My Father’s Hands: Things We Can Learn from Generations that Came Before Us

Posted by: Doc Warren on March 19, 2019 9:17 am

My father was not much of a talker. Now that I think of it, he wasn’t  into nurturing either, but he did teach me a great deal just the same. Though I could probably count the number of hugs on a single finger he gave me from the time I turned ten until he passed away, he still managed to help shape many aspects of my life. I miss him.

Folks can teach us in many ways. They can teach us with their words, be they written or recorded. They can teach us much like the folk stories of old, verbal histories shared from generation to generation, each one with a point, focus on a moment in history or a moral tale. Sometimes these are the best types of stories. The farm that I work on is named from a local folk tale. It was shared from person to person and never written down until the farm was named after the woodland creature in the tale. In fact, much debate was spent on how to spell this creature’s name. At least three renditions were explored before “Pillwillop” was decided upon…

Not being a writer, a talker or a hugger, my father was a bit more limited in his approach.  He shared few words, even fewer the number of words that he liked to use that I could actually share in a professional writing. That’s not to say that he had little to teach as his actions taught me much about what I view how a man should behave. He set many an example, some good, some not, but every one helped me become who I am today.

One of my main memories of my father was when I was a toddler. My father was home from work, a real treat for me as I rarely saw him. He was in bed, tired but in a better mood than usual. I looked at his hands. They were cracked from solvents but also stained with machine oil, which gave a spider web type look to his giant (to me) fingers.  His palms and several fingers were wrapped with bandages caused by a work mishap. Sometimes the old machines needed to take what they felt were theirs, especially if you were rebuilding them. I remember asking my dad why he was home and he said something about sometimes needing to take a break. He didn’t talk about the pain or injuries and instead just talked about taking a break, he’d be back to work the next day.

I sat their staring at his hands and looking down at mine. Mine were so delicate, his looked like stone. His were cracked and wrapped, mine never had been. Finally I asked him about his hands and why they were wrapped. Only then did he say that sometimes the machines win but he was fine. He’d get the machine back together tomorrow…

All those scars on his hands told the tale of a man whose hardscrabble upbringing helped mold him into what he became. They inspired his son and others though he had so little to say about them. Always inquisitive (many would say nosey), I asked everything I could while I had access to him. There is so much to be learned from those that came before us. So much that has been lived. So much to teach us but so many of our elders keep the stories to themselves. Too little is written down.

As I type these words I look now at my own hands. They are middle aged and at times cannot grip a hammer any longer. They are prematurely worn out due to the same hardscrabble upbringing of their own. We learned to be creative though. When I could not grip a hammer I taped it to my closed hand. When my wrists were full of pain I used that same tape. My father’s hands taught me this. There is much to be learned. So much to be offered if we simply take the time to ask.

To those that are reading this, consider taking a day off from work very soon so that you can spend it with those from older generations. Look not just at their hands, take the time to ask them about life when they were your age. Ask them about when they were younger than you are. Ask them how times and things have changed. Hang onto those words as best you can. Record them if possible so that they can continue to teach us long after we have passed.

There is so much knowledge just waiting to be uncovered. So much that may be on the verge of being lost. Now is the time.

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

Life’s a Masquerade

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on March 15, 2019 8:16 am

My sister had a masquerade party for her 30th birthday. The guests were dressed like 17th century patrons in fancy ball clothes, and even her cake had a vertical floating gold masquerade ball mask. Children, adults, and grandparents attended her authentically themed party, hosted in a large party hall. Can you imagine waltzing across a ballroom floor in your fancy clothes, while you escape in the music and getting to enjoy the company of other guests through great conversation, warmth, and laughter? The hors d’oeuvres are simply smashing. Generally, people report friendships or close relationships as the most valuable and meaningful part of life (Klinger, 1997; Bibby, 2001). What better way to spend time than in a masquerade party with good friends and family.

