Getting to Know the Counsellors at MDABC  

Are you thinking about starting counselling? Or are you considering counselling as a career path? Would you like to know a little bit more about how and why the counsellors at the MDABC chose this particular occupation? To get some insight into this question, we asked the Counsellors at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC,

“How did you decide to become a Professional Counsellor?”

Here are some enlightening replies from Rose Record, Sarah Barker, and Steve Ching:

 

Rose Record, MA, CCC

rose recordI knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to go into a helping field, I think it was in my grade 8 career planning course where I first identified that counselling was something that I wanted to do as a career.  My curiosity stemmed not only from my interest in psychology and mental health, but also in seeing and experiencing the profound impact that support can have on the well-being of both myself and the people closest to me in my life.  However, I didn’t always work as a counsellor. In fact, I actually worked in hospitality and in business before making a career shift and finding my professional “home” in counselling.  A really critical part of that journey were the years I spent volunteering on crisis lines, which demonstrated the power of being there for someone in the moment and offering non-judgmental and empathic support to help navigate the stressors and struggles that come up in life.  It made me realize the passion I have for supporting others in their mental wellness journeys. And, it’s been inspiring and honoring now working in an occupation that allows the opportunity to do so, I truly couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

 

Sarah Barker, MA, RCC

 I grew up in a household with two parents who worked in health care (a nurse and aSarah Becker psychologist). As such, the helping professions have always been of natural interest to me, and as a youth I often found myself drawn to the stories and challenging experiences of the people in my life. Further, having experienced a level of anxiety and uncertainty as a child who moved often, I felt that I was particularly well-equipped to empathize with others who experienced similar emotional struggles. After I completed my psychology degree, I was torn between counselling and law. I worked part-time for a law firm and realized that I was most interested in the experiences of the clients, and this confirmed what I had already suspected- counselling was a much better fit for my personality, and gave me a much deeper sense of contribution. It did not take long for me to enroll in graduate school after that, and the longer I work as a therapist the more certain I am that this is what I am meant to be doing.

Steve Ching, MA, CCC

Steve ching“I feel that counselling came to me as an interest and as a calling. Growing up, I had never considered counselling as a profession.  It became an interest through other therapists who I’ve spent time with. I learned from them how profoundly impactful it can be to simply BE with someone, to connect deeply with others on a personal and meaningful level.  I think that it’s a calling too. I feel so humbled, honored, and so alive to be able to share with others a part of their life journey. In a way, I feel that this is from beyond me – that this call is both a gift and a grace.”

 

 

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What are the benefits of Art Therapy?

art therapyby Polly Guetta

Some people are reluctant to try art therapy because they feel that they are not “artsy” or “creative” enough. Some of us may have bad memories of high school art teachers telling us we aren’t talented or that we are doing it all wrong (this was my experience) . It can be difficult to get past these negative associations with the art-making process and  jump into it again. But giving yourself the freedom to express yourself visually and to tap into your creative self can really help you to get your thoughts and emotions flowing in positive directions.

We’ve been offering art therapy at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC for the past year of so, and we have heard some great feedback from the people who have participated. In doing a little bit of research about the benefits of art therapy, I came across a top ten list which I thought summed up the research very nicely:

Art Therapy – Top 10 Benefits’ list:

  1. Art Therapy can provide a forum to express strengths and genuineness.
  2. Through viewing one’s own creation – one can improve the skill of self-observation.
  3. What cannot be said with words – may be more easily expressed through the art.
  4. Metaphors and stories emerge through the art – which can provide a ‘voice’ for material which may be difficult to express.
  5. Art Therapy is active & physical, fun, and stimulating.
  6. Emotions and art are closely connected; making art can aid in uplifting one’s mood.
  7. Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes.
  8. Emerging and recurrent symbols expressed in the art can help to make unconscious material conscious.
  9. Art can make the hidden – visible in an external & tangible way.
  10. Art making provides an experience which is stress & anxiety reducing, relaxing, and decreases worry.

