Counseling knows no border

Posted by: Warren Corson on April 24, 2017 3:01 pm

Last year my wife and I came to Canada for the first time to present at the joint conference between CCPA and ACA (American Counseling Association). Though she has been to other countries before this was my first time out of the USA unless you count a few trips that I took in high school when I went across the border in Fort Kent for five to ten minutes, once I even got out of the car and bought some pop. My knowledge of other countries came from stories from relatives, friends and clients for the most part, supplemented by some TV and readings of course.

After I secured my first passport ever, we headed to Canada ready to present and to explore as much as we could in the few extra days we were able to stay prior to the conference. Driving around Kingston and through to Montreal we stopped at many shops, spoke to countless folks and found the conversations to be engaging, sometimes entertaining but always enlightening. In one otherwise empty shop a conversation took a turn to the more clinical and I found myself doing an unofficial consultation with someone that was feeling overwhelmed. We found a private spot and talked about what was going on and explored some ways to improve, where real help could be accessed in their area and that above all, that they were far from alone. A nice thank you was the result and then we got into our old Merc and headed for our next destination. Though the person was far from suicidal and posed no risk, I have thought of them often and hope that they did enter formal treatment.

Most folks were curious to learn where we were from and typically had kind words for us about our country. In some areas language was a barrier but for the most part folks found my confused stare as a sign to speak English as I was clearly lost as to what they said. I often apologized for being in a country where I did not speak their native tongue but most shrugged it off and welcomed me fully. A few agreed that perhaps I should not be in a place where the language was unknown (there are some of those folks everywhere I suppose).

So here we are, two clinical professionals from a different country, one that speaks the language a bit (my wife took French in high school and traveled to France before so she can hold her own) and one that can look confusedly at the speaker of any language other than English, but we found many a kindred spirit in our northern neighbor. We were outsiders yet we were accepted.

A man named Michelle who was also a counselor, and proudly in recovery told me about the Canadian health care system and gave many real world examples. He spoke of his mum and how she went from a diagnosis of cancer to specialized care, including surgery to remove the cancer in a matter of three weeks or so. She, along with Canadian healthcare in general, are fit and fine as of our meeting. When asked about the mountain of debt she surely must have from treatment (here in the states, losing one’s home and life savings after a major illness is not uncommon, nor is the need for a “go fund me” page or fundraisers to help fund care). He told me she was covered and simply needed to focus on her health.

We met with many interesting clinical professionals during our stay and enjoyed the sights to be sure. And while we in New England USA know maple syrup (I believe it is in the DNA of every Vermont born person) we stocked up on the Canadian staple as well. The more we may sometimes feel different, the more we realize that in many ways, a border is just a made up division. We are all one though we may live under different conditions and authorities.

As counselors we’d like to thank our northern hosts for allowing us to present in their great country and for helping to educate us as to how your system of healthcare differs than ours. As a token of my esteem, I have become a member of this fine organization and have spoken with them on sharing freely many years’ worth of my writings. I have also applied for the CCC and CCC-S credentials and hope to play a small role in Canadian health care. Most important however, is my desire to learn as much as I can on the Canadian healthcare style so that much of your ways can be taught to my readers back in the states. This information exchange has much promise in my eyes.

While we may have different authorities and our take on health care differs greatly, it is my belief and my experience that counseling knows no borders.  I hope and pray for a day when the USA adopts a similar mindset on health care and refinds much of the humanism that it appears to have lost recently. If you ever find yourself in Wolcott Connecticut USA, consider this an invitation to tour our humble therapeutic farm. We hope to receive many such invitations from Canada as well. As I send this, my wife and I are packing our bags to head to other parts of Canada over the next four days. We hope to meet and speak with many folks including counseling professionals, to learn from and share with in order to help make real and lasting change for those we serve. If you see an old Merc with Connecticut plates in your neck of the woods, please give us a shout as we’d love to talk with you. Until then, Be safe and do good.

-”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. ( and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm ( 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

Why The Protest Polka Dance?- Part 2 of Demon Dialogues

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on March 21, 2017 11:33 am

The protest polka is a unique pattern between partners that assures emotional detachment and distancing. The repetitive nature of this polka dance reassures partners that their emotional needs will go unmet. Why would this couple continue with this type of communication style when the outcome leaves them empty? Often, it is because the couple is unaware of this pattern and it has become second nature.

