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

Alebrijes-What does  your animal spirit look like?.

Posted by: Priya Senroy on March 1, 2018 1:09 pm

I recently say the movie Coco-it’s about celebrating the Day of the Dead, about family and traditions. The movie was colorful, musical and emotional. As I sat to deconstruct my understanding of this movie, I was intrigued by the characters called Alebrijes or spirit animals.

Research led to me this description: Traditionally, Alebrijes are carved and painted animal figurines that have become a form of symbolic art from Mexico. The word Alebrije means “imaginary” or “fantasy,” describing a style of animal carvings with exceptional paint schemes.

As a creative arts therapist, I found this symbolic art form to be fascinating as I came to know about its origins.

Pedro Linares (1906-1992), a renowned indigenous Mexican artist, first created vividly colorful papier mâché sculptures called alebrijes. The inspiration for Linares’ sculptures has an origin as outlandish and fanciful as the figures themselves. As the story goes, Linares became very ill when he was 30 years old. Not having access to medical attention, he laid in bed and lost consciousness. Linares dreamt of a bizarre, peaceful place that resembled a forest. He recounted seeing giant rocks, tall trees, and an expansive sky. The artist felt remarkably healthy again. His physical pain was gone and he felt happy as he walked along trails through the dense foliage of his dreamworld.

Suddenly, the clouds, rocks, and trees began to transform. The land features around him shaped themselves into animals that were familiar and yet like nothing Linares had ever seen before. There were mules with dragonfly wings, roosters with antlers, creatures that resembled gryphons and dragons, just to name a few. They had unnatural colors and patterns swirling over their bodies. These creatures began repeatedly chanting a single word: alebrije…alebrije…alebrije! Linares became fearful of these strange, powerful creatures chanting this nonsense word. He couldn’t tell if they were warning or threatening him. However, it was enough to startle him awake in time for his fever to subside.( NPS 2017)

Alebrijes, especially the monsters, have gained a reputation for “scaring away bad spirits” and protecting the home( Carlos, 1997)Some, like master craftsman Christian David Mendez, claim that there is a certain mysticism involved in the making and owning of alebrijes, with parts of certain animals representing human characteristics(Joaquín  2009)

I have drawn my dreams with my Jungian psychotherapist and believe in dream interpretations and I think this is another way of connecting our collective unconscious using the art form. Carl Jung saw both dreams and art (including paintings and poetry) as expressions of the unconscious .Pedro was able to link those two and create works of art which tapped into the realm of our unconscious that has been accessed brilliantly by this art form.It will be interesting to  try and clay and make my own Alebrijes modeling my dreams into animals that resonate with me and have fantastical elements.




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

Mindful Moaning: Can a Client Complain Mindfully?

Posted by: Alexandra Trottier on February 28, 2018 10:02 am

Can a client complain mindfully? Well, kind of.

In our culture, Mindfulness is often synonymous with “Good Vibes Only”. As we know however the true definition of Mindfulness is really just about “paying attention, to the present moment, on purpose, and without judgement”. It is simply good fortune that an ongoing Mindfulness practice will eventually lead to “Good Vibes…Mostly”.

Here are my tips for using Mindfulness to help clients transform their moaning minds.

  1. Become aware of complaints.

Have your client start by tracking their negative thoughts, including the words they use and the situations they find themselves griping about the most. By tracking these criticisms they’ll begin to see a pattern of which negative thoughts continually resurface. Remind them that complaints are a way for the brain to express potential threats. By becoming aware of their common complaints your client will begin to take note of the areas in their life they want to improve.

  1. Tune into the feelings behind the complaints.

Instruct your client to also take note of the emotions behind their complaints. Are they hurt? Frustrated? Anxious? Sad? Also, instruct them to be mindful of where they feel the emotion in their body. You can use this information to help them recognize their triggers. Noting their current emotions will also help you guide clients toward defining their desired emotions in the areas of their life they want to improve.

