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Finding the Right Therapist this Holiday Season

Posted by: Paula Gonzalez on November 28, 2022 12:51 pm

If you have walked to a store, listened to the radio, have browsed through social media, or done just about anything at this point, you would know that the holiday season is already upon us. It’s everywhere we look, and it is stirring up a lot of strong emotions.

For some people, the holiday season is exciting and joyful, but for many others this can be a very difficult and triggering time of year. Regardless of which side you’re on, this holiday season is particularly challenging due to ongoing pandemic stress, inflation, current world events, and lots of uncertainty. These are very real stressors, and it can be a lot for anyone to manage by themselves. This is exactly why it is a great time to consider investing in yourself by going to therapy. That way, you can get support to hopefully alleviate some of the load you’re carrying, and dare I say maybe even enjoy (or at least not dread as much) what’s left of the year? Hey, it could be worth a try!

If you are intrigued by the idea of finding a therapist this holiday season, here are 3 questions you can ask yourself to prepare:

  1. What kind of support are you looking for exactly? There is no doubt that the answer to this question is something along the lines of “uh, to feel better obviously!”. However, understanding what you need is crucial. When you think about finding the right therapist for you, think about what a therapist could do so that you may feel better, what does that look like? Would it be by them creating a safe space for you to express yourself honestly and process how you’re feeling this holiday season? Or something more specific like helping you set and maintain boundaries with family members? Is it to manage stress or explore self-care strategies? Or perhaps to process feelings of grief? See if you can try to narrow down what it is that you are wanting support with. Better yet, you and your therapist can work together to create a gameplan for therapy. Though it is entirely up to you what you’d like to get out of therapy, your therapist can be instrumental in helping you understand what this may look like.
  • What’s your budget? Therapy is referred to as an investment that you make because of the courage, time, and energy that you provide but a significant portion of this comes from how you fund this investment, as well. An unfortunate reality of the mental health system in Canada is that, unlike many other regulated health professionals, mental health practitioners are still required to charge GST/HST to their services, an added cost to already hefty fees. Asking yourself what your budget for therapy looks like is important as it could determine where to access therapy (e.g., private practice? Sliding scale? Low-cost or free services at an agency?), how many sessions you could afford, and the cadence of your sessions. Fortunately, most extended health benefits do cover at least part of your sessions, and these benefits do usually restart every calendar year. Additionally, most therapists offer a free consultation to help you determine if they would be a good fit for you. This could be a great time to ask them about their fees and/or help you explore options based on your budget.
  • Are you ready for therapy? Most of the time, people wait a while before deciding to seek therapy. It requires quite a lot of soul-searching and courage to reach out. After all, some of the risks of therapy is that it may cause you to experience vulnerable, uncomfortable, and even painful feelings. As per my previous blog post, one of the critical components of therapy is honesty. This means being honest with your therapist about how you’re doing and what your needs are, but mostly being honest with yourself. If you push yourself to go to therapy even though you aren’t ready, you may not yield the results that you’re looking for and run the risk of feeling disappointed or discouraged. It’s okay if you’re not ready to seek therapy just yet. Even though it takes a lot of courage to decide to seek it, it takes just as much courage to be honest with yourself and decide that you’re not ready.

Finding the right therapist is not always an easy task. Asking yourself these questions could be step forward in helping you with this process during an already stressful time of year. However you choose to spend the rest of 2022, may the next few months treat you gently.

Stay tuned for more tips on finding the right therapist for you.

Paula Gonzalez, MCP, CCC, RP, is the founder of Infinite Horizons Psychotherapy (www.infinitehorizonspsychotherapy.com). She specializes in empowering young adults experiencing anxiety through psycho-education and trauma-informed CBT.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
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Coping With COVID – 19: Adding Nature Offices to Your Program

Posted by: Doc Warren on September 15, 2020 9:44 am

The world is currently at a crossroads. Many of us are growing tired of the “new normal” that has required us to have varying levels of shelter in place, though we understand the need. As things progress, we are coming out of our cocoons, testing the waters of leaving our homes while still taking the precautions that make sense based on the available data. Masks and hand sanitizer are the new black. We are indeed fashionable.

            So many clinical professionals have moved to telehealth platforms in order to provide much needed care. Some have been doing so for years, while others, like me, avoided it to no end until the pandemic hit our shores. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I as a practitioner and my clients adapted and thrived using this technology. I will admit to still doing that “weird wave” at the end of most sessions but even that has brought cheer.

