A Gen-Y Perspective on E-Mental Health

Posted by: Dawn Schell on May 1, 2015 2:21 pm

One might expect that Generation Y, the “digital natives” would be the quickest to embrace e-Mental Health. But what do they really think about the use of technology in counselling?

Two recent studies[1] examined the preferences of youth when it comes to e-Mental Health interventions.

Mar, et. al (2014), looked at “youth consumer preferences for online interventions targeting depression and anxiety”.   Interviews with 23 youth were focused around the question, ‘‘If there was a website available for individuals with mood disorders or anxiety, what would you want it to look like?’’

What did they learn?

Participants preferred professional support to be delivered over online chat, though e-mail was acceptable to some. Participants viewed professionals as a support to access after peers.

Privacy was seen as a serious concern and was linked to stigma around others finding out about their mental health concern.

Participants believed having an online community of others with similar problems could help create feelings that they are not alone and provide opportunities to share stories and artwork.  Interestingly, “although participants wanted support and a human connection, they also valued privacy and anonymity”.

Paradox? Or is this the strength of e-Mental Health that both are possible?
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Blog Posts are for Sharing

Posted by: Dawn Schell on April 22, 2015 10:12 am

I have favourite bloggers whose work I regularly read and enjoy.   The bloggers are friends, counsellors, writers, lawyers, artists, students, teachers, business leaders, coaches,…the list goes on.   They come from a variety of age groups and I find the writers to be creative, inspiring, fun, humorous, playful, and thought-provoking.

As I read I often find posts that I think are worth sharing with clients.   The response when I have done so has invariably been positive. Some clients have then shared the posts with others.   Which tells me it’s hit a chord.

In sharing these posts with clients I am careful to state that my sharing is not meant as a wholehearted endorsement of everything on the site.   I share what I think is relevant and I let clients know why I think this might be relevant for them to read.

Here are a few of my favourites:

This mother talks about how one sentence changed the way she interacts with her family.   It is a post that I have often thought about, referred back to and shared.

The six words? “I love to watch you play”
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Healthy Minds AKA Yet Another App

Posted by: Dawn Schell on March 25, 2015 12:00 pm

I know, I know. Yet another app.   This is no ordinary app though. The Royal[1], “one of Canada’s foremost mental health care and academic health sciences centres”, developed the Healthy Minds app[2]. Aimed at post-secondary students, Healthy Minds is “a problem-solving tool to help deal with emotions and cope with the stresses you encounter both on and off campus.”

healthy mindWhen you download Healthy Minds it opens with a short explanatory video showing you how to make best use of the app. The authors of the app ask that you do three things – think about one problem you want to focus on, write what led to the problem, what thoughts, feelings and behaviours this problem caused and what happened after the problem. Why? As Dr. Simon Hatcher says in the video, “So you can change how you react in the future”.

In the Mood section you are prompted with a “how are you feeling?” and you can choose from nine moods. When you click on the submit button you are then sent to a text box where you can write about “what happened before you felt this way”. You can even add a photo if you wish. Once you submit this text, depending on the emotion you chose, you there are helpful suggestions. For example, if you choose “angry” you will be asked if you want to take a moment to try the Breathe activity.

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

Canada’s E-Mental Health Status Update

Posted by: Dawn Schell on March 16, 2015 12:44 pm

Last year the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) published a briefing document on “E-Mental Health in Canada”. It is a worthwhile read. You can check it out here – MHCC E-Mental Health briefing

The aim of this document is to “describe e-Mental health in Canada and to outline the potential that technology has in transforming the delivery of mental health services.”  This briefing paper is intended to inform practitioners, policy makers, funders, academics, researchers and those who develop e-Mental health technologies. The MHCC wanted to highlight “…tremendous possibilities for new technology in promoting mental health and preventing mental health problems.”

keyboard-621830_640The definition of e-Mental health? The MHCC defines it as “…mental health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies” which includes “…telephone, videoconferencing, web-based interventions, interventions using mobile devices, patient monitoring sensors, social media, virtual reality and gaming.” I think that about covers it!  

In thirty-six easily accessible pages the MHCC provides us with an excellent snapshot of the state of e-Mental health in Canada. It’s interesting to see just how far we have come in the past few years in this regard.

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

Tracking Your Mood the Techie Way

Posted by: Dawn Schell on December 15, 2014 3:40 pm

It’s not easy to keep up with all of the latest websites or apps that are out there related to Mental Health. It seems as if there are new sites being developed every day and not all of them are of equal value.  Sometimes sorting out which ones might be useable can feel overwhelming.   So when I learn about something new that has been developed by a reputable source I like to share the information.

These two fairly recent additions to the Technology and Mental Health field were both developed through the University of British Columbia (UBC). While both focus on improving one’s mental health they take dramatically different approaches.

