What do we do with the art work?

Posted by: Priya Senroy on August 31, 2018 9:08 am

September is here and it’s time to purge files, sort through paperwork and get ready for new clients. As a creative arts therapist in private practice, I often find myself to be the caretaker of paperwork, art work, and entrusted client journals. While I am obligated to keep files due to the record retention policy of my own practice, I always wonder, if there are any other ways of saving them aside from the traditional paper format. Every 6 months I find my filing cabinet bulging with therapeutic expressions, forcing me to contact clients and ask them about their decisions regarding their documents and creations. Maintaining storage space and keeping them for 7 years seems like a daunting task without a clear solution, aside from renting external space. However, I am not comfortable keeping clients’ personal art work at an exterior location as I am unwilling to deal with any potential privacy loss.

I came across various opinions and creative ways that therapists are handling this situationWhat I decided to do is take digital photographs of clients’ art creations, drawings, scanned journals, written work and (following consultation with my clients) email them for safekeeping.

As we are focusing more on cybersecurity, cyber privacy, cyber storage and cybercouselling, it is imperative to align online document storage with the best practises of document retention.

As the year continues, I plan to look at corporate cyber document retention options and storage models to see if I can make this process more efficient, keeping in mind clients’ ever-growing concerns for privacy and access to information.

Priya Senroy , MA CCC

www.senroycounselling.com




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

Psychs du Soleil:” making clinician self-care important

Posted by: Doc Warren on August 31, 2018 9:05 am

I started in the human services 29 years ago. 29 summers. 29 winters. A lot have changed in me, and in that time, and a lot has changed in the world. When I started my career, there was no talk of self-care and we instead spoke of the possibility of being productive 16 hours a day, 6 maybe 7 days per week. Holidays were for the retired. Our mission was to make real and lasting change for as long as we could. The world needed us. We helped save lives.

Burnout was present but seldom talked about.  You would hear folks talk of others as no longer being able to hack it anymore or that they sold out and left the field. Perhaps they never really cared? Perhaps they just weren’t strong enough or they never “really” had “it” to begin with. I’ve worked through the pain many a time as my boss considered anyone taking time off as being a sign that they were soft or did not care. I remember one boss calling me when I was sick in bed with a triple infection that was resistant to antibiotics and telling me how she thought I was a team player but was not so sure anymore and that when I was done taking my “mental health day” that there was a hospital full of patients that needed my care. I dutifully returned to work as soon as I was no longer contagious but far before I was actually healthy. Later, major surgery that called for multiple weeks of recovery found me back to work on the third business day after surgery much to the chagrin of the surgeon. Like a 1980’s badass movie guy our mantra was “I ain’t got time to bleed.”

In my career I have looked down the barrel of a loaded gun; pointed at me by an unstable individual whom I was able to talk down and continued work like nothing had happened. It never even occurred to me that I could take some personal time to unwind, clear my head and re-focus. We just were not taught that this was important. So when being released from a dark elevator that had been stuck for an hour or two, I did no reflection, took no time to collect myself and instead got back on a working elevator (so I would not develop a fear) and got off on my floor and ran several more groups that day. Not even trauma, the death of a colleague stopped the day. If we collapsed? Well we would delay long enough (maybe) to see an MD but don’t expect to see me out afterwards. I’ll be back after the appointment.

Vacation days piled up unused and were simply lost when we changed jobs. We didn’t even get the cash for them. It was how it worked. It was how we were taught. It was how it was…

IT WAS WRONG.

So here I am looking at 30 years in the field and instead of teaching folks how I was taught I emphasize the need for self-care, reasonable hours and setting limits, boundaries and taking time to recharge. Slowly, I even started following these guidelines myself. You see, a burnt out helper is not much help. Leaving the profession may help you find something that pays better financially but leaving what you once loved can often leave an emptiness. Balance is key.

You’ve all read about self-care. Hopefully your graduate program even had some training in this area. You know that the following can increase your career longevity:

  • Not working excessive hours
  • Stepping away from your desk during breaks to clear your head
  • Working on art during breaks and rest times
  • Building in rest times within your work day
  • Setting limits to hours and days of work
  • Mindfulness and meditation exercises regularly
  • Vacation regularly
  • Maintaining balance
  • Exploring outside interests
  • Learning to say “no”
  • Pacing yourself
  • Finding inner peace and acceptance
  • Being realistic.