            Some have reopened their physical offices while taking all available precautions. Many have felt the data did not support this (and this will not be a debate on that issue I assure you). I too would like to reopen, especially since we had been finishing a 1600 square foot addition to our offices as COVID – 19 hit. The offices have sat empty, longing for service for many months now.

            There is however a third option (besides in office and telehealth) that some have started to try. Others, including some colleagues I work with, have been doing it for years but are expanding greatly due to the pandemic. This third option is utilizing nature’s offices.

            Nature’s offices are outdoor offices where clients can meet with their clinical professional outdoors, thus mitigating as much risk as possible. These offices when used correctly, offer privacy, comfort, safety, and so much more.

            A “typical” nature’s office can be set up and used in the following ways during the pandemic:

  • Client and clinician meet in the car park wearing masks.
  • Client and clinician do their best to follow physical distanced requirements in place at the time, as recommended by experts in the field of pandemic response.
  • If available, clinician gives the client a choice of offices.  Ideally there are many offices in differing settings with different designs.  If this is not possible, any nature office will work.
  • Seating is spaced as far apart as practical, exceeding minimum suggested requirements, without being seated directly across from one another.
  • Once seated, client and professional can remove mask if desired but will put them back on at the end of the session as the client returns to the car park.
  • Each nature’s office offers privacy though the clinical professional discusses the possibility that someone could presumably walk into the area in the context of confidentiality. Should that occur, the session pauses until the area is clear.

While not every office has outdoor space, particularly in big cities, the offices that do may find that the transition is easy enough. However, it is important to have a back-up plan such as telehealth, should weather pose an issue. Some nature offices include an option of a roofed structure such as a gazebo that allows air to pass freely while providing shelter from rain or excessive sun. Some have a heating source for cooler temperatures though few will be utilized when full winter cold sets in.

In this setting, clinician and client need not worry about recycled air as you are breathing the air found in nature. The furniture though often used and cleaned regularly, is further “cleaned” by being outdoors, as rain and sunlight (via UV rays) provide natural disinfectant though it is wise to follow the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization recommendations for cleaning, mask wearing, etc.

When the pandemic passes, these offices can still serve programs regularly. You need not look at this as a temporary investment; on the contrary, these may well become some of your favorite spaces.  

Case Study: Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm, Wolcott Connecticut USA

            Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm’s slogan is “Nurture in Nature” and has utilized fields, woodlands, gardens and other areas of its property for therapeutic services for years. When the pandemic hit, it closed down its physical offices and switched to telehealth pending clear data and understanding of how the pandemic spread. As information became clearer after months of global data collection, it appeared that an important stage between telehealth and in office care would be to utilize existing nature’s offices and build additional ones. Face masks, hand sanitizer and other safety measures would continue while the main building would remain closed to all but essential staff (due to animals that needed care as the farm program could not be run totally from home).

            Taking consideration of folks that have varying levels of mobility and health concerns, a half dozen areas were set up for outdoor sessions. This was made more difficult by a shortage of benches and outdoor seating in the state.  Items were purchased, and existing stock was moved as needed, to ensure that sessions would be able to be offered for those that telehealth was less than ideal for. All clients were pre-screened prior to being offered the opportunity to use this service option. Some were declined due to a lack of safety protocols or other high risk behaviors.

            As the pandemic has continued, nature’s office expansion has continued. Several areas will have or already have had a heat source installed to help in cooler weather.  Options will be explored as winter sets in to determine if in-building sessions are practical and safe or if a move to telehealth only will be needed for the coldest months.

            Nature’s offices currently include areas of sun, shade, flowering plants, stone benches and other options. Some offices are within feet of the car park while others require a short walk. All will continue to be used post pandemic so the costs associated with building, furnishing and maintaining them is considered an investment in improving the infrastructure of the program and not as a drain on funds.

            For more information and photo examples of nature’s offices, please visit this link. https://www.docwarren.org/nature-offices

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]  His program has also been featured on NBC




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

Cultivating the ‘We’ in Us as Individuals

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on November 4, 2022 12:20 pm

Harmony, disharmony and repair”, the natural trajectory within all couple life!  A reassuring proposition for couples and a real ‘dawning upon’ of sorts for me.  It was the Terry Real Deal, this Relational Life Therapy, I thought.  The webinars and the weekly email feeds that came special offer with buying Us online, made for a very familiar American-sized, larger than life, commercial element.  But, no matter, this was ‘good news’ and we therapists always need a stimulating read and a bit of useful soul searching in the down time of our holidays.  His reminder of a paradigm shifting from ‘I, me mine’ to the ’we/us’ was heart-lightening, hitting home.  We had just gotten married – why not bring Terry along with us on our so-called honeymoon and see where that sharing would go?

