Be safe and do good…

Posted by: Warren Corson on July 12, 2017 12:00 pm

Sometimes you need a fancy logo, long explanation and a media event to get a point across, other times a few will suffice. I love history and try to repeat the good while avoiding the mistakes, though life likes to give us plenty of opportunity to make our own mistakes anyway. I listen. I listen to the trees, to the people and I read as often as possible (daily) a mixture of old and new work in order to keep pace with today and learn from yesterday in order to provide a well rounded tomorrow.

Sometimes it takes a thousand pages to convey a thought, others a few paragraphs. Still, there are times when a look or a hand gesture speaks volumes both within and without a session. Smiles can mean many things beyond happiness but mostly they tend to be positive. A person once told me volumes by just letting me see his hands. They were weathered, withered but large, scarred, stained, callused and stiffened through years of manual labor. You knew where he had been.

A bumper sticker that a school I attended had two large words “Do Good” and in the corner in very small writing it had the college name and contact information. I knew from reading those two words that this was the program for me and those of my ilk. I completed five programs there before finishing to open my not for profit. I am sure many others who walked though those halls have done the same, many have done it bigger and better, but we all try.

I once had a school send me a large package of swag designed to sell me on their program. I almost signed up especially after I read a book they sent that listed them as the best school for my type of program.  A few years later I learned that the owner was being featured on a news program; the government and many people alleged that he was a crook and run a degree mill. It turned out that he had written and published that book himself. All hype, no substance other than greed. Last I read he was on the run with all the money he had collected.

I find myself attracted to older people with broken bodies; they seem to have the best stories. One such gentleman that I will call Cecile as I didn’t think to ask his permission to share his story, talked about his adventures during the depression as a young man, earning a living with his hands, body, sweat and blood. He never made much money but his hands made many things that helped build this country. He shared his glory days when he “could fix any machine with a few wrenches, an oil can and a little persuasion.” I came to learn that persuasion was what he called a hammer like hunk of steel that he made in the factory.

Now feeble bodied but sharp in mind, he resides in a local “rest” home, retirement and our tax dollars paying the rent (it bothers me so much less when I pay my taxes knowing that it helps folks like him). He never made much money, had no pension and never got that gold watch that people used to talk about that capped their years of service. Instead when asked about his retirement he said “they said I was getting slow, either get faster or stay home. Then the foreman stopped giving me a choice of the two, I grabbed my lunchbox and went home.” He made a swiping gesture with his hand as he said it. It was there that I noticed one and a half digits missing from his hand. When asked he simply said something along the lines that sometimes the hand wins, sometimes it is the machine.

I asked him if he had any regrets and he stated he did not, he did wish he had seen the ocean a time or two but otherwise he was ok. He mentioned that his broken hands and broken body enabled his children to get “educated and be a better man than I ever could have been.” That part I highly doubted but did not want to interrupt. His kids never worked a factory job that I know of. They all got jobs as clerks in offices or some such work; a few went to college and “got themselves important jobs with fancy names and everything.”  He never had much of an education, “poor people just didn’t do that back then” he advised.

He did not see his kids that often the last few years of his life. They had moved away to bigger cities, they saw the ocean that he never did and made a good life for themselves.  He said he was proud of every one of them and that if their success meant he had to live in the home, it was worth it knowing that they were safe. He loved telling people to be safe. He never was heard by me at least, to say goodbye. Instead he would simply wave his hand and say “be safe.” I am not sure if he ever noticed how ironic it was that he waved the hand with missing digits when he wished people to be safe but it always warmed me when he said it to me.

I find myself closing more and more correspondence to those that mean something to me with the words “be safe and do good.” I did not consciously decide to do this mind you; it just came from my love of learning from the “now” and from the “then” of time.

I wonder what has rubbed off on you, from your studies, clients, friends and family etc. As for me, I learned to go to the ocean so that if I live as long as he did I will not have to say that I wished I had. No regrets, just a life well lived…

Be safe and do good.

-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. ( and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm ( 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

Our Social Brain and Interpersonal Relationships

Posted by: Denise Hall on July 11, 2017 2:55 pm

What we thought we knew about the brain is shifting rapidly because of the research of the past 10 years. Daniel Siegel (2008), Allan Schore (2009), and others have gathered recent neurobiological research, interpreted it, and transcribed it into common language. Therapists and others have brought the information into the counselling room and books such as David Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself have made their way to mainstream bookstores and television.

