Questions? Learn more about counselling — Vancouver, BC
Starting to engage in counselling can feel like a big step for many people. Most people, especially those who haven’t been to counselling before, have a few questions. Here are some frequently asked:
Who do work with?
I work with adults, couples, willing adolescents, and parents.
What can I expect from counselling?
I recommend watching this helpful and informative animation to get an excellent perspective on counselling and its very helpful benefits.
You can expect respect, trustworthiness, and a sense of hope. I believe you can make lasting changes in your life.
You can expect collaboration. We work together to find out what will work best for you so you will feel progress and growth in your life.
You can expect confidentiality. Counselling is one of the last private spaces in our society. Our professional practice guidelines ensure confidentiality as you work to learn more about yourself and your patterns in a safe, trustworthy context. (There are a few rare exceptions to confidentiality, read about them here.)
You can expect acceptance. We all have our unique strengths. Counselling provides a non-judgemental space to learn about yourself and identify unhelpful patterns you may have.
You can expect that this is a safe place to be queer, trans, questioning, kinky, poly, imperfect, or an otherwise unique human being.
You can expect transparency. I want you to ask questions along the way, and I always aim to be open about our process.
What is counselling?
Counselling, also known as therapy or psychotherapy, is a collaborative process between you and a counsellor that uses psychology based concepts and processes to help you change how you think, feel, and behave. It is a process in which you come to know yourself better. You become more aware of your patterns, values, root causes, hidden beliefs, feelings, or obstacles to change. Counselling provides a safe, confidential, supportive, non-judgemental, and inclusive environment for your exploration and growth. Counselling should be individually crafted to suit who you are and where you are with your struggles.
Does counselling work?
Yes, it does. But don’t just believe me because, as you may expect, I am biased. Here’s a far more official source of information:
The American Psychological Association reports (with a bunch of references) on the general effectiveness of counselling: the “effects of psychotherapy are widely accepted to be significant and large” (para 7), noting that the “results of psychotherapy tend to last longer and be less likely to require additional treatment courses than psychopharmacological treatments” (para 8), and, therefore, “as a healing practice and professional service, psychotherapy is effective and highly cost-effective. In controlled trials and in clinical practice, psychotherapy results in benefits that markedly exceed those experienced by individuals who need mental health services but do not receive psychotherapy. Consequently, psychotherapy should be included in the health care system as an established evidence-based practice” (para 29).
Why did you become a counsellor?
I became a counsellor after having my own struggles with anxiety and depression for many years. I became determined to get better and found numerous growth activities that were key to my recovery. Working with a good counsellor was critical to me changing my ways of thinking and getting to know myself better.
What is your approach to counselling?
My approach is collaborative and connected. I focus on assisting you in increasing your self-awareness so that you will have more choice in your life. We explore your values and find out how you are and are not living in alignment with your own values. We look to the past to understand patterns, and look forward to establish strategies for feeling more empowered and for knowing yourself more fully to you can take action to achieve your goals. I incorporate research from current neuroscience to understand how your mind, brain and body all work together to impact your health and well-being.
What theoretical therapeutic approaches do you use?
Most clients don’t care about theory, they just want to feel better!
For those who are interested in the theory, read on for my nerdy counselling-speak:
I draw on various theoretical lenses and philosophies to suit each client’s unique needs: Polyvagal Theory, Attachment theory, Acceptance and Commitment therapy, Somatic therapies, Gestalt Therapy, Adlerian Therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), Rogerian, Relational Neuroscience, Internal Family Systems, and additional emergent research in neuroscience all influence my practice. I integrate therapeutic approaches such as strength-based, Solution Focused, narrative, person-centred, trauma-informed, mindfulness-based, cognitive (CBT), emotion-focussed, and more.
How many sessions will I need? How often do I need to attend?
The number of sessions depends on you and what you want to do in relation to your personal growth at this time in your life. Some clients come to address a specific issue, while some people come to engage in general, and want ongoing personal growth to effect impactful change. The research shows that most counselling clients experience significant change with a specific issue within approximately ten sessions.