Off we went this summer to the Italian and French Alps, the four of us – Nessie, our young border collie, Sophie, “Terry Real” and me.  By the time, we got to the foothills, we had listened to the first two webinars and had shared on our ‘adaptive child’ triggers, speaking to that truism about couples work and their outcomes – that each partner has a shared amount of personal work to do in parallel.  Mine included ‘feeling bad about myself’ and ‘doing what I had to be appreciated’ before evaluations and ‘scheming to be free inside’ before emotional demands or manipulation.  This was part of my adaptive child at work!  But hadn’t I evolved?  Was I really doing similar things in our disharmony?  Was I really going into “you vs. me” as I sought to be heard and appreciated.  Did I lose sight of my ‘wise adult’ and track of the ‘we’ in our dynamic themes of couple disconnect.  I know I didn’t want to! Terry was taking us back to an honest reflection on what might be at work inside, when we, Sophie and I, left our ‘harmony’.

I got to thinking about how some in their religious traditions do pre-marital courses, about how some of the most important life skills, like how to be a ‘good partner’ in relationships are never really taught in school systems during the requisite sex education classes, how culturally, we seem to have to self-help ourselves through everything, how that process that can feel so alone and how we might abandon the ‘good’ practices because we don’t see the motivation of the “we” collective!  It really was a lovely holiday this August.  The long hikes in the mountains were bountiful with calm, beauty and a novel sharing for us as couple.  It was good bonding.

So this blog is a little “do what I did and see for yourself shout out” to therapists who work with couples.  A little preventive work, putting yourself in the shoes of your couples,you might think of it!  Do as you might want or suggest to your couples.  Expand your relationship mindfulness around some of the elements Terry suggests are useful, like those five strategies the ‘human’ adaptive child quite typically turns to: ‘being right’, ‘controlling your partner’, ‘practicing unbridled self-expression/venting’, ‘retaliating against your partner’ and ‘withdrawing from your partner’ (Real: 2022, p.190).  It is likely you’ll see yourself with a little reflective mindfulness of your couple.  Some compelling bibliotherapy and a valid depiction of an imperative to repairing our couples – cultivate the “we” in us as individuals.

References

 Real, Terry. (2022) Us: Getting Past You & Me to Build a More Loving Relationship

Goop Press: New York




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

5 Things You Should Know About Therapy to Find the Right Therapist

Posted by: Paula Gonzalez on October 12, 2022 3:55 pm

By: Paula Gonzalez, MCP, CCC, RP

Finding the right therapist is one of the most important factors correlated with “success” in therapy. After all, finding a therapist that makes you feel safe enough to be honest with them and yourself about how you’re doing is exactly what would need to happen if you’d like to make the most of your time and money spent in therapy.

With that said, finding the right therapist can sometimes feel as if you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, which is something that can become incredibly frustrating and defeating. The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. After years of hearing discouraging stories from some of my clients’ previous counselling experiences, it became clear that there is a need for information about therapy so that folks can manage their expectations and learn about their own therapeutic preferences so that they may know what kind of therapist would be the right fit for them.

So, here are 5 things you should know about therapy to find the right therapist:

  1. Therapy is a collaborative process.
    In therapy, it’s important to be clear about your role and your therapist’s role. For instance, your therapist’s job is not to tell you what to do (if they do, this could be a red flag). Instead, their job is to use their education, training, and experience, to help you get there. They may do this by asking questions that may elicit clarity and insight, creating a safe and non-judgmental space for you to express yourself authentically, or by providing you with coping strategies. Your job, on the other hand, is to show up to and to show up in your sessions. This means that you are accountable for not only showing up to your sessions, but to also work up the courage and allow yourself to be honest about how you’re doing, including how you’re feeling about therapy. Your therapist would want to know these things to ensure that you’re actually benefiting from therapy. More on this below.
  2. Honesty is the best policy.
    As mentioned above, ongoing communication in therapy is crucial. A good therapist would want to know how you’re feeling in general, but also about how you’re feeling about therapy itself. They would want to know how the pacing of therapy is feeling for you, and if there is anything about their approach that is or isn’t working for you. Is therapy feeling too overwhelming at the moment? Are we needing to slow it down? Or is therapy feeling too slow-paced? Is the homework feeling too difficult? Are you still feeling motivated to pursue therapy? A therapist will want to know all of the things! They’re not trying to be nosy, but rather want to make sure that you’re actually benefiting from therapy and are getting the most out of it.
  3. You don’t need to be in crisis to seek therapy.
    One of the bigger misconceptions about therapy is that you need to be in crisis to seek help. While that could certainly be a reason to go to therapy, there isn’t a set of eligibility criteria to seek therapy. Many people choose to seek therapy to simply have a space where they can talk to someone who doesn’t know them, so that they can express themselves honestly and without fear of judgment. Others may choose to go to therapy when they’ve encountered a challenging situation and would like additional support, others may go to therapy as a proactive measure to avoid going into crisis, others go to therapy because they’re feeling stable enough to process painful events from the past, and others go simply as a form of mental health maintenance. Everyone can benefit from therapy, and it will always be here for anyone whenever they would like to access it.
  4. Trust the process.
    “Trusting in the process” in therapy means to trust that every single time that you attend a session and do the work, progress is being made. It also means that progress may not be something that one can see or feel in the moment, but that with consistency, patience, and trust in yourself and your therapist, it will become clearer. If you’re someone who is results-driven, it could be beneficial to think about what progress would look like for you and to communicate this with your therapist.
  5. In-person or online therapy.
    This is very important to think about. Since the pandemic, many therapists have moved to online therapy either exclusively or in addition to providing in-person sessions. A reason for this is the accessibility that online therapy can provide, considering that you have access to a device, stable internet connection, and privacy, that is. If you are someone who has access to these, perhaps something else to think about would be whether you would have the time and means to commute to your therapist’s office. Either way, you’ve got options. You can choose whatever would feel best for you.

Bonus tip: You’ve got this!
Exploring and processing uncomfortable feelings doesn’t mean that these feelings will never leave. I often encourage my clients to think of therapy as “growing pains”, in that while it may feel uncomfortable and scary to allow yourself to feel your feelings while in session, this is what will ultimately help you understand them (and therefore yourself and your needs) better. This is where healing and growth begins. Growth can be painful, but it is growth, nonetheless.

Stay tuned for more tips on finding the right therapist for you.

Paula Gonzalez, MCP, CCC, RP, is the founder of Infinite Horizons Psychotherapy (www.infinitehorizonspsychotherapy.com). She specializes in empowering young adults experiencing high levels of anxiety through psycho-education and trauma-informed CBT.

*The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA.




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

Understanding Client Lifestyles: The Case for Apathy

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on August 22, 2022 3:55 pm

Understanding Client Lifestyles: The Case for Apathy

This blog concerns the importance of client perspectives, experience and agency in a gentle therapy of discovery and mindfulness-based living alternatives

Clive, a 21 yr. old client, visiting his mother and Paris from UK for a short, few months, was suffering panic attacks.  The ‘earthquake-like’ grip and distress of the panic, was shutting down his ability to go to university, function socially and carry on normal everyday life.  And the apathy by which he declared he lived his life, in the first session, would work no longer.

Meds provided him the necessary in-panic remedy and cushion.  In the first weeks of our work together, mind-body ‘data taking’ got us on the same page and some anxiety tool and technique building began to relieve his panic suffering.  He wasn’t alone with his suffering in the same way, and as such the exploration of apathy as a lifestyle began.

Clive described an anger that was raw and dangerous.  It is like ‘I want to kill everyone I see’.  His was a life filled with violence – bullying, fights, multiple attempts to run him over by car.  Apathy served to keep the innocents he encountered alive.

At 10 yrs. old he was measured by a psychologist to be depressed, but the diagnosis was brushed that aside as he was deemed too young to be depressed.  Clive described his depression as an emptiness that could and would consume him to the point of ‘I want to kill myself’.  Sure, he had thought about suicide the solution, many times, but again apathy served him.

At the core of what Clive suffered the most, and for which his apathy served the best was the chronic physical pain, which punctuated numerous stretches of his body in excruciating scale.  Since a young age he walked on the ball of his feet in order to avoid pain.  An hour’s walk up the hill with his knapsack on his back and he’d writhe motionlessly on the couch in silent agony.  A therapist once told him about body scans being good biofeedback.  Clive quickly put an end to those, since they amplified the awareness of how messed he was and how his own body was source of so much pain.  This physical pain was reaching new paralytic proportions with the recent car accident.  Frankly I couldn’t quite fathom how such a young person could live with so much pain.

