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Are You New to this Therapy Thing?

Are You New to this Therapy Thing?

New to Counselling?

Are you new to this counselling thing? Are you contemplating giving it a try? Do you need to go to counselling? Or just curious as to what the fuss is all about? 

Well, here’s my attempt at giving you a little glimpse into the beauty of this phenomenon that is growing in its cultural acceptance and perhaps this can help you figure out whether signing up for counselling is the next right move for you. I speak as a fellow human who has attended counselling and as a therapist who has sat opposite to many who have courageously sought out help through the medium of therapy.

Here are some stats to gain a wider picture:

  • Statista conducted a survey of 1,650 people ranging from 18 years and older in 2020 via telephone interview. They asked the respondents, “in the past 12 months, have you received any counseling or treatment for your mental health?” 43.7% of respondents from British Columbia said “yes.” New Brunswick wins (or loses depending on how you look at it…) at 60.1% of respondents responding with “yes.” Manitoba was the lowest at 27.7%. 
  • Another study found that between 2019 and 2021 the percentage of adults who had received mental health treatment in the past 12 months grew from 19.2% to 21.6% (Terlizzi & Schiller, 2022). 
  • Statistics Canada found that in 2018 17.8% of Canadians aged 12 and older reported needing some help with their mental health. This is around 5.3 million people. That’s a lot of people! Out of that 5.3 million, 43.8% reported that their needs were either not met (they did not go to therapy) or were partially met (they went to therapy but it was not enough).

What do these three sources tell us? 

Simply put, therapy is being accessed more and more. Perhaps, we are catching on to the fact that our mental health is worth investing in. It really is. Gone are the days when therapy was reserved for those that we lazily labeled (or diagnosed) with words like “crazy” or “problematic.”

5.3 million Canadians acknowledged the need for assistance with their mental wellbeing. 

Deeper than just being accessed more, these studies are perhaps a helpful reminder that you are not alone, not part of a small fringe group, but… dare I say… human. Not yet got this “life” thing figured out. Normal? I think so.

 

What Does Therapy Look Like?

So, if you’re new to this or not yet bought into it, give me a moment to paint a picture of what it looks like: 

You arrive in a cozy office, sit in the waiting room, another fellow human – your counsellor – will arrive and call your name, together you’ll enter a room with a couch and perhaps a few chairs. You sit down. And then…

This is what you may see on the outside but so much is happening internally. 

You are setting out on a grand adventure. 

You are escaping the noise and bustle of every-day life.

You are marching out into battle. 

You are sitting by a warm fire on a stormy winter evening.

You are resolving unfinished business.

You are tending a wound that no-one around you sees.

You are aspiring and hoping for who you could become.

You are settling into who you are, becoming more at home in your own skin.

If you break your arm, you go to a doctor. This doctor will first assess your injury and then set you off on a path of healing and recovery – aligning your arm, bracing it, and advising you on what activities may or may not be achievable in light of your wound. 

In a similar way, you may have experienced various psychological/relational/emotional challenges – a huge setback in your work life and left feeling fragile, recurring conflict in your most intimate relationships, abuse from people that were supposed to be your protectors – and the question remains: where do I go to sort through/respond/heal these challenges?

The added challenge of mental health is its invisible quality, which leaves us vulnerable to the pushback: “is this just in my head? Can I just push through and deal with this?” A broken arm just seems so simple and obvious. However, mental pain and suffering left unattended can fester in similar ways than an untreated wound. Though, it may come out in angry outbursts, tension in your shoulders (perhaps its not so invisible…), the inability to know what you feel, a low sense of self-worth, or intrusive thoughts that plague you every time you slow down. 

This is where counselling becomes useful in attending to your mental well-being. It is true that humans are resilient and often, even after experiencing traumatic life events, people bounce back with courage and vitality. And yet, counselling is a protected space to address and tend to our relational, emotional, personal challenges.

 

How does counselling accomplish change?

At very least it accomplishes this through undoing our unbearable aloneness. Dr. Diana Fosha passionately declares that our relational, emotional, personal challenges largely stem from “being alone in the face of overwhelming emotion” (Fosha, 2000). Thus, therapy, at its best, works to undo aloneness.

Judith Herman, the legendary trauma therapist, writes that “the fundamental premise of the psychotherapeutic work is a belief in the restorative power of truth-telling” (Herman, 2015, p.181). In the presence of another human, can you share honestly how you are doing? Can you express, in detail and with clarity, the truth of your being? As you dive into the biggest challenges that seem to plague your life through this act of “truth-telling”, you are met with wise attentiveness and deep compassion.