Can an old dog learn to practice self-care after almost 3 decades of working 6-7 days, 60-100 hours per week? The answer is yes but with some difficulty.  In my case I took a professional inventory and cut out things that I felt were no longer a priority, no longer a must. Though I loved them I stopped attending national and international conferences (I have been a presenter at many and enjoyed it) and diverted the money that I had spent on them to things that I could do with my family. I also dropped many unused memberships. I looked at the writing that I had done and reduced it to the minimum and also started taking weekends off. You see, there will always be a great deal of work to do and that will never change. You will not get it all done if you work 100 hours a week or 40 but the closer to 40 you can do the fresher you just may be.

Using the diverted money, the money that once went to conferences allowed me to invest more in myself, my hobbies and my family. Soon I found myself working on classic cars again, buying a truck to help with work around the farm and taking vacations with my family, renting houses on the water in both the USA and Canada. My wife and I also started taking weekend trips to places within an hour or two of home. We loved to explore and experience life between sessions. On one such trip we found an older country cottage near a waterfall that we fell in love with and eventually purchased. The sound of the falls helps relax you to sleep and soothes you when you are awake. It was new to the market after having been held up in probate for a few years. It was overgrown and unattractive but it had great bones and even greater potential. As we cut the overgrowth and removed the carpeting and other remnants of the old owner we helped the cottage find a new life and a new focus much the same as the cottage was doing for us. At about an hour from home it was far enough for us to be able to reinvent ourselves as a happy couple that wanted to relax and enjoy art, yet it was close enough that we could go almost anytime we wanted to. We started remodeling the day we closed on the property. Paint, new flooring, fixtures and furniture made all the difference. Adding art materials and leaving work-relatred items (including computers) behind helped make our cottage a true oasis. Though we did much of the work ourselves, we took breaks to enjoy a swim, a conversation with neighbors from down the road or simply listen to a song. Playing checkers was a real treat, far from the city on a road where we could not see our closest neighbor and not even a street light to distract us from what nature had to offer…

In time, we found that time need not dictate your every action. The world does not revolve on the 50 minute hour, though we still love our jobs; maybe more so since we started taking breaks.

No matter how you were taught, there is an ability to adjust, to change, to retool. Find the balance between too much work and too much play and embrace it. Challenge yourself as you expand your horizon. Perhaps one day you too will find that cottage or cabin in the woods that fills your heart. May you find a name for it that suits you. As for me and mine, well we went with “Psychs du Soleil” (shrinks in the sun). May you find balance. May you find peace.

-Doc Warren




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

It’s not just a child’s play

Posted by: Priya Senroy on June 6, 2018 3:36 pm

Spring has many significance in a person life-regrowth, rejuvenating and spring cleaning.

In my personal endeavour to clean up our living space with my children, we came across toys that we could dispose of at a garage sale. They were very much attached to their Lego blocks which have been there since their birth and they refuse to part with it.

I have often used it in my work with children to teach the many skills that can be taught with Lego.

In trying to clean my paperwork, I came across an article on Lego therapy. It has been particular useful as technique to work with children with Autism.

I decided to take this a step further and sue it as a conflict resolution technique to navigate sibling rivalry.

I found that it can be used as a concept than juts building, rebuilding or even problem solving in its simplest form.

Whenever there was a conflict which needed adult intervention, I would give them a Lego box and tell them to build a complex pattern and see how they could work as a complimentary duo to solve it and off course, the prize would be a spring flavoured freezie…..

I did observe their play to give each of the girl’s feedback about what they did to solve the conflict and ultimately come to a mutual resolutions. They negotiated, bargained, analysed win-win, win-lose, collaborating and other techniques. I gave them feedback about their communication, any empathy that I saw and thinking about the big picture.

Since then I have been reading about Lego therapy and  find that these pieces which can create havoc in the middle of the night on the way to the washroom has immense potential and I have learned that it is not just a child play to play with Lego.