Sue Johnson, author of Emotional Focused Couple Therapy (2008), described the Protest Polka Dance as a maladaptive communication pattern that has one partner denying that emotional detachment exists, while the other person withdraws and protests their sense of disconnection. Johnson used the analogy of a partner banging on the door to get their partners attention, as the other person pushes the door shut. Johnson states this is a common snapshot of a couple engaged in the Protest Polka Dance.

When partners do not respond or get their needs met each person can feel humiliated, lonely, and unsafe within the relationship. The constant reaching of a partner towards one that is emotionally unaware, unavailable or denies this dance is even happening will eventually lead to a sense of emotional separation. This couple then becomes desperate and may resort to pushing each other’s emotional buttons and triggering unfavorable emotional reactions. Unfortunately, the emotional distance grows becoming reinforced and cemented.

As a couple’s therapist, the most important place to start is to increase the couple’s awareness not only of the content of their communication, but also the dance itself. The couple needs to understand how their responses or the lack there of, maintains habitual patterns and keeps them trapped. The Polka Protest Dance must stop and focus needs to be on building a bridge of emotional connection. The couple works hard to engage in early response and learn attachment language that generates safety and comfort. The therapist helps slow down these new interactional moments, to assist the couple in noticing their emotional reactions and windows of opportunity for strengthening connections. This is an ongoing process of practice for the couple in sessions and between to reinforce new skills and build confidence in each other.

Will the Polka Dance come up again? Of course it will, but with this emotional formula the Polka Dance looses its dance patterns as the couples emotional attachment gets stronger and stronger. No one is perfect and couples can resort to old behaviors. When that happens couples come in for one or two refresher sessions and any small gap between them is often easily closed and their back to feel emotionally connected again.

Danielle Lambrecht Counseling © 2017 Please engage in any comments.

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

How Counselling Improves Your Day Job or The Unintended Benefits of Counselling Part II

Posted by: Peter Persad on March 21, 2017 11:29 am

Last year I wrote a piece I called “The Unintended Benefits of Counselling” (April, 2015) in which I explored the “collateral” positive aspects of developing a counselling skill set and the impact it can have on our personal  lives as counselors.  The basic premise of that blog was that counselling can have a personal benefit for the counsellor as well as the client. (And it would follow of course, that when the counsellor improves, the results are inevitably beneficial for the client. Counselling truly is “the gift that keeps on giving.”) ­­The focus of this blog is an exploration of how counselling can have a positive impact on our capacities as professionals in other realms, and especially in professions where a counselling skill set may not be considered as a necessary tool in the performance of our duties.  A recent example in my daily work was the genesis for this idea. Although I am a CCPA Certified Counsellor, my day job is that of a high school administrator. To be honest, I have always maintained that the counselling skill set can be incredibly effective in the daily work of a school administrator.  In my capacity as a school leader, I employ effective listening skills, utilize re-framing techniques, conduct solution-focused therapeutic interventions and facilitate mediation in areas of conflict. All before 10:00 A.M.  As a Certified Counsellor, I believe that EVERYONE can benefit from counselling; the parents, students and staff that come into my office are no exception. And in fact, many of the people who come into my office are normally in some type of crisis that requires resolution or at the very least an intervention. (In fact, there is a movement afoot in British Columbia to empower teachers to act as mental health advocates and “front-line workers” since teachers enjoy a unique and increasingly significant position as professionals who see kids every day and are thereby able to establish baseline data for behavior.)  A case in point: I recently had a young woman referred to me for poor attendance. She was 13 years old and in the critical transition year of Grade 8 as students move from elementary to secondary school. She had missed about 25 of the first 35 days of school and as you might expect, her marks reflected her sporadic attendance. Now, under normal circumstances, most vice principals are going to suspend students (as counter-intuitive as that may seem) in order to reinforce the importance of daily attendance as it relates to school success.  The meta-message being, “Jane Smith, you need to attend our school on a regular basis if you wish to remain a student in my bureaucratic institution.” But, as I’m also fond of saying, “Don’t just DO something, sit there..” It takes a lot more effort and care to look beyond the behavior to find its etiological root. In other words, moving from the “what?” to the “why?” Obviously, this student isn’t attending regularly. That’s the “what” but “So what?” The real question is “Why is this student not attending?” And the answer is not, “Because she doesn’t like school.” In fact, as with many of the behavioral issues I deal with as a vice principal, the problems in school aren’t because of school, they have just manifested themselves at school. Extra-curricular issues tend to manifest themselves at school because school for the most part is a “safe space” where children can” act out” and the professionals in school notice these behaviors because “they care.”  So, back to the young lady in question: she was missing school because she was depressed about her parents’ recent divorce.  She was “creating a crisis” in the hopes that Mom or Dad would act, would “make her go to school” and thereby” demonstrate” their love for her.  How many times have we as therapists helped our clients make the connection between their unmet needs and their behavior? What I have found as a school administrator is that a little CBT can go a long way to helping students not come back to your office. With respect to this student who was missing school, my therapeutic intervention did not include discipline for truancy. It did include efforts to build a relationship with this student by demonstrating care for her, it included asset identification, self-esteem building exercises and homework, it included normalizing this student’s experience, it included identification of triggers, it utilized extra-therapeutic factors as a means of self-help, it included personal network reification. It was the antithesis of what a person would expect if they were referred to the vice-principal’s office for violation of the code of conduct. It was brief, solution-focused modality with an emphasis on psychoeducation.  And it worked! In the 30 school days since this intervention, this student has missed 2 days. As therapists, we can’t wave a magic wand and make everything all better, but we do possess a very powerful set of skills and clinical acumen that enables us to help. And that’s why we got into this “business” right? We are called to this vocation to use our time, skills and energy to help others, to improve their lives, to enable them to live a more meaningful, satisfying existence. And fortunately, this is a transferable skill set.