Bessel Van Der Kolk, the medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, says “being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives” (Van der Kolk, 2015, p. 81).

 

A Safe Relationship

Do you have relationships marked by trust, safety, honesty? How can you tell?

Bessell highlights the importance of each of us being heard and seen by another person in our lives. We need to be held in someone else’s mind and heart. He writes, “no doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love; these are complex and hard-earned capacities” (Van der Kolk, 2015, p. 81).

Do you feel a desire to be met with this sort of attentiveness and care? Does it feel too good to be true? Too simple? Fair responses. A helpful question to explore is what the costs are for not receiving this hard-earned capacities? 

I know I need them. And as I step into vulnerability—this act of receiving and trusting—I find myself walking lighter, thinking with greater clarity regarding my relationships and problems, and feeling more at home in my body and in this world. Perhaps you could call it feeling mentally healthy.

I encourage you to find relationships that are characterized by these qualities. Whether or not they are counsellors. It will change your life. It’s changed my life.

Here at Alongside You, these quotes inspire our work; We offer award-winning counselling services that are shot through with these qualities: a safe context to be seen, held in the mind of another, and this “hard-earned” love that Bessell speaks about. If you wish to learn more, contact us to see how we can help.

 

References

Elflein, J. (2022, August 31). Adults who received past-year Mental Health Counseling Canada 2020. Statista. Retrieved from, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1328941/adults-who-received-past-year-mental-health-counseling-canada-by-province/ 

Facts and figures. Fraser. (n.d.). Retrieved from, https://vancouver-fraser.cmha.bc.ca/impact/influencing-policy/facts-and-figures/#:~:text=Between%2019.6%25%20and%2026.2%25%20of,a%20mental%20illness%20each%20year. 

Fosha, D. (2000). The transforming power of affect: A model for Accelerated Change. Basic Books. 

Herman, J. L. (2015). Trauma and recovery. Basic Books.

Statistics Canada. (2019, October 7). Mental health care needs, 2018. Health Fact Sheets. Retrieved from, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00011-eng.htm 

Terlizzi, E. P., & Schiller, J. S. (2022). Mental health treatment among adults aged 18-44: United States, 2019-2021. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Penguin Books.

Coping Ahead: Anticipating Stress & Boosting Confidence

Coping Ahead: Anticipating Stress & Boosting Confidence

Do you find yourself constantly worrying about every possible scenario that could go wrong? You’re not alone. Constant worrying, overthinking, and feeling out of control can take a big toll on your mental health and well-being. This makes it incredibly difficult to focus on daily tasks or enjoy life to its fullest. But there is a solution: Coping Ahead is an effective technique from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) that helps you prepare for stress and manage emotions ahead of time.

Eventualities

When I was 19 years old I learned to pilot gliders (airplanes without engines, also called sailplanes). Before each flight, we would always go through our pre-flight checks, even if the aircraft had just landed from a previous flight. We would make sure all of the controls worked as expected, the instruments were reading correctly, and of other important things worth double-checking when you’re propelling yourself two thousand feet into the sky!

The very last step of every pre-flight check was to review “eventualities.”

Though it’s been many years now since I last flew, I still remember vividly what I would say out loud to myself at this step, time and time again:

“If a wing drops on the launch and I cannot recover, I will release the launch cable and land ahead. At a safe height and speed I will start to climb. In the event of a launch failure, I will release the cable and lower the nose to a recovery attitude, and gain sufficient speed before maneuvering. I will land ahead if possible. Otherwise, I will turn downwind, which today is [left or right] and complete an abbreviated circuit or find a safe landing solution. The wind today is ___ knots which means my minimum approach speed is ___ knots.”

Coping Ahead saves time and effort.

The reason for talking through these eventualities in so much detail on the ground is that you’ve already made all of your decisions in the event of an emergency. In an unlikely situation where the pressure is on and seconds count, you don’t need to waste precious time or mental effort deciding what to do. You’ve already thought it through, and simply must follow your plan.

And this skill isn’t just for pilots! In DBT, coping ahead is an emotion regulation skill that can help you rehearse strategies ahead of time to better handle stressful situations or uncomfortable emotions. By visualizing and planning out how you will cope with challenging situations in advance, you start to feel more confident in your ability to face them, boosting your self-esteem and reducing stress.

What’s the difference between Coping Ahead and overthinking?