I never considered having a special party for my 30th birthday, or any other birthday for that matter. I am lucky to care to attend my own graduations, as I skipped my high school and my first master degree graduation. My approach to skipping out on celebrations is far from healthy. Skipping out leads to not only isolating yourself, but also isolating other people in your life. When my children view old videos of my family, they always ask my mother or sisters, “Where was my mom?” I was usually engaged in my own individual activities somewhere else in the house. My absence from family activities in my adolescence has apparently robbed my children, a generation later, of any meaningful insight about my life growing up. Avoid isolating yourself, as isolation can lead to loneliness among other negative emotional consequences. Remember to celebrate life, yourself, and your accomplishments – even the small ones.

Now, I take time out to smell the roses, so to speak, and you should do the same. Life is a masquerade but don’t hide behind your masks – have a ball. If you do, your happiness will keep you healthier.

References
Bibby, R.W. (2001). Canada’s Teens, Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow. Toronto: Starddart.
Klinger, D.A. (1997). Negotiating order in patrol work: an ecological theory of police response to Deviance. Criminology 35(2):277–306.



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

School Counsellor in an Outreach School

Posted by: Derek Collins on March 4, 2019 10:57 am

My impression of school counselling has certainly evolved. It did not have a great first impression. For the first half of my career I worked in a rural K to 12 school. School counsellors were mythical creatures similar to teacher librarians and lab technicians. I saw “school counselling” as something that was done by the vice-principal in addition to his other tasks. He “counselled” the students on which courses to put in their schedules in order to graduate. Meeting the entrance requirements of a post-secondary program was a wonderful bonus.

My understanding grew when I became the vice-principal. I found a copy of the Alberta Education publication of “Building a Comprehensive School Guidance and Counselling Program” released in 1995. On page 35, it lists the three key issues facing school counsellors: promoting academic growth skills, encouraging positive student transitions, and developing positive interpersonal relationships. As a new school administrator, I tried to help students plan their academic course loads. I worked to help students develop better interpersonal skills when they were sent to me for disciplinary actions.

A side effect of disciplining students that I began to realize is that every one of them had a back-story. I began to hear the terms such as “anxiety,” “depression,” “anger issues” and “stress.” While I was initially overwhelmed, I was intrigued about this vast field of counselling. I realized I was allowed into a privileged place to help guide these students to find their strengths. At that point came the wonderful opportunity I still get to work in today. I became the principal at Vermilion Outreach School. Outreach schools are alternative schools set up to “meet the needs of students who either cannot or will not pursue their education in traditional high schools” (from the Outreach Program Handbook, 2009, Alberta Education, pg. 1). Many people describe it as a school for “those” kids with addictions, criminal records or violent pasts.

Certainly, every school has a tremendous variety of individuals each needing different types and amounts of support. Working in an alternative school setting has provided a wonderful place to learn more about mental health and supporting youth. I hope to explore various aspects of school counselling and the field itself from this viewpoint. There is a strong need to advocate for trained school counsellors. Hopefully, I can hear from others about their experiences.

Derek Collins




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

Aloneness

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on February 25, 2019 10:21 am

Dave feels alone in the world. He no longer connects with his family and has few friends. He spends too many hours contemplating the darkness of his days, with no motivation to change his mindset. Day after day, he ruminates about how terrible his life has been; his voicemail tends to be full because Dave does not return the frequent calls from collection agencies.

It seems to me that there are many individuals in Dave’s situation across Canada. The levels of depression and anxiety are at epidemic levels, and the only entities  gaining from this increase are the pharmaceutical companies that are, in my opinion, putting a band-aid on the issue. What people like Dave require is a connection with others. On the one hand, he needs to be validated and provided with insights as to how he can lift himself up and feel more positive on the other.

Many years ago, one of my supervisors said to me, “fail to plan, plan to fail.” When I think about this concept in relation to Dave, I wonder how many people are drifting aimlessly in our communities because they do not have a plan. How many people are alone because they lack structure and discipline in their lives? I can hear some respondents saying, “People who are depressed lack the motivation to get up and go.” I agree with this statement, and I also believe that it is through inertia that people change; that people need to go to work, or be in school, volunteer, or go on dates to be connected.

