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What is Counselling?

What is Counselling?

Counselling is an interactive process wherein you identify your goals and you work toward them together with the counsellor in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment. Anything that you share is confidential—kept between you and the counsellor—with some limitations for safety reasons. 

Talking to a Stranger

The main focus of counselling is YOU. Sometimes people find it odd to discuss their most personal problems with a complete stranger that they know almost nothing about. But that’s where the beauty of counselling lies—as opposed to talking to a friend or family member, a counsellor offers an outside, third-party point of view. Your counsellor won’t change the subject or start talking about themselves instead. They won’t belittle or judge you, and they can help you at whatever pace works best for you. They might be able to offer options both personally and professionally that you may not know existed. Even though your counsellor will not be a “friend,” a close relationship of a different kind is often developed, where trust, acceptance, and support are key components.

The First Session

For your counsellor, the first session is mainly about getting to know you and learning some background information about you. For you, it’s about getting comfortable talking to your counsellor, and it’s about getting to know one another.

What’s Next?

After the first session, you will be asked if you would like to continue counselling, and a second appointment will be booked. It is generally best to stay with the same counsellor because you will have a relationship with them and they will know you, your story, and the plan that you have worked out together.

Types of Counselling

Counselling is often referred to colloquially as “talk therapy,” and while simply talking about problems or issues can indeed be therapeutic in itself, counselling also takes on other forms, such as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). These are different approaches to counselling that might be used to best help you reach your goals.

  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy looks at finding solutions to problems and working on imaging other ways to reach your goals. This is typically a shorter-term method of counselling often used in conjunction with other approaches. By helping you identify what you might want to change in your life as well as what you might wish to have happen in the future, SFBT can help you to create a vision of a preferred future for yourself.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an approach that helps you look at the thoughts behind your emotions, where these thoughts might have come from, and how accurate they might be. Often times, if we don’t analyze and challenge our automatic thoughts, they can take on unhelpful forms that impede on our way of living and get in the way of achieving our goals. Sometimes we may not even be aware of these thoughts, let alone that they could be untrue. CBT can help you identify more helpful ways of thinking that can then change how you are feeling.

Your counsellor may use these or a number of other approaches to help you achieve your goals. Always feel free to ask your counsellor about their approach or ask them any other questions as you go forward with your sessions.

What kind of issues can a counsellor help me with?

Counsellors can help with a wide range of personal concerns, including coping with anxiety and/or stress, doing better in your courses or at work, time management, learning strategies, homesickness and transition to changes, financial problems, feelings of depression or sadness, body image and eating disorders, self-harm or suicidal feelings, coping with loss and grief, relationship and family issues, sexuality concerns, getting control of your drinking or drug use, confidence and self esteem, working effectively in groups and teams, anger/conflict, problem-solving around issues (advocacy), etc.

How To Make The Most Of An On-Demand Therapy Session

How To Make The Most Of An On-Demand Therapy Session

As you may have heard, we’ve partnered with Maple to offer you on-demand video therapy. As if that wasn’t unique enough, we also decided to make all of the sessions are 25 minutes long!

Why? Because we believe that certain challenges can be tackled in as little as 25 minutes.

Here are 14 common issues people can address within 25 minutes:

  1. Reduce your anxiety before a big date
  2. Sort out hurt feelings after an argument with your partner
  3. Learn how to ask what you need from your boss
  4. Connect with someone when feeling lonely on maternity leave
  5. Find out how to calm down after an anxiety attack
  6. Explore how to uphold boundaries at work
  7. Discover strategies for better sleep
  8. Learn easy strategies to become more present-focused at home with your family
  9. Talk to someone after a recent set-back
  10. Improve your confidence and self-esteem
  11. Gain motivation to start a new project
  12. Calm down after an exceptionally frustrating meeting
  13. Learn a strategy to stop replaying that awkward conversation you had
  14. Talk through a big decision with someone impartial

Want to give it a try? Sign-up here today! It takes less than a minute.

How To See Through Myths About Social Work and Psychotherapy

How To See Through Myths About Social Work and Psychotherapy

Myth: Only “crazy” people or people with severe issues receive psychotherapy.

False!

Every day people seek therapy for a range of reasons. Some pursue psychotherapy for treatment of anxiety, depression or other disorders. Others want help coping with life stressors or transitions, like school challenges, the loss of a job or a loved one, stress, or conflict at work. Others may need help managing and balancing work and family responsibilities, coping with an aging parent, or improving relationship skills. By learning problem-solving skills and coping strategies, anyone (young and old) can benefit from psychotherapy.  

Myth: Social Workers only work in Hospitals, Schools, and for a Children’s Aid Society.

False!

