Featured post

The Plight of the Homeless

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on January 23, 2023 3:44 pm

There are many assumptions around homelessness. These assumptions are often cast with a specific ideological perspective and an array of biases. Many assume that if you are homeless, then you must have made a grave error in your life. It’s not uncommon for those assumptions to include the traditional thoughts of addiction, drugs, gang life, prostitution, and being the typical outcast. Let’s not forget, that there are those who believe that the homeless are directly and indirectly responsible for their plight. The most common assumption is, that homeless individuals are lazy, insufferable, unaccountable, and incapable of maintaining any semblance of normalcy.

There is one absolute truth, no one wakes up with a yearning desire to become homeless. Homeless individuals are born with the same innate desires, temperaments, and beliefs that we are all inherently born with. There are a countless number of homeless individuals who have achieved the highest and loftiest of life’s accomplishments. It’s not uncommon to meet a homeless individual who’s obtained a formal education; been a former owner or manager of a business; and who’s owned a home. Homeless individuals are no different than you and I. There are homeless individuals who continue to take pride in their personal appearance and hygiene. It’s not uncommon to meet a homeless individual who continues to strive for success and life beyond impoverishment.

The media has perpetuated the myth that homelessness is a choice. It associates homelessness with a lack of personal drive, ambition, and motivation. It often exploits those who are homeless by perpetuating false narratives and claims of what it means to be destitute. Moreover, the myth influences the general impression that homelessness is a choice. As such, the impression fuels a community filled with apathy and indifference.

Homelessness is driven by a number of factors including: housing scarcity, poverty, domestic violence, divorce, sudden or unexpected death of a spouse, financial hardships and restraints, economic downturn, and of course, the physical and mental health of the individual. While there are a number of factors that may lead to homelessness, the greatest obstacle of those who are homeless, is society itself.

Chronic homelessness has a profound effect upon the life of the individual. It’s not uncommon for those who are homeless to have a severe mental health condition, but a majority of researchers acknowledge that it is difficult to determine whether the mental health condition perpetuated the issue of homelessness or the opposite. It is without a doubt that homelessness can exacerbate and accelerate a preexisting mental health condition. Yet, what about those who had no previously known underlying mental health conditions? Are they more apt to develop a mental health condition being chronically homeless? Chronic homelessness can challenge the healthiest of individuals. Research has indicated that chronic homelessness can have a profound effect upon an individual’s physical mind and body.  It’s thought to be a combination of factors that begins to gnaw at the individual. Over time, the daily struggle to survive and the stressors of living on the streets begins to have a dire effect on their perceptions and worldviews. Gradually, the health and wellbeing of an individual begins to decay, through the influences of living day-to-day on the streets. The daily grind and struggle to survive begins to erode at the consciousness and intellectual integrity of the homeless person. It’s not only the individual’s personal relationship to their environment, but being caught up in a similar environment of others. It’s witnessing a variety of atrocities and human depravity taking place on a daily basis. It’s the feelings and emotions of being rejected and subjected to a standard of life not suitable for any life form. The substandard living conditions are forced upon them day-after-day and week-after-week. The hardships begin to take a toll on the strongest of minds and bodies. It’s this sort of environment that can play havoc with the healthiest of minds and bodies.

The plight of homeless individuals are further eroded by the very system that should be there to protect them. In a majority of the free world, homelessness remains a crime and an illegal act. Terry Skolnik, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, has indicated that the judicial system of Canada continues to perpetuate the stigmatization of those who are homeless. In Professor Skolnik’s article with the Journal of Law Equality, it is obvious that the judicial system continues to offer a blind eye to the welfare of those who are homeless. In Canada, “courts have rejected homelessness as a ground of discrimination in Canadian constitutional law. Judges have concluded that homeless people are not a protected class…” The Canadian system does not guarantee that an individual will receive adequate housing, financial support, or advocacy. In the United States, laws and public policies have been devised as an intentional and blatant form of discrimination. A glimpse into the American judicial mindset is offered through an article by Nazish Dholakia, Senior Writer, Vera Institute of Justice for Forbes. In Dholakia’s article, he explains that there are “Laws that bar people experiencing homelessness from sitting, sleeping, or resting in public spaces… Some laws prohibit people from living in vehicles. Other laws turn loitering, asking for money, and even sharing food with people into offenses punishable by fines or arrest. In many cities, public restrooms are not available overnight—or at all— yet cities prohibit public urination and defecation.”

We know that homelessness is rooted in extreme poverty and inability to find proper accommodations. According to the United Nations (2023) it’s not only about obtaining housing, but it is the ability to find “stable, safe, and adequate housing.” It is not uncommon for governments to mask the issues of homelessness with a salve, offering temporary and unsafe housing.