Dave needs purpose in his life to get out of bed; he needs a mission to move him forward. In my opinion, this is what individuals who find themselves alone sitting in the dark need to lift themselves up. Dave also needs to stay present rather than churning up his past that is gone or worrying about the future that has yet to happen. By being present, Dave can focus on his current tasks step by step in a way that he can manage.




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

The Cost of Creating Self-Care: Can You Really Afford Not To?

Posted by: Gloria Pynn on February 19, 2019 1:10 pm

“Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off  a piece of that Kit Kat bar” – many of us have been there. The all-giving, dedicated counsellor is exhausted at the end of the day having given so much to our clients, colleagues and employers. We reach for that little reward – food, drink, bed, TV, and we collapse into the abyss of mindlessness or sleep to awaken to another day of emotional yet essential and passionate service to others.

Over time, the daily work and commitment of counselling can manifest itself in unhealthy responses to stress resulting in weight and health issues, withdrawal or retreat, anxiety, depression, or an overall lack of joy. That feeling of being a hamster on a wheel despite, and maybe because of, your passionate love of “your wheel”; your profession. In many different forms, compassion fatigue can rob you of your energy, deflate relationships and create a subtle but definite disconnect with your daily life.

The need to be mindful vs mindlessness is ever-growing in our profession.

Yes, we should all feel that it is okay, actually imperative, to focus on our self-care but often there is a guilt associated with looking after ourselves versus others. I’ve often called it a “counselling curse”. Empathy and service to others trumps self-compassion. Often early in our careers we pave the road to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. I feel these are two major thieves of our daily joy, health and peace.

We all read and listen to messages at local conferences, on blogs, and webinars to “provide self-care” and we all fully agree with that message, on a rational level. But how can you make it a reality and a constant in the forefront of your practice and life? Can we concretely plan or create self-care? Generalize it to our daily life practices? In our hurried world of could-haves, should-haves, would-haves, the first step to manifesting any change starts in our heads and hearts.

First Step.

Do absolutely nothing.

You may very well need a rest. Allow true mindless in. Sit, nap, journal – follow your mind’s natural path – this can often show you many of your own thoughts, worries and needs. If you can do this by integrating walks, hikes, nature, all the better. If you have developed mental health issues associated with compassion fatigue, please seek professional support. NO shame! As a counselling professional of over 25 years – been there, done that and will continue to seek whenever needed. NO apologies! Then, read about others and their minds. You can read self-help books but also those stories of people you admire, or even “disaster stories” (where life went wrong) with many lessons to be learned of misplaced priorities and regrets.

Second step.

Get a grip – Take stock and gratitude daily.

Take a long look around and see where are you in your life. Are you healthy? Are you happy? What makes you happy? What do you dread every day? Journal if that helps you, walk or talk with yourself and be open to hearing honestly what is good, what’s missing and what would make you feel more at peace or “peace-full” every day.

Also, truly listen and see what things you regret and how those things and relationships could be changed even gently. The power of change is one of our fundamental beliefs as counsellors and psychotherapists. Change is possible for us as well.

Think on your relationships and what you owe your family, significant others and most important yourself. Start to consider how to commit to those people and then learn to include yourself in that commitment daily. For me, this was integral as this helped me learn stepwise, that giving to myself was the best step to giving to family, and also my clients. (Had to do it for others first but getting there).

Thirdly.

Manipulate your mindset.

Sometimes we overthink and rationalize to our own detriment. Perhaps we need to build a rationale that “allows” us to take a break. Maybe it’s okay because we are learning new skills and perhaps a new naturopathic approach to healing, mindfulness workshops or training etc., to complement our counselling work. Think always about what you would like to learn, what motivates you, your passions and then start to weave these things into your life and career plans. Self-care sneaks in and can become a natural consequence and an amazing byproduct.

After this self-assessment, and during it actually, look at any and all possibilities to create self-care daily, monthly and long term. A few ideas in no particular order follow that I have woken up to (after 25 years as a counsellor) and have started to use or integrate in my own counselling practice and life:

Creating your own self-care plan

Financing self-care – money is always an object or is it? Use the money, options and health plans you may already have in place but you don’t think on daily.