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

Making the Transition: Career Transition Resources for Canadian Armed Forces Members

Posted by: Michael Sorsdahl on March 21, 2017 10:35 am

The challenges of transitioning from being an active serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces to the civilian workforce are unique. Military members spend months training to enter into the military workforce, moving through training institutions and learning how to work as part of a highly functional team. When these military members either reach retirement, decide to retire early, or even get released for medical or other reasons, they are then placed into the precarious position of re-creating their identity and finding their way in the civilian world. Even beyond the need for support for transitioning into the civilian workforce, military members also have unique roadblocks to that transition that may include trauma, identity, and family issues.

There are some great resources that have been created to help aspects of this transition, and it is important to know the resources that are out there that can be used to help this population who have given their lives to protect all of ours. Some of the resources that are available for this population are:

Canada Career Counselling – is a national psychology practice that provides both an in-person and on-line career exploration and transition service designed to transform and translate military career experience into recognizable civilian transferable skills. This organization includes direct connection with highly experienced Master’s and PhD level Registered Psychologists, with extensive backgrounds in career development and the specific roadblocks unique to military members.

Canada Company – which is a charitable organization that is designed to help military members find resources available to them during their transition processes. There are some on-line resources available through this organization that provide assistance in resume writing and job search assistance.

Helmets to Hardhats – is a not-for-profit organization that provides apprenticeship training connections for members currently serving or those who have served to move into the trades from the military.

Michael Sordahl

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

Why Blame? – Part 1 of Demon Dialogues

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on October 27, 2016 1:56 pm

manandwomanDr. Sue Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (2008), explains that couples get stuck in three different demon dialogue patterns, one she named   the “Find the Bad Guy” pattern that she states leads to a dead end for couples. Johnson describes the Find the Bad Guy as a “blame game” that leads nowhere but to more conflict, disengagement behaviors, and eventually creates a lack of security and trust in the couple’s relationship.

Why do couples engage in this type of behavior? Johnson purports that couples engage in this type of behavior as a way to be in a mutual attack mode, a win-lose dialogue and for self-protection from the real issue(s). Couples can for the moment feel less vulnerable and more in control when taking the stance or role of the “blamer”. This way the blamer(s) does not have to take responsibility for his or her behaviors, thoughts or emotions by pointing fingers at their partner as if to say,  “you are at fault, not me!”

Blaming behaviors can also escalate the other partner to engage in the same role and behaviors. Each person can both emotionally and verbally attack each other until one backs down. The one that emotionally disengages or shuts down usually does so for self-preservation. It is a natural response for the blamed partner to divert negative attention away from himself or herself as a way to cope the ongoing relationship distress. Over time, couples can become entrenched in Find the Bad Guy dialogue and it becomes an automatic interaction that leads to insecure bonding in couples.

The way couples can work on stopping the Find the Bad Guy pattern is to find a trained couples therapist who will point out this demon dialogue to the couple. The therapist needs to explain how this dialogue only detracts from the actual issue(s) and creates ongoing emotional distress. The therapist teaches the couple to come from a new level of communication that encourages language that creates safety, trust, and a willingness to take ownership of past behaviors. The therapist also facilitates couples’ dialogues assisting them to show their vulnerable emotions to their partner demonstrating their ability to express a “softer exchange”. Overtime, and with ongoing practice the Find the Bad Guy dialogue is replaced with an emotionally bonded couple that is able to deal with and find solutions to relationship issues.

