Most people arrive at counselling or psychotherapy because they are stuck in some part of their life. You may have tried to sort through stuff yourself, or read books, or talked to friends and family. But you’re still stuck and sense something easier, freer, or happier is possible; you’re just not sure how to get there.
What is counselling?
As a counsellor I can help you:
- identify the changes you want to see in your life
- develop insight and deeper understanding of your experience, behaviour and situation
- build inner and outer tools to help you navigate challenges more helpfully
- identify and heal past hurts that are affecting your current life
- create the changes you have identified
- feel more alive and aligned with your true nature
Counselling or psychotherapy (about the terminology) is an emerging, collaborative process, so there’s no one answer to “how I help”. However here are some things I do along the way. I listen deeply and without judgement. I reflect what I hear so I make sure I understand, and so you may hear it differently. I ask questions to help deepen, explore and gain different perspective. I stay present and connected when you experience strong feelings, and I help you navigate them. I nudge and challenge you when I think it might serve you. I offer snippets of information (“psycho-education”). I teach you new skills and help you try them out. I encourage you take what we do in sessions in manageable ways into the “real” world – since that’s where it matters.
What is mindfulness-based therapy?
Most people come to me because they want something a little different in counselling. I specialise in using mindfulness in my therapeutic approach. Essentially this involves helping my clients slow down and tune into what they are experiencing in the present moment. Other terms often used for this orientation to therapy is somatic, embodied or body psychotherapy.
When used in therapy, mindfulness can be used to notice a body response to something you are saying, often yielding a different layer of experience. It can be used to inquire into your experience in a different way by using “mindfulness experiments”. It can be used to notice the response inside to simple questions like “how am I?”.
Mindfulness yields information that comes direct from your body, your being, rather than just your mind. It deepens the work and pulls it out of story and into experience, where real shifts are possible. Along the way I help your cognitive mind understand your “inside” experience. New relationships with yourself are possible.
Working in this way creates a different tone to the therapeutic experience, so that it becomes less about you talking and me listening, and more about you listening and relating to yourself in a different way, with my guidance.
I also have a bunch of articles describing sessions with clients and also my own process using embodied practices:
- Embodied decision-making
- Inner itch
- Anxiety soup: a personal story
- How to healthily relate to anger
- The Eel and the Axe-Man: a therapy session
Also check out mindfulness-based therapy FAQ.
Get started: what to expect in the first appointment
At the time we’ve arranged, I’ll come find you in the waiting area. There are magazines to read and music. It is a space shared with other therapists so there might be people coming and going.
We have a no-out-door shoe policy in my office to protect the handmade rug, so there is a place to leave your shoes outside the door. I’ll have water ready when you come in, and you can choose where you’d like to sit.
In the first appointment, after we go over an agreement about confidentiality and consent to counselling, we’ll likely talk about:
- what brings you to counselling
- what you’re hoping for
- what’s worked well or not so well if you’ve seen a counsellor or psychotherapist before
- relevant history and context to your situation
- what the counselling process can look like, what kinds of activities or conversations we can have, and what of that you like the sound of!
It’s normal to feel a little uncertain or uneasy at the first appointment. Just like any relationship it takes a little time to settle in.
The feeling of “fit” with a counsellor is important. It’s important that you start to feel at ease and have a sense I “get you”. If this doesn’t happen in the first couple appointments I would be happy to refer you to someone who you might fit better with.
How long does it take?
Clients use me in different ways. Some come when they feel they need someone to check in with, some come weekly for months and then spread sessions out more. Mostly I suggest that we book a few sessions more closely together at the beginning (i.e. weekly) so we have a sense of what our focus is together and we can get the process started. After that we can talk about how often it’s helpful for you to come in. Every so often I’ll check in about how the process is going, and we can update your goals and the therapeutic approach.
I use the terms counselling and psychotherapy synonymously here since many folks call what I offer counselling. Indeed the two are highly interrelated. I am actually a psychotherapist which is a regulated profession in Ontario. Technically counselling focuses more “on the provision of information, advice-giving, encouragement and instruction” (CRPO) which is actually not a good description of the totality of what I offer, which is why I have elaborated here. For more on distinctions between the helping professions in Ontario see Getting Help in Hamilton 101.
Check out my FAQ Counselling for Newbies article.