  • “Sick” or leave days – use them or lose them. I dislike the negative connotation of sick days and firmly believe in attending to your physical and mental health days. When you delay or defer these days, you are likely to develop further issues and illnesses.
  • Our health care and insurance plans (Counselling, Massage, Naturopath Services, Dietitian, etc.)
    • How often have you finished another work year and realized that you had coverage for services you never even used but could have benefited tremendously? Just a thought. You could be paying for these services every month or pay-cheque. Allow yourself to engage in what could help take care of you.
  • Mini Vacations
    • Professional learning is also all around us and can equally benefit us and our clients. On-demand webinars and workshops on stress, meditation, mindfulness exist, as does professional learning experiences in places you want to see or places you would like to go. Grants are often available to help you with cost and provide you important learning, as well as a change of scenery or rejuvenation. There is also much benefit from the connection with fellow counsellors and in being around those who know or understand our work.
  • Deferred salary leave plans
    • Deferred salary leave plans can be a wonderful way to create a long-term plan for self-care. Readers should investigate whether their employers and respective workplaces offer this option as a first step. It can be a viable option here in Newfoundland and Labrador for many public sector employees. Consult Human Resources personnel in your place of employment to discuss of particulars with regard to requirements and benefits of these types of options. Long story short, deferred salary plans may be a means for some colleagues to planning self-care longer term – to rejuvenate, pursue personal, family, and/or professional goals.
  •  “Lunchables”
    • Don’t have a full day or afternoon, then make the time for coffee or quick lunch. A quick break away or a coffee run, a drive can be a change of scenery and change can be as good as a rest. Connect with others but have boundaries on time and select places you enjoy.
  • Commit to you by including others (you like)
    • Plan it – Build connection into your day or week or month and make the commitment to other people – connect with those who help you to laugh, reflect, get outside, exercise – whatever it is you feel you need for peace and joy.
  • Continue to Tweak it
    • Try new things and add new elements – walk n’ talks, yoga, painting, meditation anything you love or would love to try. As counsellors who wants to continually improve our practice, look to your passions and the things you personally enjoy! You can learn about, practice, teach and model much of this for your clients. An authentic life and counselling practice is always amazing and powerful!! Do as I do not as I say. Who knows, imposter syndrome may start to slide away? But that’s a topic for another post.

Think, talk and always take care,

Gloria




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

Gymnastics

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on February 11, 2019 10:43 am

Early one year, my girls and I visited a University of Oklahoma’s women gymnastic meet. Upon watching the meet, my young girls were able to get posters and t-shirts signed by the team members. A day later, when her grandpa asked Lenay, one of the girls, about her experience at the meet, she told Grandpa, “We went to the Olympics.”

Some experiences are so wonderful, the experience leaves you feeling like some greater experience occurred. Sometimes accomplishing the one goal that you planned for the year or for many years back, once completed, makes you feels as if you climbed mountain Kilimanjaro. While you feel like you have climbed mountain Kilimanjaro, you may have only played that violin piece well, lost weight, or learned to dance the Tango. It does not matter how insignificant your goal is to others, if it is important to you, make your goals come true. Capture that feeling of accomplishment and use that feeling to motivate you to achieve your next goal. Goals may consist of growing a garden, increasing business and income, and improving an interpersonal relationship.

Since my girls had been in gymnastics for a couple of years, it was appropriate to have them understand why gymnastics is useful. I had the girls watch the pretrial videos of the Olympic 2008 tryouts. My thoughts are that this video will show them what they are aiming to accomplish with each gym activity. If the girls understood the results, they could work to become more efficient in gymnastics. One gym class, after having watched the pretrial videos a week earlier, Lenay said, “Mommy, I am tired of gymnastics,” as she walks off the gym floor. “I do not want to go to the Olympics.” She sat down in protest of finishing her gymnastic class.