  1.  Resist the urge to complain about complaining.

Invite your client to speak to themselves with kindness rather than judging themselves for complaining. Remind them that complaining is a natural part of being human and instruct them to instead use neutral statements such as, “This is a moment of complaining” or simply using the labels “Complaint” or “Stop”. This way they are not judging or criticizing themselves but simply bringing mindful awareness to the fact that they are perceiving a potential threat that needs to be attended to.

  1.  Shift your language.

Perhaps using the word “Stop” is enough for your client to break the cycle of complaining. However, you may also want to include this fourth step to help your client begin shifting their negative language. Invite your client to try seeing unpleasant situations in different ways using neutral statements. For example, instead of complaining, “I hate how cold the winter is” they may instead use the neutral statement, “Today it is -15 outside”.

The point is that once your client starts to become mindfully aware of their complaints they have the power to decide whether they want to give into the thought, leave it, attend to it, or shift it. Mindfulness offers the potential for your clients to take back control over their moaning minds.




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

Cherishing the life you have

Posted by: Doc Warren on February 22, 2018 9:26 am

So many of us spend so many sleepless nights focusing on what we’ve lost at the cost of cherishing what we have left. It’s not just our clients, as a consultant and supervisor I have found many many cases of clinicians that have burnt out of life, even if they were functioning in their work. They lose the ability to see that life in not guaranteed, that it is precious and that it can be taken from us in an instant. Recently, I had two things happen that reminded me to check my focus and try to live every day to the fullest.

Helen was our therapeutic animal partner where I work and had been since she was rescued. Though she had been used as a bait dog, violently beaten and left for dead, she had an unending amount of love to give, and give it she did to so many folks in the 6 or so years that we had her. Even when recovering from two surgeries, one to fix damage to her face and remove fibrous debris that was lodged in her skull from past abuse; the other to remove cancer from her body, she reported to work the very next day, refusing to stay home and refusing to use a bed we laid out for her at the office. Barely walking, cone around her neck, large areas shaved and covered in a t shirt, she limped to my office and asked for help getting on the couch. She remained for her shift, giving love and support to those in need. Sadly, she passed in my arms December 22nd after completing a long day of service. Giving till her final breath. Countless cried at the news of her passing. She had not been ill and at 8 years old she was expected to have many years left.

Hours ago I was working on projects between sessions as I always do. It’s nothing to see me working on or working with a farm tractor or large piece of equipment when I have some time between clients. I may also be using a chainsaw or any one of a thousand tools while improving the grounds and buildings. I play plumber, electrician, carpenter, designer, welder etc. at any given moment and am no stranger to a nick or a cut nor the occasional trip to the medical clinic for stiches or other care. When you do as much as I do you will have a mishap, especially when you work 60-80 hours per week and have for years on end. Hours ago, things did not go as planned. It changed me, for how long I cannot say. But it has me reflecting in a way that I have not in some time.

While reworking a circuit panel in our building I had trouble installing a breaker and my hand slipped. For a brief moment I came into contact with the hot (energized with electricity) part of the panel. Every bit of power in that panel should by rights have entered into my body. That panel supplies power to an entire floor, 2600 or so square feet of space yet I was unhurt; not even a shock. I have no explanation for why I am ok, but I am physically fine. After the incident I continued, with my project and finished the panel and went back to clinical duties (I am the director and also have a full case load of clients), few if any knowing what had happened. Inside I felt different though.

That’s how life can often work; here and happy one moment and gone the next, or not… We really have no idea when we will leave this world or how but we all will leave it one day. Instead of focusing on all we have lost, how much more others have as compared to us or all the stuff that we dislike but cannot change, let us instead enjoy every moment that we have. Life is often wasted on those that only see negative, use that energy to make the world better than you found it. Find your reason to smile instead of looking for reasons to become angry.

