The life of a therapeutic farm director

Posted by: Doc Warren on June 6, 2018 3:33 pm

From writing in the United States and in Canada I get email after email on such topics as founding a charity to counselling supervision and related topics. My favorites though are those that focus on therapeutic farm programs.  Now I am far from the first to have a therapeutic farm and hopefully far from the last. It was once a very common type of program but with the increase in land prices, decreases in crop prices and the insane amount of developments that were being build decades ago more and more farms, including therapeutic farms, disappeared from the map, replaced by subdivisions. Therapeutic programs have trended smaller and the connection with nature was often lost.

A handful of years ago the charity I founded was offered a great price on a nearby farm that had long ago seen its prime fade into decay. It had no running water and spotty utilities at best but we saw so much potential that we went into debt to buy the first of three sections and have spent a fortune in cash and sweat equity transforming it into a real therapeutic program with hiking trails, fields, Christmas Trees, gardens, green houses (the USA government makes us call them Seasonal High Tunnels if we want a chance at a grant), running water, a bathroom, art based programming and of course formal therapeutic programs etc. We have gone from about 850 square feet of office space to just under 4000 with more currently under construction. Eventually the main building will be about 7800 square feet including the metal\ automotive and wood shops.

As a director of such a program there really is no such thing as a “typical” day unless you simply say that a typical day is anything but typical. While I carry a full caseload of clients that I see for hour long sessions, my days also include many, many non-clinical and non-administrative duties. If you are planning on taking on such a project there are things you will want to consider unless of course you are simply stepping into a program that is fully staffed and fully operational.

In the past few weeks alone I have worked on the following projects beyond clinical and admin.

  • Replaced brakes, rotors and at least one caliper on an agency used vehicle as well as a water pump and rear wheel hub assemblies.
  • Repaired a water valve that helped supply water to the buildings and grounds.
  • Repaired the snow plow, changed a tire in the snow and also replaced a starter where the plow had died. Think slush, snow, cold and so, so dirty.
  • Repaired chicken coops after snow damage.
  • Buried some farm animals after a predator attack.
  • Ran electrical wires for new offices.
  • Repaired a 50 year old tractor that was having transmission issues.
  • Helped with grant writing.
  • Continued to conduct individual and group supervision.
  • Prepared countless planning beds and fields for planting and planted many of them. Some were plated with plants that I raised from seeds, a few were done with store bought plants and some with seeds.
  • Repaired the composting toilet system.

You get the idea. When you are not in clinical sessions there is always something to do and you do it 6 to 7 days per week. This is meant as a rough sketch of what a clinical director in this type of setting may expect. Your experiences will vary by setting, infrastructure and personal ability. I would not advocate a person with no background in electrical, mechanical or construction attempt much of what I do and I would not had I too lacked any background in this area but for those that have it, it will get put to use in this type of setting.

A large established program may not require half the skills or interaction from a director but for those that will be starting from scratch or nearly scratch, there is no shortage of challenges. Taking on a program like this is not all challenges however. There are within these programs things that cannot be found in most settings. There is the therapeutic value of being able to be in a large area with free roaming animals and being able to feed them by hand or pick them up and pet/ cuddle with them. There is the feeling of connectedness that one can feel while conducting a session while walking in a field, along a brook or on woodland trails.  The ability to watch a community grow where once overgrown land was present is a feeling that is hard to put into words. Watching crops grow and knowing that they will feed the needy while also providing therapeutic opportunities to the community is something that I had never experienced in “corporate” counseling programs. The feeling of accomplishment when you see a new wall go up or lights light up for the first time can be hard to beat as is the feeling of accomplishment when a long dormant machine fires to life.

For those of you that have not lost the love of our profession but that may be growing tired of the corporate or urban environment, consider a change of pace and a change of space. Community therapeutic farming may just be what is missing for you. It just may be what is missing in your community as well.

 

”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




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

6 Books Every New Therapist Should Read: As Recommended by Other Therapists

Posted by: Natasha Minor on August 30, 2016 3:03 pm

Recently, I’ve been exploring various books that might give new therapists some of what they didn’t get in graduate school – less theory and more insight into what it’s really like to be a practicing therapist.