You may also feel like not wanting to play in the Olympics or achieve your own set of goals after becoming tired or weary while working toward your goals. Having unrealistic goals contributes to your stress of becoming tired or weary (Weiten & Lloyd, 2006). My goal for Lenay is not necessarily for her to try out for the Olympics, because at four years old she has plenty of time to work toward Olympic, high school, and college tryouts for cheer leading or gymnastics, or none of the above. While I am careful not to impose too much on Lenay, I am aware that stress is largely self- imposed (Epstein & Katz, 1992). Keep your goals realistic and avoid imposing too much stress.

References
Epstein & Katz. (1992). In Weiten & Lloyd. (2006). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Weiten, W. & Lloyd, M.A. (2006). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson /Wadsworth.



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

Let’s Talk… Mental Health

Posted by: Gloria Pynn on February 4, 2019 1:33 pm

I am honored to share my humble voice, musings, and learnings as a certified counsellor and registered psychologist. I have been a counsellor for 25 years. I hope you identify with and find something in my words – a few takeaways to help you reflect on and use in your daily practice.

There are many community initiatives bringing mental health into our collective consciousness. Amazing community partners are attempting to #endthestigma, and are holding many essential conversations about the prevalence, needs and impact of mental health. Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk Day” is one national push towards mental health awareness and a major source of fundraising to support these goals. In the spirit of such events and the aims of our CCPA Connect Blog, I decided to write on mental health and my general counselling perspective.

Mental health is all about people and life. Each individual’s personal life experience is different and each road to wellness and peace a very personal and unique journey.

It all starts with a person’s story like the following on kidshelpphone.ca. One person’s story – less than two minutes to read but enlightening how young children can start to experience mental health difficulties and the positive impact of support. Click here to read Emma O’Hare’s story.

Every story is unique, requiring an individual exploration and journey to wellness. The story emerges and well intentioned, we all too often jump to “How can we fix?” With this mindset, how can anyone as family, friends even ourselves as counsellors and psychotherapists help Someone has felt safe enough to trust you to share their story and issues. The following link presents a few ways anyone can help if a person confides in you regarding their issues and mental health (via Kids Help Phone).

Most importantly, we should always encourage the person to connect, engage or re-engage a team of professionals or seek professional help.  Sometimes that is difficult, and people can refuse or encounter difficulties in accessing help. In spite of this and perhaps because of this, we always need to work together to encourage the fight to access professional help and support – employee assistance programs, medical, psychiatry, individual counselling – any supports or services tailored to an individual’s needs and issues. The CCPA constantly advocates for access to counselling services. We all walk among very compassionate family, friends and staff in general who are there to help and listen but we must also be mindful of the need for expert supports. Many situations require the support and help of professionals such as certified counsellors and psychotherapists. The journey to mental health is very individual and takes more than one day and one campaign. We have to continue helping people talk and sharing stories, in protective safe spaces and always with an eye to our own life stories as counsellors.

I always stress SAFETY with my fellow educators, students and caregivers, as there are times people need immediate and direct intervention. At any point, if you feel an individual or others around them are not SAFE, the best help you can offer sometimes is to honestly say, this is bigger than me and you right now, WE need immediate medical help or interventions. Engage police and or medical intervention ER, wellness checks as needed. The brutal reality is we can all lose people to suicide or homicide (myself included). Always then, look to your own self-care and mental health as a counsellor, partner, parent, and human being. Vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are real things that we all must bear in mind to be well and at peace.

In my opinion, the most important element toward all mental health is finding and giving VOICE.  People have to think about and discover what they need and then give voice to their needs in whatever way they can. The counselling process and counsellor’s work then continues to explore and walk alongside an individual’s path leads toward wellness one step at a time. We can try to support, comfort as friends, colleagues, family member, and people but truly each one of us (client and counsellor) has to agree to embark on that unique journey to find our own voice. We need to build inherent strengths to learn to write, whisper, speak and at times fight for what each person needs to be well in their world. Our work as counsellors is to help each individual find these inner strengths, listen, guide, support and challenge thinking toward a more peaceful and well existence.