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, M.C., CCC.,Trained in Emotional Focused Therapy at Danielle Lambrecht Counselling

Please feel free to reply, it would be great to hear from you!

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

Searching for other players…

Posted by: Sherry Law on September 26, 2016 8:22 am

732016_149For as long as I can recall, I have had access to the internet. From the time I was a young teenager, I had reached out to friends through chat, created profiles on multiple social media sites, and enjoyed expressing who I was to the world. These social media sites were rudimentary at the time, providing image upload limits, having low traffic, unattractive aesthetics, and unsophisticated platforms for spreading information. However, they sufficed at the time and I created friendships with people from all across the world.

I remember playing a MUD while I was a teen, or a Multi-User Dungeon, one of the first online gaming platforms of the internet. You would be asked to type what your character would do; go n, go w, k goblin, get all… these were the inputs that would help your character navigate north, navigate west, kill a goblin, and get all of the corpse’s inventory for possible weapon upgrades or magical items. I was drawn to these online worlds and soon came to meet other users who would play with me, sharing their experience points as we adventured. The people I had encountered often became my Facebook friends, though seldom became conversational.

Later, I remember posting on an online art exhibit platform. There I shared my traditional and digital drawings with the world and pretty soon I started receiving comments. One particular user and I happened to get along and we not only became Facebook friends, but actually called each other on occasion as well!

Fast forward a decade, I now spend time in virtual reality (VR), where online gaming flourishes. While playing virtual billiards, I quickly found an opponent with the built in match-making. By the end of it, we spent nearly two hours talking and shooting billiards, and the experience was unlike anything I had encountered before. Although the MUD allowed we to interact with others, it was purely text based so the presence of another was unconvincing; and my friend on the art exhibit site and I shared dialogue over the phone, it was short lived and our lives naturally drifted apart as the exhibit became less popular. In contrast to this, VR allowed me to see this person’s height compared to my eye level. I saw that he would move his hands while talking to me, and fold them while he listened. I could see his head tilting upward while thinking over what was just discussed, and teleporting around each other made it feel like we were truly in a room together. This created a certain bond unlike anything I had ever experienced before by simply using a computer. I felt like I was with a whole person, even if he was thousands of miles away. I knew immediately that I had made a friend.

The friendship has moved to other platforms and we share experiences together regularly. We have played billiards together, played disc golf, enjoyed some air hockey, hung out in a tennis ball arena and shot selfies with our avatars, and we have even turned into robots and killed drones with our boomerang katanas. I have learned about his personal life beyond the screen, his history, and I have shared my own story with him. The bond between him and I could not have existed without VR, and this fact has profound implications for our evolving social dynamics. I shared various experiences with this new friend of mine. We worked together to battle evil forces, and were able to discuss our experience as we maneuvered and strategized within these simulations. What other experiences could people share together? How does this change the way we perceive and think about others? What other sides of a person could be observed through exploring, as Gene Wilder once said “a world of pure imagination”.

VR is more than fun. VR enhances empathy and understanding. We now have the ability to bond with a mind without the distractions of judgement by using the VR interface to mask irrelevant information, and instead select what our consciousness wishes to share with others.

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

Managing Your Career While Going Through Cancer Treatment

Posted by: Mark Franklin on September 23, 2016 3:46 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at

Cancer strikes without prejudice – but people from all walks of life and within all levels of the cancer community can be united in a common goal of coping with this life-altering event. People living with cancer can and do play a significant and powerful role in their own journey. Kim Adlard has first hand experience witnessing how involvement impacts experience. And involvement starts with developing awareness of what’s available in terms of support, services, programs and activities. Hear Kim share her story and the new resource she founded, One Access Space, Kim also shared these valuable resources: Cancer and Careers and Working with Cancer

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.

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

6 Books Every New Therapist Should Read: As Recommended by Other Therapists

Posted by: Natasha Minor on August 30, 2016 3:03 pm

Recently, I’ve been exploring various books that might give new therapists some of what they didn’t get in graduate school – less theory and more insight into what it’s really like to be a practicing therapist.

Below are a few of the books that have been recommended to counsellors and psychotherapists by other therapists in the profession.