So, are you thinking about giving art therapy a try? Join us at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on June 30th for a 3-hour workshop on Values-Based-Living Art therapy. Click on the poster below to go to the registration page.june30workshop

 

Why Mindfulness?

Why are more and more people drawn to the practice of mindfulness? We see thatstones mindfulness centres, groups, and classes are popping up everywhere…is this just a trend that will soon fizzle out?

In fact, mindfulness has been practiced for centuries and although it may have recently seen a  surging in popularity in the West, it is certainly not a flash-in-the-pan Wellness trend. People who practice mindfulness find that they feel happier, more content, and more relaxed. Studies have shown that this practice can also help you to increase your self-compassion and your compassion for your fellow beings. This compassion can often lead to more altruistic behavior which creates a better society for everyone.

Very simply, mindfulness can be defined in this way:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,
in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”   Jon Kabat-Zinn

Kabat-Zinn is a famous Buddhist monk and teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and many of the strategies and exercises that counsellors use when they teach mindfulness are based on his teachings.

If you would like to learn more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can help you to recover from anxiety and depression, we invite you to consider registering for MDABC’s Spring 2016 Mindfulness Course. Click here to start the application process.

mindfulness group april

Winter 2016 Program Guide is Ready!

winter | treesThe MDABC’s winter program guide came out last week and it offers a variety of group therapy courses for people who are facing mental health challenges at this time in their lives. We have brought back our most popular courses including groups for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Depression, and Social Anxiety. People can choose from a variety of therapeutic approaches to treatment including art-based therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based therapy.

In addition to returning courses, the therapy team at MDABC has also developed a number of new courses which we are very excited about.  These include intensive weekend skill-building seminars for depression and/or anxiety and a course designed specifically for younger adults on emotional regulation.

Get started on feeling better today -check out our Winter 2016 Therapy Groups here.

Everybody needs a little help thinking positively…

The MDABC has created a new “positive thoughts” poster for you to print and share – click here to download the PDF.

positive thoughts

Can ART Really be THERAPY?

art

By Tiffany Pan

The calculator has just spit it out: 40.7 percent.  That’s the proportion of my life that I’ve spent with a mental health diagnosis.  Almost eleven years of wondering if I qualify as having a disability for various forms, of waiting for people to react to the word ‘bipolar’, of scheduling appointments, and counting out medications. It is a slog, a constant Grouse Grind, to keep myself functional.

The list of things I can do to keep myself healthy is long.  Medication. Meditation, and the varieties thereof: yoga, breathing, visualization, and so on.  Counselling, individual or group.  Exercise.  Diet.  Sleep. Self-help books.  Religion or spirituality.  Socialization.  Coping skills, like journaling, setting up emergency plans, distracting yourself, etc.  Treatments and therapies.  In my mind, I must be inordinately vigilant – the mental equivalent of a rigid soldier on laughable alert outside Buckingham Palace – so that my mood doesn’t slide in worrying directions. Keeping myself well takes much upkeep and mental discipline; self-care has almost always been work for me, and never fun.

And then I tried art therapy through MDA.  I’ve always been curious about art therapy, mainly based on enjoying art classes in high school and having occasional creative phases where I scrapbook, or knit, or draw for an hour here or there.  But art as restorative, art as healing, art as something other than pure diversion has never been properly articulated in my mind.

I will not say that art therapy has been a cure-all.  However, it has given me something that I had not even thought to ask for.  There is finally a method of self-care which does not feel like a chore to me, a practice whose value comes from its ability to make me forget that I’m even doing therapy.  It doesn’t feel like work to colour, and it’s strangely mesmerizing to create a mandala.  The tangible evidence of whatever I feel on a page is validating, and freeing in the sense that my inner world is no longer just inside.  I experience a sense of creation, which counteracts the way mental illness can destroy and chip away at my life.  The wonderful facilitators of my group have also emphasized the need to let go of creating ‘good’ art, to not adhere to what good art is supposed to look like.

