Consulting, Counselling, health & wellness, Life Coaching

Ending Painful Chapters

Ending painful chapters of one’s life.

People often refer to personal experiences or stories, both as happy or painful “chapters” of one’s life. It helps to think about the past when friends, school associates, work life, or romantic partners were different. It is also helps to mine these memories for both happy and painful times, and to see what made this difference. Who or what helped you feel well or unwell for example.

The view that a chapter of one’s life may come to an end is very helpful to people undergoing significant changes in their own lives. An end to a marriage, longstanding romantic relationship, a professional career, or voluntary or community position are all very stressful each in their own way. People often seek the support of a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, or counsellor to help mitigate normative emotional disturbances caused when one chapter of life comes to an end. What or who played a disruptive or agitating role in your life? Are you able to identify a repetitive pattern or trend?

To me these transitional times between chapters where one chapter is closing and another begins is a nanometric space of personal change. Tasks of identity are dynamic and constantly growing over time from childhood to senior living. The idea that people grow and change over a lifetime is widely accepted, and perhaps even expected more now than ever. It used to be common to remain in the same profession, marriage, house, parish, community or country for years and years.

Using this literary metaphor in clinical counselling sessions creates a conceptual framework in which to contain, and process otherwise overwhelming, and at times, debilitating emotions. This is especially true when events occur beyond one’s control or in unexpected ways. Most people experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety when marriages end due to infidelity or sudden death.

Knowing that everyone shares similar vulnerabilities is in and of itself healing. Knowing that there is a temporality or timeline for emotional disruptions caused by life is also healing. Believing that people are able to move on, grow from, and flourish after devastating events or unexpected change is a fundamental underpinning to all approaches of clinical social work and psychotherapy.

Processes of healing are not possible without the view that painful chapters come to end. Processes of healing begin when the human heart opens up to the unfolding of life in a new chapter. This new chapter of life usually involves some of the people, roles, places and interests from the past, and sometimes not. You will know who or what you wish to remain in your life by the way you feel, and only you know that. Be confident in your personal feelings and embrace what your own heart and intuition reveals to you.

What are some of the ways you help your clients identify health and wellbeing following devastating news or events? How do you confidently and deliberately support your clients to recognize their own growth and support them in cultivating and growing health in new and exciting ways? How do you validate insights into harmful people or messages from the past? What approaches do you use to empower clients to move through and beyond this pain? Do you fundamentally believe that your therapeutic interventions work? If not, what are you doing to improve your own conceptual and practical knowledge base and skills to ensure therapy people deserve?

#healing #wellness #growth #change #personal


Tried, Tested and True

Raising Empathetic and Caring Kids

This event promises to be an uplifting event for professional parents and caregivers. Once your children are back in school this upcoming September and the mad dash of the new year calms down, this Symposium is sure to help. Come and learn about Tried, Tested, and True parenting strategies that build empathetic and caring children, safe and healthy communities, and happy parents.

  1. Continental Breakfast & Registration 8:30 – 9:30 am
  2. Resource Fair on Parenting, Clinical Interventions, and Caregiving Guides
  3. Opening Remarks – Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW, Social Worker, Psychotherapist & Author Tried, Tested & True: Keys to Parenting Caring Kids 9:45 – noon
  4. Lunch on your own enjoying the local fare offered along the Esplanade and St. Lawrence Market
  5. Humour in the Workplace Life-Work Balance Kate Davis Five time Nominee of the Canadian Comedy Awards 1:30 -3:30 pm

Order your tickets online Early Bird & General Admission on

#positiveparenting #gettingtoyesparenting #coachingkids #lightenup

Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services

Evoking positive emotional states. Psychotherapy Networker Conference, DC, 2019

Similar to shoes, you wear your emotions and feelings wherever you go

One Friday March 22, 2019, an all-day workshop entitled, EvokingPositive Emotional States: Uplifting interventions to heal the heart was presented by Courtney Armstrong

Her lengthy experience working with children and families was evident through her session. She provided several videotape examples to support her methods. The main message was that clients need to have a clear sense that you validate their pain before they can move on towards desired positive feeling states.