I have just finished a course on interpersonal neurobiology and I would like to share some of the knowledge that I believe can change your life. First our memory and what we take in from the world is a much more nonconscious process then we earlier believed. Apparently in one second we take in 10,000.00 bits of information of which only 16 are conscious (Gihooley, 2008). Further, this author maintains that cognitive research suggests that the unconscious is the main component of mental processes and that this realization has turned the psychological community on its ear (Gihooley (2008). He states:

“We’ve come to realize that there is an enormously complex mental apparatus working independently of, and largely invisible to, our conscious mind. These unconscious processes form the actual center of mental life; they are the origin of motivations and initiator of actions, and conscious thought. It may be all we know—plays a comparatively minor and peripheral role in mentation” (Gihooley, 2008 p. 93).

The author is, in effect, stating that our explicit memory and what we know is, in effect, more peripheral to our human experience than, as we thought, the other way around. He gives an example of speech suggesting that we are really not aware of our speech because it is orchestrated and delivered unconsciously. We, in effect, are only aware of what we speak after it is spoken. Implicit memories and knowledge underpin this process and consciousness is not a part of what we are continually perceiving and interpreting. Information processing is an involuntary process (Gihooley, 2008).

Many researchers and clinicians have agreed that in child development the first 18 to 24 months are crucial for a healthy mental and physical life later in life. We know that the child’s right brain is the main part of the brain that develops during this time and the memories are largely nonconscious. In order to develop the brain properly the child’s caregiver needs to create a secure attachment with the child. Attuned communication is also needed for the development of self-regulatory processes and the pre-frontal cortex, which is the centre of logic, reasoning, and executive functioning. Attachment experiences are independent in their influence of genetics and temperament.

Dr. Siegel 2009) presents nine functions that are required for the pre-frontal cortex to develop: balance of the body, attunement with others, emotional balance, response flexibility, ability to calm fears, insight and self-knowing, empathy, morality and larger social good, and intuition. He also focused on the importance of parents being attuned and present with their children in order that their pre-frontal cortex links with them. He suggested that a healthy loving secure attachment is important and that it is estimated that 65% of Americans are securely attached and 35% are insecurely attached.

Dr. Siegel recommended three requirements for developing the nine functions for healing and integrating the brain: loving relationships, internal reflection, and the functions of the brain itself. Practices that assist with the tasks are mindful awareness, prayer, Ta Chi and Yoga. The goal of healthy brain development is integration of the emotional centre of the brain (limbic area) and brain stem (reptilian or old brain) with the pre-frontal cortex or new brain.

Chaos and/or rigidity, Dr. Siegel suggests, becomes the state of being when the brain is not integrated. The presenter suggests that an integrated brain is harmonious and is able to manage separateness and togetherness from others and individuation and connection. He defines the mind as a “process that regulates the flow of energy and information”.

Childhood trauma, and poor attachment experiences produce a brain that is disorganized. The emotional brain is disconnected from the thinking brain and the physical regulation system resulting is chaos or rigidity in behavior and mental health issues. Because this is largely nonconscious it is challenging for the person and others to figure out what is not working.

The good news is that the brain is plastic and a disorganized system can be healed and integrated. Loving secure relationships and self-reflection is the key to healing. This can happen in love relationships and in therapy. Trauma experiences can cause an otherwise integrated brain to disorganize and cause havoc in a persons life creating depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress symptoms. Again healing can occur with therapy and being surrounded by loving family and friends. The difference in healing through a trauma is most often the support a person seeks and gets.

These advances in knowledge are helping people realize that their difficulties in life stem from early experiences and/or traumatic life events. They begin to view their issues as experience dependent and, for many, caused many years ago not as a result of them being a bad person whose life is hopeless. They also realize that they can change their life if they get help and reach out to others. The key here is awareness and bringing many of the memories and knowledge that motivates and drives their lives to conscious awareness. Those in pain and struggling can have control over how they deal with the information and then they can begin to heal and integrate their brain.

The key points of brain research are that the focus is now on unconscious processes and early childhood attachment. The growth of the brain in the first 2 years is in the right brain and its health is experience dependent. Poor attachment and trauma experiences result in a disorganized brain and behavior that is chaos or rigid, however the brain has neuroplasticity and can heal and integrate with therapy and loving relationships.

Books that are recommended are Daniel Siegel the Developing Brain and Parenting from the Inside Out.

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


Posted by: Denise Hall on July 11, 2017 2:48 pm

Do You Have Trauma Symptoms?