Overthinking is a common response to stress that can be counterproductive. It is also a common feature of anxiety that involves dwelling on worst-case scenarios, often leading to a cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. It can be triggered by a wide range of every-day stressors or perceived threats.

On the other hand, rather than going in circles about problems, Coping Ahead involves thinking about solutions. It is a deliberate and proactive skill, rather than a reactive response that actually impairs your problem-solving abilities.

How do I learn to Cope Ahead?

If you want to learn how to Cope Ahead, there are some practical tips you can try.

  1. Identify potential stressors in your life, such as upcoming deadlines or social events.
  2. Plan coping strategies that work for you, such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or seeking support from friends.
  3. Rehearse your coping strategies in your mind, visualizing yourself using them and picturing how they will help.
  4. Lastly, remember to take some time to relax and ground yourself. Well done!

If you are struggling with…

  • Overthinking
  • Low self-confidence
  • Anxiety
  • A sense of low control in your life
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Other conditions that cause intense emotional reactions to common life stressors

…then consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Coping Ahead is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for developing this skill. Contact our clinic to learn more about how we can help.

Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Allow Me To Introduce Myself

 
My name is Nik, and it’s a pleasure to be joining the team at Alongside You for my counselling internship! I will write a little about myself here. In short: I am a highly motivated counselling psychology student and science graduate with hands-on experience supporting people with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and other needs. I am committed to inclusion, mental well-being, and care of the highest possible standard. Please do get in touch if you think I or anyone else at Alongside You may be able to assist you!
 

Life Growing Up

 

I grew up in a diverse neighbourhood in Port Coquitlam. I was a quirky kid who did not have many close friends, much preferring the library to the soccer field. My bedroom was full of microscopes, telescopes, and amateur electronics. My love of science was matched only by my love of helping others; I came to be known as a calming and compassionate shoulder for others to lean on in times of need.

After graduating from high school, I had an urge for a change of scenery from Greater Vancouver. My British heritage and innate curiosity about the world helped me decide to study Natural Sciences in the United Kingdom at University College London. This interdisciplinary programme explored many different scientific fields, but I ended up focussing on neuroscience. I was fascinated by how little we knew about the human brain and the magic of consciousness. The brain is still very much “uncharted territory” with many new and intriguing discoveries made each year. However, as I progressed through my integrated master’s degree, I realized that these discoveries come at the cost of long and tedious hours in dark and lonely laboratories. Many of my peers who were a few years ahead in their careers found the work unfulfilling. It is valuable work, and I have much respect for those who do it. Still, towards my fourth year of university I realized I found greater meaning in working directly with real people. I started taking psychology electives and shifted from learning about the physical brain to understanding the mind and the soul.

After completing my M.Sci., degree and researching the presence and impact of autistic personality traits in the general population, I spent several years working in the non-profit social services sector. I primarily supported adults with autism, developmental disabilities, bipolar disorder, depression, and other concerns in various residential and community settings. In 2017, missing my family and the beautiful scenery in British Columbia (and also put off by the rapidly rising financial cost of living in London), I moved back to Vancouver. I started working for Family Services of Greater Vancouver to help children and adolescents with autism, ADHD, and anxiety build life skills and independence.

Finally, in September 2019 I started my M.A. in counselling psychology at Adler University. Now entering my second year of graduate studies, I can say I feel absolutely confident that this is the right path for me. My sincere gratitude to those who join me on this journey!

 

How I Approach Counselling

 

My approach to counselling is still very much in development, but right now I find myself oriented towards narrative therapy. This approach helps us unpack the story of our lives, read between the lines to gain new insights, consider alternative interpretations, and regain our sense of authorship to write the next chapter as we wish it to be.

That said, I do not draw exclusively on narrative techniques: the right style of counselling is whatever works best for the client! I also incorporate humanistic, person-centered values, meaning I have absolute respect for your choices, autonomy, and independence. It is not my job to make decisions for you or lead you in any particular direction. We will collaboratively explore options together, but you have the final say in any work we do.

Finally, it is important to me that my work includes well-researched, tried-and-true methods for effective and long-lasting change. Therefore, I aim to offer evidence-based exercises from practices such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (a style of discussion which helps you prepare for change), and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). I also aim to resource my clients (only if they wish) with proven strategies for building resiliency such as mindfulness, grounding techniques, and self-reflection skills.
 