So next time if you find yourself losing it over a piece of Lego, think about the piece differently and see how you can sue it as a creative teachable moment.

More information on Lego and its use:

https://themighty.com/2017/01/lego-sets-therapy-counseling-sessions/

http://www.livingwellcounselling.ca/building-blocks-family-therapy/Building Blocks & Family Therapy

http://familykinnections.ca/services/group-programs/

 

 

Priya Senroy , MA CCC

www.senroycounselling.com




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

The life of a therapeutic farm director

Posted by: Doc Warren on June 6, 2018 3:33 pm

From writing in the United States and in Canada I get email after email on such topics as founding a charity to counselling supervision and related topics. My favorites though are those that focus on therapeutic farm programs.  Now I am far from the first to have a therapeutic farm and hopefully far from the last. It was once a very common type of program but with the increase in land prices, decreases in crop prices and the insane amount of developments that were being build decades ago more and more farms, including therapeutic farms, disappeared from the map, replaced by subdivisions. Therapeutic programs have trended smaller and the connection with nature was often lost.

A handful of years ago the charity I founded was offered a great price on a nearby farm that had long ago seen its prime fade into decay. It had no running water and spotty utilities at best but we saw so much potential that we went into debt to buy the first of three sections and have spent a fortune in cash and sweat equity transforming it into a real therapeutic program with hiking trails, fields, Christmas Trees, gardens, green houses (the USA government makes us call them Seasonal High Tunnels if we want a chance at a grant), running water, a bathroom, art based programming and of course formal therapeutic programs etc. We have gone from about 850 square feet of office space to just under 4000 with more currently under construction. Eventually the main building will be about 7800 square feet including the metal\ automotive and wood shops.

As a director of such a program there really is no such thing as a “typical” day unless you simply say that a typical day is anything but typical. While I carry a full caseload of clients that I see for hour long sessions, my days also include many, many non-clinical and non-administrative duties. If you are planning on taking on such a project there are things you will want to consider unless of course you are simply stepping into a program that is fully staffed and fully operational.

In the past few weeks alone I have worked on the following projects beyond clinical and admin.

  • Replaced brakes, rotors and at least one caliper on an agency used vehicle as well as a water pump and rear wheel hub assemblies.
  • Repaired a water valve that helped supply water to the buildings and grounds.
  • Repaired the snow plow, changed a tire in the snow and also replaced a starter where the plow had died. Think slush, snow, cold and so, so dirty.
  • Repaired chicken coops after snow damage.
  • Buried some farm animals after a predator attack.
  • Ran electrical wires for new offices.
  • Repaired a 50 year old tractor that was having transmission issues.
  • Helped with grant writing.
  • Continued to conduct individual and group supervision.
  • Prepared countless planning beds and fields for planting and planted many of them. Some were plated with plants that I raised from seeds, a few were done with store bought plants and some with seeds.
  • Repaired the composting toilet system.

You get the idea. When you are not in clinical sessions there is always something to do and you do it 6 to 7 days per week. This is meant as a rough sketch of what a clinical director in this type of setting may expect. Your experiences will vary by setting, infrastructure and personal ability. I would not advocate a person with no background in electrical, mechanical or construction attempt much of what I do and I would not had I too lacked any background in this area but for those that have it, it will get put to use in this type of setting.

A large established program may not require half the skills or interaction from a director but for those that will be starting from scratch or nearly scratch, there is no shortage of challenges. Taking on a program like this is not all challenges however. There are within these programs things that cannot be found in most settings. There is the therapeutic value of being able to be in a large area with free roaming animals and being able to feed them by hand or pick them up and pet/ cuddle with them. There is the feeling of connectedness that one can feel while conducting a session while walking in a field, along a brook or on woodland trails.  The ability to watch a community grow where once overgrown land was present is a feeling that is hard to put into words. Watching crops grow and knowing that they will feed the needy while also providing therapeutic opportunities to the community is something that I had never experienced in “corporate” counseling programs. The feeling of accomplishment when you see a new wall go up or lights light up for the first time can be hard to beat as is the feeling of accomplishment when a long dormant machine fires to life.