Ten ways to increase happiness in your life:

  1. Take time every day to tell those around you how much they mean to you.
  2. Before posting something on social media ask yourself if it is true, if it is kind and if it is necessary?
  3. Remember that no tomorrow is guaranteed; work towards living today to the fullest: why waste it on things that do not make you feel fulfilled?
  4. Go through your china cabinet, hope chest and other keep sake storage and use those special items every day. Why save it forever? Items were made to be used. I personally only use vintage collectible cups, plates and utensils after seeing so many of those keepsakes at auctions, flea markets and rummage sales after the next of kin did not want them.
  5. Treat yourself today. Saving for a retirement that you may never see does make sense but not if you are unable to live well today. Find a balance and treat yourself well now. Take more trips. Have more experiences while you are young enough to enjoy them.
  6. Never go to bed angry if you can help it. While we do sometimes need to take space to process our feelings, it is often better to take that limited time and then find closure rather than to let things fester.
  7. Build a better today as well as a better tomorrow. Sacrifice is part of life for most of us, especially in the early years of adulthood but you need not sacrifice all the time. Find a balance while working for a better tomorrow and take time to enjoy the now. It may only be a few moments a day, an occasional day off or a day trip, but do live for today while working towards a more secure tomorrow.
  8. Tell people how you feel. So many people regret never telling someone that they feel about them when they had the chance. So many tears mix with words at an otherwise empty cemetery, telling them all they wish they had said. Why wait?
  9. Get unstuck. Feeling trapped in a dead end job, relationship or other situation? Take steps now to find the situation that you crave. It may be hard but is it any harder than forcing yourself to go through the motions when they do not bring any joy? Work will always have tough times, tough moments but overall it should bring a sense of self satisfaction.
  10. Be who you are. Why pretend to be something you are not? Why dress the part or walk the walk that means nothing to you? Find balance between societal necessities and individuality. Why do clothes need to match? Who says a professional has to wear a suit in order to be competent? Who says a mechanic can’t wear nice clothes to work? I’ve been known to wear pocket t shirts and shorts to work and never had a client walk out of a session. Depending on your boss’ rules, you should have plenty of room to balance what they are looking for with remaining true to yourself. Embrace it.

The bottom line is that life is to be cherished. Value every moment.




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

Guidelines For Addressing Loneliness

Posted by: Alexandra Trottier on January 22, 2018 2:28 pm

I see the effects of loneliness all the time.

When you work with seniors it’s almost a given.

I facilitate wellness workshops for older adults living in retirement communities. Loneliness and depression are regular topics of conversation. However, it is important to note that seniors are not the only demographic of concern when it comes to loneliness. According to a recent CBC News report, 28% of Canadians are living alone. Singles are now the most common type of household in the country meaning that people of all ages are grappling with the effects of loneliness. According to the same report, Britain recently appointed a minister to address the increasing number of people who identify as lonely. Canada has no such strategy.

With this in mind here are some general guidelines for addressing loneliness with your clients:

 

  1. Recognize the distinction between isolated and lonely.

While an isolated client is more likely to feel lonely, do not ignore those who appear gregarious. The seniors I work with live with their peers and are surrounded by staff. The same can be said for undergraduates living on campus and we all know the high statistics surrounding depression and suicide risk for these young adults. Retirees and students alike may stay in their rooms, eat by themselves, and show up to activities without participating or opt out altogether. They may feel out of place and socially anxious when they do attend events and as a consequence feel even lonelier in the group than on their own. In other words, counsellors must continue to be mindful of the symptoms of loneliness even when a client appears sociable.

 

  1. Be mindful of the common signs of and risks for loneliness.

Signs:

  • Increased physical aches or pains
  • Worsening of mental or physical health conditions.
  • Low energy or lack of motivation.
  • Difficulty Sleeping.
  • Loss or increase in appetite and sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide.
  • Lacking purpose or meaning in life.
  • Keeping to oneself even in social situations.
  • Difficulty meeting new people and feeling like you don’t belong.
  • Declining social invitations.

Risks:

  • Experiencing a major life transition such as moving, retirement, job loss or new employment.
  • Grieving the loss of a spouse, partner, or loved one due to death or relocation.
  • Difficulty participating in social activities due to financial limitations, illness, mobility issues, or difficulty accessing transportation.
  • Living alone or lack of close family connections.
  • Poor physical or mental health.
  • Language or cognitive barriers.
  • Withdrawal from culture or community.
  1. Help your clients pinpoint times when they feel most worthy.