Below are a few of the books that have been recommended to counsellors and psychotherapists by other therapists in the profession.

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin D. YalomBooks

This book offers 85 chapters and each consists of no more than a few pages. Based on his 45 years of clinical experience, Yalom addressed many practical issues that all therapists have encountered and struggled with, providing readers with profound insight into the therapeutic process.

On Being a Therapist by Jeffrey A. Kottler

“Kottler talks about situations therapists encounter that I found very relatable” says Samantha Greene, a LCSW in private practice from Plano, TX. Being able to relate to the same situations with clients in her own practice, Samantha feels the book “normalizes the experiences therapists may have while treating clients and really encouraged me to continue my professional and personal growth,” she said.

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

Another book by Yalom, Love’s Executioner is an account of real interactions he had with clients (edited for confidentiality of course). Many of the therapists I asked recommended this book, feeling that it speaks to the insights and relational moments that are at the core of our profession.

The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life by Dan B. Allender

Although not written specifically for therapists, Tamara Lynn-Hanna Feightner, LPC, says that it shaped her framework for counselling. The Healing Path “normalized the wounded heart, acknowledged the ramifications of betrayal, and talked about hope as risky, brave, and not a simple Hallmark card with a bow on it” The content in this book “confirmed for me the beauty in the resiliency of the human spirit and grace for being a glorious mess – the goal is the journey, not perfection or destination of having arrived,” she said.

Creativity as Co-Therapist: The Practitioner’s Guide to the Art of Psychotherapy by Lisa Mitchell

Joy Elizabeth recommends this book as she says it “speaks to training your brain to get outside the box and be a more present, effective therapist.” Viewing therapy as an art form, this book helps therapists to become more authentic, flexible and to trust in the therapeutic process.

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk

Lauren Gourley, LCSW, believes that Trauma Stewardship should be “mandatory reading” for anyone who has experienced trauma or works with people who have experienced trauma. The author offers readers practical ways to help prevent secondary trauma, paths for healing and discusses the importance of self-care.

The titles listed above are just a starting point. I invite you to explore the many books that are specifically written to normalize and speak to the unique experiences of therapists.

I’d love to hear what your favorite books are in the comments below.

Natasha Minor, MA, CCC, RP provides counselling and psychotherapy in London Ontario where she specializes in helping overwhelmed women find their voice and believe in their worth so they can create a more authentic, satisfying life.




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

6 Easy Steps to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile: Tell your Story and Own your Brand

Posted by: Mark Franklin on August 23, 2016 12:29 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at CareerCycles.com

“LinkedIn is the site where we’re investing time, not wasting time,” Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn optimization specialist and owner of PunchMedia, told Career Buzz listeners. “Linkedin is not the sexy social media site, it’s not the one everyone goes to gleefully every morning,” said Leslie, but it is the business network, so it pays to make it good. How?

Leslie highlighted 6 steps to start optimizing your online presence and improving your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Do a digital audit. Find out your “online first impression,” Leslie recommended. Conduct a search on yourself to see how you are being perceived by potential hiring managers or clients. Make changes to remove unflattering content.
  2. Get a professional head shot. “If you do nothing else, focus on a really good head shot so you appear confident, smiling and approachable.”
  3. Craft a strong headline that’s not your job title. Bypass LinkedIn’s default headline which is your most recent job title, and go for this formula: _[descriptive title]_ helping _[these clients]_ deliver _[these results]_, for example, Career management leader helping individuals and employees manage their careers for the future
  4. Understand the Summary is the most important content. “You have 2000 characters to effectively tell your story.” Need ideas? Leslie recommended watching Simon Senik’s TEDTalk, Start with Why.
  5. Go long on copy. In your Experience and Volunteer and other sections, “long copy outperforms short copy,” Leslie said.
  6. “Put the ‘social’ in social media.” Don’t just rely on a static profile, engage with others through Shares, Posts, and interactions in Groups.

Leslie Hughes recommended listeners use these social media tools and steps “to own their brand and to become their own digital media agency.”

Also in the show Denise Raposa discusses the careers of older adults in our changing work environment.

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.




