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

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

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
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

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

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

When we Stumble, it is Simply Part of the Dance

Posted by: Bonney Elliott on November 3, 2015 12:55 pm

tangodanceAs we struggle to wrap minds and bodies around a new sequence, our wise dance teacher asserts that Argentine tango is not complicated, but complex. His words give me pause, and hope. Tango looks complicated, and takes years of practice to master. Yet, even the most dazzling choreography is essentially a pattern of basic steps.

As a psychotherapist, this distinction seems quite relevant beyond the dance floor. Helping clients who are suffering to make sense out their lives can feel complicated, but perhaps the intricate dance of psychotherapy is, like tango, a layering of steps and patterns.

A few concepts that simplify therapeutic relationship for me are connection, presence, self-awareness, humility and perspective. When a dance goes well, the partners are in sync. They have a strong, tangible connection that transcends the alchemy of physical chemistry or attraction. Dancers communicate with each other, often nonverbally. Therapists deliberately cultivate and maintain empathetic attunement with our clients. Connection is the fulcrum for therapy. When Ego steps into the space between us, connection wavers. Miscommunications happen. Insecurity and perfectionism complicate relationships.

As dance partners need to be fully present to each other to coordinate their steps and negotiate the space of the dance floor, the therapeutic process flows when we manage to stay together in the moment with our clients. Mindful presence helps us to keep in step and rhythm, to focus on what is actually happening. Staying centered in any complex relationship takes self-awareness. Partner dancing is not about one controlling the lead or the other blindly following. They work together, each learning to maintain individual frame and axis of balance. Similarly, therapy evolves when both partners are able to keep their feet under them, therapist self-awareness nurturing client self-awareness.

To grow and learn is to be vulnerable. Good dancers expect to make mistakes, to fall in and out of sync and rhythm. As the saying goes, when you stumble, make it part of the dance. Err graciously. They improve over time at stepping back to figure out how a small step gone awry threw off the entire pattern. Similarly, therapy is rarely a linear process. One step forward, two steps back. Creating new patterns of being requires patience and practice. It takes humility to own our fears and foibles while gently calling our clients on theirs.

Keeping perspective is important. The essence of any dance is simply expressive movement to music. Good dancers attend to the technical details while keeping in mind the bigger picture they are co-creating. Whatever theoretical methodologies we subscribe to and creative counselling techniques we weave in to help our clients wade through the intricacies of human feeling, thought and circumstance, the essence of our work is the co-creation of meaningful, compassionate dialogue. Simply put, psychotherapy is a therapeutic conversation. Inherently complex, but not necessarily complicated.

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

Real-Time Adventures in Counselling Private Practice – Chapter Five

Posted by: Rhea Plosker on July 24, 2015 11:51 am

Finding a Therapist (or Being Found by a Client)

touchInvisible threads are the strongest ties.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

This blog is the fifth chapter in a series describing my mid-life career transition from engineering to a counsellor and psychotherapist working in private practice. (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4)

A few months ago, a friend asked me for help finding a therapist in a city I am unfamiliar with. I figured this would be a straightforward process, given that I am “in the know”. I started by following the instructions found in an excellent article on our own practice web site (I couldn’t resist the shameless self-promotion).

Indeed, I was quickly able to create a solid short-list of obviously qualified therapists and started to contact them. My experiences from that point reminded me how important our interactions are with prospective new clients.

Here are a few tips I’d like to pass on to others: Continue reading

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

Technology is Expanding a Counsellor’s Toolbox

Posted by: Sherry Law on July 22, 2015 9:37 am

I recently spent some time with a colleague and the idea of video conference counselling came up. Both being technology buffs, we dove right into the idea without hesitation. As we discussed, it became clear to me that there were real ethical arguments to support the idea of integrating technology with therapy. Unfortunately, the fears around the little known realm of technology in counselling creates a demanding barrier of entry, stifling enthusiasm to attempt online therapeutic practice. Hoping to fan some burning embers of excitement, I present three ethical considerations for the use of technology in counselling:

Financial Access

Cost has always been a struggle for people who need mental health assistance. Both the direct cost per session as well as indirect costs can affect people’s budgets, adding pressures to the decline of one’s mental health. For example, taking time off work or out of the day may not always be feasible for people, especially if you have children to take care of, and during a contracting economy where every day matters in the eyes of your employer. The struggle to balance self care, and life responsibilities is very real. Online counselling could reduce the cost of office space rental, parking space rental, and utilities in the office. The savings from such a transition could help to increase access for some clients.

