Searching for other players…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Thera-spraining Psychotherapy: What it is and What it is not.

Posted by: Denise Hall on June 13, 2016 12:34 pm

This blog post is meant to unravel the puzzle that is therapy. In the past therapy was considered only for people with serious
mental health issues. Therapy has become much more accepted as a way of changing one’s life,
recovering from grief and trauma, relationship breakups and family and parenting issues. In
fact, there is evidence to suggest that it can be very beneficial in relieving depression and other
issues. It also is effective in reducing the need for pharmaceutical intervention in some
situations.

What does the therapy process look like? Contrary to what some people think, therapy is an
active process requiring work, openness and cooperation on the part of the person seeking
therapy. The therapist does not change you, they are, in effect, a facilitator of change. How
much you change (or even whether you change) is up to you.

Well what does therapy do? Therapy changes the brain as Norman Doidge the author of The
Brain That Changes Itself” aptly illustrates. Having a skilled person validating your experience,
listening with nonjudgement, and focusing on your strengths does wonders for most brains that
have a tendency to focus on the negative side of any experience and produce emotions such as
shame and guilt. Therapy can help you think differently about your situation and with
understanding comes clarity. It also helps you remember who you truly are and encourages you
to accept your strengths as well as your human flaws.

Knowing you are not alone and that someone really understands what you are going through
has immense therapeutic value. Family and friends can be supportive too but most of us would
rather not burden friends too much and usually most people just keep their feelings to
themselves.

Therapy is also preventative. It prevents and/or mitigates conditions such as high stress,
depression, anxiety, chronic pain and PTSD that left untreated can cause associated physical
conditions such as stomach ulcers, cardio/vascular events, panic attacks, isolation, suicide,
physical deterioration, musculoskeletal challenges and debilitating pain, and addiction
to opioid medication.

What therapy does not do? Most of us in our ever increasingly complex and fast-paced world
are looking for a magic bullet or a quick solution that will alleviate or solve a difficulty. Therapy
is not a quick fix for many reasons including that situations are usually complex and accrue over
time. Healing takes time. Untangling the many factors in a situation is a process and our
defense mechanisms often get in the way. We usually need a safe place to freely explore the
landscape around issues causing frustration and pain. Many people have never had a safe place
to do this.

Another thing therapy costs money, upwards from $100.00 to $200.00 per hour. Depending on
the qualifications of the therapist. Most psychotherapists have a Master’s degree and are certified by
provincial or national bodies (for more information on practice requirements for psychotherapists
across Canada, please see https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/profession/regulation-across-canada/).
Psychologists are regulated provincially as are registered social workers. I definitely would
recommend counselling or therapy with someone who has had rigorous education, training and
supervision.

The good news is that it might not take a lot of sessions to get you feeling better about your
situation and feel like you are gaining more control over your life. For complex issues involving
trauma it can take much longer. I remember a therapist telling me that if personal growth was a
priority then I would find the money to pay for therapy. I do not see it as simple as that now
that I have been a therapist for years. Most people have competing priorities these days and
therapy is usually put on the back burner. Although it is likely to be beneficial, managing a
household, paying rent and food costs are a high priority in most everyone’s life.

Although there are some options for therapy with psychiatrists that practice therapy, employer
funded programs and government and community organizations, there are usually wait lists,
number of sessions is time-limited, and acute conditions take priority. The Globe and Mail
published an article last fall that made the case very well for government funded mental health
services accessible to everyone. Many countries do provide therapy and the cost to taxpayers is
outweighed by the reduction in cost in the general health budget and employer funded
disability plans.

A word of caution about therapy though; growing as a person can change your life priorities
and the relationships with those around you. It also can be challenging! Opening yourself up to
someone maybe for the first time is scary. We are afraid usually of being judged by others. The
evidence for addressing issues rather than suppressing them is strong. Unexpressed feelings
can manifest themselves in health conditions, chronic pain and addictions. Many people have
tried self-medicating when issues have become too much leading them into a dangerous
trajectory.

I am hoping this blog post helps you understand what therapy can do for you. Remember you
are the captain of your own life when you take part in psychotherapy. What you get out of it is
up to you and I encourage you to shop for a therapist that fits for you and that you feel safe
with. In case you would like to speak to me further about your situation, I am available for free
30-minute telephone consultations if you would like to explore it for yourself at 604-562-9130
or email [email protected].




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

Wildflowers Mindfulness

Posted by: Dawn Schell on May 9, 2016 10:28 am

Need another app to help you meditate?