Some examples may include connecting with cultural centres or programs, volunteering for a purposeful cause, speaking with their community to suggest an activity of interest or lead it themselves, and finding a positive solo activity. Collaborate with your client to develop an action plan that organizes these activities into specific goals with deadlines.

  1. Address loneliness through gratitude, compassion, and mindfulness.

The practice of Mindfulness has been shown to decrease anxiety, increase ones sense of gratitude, and develop compassionate cognitions towards the self and others – all of which are linked with declines in loneliness. There are several Mindful Self-Compassion exercises clients can practice as solo activities. Some of these include guided loving-kindness meditations, developing their own mantra, hugging themselves while visualizing a friend, and cognitive behavioural tasks where the client converts negative self-talk into compassionate statements.

Overall, it is important for counsellors to be mindful of loneliness regardless of their clients’ age or lifestyle. Remember, you can feel even lonelier standing in a crowd than you can sitting alone on the couch.

 

Alexandra Trottier is a Canadian Certified Counsellor facilitating wellness workshops for older adults living in retirement homes. She can be contacted at AlexandraTrottierWorkshops.com




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

Handing off to the next generation of counselors while you are young enough to watch them succeed

Posted by: Doc Warren on December 18, 2017 3:58 pm

I started working in human services when I was in high school and apart from a year and a bit, I have spent my entire career working in nonprofits. The profession has changed a great deal and in many ways the world seems much smaller now than when I began. Computers were only for the rich and or well connected then, now it seems everyone has one and with that connectivity we can communicate across the globe and do so much more than we had ever imagined.

My generation is getting a bit older though we are not close to retirement. The hair is not as thick as when we started and wrinkles are immigrating in great numbers but we are still on top of our faculties and on top of our game. So many of my generation seem to think that the current generation is weaker than we ever were, that they whine, complain and are lazy. Some refuse to hire them, others take little interest in them and do little to help them learn their craft. As for me, well, I’m in the majority that realizes that they are our future and I will do everything I can to see them succeed. After all, if they win, we all do.

Sometimes we must take pause and think about our career and how we can pass the torch to the next generation. Will it be upon our death; at our retirement, or will it be in phases? To me, phases can be the most efficient way to prepare them. I’d like to think we are leaving big shoes to fill after all, so why not let them grow into them gradually?

I remember how hard it was when I clawed my way into the field. I remember the nicknames “puppy, Bambi, newbie” and a host of others. Some were said in jest, some with derision as they felt that though I had the same degrees or more than they had that I had not earned my way in. My generation was lazy as well in their eyes. Still, we persisted and now many of us are the leaders that we once worked hard to impress.

The other day marked a milestone in that I did my last session in the first office I had in the nonprofit I founded. I remember opening it as I was finishing up on my doctorate. How we lacked even a fax machine at the start and found our furniture at estate sales, flea markets, hand me downs etc. The office was very crude in those days with even a subtle breeze causing the old single pane glass to rattle.  We painted it to make it look nice and even refreshed the floors but that glass needed to wait a while until we could replace it. Over the years we grew and eventually bought a 2nd building and rehabbed it. I kept the first office as we already owned it and wondered if my son would ever want it. I split my week at one office or the next while he went to graduate school and got the post grad hours that he needed to be credentialed. He has that now. He has been working elsewhere for several years actually. I will go to the new office while he will get his chance in my updated older one.

My last session was uneventful. I said good night, finished my paperwork and then took a minute to look around. I remembered the day when most everything in that office was put in place. I remember the younger man’s clothes and my visions for the future. I remember him graduating High School, starting college, graduating again and going through grad school and entering the field. He became a man during the years I worked in this office. While I have no idea where my son will go I know he wants to work with me in that office for a few hours to start. Maybe he will one day run the charity, maybe he will only work a few hours for a bit and then move on, or he may just work a few hours and never progress beyond. We simply do not know. I do know however that I want him to have the best chance at success that he can have. I did the same when my wife decided to enter the field as well.