Clive’s inner life was vast, rich, and purposeful.  Apathy was ‘good company’ and the ‘go to’ mode that Clive had long nurtured in coping with his life.  Apathy was atmospheric and all-consuming, he explained, like Newton’s ether.  Apathy kept others and kept himself alive.

But, apathy, he knew and I could see, numbed him into an alexithymic existence, without feeling, without being able differentiate what’s nice or good, without being able to distinguish past or present, or joy.  You can imagine what that means for a 21 yr. old at the start of his life.

Time came for him to go home.   He couldn’t vow, since apathy would allow him to, but he did think he’d visit the local boxing club to see about discharging some of the anger.  He couldn’t really feel it when, but he was starting to see that he counted.  He’d try to keep to short daily sessions of meditation, towards differentiating between actually wanting to kill and the expressive adding-on that was understandably secondary to his physical pain.  In September when university resumed, he would try and make an effort to be social and to not be so alone.  Like that he’d try something other than apathy to cope with life as he knew it.




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

The 3 Agendas of the Triangle Model of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Posted by: Eileen Bona on March 26, 2021 1:29 pm

I recently read an article entitled “What Horses Teach Us About Systemic Oppression” by Julia Alexander that resonated with me as I work on this article.

Funnily enough, I was going to write the article yesterday, but it was a freezing cold -26 degrees outside so my own agenda morphed into blanketing the equines rather than writing about them. It was after I chased them around trying to convince them that the blanket was a good thing that I came back to write the article and had to laugh out loud. Here, I was going to write about the need for being fully aware in AAT that animals have their own agenda – not our agenda nor that of our clients. I was going to write about the ethics of considering and equally weighting all three agendas to avoid our human agenda of leading the session against the animal’s will. At this same moment, I found myself chasing my mini donkey around the property and half lassoed him to get his blanket on. I gave up on my Shetland pony because it refused to be caught so I allowed it to make the choice to go blanket-less despite the prediction of a steep -30 degree temperature overnight – so whom did I do right by?

In reality, it can be argued that systemic oppression does not apply to forcing someone to do something that is for its own good if it is in your care.

When I think of this in the context of AAT, I think of it on two levels: One level includes the need to ‘force’ an animal to undergo things it may not want to do to ensure its health while the other level regards our therapeutic agendas in the context of AAT. When we bring animals into our AAT practices, we become their ambassadors and we are responsible for all tenets of their welfare. If we do not conduct wellness checks (despite their protests) or give first aid when needed, then we are not meeting our ethical obligation to provide care. However, what if they simply refuse to work the day your client chooses them in your AAT practice? Are they allowed to say no?

This is where the three agendas come in and possibly animal oppression. Let us do this through an example:

Josh is attending therapy because his mother has died. Josh has attended traditional counselling but it has not been effective. Josh is an avid animal lover and his father is hoping that by working with the animals and an AAT trained mental health therapist, Josh will get the help he needs.

You are that therapist and you have a horse who is very gentle by nature. Josh has no experience working with horses and this horse is perfect for him to begin sessions with. Josh is excited to brush this horse. When you and Josh go toward the horse, it turns away to graze. Here are 3 possible agendas at play: 1. Your agenda is to build rapport with Josh through working with your horse, 2. Josh’s agenda is to brush the horse, 3. The horse’s agenda is to eat. What is the best ethical approach to helping Josh in this moment?

There are many ethical options. Firstly, you could help Josh understand that the horse is a sentient being with its own feelings, wants and needs. You can ask Josh what he thinks you both should do. This would give you a good indication of Josh’s awareness, depth of empathy, and many more important social skills. In doing this, you would be meeting your agenda, which is to get to know Josh and you would be meeting the horse’s agenda, which is to eat but you would not be meeting Josh’s agenda, as he wanted to brush the horse. Secondly, you could catch the horse and bring her back to brush her, meeting both your and Josh’s agendas but not the horse’s.

So how can you meet all three agendas? Perhaps you can suggest to Josh that he get some food to offer your horse. If she comes to him, then it gets to eat while you teach Josh to brush and build rapport. All three agendas will have been met!