MoodFx[1], developed in partnership between the Mood Disorders Clinic and UBC’s eHealth Strategy Office, is “an interactive app designed to help people with depression and low mood feel better”. The main purpose for using this site is the tracking and managing of symptoms.   You can do screening tests for depression and anxiety, keep track of your symptoms, set reminders for yourself, see your progress over time and receive helpful tips.  They also include a helpful list of resources.

I can see how helpful MoodFx would be for some of my clients, particularly when it comes to tracking one’s progress over time.   It appears to be free and is open to anyone over 19 years of age.

The next site is Walkalong: Your Journey to Mental Wellness.[2] Walkalong has been developed by a another team of researchers and practitioners at UBC. The creators of this website say “we like to see WalkAlong as a companion; someone to walk along with you during your journey to better mental health. This portal is a Canadian-based mental health resource that also provides information and links to existing mental health care resources for friends & family members”.

What is unique about this site is it is meant to be an online community where young Canadians can explore their mental health. They can share things they have found helpful (music, videos, quotes, books, ideas) or they can simply store those on the site for their own use in a section called “the locker”.

One of the coping strategies section of the website is Mindsteps. This is a page with visuals – click on the visual and you will find tips and reminders about things that can help you get through the day. For example, go for a walk, reach out, take a break, do the worst thing first.

Similar to MoodFX you can do a mental health assessment and keep track of your mood, sleep, etc. There are articles about issues related to mental wellness, links to resources, an Encyclopedia on mental illness, self-help exercises, personal stories and even an iTunes University course on depression.

Two excellent additions to my toolbox. Check them out and maybe add them to yours.


Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca


[1] http://www.moodfx.ca/

[2] https://www.walkalong.ca/


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

A Hope-Full App

Posted by: Dawn Schell on December 1, 2014 8:43 am

In the line-up of therapeutic apps the “Virtual Hope Box”, designed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology stands out as a stellar example of what is possible.

According to the “About Us” section of the app, “the National Center for Telehealth and Technology designs, builds, tests and evaluates available and emerging technologies to deploy in support psychological health and traumatic brain injury recovery in the military community.” But you don’t have to be in the military to use it.   You can download it for free to a smartphone or tablet.

The National Center says, “the purpose of the VHB is to help patients decrease their experience of distress by encouraging and facilitating healthy coping and emotion regulation skills”. It is not designed to be used as a self-help device. Working with your client you can personalize the content on the Virtual Hope box app to suit their specific needs.   Anything that they find personally supportive or soothing or reminds them of positive moments in their lives. In short, whatever contributes to a sense of hope.

There are several sections of this app:

Remind Me – an area where you can place pictures, videos, music and recordings.

Distract Me – has games with varying levels of difficulty

Inspire Me – comes with pre-set quotes and the option to add your own

Relax Me – has a number of relaxation exercises that can also be personalized

Coping Tools – you can create coping cards and use an activity planner to plan positive activities (list of ideas provided) with the cool additional feature that you can text or email invitees right from the app.

In the top right hand corner of the app there is a phone symbol. If you click on it you can add a list of “support contacts”, people you may want to call in an emergency.

You don’t have to figure out how to use it with clients on your own! On the National Center’s website you will find a clinician’s guide and a user’s guide.


I can’t wait to use it with some of my clients.



Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate with Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca


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

What CAN You Do With a Degree In…? LinkedIn Offers a New Way To Explore

Posted by: Dawn Schell on November 25, 2014 2:39 pm

I was riding the bus home from the university the other day and…[true confession]…eavesdropping on a conversation four young men were having. One of them said, “What can you do with a degree in psychology?”   There was silence for a moment as they considered the question. Then “Work at Wal-Mart” was the reply, followed by snorting and laughter.

As someone with a psychology degree I wanted to turn around and say “some of us with psychology degrees have gone on to live useful lives and found meaningful employment”.   But I restrained myself.

After all how were they to know what jobs/careers a psych major can do? Or with any degree for that matter? We often have limited views of what’s possible.

It’s not always easy to see where your education could take you. Many post-secondary institutions have incredibly useful information on “what can you do with a degree or major in…[fill in the blank]”.

Recently, LinkedIn created a new suite of products for students. These products are aimed at prospective & current students, alumni, schools and employers.   There are University rankings, University Finders, a Field of Study Explorer and you can create a Decision Board. You can find them at https://www.linkedin.com/edu/ . In order to have a look at these you do have to have a LinkedIn account.

If you have a profile on LinkedIn the Field of Study Explorer will start with your field of study. For example, my profile shows that my field of study is Psychology. I can view over 2 million people who have studied psychology. I can see where they work, what they do and where they went to school. Cool!

I didn’t find anyone who worked at WalMart though I did find people who worked at Target…in a wide range of fascinating jobs that I would never have thought about.

You can click on the ‘explore more’ button to widen the options.

Imagine you have a student who wants to study history.   Quite quickly you can find over 1 million people who have studied history. A glance through the job titles gives a wealth of information that you wouldn’t be able to find any other way.

I will be using this feature a lot!


Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca



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

Breathing Room

Posted by: Dawn Schell on November 17, 2014 1:18 pm

I have frequently written in this blog about new online self-help programs and smartphone apps.   The proliferation of these programs is in part due to an increased interest in providing mental health supports for youth and young adults. As you may be aware youth are the single largest group of Ca­nadians who face mental health challenges (Mental Health Commis­sion of Canada, 2011). 75% of mental illnesses have their onset before the age of 25 and 20% of Canadians (ages 15‐24) reported a mental illness or substance abuse problem. The earlier we are able to intervene and provide youth and young adults with help, information, tools and strategies the better.

One self-help program that aims to do just that is Breathing Room. This program, authored by the Canadian Institute of Natural and Integrative Medicine (CINIM), won the 2014 True Imagination Award, awarded by Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction.

Breathing Room is an “online program for youth ages 13 – 24 who want to learn new ways to manage symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression”.  CINIM says their program empowers youth by giving them new perspectives and practical strategies. The website has ideas, videos, activities and true life stories. It is quite accessible and would be useful for a wide range of needs.

The program includes 8 modules and each module is estimated to take between 2 – 3 hours to complete. Participants are encouraged to break this down into 20 -30 minutes segments/day. As part of the program participants are encouraged to select one new strategy or activity to try over the week. The idea is for them to use this new strategy daily or, as they say in the introductory video, at least 3 times/week.   Breaking it up this way seems to me to be quite manageable.

There are extras such as music that fits with the modules and a listing of movies and books. What an excellent way to extend the learning beyond the parameters of the program.

The foundational principles for this program are supported by literature. CINIM did a pilot study and they found a significant reduction in depression severity as well as the improved quality of life continued over time.   I like that youth and young adults were involved in the design of the website as well as serving as a test group for the material.

Currently the Breathing Room website is only available to Mount Royal University students, faculty and staff though you can purchase it for your organization or group.

In the past few weeks the Breathing room has released an app for individual use. The app has the full program and is quite visually appealing.   It is a little pricey though – $22.99.

Overall I am impressed with the quality and the research that has gone into the development of this program.   And I like the tagline – ‘breathing room – because everyone needs some’.


Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc.


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

Asynchronous or Real-time?

Posted by: Dawn Schell on September 19, 2014 8:00 am

The world of online counselling is an interesting place to work. Because sometimes you are engaging with a client in real-time and other times you are not….and yet, you are.

Sound vague? Let me explain a bit more.

Asynchronous Text-based – This is a lot like email. Your client writes you a message describing their issues/concerns. You write a message to your client and send it to them. Later they write a reply and send it back to you. And so on.

This is the method I use most often in my online work.   I like the ability to take time to really think through what I want to say. I get to craft my words and seek out resources to share with my client without worrying that someone is waiting for a response from me.   I can read ahead and get an overview of what the client is thinking/feeling and that helps me shape my sessions.

Clients also tell me they find this a valuable way to do counselling because they can the time they need and also they can read and re-read our conversations.

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

Using Pinterest as a Resource

Posted by: Dawn Schell on September 15, 2014 3:43 pm

I can tell by the cooler air in the evenings and by the increased buzz in the neighbourhood that summer is drawing to a close and fall is on its way. Fall and the start of a new school year.   I’ve said before that September often feels like the “real” New Year, prompting goal setting and taking on new ventures.

One of my goals arises from my use of Pinterest. How’s that you say? Pinterest is helping you set goals?

Yes, it is.   You see, in my role as a school counsellor this past year my explorations on Pinterest were incredibly helpful.   I found lesson plans, posters, creative ideas for working with students on a variety of issues, articles and blog posts, book lists and reviews, printable forms, templates and so much more.

It was a rich resource that I turned to over and over again.   Often the ideas were jumping off points for me.   For example, I needed a way to introduce myself and my role to our grade six classes. I found suggestions that helped me tailor a fun presentation that the students remembered throughout the year. It also made it easier for them to come and talk to me.

Perhaps my favourite use of Pinterest this past year was around Child and Youth Mental Health Day.[1] The theme was “I care about you”.   I shared ideas I found on Pinterest with the whole school. It doesn’t take much to spark creativity. Between a positive-tree, posters, messages in chalk, kindness nominations and caring notes hidden around the school it was a great few weeks leading up to the event.

Most importantly, I connected with some of the counsellors whose work I followed online and in so doing built a community of practice that spans the globe.

So what is my goal this year?   I will be much more creative and proactive in my approach this year as a school counsellor. I have ideas about how to introduce myself to the whole school (one class at a time) and I am planning to have fun doing it. I am connected to a broader community and I intend to make even better use of it this year, sharing my experiences and ideas as well as learning from others.

If you haven’t explored Pinterest for yourself you may want to give it a go.   There is so much more than recipes and crafts.


Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate counsellor with Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://therapyonline.ca


[1] http://www.familysmart.ca/may-7th


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