For those of you that have not lost the love of our profession but that may be growing tired of the corporate or urban environment, consider a change of pace and a change of space. Community therapeutic farming may just be what is missing for you. It just may be what is missing in your community as well.

 

”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

Alebrijes-What does  your animal spirit look like?.

Posted by: Priya Senroy on March 1, 2018 1:09 pm

I recently say the movie Coco-it’s about celebrating the Day of the Dead, about family and traditions. The movie was colorful, musical and emotional. As I sat to deconstruct my understanding of this movie, I was intrigued by the characters called Alebrijes or spirit animals.

Research led to me this description: Traditionally, Alebrijes are carved and painted animal figurines that have become a form of symbolic art from Mexico. The word Alebrije means “imaginary” or “fantasy,” describing a style of animal carvings with exceptional paint schemes.

As a creative arts therapist, I found this symbolic art form to be fascinating as I came to know about its origins.

Pedro Linares (1906-1992), a renowned indigenous Mexican artist, first created vividly colorful papier mâché sculptures called alebrijes. The inspiration for Linares’ sculptures has an origin as outlandish and fanciful as the figures themselves. As the story goes, Linares became very ill when he was 30 years old. Not having access to medical attention, he laid in bed and lost consciousness. Linares dreamt of a bizarre, peaceful place that resembled a forest. He recounted seeing giant rocks, tall trees, and an expansive sky. The artist felt remarkably healthy again. His physical pain was gone and he felt happy as he walked along trails through the dense foliage of his dreamworld.

Suddenly, the clouds, rocks, and trees began to transform. The land features around him shaped themselves into animals that were familiar and yet like nothing Linares had ever seen before. There were mules with dragonfly wings, roosters with antlers, creatures that resembled gryphons and dragons, just to name a few. They had unnatural colors and patterns swirling over their bodies. These creatures began repeatedly chanting a single word: alebrije…alebrije…alebrije! Linares became fearful of these strange, powerful creatures chanting this nonsense word. He couldn’t tell if they were warning or threatening him. However, it was enough to startle him awake in time for his fever to subside.( NPS 2017)

Alebrijes, especially the monsters, have gained a reputation for “scaring away bad spirits” and protecting the home( Carlos, 1997)Some, like master craftsman Christian David Mendez, claim that there is a certain mysticism involved in the making and owning of alebrijes, with parts of certain animals representing human characteristics(Joaquín  2009)

I have drawn my dreams with my Jungian psychotherapist and believe in dream interpretations and I think this is another way of connecting our collective unconscious using the art form. Carl Jung saw both dreams and art (including paintings and poetry) as expressions of the unconscious .Pedro was able to link those two and create works of art which tapped into the realm of our unconscious that has been accessed brilliantly by this art form.It will be interesting to  try and clay and make my own Alebrijes modeling my dreams into animals that resonate with me and have fantastical elements.




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

Mindful Moaning: Can a Client Complain Mindfully?

Posted by: Alexandra Trottier on February 28, 2018 10:02 am

Can a client complain mindfully? Well, kind of.

In our culture, Mindfulness is often synonymous with “Good Vibes Only”. As we know however the true definition of Mindfulness is really just about “paying attention, to the present moment, on purpose, and without judgement”. It is simply good fortune that an ongoing Mindfulness practice will eventually lead to “Good Vibes…Mostly”.

Here are my tips for using Mindfulness to help clients transform their moaning minds.

  1. Become aware of complaints.

Have your client start by tracking their negative thoughts, including the words they use and the situations they find themselves griping about the most. By tracking these criticisms they’ll begin to see a pattern of which negative thoughts continually resurface. Remind them that complaints are a way for the brain to express potential threats. By becoming aware of their common complaints your client will begin to take note of the areas in their life they want to improve.

  1. Tune into the feelings behind the complaints.

Instruct your client to also take note of the emotions behind their complaints. Are they hurt? Frustrated? Anxious? Sad? Also, instruct them to be mindful of where they feel the emotion in their body. You can use this information to help them recognize their triggers. Noting their current emotions will also help you guide clients toward defining their desired emotions in the areas of their life they want to improve.