Personally, I believe different mediums in counselling (art, written, spoken word, song) “spark joy” (sorry Marie Kondo is everywhere) and resonate with each individual. Use each person’s strengths, gifts and joys to help them journey toward wellness and peace.

Here is a song about VOICE I have listened to with many counselling clients in various parts of that journey…. I hope you enjoy! The choice to embark on the journey to wellness is always brave. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.

Let’s help others and ourselves to be brave, start to find our way, and share our voices and stories a little more each day. Your path is your own but know, you are never alone.

Think, talk and always take care,
Gloria

Brave Sara Bareilles

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

Songwriters: Jack Antonoff / Sara Bareilles

Brave lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC




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

Mixing nature in general therapy: Nature Inclusion Therapy

Posted by: Doc Warren on January 21, 2019 11:26 am

At one time just about everyone was regularly exposed to nature and all its wonders. Though we had large cities with nary a tree to be seen, prior to the advent of air conditioning it was very common for those with even a bit more than modest means to leave the city behind during the hottest months and surround themselves with water, woods and other cooler environs. For those not in the biggest cities, their daily life often included tree-lined streets, large fields and areas of woodlands that seemed to go on forever. Those in warmer climates may have lacked forests but had vast prairies or desert lands in which to roam.

As time marched on areas became more and more urban, work became more centred in factories and offices and less focused in fields, woodlands and waterways. Our connections to nature became fractured and with this fracture, the many benefits of nature were harder to enjoy. Much was lost.

Time is money or so we are lead to believe. Time in nature became seen by many as to have little to no value as, after all, you cannot profit financially by resting beneath a mighty oak. Farm lands in many parts of North America started to disappear; strip malls, housing subdivisions and other developments replaced them. Ball fields in many areas had their natural grass replaced by man-made turf. Folks could actually get a form of rug burn when tackled on this synthetic material. As we plugged into the latest technology we unplugged from the very thing that enabled life. Many of us are all the worse because of it.

Years ago it was not uncommon to prescribe time in nature, be it a forest, prairie, plain or desert. Many reports were made as to the renewed constitution or the cessation of negative symptoms once time in nature had occurred.  In the states, prescriptions to visit mineral baths and hot springs became all the rage.  Sometimes we knew exactly why these visits were helpful, other times the doctors “just knew” that it helped. Sadly, over time these prescriptions seem to be increasingly replaced with medication or other treatments. The developments continued until in some areas children and adults alike went months or even years without feeling sand, grass or dirt between their toes.

For years now I, and many others have worked hard to promote nature as part of self-care and everyday living. Some professional organizations have been lukewarm to this idea while others have provided such feedback as “so, you want to talk to clinical professionals about playing in the dirt for a while?” before being denied space to speak at conferences.

Thankfully, like nature, we professionals that believe in the power of nature have not given up. We now know after the result of much study that there are actually enzymes and other naturally occurring components in soil that when they come into contact with bare skin can actually help change moods. Think of it as a low dose all-natural mood stabilizer. Best of all, it’s free! Now, this exposure to nature may not allow all folks to reduce or eliminate medication but it may very well help them in ways that no pill can.

More and more we are hearing about the benefits of animal-assisted treatments. Few would argue that animals can do much to help ease loneliness, isolation while simultaneously increasing joy to those around. Even the terminally ill have reported an increase in quality of life when regularly exposed to animals and other items from nature.

Years ago before I founded Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm and before I threw away my cell phone for good, I received a phone call from the office telling me that I had a client that was in need of an unscheduled session. As I was doing chores at the farm that the charity was leasing, I could not easily get to the office. I offered the client a session in the field if they wanted. As it was only a few miles from my office they were there in minutes. We had privacy as there were acres of land and very few people. They set about describing the issue, paying little attention to the surrounding land. We ran the session much like a traditional one with the exception that we walked the field a bit, sat in the grass and had a far better view than we had in the office. They were very upset, speaking and breathing fast when suddenly they looked over and noticed wild strawberries. Mid-sentence they seemed to forget about their issues for a moment and asked: “are those strawberries?” I let them know that those small wild berries were all over the field and though only about the size of a Maine blueberry, they were safe to eat and tasty. A smile spread across their face, they ate a few, slowed their breathing and speech and found a new focus. In a short time things became calm again and by the end of the session, they were ready to tackle life on its terms.  They asked if they could stay in the field a while longer and later returned with their family. Nature became a regular part of their routine after that.