No?

Well you might want to reconsider when you see the new Wildflowers Mindfulness app from Mobio Interactive.[1]  This beautifully designed new app was released on May 2, 2016 and is free for the first month.

The aim of Wildflowers Mindfulness is to assist individuals with developing a mindfulness practice.  Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can improve both physical and mental health.  It takes practice to really become comfortable with it and make it work for you.   Given how busy our lives can be it isn’t always easy to make the time to practice.   It’s like lots of things that we know are good for us and that we “should” do.  Sometimes a little help is needed!  That’s where an app like Wildflowers can come in handy.

There are interactive lessons on mindfulness, a library of meditations, and a journal to track your progress.   The creators of this app have also designed a feature that makes meditation suggestions based on your mood.  The page lists a number of different feelings and you can pick the one that is the closest fit and the app will suggest a variety of meditations for you to try.

One of the really fun features is you can use the camera on your mobile device to calculate your heart rate.  That’s right.  I said, the camera!    You can use this feature to calculate your heart rate both before and after a meditation and see how well you were able to relax.

Give it a try today and as the creators say, “Make friends with your mind”.

***

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

[1] http://www.wildflowersmindfulness.com/#home




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

Would you go Mobile?

Posted by: Priya Senroy on February 29, 2016 4:29 pm

CaronmapI cannot imagine not having a physical location for my counselling practice. That was, to me, an essential building block to set up my practice. Whether it was private or in an organization, I have been fortunate enough to always have a space to operate from. But I sometimes find it to be restricting either geographically or in terms of the hours of operation. E-counselling has more flexibility when it comes to space as the barriers to accessing services are reduced.

I read about a counsellor who has a mobile office-an RV that goes into the community and acts a safe space that has all the necessary amenities and prerequisites to make it and actual ‘office’.

If there are any counsellors out there who are mobile, it would be interesting to get their view point on this and their pros and cons of operating from and office vs. doing e-counselling and vice-versa. We often talk of meeting the clients where they are at, so why not making ourselves mobile, accessible and transportable? We tell ourselves to be creative and think out of the box, so why not work out of a restrictive boxy immobile space?




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

Welcoming the New Year

Posted by: Dawn Schell on January 13, 2016 12:18 pm

It’s a new year and that often means people are making resolutions, setting goals and planning ahead.   Each time the calendar rolls around to January ‘hope springs eternal’ as Alexander Pope said. We want to get focused and clear. We want to make changes in our lives. We want to dream new dreams.    How long those resolutions, goals and plans last is another issue altogether!

In the spirit of hope I would like to share some fabulous online tools that one can use to reflect on the year that was and plan for the year to come.

One tool I have used for a number of years is choosing a ‘Word-of-the-Year’. It’s not a resolution or a goal – more of an intention for the year or a way to explore the year ahead or a guide for the year ahead.   If you haven’t yet tried this approach you can find numerous examples in the ‘blog-o-sphere’, Facebook groups or on Pinterest. Just search for “word of the year” and you will find amazingly creative ideas for showcasing one’s word of the year as well as reflections on what the word means to individuals.

There are a myriad of methods to finding and using a word for the year.

Christine Kane, a business coach, offers a Word-of-the-Year discovery tool for free. There is an introduction to the idea, an idea generator and worksheet to guide you through the process of choosing a word for the year and, of course, an action planner. Cause it’s more useful when you identify steps you can take!

Sometimes it’s harder to choose a word than others.   But each time I have chosen one I have found it to be both personally and professionally useful. As Ms. Kane says, “Your word is meant to teach you about you.” The tool is easy to use. The clients I have recommended it to find it to be helpful as they begin a new year. Just FYI – you do have to enter your email address to get this tool.

http://christinekane.com/wordoftheyear

On a similar note Susannah Conway, author/photographer/teacher, offers a helpful free resource titled “Unravelling the Year Ahead 2016”. Her Unravelling e-workbook has thought-provoking questions about the year that was and provides reflecting exercises for the year ahead. Having used this workbook with individual and group clients the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

http://www.susannahconway.com/2015/12/were-coming-for-you-2016/

Finally, there is Leonie Dawson’s ‘Guide to creating your shining year’. Leonie Dawson is an entrepreneur and coach based in Australia. She guides you through a series of questions and reflections on the previous year and her creative questions about the coming year allow you to explore a number of different areas of life and set goals for each of these areas (e.g. physical, spiritual, financial).   For a small cost you can download her e-workbooks or order hard copies.

http://leoniedawson.com/

As with many goals/resolutions/intentions the keys to actually doing what one says one is going to do are:

  • Be accountable to someone – share your goals, hopes, dreams, intentions
  • Take small steps
  • Regularly review your progress
  • Celebrate your successes
  • Be gentle, kind and compassionate with yourself
  • 2016 – ready or not – here we come!