Courtney reminded psychotherapists about the notion of mood congruency where people experience the world either through narrow or broad ways shaped in part by personal feelings and experiences. She explained that survival responses narrow a client’s range of feelings to negative, anxious, or sorrowful interpretations. Positive moods access happier memories, which result in broader awareness and optimistic interpretations. When difficult life experiences result in significant shifts in mood, the central tasks of the therapist is to evoke positive emotional states as a disruptive intervention to overwhelming negative moods. Research demonstrates that people are able to solve problems when they are calm or happy. Her work showed that clients were able to improve mood and health when they evoked positive stored memories.

Armstrong’s videotapes powerfully showed how people were able to retell a traumatic story using imagery and positive emotions that had been evoked after trust and safety were established over several sessions. She referred to this method as “reversing trauma with RECON”. Clients learn to retell the story with a new ending following an experience in session that evokes desired beliefs attached to historic events. New experiences that reinforce feelings of empowerment, self-compassion, and agency are the ones that are nurtured and reinforced. These self-compassionate, empowering experiences reinforce positive mood and healing.

The workshop was especially refreshing to psychotherapists with several years working in the field. It reminded those of us present about the importance of positive feelings and its interface with self-determination in healing. I have always ascribed to the view that people providing psychotherapy need to have a healthy regimen of self-care and personal interests or hobbies in order to establish, maintain, and grow resilience. What do you do in order to have the emotional strength and positivity to co-regulate your clients emotions? What more can you do to evoke your own positive moods? Do you a well store of happy memories from which to draw your positivity when your work with clients is particularly intense ? If not, what are your plans to make the change you wish to be?

#wellness #heal #emotions #trauma #positivity #healthiswhathealthdoes

Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services

Loyalty and Friendship

Loyalty is more than an idea – it is an experience that reveals itself after years of everyday life with friends.

Loyalty is an experience you have with other people. It is more than an idea. It is a common human virtue you value in the home, at work, and in community organizations. It is something that most people hold dear to their hearts, and completely understand when it is absent. From a clinical perspective, people will often express many symptoms of emotional pain associated with experiences of betrayal with friends, professional colleagues, romantic partners, spouses, and business partners. It is not easy for people to articulate these feelings at first. It takes time for people to identify abandonment, rejection, and loss. Of course, the most profound and long-lasting effects of abandonment & rejection occurs in people whose primary attachment was insecure.

Attachment theory has been researched for years. It underpins most interventions that work to repair deep-seated experiences of fear and anxiety created by inconsistent responses used to nurture the baby in order to reduce distress. There are several studies that demonstrate the importance of your parent-child attachment in the first two years of life. Insecure attachments have been correlated with poor outcomes, even more so than angry attachments. Attachment has more to do with the quality of emotional connection you establish with your baby, than the number of hours you spend with your children.

There are some fundamental assumptions that underlie attachment theory that are contestable in some circles. It places responsibility on the parent, usually a mother for setting a responsive nurturing pattern with a baby. How a parent responds to a crying infant is one of the key indicators of attachment. Of course, early days caring for an infant creates emotionally and physically exhausted parents. Having two mutually supportive parents during this early stage is associated with better outcomes, especially where the primary parental connection is loving, strong, and respectful. Single parents are certainly working harder than two-parent households. It is during these early days that a baby learns whether the world is a safe and nurturing place, or not.

An angry attachment happens whenever a baby cries for help, and the parent responds with frustration, tension and anger. The baby’s temperament shapes this primary relationship as well. Some babies are truly fussier than others. The infant whose parent responds with an angry style learns to self-soothe and usually falls asleep. Insecure attachments occur when an infant is unable to predict the primary parents’ response, which may include both nurturing and rejecting styles. It is this unexpected response style that creates anxiety. A nurturing parent consistently responds to the child’s needs first; assessing what or when to intervene, reading the child’s emotional cues for pain correctly, and working to protect and care for the baby.