Soon thereafter we began the process of purchasing that farm property and eventually renovating the approx. 7600 square foot main building into clinical space. In time we added different animals ranging from dogs and cats to ducks, chickens, turkeys and rabbits. In fact, we have a habitat that is a large fenced in area with overhead netting where the chickens, ducks and rabbits all live free-range (the fences and nets are to keep predators out. The animals go in and out of their coops as they like and interact freely).  We eventually added outdoor sitting areas, meditation gardens, community gardens and high tunnels as well as additional art-based programming while opening up the acreage to the community as a whole. Soon a thriving community grew out of what was once a neglected and underused space.

As counsellors, we may not have access to large tracts of land and we may be in a large city but we can still do what we can to introduce nature into treatment.

Ideas for nature inclusion therapy include:

  • Bringing clients to natural settings whenever possible: be it fields, wooded lands, waterways etc. You only need to be able to find a safe environment that you can ensure privacy.
  • Educate clients on the benefits of time in nature.
  • If possible add garden areas to your practice.
  • When possible add animals to your practice.
  • Promote outdoor activities for your clients and their families.
  • Add plants to your office space.
  • Hold wellness day events that incorporate nature-based activities.
  • If you lack open space partner with area parks, farms or other landed programming.
  • Encourage clients to unplug from electronics more often and embrace more natural pursuits.
  • Promote the preservation of open space.
  • Assign hikes, meditation in nature and related activities to clients as homework.

There is much to be found to help our clients if we simply pay attention. Who knows, you helping them to reconnect just may help you and yours at the same time.

Be safe, do good.




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

Leadership takes many forms

Posted by: Doc Warren on November 13, 2018 11:57 am

An all staff meeting at a transitional living center is being held, the director conducts the meeting surrounded by the folks with a bunch of letters after their names. The way the room is set up there is a clear “us versus them” division. The less-educated, less powerful people huddle in their less comfortable chairs, and the more educated folks not only get to sit closer to the director but have much more comfortable chairs. Printed agendas are plentiful in the “have” section leaving perhaps one printed one for the “have nots.” It has always been this way. No one questions it.

A problem is presented by the director and she asks for feedback on possible solutions. The big chairs come up with a few ideas that miss the mark by a lot. Frustration starts to grow as a quiet voice from the “have not” section proffers an idea that he feels could more than adequately address the issue, would cost nothing and could easily be implemented. In seconds the director dismisses the idea out of hand and moves on after tabling the issue on the agenda.

One of the youngest in the haves section, who has previously worked many jobs in the “have not” section takes pause, considers the idea proffered and then raises his hand to speak, asking to revisit the previous agenda item. He re-presents the previous idea but adds a few “fifty cent terms” and other industry buzz words and the idea is loved, voted in and scheduled to be implemented. The haves hail him a genius and ask him if he has anything to say. He looks directly into the eyes of the “have not” that authored the idea and thanks him personally for coming up with the idea that had evaded the rest. His director speaks over him and reminds him that they voted the have not’s idea down and are implementing his instead. She apparently thought he had become confused. He says something akin to “I’m sorry Tom. I’m sorry that your idea was dismissed without much consideration and I want to thank you for having the insight that everyone else missed. Please understand that there are those that put more weight behind letters after one’s name than they do with good solid ideas. They may not acknowledge you, but I will. I simply took your idea and added some fifty cent words to it and presented it again for you. I believe that good ideas are good no matter the degrees held or job title of the person that came up with it…”

After the meeting the man approaches the have and thanks him. He stated that in all his career that was the first time that anyone had ever stood up for him or gave him the credit when he came up with a good idea. The have simply responds “I’m so sorry it has taken this long but so long as I have a job here I will do all I can to make sure that everyone has a voice. No one is more important than another.” They shake hands and do a one armed embrace. Soon all the have nots are knocking on his door and the atmosphere of the agency improves…