If you have any of the following you might have post traumatic symptoms or even a firm diagnosis or PTSD:

  • nightmares and sleep disruption,
  • not feeling safe or have a general feeling of unease in your surroundings or body,
  • have panic attacks,
  • unable to concentrate on reading material, work activities or household tasks,
  • over the top anger and strong responses to minor things
  • avoid certain places and people,
  • isolate and are very uncomfortable with groups of people,
  • anxiety about even minor life tasks is very high,
  • an unreasonable fear of authority figures, the police or institutions,
  • an exaggerated response to loud noises

If you think that you have not experienced a potential traumatizing event, surprisingly most people have had at least one traumatic event in their life whether it is witnessing one or being in a car accident, breaking a bone in an accident or in a sports activity or losing a family member (estimated 70% in the US). Trauma is as old as humanity, however the field of Traumatology is relatively young with its origins in the 1990’s. The study and treatment of trauma incorporates biological, social, psychological, economic and political factors. Trauma is an exceedingly complex subject and my intention in this article is providing important information about Trauma and PTSD for my clients, colleagues, and readers. Understanding trauma and the profound affects it has on individuals and communities is essential in providing the resources for those people struggling with the effects.


During my Masters training in Chicago I was introduced to Dr. Colin Ross’ work, a Canadian born and trained psychiatrist, whose book The Trauma Model (2006) profoundly influenced my practice and my understanding of trauma and psychological disorders. Dr. Ross suggests that trauma is usually the factor underlying most mental illness diagnoses and that using this model helps in dealing with the issue of co-morbidity. The Colin A. Ross Institute ( contracts with psychiatric facilities in Texas, Michigan and California providing treatment for psychiatric disorders.

Another of my instructors in trauma work is Dr. Bessel van der Kolk whose work at the Trauma Institute ( in Brookline MA is at the forefront of trauma treatment. His recent publication The Body Keeps the Score (2015, Penguin books) is an excellent resource for practitioners and clients. The research he conducted on Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and incorporating Yoga in treatment for trauma is important work.

The Definition of Trauma

Posttraumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) is the term for the clinical diagnosis that meets the criteria for the disorder after a trauma event or an extreme stressor such as:

  • Serious accident or natural disaster
  • Rape or criminal assault
  • Combat experience
  • Child sexual abuse or physical abuse or severe neglect
  • Witnessing a traumatic event
  • Hostage/imprisonment/torture/displacement as a refugee
  • Sudden unexpected death of a loved one

The first month after a trauma event or an extreme stressor, if distress is present, a person could meet the criteria for an Acute Stress reaction that may or may not lead to a diagnosis of PTSD. Not everyone develops a diagnosis of PTSD after an extreme stressor. If they do not meet the entire criteria they can be diagnosed as having an Adjustment reaction.

Symptoms and manifestations

Symptoms fall in three categories:

  • Re-experiencing of the traumatic event or intrusive thoughts and images including nightmares and exaggerated responses to triggers and avoidance of reminders of the event;
  • Avoidance and emotional numbing including detachment; and
  • Another affect is increased arousal including difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance and difficulty concentrating.

PTSD is difficult to diagnose as it is often masked by other symptoms and people can be asymptomatic for months or even years. Often clients are misdiagnosed with depression, high anxiety, bipolar disorder /or psychotic symptoms when at the root of their distress is a traumatic event that more than likely is forgotten or repressed. The memory, likely in a fragmented state, of the trauma is located, at least partly in implicit memory, the very large repository of unconscious material in the brain. This area governs most of our decisions and actions however for most people it lies beyond their conscious awareness.

Often the person develops panic attacks without a connection to a trauma event. Untreated trauma could also be indicated in suicidal thoughts or high-risk behaviours. Other possible symptoms include anger and irritability, feelings of alienation, betrayal, mistrust and isolation. Sometimes the trauma is manifested in psychotic symptoms such as paranoid and/or delusional thoughts. Another complication is when people distract or self medicate with substances such as alcohol or drugs. Generally the person feels on guard with a general feeling of unease when outside of their home.

Political and Social context

Tragically, there is a widespread blind spot where trauma is concerned and the treatment of trauma is mixed in part due to the fact that there is organizational and cultural amnesia and denial of the symptoms of PTSD and the reality of trauma. Both Judith Herman (1997, 2015) and van der Kolk discuss the political implications of addressing PTSD. Perhaps it is as Van der Kolk, Weisaeth & van der Hart (1996) suggested, in their view of psychiatry’s historical approach to trauma. They are highly critical of psychiatry and the medical profession as a whole, stating that it has amnesia about the reality of trauma and its affect on the human psyche, and that there is periodic denial and minimization of the fact (and impact) of trauma.

Herman and van der Kolk suggest that the acknowledgment of the reality of trauma has gone through periods of discovery and periods of invisibility, closely mirroring the public and political appetite to address its importance. Compassionate lay observers tend to be the only people who keep the importance of trauma in their awareness. The biggest concern is that valuable knowledge and time has been lost in the process of denial (van der Kolk et al.). People do not get diagnosed or treated appropriately.