This secure attachment style has the best long-term outcomes and often leads to emotionally resilient adults who demonstrate stick-with-it-ness with loved ones when trouble happens. They grow with the people closest to them. They create a loving and mutually nurturing style of negotiation on big decisions in life like exclusive coupling, moving in together, getting married, going back to school, changing professions, investing in a home or the market, having a child together, and more. People with secure attachment styles are emotionally present for one another through serious acute and chronic illnesses such as cancer or depression, job loss, grief, and even deceit including extra-martial sexual affairs.

Adults with secure attachments seek emotional support from close friends and partners. They turn to one another, not on, or at each other. They lean on one another and decide next steps together. Of course, people with secure attachments decide to end marriages or to uncouple. However, this decision is usually addressed openly and honestly. It may include a mature conversation where one partner expresses the need to move on, feeling unhappy, emotionally or sexually unfulfilled. This decision to separate is painful, but true friends want people they love or loved in the past to be happy, even if that means moving on without them.

Loyal friends and couples are generally happy people whose love and respect for one another grows over a lifetime together. They are not threatened by their partner’s need to grow and are open to enjoy the journey together. They problem solve together. What have your reflections about your primary attachment with your parents revealed for you? How do you actively work to address or repair your own need for experiences of secure emotional attachments with people? Do you feel confident about co-regulating your clients’ anxieties around the reasons they are seeking therapy from you?

#wellness #healthy #secureattachments #bestoutcomes #resilient

Consulting, Counselling, Family Therapy, health & wellness, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Life Coaching, Professional Development

Reflections on Psychotherapy Networker Conference, DC 2019

Therapeutic alliance, clinical confidence, & deliberate practice

One of the most beneficial sessions, entitled “A Day for New Therapists: Learning the Principles of Successful Practice” was presented by Lynn Grodzski, LCSW, MCC, LLC . This session outlined all of the important steps required for practitioners setting up a full-fee private practice. The session used a case-based learning approach to teach about difficult problems and methods of self-supervision. Grodzski’s presentation technique mirrored her talk promoting a “getting to yes session structure”, ongoing measuring of client success, client retention, and building clinical confidence. It was an excellent workshop that encouraged participants to build “a deliberate practice” instead of learning a new treatment approach per se. Using this frame, clinicians are taught to begin by mapping your own clinical performance and work on becoming a better version of yourself.

Best clinical results were shown to be associated with therapeutic alliance, level of clinical confidence in methods used, and deliberate practice. This notion of deliberate practice resonates with humanistic person-centered approaches. It calls upon the clinician to locate those aspects of practice with which they are most confident. This clinical confidence emerges over years of supervised and reflective practices that result in evidentiary supports of positive health impacts on clients served. In my view, client retention, positive client feedback & self-reports, clear markers of improved health, such as non-verbal body language, clear & confident speaking, and relaxed sense of self & esteem in the presence of others, including strangers constitute evidences of wellness. Sometimes, the initial problem identified by the client as the reasons for clinical support remains unchanged, yet health improves. This speaks to the powerful impacts of self-care in situations or problems that are beyond the client’s control to change. This is an especially important consideration for clinician self-care as well.

Where clients are unable to tell you verbally that they are not ready for the work you have identified as central to their treatment or that they disagree with collaborative goals co-created together, future sessions will not take place at that time. It is possible that people return to therapy at a future time or with a different psychotherapist. In fact, confident therapists will have this conversation about goodness of fit with clients during the initial informed consent & assessment phases of work together, and every now and again where work ensues over a good period of time. Drawing upon Solution-Focused techniques, it is therapeutic to ask clients early on – how they will know when they no longer need treatment or when they feel well? Clients must always feel that their best interests are central to health care provided and that they have a moral, legal, and ethical right to care-providers that best meet their needs.

