I am a consultant you hire to come alongside of you and help you to see more clearly what your problems are. I can help make sense of what is confusing or painful. I have been privileged to work with many people over the years. Therefore, I have seen and heard many if not all of the things you wish you could talk about. I provide a safe place to talk and work out the things that have been bothering you.
The Therapeutic Relationship:
I am a professional licenced counsellor (Registered Counselling Therapist or RCT) with over 30 years of experience. Counselling is a vocation (or calling) for me. That means it is not just a job, or a set of treatments I do to people. Therapy involves getting to know you and you getting to know me in a trusting relationship.
Research shows that the therapeutic relationship is much more important to the outcome of therapy than any specific treatment or therapeutic theory. Therefore, I recommend at least an introductory phone call so we can meet and talk. It helps us to decide if the relationship looks like it might work. There needs to be a “fit” between us that suggests a positive relationship is possible before either of us can commit to the work of therapy.
Seeking out treatment and the development of a therapeutic relationship involves risk-taking. It can be scary to seek help. The vast majority of people never seek out the help they need because of that risk. Many people take the first steps toward getting help but back out at the last minute because of this fear. I encourage you to take the risk. The most common statement I hear from my clients is “I wish I had done this a long time ago when I first thought of it.”
Self-Change and Self-Help:
When people do enter treatment, they often report that they have been trying to do it on their own, sometimes for years. Self-help books and groups can be very beneficial. I frequently recommend some of them while in therapy depending on the individual. Sometimes I find that my clients have tried the self-help options but have been less than satisfied with the results. Rather than labeling these false starts as failures I recommend that we look at them as attempts at self-change have been at least partially successful. They often teach us something about you, or the approach, often laying the foundation for the work that we do later.
Regardless of your level of success with these options, they have served to prepare you for a more complete form of therapy. For you to be reading this web site suggests that you may have that rare ability to face the fear of going for help, and can overcome it. For those who make it in for treatment the addition of the therapeutic relationship to the self-help and self-change strategies already attempted is often the missing ingredient that transforms their efforts into the hoped for success.
The Holistic Approach:
Counselling is not merely advice giving – although some of that happens in session. It is not me making decisions for people or doing something called “treatment” to people. Usually that approach does not work very well when people are looking for lasting change.
I hear from clients all the time that they have become frustrated with a medical system that often treats them as a collection of symptoms or “a case” rather than as a person. This is often a problem with the medical model. It is an approach to treatments of all kinds that takes the power away from the individual and invests it in the health professional alone. It is a top down, “mother knows best,” form of treatment.
I prefer to use what is known as the holistic model. It assumes that you are the expert when it comes to knowing your own thoughts, feelings, and body. Under this model, therapy is a cooperative process between us. You have some serious work to do, and I have a wide range of experience and training. This allows me to suggest options and treatments or approaches that may help you. Together as a team, we discover what works and what does not work quite as well. We both contribute to the process. We experiment with different options and approaches until we find a fit. It takes time and is often referred to as a journey.
The second thing that makes my approach more holistic is the idea of treating you as a whole and unique person. Under the medical model, people are seen as “cases” and treatment is often presented as a “one size fits all” assembly line process. The health professional spends a lot of time trying to diagnose the specific problem you have. This is because of the belief that the correct diagnosis leads to a specific treatment. The correct diagnosis leads to the correct treatment that “pill like” will work for everyone who fits in that category. The medical model presupposes that if you have a room with 200 people all with the same diagnosis you can ignore individual differences between them and just prescribe a standard treatment to all 200 people. Of course, even people who accept the medical model are aware that this is often not the case.
Under a holistic model, we know that because each of us is a very complex whole, no two of us are exactly alike. Therefore, even for people with apparently the same problem, the solution is rarely to give each person the exact same treatment. We are so complex, with so many seemingly small differences, that no one treatment or therapy will work uniformly for all people. Even when we have a similar diagnosis, our differences often outweigh our similarities. So treatments must be finely tuned to each person and their individual circumstances. Moreover, consistent with the holistic approach – you are the best person to decide what is working and what is not. Therefore, therapy is an exploration of options and treatments.
Under the medical model people are often sent to see specialists, in effect dividing the person into chunks, each chunk with its own treatment professional. Instead, I want to work with you as a whole person. So I am not going to send you off to one person for anger management, and then to another person for assertiveness training, or still a third person for something else in some sort of glorified assembly line approach to health care. Treating the whole person means that a specialist must also be a generalist with a wide range of skills.
While you may be asked to take part in multiple forms of therapy (individual, couples, or groups) and occasionally that may involve other health care professionals, the emphasis will always be on treating you as a person, not a “case,” or a set of symptoms. I want to see you as a person actively seeking wellness, rather than as an object of treatment or a collection of symptoms.
The Long Term:
Very few people need intensive therapy for the rest of their life. Some people come to therapy so well prepared that they only need a few sessions or some guidance on a direction to pursue. Most people I see need some intensive therapy to start with and then we taper it off to less frequent sessions over time.
The timing and length of the intensive phase is unique to each person. We work that out together based on how things seem to be going. At some point, you will continue your growth on your own – possibly returning for a check-up from time to time, or shorter periods of intensive work as necessary. This may involve books to read, workshops to attend, or listening to speakers on life topics important to you.