So as I start to pack up the many treasures that I have collected over the years, patch the nail holes and begin to paint this office so it becomes not a hand me down but a fresh start, I will get the benefit of watching him come into his own. The color of the office may change, the outlooks will have a younger set of eyes perhaps but the desire to make a real and lasting change will remain.

He is not trying to be me, no more than I tried to be my mentor. Out of all my furniture he has said that he would like to keep my craftsman style desk. Gone will be the barrister bookcases and my favorite leather couch. So too will be my favorite nick knacks and paintings. He will have his own style, just as he will have his own favorite techniques.

We will not have to totally remove the name from the door as I gave him my own at birth. The letters after it will differ some.

That’s the thing about handing off to the next generation. We cannot expect that they will become younger versions of ourselves even if they carry our DNA and name. We cannot expect that they will do what we did or like what we like. Truth be told, I never encouraged my son to join this field and when we told me he was thinking of entering the field I sat him down and gave him ever reason not to. Once done I asked him if he was still interested and when he said he was I replied “good, now let me tell you every reason why you should.”

To all those that are entering the field I wish you the very best of luck and hope that you have or will have mentors that embrace you and help you grow strong in life and in the field. For those like me, that are well into their careers, I encourage you to embrace the next generation now, not later. Nourish them and nurture their development in the field regardless if the generation before us did the same.

It doesn’t take a lot to help. You can:

  • Take on interns if you have not been doing so.
  • Share your favorite books, techniques or tricks of the trade.
  • Write about your field to share information to others.
  • Share your triumphs and how you got them.
  • Share your mistakes and how you could have prevented them.
  • Share your time, be there for them when they need you, and when they could just use a friendly face.
  • Listed to them, their ideas, dreams and general desires without judgement but do offer them constructive feedback.
  • Let them know the importance of competence and ethical behavior but also let them know that they WILL make mistakes and when they do, how they handle it will make all the difference.
  • Stress the need for self-care even if you are weak in this area.
  • Let them develop their own voice while also teaching them the value of listening.
  • Share your space with them as possible. Let them learn to fly in an atmosphere that allows them to land safely.
  • Let them go when it’s time, just as they will need to let you go one day.
  • Embrace the change; embrace the future and accept that we will not be here forever.

As the end of our working days become closer than the beginning, how we embrace those that will define our profession can make all the difference. Leave a mark on the next generation now while you have the time to see it grow. We are all in this together.

”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 can be contacted at [email protected]  He is internationally certified as a counsellor and counsellor supervisor (USA & Canada).




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

Being who you are

Posted by: Doc Warren on November 21, 2017 1:16 pm

When working with graduate interns or new clinicians in supervision they often express confusion over who they are or who they will be as they begin their careers. There is often so much overthinking that some of them become frozen or stagnant not only in their personal lives but professionally as well. What IS a clinician? The simple truth is that there is no one cogent description of what a clinician is in Toto. Sure, we can define the educational, experiential and credentialing requirements as well as the traits that are often found, but there are so many other things that flavor a clinician’s praxis as to make it nearly impossible to capture their entire essence or flavor.

Besides being dynamic, clinicians are multifaceted and that’s what helps make them effective. Our clients come from many different environs and no clinician will meet the needs of them all, that’s why a strong referral network can be one of the best tools that we have.

What a clinician does on their off time can have a very positive impact on their work as it offers insights that cannot be found in a text book. It can also make you more relatable. What is a clinician? A clinician is an amalgamation of everything they do, learn, believe and enjoy. Don’t try to hide it. Embrace who you are.

Years ago I was contacted by a corporation that had just experienced an on the job death; many employees saw a fellow welder fall to his death. I was warned that the group was very suspicious of outsiders and not to take it too personally if I was shunned for trying to do my job. “No problem, I know how welders can be, I’m a certified welder myself; stick and MIG (Arc and Metal Inert Gas welding). I didn’t care much for TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas welding) when I was in training as it has limited application to structural welding.” Was my reply. The corporate rep was amazed before stating that she knew she had found the right Doc for the job.