2016Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate counsellor 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

Reflective Practice from a Cultural Standpoint

Posted by: Amal Souraya on January 5, 2016 9:59 am

diversity.relfective.practiceMany of us are cognitively aware of the importance of reflective practice in our work with clients. Reflective practice allows us to stop for a moment and look back at our past actions and experiences in a critical and effortful way. Although reflective practice is beneficial when working with clients in general, I believe it especially important when working with clients from cultures much different than our own. According to the American Psychological Association, it is imperative for psychologists to recognize themselves as cultural beings and as such hold attitudes and beliefs that may inadvertently influence clients that come from a different background. Psychologists, like others, are shaped by their worldviews, ethnicity, culture, heritage, past experiences, family dynamics, nationalities, age, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, media influences, education and other significant culturally related dynamics. Hence, it is advisable to recognize this phenomenon when working with clients in general, but particularly with those who may have a cultural framework that is vastly different than the therapists’. This allows counsellors to be more cautious of their own agenda in the counselling relationship. Additionally, it increases the likelihood that the client will feel comfortable and heard in therapy.

If counsellors fail to view the client relationship from a cultural lens, then some detrimental consequences may occur. A common cultural error that many western therapists make is applying individualistic ideologies to clients who come from collectivistic cultures. For example, in many collectivist cultures the family and the group are more important than the individual himself/herself. Hence, if a therapist were to be working with an individual from a collectivist culture and attempted to counsel this client in ways that were more in-line with an individualistic standpoint, then this could potentially really harm not only the therapeutic relationship, but possibly interfere with that client and his relationship to others in his life.

I am aware that it is impossible to take “ourselves” completely out of the therapeutic process, therefore it is of utmost importance to engage in reflective practice and understand our presence during interactions with clients and how our own worldviews and ways of being may interfere with the therapeutic process. Once we do this we begin to learn more about ourselves; about how our culture is influencing our work with others; and ultimately how we can be more culturally sensitive and present for the clients that we serve.




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

Do our screens get in the way of people?

Posted by: Sherry Law on November 25, 2015 11:59 am

The Technology in Counselling Chapter of the CCPA has been one of the quickest chapters to form it its history. It is difficult to ignore the captivating nature of these devices while everyone is kept busy tapping away. Our integration of these devices into our day to day may explain some of the interest practitioners may have. However, when I approach those with an interest it seems people are still wrought with uncertainty about their technological literacy and shy to dig their hands into tech.

When I get a better understanding of these folks perspective, it dawns on me that they are unsure because they don’t believe they understand technology, even though they use it every day. Technology seems strange, different, and to a psychotherapist, even a bit arcane. Psychotherapists are studied in the art of personal interaction, where computers and screens seem devoid of it. The flickering screens that people are so focused on seemingly distract from personal interactions. The buzzing, bleeps, and rings from devices sound alien, not like human voices at all, and again, devoid of the human spirit.

Skype.Blog.PictureI grew up with technology. From a young age, the computer screen was my portal to be with my friends during most of my adolescence when my family would shelter me from contact with my peers. I learned how to build relationships through AIM, MSN, and Facebook chats. During my formative years, I would spend hours toiling away at a thought, or analyzing the thoughts of others through the computer and keyboard. Now in my adult life, I continue to use similar platforms to stay in touch with others and practice the same process, even evolving the way in which I spend time with my friends through the computer. I have web conferenced with friends to teach them how to use their Ebay accounts. I have bonded over online e-sports competitions such as StarCraft with co-workers a province away whom I’ve never met. I also spend quality time playing games with friends, getting to know them by how they problem solve, how they react to stressful situations, and team building, not unlike engaging in a sport with a group of friends.

In other words, my experience with technology is one of human connectivity. When I look at a computer screen, I see friends and ways to interact with people. When I hear a chime on my phone, or feel it vibrate, I’m delighted because it may be a co-worker, or a friend that wants to catch up. Seeing technology does not have to be scary. It’s a matter of seeing beyond the screen and thinking about the person on the other side. Being technologically literate begins with understanding that there’s nothing to be scared of. Part of that journey is understanding that the device is simply a window to people.