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin D. YalomBooks

This book offers 85 chapters and each consists of no more than a few pages. Based on his 45 years of clinical experience, Yalom addressed many practical issues that all therapists have encountered and struggled with, providing readers with profound insight into the therapeutic process.

On Being a Therapist by Jeffrey A. Kottler

“Kottler talks about situations therapists encounter that I found very relatable” says Samantha Greene, a LCSW in private practice from Plano, TX. Being able to relate to the same situations with clients in her own practice, Samantha feels the book “normalizes the experiences therapists may have while treating clients and really encouraged me to continue my professional and personal growth,” she said.

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

Another book by Yalom, Love’s Executioner is an account of real interactions he had with clients (edited for confidentiality of course). Many of the therapists I asked recommended this book, feeling that it speaks to the insights and relational moments that are at the core of our profession.

The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life by Dan B. Allender

Although not written specifically for therapists, Tamara Lynn-Hanna Feightner, LPC, says that it shaped her framework for counselling. The Healing Path “normalized the wounded heart, acknowledged the ramifications of betrayal, and talked about hope as risky, brave, and not a simple Hallmark card with a bow on it” The content in this book “confirmed for me the beauty in the resiliency of the human spirit and grace for being a glorious mess – the goal is the journey, not perfection or destination of having arrived,” she said.

Creativity as Co-Therapist: The Practitioner’s Guide to the Art of Psychotherapy by Lisa Mitchell

Joy Elizabeth recommends this book as she says it “speaks to training your brain to get outside the box and be a more present, effective therapist.” Viewing therapy as an art form, this book helps therapists to become more authentic, flexible and to trust in the therapeutic process.

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk

Lauren Gourley, LCSW, believes that Trauma Stewardship should be “mandatory reading” for anyone who has experienced trauma or works with people who have experienced trauma. The author offers readers practical ways to help prevent secondary trauma, paths for healing and discusses the importance of self-care.

The titles listed above are just a starting point. I invite you to explore the many books that are specifically written to normalize and speak to the unique experiences of therapists.

I’d love to hear what your favorite books are in the comments below.

Natasha Minor, MA, CCC, RP provides counselling and psychotherapy in London Ontario where she specializes in helping overwhelmed women find their voice and believe in their worth so they can create a more authentic, satisfying life.

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

Proximity- How Close Are You?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on August 26, 2016 11:55 am

Proximity is a felt sense of connection to another and is not just within the physical realm, but is also emotional and spiritual. According to Sue Johnson, proximity is one of the laws of attachment. It is not an idea, but a primal need that is built within each of us. We all need a solid attachment to at least one main figure and if we had that in our childhoods, most likely we would have a secure attachment to others as we grow up.sistersclose

When we have safety in connection with others we can grow and develop and live healthy lives. We grow up to be adults who are flexible, creative, balanced and trust those who are either in our lives or entering in. We can develop solid attachments with others without loosing our sense of personal power. We give ourselves permission to live from an authentic place without worry of disapproval and loss of self.

The opposite is true if we did not experience proximity that felt sense of connection, we may fear people and see love as dangerous. We may fear rejection and have difficulty getting close to other people even when we want or need to. We may not be able to calm ourselves from fear of loss and struggle with feeling emotional imbalanced when what we really want is to feel safe and loved.

As a couple’s counselor, it is important to help clients see their relationship through the attachment lens. This attachment point of view allows couples to be encouraged to talk about their longing for attachment with their partner without their own fears of abandonment or rejection getting in their way. Couples learn strategies on how to seek proximity and deal with triggers as they arise. Couples can also develop secure attachments to one another by learning how to be emotional available, responsive to another, and practice ways that encourage continued emotional engagement.

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, MCC.CCC

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling


Please submit any comments and I will gladly respond. Thank you.

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

Don’t Make Any Assumptions: Inside U of T Mississauga’s Career Centre

Posted by: Mark Franklin on August 26, 2016 11:44 am

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at

“Don’t make any assumptions,” said self-confessed career geek, Felicity Morgan, “about what you think about any career area.” Felicity is director of the career center at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. The UTM career centre serves over 13,000 students, with 15 staff. When we make assumptions we risk “not see your own biases and not identify career opportunities.” Instead, Felicity recommended career exploration: “Check it out, talk to people, check yourself out internally if it’s the right thing for you. You can only make the best decision with the info you have in front of you. So get that info in front of you.” Hear the whole interview with Felicity Morgan.

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.

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