My interest in research

 

As an aspiring scholar-practitioner, I believe it is essential to always work towards better understandings of the human mind. I think that this work should be substantiated by reliable data and evidence (although there is undoubtedly a place for intuition too). I am actively engaged in psychology research, keeping up to date on the latest peer-reviewed discoveries worldwide. I regularly collaborate with experienced clinicians and scientists on my own projects.

My current research interests include:

  • The impact of exercise on cognitive abilities
  • Relationship between personality traits and mental well-being
  • Improving the counselling experience for people in alternative relationship structures
  • Psychosocial development outcomes of using digital technology (e.g. apps, video games, robotics) versus physical toys and in-person interaction for children with autism in educational settings
  • Mechanisms underlying the transmission of intergenerational trauma
  • How social media and concerns (or ambivalence) about mass surveillance impact mental health, particularly in young people

 
Let me emphasize that my counselling clients are not research participants nor the subjects of experiments. I provide the above information just to give a better sense of who I am and what I engage in.

 

How I practice self-care through hobbies and interests

 

My energy, my fire, most certainly comes from music. I enjoy listening to most genres and have played various instruments since I was five years old (primarily guitar nowadays, and saxophone on occasion). I’ve found song-writing and composition to be personally therapeutic.

Travel is a large part of my life, and I also enjoy photography, which fortunately go quite well together! I prefer a more adventurous travel style, intentionally making myself uncomfortable to see what I discover about the world and about myself. In August 2017 I completed a challenging but incredibly rewarding 800km bicycle trek from London to Glasgow in five days. In April 2019 I participated in a charity event called The Rickshaw Run, driving 3,000km across India in a motorized tuk-tuk (essentially a 7-horsepower glorified lawnmower) while raising over $3,000 for cancer research. This past summer, my plans to backpack around eastern Europe were thwarted by the covid-19 pandemic. Instead, I took the opportunity to go on a 9,000km socially-distanced camping road trip to the Arctic Circle and back. I am incredibly grateful to have experienced how vast and beautiful this part of the world is! (Gratitude, I believe, is an important and too often neglected value nowadays)

nik stimpson travelling in india
 
I am also a big fan of fitness — or at least the idea of it! There are certainly many days when it’s challenging to muster the energy or find the time to exercise. Nonetheless, I’ve come to appreciate how vital physical activity is and that a healthy body yields a healthy mind.

Another significant hobby of mine is aviation. When I lived in the UK I learned to fly glider planes with long wings and no engines. We would launch ourselves into the sky and hunt like the birds for warm air currents to provide lift. It was a continuous fight against gravity, but there was something simply magical about the experience of quietly soaring among the clouds. I’ve not had an opportunity to fly since moving back to Canada, but I hope to resume gliding someday.

nik stimpson flying in scotland

 

That’s all I have to say about that

 

My commendations if you’ve read this far! When I started writing this introduction, I did not think I would have so much to say about myself! Yet, in some ways, this has barely scratched the surface of who I am; we are all incredibly complex beings with indescribable depth. I know I still have plenty of self-discovery and personal development to do. But I hope this gives you some sense of myself, and if we do end up working together, I look forward to learning more about who you are and who you are becoming. I’d love to be a part of your journey.

Life Lessons In Self-Care

Life Lessons In Self-Care

 

Self-Care Was Not Part Of My Vocabulary

 

I never expected to end up working as a counsellor. For a while, I thought I’d be a teacher, then I thought I’d be a journalist. I’ve worked as a custodian, a camp counsellor, in cramped offices and construction sites. None of these jobs promoted the idea of self-care.

The point is, my life has taken quite a few twists and turns, and it’s been very difficult at a lot of times to find a direction and a sense of purpose to what I was doing. And one major thing I’ve learned through that experience is just how important it is to take care of yourself.

When I was studying in journalism school, I very quickly realized being a reporter wasn’t the career for me. But instead of changing gears, I got mad at myself for not being good enough as a journalist and pushed myself towards a job I had no interest in doing. I was very hard on myself back then, and I blamed myself and my own inadequacies and I figured the only way to move was forward, even though I didn’t like the direction I was going.

I felt like I was trapped in this path I had chosen for myself. It was terrible. I pushed and pushed myself until I completely burned out at the end of my first year.

I took my whole body—mentally, physically, and emotionally—to the breaking point because I didn’t know how to take care of myself; I only knew how to continue doing things and never tell anyone how I really felt.