Herman (1997, 2015) also delineated the political aspects of trauma and she asserts that trauma cannot be understood without examining the social context surrounding the situation. Essentially, the recognition of psychological trauma is a political issue. In order for trauma to be considered, the issue of war itself needs to be addressed, as does the inequality of minorities, and of women and children in domestic abuse and violence in society. Unless human rights are a priority, and oppression is challenged, there is minimization, denial, and “forgetting” in the minds of individuals as well as society when it comes to trauma. The affects of trauma and perpetual war are profound in society and rarely acknowledged.

Clinical examples

Examples that I often deal with in my practice are traumatic injuries, assaults and bullying and harassment in the workplace. Other examples include veterans who have long fought for recognition of traumatic stress in combat and vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress of police, firefighters, paramedics, frontline workers and health care workers. In addition, trauma dramatically changes the brain and often the worldview of the recipient. When examined under a functional MRI the brains of trauma recipients show scattered activity whereas the brains of non-recipients show focused activity.

With symptoms, tolerance for stress, much like a physical injury’s tolerance for physical activity, is decreased and people are easily triggered into a stress response. They can exhibit fear behaviours such as the flight/fight/or freeze response likely not in keeping with the situation. I remember General Romeo Delaire speaking at conference I attended. He is a vocal proponent of the military’s recognition and support for PTSD.  General Delaire said he was in a marketplace in Africa when a fruit vendor used a machete to cut a large watermelon. He said when he noticed this happening he just “lost it”. He knew then that he had PTS symptoms and needed help.

Longevity of Symptoms

An important piece of information to consider is that the affects of trauma do not disappear overnight even with prolonged treatment, they linger in some form for years. Treatment such as EMDR and desensitization certainly help reduce the emotional impact but symptoms remain. We also know that if someone has had PTSD symptoms once, they are at high risk for developing them again, especially with subsequent trauma experiences.

People with trouble concentrating, disorganized thinking and sensitive nervous systems, hair-trigger reactions often with anger, depression and anxiety, and somatic symptoms such as chronic pain are likely suffering from residual symptoms and often their condition is misdiagnosed. Another symptom of trauma is dissociation, a condition where the person feels like they are outside their body. They never appear grounded and in the present. This is survival technique that over time causes dysfunction in everyday life. In more severe forms it can develop into separate egos or “alters”, and dissociative identity disorder.

Treatment Approaches

Treatment varies depending on the treating professional. I tend to take an integrative approach, using the following:

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction,
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR),
  • Emotional Freedom technique,
  • Acceptance and Commitment therapy
  • +Dialectical Behaviour Therapy,
  • Cognitive Behavioural approaches
  • Client centered approaches
  • Psychodynamic therapy.

Grounding and containment are very important in making a person feel safe again because people often feel unsafe and a sense of betrayal and the trauma has changed their lives significantly. Their core self seems no longer accessible and they have difficulty trusting that life will be manageable and safe again.

Newer training approaches suggest that reliving the trauma or in vivo-desensitization is not necessary to heal from a trauma and some practitioners warn about the potential of traumatizing the person unnecessarily if they are pressured to revisit the original trauma event. EMDR performs desensitization without specifically revisiting the original trauma and body–centered approaches are helpful in helping clients feel grounded and secure in their body an essential component of feeling safe again.

Most treatment professionals have adopted a trauma-informed practice, which recognizes trauma as a component in diagnoses and that certain practices can re-traumatize. They recognize the need for helping people transform feeling helpless to empowering people to take back their lives from the effects of trauma.

Medication or Not

Medication is a personal choice and many people express concern about taking psychoactive medication. In severe responses to trauma, medication is generally indicated to assist people to be able to function again. Sleep is an important component of healing both physically and psychologically and if a person has severely disrupted sleep they will have difficulty stabilizing and beginning to heal. If a person is actively thinking about suicide medication is also warranted. Research supports psychotherapy along with medication is more beneficial than medication alone. If a person’s response is moderate then psychotherapy may be sufficient to alleviate the symptoms.


In summary, the study of trauma is relatively new and appears to be politically and socially situated. It is often misdiagnosed or missed altogether and is often an underlying component of psychological distress. PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder are the diagnoses and the affects are cumulative. Treatment approaches vary and new approaches focus on empowerment and treating the affects and feelings around the trauma not reliving the trauma or extreme stressor. There are a number of treatment choices and it is not necessary to relive the trauma to heal. Medication along with psychotherapy is indicated in severe symptoms but with moderate symptoms psychotherapy alone might be sufficient.

Your feedback about this article and to contact Dr. Denise about psychotherapy Email [email protected] or phone 604-562-9130

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

Counseling knows no border

Posted by: Warren Corson on April 24, 2017 3:01 pm

Last year my wife and I came to Canada for the first time to present at the joint conference between CCPA and ACA (American Counseling Association). Though she has been to other countries before this was my first time out of the USA unless you count a few trips that I took in high school when I went across the border in Fort Kent for five to ten minutes, once I even got out of the car and bought some pop. My knowledge of other countries came from stories from relatives, friends and clients for the most part, supplemented by some TV and readings of course.