  1.  Resist the urge to complain about complaining.

Invite your client to speak to themselves with kindness rather than judging themselves for complaining. Remind them that complaining is a natural part of being human and instruct them to instead use neutral statements such as, “This is a moment of complaining” or simply using the labels “Complaint” or “Stop”. This way they are not judging or criticizing themselves but simply bringing mindful awareness to the fact that they are perceiving a potential threat that needs to be attended to.

  1.  Shift your language.

Perhaps using the word “Stop” is enough for your client to break the cycle of complaining. However, you may also want to include this fourth step to help your client begin shifting their negative language. Invite your client to try seeing unpleasant situations in different ways using neutral statements. For example, instead of complaining, “I hate how cold the winter is” they may instead use the neutral statement, “Today it is -15 outside”.

The point is that once your client starts to become mindfully aware of their complaints they have the power to decide whether they want to give into the thought, leave it, attend to it, or shift it. Mindfulness offers the potential for your clients to take back control over their moaning minds.




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

“What more is there to do between October and May than letting your brain work in mysterious ways?”

Posted by: Priya Senroy on February 23, 2018 2:35 pm

This was my takeaway from the article I was reading on how Sweden beats its winter climate….

In my never ending search to beat the winter  and the cold blues I am trying to think and feel differently , and trying to spread this perspective to my clients.

Yes winter is white….Now white can mean bland, boring, dull, monotonous to some, while to others it might mean a blank canvas to start a fresh idea, a barren landscape to sow the seeds of new  opportunity.

So what I am proposing in this blog is to think of the white canvas, the landscape as a metaphor  of an incubator for our creative ideas.

Creativity does not need any season, any thermostat or thermometer…it needs our mind, our imagination and our attitude to think both inside and outside the box.

As I talk to clients who go through the Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms and cant wait for summer to arrive, I like  encouraging them to use this opportunity to start to think on how to fill that empty canvas, the what background would they like to have, what new goals or ideas they would like to draw….its about reminding them them just like nature, like the tress and the animals…its time to hibernate, to take a break and grow internally….to power pack those seeds which are going to germinate or power pack those energy after a long year that just went past….its longing for those ideas, those creative juices to start taking shape and form so its ready to go whenever one is ready….

The notion that one has to do something or engage in something in order to be creative can easily be demystified if we focused on our internal stimuli, our motivation, our inner energy, our inner powerhouse and what would be the ideal time to do that then now….yes its winter outside, its cold and white ( sometimes) but no one says its dead….its alive as much as we could like to make it…we can stay stay indoors and not make the most of our own time or we can stay indoors ( for those of us who are not winter lovers) and start to gather colors, ideas, resources so that we can paint our year as it unravels….

So can we not let our brain work in mysterious and creative ways at this time of the year?




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

Cherishing the life you have

Posted by: Doc Warren on February 22, 2018 9:26 am

So many of us spend so many sleepless nights focusing on what we’ve lost at the cost of cherishing what we have left. It’s not just our clients, as a consultant and supervisor I have found many many cases of clinicians that have burnt out of life, even if they were functioning in their work. They lose the ability to see that life in not guaranteed, that it is precious and that it can be taken from us in an instant. Recently, I had two things happen that reminded me to check my focus and try to live every day to the fullest.

Helen was our therapeutic animal partner where I work and had been since she was rescued. Though she had been used as a bait dog, violently beaten and left for dead, she had an unending amount of love to give, and give it she did to so many folks in the 6 or so years that we had her. Even when recovering from two surgeries, one to fix damage to her face and remove fibrous debris that was lodged in her skull from past abuse; the other to remove cancer from her body, she reported to work the very next day, refusing to stay home and refusing to use a bed we laid out for her at the office. Barely walking, cone around her neck, large areas shaved and covered in a t shirt, she limped to my office and asked for help getting on the couch. She remained for her shift, giving love and support to those in need. Sadly, she passed in my arms December 22nd after completing a long day of service. Giving till her final breath. Countless cried at the news of her passing. She had not been ill and at 8 years old she was expected to have many years left.