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

The Wild West of Psychobiotics

Posted by: Trudi Wyatt on November 12, 2015 11:22 am

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the nervous system connection between the gut and the mind—primarily, about the importance of the vagus nerve that connects the GI system to the brain, and whose branches orchestrate whether we respond to changes in the environment via social engagement, fight or flight, or shutting down. This past Saturday however I was reminded of another gut-mind connection when I noticed an emailed Wellness Tip from The Cleveland Clinic that mentioned that “Over time, your microbiome may influence everything from your weight to your risk of chronic illness — including your mental health.”

What is your microbmicrobesiome? It refers to the genetic material of the vast collection of microbes (bacteria) that line your GI system and that also live on your body. (1) This collection can weigh up to 6 pounds, has 2 million genes (vs. our own humble 23,000), and can be thought of as another organ with potentially diverse functions still to be discovered and confirmed.

I first read about the microbiome in The New York Times Magazine’s June 28, 2015 mental health edition, in an article entitled Gut Feelings, by Peter Andrey Smith. Gut Feelings described a compelling hypothesis currently being investigated that suggests that gut microbes might influence mental states like anxiety and depression, and explored some possible mechanisms of action of this influence. This hypothesis seems plausible to me, as many clients with depressive and anxious (especially anxious) symptoms also report GI symptoms; and, as the article describes, intestinal disorders “coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety”. So compelling is this hypothesis that the US Taxpayer-funded National Institute of Mental Health in September 2014 offered four grants of $1 million each to support research on the gut microbiome’s role in mental disorders.

“Somehow” the article describes, “micro-organisms in the gut tickle a sensory nerve ending in the… intestine and carry that electrical impulse up the vagus nerve and into the deep-brain structures thought to be responsible for elemental emotions like anxiety.” The article explains that neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA—the same ones that are thought to communicate and regulate mood in the brain, and that are often targeted with antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications—are actually also secreted by these microbes in the intestinal tract. Thus, much of our supply of neurochemicals may originate in the gut; and thus, these bacteria might affect the brain and mental health. And hence, neuroscientists John Cryan and Ted Dinan have named these potentially mind-altering microbes ‘psychobiotics’.

What are the implications? Will changing someone’s bacteria one day be a treatment option for mental health issues? For example, in one experiment by Cryan and Dinan, mice fed bacteria kept swimming longer when placed in water than their counterparts, who gave up sooner and just floated in “behavioural despair” (or “immobilized woe”).

This treatment application is perhaps plausible, but still very far from supported, as the research is still in its infancy. But, certainly food for thought!

Trudi Wyatt, MA, RP, CCC is a Registered Psychotherapist and Canadian Certified Counsellor in Private Practice in downtown Toronto. She has been practising for over six years and currently works with individual adults on a variety of life challenges such as depression, anxiety, anger, trauma issues, and career choices.




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

Technology: the easy scapegoat

Posted by: Sherry Law on October 21, 2015 5:00 am

http://blogosqarteam.typepad.com/.a/6a0148c7b55aa3970c019b028bfea0970d-pi

Recently, technology and its effect on the human attention span has become a growing topic of discussion. When people develop issues which may include a technology element, there are often quick judgements and a cursory analysis typically highlight technology as the main culprit. All the while technology has become an increasingly irremovable part of our environment. Even among friends, family, and the public at large, it is a common attitude that technology can lead to dependency and estrangement, oftentimes applied towards the youth. However, this could simply be a change in behaviour due to a change in environment.

As a mental health service worker, and also a technology enthusiast, my perspective on the matter is different. Hearing the attitudes of change as negative by default sparked interest in me to consider looking at change in a different way. Is the change present? According to some research  humans have shown indication that there is a drop in focus time during certain activities. But should we be concerned by this? Some are pre-emptively saying “yes”. Continue reading




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

You can’t understand me because you don’t know where I am coming from

Posted by: Priya Senroy on September 29, 2015 9:54 am

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As part of annual refresher training courses, I had the opportunity to attend a cultural competency based workshop and the main takeaway was that you don’t need to understand every cultural and ethnic background; you need an open mind and understanding of the impacts of social determinants of health and cultural/ethnic/religious aspects that influence clients’ access to services. This attitude encourages clients to self-identify issues and concerns and determine what types of supports are needed. Continue reading




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