Counselling (or psychotherapy) is the process of getting assistance with personal problems or mental health concerns. Counselling involves the development of a professional and therapeutic relationship where concerns are explored openly and honestly. Counselling is also about helping my clients to increase feelings of wellbeing and happiness and develop tools and strategies to manage future problems that might come up. I take a collaborative approach to therapy and will work with you to set specific goals and develop an appropriate treatment plan. In this sense, I see therapy as an activity that is time-limited. We identify the problem, set goals, work on them, and we track progress and conclude therapy when sufficient progress has been made.
As a registered psychologist, I work with clients on a range of psychological issues as well as everyday problems, including:
- Disorders of mood (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder)
- Anxiety-related disorders (e.g. phobias, panic attacks, social anxiety, generalized anxiety)
- Trauma- and stressor-related disorders (e.g., PTSD, acute stress disorder)
- Excessive worry
- Difficulty managing stress
- Trouble sleeping (including chronic insomnia)
- Addiction issues
- Obsessive and/or compulsive thoughts and behaviours
- Problems managing life transitions (e.g., change of city, job, relationship)
- Grief and loss
I am trained and experienced in using a variety of different approaches to therapy but I primarily use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and mindfulness-based approaches to therapy.
CBT is an approach to dealing with personal problems that emphasizes the importance of our thought process. As humans, we are thinking machines and one major theory of CBT is that our thought process affects how we feel (our emotions). Our emotions in turn influence what we do in our day-to-day life (our behaviour). If you've ever thought to yourself, "I'll never get everything done in time!" and then felt your motivation to get started on your to-do list crash, then you have felt the negative effects of your own thoughts. Other thoughts are much more difficult than this and have to do with feeling unlikable, incapable, or hopeless.
The initial goal of cognitive behavioural therapy is to begin noticing the thoughts that are causing the most difficulty. Once the particularly problematic thoughts are identified, our counselling work shifts toward challenging these thoughts and determining if they are really true or if they are based on false assumptions, called cognitive distortions. We will address the cognitive distortions as well as the core beliefs that may underlie the thought process. By looking at and challenging the parts of our thought process that are unhelpful or based on faulty logic, mood begins to improve and people start feeling more energized and productive. They start to feel less 'stuck' and better able to manage the challenges of life.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a very practical approach to counselling that deals with current problems in the here-and-now. There is a large body of research that suggests that CBT is highly effective in the treatment of many psychological problems and personal challenges. A typical course of treatment is between 10 and 16 sessions, with some clients benefiting with only a few sessions.
I also use a type of therapy built on CBT principles called CBT for Insomnia or CBT-I. This is a short-term approach (approximately 5 to 8 sessions) to treating insomnia that has been shown to be highly effective in increasing the total hours of sleep in individuals with even chronic insomnia. CBT-I is safe, non-invasive, and there is research support suggesting CBT-I is more effective in the long term than sleeping medication.
Interpersonal Therapy is a treatment approach that focuses on relationships and is based on the premise that stressors in relationships are related to emotional distress. This treatment involves looking closely at current relationships and relationship patterns and learning to resolve disputes, grief reactions following a loss, major transitions (e.g., new relationships, job changes, starting at a new school), and negative interpersonal patterns. IPT is a good option when the focus of therapy seems to be related to a problem in one of these four areas. Similar to cognitive behavioural therapy, a typical course of interpersonal therapy is under 20 sessions, with some clients benefiting with only a few sessions and others needing more prolonged treatment.
I also use a type of therapy that is built upon interpersonal therapy called Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT). This is an evidence-based psychotherapy used as an adjunct treatment to psychiatric management of Bipolar Disorder. It is based on the theory that bipolar disorder is related to a sensitive internal clock and recognizes that individuals with bipolar disorder tend to find their mood highly impacted by conflicts, major transitions, losses, and negative interpersonal patterns (the interpersonal therapy aspect of the work) as well as instability and irregularity in certain social rhythms (sleep pattern, for example). The research on the effectiveness of Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy to reduce the frequency, intensity and length of manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes is quite promising.
Mindfulness-based approaches to therapy are also useful for a range of concerns and can help to reduce stress, negative mental states, and suffering. Mindfulness-based approaches are about learning to observe the present moment with openness and without judgement, and learning to allow thoughts, feelings, and sensations to 'come and go' with less struggle and distress. Research suggests that these approaches are particularly effective for managing pain, recurring depression, and anxiety. Mindfulness-based approaches are a great fit if you have an interest in meditation, mindfulness, or a new way of thinking about your symptoms or problems.
During my training and career, I have also gained experience using a range of other treatment approaches (including, motivational interviewing, solution-focused therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and cognitive processing therapy). My job is to work collaboratively with you to determine the best approach to address your particular concerns.