After I secured my first passport ever, we headed to Canada ready to present and to explore as much as we could in the few extra days we were able to stay prior to the conference. Driving around Kingston and through to Montreal we stopped at many shops, spoke to countless folks and found the conversations to be engaging, sometimes entertaining but always enlightening. In one otherwise empty shop a conversation took a turn to the more clinical and I found myself doing an unofficial consultation with someone that was feeling overwhelmed. We found a private spot and talked about what was going on and explored some ways to improve, where real help could be accessed in their area and that above all, that they were far from alone. A nice thank you was the result and then we got into our old Merc and headed for our next destination. Though the person was far from suicidal and posed no risk, I have thought of them often and hope that they did enter formal treatment.

Most folks were curious to learn where we were from and typically had kind words for us about our country. In some areas language was a barrier but for the most part folks found my confused stare as a sign to speak English as I was clearly lost as to what they said. I often apologized for being in a country where I did not speak their native tongue but most shrugged it off and welcomed me fully. A few agreed that perhaps I should not be in a place where the language was unknown (there are some of those folks everywhere I suppose).

So here we are, two clinical professionals from a different country, one that speaks the language a bit (my wife took French in high school and traveled to France before so she can hold her own) and one that can look confusedly at the speaker of any language other than English, but we found many a kindred spirit in our northern neighbor. We were outsiders yet we were accepted.

A man named Michelle who was also a counselor, and proudly in recovery told me about the Canadian health care system and gave many real world examples. He spoke of his mum and how she went from a diagnosis of cancer to specialized care, including surgery to remove the cancer in a matter of three weeks or so. She, along with Canadian healthcare in general, are fit and fine as of our meeting. When asked about the mountain of debt she surely must have from treatment (here in the states, losing one’s home and life savings after a major illness is not uncommon, nor is the need for a “go fund me” page or fundraisers to help fund care). He told me she was covered and simply needed to focus on her health.

We met with many interesting clinical professionals during our stay and enjoyed the sights to be sure. And while we in New England USA know maple syrup (I believe it is in the DNA of every Vermont born person) we stocked up on the Canadian staple as well. The more we may sometimes feel different, the more we realize that in many ways, a border is just a made up division. We are all one though we may live under different conditions and authorities.

As counselors we’d like to thank our northern hosts for allowing us to present in their great country and for helping to educate us as to how your system of healthcare differs than ours. As a token of my esteem, I have become a member of this fine organization and have spoken with them on sharing freely many years’ worth of my writings. I have also applied for the CCC and CCC-S credentials and hope to play a small role in Canadian health care. Most important however, is my desire to learn as much as I can on the Canadian healthcare style so that much of your ways can be taught to my readers back in the states. This information exchange has much promise in my eyes.

While we may have different authorities and our take on health care differs greatly, it is my belief and my experience that counseling knows no borders.  I hope and pray for a day when the USA adopts a similar mindset on health care and refinds much of the humanism that it appears to have lost recently. If you ever find yourself in Wolcott Connecticut USA, consider this an invitation to tour our humble therapeutic farm. We hope to receive many such invitations from Canada as well. As I send this, my wife and I are packing our bags to head to other parts of Canada over the next four days. We hope to meet and speak with many folks including counseling professionals, to learn from and share with in order to help make real and lasting change for those we serve. If you see an old Merc with Connecticut plates in your neck of the woods, please give us a shout as we’d love to talk with you. Until then, Be safe and do good.

-”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. ( and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm ( 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

Why The Protest Polka Dance?- Part 2 of Demon Dialogues

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on March 21, 2017 11:33 am

The protest polka is a unique pattern between partners that assures emotional detachment and distancing. The repetitive nature of this polka dance reassures partners that their emotional needs will go unmet. Why would this couple continue with this type of communication style when the outcome leaves them empty? Often, it is because the couple is unaware of this pattern and it has become second nature.

Sue Johnson, author of Emotional Focused Couple Therapy (2008), described the Protest Polka Dance as a maladaptive communication pattern that has one partner denying that emotional detachment exists, while the other person withdraws and protests their sense of disconnection. Johnson used the analogy of a partner banging on the door to get their partners attention, as the other person pushes the door shut. Johnson states this is a common snapshot of a couple engaged in the Protest Polka Dance.

When partners do not respond or get their needs met each person can feel humiliated, lonely, and unsafe within the relationship. The constant reaching of a partner towards one that is emotionally unaware, unavailable or denies this dance is even happening will eventually lead to a sense of emotional separation. This couple then becomes desperate and may resort to pushing each other’s emotional buttons and triggering unfavorable emotional reactions. Unfortunately, the emotional distance grows becoming reinforced and cemented.