Spiritual growth is always a part of overall growth so my wish for you is that you will develop some meaningful spiritual disciplines like relaxation, meditation, or contemplation. These can pay off big time in unexpected insights, relaxation, and a sense of inner peace or contentment that forms a firm foundation for rebuilding your life.
I also hope that over time, you will develop friendships and relationships with people who help you stretch and grow into the mature adult you were meant to be. Often relationships with others are central to the therapy process and it is not unusual for people to be asked to bring in their significant other or their family (when appropriate) so that current relationships can be used as a learning laboratory for developing skills and improving the relationships.
I see clients for a variety of issues:
I am a specialist trained and experienced in addictions. Therefore, many people who seek me out have a clear connection to addiction themselves, or in a loved one. They often come from a family where addiction has had an impact on their ability to live a full and rich life as an adult.
Other people, whether they have an addiction or not, come for specific treatment of trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), problems with disassociation, depression, anxiety, or other symptoms that they may not be able to describe in diagnostic language. What they have in common is the pain that this creates in their life.
As an experienced addiction professional, I see clients for just about any issue you can imagine. Trauma’s like sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect, family violence, difficulties with trust in relationships, problems of control or chaotic lives, and many issues too prolific to count or list here are often (but not always) connected to personal or family addiction histories. Whether this is a parent, grandparent, spouse or partner, or a child or grandchild, addiction often accompanies other life problems. Therefore, as an addiction specialist I have to be good at providing treatment in all of these areas – and you can take advantage of that expertise whether you have an identified addiction related problem or not.
Types of Addiction:
Most people are aware that the abuse of certain substances like alcohol or recreational drugs can lead to addiction. However, in the last 20-30 years there has been a veritable storm of controversy (only now settling out into agreement among professional researchers and therapists) over what has been called the “process addictions.”
Things like gambling, shopping, spending, gaming, the internet, sex or porn have only recently been acknowledged as also being likely candidates for addiction. To that has been added an improved understanding of related problems such as eating disorders, chronic shyness, hyperactivity and attention deficits, and other compulsive or impulse control problems that we are only now beginning to see as related to addiction at the level of the brain, neurobiology, and genetics.
Brain imaging studies using MRI/fMRI and PET scans have conclusively proven that some of these behaviors involve the same brain circuits as those that are central to the more accepted and recognizable substance based addictions to alcohol or drugs.
We accept that drugs like nicotine, alcohol, cocaine and opiates can have drastically different effects on the body. Some like nicotine and cocaine produce stimulation including increased heart rate and muscle tension. Others like opiates and alcohol produce the opposite effect of depression, a reduced heart rate, and muscle relaxation. However, we now know that at the level of the brain all substances that can lead to addiction stimulate the same neurological pathways. These brain circuits have been labeled the addiction circuitry of the brain.
The general public is only now being educated to the fact that addiction is in the brain, not the bottle or needle. Many studies now show (or in some cases persuasively suggest) that these addictive circuits are equally as active for “behavioral” or “process” addictions. These include gambling, shopping, spending, the internet, sex and porn, and gaming (to name a few).
As a researcher, I find it very convincing when a brain scan of a gambling addict, an opiate addict, and an alcoholic are placed side by side and I can not tell the difference between them. They all look relatively similar with respect to the activation of the addictive circuits of the brain. When false colors are used to show the activated areas of the brain the same areas “light up” on the brain scans strongly suggesting that the same processes are at work.
Therefore, I work with people with a wide range of addictions or addiction like problems. Often people come for counselling because of one identified addiction problem and through the assessment process; we discover multiple addictions or behaviors that up until then they had not considered a problem. Similarly, they were aware of some of the impact of addiction in their family, but often they had no idea about just how much addiction was present in their family going back multiple generations.
By then, far from being a source of additional anguish, clients often find it helpful to realize that they are not alone. That addiction is present in much of our society. That it is hard to find people who have not been impacted one way or another by its effects. Moreover, by approaching their life problems from an addiction perspective many previously puzzling behaviors, thoughts, and events make sense. It can be a great relief to know that you are not alone. That there is a way to make sense of your life, and at the same time make positive changes that can be highly beneficial.
Treatment theories and approaches:
No discussion of “what I do” would be complete without an exploration of my use of various theories and approaches to counselling. I am probably best described as an eclectic therapist. This is because I have such a wide range of experiences, having been exposed to so many treatment modalities over my lifetime of therapy. It also means that I beg, borrow, and steel from many of them rather than following any one therapy. This is true of many experienced therapists. Currently few therapists are following any one approach or theory. Research has not found any one therapy that is better than all the others under all conditions and for all clients. This means that we adopt the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual model. It states that you need to pay attention to all of these domains when working with people because for each person there will be a unique constellation of problems and therefore a unique approach to treatment.
Having said that, I began my therapeutic career as a behaviorist, later adding the cognitive, and cognitive behavioral approaches to treatment. Finding these approaches to be limiting and with concerns about long-term effectiveness, I later I trained as a family systems therapist. I found many of the approaches and treatments associated with that school of therapy to be highly effective. Because of my work with family violence and domestic abuse, I have also used social work perspective with feminist theory and practice. I use a number of somatic treatments for trauma work and use as necessary a wide range of other therapies including acupuncture, self-hypnosis, inner child work, relaxation and meditation based interventions.