A Calling

Posted by: Dawn Schell on July 24, 2014 3:48 pm

I was having one of those days. You know the kind. Nothing seems to quite go right. The toast is burnt. You are late for a meeting. All the traffic lights are red.   An online session takes longer than you expected. You’ve forgotten to do something you promised someone you would do.   Minor things really but it all feels a bit much at that moment in time.

Then I turn on the radio and I catch the end of a program and the woman is saying…

“We are all called to a certain way of interacting with the world….Fulfilling our calling then, has to do with being faithful in those myriad ways in which we engage with the world, whether in our personal lives, our economic lives, our social lives… To be faithful, to live with integrity, to bring healing in all of those places. That’s a calling that all of us share.”

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

Summer is for Reading

Posted by: Dawn Schell on July 8, 2014 4:09 pm

It happens to me every time I attend a conference or workshop.  And I know I’m not the only one who did this at the recent IAC/CCPA conference.   I saw other people doing the same thing.

There we were walking around the book table, eyeing up the goods, calculating how much room there was in the budget, justifying a need versus a want, rationalizing the purchases and then leaving with an armload of books and a contented smile.

Over the years I have tried to curb this habit.  Put restrictions on myself such as “you can only buy one” or “no more till the current ones are gone”.   I swear it’s not an addiction.   I just happen to love books.   Maybe someday I’ll get an e-reader but for now I will continue to enjoy the feel of paper and the smell of newly printed books.

Which leads me to my goals for the summer.   Last year I focussed on improving my digital career literacy (a work in progress).   This summer I will be reading my new acquisitions as professional development.

These are not all newly published books.  I keep a list of books that others recommend or are by authors I know or that sound interesting. See, I have learned restraint when it comes to book buying.

Here’s what I will be reading this summer:

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


Posted by: Dawn Schell on June 26, 2014 9:07 am

Recently, the Canadian Scholarship Trust (CST) put out their list of “Job Titles of 2030”.  I enjoy career forecasts like this and was intrigued to see  “Robot Counsellor” as one of the career options listed. [1]

My first thought was it would be a robot doing counselling. I have had online clients express relief that their online counsellor was a “real person and not a robot”.   So I guess to some, robot counselling seems a natural extension of online counselling.

Reading this futuristic job title reminded me of ELIZA, the first computer ‘therapist’ from the 1960s.   We’ve come a long way since those days!

It turns out that CST is predicting robots will be doing more household and caregiving work in the future and we will need counsellors to do needs assessment with individuals and families and also, prepare them for the changes having a robot will entail.  And if the robot doesn’t “fit in”?   Presumably the robot counsellor will assist you in sorting out your robot relationship issues or finding you a different model to meet your needs.

I was sceptical about this being only 16 years in the future and then I did some research.  Starting with recent TEDTalks about robotic advancements.  Oh My.  If you haven’t seen it yet check out Henry Evans and his telepresence robot from Robots for humanity.[2]  Absolutely mind-blowing.   You may also want to check other TEDTalks about robots that show empathy, have ‘self-awareness’, and learn from humans about how to interact.   Not to mention robots that dance and do magic.

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

Sleepy Time Apps

Posted by: Dawn Schell on June 16, 2014 4:09 pm

Maybe it’s the longer days at this time of year.  Or maybe it’s getting close to the end of the school year.  Or expectations at work have increased.  Or maybe it’s just the norm for our society these days.  Everyone I talk to – colleagues and clients alike keep saying how tired they are.   If they aren’t talking about it they are showing it!

For some it seems to be an issue of having difficulty falling asleep.  Too wired up or tense from the day’s stressors.   For others it is an issue of interrupted sleep or being awoken too early.   We all know how important sleep is for our physical and mental well-being.  What to do?

There’s an app for everything it seems and sleep is no exception.  I found over 2,000 apps related to improving sleep.  That number may be indicative of just how many people are struggling with getting a decent night’s rest.

There are apps to help you determine your optimal sleeping patterns and that then help you set an alarm that is a “natural” awakening.  There are apps that are aimed at creating a relaxed state for you to drift into sleep naturally.   You have to pick those ones carefully.  Some of my clients have commented they find certain voices to be “creepy” or just plain annoying.  Not exactly conducive to relaxing and falling asleep. Continue reading

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

Real-Time Adventures in Counselling in Private Practice – Chapter Three

Posted by: Rhea Plosker on June 4, 2014 3:56 pm

Technology as an Enabler

if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” (Sir Arthur C. Clarke)

Chapters One and Two described my mid-life career transition from engineering to private practice counselling and the ways in which my supervisor and I collaborate with each other and our mutual clients :


This chapter discusses the technology enablers my supervisor and I are using with our collaborative work.

First, some semi-technical details. We both use Windows PCs, Office 2013, and Microsoft’s Onedrive cloud solution. Our primary tool is Onenote, Microsoft’s collaborative note-taking software that works just like a paper  notebook. Evernote is another similar tool that you may have heard of, and can be used with both Apple and Microsoft solutions.