As a couple’s therapist, the most important place to start is to increase the couple’s awareness not only of the content of their communication, but also the dance itself. The couple needs to understand how their responses or the lack there of, maintains habitual patterns and keeps them trapped. The Polka Protest Dance must stop and focus needs to be on building a bridge of emotional connection. The couple works hard to engage in early response and learn attachment language that generates safety and comfort. The therapist helps slow down these new interactional moments, to assist the couple in noticing their emotional reactions and windows of opportunity for strengthening connections. This is an ongoing process of practice for the couple in sessions and between to reinforce new skills and build confidence in each other.

Will the Polka Dance come up again? Of course it will, but with this emotional formula the Polka Dance looses its dance patterns as the couples emotional attachment gets stronger and stronger. No one is perfect and couples can resort to old behaviors. When that happens couples come in for one or two refresher sessions and any small gap between them is often easily closed and their back to feel emotionally connected again.

Danielle Lambrecht Counseling © 2017 Please engage in any comments.

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

How Counselling Improves Your Day Job or The Unintended Benefits of Counselling Part II

Posted by: Peter Persad on March 21, 2017 11:29 am

Last year I wrote a piece I called “The Unintended Benefits of Counselling” (April, 2015) in which I explored the “collateral” positive aspects of developing a counselling skill set and the impact it can have on our personal  lives as counselors.  The basic premise of that blog was that counselling can have a personal benefit for the counsellor as well as the client. (And it would follow of course, that when the counsellor improves, the results are inevitably beneficial for the client. Counselling truly is “the gift that keeps on giving.”) ­­The focus of this blog is an exploration of how counselling can have a positive impact on our capacities as professionals in other realms, and especially in professions where a counselling skill set may not be considered as a necessary tool in the performance of our duties.  A recent example in my daily work was the genesis for this idea. Although I am a CCPA Certified Counsellor, my day job is that of a high school administrator. To be honest, I have always maintained that the counselling skill set can be incredibly effective in the daily work of a school administrator.  In my capacity as a school leader, I employ effective listening skills, utilize re-framing techniques, conduct solution-focused therapeutic interventions and facilitate mediation in areas of conflict. All before 10:00 A.M.  As a Certified Counsellor, I believe that EVERYONE can benefit from counselling; the parents, students and staff that come into my office are no exception. And in fact, many of the people who come into my office are normally in some type of crisis that requires resolution or at the very least an intervention. (In fact, there is a movement afoot in British Columbia to empower teachers to act as mental health advocates and “front-line workers” since teachers enjoy a unique and increasingly significant position as professionals who see kids every day and are thereby able to establish baseline data for behavior.)  A case in point: I recently had a young woman referred to me for poor attendance. She was 13 years old and in the critical transition year of Grade 8 as students move from elementary to secondary school. She had missed about 25 of the first 35 days of school and as you might expect, her marks reflected her sporadic attendance. Now, under normal circumstances, most vice principals are going to suspend students (as counter-intuitive as that may seem) in order to reinforce the importance of daily attendance as it relates to school success.  The meta-message being, “Jane Smith, you need to attend our school on a regular basis if you wish to remain a student in my bureaucratic institution.” But, as I’m also fond of saying, “Don’t just DO something, sit there..” It takes a lot more effort and care to look beyond the behavior to find its etiological root. In other words, moving from the “what?” to the “why?” Obviously, this student isn’t attending regularly. That’s the “what” but “So what?” The real question is “Why is this student not attending?” And the answer is not, “Because she doesn’t like school.” In fact, as with many of the behavioral issues I deal with as a vice principal, the problems in school aren’t because of school, they have just manifested themselves at school. Extra-curricular issues tend to manifest themselves at school because school for the most part is a “safe space” where children can” act out” and the professionals in school notice these behaviors because “they care.”  So, back to the young lady in question: she was missing school because she was depressed about her parents’ recent divorce.  She was “creating a crisis” in the hopes that Mom or Dad would act, would “make her go to school” and thereby” demonstrate” their love for her.  How many times have we as therapists helped our clients make the connection between their unmet needs and their behavior? What I have found as a school administrator is that a little CBT can go a long way to helping students not come back to your office. With respect to this student who was missing school, my therapeutic intervention did not include discipline for truancy. It did include efforts to build a relationship with this student by demonstrating care for her, it included asset identification, self-esteem building exercises and homework, it included normalizing this student’s experience, it included identification of triggers, it utilized extra-therapeutic factors as a means of self-help, it included personal network reification. It was the antithesis of what a person would expect if they were referred to the vice-principal’s office for violation of the code of conduct. It was brief, solution-focused modality with an emphasis on psychoeducation.  And it worked! In the 30 school days since this intervention, this student has missed 2 days. As therapists, we can’t wave a magic wand and make everything all better, but we do possess a very powerful set of skills and clinical acumen that enables us to help. And that’s why we got into this “business” right? We are called to this vocation to use our time, skills and energy to help others, to improve their lives, to enable them to live a more meaningful, satisfying existence. And fortunately, this is a transferable skill set.

