Why would I undertake individual therapy?

The potential benefits of individual therapy
Though Counselling cannot change the past, you can release the pain associated with the past so that it does not leak into the present and future, and change in the way you interact with yourself and in all your life roles. Therapy can result in new insights, self-concept, behaviours, skills, relationship dynamics, assertiveness and enjoyment, to name a few. These are commonly reported outcomes:
Increased balance (sleep, exercise, eating habits)

  • Increased connection to self and others, preparation for lasting relationships
  • Increased adaptive responses instead of survival coping
  • Increased levels of calmness and confidence, lowered levels of anxiety
  • Increased range of emotion, including acceptance of painful emotions and enjoyment of elevated emotions
  • Increased ability to deal with stressors
  • Improved self-confidence, productivity, efficiency
  • Clearer interpersonal boundaries and assertive communication skills
  • Resolution and integration of past trauma (letting go and moving on)
  • Improvements in intimate relationships and expression of sexuality.

The Benefits of Couples Counselling

Active and consistent engagement in Couples Counselling typically earns these essential skills:

  1. Practice love as well as profess it; know your partners language of love and hit their intimacy bullseye with accuracy. Identify and repair a relational rupture, thus creating a tone of emotional safety and trust.
  2. Create more moments of fun together as a couple and cultivate an atmosphere of appreciation
  3. Demonstrate compassionate, active listening with your partner and direct, responsible expression of yourself. Define clear areas of responsibility and authority, establish and maintain healthy boundaries
  4. Arrest the compulsion to “maximize” (control, pursue, check, become insecure and jealous) or to “minimize” (stonewall, avoid, become diffuse, restrict information, lie)
  5. Allow differences between you and your partner and perhaps even be curious about what you might learn from them. Soften defensive states in both partners for maximum connection.
  6. Harness reactive, destructive anger and initiate productive responding. Engage conflict with maturity and equanimity and an intention to maintain connection in the face of frustration.
  7. Stay within the moment as intimacy deepens rather than bolting or starting a fight to defuse the intensity. Intimacy may be sweet or scary, depending on whether you’re aligned and merging or differing and differentiating. Recognize how you discourage each other from giving positive reinforcement or affection
  8. Know your polyvagal brain and how it impacts you in relationship. Maintain your own balance, using your wise mind, in the face of a personal trigger, as well as when your partner capsizes. Express yourself clearly and with full-disclosure of feelings, needs and requests. Define your independent thoughts, feelings and desire
  9. Become trustworthy and reliable–know what behaviors inspire your partner to relax and greet you with openness rather than self-protection. Learn the process of repair of ruptures to arrest the cascade of mistrust.
  10. Break the grip of hostile/dependent or passive aggressive dynamics that are choking the flow of energy in your love alliance

Why would I undertake a group?

There are two kinds of groups, each with different benefits.  Generally, Psycho-educational groups are intended to impart knowledge and allow for the practice of new skills.  Therapy groups, on the other hand, allow for emotional processing, and for a discussion of the dynamics manifesting in the group on an ongoing basis.  This allows for new insights about the self, and one’s patterns of relating to self and others.

The potential benefits of group THERAPY

Group therapy provides important and unique therapeutic benefits, especially to those currently undertaking individual counselling.  In individual therapy, the sense of self is strengthened and dysfunctional relationship patterns are identified.  Within the group setting, one has an opportunity to take this insight, self awareness, and newly strengthened sense of self out into the world of peer relationships.

Group therapy is a microcosm of one’s own interpersonal world. Patterns enacted in one’s life will be re-enacted in the group, where they can be witnessed and responded to in a respectful and caring manner.  Through group participation, one comes to understand how these interpersonal difficulties create barriers to closeness with others. The great advantage of group psychotherapy is working on these patterns in the “here and now” in a group situation more similar to reality than individual counselling.

Group therapy is an interpersonal learning environment, Effective communication styles and healthy behaviours are modeled by peers and facilitators. As these more effective patterns are learned, a group member receives increasingly positive feedback from others in the group and this feedback increases self-esteem. Group therapy can provide a “corrective emotional experience.” This occurs as members of the group become part of a safe, caring community and to experience healthy respectful dynamics and positive and healing relationships. Groups strive for an environment of respect and support, so that the expression of feelings and thoughts becomes less anxiety-provoking, and members feel at ease to fully speak their minds.