As a psychologist who has been working in the medium of AAT for 18 years and who offers a certification in AAT to helping professionals, it is my professional opinion that we should always strive to meet the three agendas when working with animals in practice. Our animal partners are helpers in our work with their own wants and needs. For ethical reasons, we must acknowledge and meet these needs as much as is possible.

I might go so far as to say, now that I read Ms. Alexander’s article, that we may be ‘oppressing’ our therapy animals if we ‘force’ them to do what we want them to do in AAT whether it be because of our personal agenda or that of our client.

It often takes more work to meet our agendas when working with animals, as it is imperative to work around or within their agendas. Many people have much pre-knowledge of working with animals before collaborating with them in professional AAT practice. It is our due diligence to ensure that we are checking in on our beliefs and values about animals before we practice with them and during every single AAT session. There is a very good chance that our pre-lived experiences will influence the agenda of the session. If in fact, we are moving ahead with our human agendas without consideration for our therapy animals’ agendas, then we are most likely practicing animal oppression rather than animal assisted therapy.




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

When is it Enough?

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on November 13, 2020 9:19 am

TW: Sexual Violence

Being a Human-Centred, multi-cultural relativist and feminist informed, Emotion-Focused Therapist, working with an Integral Psychotherapy perspective means walking closely with clients on their path of trauma recovery, trying to keep in-step and sensing where they are going.  With what they feel they need, can manage, want to explore further, and when safe and ready all act as signposts along the journey.  But what happens when they go deep into the varied experience of their fellow women who upwards of 1 in 3 in the U.S. have suffered sexual violence.

            She is a client that I have known for nearly 8 years and the first session after a COVID summer began with a short list of new developments. Firstly, we explored her feelings of uneasiness surrounding her young son who now walked by himself to school.  There was some reference to a feeling of a growing distance to her long-distance boyfriend which had been previously mentioned.  Then the work of the day appeared. She was looking for her blueprint within which to place her own experience.  She hadn’t yet found it, but she definitely had explored the possibilities through a range of soul destroying examples, as I was about to find out.  My flinching inside warned me!

            Three years prior, she woke up to being sexually assaulted by a boyfriend.  The week before the session had been the anniversary of the awful violence, and troubling memories, the rest of her PTSD sequelae, along with a mounting distress that it was overtaking her ability to work were all re-emerging from their mind-body dormancy.  She had been looking high and low for a blueprint, figuring this might help.  I was there to bear witness and share like I always did with this client, what was coming up for me as she processed her way through the things.  By the way, she is longstanding client of more nearly 8 years and we’ll we have a very great working relationship – she knows that I will just be myself as therapist and it is ok.  This is by now, one of the elements that is helpful, she keeps telling me, in one way or another.  But what do I do about my internal flinching?

            Hers wasn’t as she read in the memoir of woman who at 12 years old was led out to a forest by a boy and was gang raped. Hers wasn’t like the woman in that wartime novel – raped by a Nazi soldier. Hers wasn’t any of the brutal rapes in various series she’d followed on Netflix. I wondered how she was managing such exposure and shared that I was feeling ‘my own’ anxiety, listening to her and could only imagine what was stirring in her experience.  ‘I admire your empathetic research.  But are you ok, it is enough?’

            “I am ok, but it is hard!”




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

How to choose a niche for your Canadian private practice

Posted by: Julia Smith on October 29, 2020 10:25 am

It can be tempting to advertise as a generalist in private practice. The fear that you won’t get enough clients if you niche (specialize) in one area of counselling can trick you into believing that you must generalize in order to fill up your private practice. If you give in to this scarcity fallacy, you may make decisions about your Canadian private practice that could in fact reduce the number of clients who choose you.

Why It’s Important to Niche

When there are many options, you need to stand out from the crowd. From my experience niching is an excellent way to do this. Though it’s not the only factor, niching showcases your passion and expertise so that your ideal clientele will have an easier time finding and selecting you over other therapists.

How to select a niche in private practice

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What type of cases do you look forward to?
  • What type of cases energize you?
  • What counselling outcomes bring you satisfaction?

I believe that you should go into private practice to do work that you are passionate about and that you find fulfilling. Do not let the fear of not getting enough clients push you into selecting a niche that you don’t like but that you think will get you more clients. Make sure that when you start your private practice you can support yourself financially without any clients so that you will not make decisions based on desperation. If you feel that you are not skilled in the area that you are most passionate about, get more training and find a supervisor that is an expert in that area before advertising.