Visitors to a charity see an older man raking stones out of the grass near the drive as part of spring cleaning. They engage in a brief conversation about the weather, the program and what it has to offer. The man discusses how much the program depends on volunteers and how much they are able to get done because of it. The conversation is pleasant and not pushy at all. Eventually the visitors say goodbye and mention that they would like to talk to the director about the program. The man, still raking simply says “you have been for some time now. What can I do you ya?”  He then puts the rake down a bit to discuss the business they had in mind…

A person in a business suit walks around a therapeutic farm appearing a bit confused and more than a little out of their element. A man comes out of a field, hands well-worn and with more than a bit of farm dust on him. Has asks the person if they need anything, are looking for a tour or is there is anything he can assist with. The person dismisses him, ignoring the overture and continues to walk around lost. The “farm hand” returns to his task until finally the “suit” approached him and begins asking questions. He does what he can to answer them. Finally the suit asks for the doctor in charge and is shocked to learn that he has been talking to him for some time now. He explains that as a volunteer based program he feels it is important to lead by example. He feels that he should be seen doing the hard labor as well as his normal job so folks know that every job is important and that no one is truly above another. He gives a small list of chores that he will only do as he would never want a volunteer to be subjected to some of the conditions that he subjects himself to regularly. The suit shakes his head in confusion at first but in time comes to understand. In time, the suit is seen in the field from time to time as well…

A voice over the loudspeaker announces that there is extra food in the executive meeting room and that folks can help themselves. An executive calls down to the administrative assistant’s area and asks them what they like. They reply that they are not allowed to leave their area to which he simply replies that he is aware of that but that he is allowed to leave. He then brings down a large plate of wraps, cookies and bags of chips. They are excited and confused stating that it has never happened to them before. Some of his coworkers chastise him reminding him of his station and theirs. He simply replies “they do so much for me every day, why can’t I return the favor once in a while? Would it kill you to do something nice for someone without it being in your job description? If they don’t do their job well, we can’t do ours. This benefits everyone…”

A lady goes to a local shopping center that requires a quarter for the use of a cart in an effort to increase the carts being returned to the corral (they then get their quarter back) and loads quarters into a dozen or more carts, leaving them for the next batch of customers coming in. It costs little but spreads so much cheer. When asked why she replies “there is so much negativity in this world. If I can make someone smile for as little as a quarter, why wouldn’t I do it?” Seeing the looks on the faces of those that find the carts you can see her point has been well made…

An executive of a local program can’t help but notice a small but determined group of people outside the office protesting. The executive reads the sign but cannot understand the anger or the issue; the signs are unclear. The executive has Tim Horton’s brought out to the protestors with the message that they hope the group is staying warm and well fed. The group is then asked if two or three of the protestors would be willing to leave their signs outside and come into the executive’s office to discuss their concerns. The meeting goes well, the group feels heard and the executive gains perspective that had been heretofore unthought-of.  Though disagreement is still present, a new level of mutual respect is formed. Protestors and workers alike are changed from this interaction; they see that things that may have become heated and involve authorities can also be addressed peacefully and with respect…

There are books and books on leadership, many of which talk of how to reach the top or are directed towards those that already are in positions of power. Some talk of heavy hands in dealing with issues. Some discuss the need to show dominance. To show your power. Others learn that true power needs to rarely show their might but instead show their ability to relate to others, to be real, to simply listen. Whether or not you are a “have” or a “have not” you have it within yourself to make a real and lasting impact on society through your everyday actions. A kind “boss” typically has a kind staff and a happier work environment than an unhappy one but a happy employee can do much to help change the environment of even the most negative workplace (though if they go unheard they typically will leave eventually as we all deserve to be treated well).

What have you done today to lead by example? Have you helped someone that cannot possibly repay you? Have you smiled even when the other person has been rude to you? Have you responded to negative words from others with assertive but kind ones of your own? True leaders need no titles; people will follow them regardless. Be the change.

-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 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