Selective Mutism

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on January 12, 2016 1:25 pm

I have a new student that I am working with who has selective mutism (SM). She is a very bright girl, lots of talent but does not speak in school. I have only just started to get mutismto know her a little and I sense this is going to be a long journey for her. At present, her sister and her friend both speak for her at school. This dependency started long ago and was not discouraged in any way. As a result she is now in grade 8 and says absolutely nothing in school.

The Anxiety BC website suggests that SM is maintained through a process of negative reinforcement. It is a cycle which looks like this: I am asked a question > I am too afraid to answer > the person with me gets anxious and answers for me > we both feel better and anxiety decreases. This interaction continues each time and the person with SM no longer needs to speak for themselves.

So how do you help someone overcome an obstacle such as SM when a dependency has been allowed to grow for so long? Do I suggest that we let her be since she is actually doing very well in school? She has friends, she does her work, she has great marks, she just does not speak. Teachers do not push her to speak and in fact most don’t try to get her to talk at all. Is this good or should I be requesting that they begin with one word answers, or speaking to a classmate first? I have not had this issue before and frankly I am a bit uncertain of what it is I can do to support her. All those supports and ideas that could have helped at a young age seem to be too late now. How do you start speaking in school when you have not done so for 9 years and how do I as the guidance counsellor proceed with this? My plan at this point is to do more research on the topic and possibly use pictures as cues for her. I look forward to learning more about SM and I am sure another student will come along, and when they do, I will be ready, or at least more prepared.

Anxiety BC has a great video on how to work with students with SM. The website is http://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/selective-mutism.




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

The Medium Is The Message

Posted by: Sherry Law on January 6, 2016 3:02 pm

Marshall_McLuhanYou may be familiar with the title of this blog post as it comes from the works of Marshall McLuhan, a prominent Canadian philosopher. He specialized in the area of communications theory at the University of Toronto and spoke at length about media and its effect on society, locally and globally. His claim that the medium is the message describes how the medium by which information is transmitted ultimately reorganizes human behaviour. The idea emerged during the transition of mass media transmission from radio to television, but applies to all other mediums such as printed words, telephones, texting, movies, and the internet. Indeed, there are more mediums from which to transmit information and communications than McLuhan could have imagined as he died in 1980. His ideas hold more weight today than ever.

To expand on the concept, the advent of the printing press allowed for literacy to emerge as a normative experience. Literacy changed the way the individual received information about the world. Before the printing press, individuals derived their understanding of events and life experiences through others by oral tradition, or sermon. The printing press provided a choice to disband from the community into individual contemplation. As literacy became standardized, individuals were able to question the information received through oral tradition and extend their relationship with history and the imagined future. Instead of relying on institution and the wealthy to be the sole inspiration of our human experience, thoughts, creativity, historical perspective, and in essence the human narrative was becoming democratized. Individuals were able to construct their own plays, journals, poetry, fictions, research, and with each published work, develop new industry and physical structures as testaments of the effects of the new medium: the printed word. In the same way, the internet has shifted humans in how we communicate with one another. A global culture has begun to emerge through the medium of the internet, and a collective consciousness extends our relationship to “the other”. Our social lives are now intimately connected to screened devices, giving humans the choice to connect to others through electronics rather than having to share physical space, therefore retribalizing by democratizing the social experience in a global arena.

In my blogging history, I have written about the phenomenon of presence, a state generated through virtual reality (VR) whereby the audience’s sensory experience has been transported to a virtual space. This new medium, VR, in conjunction with the internet, will and has already begun changing how humans organize. Social media has become a vessel of unprecedented influence in many aspects of life, from changing our eating habits, our day to day routines, to providing a global stage for outrage and political mobilization. Once these elements merge with a more globalized physiological experience through the medium of VR, the change in our social fabric will be dramatic.

As psychotherapists, it is critical to consider our clients and ourselves within the context of the larger scheme. After all, what is empathy without the recognition of the individual within their lived experience?