Types of Niches

Choosing a niche usually involves a:

  • Certain age group
  • Certain problem
  • Certain outcome

A therapeutic approach could also be included in your niche, but from my experience, people choose therapists from the criteria above and are less concerned about your approach. Niches can be very specific or more general. Deciding how specific your niche should be (or if you should have multiple niches) usually depends on how big of a population there is in your town or city. The bigger the city the more specific and focused the niche should be so that you stand out. For example, when I started my private practice in Halifax in 2016, my niche was:

“I help teens who feel weighed down by anxiety and depression build confidence, gain insight, and find happiness.”

This niche fit well for me at the time because I was (and still am) passionate about helping teens. Through previous experiences before starting private practice, I realized that I enjoyed helping teens who were struggling with mental health issues and I loved to see teenagers become confident and happy through therapy with me. I also had experience working for the BC government as a Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician.

However, if I was in a larger city like Toronto, I would have focused my niche even further. Such as:

“I help teens who feel weighed down by depression find happiness”

Or if I was in a small town, I would have added a couple of niches such as:

“I help teens who feel weighed down by depression build confidence and young adults who feel lost find direction”

It can be scary to limit your advertising to one area of counselling. Bur when you niche, more clients will choose you because you’ll stand out as an expert. And don’t fear that niching means you can only counsel a certain population. Just because you niche does not mean that you only have to accept clients who fit your specialization. I have many clients that seek me out who do not fit into my niche(s). They choose me for other reasons. But the main part of my private practice has been built through niching.

Until next time,

Julia

About Julia

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC, is the owner of Fearless Practice. She specializes in consulting with Canadian counsellors and therapists who want support and guidance with starting an online private practice. She also owns a virtual private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Learn more about her consulting services at www.fearlesspractice.ca!

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not clinical or consulting advice. E-subscribers and website visitors are receiving general advertising and information about starting a private practice and should not act upon this information without seeking professional consultation.

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




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

Optimizing Psychology Today in Canada

Posted by: Julia Smith on October 5, 2020 4:46 pm

Click here to get your FREE Online Private Practice Checklist

Deciding how to market your Canadian private practice can be a challenge. With so many options that cost time and money, it’s important to be wise. Having tried many different ways to market my private practice, I’ve found that the directory, Psychology Today Canada, has consistently been one of the main ways I get clients. Plus, it only costs $34.95 CAD (tax included) per month! In this article I will show you what to focus on when creating your Psychology Today Canada profile so that you can optimize the service to grow your Canadian private practice.

What to Focus On in Your Psychology Today Canada Profile

Once purchasing your subscription to Psychology Today Canada, you’ll notice that there are sections where you can fill out information about yourself and your private practice.

Personal Statement

  • Speak to your ideal client’s reasons for seeking counselling and the outcomes they want from counselling. People searching for counselling are trying to find a therapist that can help them with what they are struggling with. Talk about those struggles and how you can help people feel better.
  • Don’t focus your statement solely on your qualifications. People want a counsellor that understands what they’re going through as well as someone that can help them. Yes, they want to know that you’re qualified but your personal statement should mainly speak to what your ideal client is experiencing and how you can help them.

Be clear with your prices

Profile Photo

  • Smile. Smiling portrays that you are kind, welcoming, and happy.
  • Have good lighting. Make sure that your photo is bright and that potential clients can see your happy face.
  • Quality. Use a professional photographer to make sure your photo is high resolution and has excellent quality. 
  • Focus on your face. Make sure that the photo focuses on your face. Potential clients want to see the person they will be speaking to so minimize the background in your photo.  

Other Photos

  • Add photos of you counselling someone. People will be curious about what it would be like to have a counselling session with you. So, take some photos with a fake client (a friend or family member) and add them as extra photos on your profile.

Video

  • Just like with the personal statement, speak to what the potential client is struggling with, how you help, and how they will feel once therapy is done.
  • Speak slowly and smile as you talk. This will portray a happy and calm demeanour.

Extra Tips

  • Link to the website button to your booking page. If a potential client has read your personal statement, they do not need to be directed to your home page of your website as they already know who you are and what you do. Instead link the website button to your online booking page so that they can easily book their first appointment.  
  • Target your listing. Make sure to not only target your listing to your area but also two other areas close by. With Psychology Today Canada, you can add two extra targets for free!

Until next time,

Julia

Get MORE Canadian private practice help at:  www.fearlesspractice.ca!