The immediacy of putting pen to page can be amazing.  For example, I can scribble hard, angular marks to represent frustration.  And all of a sudden, I am better able to visualize my inner tension, and I have also simultaneously let go of my angst.  Sometimes the pieces have clear symbolic meaning to my life, and I’m surprised that I was actually able to express visually the ill-defined emotions in my mind.  Then there are art pieces that seem to have no meaning, random colours and lines that were the only things that I could think of to put on the page.  But that’s been a good lesson too – to just do something and not judge its outcome.

In other words, I finally realize that there are ways of keeping healthy available to me that I can actually enjoy and look forward to and which help me to feel more grounded, productive, and well.

All About Social Anxiety -A Q&A with Clinical Counselor Rose Record

paper chain

Rose Record, MA, CCC,  is a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).  She has a Master of Arts Degree in Counselling Psychology completed at the University of British Columbia. Rose is a member of the MDABC therapy team. This fall she will be leading therapy groups for adults on Social Anxiety and Depression, for more information go to www.mdabc.net

In your experience, how can social anxiety get in the way for people who want to feel more connected?

Social anxiety is an experience of fear, worry and/or anxiety in social situations where there is a possibility of being observed and/or scrutinized by other people. This can get in the way of feeling connected to others in many different ways.  It can lead to intense worry or fear of being embarrassed, judged, or not performing well in public and/or social situations.  It can also lead to worry that anxiety will “show” in ways such as trembling, blushing, sweating or being “lost for words”. This fear can be so intense that even thinking about or anticipating being in social situations can feel overwhelming. Common consequences of social anxiety are reduced enjoyment of social situations, limiting participation in social activities, or avoiding being in feared situations or in public altogether.

Which strategies do you use in your therapeutic practice to help clients with social anxiety?

When supporting individuals experiencing social anxiety, the first strategy is often to build an understanding of what is going on during an anxiety response and working together to determine what their unique anxiety situations and anxiety responses are (everyone is different!). Then, we start to break responses down into the thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours involved and identify strategies that can help to re-work the responses. Many of the strategies I use are aimed at looking at our patterns of thinking and challenging/replacing unhelpful patterns of thinking with thoughts that may be more fair and helpful. Through this process, we also start to uncover core beliefs that shape our thinking about others, the world and ourselves. Other strategies are aimed more at shifting behaviors in our lives such as setting goals and taking small steps to reduce avoidance and build tolerance for being in feared situations. Finally, relaxation and mindfulness strategies are introduced to help clients to tune into their bodies, to physically slow down anxiety responses and to build self-acceptance.

Do you find working with clients with social anxiety rewarding?

Absolutely! One thing I love about group therapy for social anxiety is that it provides a safe, supportive space for clients to learn, share, set goals and build coping strategies. Through that process, clients often build confidence, skills and take steps toward doing things in their lives that are important or fulfilling to them, whether that be trying something new, meeting new people or simply becoming more comfortable and confident in social situations in general.  As a therapist, it’s very powerful walking alongside clients in their therapeutic journey.

What can clients expect at the first session of the “CBT for Social Anxiety” course that you are leading?

Our first session is really about establishing a foundation from which we’ll build on for the next 8 weeks.  We’ll spend time talking about the group itself – learning what CBT is (and isn’t), building group goals, and setting up some basic structure to the sessions so everyone knows what to expect each week.  Then, we’ll talk a bit about what social anxiety is and learn the basics of what happens during an anxiety response and how to track it.  Finally, in each session we’ll learn a new relaxation or mindfulness technique and for our first session, we’ll focus on the basics of deep breathing.  In every session, some “homework” is also suggested, which basically consists of ideas for how group members can continue to practice and try out the skills we learned in class throughout the week and start to integrate them into their day-to-day lives.