We share a Onenote notebook, a “binder” with a section for each client. Content is entered on pages, including typed words, handwriting (via a stylus which both our tablets support, so it looks just like we are making notes in a paper notebook), pictures, emails, attached documents, and even audio and video. At any time either of us can open our shared notebook and see what’s new. Updates appear in real time.

We are experimenting with how to best use Onenote in client sessions. As post-modern therapists, we are careful not to “talk behind the client’s back”. However, each of us will write down specific client quotes that seem important. Sometimes it’s difficult to ask questions, listen attentively, and simultaneously take quality notes. If my supervisor is in conversation with a client, I can take notes which he can immediately see, and vice versa. This listening through two sets of ears inspires new ideas within a session, opening up the opportunity to consult the client and engage in richer discussion.

In my corporate life, I work with systems managing confidential information, and I recognize the privacy and security risks in using cloud-based technologies. It’s important to consciously manage these privacy and security risks. Access to notes should be shared only with those who need to see them. Notes should be carefully backed up. Notes can be printed and stored in file cabinets or saved on a local drive and deleted from the cloud. Of course, there are also privacy and security risks with storing paper and backing up to local drives. There’s no perfect answer, only an increasing number of choices to help us better support our clients and develop as counsellors.

Rhea Plosker is an Engineer and Counsellor. She is starting her adventures in private practice with www.williamcooke.ca and also works as a project consultant in health care and not-for-profit organizations. Rhea can be reached at [email protected] or at www.inspirationsolutions.com .

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

Developing a Digital Identity – Erikson Gets an Upgrade

Posted by: Dawn Schell on May 27, 2014 3:30 pm

I remember my first encounter with a personal computer.   It was 1984 and the professor I was working for had acquired a Mac.  One of my job requirements was learning how to use it.   At that point I had barely learned how to use an electronic typewriter and struggled with getting my assignments done on the university mainframe computer.

My professor sat me down in front of the computer and asked me a very important question.   “What are you most afraid will happen?”   I knew my answer was silly but I couldn’t help believing it might just be true.

“I’m afraid it will explode and you will lose everything.”

Thankfully he didn’t laugh.   He assured me there would not be an explosion and then, patiently, led me step by step through the process of learning how to use the technology.

At the recent International Association for Counselling Conference I attended a session by Jody Rempel on “Developing an integrated digital sense of self”.  Jody Rempel and Dr. Paul Jerry of Athabasca University did something quite brilliant.  They took Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development and applied it to our adoption of technology.

As I reflected on the 8 stages I was reminded of that first encounter with a Mac.  And with every technological change I have gone through since then!  It goes across the generations too.  Yesterday, a grade 9 student told me “my computer hates me”.

Here’s a quick summary of the stages as it relates to adopting technology.

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

Good Conference? IAC/CCPA 2014

Posted by: Dawn Schell on May 16, 2014 3:45 pm

What makes for a good conference?  The definition varies for everyone.   For me, if there are one or two things I learn that I can apply directly to my work, and if I can make one new connection with a colleague I feel quite satisfied that my time and money has been well spent.

Sometimes there are so many fabulous sessions and the schedule is so full there is little opportunity to connect with others.  Other times I have walked away feeling I didn’t learn anything I could use though I met amazing people and felt re-energized by my connection with the counselling community.

The latest IAC & CCPA conferences in Victoria, BC were a balance of learning and connection.

A few of the highlights for me:

Meeting and talking with counsellors from so many different countries. Particularly in the final panel session when many of them shared their perspectives about the IAC’s vision and mission.

Andrew Samuels’ thought-provoking keynote address (and this will be an oversimplification of the topic) on Therapy and Politics.  He talked about “good enough” leadership, economic inequality, therapeutic responsibility and the politics of intimate relationships. I am still mulling over what he said.  Check out his website –  http://andrewsamuels.com

Learning about the University of Malta’s inspiring programme in Transcultural Counselling.   It is a “collaborative degree programme offered by the University of Malta and the University of New Orleans…The mission of the M.A. in Transcultural Counselling is to train world counsellors who are able to serve diverse populations worldwide. Graduates of this programme are global citizens who, as counsellors, possess a sense of social responsibility and global civic engagement, as well as global competence.”


Stephane Grenier’s honest, humourous and compassionate keynote address on Mental Health in the workplace.  He spoke about his own experience with PTSD and how workplaces need to be sources of social support for those who struggle with mental illness.  Hear! Hear!

Hearing about exciting new research in Technology and Counselling.   Avatars, augmented reality, and applying Erikson’s stages of development to adoption of technology.  I look forward to hearing the end results of the work these students are doing.

Several sessions gave me fresh ideas that I can use with my clients.  Yeah!

Participating in a panel discussion with Paul Jerry, Simon Nuttgens, Lawrence Murphy and Dan Mitchell on the topic of Online Counselling.  A subject near and dear to my heart.

There is so much more I could say here about what I gained.   I’ll have to save it for a future blogpost.

What makes for a good conference?