Hours ago I was working on projects between sessions as I always do. It’s nothing to see me working on or working with a farm tractor or large piece of equipment when I have some time between clients. I may also be using a chainsaw or any one of a thousand tools while improving the grounds and buildings. I play plumber, electrician, carpenter, designer, welder etc. at any given moment and am no stranger to a nick or a cut nor the occasional trip to the medical clinic for stiches or other care. When you do as much as I do you will have a mishap, especially when you work 60-80 hours per week and have for years on end. Hours ago, things did not go as planned. It changed me, for how long I cannot say. But it has me reflecting in a way that I have not in some time.

While reworking a circuit panel in our building I had trouble installing a breaker and my hand slipped. For a brief moment I came into contact with the hot (energized with electricity) part of the panel. Every bit of power in that panel should by rights have entered into my body. That panel supplies power to an entire floor, 2600 or so square feet of space yet I was unhurt; not even a shock. I have no explanation for why I am ok, but I am physically fine. After the incident I continued, with my project and finished the panel and went back to clinical duties (I am the director and also have a full case load of clients), few if any knowing what had happened. Inside I felt different though.

That’s how life can often work; here and happy one moment and gone the next, or not… We really have no idea when we will leave this world or how but we all will leave it one day. Instead of focusing on all we have lost, how much more others have as compared to us or all the stuff that we dislike but cannot change, let us instead enjoy every moment that we have. Life is often wasted on those that only see negative, use that energy to make the world better than you found it. Find your reason to smile instead of looking for reasons to become angry.

Ten ways to increase happiness in your life:

  1. Take time every day to tell those around you how much they mean to you.
  2. Before posting something on social media ask yourself if it is true, if it is kind and if it is necessary?
  3. Remember that no tomorrow is guaranteed; work towards living today to the fullest: why waste it on things that do not make you feel fulfilled?
  4. Go through your china cabinet, hope chest and other keep sake storage and use those special items every day. Why save it forever? Items were made to be used. I personally only use vintage collectible cups, plates and utensils after seeing so many of those keepsakes at auctions, flea markets and rummage sales after the next of kin did not want them.
  5. Treat yourself today. Saving for a retirement that you may never see does make sense but not if you are unable to live well today. Find a balance and treat yourself well now. Take more trips. Have more experiences while you are young enough to enjoy them.
  6. Never go to bed angry if you can help it. While we do sometimes need to take space to process our feelings, it is often better to take that limited time and then find closure rather than to let things fester.
  7. Build a better today as well as a better tomorrow. Sacrifice is part of life for most of us, especially in the early years of adulthood but you need not sacrifice all the time. Find a balance while working for a better tomorrow and take time to enjoy the now. It may only be a few moments a day, an occasional day off or a day trip, but do live for today while working towards a more secure tomorrow.
  8. Tell people how you feel. So many people regret never telling someone that they feel about them when they had the chance. So many tears mix with words at an otherwise empty cemetery, telling them all they wish they had said. Why wait?
  9. Get unstuck. Feeling trapped in a dead end job, relationship or other situation? Take steps now to find the situation that you crave. It may be hard but is it any harder than forcing yourself to go through the motions when they do not bring any joy? Work will always have tough times, tough moments but overall it should bring a sense of self satisfaction.
  10. Be who you are. Why pretend to be something you are not? Why dress the part or walk the walk that means nothing to you? Find balance between societal necessities and individuality. Why do clothes need to match? Who says a professional has to wear a suit in order to be competent? Who says a mechanic can’t wear nice clothes to work? I’ve been known to wear pocket t shirts and shorts to work and never had a client walk out of a session. Depending on your boss’ rules, you should have plenty of room to balance what they are looking for with remaining true to yourself. Embrace it.

The bottom line is that life is to be cherished. Value every moment.




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

Guidelines For Addressing Loneliness

Posted by: Alexandra Trottier on January 22, 2018 2:28 pm

I see the effects of loneliness all the time.

When you work with seniors it’s almost a given.

I facilitate wellness workshops for older adults living in retirement communities. Loneliness and depression are regular topics of conversation. However, it is important to note that seniors are not the only demographic of concern when it comes to loneliness. According to a recent CBC News report, 28% of Canadians are living alone. Singles are now the most common type of household in the country meaning that people of all ages are grappling with the effects of loneliness. According to the same report, Britain recently appointed a minister to address the increasing number of people who identify as lonely. Canada has no such strategy.