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

Making the Transition: Career Transition Resources for Canadian Armed Forces Members

Posted by: Michael Sorsdahl on March 21, 2017 10:35 am

The challenges of transitioning from being an active serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces to the civilian workforce are unique. Military members spend months training to enter into the military workforce, moving through training institutions and learning how to work as part of a highly functional team. When these military members either reach retirement, decide to retire early, or even get released for medical or other reasons, they are then placed into the precarious position of re-creating their identity and finding their way in the civilian world. Even beyond the need for support for transitioning into the civilian workforce, military members also have unique roadblocks to that transition that may include trauma, identity, and family issues.

There are some great resources that have been created to help aspects of this transition, and it is important to know the resources that are out there that can be used to help this population who have given their lives to protect all of ours. Some of the resources that are available for this population are:

Canada Career Counselling – is a national psychology practice that provides both an in-person and on-line career exploration and transition service designed to transform and translate military career experience into recognizable civilian transferable skills. This organization includes direct connection with highly experienced Master’s and PhD level Registered Psychologists, with extensive backgrounds in career development and the specific roadblocks unique to military members.

Canada Company – which is a charitable organization that is designed to help military members find resources available to them during their transition processes. There are some on-line resources available through this organization that provide assistance in resume writing and job search assistance.

Helmets to Hardhats – is a not-for-profit organization that provides apprenticeship training connections for members currently serving or those who have served to move into the trades from the military.

Michael Sordahl

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

Searching for other players…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positive Psychology experts discuss Hedonia, Eudaimonia and the Virtuous Organization

Posted by: Mark Franklin on August 25, 2016 12:48 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at

With so much interest in positive psychology, how can we use it to enrich our careers and lives? How can it help us to flourish?

These are questions that today’s podcast guests help answer. Guests were speakers and exhibitors at the recent Canadian Positive Psychology Association’s national conference held in Niagara on the Lake, June 2016.

First up: Kim Cameron is Professor of Management and Organizations in University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. His past research on organizational virtuousness, downsizing, effectiveness, and the development of leadership excellence has been published in more than 130 academic articles and 15 scholarly books. His current research focuses on virtuousness in organizations–such as forgiveness, gratitude, kindness, and compassion–and their relationship to performance. He is one of the co-founders of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan. Kim was recognized as among the top ten organizational scholars in the world whose work has been most frequently downloaded on Google. Kim Cameron is today’s first guest.

Today’s second guest is Veronika Huta. Professor Huta obtained her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at McGill University. At the University of Ottawa, she teaches statistics and positive psychology. Her research compares different ways of defining and pursuing the good life, or eudaimonia (which is the pursuit of excellence, virtue, personal growth), and hedonia (which is the pursuit of pleasure, enjoyment, comfort). She studies these pursuits in relation to personal well-being, the well-being of the surrounding world, cognitive and physiological responses, and predictors (such as, parenting styles, worldviews). She is a founder of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Finally… frustrated after a workplace accident, Hardy Premsukh started focusing on whole-body health as part of his recovery plan. Unable to find the proper tools to help him with this goal, he started working with psychologists, medical doctors, mathematicians, and other experts to develop a comprehensive platform that could create a more complete picture of how the body and mind work together. That platform – the FlourishiQ platform – knows how behavior and lifestyle choices impact health.

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

“The Quickest Way to the Truth”: Confronting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Beyond

Posted by: Denise Hall on June 22, 2016 3:47 pm

From the plea bargain and previous acquittal of Gian Ghomeshi to the sexual harassment class action suit against the RCMP and other high profile cases, sexual harassment is definitely in the news but are we seeing justice done? Christy Clark said recently that sexual abuse, assault and  harassment are a part of women’s everyday lives. These acts of violence and abuse continue to occur at alarming rates. A CBC guest Rebecca Solnit on the Sunday Edition’s  June 19, 2016 discussion on violence in the US  indicated that a rape occurs every 107 seconds and spousal abuse every 17 seconds. Why are we not doing enough to protect women in their homes and their workplaces?