The benefits of PSYCH-EDUCATIONAL Groups

Psycho-educational groups are ideally suited to people who are struggling with issues like intimacy, trust, self-esteem, anxiety and who want to learn new coping methods and skills to manage these challenges.  Sessions generally focus on presenting new information and providing an opportunity to practice skills, and discuss concepts.  Interaction between group members is much less than in therapy groups, and the facilitators play a more active role.
Benefits are:

  • Realizing that you are not alone with your issue/problem–many others are facing obstacles as well (this has a normalizing effect, which reduces sense of craziness and/or isolation from peers)
  • Learning opportunities from facilitators and from participants
  • Skill development, resources, educational materials
  • Watching others make changes, and feeling motivated and optimistic about being able to alter areas in one’s own life.

How many sessions will it take?

The length of treatment will depend on the nature of the referring problem and the complexity of the goals. The therapeutic goals are established within the first couple of sessions, and are the primary focus until they are achieved. At this point, sessions may decrease to “as needed” to ensure the new behavior is maintained. New issues may emerge, in which case, clients may choose to establish new goals. Counselling is always available on a follow-up basis, as human change and actualization processes are ongoing.

What is the best environment for change to occur? 

Human Change Process

Change is an act of courage, motivated by the desire for a better life.  It takes personal risk, an open mind, self inquiry, and the discipline to practice new responses. It is a change process which involves learning to think, feel, and behave differently.  This work is best done in a supportive, non-judgmental environment where feedback is constructive, insight and guidance are attuned, and there are ample opportunities to explore and role-play new behaviors with the guidance and encouragement of a skilled therapist.  An accomplished therapist will be engaged in their own personal work and bring lived experience, presence, and emotional maturity to the alliance. This will allow deep engagement, sensitive attunement, artful confrontation in the service of growth, and limbic resonance. In the presence of a master therapist, there is a feeling of being witnessed, felt, allowed. All of this together lends itself to a neuroception of safety, which can imbue the change process with a sense of relief and anticipation rather than fear. Clients begin to allow themselves to be known and to embrace the corrective emotional experiences that shift maladaptive patterns learned in the past. Guided gently toward their depths, held by the witnessing consciousness of the therapist, clients earn new levels of integration, internal cohesion and self acceptance.

How do I choose the right counsellor?

This is an important question, to which there is no simple formula, given that each person’s preferences are unique.  However, the following general tips will assist you in finding a good fit with a therapist.  Keep in mind:

The counsellor works for you.  Within the terms of service offered by the counsellor, your needs and goals are primary.  Though different therapy methods require different levels of therapist intervention, in the bigger picture, the therapist should not be talking more of the time than you are.  Unless you are in an acute crisis state, your therapist should allow space for you to draw your own conclusions, not tell you how to think, feel or act.  Remember:  It’s all about you!

Choosing a counsellor is very personal.  In addition to credentials, experience, and reputation, you want to have a counsellor you respect, whose judgment you value, and with whom you have rapport.  Your counsellor may confront you on certain issues, or ways of thinking, but the intervention should be constructive, respectful, compassionate, and designed to move you forward, not shame you.

Select a counsellor with good boundaries.  Your counsellor should be on time for appointments, follow through on commitments, and end the session on time.  Your counsellor should be clear that the therapeutic relationship is not a friendship; it is a privileged relationship designed primarily to benefit you, and is safeguarded by ethical and legal standards, such as confidentiality.

Here are some attributes clients have chosen in determining the “ideal” counsellor.  Which factors are most important to you?  Feel free to interview several therapists for “fit”.  Some offer a 10 minute free phone call, but it’s difficult to determine in such a short time.  It’s more effective to meet with them and pay the session fee and really get a solid feel for how they engage with you, the quality of their presence, attention, attunement.  Feel free to share your goals and issues and ask what their initial response/approach would be should you work together.  You will know when there is a “click”.  But do not expect it to be a perfect relationship.  A good therapist will constructively challenge you, and you will be asked to tolerate strategic discomfort in the service of growth.  This is never pleasant,  but you should feel like your therapist “has your back” or is “in your court” pulling for you to make that risky growth move.

  • Respect
  • Nonjudgmental
  • Intelligent
  • Compassionate
  • Considerate
  • Consistent
  • Supportive
  • Offers Advice
  • Confidential
  • Caring
  • Provides referrals
  • Provides resources
  • Warmth
  • Perceptive
  • Confrontative
  • Professional
  • Honest
  • Listens
  • Educates
  • Interested
  • Concerned
  • Coordinates with other health professionals
  • Acts as advocate in various settings