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

Counselling in Private Practice and Using Social Media

Posted by: Shelley Skelton on November 3, 2015 12:17 pm

socialmediablogpostAre you thinking about opening a private practice sometime down the road? Are you wondering about what you can be doing in advance? If so, I have a great suggestion for you. Let me back up and tell you about how I arrived at this great idea.

I had a timeline to open my private practice and there were many things that I put on hold until everything was in place, such as designing a website and getting business cards. Those two choices served me well, but I missed out on some preparatory work that would have sped up my process. Once I had everything in place and opened my practice, I began catching on to ways in which I can bring more people to my website. Now let me say that many of you may already know about what I am talking about, but for those of you like me who are not as online savvy, this information may sound new.

One way to draw people to your website is by having a strong online presence in social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. On Twitter, you can build a following of people by posting ideas, reposting other people’s tweets, and responding to others’ ideas. This following can become very useful for two reasons. The first is that from time to time, you can post about a blog that you have written on your website and you can direct people to read more. The second reason is that the more you connect your website to other links online, the more people visit your site and then your ranking in a search engine will increase. By that I mean when people search for counselling in your city, your website is closer to the top of the list. This is referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this takes TIME.

No doubt you see where I am going with this … before you even get your private practice opened, if you invest some time in building your online presence in social media, you will be better equipped to direct people to your website when you are open for business.




*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

Insights and Take-Aways From The Polyvagal Theory for Trauma Clients

Posted by: Andrea Cashman on September 25, 2015 8:49 am

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I recently attended Stephen Porgues workshop in Ottawa called Social Connectedness as a Biological Imperative: Understanding Trauma through the eyes of Polyvagal Theory. If anyone is interested in pursuing a specialization in trauma or expanding their trauma learning repertoire, I highly recommend attending a workshop with Stephen Porgues. He is a great speaker that can break down the science of Polyvagal Theory so that you can apply this knowledge to helping your trauma clients. It was a very informative and even inspiring workshop to attend. I cannot say all workshops in the past have given me more fuel for the passionate work that I feel I am doing. I thought I would share some insights and learning points that I took away from this workshop. By all means, it would be wise to look into Polyvagal Theory in its entirety to full understand its scope and application for treatment. I will not be going into it in full as that would take up a lot of blog space and it is not the purpose I intend on in my blog. I recommend either attending a workshop or purchasing Stephen Porgues book on Polyvagal Theory.

First of all, Polyvagal Theory specifies two functionally distinct brances of the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve, that serve different evolutionary stress in mammals, including us humans. The less evolved vagus nerve branch serves as a more primitive branch that illicits immobilization behaviors (ie feigning death) whereas the more evolved vagus branch is linked to social communication and self soothing behaviors (wikipedia). You can check out YouTube for more explanations on Polyvagal Theory – here’s another brief definition in relation to trauma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RKC3Ga6shs Polyvagal Theory claims that the nervous system employs a hierarchy of strategies to both regulate itself and to keep us safe in the face of danger. In fact, it’s all about staying safe. Our highest Strategy involves social engagement which is regulated by the myelinated vagus nerve. Our next strategy is fight or flight, regulated by the sympathetic nervous system when social engagement is not an option. Our last option is to freeze, to immobilize when fight/flight is not an option in the face of trauma(Garland, 2013). Continue reading




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

Helping Clients See Past Their Diagnosis:

Posted by: Andrea Cashman on September 8, 2015 9:01 am

As psychotherapists, we use diagnoses to categorize mental illness to assist us in developing and implementing treatment plans based on current up-to-date research. A diagnosis serves as a guiding tool for treatment purposes. It is imperative for us psychotherapists to see our clients for who they are – genuine and unique human beings struggling to stay afloat in the midst of their personal storms. Clients come in struggling with issues pertaining to their mental illness with impacted relationships and consequently the burden of stigma that many endure with their diagnosis. It is helpful to unpack stigma to help you and your client understand it fully. The World Health Organization in 2001 also recognized that it is the largest barrier to treatment engagement.