About Julia

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC, is the owner of Fearless Practice. She specializes in consulting with Canadian counsellors and therapists who want to start a private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps teenagers and adults who want to be confident and happy but are feeling weighed down by anxiety, stress, and depression.

Learn more about her consulting services HERE!

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not clinical or consulting advice. E-subscribers and website visitors are receiving general advertising and information about starting a private practice and should not act upon this information without seeking professional consultation.

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




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

Therapy in the digital age

Posted by: Coretta Rego, MA, RP, CCC on July 2, 2020 1:29 pm

I had originally written this article prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. The pandemic however has put a spotlight on this topic and has added some urgency to the discussion.

The internet offers us many conveniences. From online banking, to ride sharing and food delivery, the internet is not only making things more convenient for us, it is also providing us with life changing opportunities that previously did not exist. During a global pandemic, the internet has allowed many services to continue functioning in a way that would not have otherwise been possible. Virtual or digital service platforms have allowed clients to access mental health care services without interruption/with minimal disruption. This has no doubt provided a lifeline for many people who are experiencing challenges with their mental health that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

As a therapist, I have spent a large part of my career providing services to clients over the phone and using digital technologies (email-based counselling, live chat and video counselling). The demand for mental health services that are more accessible is growing steadily, as is the recognition by therapists that not all clients are well served through in person counselling.

There are a few reasons why clients request online services:

  • In a country as large as Canada, location can often be a challenge. Most mental health services tend to be concentrated in urban areas. If services exist in smaller communities, waiting lists can be long and often the service provider is personally known to clients, making them feel uncomfortable with accessing service and disclosing personal things.
  • Convenience is also an important consideration. The need for a client to travel to a therapist’s office can pose significant challenges including cost, time and physical barriers for clients with mobility issues
  • Demographics: there is a generation of people who have grown up doing almost everything online. The online world is their comfort zone and being able to access mental health services online can significantly increase the likelihood of them doing so.

Even prior to the pandemic, there was demand for online services, but many therapists were resistant and or uncomfortable. This resistance to digital services could be attributed to a few different thought processes.

  • Some therapists believed that therapy at its core is a process that must occur in person. Physical presence is vital, and without it the therapeutic process cannot be effective.
  • Some therapists also held the view that online services can be complementary to but cannot replace the in-person experience.
  • Lastly, some therapists do not feel sufficiently skilled with technology to deliver quality therapeutic services effectively.

Since the onset of the pandemic, I have spoken to many therapists who have had to confront and have successfully overcome the aforementioned criteria and are themselves surprised by how much they enjoy a virtual medium and how effective it is for clients. Many therapists have advised that even when they are able to resume in person practise, they will likely devote some portion of their practise to online service delivery.

Outside of the restrictions placed on us by the pandemic, virtual therapy is not about replacing the traditional in-person experience. Rather it is about increasing accessibility for clients who may not be able to engage in person. Providing digital therapy is not about simply replicating the in-person experience in another medium. Successful digital therapy requires planning for the benefits and challenges of each medium.

As an example, let’s consider video counselling. There are numerous benefits to the client and therapist as location does not pose a challenge. The client and therapist can be in two different locations with hundreds (or thousands) of kilometers between them. This helps a therapist avoid the cost of renting an office and affords them some convenience. This also enables a client to access good quality therapeutic care that may not be available in their geographic location. The client may also feel more comfortable/safe in their own physical environment and may be more engaged in therapy as a result. While the benefits are undeniable, we also must be mindful of some of the challenges.

  • What does the therapist’s regulatory college/association say about providing online therapy?
  • Do the client and therapist have enough knowledge about the online platform which is being used?
  • Do both the client and therapist have a private space in which they can engage in the therapeutic process?

None of these issues are meant to be deter a therapist from offering digital services. Rather, being aware of these issues, helps one plan accordingly. For example, many insurance companies who provide professional liability insurance now explicitly list digital services as something that is covered within the policy. Additionally, there are a number of secure digital platforms through which therapy can be conducted. elivering online services might require us as service providers to behave differently but this method of service delivery can be beneficial to clients and therapists.

Offering digital therapeutic services even after the pandemic restrictions are lifted, is going to be essential if we want to ensure that everyone who needs mental health services can access it. We are seeing an increase in academic and professional coursework that aims to equip therapists with the skills to effectively deliver digital services. Regulatory bodies and insurance companies are also recognizing the efficacy of digital services. It is now up to us as therapists to understand and explore whether incorporating digital services in our practises would be suitable for us and our clients.




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