Registered Social Workers work in a variety of settings and have different and unique areas of specialty. While Social Workers do work in the above settings, they are not limited to those places. Social Workers can also provide Psychotherapy (also called counselling or talk therapy). Social Workers who work as Clinical Therapists, providing Psychotherapy, have schooling, training and certifications that enable them to do this work. However, unlike a Psychologist, Social Workers can neither diagnose clients with disorders nor prescribe medication, like a Psychiatrist. Therefore, Social Workers often offer lower rates for therapy and are more accessible in the community. For now, Registered Social Worker Psychotherapy services are not covered under OHIP. Hopefully, as our societies and governments recognize the importance of a range of mental health care services, this will change.

Myth: Talking to family members or friends can be just as helpful as going to a Social Worker/Provider of Psychotherapy.

False!

When you’re having a difficult time, support from trusted family and friends is very beneficial. Friends, families, and therapists can provide similar but also different types of support.  Talking with a Clinical Social Worker can be helpful because they have a Master’s Degree of Social Work. This means they have specialized training, knowledge and experience that make them experts in treating and understanding complex problems. Therapists can be there when you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, but therapy is also more than someone listening or offering advice. Clinical Social Workers can help identify and address behaviors, thought patterns and broader structures that may be negatively impacting coping or decision-making. Therapists are also a neutral party, providing an unbiased and open space to talk through complex, sensitive issues in a confidential setting.

How Therapy Helped Me Ace My Classes And Land My Dream Job

How Therapy Helped Me Ace My Classes And Land My Dream Job

Being sixteen is hard; as an eleventh grader, I was no exception to that rule. Aside from the normal struggles of school, awkward body transformations and the angsty “who am I” phase all teens endure, I had a number of other struggles during that period of my life.

As a teenager, I was constantly obsessing over what the people around me were thinking. Did they notice that I had accidentally made a wrong turn on my way to class? Why did it feel like everyone was staring at me? I’m sure that group of girls was definitely whispering about me. Being in a building flooded with peers was incredibly stressful, and my heart would race for what felt like full hours while I drove myself crazy throughout the day.

As this thought pattern continued (and worsened) I quickly began to isolate myself from my peers. At the time it had felt easier than facing the stress of human interaction. During my lunch hours, I got in my car and drove around by myself. I wouldn’t make plans with anyone, and I quickly became very lonely. All that “me-time” really did was give me more opportunities to destroy my own self-esteem, and I quickly became an incredibly sad person.

I would come home from school and lie in bed, blasting heavy metal music that I hated, just to try and drown out the awful thoughts that I couldn’t seem to escape. I never slept, and the lack of rest eventually took the greatest toll of all. Some days I felt like I couldn’t function, and when I did manage to sleep, I was plagued by nightmares. To boot, sleep paralysis entered my life, and I started my days by screaming and crying at the top of my lungs, unable to move my limbs, frozen in bed staring at the ceiling.

As you may have guessed by now, what I was experiencing were the effects of an anxiety disorder.

And then I found therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to be exact, and it changed everything.

I had been to counselling as a child and had expected therapy to be the same type of thing. Endlessly talking about my problems and having someone sit there, listen, nod a little and hand me tissues when necessary. Nope. Therapy is work. Sometimes hard work, but that work pays off.

My therapist helped me set goals and develop strategies to beat my anxiety. In some ways, it felt like she helped me hit reset on my brain. We did worksheets and projects, she gave me apps to try and resources to use. More than anything she helped me understand and unravel the intricacies of my mental wellness challenges by helping me connect my thoughts, feelings, and actions so that I could spot patterns.

Understanding the things your brain is doing (and the things you don’t even realize your brain is doing) is key to overcoming challenges like this. Therapy didn’t make me feel “less sad” or “less lonely”. It wasn’t about fixing damage that had been done, it was about completely rebuilding so that I had a new, strong foundation to move forward with.

Before therapy, my grades had slipped from A’s to barely passing. The idea of university petrified me, and I didn’t even want to apply to schools. I didn’t really care about graduating high school at all. But as I learned new coping techniques things improved. By the time I was in grade twelve I wasn’t just doing well, I was studying to take my ACT’s and applying to schools in New York. I ended up graduating as an Ontario Scholar with my bilingual certificate and getting into my first pick school.

When my anxiety peaked, I had been fired from my part-time job because I was completely unreliable. Panic attacks would grip me at random moments, leaving me useless. I had even blacked out from forgetting to breathe for too long. CBT taught me to recognize my triggers, stop anxious thoughts in their tracks and talk myself down from panic attacks when they did sneak up on me.

I got a new job, and even though I was still in high school working only part-time, my manager recognized me for my strong work ethic and enthusiasm. She invested in me and helped build my resume and expand my skill set by letting me lead projects and test out different leadership roles.

In the years to come, she would eventually move on to work for a speaking agency who specialized in mental health programming for students and young adults. When asked to scout new hires she remembered me, and in my second year of university, I was given the opportunity to interview with the Director. I got the job.

