, aunts, neighbors, godmothers, angel mothers (I love this phrase a friend of mine uses), foster-moms, two Mom families, single dads who have double duty as Mom and Dad, and everyone who choose to not have, or could not have or lost children but have selflessly been mother to countless others with hugs and acts of love daily to those who need it. Happy Mother’s Day every day and love to all who have ever “mothered others”.

Think, talk and always take care,

Gloria
B.A. B.Ed. Dip. Behavior Therapy M. Ed C.C.C. R. Psych




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