Spending time with old and new friends, sharing ideas, resources, strategies, research and learning, learning, learning.
IAC/CCPA 2014 was indeed, a good conference.

See you in Niagara Falls next year at the 50th anniversary of the CCPA.

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

It’s Called WWW for a Reason

Posted by: Dawn Schell on April 17, 2014 10:50 am

Public. Permanent. Searchable

These are not the words youth associate with their online lives.   And yet, they are exactly the words they ought to think of.

Wired magazine has an excellent article on the privacy talk all parents need to have with their children.   As the authors say, “Parents across the globe today — from Lagos to Los Angeles and from Myanmar to Moscow — need to have a new conversation with their kids….It’s something new, something parents never considered as a critical issue 20 or 10 or even 5 years ago — but something that is just as pervasive as any of the other issues in their children’s lives and, in so many ways, just as important.  It’s data permanence. How can we preserve our reputations in the digital era?”[1]

A very important question indeed.

Last week I had the privilege of attending a talk by Darren Laur of Personal Protection Systems (http://www.personalprotectionsystems.ca).  He spoke to students about internet safety and digital citizenship.  It was a whirlwind two-hour talk about how we all have a “digital dossier” that is public, permanent and searchable.  He shared statistics about the percentages of post-secondary institutions, employers and landlords who are searching our dossiers and making decisions about what they see.  Decisions such as:  not hiring, not offering scholarships, not renting.

Mr. Laur talked about (supposedly) anonymous chat sites and messaging apps as well as the more frequently used Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.  The main thrust of his message was – anything we post online is Permanent.  We may think we have deleted it or we may think that the system we are using doesn’t keep the files and yet, it can be found and retrieved.

It was a huge reminder to think before you post.  Because you have no idea who will see it or how or when that post could come back to haunt you.


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


Posted by: Dawn Schell on April 2, 2014 3:46 pm

I’ve written previously on the CCPA blog about crisis line services for youth that use text as their main method of communication.  Many youth crisis line services in Canada and elsewhere have noticed there has been a shift away from making phone calls.  Several crisis services have responded to this and have added live chat/messaging/email or texting as alternatives to phoning.   Three Canadian examples are Youthspace.ca, YouthinBC.com and KidsHelpPhone.

Why do youth use these types of crisis services via text?  Well, it’s the same reasons I’ve mentioned before.  It’s mobile.  You can use it anywhere. It’s private.  You can reach out for help and no one else needs to know that is what you are doing.  It can be immediate.

This past week, CBC’s Spark program (which “brings you the latest in technology and culture”)[1] featured ‘texting crisis lines for teens’.[2]  Crisistextline.org and the Samaritans (http://samaritanshope.org/index.php) were interviewed.  It’s well worth 15 minutes of your time to listen to this portion of the program.

The host of Spark, Nora Young, asked the question that is often asked – can teens get quality counselling online?   Both groups agree that it can be a medium to help a teen out of crisis.  As Ron White of the Samaritans says, being able to use text “allows teens and young adults access to crisis services they would not have otherwise”.

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

When Technology Fails

Posted by: Dawn Schell on March 17, 2014 7:00 am

Ah, technology.  Wonderful when it works the way you expect!  However, when you are engaged in online counselling at some point you will have one (or more) of these experiences.

Something you have spent hours on ‘disappears’.  Passwords get forgotten.  Video doesn’t work.  Audio is not audible.  Save buttons don’t save. Servers go down.  Internet connections fail.  Computers crash.  Backups don’t backup.  Power goes out.

These three words go a long way to making it easier to deal with –  Plan, prepare and inform!

Give serious thought to how you will handle technological problems.  Make a plan for every possible type of issue.  If you have trouble coming up with a list ask anyone you know with a techy mind to help you generate ideas.  Believe me they will have ideas!

Ensure you have client contact information in a secure location– phone numbers, email addresses and whether or not you can leave a message. Every time you start working with a new client be sure to print out their contact information.  Printing it out means it’s accessible to you in the event your computer is the one that crashes.

Ensure clients have a way to contact you.   Do they have your work phone number?  I always include mine in my initial welcome/housekeeping message.

Let clients know ahead of time what will happen if there is an interruption in service.  Clearly outline who will do what within what time frame.  If need be, bring it to their attention more than once.

For example, in their guidelines for communicating during a computer system failure, Nottingham Trent University states, “If your computer system fails and you cannot send or receive emails you will need to contact us immediately by telephoning (number).  When we receive a phone message from you, we will suspend the online counselling process until you inform us that your computer system is working again. Once we receive the information that your system is working we will reschedule another online appointment with you.

If our computer system fails and we cannot send or receive emails, we will contact you by phone and inform you of our system failure.  Once the system is working again we will contact you by email informing you that we can recommence the counselling process.”

Other online counselling sites I have seen also suggest both parties (counsellor and client) assume positive intent.  By that they mean – don’t assume your counsellor/client is upset with you and so has stopped communicating.

Technological problems will happen.  I guarantee it.  Usually when you least expect it or when it is most inconvenient!

Be prepared isn’t just a good motto for Scouts.


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