With this in mind here are some general guidelines for addressing loneliness with your clients:

 

  1. Recognize the distinction between isolated and lonely.

While an isolated client is more likely to feel lonely, do not ignore those who appear gregarious. The seniors I work with live with their peers and are surrounded by staff. The same can be said for undergraduates living on campus and we all know the high statistics surrounding depression and suicide risk for these young adults. Retirees and students alike may stay in their rooms, eat by themselves, and show up to activities without participating or opt out altogether. They may feel out of place and socially anxious when they do attend events and as a consequence feel even lonelier in the group than on their own. In other words, counsellors must continue to be mindful of the symptoms of loneliness even when a client appears sociable.

 

  1. Be mindful of the common signs of and risks for loneliness.

Signs:

  • Increased physical aches or pains
  • Worsening of mental or physical health conditions.
  • Low energy or lack of motivation.
  • Difficulty Sleeping.
  • Loss or increase in appetite and sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide.
  • Lacking purpose or meaning in life.
  • Keeping to oneself even in social situations.
  • Difficulty meeting new people and feeling like you don’t belong.
  • Declining social invitations.

Risks:

  • Experiencing a major life transition such as moving, retirement, job loss or new employment.
  • Grieving the loss of a spouse, partner, or loved one due to death or relocation.
  • Difficulty participating in social activities due to financial limitations, illness, mobility issues, or difficulty accessing transportation.
  • Living alone or lack of close family connections.
  • Poor physical or mental health.
  • Language or cognitive barriers.
  • Withdrawal from culture or community.
  1. Help your clients pinpoint times when they feel most worthy.

Some examples may include connecting with cultural centres or programs, volunteering for a purposeful cause, speaking with their community to suggest an activity of interest or lead it themselves, and finding a positive solo activity. Collaborate with your client to develop an action plan that organizes these activities into specific goals with deadlines.

  1. Address loneliness through gratitude, compassion, and mindfulness.

The practice of Mindfulness has been shown to decrease anxiety, increase ones sense of gratitude, and develop compassionate cognitions towards the self and others – all of which are linked with declines in loneliness. There are several Mindful Self-Compassion exercises clients can practice as solo activities. Some of these include guided loving-kindness meditations, developing their own mantra, hugging themselves while visualizing a friend, and cognitive behavioural tasks where the client converts negative self-talk into compassionate statements.

Overall, it is important for counsellors to be mindful of loneliness regardless of their clients’ age or lifestyle. Remember, you can feel even lonelier standing in a crowd than you can sitting alone on the couch.

 

Alexandra Trottier is a Canadian Certified Counsellor facilitating wellness workshops for older adults living in retirement homes. She can be contacted at AlexandraTrottierWorkshops.com




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

Handing off to the next generation of counselors while you are young enough to watch them succeed

Posted by: Doc Warren on December 18, 2017 3:58 pm

I started working in human services when I was in high school and apart from a year and a bit, I have spent my entire career working in nonprofits. The profession has changed a great deal and in many ways the world seems much smaller now than when I began. Computers were only for the rich and or well connected then, now it seems everyone has one and with that connectivity we can communicate across the globe and do so much more than we had ever imagined.

My generation is getting a bit older though we are not close to retirement. The hair is not as thick as when we started and wrinkles are immigrating in great numbers but we are still on top of our faculties and on top of our game. So many of my generation seem to think that the current generation is weaker than we ever were, that they whine, complain and are lazy. Some refuse to hire them, others take little interest in them and do little to help them learn their craft. As for me, well, I’m in the majority that realizes that they are our future and I will do everything I can to see them succeed. After all, if they win, we all do.

Sometimes we must take pause and think about our career and how we can pass the torch to the next generation. Will it be upon our death; at our retirement, or will it be in phases? To me, phases can be the most efficient way to prepare them. I’d like to think we are leaving big shoes to fill after all, so why not let them grow into them gradually?