Jones and colleagues outlined stigma, in it’s full scope, to have 6 dimensions that include:

  1. Peril – Otherwise known as dangerousness. Clients can be perceived as frightening, unpredictable and strange.
  2. Conceal-ability – The visibility of a mental illness which parallels with controllability. Mental illnesses that are harder to conceal are more stigmatized.
  3. Course – How likely the person is to recover and/or benefit from treatment
  4. Disruptiveness – Measures how much a mental illness effects relationships or success in society. If the mental illness is seen as less disruptive, more stable,       it is less stigmatized.
  5. Origin – Mental illness can be either biological or genetic in origin.
  6. Aesthetics – Or the displeasing nature of mental illness in its social cues and perceived behaviours that fall out of the norm.

Continue reading




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

Starting Anew

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on September 4, 2015 12:15 pm

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I have very recently began a new position as a guidance counsellor in three schools, all of which have never had a guidance counsellor before. Although all schools are extremely grateful to have me, there are still some challenges surrounding the creation of a brand new position. Where are they going to locate me, will there be a private space, private phone line, filing cabinet to store confidential files, a space that is suitable for counselling? How will staff, parents and students react to this new role? Some of this is out of my control and I must live with that. However, there is still a lot I can do to make this an easier transition for everyone.

At this point in the game I am simply trying to allow students and staff to see me in the school. I am walking around before school, talking to students, going into the staff room to meet teachers. Overall, I want them to know that I am here. Now is not the time to come into their classrooms and start pulling out students. They have only been back to class for two days and I am unfamiliar to everyone. I feel that staff must first get to know me and what it is I do, before they will be willing to send their students to see me. I think that is reasonable. I feel it will be a while before they are comfortable enough to send students my way, and that is OK. Continue reading




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

Helping Young Clients Transition From Post-Secondary School

Posted by: Andrea Cashman on August 26, 2015 5:00 am

 

sad-505857_1280Many of the young clients that come into my office seem to be struggling with making the transition from post-secondary school into the real world. They are the young adults who have just successfully graduated from their College or University programs but struggle to make the next step. The reason behind their hesitation is not what you may think it is initially. Many of them struggle to even get past putting in applications for job postings. The job search terrifies them not because there is a lack of jobs necessarily but because they do not feel good enough or they completely feel lost on what career is for them. Struggling with self-identity or self-esteem issues is what holds them back. I’ve even seen clients who have entered into programs that their parents have picked out for them. These young adults feel trapped in a world that doesn’t hold true to themselves. Regardless, the question remains the same: why are these young adults suffering a transitional crisis so early on? We mostly hear jokes and passings about mid-life crises. We hear frequently about empty nest transition crises. However, we rarely hear about young people suffering a crisis in their 20’s. This is often referred to as a quarter life crisis. Continue reading




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

Focus on the Positive

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on August 25, 2015 3:30 pm

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As the summer winds down I am beginning to think of all I must do to prepare myself for a new school year and a new job. We all go through those transitions where we must get to know our new clientele, our communities and our colleagues. These tasks are a new and exciting challenge for me and ones I look forward to. However that excitement comes with some anxiety. We all know what the fear of the unknown can do to one’s mental health. Lack of sleep, restlessness, stomach issues along with a whole host of other symptoms often prevent people from making transitions in their lives. Perhaps they feel that dealing with the status quo is easier than dealing with change. Continue reading




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

Presence

Posted by: Sherry Law on August 25, 2015 5:00 am

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In one of my previous posts I mentioned a phenomenon called presence, which is a potent experience capable of convincing a person that they occupy a place which they do not exist physically. This experience is difficult to describe but is the quintessential point I, and other researchers in the field of virtual reality, believe the technological and the therapeutic intersect. This post will attempt to explain how presence is achieved and how it can be therapeutic.

Presence, in terms of artistic experience, is also called immersion, explained by philosopher, Samuel Coleridge, as a “suspension of disbelief”. This experience can occur in any medium, such as a good book, or a tv show. If you can imagine a quiet evening with a book where an exciting story can make you forget that you have been turning the page for hours. This is an example of immersion. You feel as though you are a visitor to the story, or a witness to the events unfolding in your minds eye. What virtual reality (VR) accomplishes is immersion but replacing the minds eye with direct visual input. Continue reading




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