As I debriefed and assessed the workers as well as supplied triage care, word got around that I was “one of us” and they spoke more and more freely. Sure, some challenged my knowledge of their craft at first, so this was not something to fake, but once they saw that I knew the craft, one by one they opened up.  Nowhere in the credentialing process of the USA or Canada does it require welding or a host of other skills, but the more that you know, the broader your skill set and ability to reach those that are often resistant to treatment.

A clinician with broad interests can have an easier time breaking the ice than does one that simply knows their trade. Grab a book, or truck load of books to be sure but also grab a tool, instrument or other device. Explore many many different types of activities. The broader your background the more relatable you can be.

Don’t define yourself by outside interests; I am not advocating pushing your beliefs or hobbies on others but knowing a bit about a lot of differing things can make you more relatable or at the very least help you better explore leisure, work or educational pursuits with your clients that may be looking for something new or something more.  Be who you are, share what you know when it will help.  Our clients are counting on us.

-Doc Warren

”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 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

Mental Health Matters

Posted by: Lindsey Thomson on October 31, 2017 3:45 pm

Today I took a ‘mental health’ day from work, it is like a sick day but time to rest your mind and focus on your well-being but specifically on your mental state. Work can be stressful and one way to get away from that is to focus on yourself and who you are as a person. For your mental health day this can look like whatever you want it to. If you are a bookworm like myself, and have been yearning to escape into a book, you could read all day. If you’re the athletic type and the sun is out, you could spend the day hiking or going for a run along the canal.

For me, as a very goal-oriented person who is constantly busy with one project or another, this means sitting down with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and reviewing all the short, medium and long term goals that I have; and subsequently, working on them.

I started off with a list, including anything and everything from working on the next step in starting up my business and organizing my finances to preparing my bridesmaid gifts and brushing my dog. My goal planning also includes one section that is often overlooked: self-care.

Self-care is something that I, even as a counsellor myself, always have to make a conscious effort to think about and to do as a preventative measure. What I mean by this is that rather than waiting until I am exhausted physically or emotionally to take time for myself, I do small things here and there that I value and enjoy doing to help relax my mind. Relaxing my mind, whether through reading, tv show binge watching, or running, helps to recharge my batteries and enables me to be more focused, motivated, happier, and most importantly, it helps me to be myself.

Taking time for self-care doesn’t have to mean taking a day off from work. It can be as simple as changing the way you do things throughout the day that can help you recharge. Examples of this could be listening to music on your way to work, or not listening to music if you feel like there is too much noise in your life already. It could also look like making a conscious effort to have less screen time during the day (maybe spending less time on social media during your work commute if you take public transit). It could even mean taking the stairs when there’s the option (if you are able bodied).

As you can see, there are many different ways you can prioritize your mental health even with a busy schedule. So find a way to show yourself and prove to yourself that your mental health matters to you.




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

When memories of a loved one fade

Posted by: Doc Warren on October 17, 2017 11:14 am

“*This morning when I thought of you, your face appeared dark for the first time. In the years since you passed, I have always seen you in my mind as if you were standing here with me. It always made the pain a little more manageable, but today was different. It was like you were no longer next to me, but instead, you were across the room standing in a shadow. Your features were blunted by the darkness. I could barely see your smile. I could no longer tell your eye color. You are leaving me again. Only this time, I will have nothing to see, only some rapidly fading memories remain.

When you were taken from us I felt that I would never be whole again. They talk about time healing all wounds, but to me, time just allows you to get a bit numb to the pain. I’ve gotten used to the sense of dread; in the moments that I avoid it, I feel weird because it’s otherwise ever present.

I’ve stopped talking about you to everyone around me and I think they prefer it. Now when they ask how I’m doing, I no longer tell them how long it’s been since you’ve passed. When someone shows me a new car or a gift they just received, I rarely think of you and how you would have enjoyed it. I rarely think about how you used to surprise me with little things whenever I was down. Actually, you just seemed to always leave me little things just because that’s who you are. I really miss finding them. Sometimes, I put some of them in ‘hidden’ places around the house or office so that I can ‘find them’ when I need a pick me up.