I remember how hard it was when I clawed my way into the field. I remember the nicknames “puppy, Bambi, newbie” and a host of others. Some were said in jest, some with derision as they felt that though I had the same degrees or more than they had that I had not earned my way in. My generation was lazy as well in their eyes. Still, we persisted and now many of us are the leaders that we once worked hard to impress.

The other day marked a milestone in that I did my last session in the first office I had in the nonprofit I founded. I remember opening it as I was finishing up on my doctorate. How we lacked even a fax machine at the start and found our furniture at estate sales, flea markets, hand me downs etc. The office was very crude in those days with even a subtle breeze causing the old single pane glass to rattle.  We painted it to make it look nice and even refreshed the floors but that glass needed to wait a while until we could replace it. Over the years we grew and eventually bought a 2nd building and rehabbed it. I kept the first office as we already owned it and wondered if my son would ever want it. I split my week at one office or the next while he went to graduate school and got the post grad hours that he needed to be credentialed. He has that now. He has been working elsewhere for several years actually. I will go to the new office while he will get his chance in my updated older one.

My last session was uneventful. I said good night, finished my paperwork and then took a minute to look around. I remembered the day when most everything in that office was put in place. I remember the younger man’s clothes and my visions for the future. I remember him graduating High School, starting college, graduating again and going through grad school and entering the field. He became a man during the years I worked in this office. While I have no idea where my son will go I know he wants to work with me in that office for a few hours to start. Maybe he will one day run the charity, maybe he will only work a few hours for a bit and then move on, or he may just work a few hours and never progress beyond. We simply do not know. I do know however that I want him to have the best chance at success that he can have. I did the same when my wife decided to enter the field as well.

So as I start to pack up the many treasures that I have collected over the years, patch the nail holes and begin to paint this office so it becomes not a hand me down but a fresh start, I will get the benefit of watching him come into his own. The color of the office may change, the outlooks will have a younger set of eyes perhaps but the desire to make a real and lasting change will remain.

He is not trying to be me, no more than I tried to be my mentor. Out of all my furniture he has said that he would like to keep my craftsman style desk. Gone will be the barrister bookcases and my favorite leather couch. So too will be my favorite nick knacks and paintings. He will have his own style, just as he will have his own favorite techniques.

We will not have to totally remove the name from the door as I gave him my own at birth. The letters after it will differ some.

That’s the thing about handing off to the next generation. We cannot expect that they will become younger versions of ourselves even if they carry our DNA and name. We cannot expect that they will do what we did or like what we like. Truth be told, I never encouraged my son to join this field and when we told me he was thinking of entering the field I sat him down and gave him ever reason not to. Once done I asked him if he was still interested and when he said he was I replied “good, now let me tell you every reason why you should.”

To all those that are entering the field I wish you the very best of luck and hope that you have or will have mentors that embrace you and help you grow strong in life and in the field. For those like me, that are well into their careers, I encourage you to embrace the next generation now, not later. Nourish them and nurture their development in the field regardless if the generation before us did the same.

It doesn’t take a lot to help. You can:

  • Take on interns if you have not been doing so.
  • Share your favorite books, techniques or tricks of the trade.
  • Write about your field to share information to others.
  • Share your triumphs and how you got them.
  • Share your mistakes and how you could have prevented them.
  • Share your time, be there for them when they need you, and when they could just use a friendly face.
  • Listed to them, their ideas, dreams and general desires without judgement but do offer them constructive feedback.
  • Let them know the importance of competence and ethical behavior but also let them know that they WILL make mistakes and when they do, how they handle it will make all the difference.
  • Stress the need for self-care even if you are weak in this area.
  • Let them develop their own voice while also teaching them the value of listening.
  • Share your space with them as possible. Let them learn to fly in an atmosphere that allows them to land safely.
  • Let them go when it’s time, just as they will need to let you go one day.
  • Embrace the change; embrace the future and accept that we will not be here forever.

As the end of our working days become closer than the beginning, how we embrace those that will define our profession can make all the difference. Leave a mark on the next generation now while you have the time to see it grow. We are all in this together.

”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 can be contacted at [email protected]  He is internationally certified as a counsellor and counsellor supervisor (USA & Canada).




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