kindness | wholeness | connection | healing | empowerment
Often, when difficult experiences arise, the struggle to avoid or control them paradoxically intensifies the difficulty. Mindfulness involves connecting to here-and-now experience, and being willing to open to things as they are. Acceptance involves allowing our thoughts, emotions and body sensations to arise and pass without fighting them – not necessarily evaluating them positively, but letting go of fears and self-judgments about them. On a basic level, mindfulness is about learning to treat oneself with kindness. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) are examples of mindfulness and acceptance based therapies.
It can be difficult, especially when we are in pain, to feel at home in ourselves. In addition, there are some experiences it is hard to address in words – such as emotions, difficult or early memories. To develop empathy and confidence in our felt selves, Somatic Psychotherapy invites the body into the therapeutic process. Some ways the body can be brought into therapy involve working with breath, movement, self-touch, visualization or guided meditation.
Sometimes we realize that we’ve lost track of ourselves, feel inauthentic in our relationships, alienated from our own values or spontaneity. These therapeutic perspectives focus on taking action to be connected to yourself, the people, and the values that are important to you, even (especially!) in the midst of conflict and uncertainty. Grounded in our own being, we have more capacity to connect meaningfully with others. Questions of meaning and values, philosophical and spiritual dimensions of experience are welcome in the counselling room. Rather than merely talking about a problem, these therapies focus on experiential encounters with change in the therapy session.
Trauma can impact the nervous system in profound and persistent ways. These non-verbal effects and can be difficult to pinpoint, let alone reason with. They include sudden intrusive thoughts or memories; feeling numb, closed off or shut down; avoiding people or activities; finding ourselves overreacting with fear, anger or impulsive behavior. It can feel like your emotional life fluctuates between feeling out-of-control and completely shut down. There can also be a deep feeling of shame and isolation. Trauma can originate in a single life-threatening event, but also emerges out of the chronic experience of being threatened or unsafe: experiencing or witnessing violence, neglect, abuse, poverty, war or discrimination. Trauma-informed therapies understand that working with trauma means working with the nervous system, re-training the brain and the body to experience safety. I practice targeted methods to address trauma in the nervous system, informed by Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, and EMDR.
We tell ourselves a lot of stories about what is wrong with us. Postmodern and feminist approaches apply critical thinking to the social forces that influence the way we see things. This approach identifies that many of the things we interpret as evidence of personal failure can instead be seen as forms of coping – or acts of resistance – to sickness in our culture. Rather than shame ourselves, we can claim the power to tell a different story, and to respond creatively to obstacles. These therapies are based in an egalitarian and collaborative relationship between the counsellor and the client that focuses on what works: building on your strengths, your inherent wellness, and your capacity to find empowered responses to problems.