Physical Access

Physical access can be limited due to a person’s living arrangements, or life circumstance. Many people cannot afford a convenient mode of transportation to attend a counselling session. For example, in rural areas, the problem can worsen with some people having to depend on the therapist’s mode of transportation into their area before they can acquire mental health services. The dependency could lead to spotty access at best, and an inconsistent therapeutic relationship at worst. For counsellors working within a rural area, a plethora of other ethical concerns can arise, such as multiple relationships, limits on resources, isolation, and community expectations. Online counselling could not only offer larger variety of therapists for the rural clientele who can specialize, but can subdue altogether some of the ethical issues around rural therapeutic practices.

Continue reading

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

Inspiring Fitness and Activity

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on January 10, 2014 4:00 pm

“Great changes may not happen right away, but with effort even the difficult may become easy.”
~ Bill Blackman

If you have a desire to inspire another, first be inspired yourself.  Inspiration can only occur if you understand what it is to be inspired.  The process of inspiring others, is frequently the messages we receive from our religious, political, and motivational leaders at the beginning of a new year.  The messages are often reminders of our abilities to be renewed.  In fact, if you consider the United States President’s, State of the Union, it is almost always placed at the beginning of a new year.  Why?  It is a way of implying that we can begin again and anew.


The tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution dates back nearly 4,000 years ago. “The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year, which began in mid-March, that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.  March was a logical time period for the New Year because spring begins and crops are planted.  But the Babylonians had a greater motivation to stick to their promises than what we have today, because for the ancient people of Mesopotamia, keeping their promise would mean that their gods would bestow their grace on them throughout the course of the following twelve months, and breaking them would put them out of favor.” (Holloway, 2013, Online)

New Year’s Resolutions are frequently battered with physical intentions.  Acknowledgment of one’s physical and psychological limitations is a way of expressing we have room for improvement, without declaring that “I have need for improvement.”  As a society, we typically shy away from expressing such limitations or needs, because of the stigmas associated with limitations or expressed weaknesses.


A weakness or limitations is good.   Acknowledgement of a weakness or limitation is the recognition that you, or we, have an ability to improve or make a marked change in our lives.  It is when something is clearly noticeable or evident that people recognize our desire for improvement.

The avoidance of our limitations and weaknesses stems from our fear of failure.  The fear of failure is limiting, smothering our very ability to breath and function.  If we live our lives fearing the possibility of failure, then we are not living life to it’s fullest.   Fear is frequently the catalyst that drives people away from pursuing their ambitions, goals, desires, and life’s callings

“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.”
~ Charles F. Stanley

It is crucial that we recognize that our weaknesses, limitations and failures are nothing more than  guide maps indicating our current positions within life.  We should continuously seek to be our absolute best.  Even if, there is a barrier blocking our pathway, find a way around it or through it. Fundamentally, we are the only rulers and narrators of our lives.  No one else can determine how we live our lives.

Continue reading

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

Preparing for Life Transitions

Posted by: Maritza Rodriguez on December 12, 2012 4:12 pm

There are many times in our lives where we pass through pivotal altering transitions in our lives. Some are marked with spiritual and/or cultural rituals such as a First Communion, Bar Mitzvah, Sweet 16, graduation from high school/university, marriage and death to name a few.

Traditional societies highly regard these transitional moments in a person’s life with elaborate ritual and celebration. A boy is cognizant of entering manhood. A woman’s responsibility is enlarged when she consents to marriage or a marriage is arranged. The ceremonies surrounding these life transitions are obvious signals and recognition that the person’s life is changing. For the most part, there is also much support from family and community members during these important markers in an individual’s life.