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

Benefits to Starting a Private Practice

Posted by: Natasha Minor on July 8, 2016 3:49 pm

I’d like to challenge the widely held perception that it is not easy for therapists, and especially recent graduates, to find success in private practice. Most of the existing negative opinions on private practice come from a place of fear. An example of this is when I heard a colleague say they didn’t think that the market could sustain another person in private practice. If I hadn’t done my research, I might have believed what I heard and been drawn into their place of fear – believing that I wouldn’t be successful if I started a private practice.

Well, I do not want to live in fear! I choose to operate my practice from an abundance mindset. I truly believe there are enough clients for those who are able to help them – and I believe these clients can be ideal clients you love to work with. Doesn’t that sound great?!

I’ve put together a few reasons that I feel have made my decision to start a private practice worth all of the hard work.

Freedom and FlexibilityPrivatePracticeWoman

Running your own business is a lot of work. This is especially true in regards to a private practice as you have to market yourself to the world so they notice you and the amazing service you provide. However, being your own boss means that you get to set your own hours, choose the message you are sending and choose the population you want to work with.

It was so exciting to pick my own office space and decorate it the way I wanted. I was the one who decided what my practice policies would be. I continue to make decisions for my business that I am comfortable with as a therapist. Yes, there is a learning curve with this (like if and how you should charge for a late cancel or no show) but once you do it a few times it becomes a lot easier to stick to your policies.

Less Chance of Burnout

Sometimes, working for agencies or other clinicians can be challenging and exhausting. They may require that you work long hours, give you little control over who you see and you might not agree with all of their policies. This can lead to burnout or compassion fatigue and your clients might not get the best care you are able to give them. Since running your own private practice gives you the freedom to choose who you work with and how often, going into the office can be quite enjoyable. In addition, your work week will likely be less than 30 hours which leaves a lot of time for family, friends and self-care activities.

The Money

I know – we didn’t get into this profession to get rich. However, we also didn’t put all that time and effort into grad school so that we could live paycheck to paycheck either. Working for an agency means you may be salaried which limits your earning potential.

In private practice you have the ability to set your own fees and choose the number of hours you wish to work. You can also take on a speaking gig or run a workshop to increase your income. Working for an agency may limit your ability to develop additional streams of income if a non-compete clause is in place. In addition, you might not have the time or energy to put into such things if you are working 40 hours a week at an agency.

I’m not saying starting and running a private practice is an easy endeavor. I’m saying if it is what you have dreamed of then you should not let fear hold you back. I encourage you to take the leap and start living your dream sooner rather than later.

If you have any questions or would like to connect, I’d love to hear from you!


Natasha Minor, MA, CCC, RP runs a private practice in London Ontario where she specializes in helping overwhelmed women find their voice and believe in their worth so they can create a more authentic and satisfying life.




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

Making Contact Inside the Computer

Posted by: Sherry Law on June 29, 2016 11:49 am

Over the last 2 years as I have delved deeper into virtual reality (VR) I have learned things I never expected to experience. The fact that VR is programmable means that the experience is solely dependent on ones imagination (and perhaps a little aptitude for software development). VR transports you immediately into a new reality and this holds many implications. The truth is that the physical body, or meat space, does not go anywhere. It is the mind or the psyche that is convincingly transported and the focus of my exploration. This is the true potential for the impact of VR.

I recently received a consumer version VR device. This device not only allows you to glimpse into another world, but also provides you the ability to manipulate the world around you with your hands. In addition, the technology provides the freedom of movement throughout a play area where you can walk around, sit, dance, pivot, the full range of bodily motions as long as it is within the bounds of a play area. This transforms ones understanding of the lived experiences almost 100% from the meat space into a digital realm. When you can train your aim inside an archery simulation and the fidelity nearly reflects reality, it is a strange experience indeed. I have never done archery myself, but being able to have some measure of behavioural mimicry to archery was not only a fun experience, but immersive and tiring! Having to duck and dodge enemy fire, destroying enemies with accurate aim, and spinning around at a second’s notice to ensure no one was attacking you from behind was thrilling. To imagine that this is the new world of the gamer, no longer bound to a computer chair, but sweating instead in a dimly lit room, practicing proper aim that can maybe be carrieblogphotosherryd into the real world. On the score board, your abilities are compared against the best in the world and usernames compete in a never ending battle to the top rank.