So, what is the responsibility of those serving in the field of mental health? Is it our responsibility to advocate on behalf of those who have fallen victim to the clutches of the world? What is the responsibility of a mental health practitioner?

The field of mental health can do better by the side of those suffering. We can do better by offering pro bono services; volunteering as a therapist in homeless organizations and veterans organizations; and advocating on behalf of our fellow human.

We can do better! We can do better by the side of our fellow human! We can advocate were there is a need for advocacy. We can demand change through our legislative bodies and through our professional organizations.

At the moment, being homeless remains a criminal offense. It’s this sort of mindset that will further perpetuate the stigmatization and stereotypes of those who are homeless.While the judicial bodies frame laws and ordinances on preventing and punishing those who are homeless, it’s within their approach that the homeless are being underrepresented and underserved. Perhaps as a society, we should seek to reintegrate rather than to segregate.




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

Holiday Blues

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on January 6, 2023 5:24 pm

The very mention of the word holiday can leave an individual feeling the blues. According to the media, the holidays are suppose to be a time of cheerfulness, merriment, celebration, family and friends, but for so many, the holidays are not that picturesque. Rather, the holidays may feel much more sinister, bleak and intolerable. The holidays may be filled with memories of heartache and heartbreak. It may be a time that is vividly
caked with memories of the past good and bad, but for some reason the bad often outweighs the good.

The blues do not have to occur because of some heavy weighted trauma or loss, however this does have a bearing on many lives. The blues may be related to the season itself. They may represent the lack of family and friends. It may be fostered by feelings of rejection and experiences of the past. It may be stimulated by our perceptions and beliefs of our personal worth. They may be fueled by the media’s idealistic image of the holidays
and ours may not match that perfect snapshot. The blues are indeed the grinch of emotions and feelings taking away our right to experience authentic happiness. So what is it about the holidays that causes you to feel the blues? Are the holidays a reminder of good times or the bad ones? Have the holidays been masked by something egregious or reminders of something that you loath? What is it about the word that causes
you angst and emotional indigestion? For many, these times of festivities, celebrations, and reaction. You would think that the holidays would represent the same for all individuals, but you must take into account events leading up to the holidays; the holidays; and the biopsychosocial environment of the individual.

Life is not perfect and nor are the holidays. For you, they may represent something of an egregious nature. It may be a reminder of a particular loss or traumatic experience. There may be financial burdens associated with the holidays and obligations that make it difficult to truly celebrate. As a collective body of people, we have a particular ideological perspective around the holiday and the celebrations therein. This season may
not represent a time of immense pleasure enveloping ideas like peace, joy and love, rather they may be filled with a sense of disconnect, displeasure, unhappiness, misery, obligation, and anger.

The holidays often fuel a sense of despair, sadness and overall sense of dreariness. The duration and intensity of these states may vary depending on one’s personal ability to prove resilient, the insulating factors for the individual, and protective factors that ensure their safety and wellbeing. Please note, if an individual is finding it difficult during the holiday, it may be important to encourage them to seek out care. A few of the typical signs associated with the blues include:
• A change in one’s daily routine
• Avoiding being around others
• An inability to concentration or focus
• Personal changes in daily care and hygiene
• Increased irritability or depression
• Expressions of worthlessness
• Personal changes in appetite or diet
• An increased use of recreational drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs
• The loss of pleasure and personal desire
• The rejection of friends and family

It is also important to be aware that mental health issues can exacerbate one’s feelings of loneliness, sadness and despair. For individuals who have mental health concerns, it may be important to reach out before the holidays and to follow through with a mental health practitioner. The holidays are often known to exaggerate and intensify feelings and emotions for individuals not suffering from a mental health issue, but add a mental health
issue, then you add to the challenges already facing that person.

During the holidays it is important to remember to maintain a balanced life. Do not place any unnecessary burdens on yourself and avoid placing yourself in financial jeopardy. Avoid using recreational drugs and alcohol if you are feeling at odds with your emotions. Remember never to mix alcohol and recreational drugs with prescription medication. It’s prudent that you keep your personal routines: Do not avoid maintaining a regular sleep schedule and try your best to eat a balanced diet. Daily exercise is not only prudent for keeping physically healthy, but there is a direct relationship to your mental health as well. At the end of the day, remember that the holidays are not unlike any other day. Avoid placing any unnecessary pressure on yourself. Remember to act on behalf of your personal needs and the needs of others. Do not accept negative thinking or drama. You do not have to be anyone’s battering ram. It is important to have a balanced and healthy life. Do your best to accept only what you can handle and do not be afraid of voicing your personal needs. Please remember to act as your best ally, advocate for your needs, and do not fear acting
on behalf of yourself.

2520 Vestal Parkway East, PMB #177, Vestal, New York 13850 (206) 430-2611
Email: [email protected]

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

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
Featured post

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