Our modern society has some indication that transitions are occurring but they are not as emphasized as they once were. Even though a child may have a spiritual celebration depending on the religion, there is no longer a definitive marker as to when adulthood begins. Is it when an individual is of legal age to drink alcohol? When they get a full time job? When they graduate from a post-secondary school?

Less and less, we are aware of our transitions but we feel things have changed and many people feel unprepared to cope with the “new normal”. The village is no longer behind you giving you advice and wisdom. That is not to say that family and friends are not supportive, but there are many paths that can be taken now, and this can be overwhelming to some individuals. On the flip side, the freedom to choose any destiny allows others to fly free and explore.

Continue reading

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

Small Steps to Feeling Fulfilled

Posted by: Maritza Rodriguez on September 12, 2012 1:54 pm

Children are naturally inquisitive and curious. They believe that everything is possible and have a strong belief in themselves and their abilities. A survey of young children resulted in 50% of the kids in a classroom boasting they were the fastest runners in their class.

Along the way, however, life gives all of us messages that are incongruent with the above children’s thoughts of themselves. We experience disappointments, failures, seemingly insurmountable challenges and our zest for greatness is dampened. For many of us, fear creeps in. We stop trying to attain our dreams or settle for very little so as not to let ourselves down.

Continue reading

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

The Power of Personal Responsibility Over Feelings of Victimization

Posted by: Maritza Rodriguez on August 15, 2012 10:56 am

Responsibility is a very important trait when it comes to emotional health. Personal responsibility can empower a person to take control over all aspects of his/her life and as result, circumvent the painful role of becoming a victim.

Feeling as if one is a victim is like feeing like all of the air has been punched out of you. Desperation sets in as you wait and hope for that inhalation of oxygen. In turn, desperation brings with it feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness. This state further increases feelings of negativity, which seep into other aspects of your life. It can impact your ability to make good decisions, increase conflicts in relationships and cause financial hardships, just to name a few consequences.

Feelings of victimization can entangle a person in a negative web that appears bigger and stronger than the person and this gives an illusion that you are trapped. It is a very dangerous place for a person to be because it can either lead to resignation or, on the flip side, aggressive toward self or others.

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

Alienation, Expectations and Modern Communication

Posted by: Maritza Rodriguez on June 26, 2012 9:54 am

We live in a rushed, modern society full of interaction. We facebook, tweet, email and text, just to name a few. But the reality of the situation, more people feel isolated and alone than ever. Our sense of community is changing. It is less personal. Most of us are so busy that we do not make time for intimate relationships anymore.

I have to admit that I am guilty of this myself. I have preferred to text a friend because I didn’t want to commit to an in-depth phone conversation. I have chosen to sleep in because I am exhausted from my schedule rather than have breakfast with a family member on a day off. I have also been drawn into the virtual world of my friends’ facebook accounts. Some friends post every thought, dinner engagement, vacation and/or funny interaction that have experienced. Additionally, they post pictures, almost as proof, of their wonderful life.

Social media has become a very convenient method of keeping track of the wonderful experiences, interactions and daily thoughts that we would normally forget about. For privacy reasons, I have chosen to limit the exposure of my personal life on social media sites. As a result, I do not have the running record of how “fabulous” my life is. Most of the times, I cannot remember what I did last week.

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

Is Modern Entertainment Conducive to Mental Health?

Posted by: Maritza Rodriguez on May 22, 2012 4:25 pm

I recently came upon Duane Schultz’s work in his book, “Growth Psychology: Models of the Healthy Personality”. I was struck by four of his characteristics for mentally healthy individuals:

  1. Being responsible for one’s own destiny.
  2. Knowing one’s strengths and deficits.
  3. Being anchored in the present versus the past or future.
  4. Quest for opportunities and growth through new goals and experiences.

I immediately thought of the reality TV that seems to have permeated our wavelengths. It appears to be full of fighting with others, boasting of one’s importance while negating any personal weaknesses and blaming others when life goes astray.

Continue reading

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