Since that torturous time in high school I’ve travelled alone to New Zealand for five months, developed meaningful relationships with people I love, and have turned into someone who wakes up well-rested (most days) and happy.

I work for a company I love, where I get to facilitate wellness workshops, send brilliant mental health programs to high schools and universities all over the continent and help connect people with the help they need.

I am still hit with bouts of anxiety, and panic attacks are still something I cope with, but none of that controls my life anymore. And I owe it all to therapy.

How To Choose The Right Therapy For Me

How To Choose The Right Therapy For Me

So you’ve decided to step into the adulting world and make the difficult decision to seek help. Now what? It can be an uncomfortable experience to be vulnerable with a complete stranger. Even harder sometimes, to figure out what type of therapy is right for you.

You’ve probably heard a bunch of different terms like holistic, mindfulness, CBT, and self-care. What does this all mean and how can it help you find a therapist?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy, and the professional that works well for someone else might not work as well for you. Here are 5 therapeutic modalities (approaches) to consider:

Solution Focused Brief Therapy — SFBT

SFBT is a goal-directed collaborative approach. It focuses on the present and future, focusing on the past only to the degree necessary to gain an accurate understanding of the person’s concerns. The focus is on identifying the individual’s goals, generating a detailed description of what life will be like when the goal is accomplished and the problem is either gone or coped with satisfactorily.

Duration: As the name implies therapy is brief. Average is usually 4- 8 sessions.

Structure: SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems.

Effective Treatment For:  Students who are experiencing behavioural concerns or academic/school- related concerns. It has also proven effective as an approach to family therapy and couples counselling. SBFT may not be recommended for those who are experiencing severe mental health concerns.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy — CBT

CBT focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful cognitive patterns (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, emotions). CBT is an action-oriented form of therapy focusing on specific problems. The therapist’s role is to assist the individual in finding and practicing effective strategies to address the identified goals and decrease symptoms of mental health issues. CBT is based on the belief that symptoms and associated distress can be reduced by teaching new information-processing skills and coping mechanisms.

Duration: A typical CBT program usually consists of 6–18 sessions. Some booster sessions (after 1–3 months) might follow.

Structure: Often brief, direct, and time-limited treatments for individual psychological disorders that are specific technique-driven.

Effective Treatment For: Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), tics, substance abuse, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, OCD.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy — DBT

DBT is a therapy primarily designed to help people suffering from personality disorders. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to help avoid undesired reactions. DBT assumes that people are doing their best but lack the skills needed to succeed, or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcements that interfere with their ability to function appropriately

Duration: DBT is a longer-term therapy. The average length of time that an individual stays in the DBT program is 2 1/2 years. Sessions are aimed to help the person generalize their skills into their lives, support them while they do trauma work (if necessary), and get them closer to their long-term goals.

Structure: DBT focuses on the client acquiring new skills and changing their behaviours with the ultimate goal of achieving a “life worth living,” as defined by the client. Usually done through skills curriculum either in individual one-on-one or group sessions.

Effective Treatment For: DBT is used primarily in the treatment of suicidal ideation, borderline personality, self-harm, substance dependence, eating and food issues, depression, and PTSD.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy — IPT

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a brief, attachment-focused psychotherapy that centres on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery. IPT is based on the principle that relationships and life events impact mood and vice versa. The aim of IPT is to help the person to improve interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills within relationships and to develop social support networks with realistic expectations to deal with the crises precipitated in distress’ and to weather ‘interpersonal storms’.

Duration: Usually 12–16 weeks.

Structure: Highly structured and time-limited approach. Employs homework and structured interviews and assessment tools.

Effective Treatment For: Depressive disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, grief/loss, conflict in significant relationships, difficulties adapting to change, difficulties from social isolation.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Therapeutic approaches grounded in mindfulness promote the practice as an important part of good physical and mental health. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, designed to deliberately focus a person’s attention on the present experience in a way that is non-judgmental. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them. This process is known as “decentering” and aids in disengaging from self-criticism, rumination, and dysphoric mood that can arise when reacting to negative thinking patterns.

Duration: Can be done in individual one-on-one sessions or in a group session. Usually 8 sessions.

Structure: Mindfulness-based approaches are most commonly delivered through the use of mindfulness meditation. During mindfulness meditation, the therapist will typically guide the client to direct their focus on the present moment.

Effective Treatment For: Addressing stress, chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, depression, eating and food issues, psychosis, bipolar, panic attacks, attention deficit hyperactivity, PTSD.

 

So there you have it! Go with the approach that you think suits your needs best, but keep in mind some therapists are trained in several different techniques and use an eclectic approach to therapy. In other words, they use elements from a range of therapeutic approaches, with the goal of establishing a course that is personally tailored to you. One size does not fit all!! Many therapists take a holistic perspective, approaching the person as a whole being, helping them to gain awareness of the connections between emotions, thoughts, physical experiences, and spiritual understandings.

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