My Approach

I provide counselling for children, youth, families and adults from a family systems perspective in combination with a strength-based approach. I continue to integrate recent findings from the neurophysiology of brain development and from research on attachment, into the therapy I provide.

I have a profound respect for the uniqueness of each family’s situation, and will adapt my approach, within the above framework, to suit the needs of individual clients. As a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors, I am committed to fostering the capacity of children, families and individual adults “to interact with one another in ways that promote subjective wellbeing and the optimal development and use of thinking, feeling and relationship abilities”. I adhere to their Code of Ethics and maintain their standards for confidentiality at all times. For more information check their website at: http://www.bc-counsellors.org

Family Systems

From a family systems perspective, each family member is seen as part of a dynamic set of interconnecting family relationships that shift and change as individual members grow. The larger social context, which includes friends, community and cultural background, is also considered. This casts a much wider frame around counselling, whether I am providing services for a family or an individual.

An individual’s ability to grow, develop and to change is profoundly influenced by their early experiences within a family, and by the larger community within which they live. Family systems requires that this context inform my counselling at every stage, whether it be to support parents in addressing the developmental needs of their children, to assist children or adults in processing an adverse experience that is standing in their way, or to aid a family group in resolving an ongoing conflict. The spillover effect from counseling, using this perspective, is that individual family members, and the family unit as a whole, becomes better equipped to manage future challenges on their own. Families become more resilient.

Strength-based approach

The strengths-based approach comes from the perspective of positive psychology.  It asserts that each individual, whatever their circumstances, has strengths upon which they can draw.  When problems become overwhelming, individuals and families may be unable to recognize or activate their capabilities.  Working with a strength-based approach, I act as a catalyst, assisting the individual or family to reconnect with those strengths.  The emphasis I place on skills and competencies, will  reinforce a sense of personal accomplishment and contribute to more satisfying relationships.  It will also enhance resiliency, which is the individual’s or family’s ability to cope with adversity.  The strengths-based approach I use is empowering; it asserts that each individual has a unique ability to create positive change in their own lives.

Developments in neurophysiology and attachment

Brain imaging techniques developed in the 1990’s resulted in an explosion in neurophysiology; in our understanding of how our brains develop, and how they change.  The most important finding for counselling has been that the human brain develops through interactive relationships with others.  This has reinforced the central importance of parenthood.

Children are born with biological expectations that they will be fed, stimulated, soothed, cared for and kept safe.  They form attachment relationships with a few adults (usually parents), to whom they turn consistently for comfort when they are hurt, ill or frightened.

Attachment and developmental neurophysiology started off as two separate disciplines, but they are intricately interconnected.   One example:  the child’s ability to regulate his or her feelings grows out of experiences of being effectively soothed by their parent.  The developing ability to self-soothe relates to growth in a specific area of the brain, and can be clearly seen with brain imaging techniques.

Integrating knowledge from attachment and neurophysiological research into my practice as a therapist has been my task over the last decade.

Research on the brain’s astonishing ability to continue to form new connections into extreme old age also informs my practice.  We are primed to continue growing and developing, modifying how we feel, think and act, and what we are capable of doing (or not doing) from birth until our last breath.  This established research finding fits with my strong belief in the power of growth and development at all ages.

Trauma Treatment and EMDR

I have incorporated into my practice a specific treatment, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), for use when traumatic experiences from the past intrude into the present.

Established in the 1990’s, extensive research shows that EMDR is effective across a wide range of circumstances and with different age groups. In certain situations, it can be a fairly rapid treatment.  The standard protocol, used in clinical counselling with adults and youth, has been modified for use with children.  These modifications are highly creative and so can be readily integrated with play therapy.

In my practice, I explain EMDR methods thoroughly first, whether it is an adult, youth or child I am working with.  I start gently, by using EMDR to strengthen feelings of calm and positive associations.  If EMDR is effective for those purposes, and the client agrees, then I use EMDR to process the trauma they have experienced.   EMDR is not hypnosis; the client, whether adult or child, is able to stop the treatment at any point if they choose to do so.

EMDR may not be the client’s treatment of choice.  Informed by the advances in neurophysiology,  I am equipped to use a variety of other processes to treat trauma effectively.  I adapt my approach to fit individual client needs.   Paramount with clients who have experienced multiple and repeated trauma, especially from early childhood, is the need to establish safety in the counselling relationship.  I respectfully adhere to the priniciple that the rate at which treatment for trauma progresses must be left in the client’s hands.  Clients, from adults to the very young, have shown me their wisdom in this over and over.  They know when they are ready, and they will process only as much as they are able to integrate at one time.