The CBC executive whose quote I have used in the title was abused at work while a male coworker stood by. She agreed to an apology and a peace bond from Ghomeshi instead of enduring a trial. She may be quite right in stating that the truth can get tangled up in the justice system and the court of human opinion. Forgoing her anonymity, she felt the truth would best be served by making a statement about the abuse. Perpetrators seem to be able to continue harassing and abusing and evade responsibility for their actions. Gian Ghomeshi was acquitted of six charges in the first court case and PeasandHammerbarely offered an apology or took any responsibility for his actions in the second.

In the memoir “No One To Tell” Janet Merlo, a former RCMP officer in British Columbia, outlines the abuse and gender inequality she endured during her time with the force. Merlo was named as the representative plaintiff in the class action suit of over 100 women against the organization. Going through the courts is not working very well for the victims, mostly women. So what can be done to stop the rampant abuse and bring the perpetrators to account?

As a therapist I work with victims of sexual harassment, rape, physical assault and violent acts mainly perpetrated by men, many unreported. Discussing this issue with other therapists they tell me that the women they work with state that if they had a chance to go back they would not report sexual harassment and sexual assault. They say it is just too horrendous an experience to report. Furthermore many victims report losing their jobs while the offender(s) keep(s) their position. Women in male dominated occupations tend to fare pretty badly in the places they work.  I have heard reports directly from women in construction jobs, police forces, and the military.

Politics aside, Christy Clark, BC Premier, recently disclosed being a victim of an assault when she was 13 years old. She said she never told anyone because of the shame associated with being a victim. Some people are cynical and say that her report was politically motivated. I am thinking this is not the case.  Most women feel a high degree of shame associated with being a victim and I question why women and, specifically our premier, would talk about a traumatic and highly intimate situation for political purposes? Claims from perpetrators that women report for financial or other reasons are usually way off base. There is no amount of money in the world that would make up with the horrific circumstances, terror and public scrutiny involved with disclosing sexual harassment or assault. Also, research on recanting suggests that many victims recant because of the consequences of going through with the accusations for their families and the community.

I watched a Norwegian movie last week called HEVN (“revenge”) and the heroine of the film was bent on revenging the rape and subsequent suicide of her younger sister who was in her teens when the rape occurred. Initially she was going to kill the perpetrator but settled on setting him up and stripping him of his family and stature in the community. If the court system does not provide justice then must victims take retribution into their own hands? The problem with doing so as an “eye for an eye” suggests, will leave both parties injured, most likely badly. More succinctly, violence is not the answer.Violence is the problem.

The women in the RCMP have initiated a class action suit to settle their grievances around sexual assault and sexual harassment. Maybe civil action is better for compensating victims. Civil actions have a lower burden of truth and they can provide compensation for suffering and loss of positions the victims aspired to and felt proud of.

WorkSafe BC now accepts sexual harassment and bullying under their mental stress provisions if the abuse if work related. It is also incumbent on employers to have a system of regulation and protection in place. Certainly the criminal courts did not appear to serve Gian Ghomeshi’s victims well. Many victims just keep quiet and perpetrators continue to harass, abuse, and rape because they believe they can and they believe THAT THEY WILL NEVER GET CAUGHT.

Another high profile example is the Stanford sexual assault case where the perpetrator’s father wrote a letter decrying the six month sentence for his son, Brock Turner, stating it was too harsh for “20 minutes of action”. What if he got 20 months for each minute of action? Legal experts have said that this sentence was more in line with a “first offence of burglary or auto theft”. Another comment from Danielle De Smeth, a California based criminal attorney, was that “it emboldens those of privilege or an athletic background”. Sure does! Two young black men were hung in the 1942 on a bridge on the Chickasawhay river for being within 10 feet of a white teenage girl.

So what is the quickest way to the truth and how are we going to stop perpetrators from sexually abusing? Sexual assault and harassment is a technique of power as is withdrawing reproductive services for women. Rape is used by soldiers in war zones to totally control the vanquished. Racism is more of an issue in economically stressful times. Maybe, sexual assault and harassment is like racism where the perpetrators objectify and dehumanize their prey because they feel they are losing power economically and politically. Mark Lepine killed 14 women in Montreal for just that reason. In spousal abuse perpetrators keep their partners powerless so they will not leave. Sexual abuse and assault are the tools that perpetrators use to subjugate women and children.

Maybe the solutions to stopping abuse lie beyond the criminal courts in changing workplace culture, economic inequality and societal attitudes. As long as women remain unequal economically and societally along with ethnic minorities and are kept powerless to bring the abusers to account, the abuse will continue despite the criminality of the acts. Even if we have regulations that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, many victims will not speak up because of fear of losing their jobs, being ostracized for speaking up, and concern about the onerous process of going through a system that is fraught with difficulties. This is a challenging issue and we must do a better job of protecting women in the workplace and in the community.

Your comments are welcome

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