I also experienced an amazing level of intimacy in VR. Coming headset to headset with other people around the world, playing games and chatting with them through mics was absolutely astounding. I could see their heads move about as they thought about the ideas I shared with them. People witnessed my hands held on my hips as I wait for them to take the next shot at pool. We giggled together as we threw chairs all around a digital bar and made a mess with beer bottles and books. I high fived someone from Germany, we chatted about what a strange experience VR was, we looked at each other’s computer screens to check time zone differences between me and someone from Illinois, and goofed around with the interface as we learned and tinkered with our new toys. I was approached by a Frenchman from Austria that even wanted to show me around the digital space while I practiced my French. We spent time with phantom others in our minds, while our bodies remained alone and without company, yet I felt connected online for the very first time. I have made several friends already from around the world.

Does the mind care that you are not physically next to a person? No. I can say for myself that my mind was thoroughly convinced that I was properly socializing with others beside me, sharing and laughing together in a room. Meeting with strangers was no more jarring than in person, and in earnest, less so because all my fears of judgment vanished with the replacement of my body as an avatar. However, my expression, who “I” was did not vanish, and was perhaps enhanced by the removal of my distracting physical self.




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

You Can’t Turn Off Your Cell Phone in Private Practice

Posted by: Shelley Skelton on December 9, 2015 3:59 pm

cellphoneblogThe latest rule I have learned in private practice is that putting your cell phone on silent for an evening might mean losing out on a new client.

In the past, I used to enjoy having a cell phone-free evening at home or an internet-free weekend; sadly, those times are gone. No longer do I have a specific time that represents the end of my work day when I can ‘unplug’ and ‘disconnect’ from technology. This may change as I build up a practice, but for right now when one of my main goals is to build my client list, I cannot afford to miss a call or ignore my emails for a day or so.

So far, I have missed out on three potential clients who likely contacted a few counsellors at the same time and chose the one who called back first because I turned my phone to silent in order to enjoy an evening. Now, I check my cell phone three to four times a day to see if a new client has tried to contact me. I struggle with this because I have become ‘one of them.’ You know – one of those people who are never without their phone.

I know that it is the judgmental part of me who finds it odd when I see others who seem to focus more on their phone than on the people around them that is causing me my discomfort. Part of what we encourage in counselling is how to be more present and I see regular cell phone checks taking away from this once-healthy boundary that I used to protect. I knew that there would be adjustments when I became a business owner and the benefits greatly outweigh anything else – I am simply grieving my freedom from my cell phone.




*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

The Online Presence of You and Your Private Practice

Posted by: Shelley Skelton on October 27, 2015 5:00 am

 

I heard some good advice in the business class that I took last spring and that is to maximize your online presence so that potential clients can learn more about you. I do not tweet, nor am I a fan of Facebook, however, even someone like me (and maybe you) can establish an online presence .

This is what I’ve done so far: I have a website that I built through Wix, I am on LinkedIn, and I am in three online directories. Also, one of the reasons I chose to do this blog was to increase my presence. In the near future, I plan to create an additional website with other therapists that have links to our individual websites. One common suggestion that I have heard is that having numerous links to your website increases its standing on Google searches.

These are the fees that I have encountered for professional online directories:

  • $ 94…/year (pro-rated) – my provincial association referral list
  • $40.00 / month – Psychology Today Directory
  • $25. 00 /month – my city directory
  • $50.00 / month – Yellow Pages

My plan is to use the first three directories for a year or so, monitor how my clients found me to determine which referral sites I will continue to use.

I know that there are companies that can audit your website and improve its visibility on Google searches. In fact, one tracked me down within weeks of launching my website. Out of curiosity, I researched two such companies: one costs close to $600.00 and the other’s fees were approximately $400.00. It is good to know that this service exists, but I hope that I won’t need it.




*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

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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

Marketing my Private Practice

Posted by: Shelley Skelton on September 17, 2015 2:57 pm

 

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In an earlier blog, I wrote that part of my marketing plan is build relationships with neighborhood medical clinics in the hopes that they will be a referral source. I have been working on this for three weeks and this is what I’ve learned so far. Continue reading




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