Weekly sessions are recommended at the beginning of counselling, clients often shift to bi-weekly after they feel they have made progress on the issues they first came to counselling for. When clients feel more resilient, many come for less frequent check-ins as needed.
What makes you different from other therapists?
Every therapist is unique, just as every client is. I encourage you to find one who is a good fit for you.
My education is current and incorporates cutting-edge material informed by contemporary neuroscience, but I have also a lot of life experience that influences my practice. I have raised a child to an adult, informing the parenting support I provide to parent clients. I am in a happy, growth-filled, long-term relationship that informs my work with couples struggling to feel connected to each other. I have much of experience in the queer, design, business, and arts communities, operated a creative services business for over twenty years, and I have an active art practice — all giving my a broad range of experience to draw upon in addition to my counselling experience and psychology studies. I have significant experience as a frontline crisis-line worker and trainer, and I have often been in the client's chair myself when I struggled with depression and anxiety for long periods in my past. I have since recovered, and my experience gives me a unique perspective from which to collaborate with my clients with their struggles and growth. I take a holistic approach when helping clients on their road to improved emotional and mental well-being and enthusiastic engagement with life, emphasizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
What is the difference between counsellors, therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists?
The terms “counsellor”, “psychotherapist”, and “therapist” are typically used interchangeably. These terms refer to people who provide counselling services.
Registered/certified counsellors hold a Master’s level degree, meet particular eligibility criteria, and achieve specific supervision and clinical hours requirements in order to become registered. In BC. Registered Clinical Counsellors (RCC) and Certified Clinical Counsellors (CCC) are the two official designations for counsellors at this level in BC.
RCC’s, the most widely-known designation and the one I hold, are registered and overseen by the BC Association of Registered Clinical Counsellors. RCCs have met the academic, clinical, and professional requirements, and have voluntarily committed themselves to practice according to an ethical code of conduct and standards of practice.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who also has psychology training and prescribes medication. Their services are the only mental health service covered by MSP. They are licensed and regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.
A psychologist has a doctorate degree (PdD or PsyD) and does not prescribe medication. Psychologists in British Columbia are licensed and regulated by the College of Psychologists of British Columbia. They do not prescribe medication.
Is therapy confidential?
Yes. Therapy is one of the most private and confidential spaces in our society.
We will discuss this further in person as part of discussing informed consent, but only a two exceptions to this confidentiality exist:
In the rare circumstances where the safety of you or someone else may be in immediate jeopardy, or if there is reason to believe there is a child or vulnerable adult being abused or neglected, BC law obligates me — as it does all citizens — to report the situation to authorities.
The court of BC has the jurisdiction to subpoena session notes.
If any of these situations arose, I will attempt to discuss the break of confidentiality with you ahead of time. Again, these are very rare occurrences. I am happy to discuss this further when we meet in person.
How important is the relationship fit between counsellor and client?
A good fit between a counsellor and client has a heavy influence on the progress one experiences in counselling. If the fit does not feel trustworthy and connected, it makes sense to find another counsellor. Fit is personal and subjective. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater — try a different counsellor if your current one doesn’t feel right!
I offer a free ‘getting-to-know-you’ 15-20 minute phone consultation, during which you can ask questions to help you get a feel for potential fit — possibly followed up by a short, free, in-person meeting where you can interview me and confirm your impression.
Do I have to go look at my past?
You do not have to do anything you do not want to do. Counselling is a collaborative process; counsellors should not force you to do anything you do not feel ready for. As a part of ongoing consent, we will have regular check-ins, and you will continually be participating in the decision of where to take the dialogue. Sometimes it might make sense to talk about your past, but it will always be your choice.
Why might it make sense to talk about your past? Too often we tend to react automatically to events in our lives. These automatic reactions are typically patterns created in our past — sometimes we are not even aware they exist because our patterns are mostly invisible to us. The process of psychotherapy works largely on increasing your awareness of your own feelings, thoughts, and patterns so you will have more choice in how you respond to events in your life. Understanding the patterns established in your formative years is often part of this process. While sometimes uncomfortable, unpacking these patterns is typically experienced as a healing process and a gateway to a deeper understanding of one’s self.