I go to social events when I need to and no longer look at the empty spot beside me; the emptiness is now relegated to my heart. Friends and family think I have moved on but really, I just stopped sharing my sense of loss. When folks try to set me up with single friends I no longer immediately compare them to you and I also stopped telling them all about you, about us. I try to be present in the conversation but really I just wish it was you who was talking to me, if even for one last time.

My memories were all I had left and now I am losing this as well. I remember that we had so many good times and so many adventures. I feel great when lost in those moments, but they too are fading fast. I’m losing you again but no one seems to be concerned; they just don’t seem to get it…”

Our clients all have unique reasons for coming to see us and many of them present with complex grief, grief that many of their friends and loved ones may not be able to understand. When working with clients, it’s important to remember that their issues may have been discounted or dismissed by those around them, and they may be timid at first when discussing them in session. Setting a tone of acceptance and showing compassion and a genuine concern may be what it takes to make them feel comfortable enough to open up. We can only help if we get a true picture of the problem.

Many folks feel a renewed sense of loss when they reach the time that the once clear pictures of their loved ones start to fade in their minds. For them, it can be as if they are losing them for a second time. Some share that this seems almost worse in that the first time they lost them physically but had them inside, now it feels that there is nothing left (many never experience this however). To the casual observers, they may see this as trivial and dismiss it as hysteria, attention seeking, neurotic or foolish, but to the person experiencing this, it is all too real. As a clinician, showing compassion and validating the new loss and working with them as you would anyone that has suffered loss can be key.

There is no time limit on grief. When memories fade, pain can take its place. That’s when we step in.

*inspired by decades in the field.

-Doc Warren

”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 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

Are you ready to change?

Posted by: Lindsey Thomson on October 3, 2017 3:31 pm

There are many different reasons that hold us back from getting the help we need. It can feel daunting to ask a friend or family member for help, let alone a professional, especially when it comes to our mental health. But once we get past the societal stigma (that is currently on the decline), there are other factors that can hold us back, that we’re not even aware of.

Some of us go into counselling knowing exactly what is causing us distress and are excited to work on ourselves, even though we know it will cause us some emotional stress along the way. Others may feel that something is off within them but are unable to identify the cause, and for one reason or another, (possibly fear shame or guilt) are not prepared to reach out for help, or don’t think they can improve.

In therapy there is a concept called motivational interviewing or MI. Motivational interviewing is a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding used to help an individual realize what they would like to improve or change, and work towards strengthening their skills to do so. (Miller & Rollnick, 2009)

At its core, motivational interviewing is a conversation about how you would like to make a positive change in your life. Understanding the stages of change and knowing where you fall within the spectrum of stages will help to give you a better idea if you’re ready to start counselling.

Below are the stages of change with questions to reflect on. Truthfully answering these questions will assist you in understanding where you fall within the spectrum of change.

 

Stages of change

Pre-contemplation – You haven’t started thinking about change.

Am I experiencing a high level of distress?

Am I spending a lot of my energy focused on this distress?

Is it interfering with my day to day life?

Contemplation – You are beginning to consider making a change, but you are not prepared to make a commitment.

What are the pros and cons of the thing I want to change?

How could my life improve if I made positive changes to the issue?

What are my values in relation to this change?

Preparation – You are starting to prepare to change in the near future.

What are my goals for changing?

What will my plan for change look like?

What/who are the supports in my life to assist me through this journey?

Action – You are working on actively implementing an action plan of change.

What are my new positive behaviours associated with the change?

What am I doing to reinforce these positive behaviours?

How does it feel to be achieving this goal?

Maintenance – You are maintaining a healthy lifestyle with the changes that you have implemented.

What are some challenges that could arise and derail my change?

What can I do to prevent these challenges or work through them when they occur?

How will I positively maintain the changes I have made?

Counselling usually comes into play for individuals at the stage of preparation. If you find yourself in the stage of contemplation, you may feel or have felt ‘stuck’ or unable to make positive changes in a long time. Working with a counsellor at this stage can help you to figure out what is holding you back, and can assist you in working towards strengthening your motivation to move to the preparation stage.




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