 

My Need For Self-Care

 

It turns out, I suffered from depression, anxiety, and a few other mental health issues that made it all the more difficult for me to take care of and go easier on myself. From a very early age, I felt lonely and sad a lot of the time. Even when I was spending time with friends or family, I would still feel a sense of sadness at not fitting in and not being accepted.

One of the ways I coped with experiencing all these negative feelings all the time was to hold myself to an impossible standard, criticize myself all the time, and blame myself for anything that went wrong in my life. I got used to the idea of being miserable and alone enough that I assumed I’d still feel that way no matter what career path I took, which is why I stayed in school and in jobs I didn’t like for so long.

But over time, my depression, anxiety, and negative self-talk became too much and I couldn’t function at work, home, or in social situations. Faced with inescapable feelings of sadness, loneliness, and self-loathing, I could barely get myself up in the morning and do daily tasks, let alone take care of myself.

It was only after I started going to counselling myself that I learned how hard on myself I was being and that it was actually OK to look after myself, take care of my body, and pursue my own interests instead of forcing myself into a career I didn’t fit into.

 

Counselling Can Help You Take Care Of Yourself

 

Counselling was so incredibly helpful for me as I began to better understand myself and make positive changes in my own life. I learned that I had a passion for the entire idea of counselling; of someone who is willing to join you when you’re at your lowest and help you find your own path towards understanding yourself, accepting yourself, and thriving as your best self.

I love being a counselling intern, even though it’s the last place I figured my life would take me. I’m excited to be learning these valuable skills as a counselling intern in an effort to help others. Having experienced mental health struggles myself, I know the value and life-changing power of therapy. It’s so important that we all learn to better understand our own mental health needs so we can take care of ourselves and each other.

 

When Will You Start Your Journey With Self-Care?

 

If you’re resonating with anything I’m saying in this article, I’d love to sit down with you. I’d love to be a part of helping you see that you’re not alone in your struggles, and that it’s okay to not be okay. We’ve all be there, and it doesn’t have to stay this way. Contact the office if you’d like to sit down together, I’d be happy to meet with you!

Step Forward Program launches in South Delta

step forward program launches in South Delta at Alongside You

Step Forward Program Launches at Alongside You

Today is a great day. To say that we are excited about The Step Forward Program would be an understatement. Since our inception, our goal has been to make integrated health care services accessible to as many people as possible. The Step Forward Program is another way we’re trying to make this a reality. We’ve always believed that our community is the backbone of support systems for us all, and South Delta is such a supportive, close knit community we have no doubt this program will be a success, so we thank you in advance for your involvement. Now, you probably are still wondering what this program is all about so let us share that with you!

What is the Step Forward Program?

The Step Forward Program at Alongside You offers financial assistance to clients who may need some additional help subsidizing our services. Alongside You operates using a sliding scale for fees in an effort to keep our services accessible to as many people as possible. Our hope is that this program will enable even more people to be able to receive care.

In addition to receiving donations, Alongside You will be holding events to benefit this program starting in January 2016. Individual community members, local businesses, organizations, and Alongside You clients are given the opportunity to donate to this program to help provide access to our services for those who may not otherwise be able to afford it. All funds are held in a separate account, audited by our accounting firm and will be dispensed based on need at the discretion of our Directors.

This is an initiative for South Delta because we are fortunate to live and work in the community we do, and because we believe this program can make a difference in many lives. Donations can be made through our online store via credit card, or in person at our clinic using cash, cheque, or credit card payment.

100% of donations will go straight to the Step Forward Program. Alongside You will absorb all banking and/or credit card processing fees incurred in the administration of this program.

Please note: We are not a non-profit agency and unfortunately, are unable to provide tax receipts for donations.

How Can South Delta Help?

By now we hope you’re excited about this new program! You may be wondering, “How can I help?” We’re glad you asked! Here’s a few ideas of how you can help, and if you have other ideas, we’d love to hear them! You can help by:

  • Donating through our online store, or in person at our clinic
  • Come to our events that benefit the Step Forward Program
  • Hold an event and take donations to benefit the program
  • Corporate sponsorship opportunities (details to come, let us know if you’re interested!)
  • Spread the word about who we are, and what we’re trying to do. Word of mouth in South Delta is key

If you have any questions or concerns about this program, or if you would like to get involved, please contact the Directors, Andrew and Meg Neufeld at 604-283-7827.

Start helping the Step Forward Program today!

Only a few spots remain, but we’d love to have you at our Friday Night Knitting Club Event tomorrow night! All donations received go straight to the Foot Forward Program!