Lynn’s all-day session also underscored the importance of substantial clinical experience in the field before embarking on a model of work that requires honest and competent self-supervision with a clearly identifiable set of professional skills, in-depth knowledge of at least one or more related areas of expertise, and perhaps, a proven track record. Do you feel confident about the psychotherapeutic areas of intervention that you advertise to clients? Have you secured a method of supervision? What evidences do you use to continuously measure your clinical confidence, professional competence, and client therapeutic alliance? Are your clients getting what they have agreed to pay you for? How do you know ?

#wellness #heal #smallbusinessowner #privatepractice#selfcare

Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services

Embracing Gentle

During this religious time, many of us engage in prayerful reflection and family traditions. We think about our roles in charity, voluntarism, and community wellbeing. Participation in activities that aim to promote wellbeing in others is usually hidden from view. People are uncomfortable with claiming positive contributions to society, as being anything less than humble is regarded as pompous and arrogant. In my view, Canadians have long suffered from a poor sense of self esteem, failing to own the positive ways we have shaped local, national, and international initiatives. We often defer to others to claim what is truly Canadian in character and deed. Certainly, we can never forget the perils of nationalism. Our diverse citizenship reminds us to never become so bold to think as Canadians, we know best. A gentle breeze, a walk in a protected conservation area, or a breathtaking mountain view are some of the important ways we experience freedom. During holidays, we reflect on those people who paid for our freedom and remain forever grateful to those in our lives who helped us along the way. What are the ways you plan to embrace the gentle in your own hearts and share it with others ? Are you prepared for unexpected responses to a gentle embrace ? Is the gentle even possible in our modern times? If not, what can you do to be the difference ?

Counselling, health & wellness, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Life Coaching, Professional Development

Initial reflections on the Psychotherapy Networker Conference DC, 2019

Psychotherapy focuses on relationships with self & others

During the second last week of March, my husband and I travelled to Washington DC for the Annual Psychotherapy Networker Conference. I was privileged to attend several sessions, and enjoyed many of the offerings. Of course, committed to approaching our marriage as two independently-codependently attached self-actualized people, we each went our own way for session teaching, always returning to one another over lunch & dinner to discuss some of the interesting things we respectively learned. The conference exceeded both our expectations. It was well organized and staffed by a number of friendly volunteers who were quick to answer any questions we had. Held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the site was a perfect blend of American heritage and modern service. It was a truly wonderful hotel that we highly recommend to any of you that might be planning a trip to visit friends, cousins, and business associates in the USA. Friday morning’s keynote address on ” The myth of Normal in an insane culture” was given by a Canadian physician Gabor Mate

Dr. Gabor’s address was characteristically Canadian with deferential references to our collective impulse to “thank” machines, such as the ATM after a transaction. His talk reflected the sage wisdom of a highly experienced physician working with people in need of compassionate mental health care and support. In fact, his private two-session training, to which I did not gain entrance, was adeptly entitled the Compassionate Inquiry. Having recently read, Beverly Engle’s book, It wasn’t your Fault, on a relatively newer intervention referred to as Compassionate Mind Training (CMT), Dr. Gabor’s talk truly resonated with me, as both sensitive and timely. My personal “take away” from his talk on the difference between Individualism & Individuality was only touched upon quickly, perhaps because of the culturally provocative nature of his ideas. The good doctor remarked on our responsibility to challenge ourselves on the differences between these two concepts. In his view, individualism referred to the rugged American ideal to reach for the golden arches of economic success through independence, hard work & freedom. Individuality was described as the freedom to express one’s sense of self in independent, and sometimes, unconventional ways.

Dr. Mate challenged us to think about the ways we work to support vulnerable people who for whatever reason might not have access to or the means to achieve on their own without a helping hand. He encouraged us to think about the ways our practices and systems support the most vulnerable in society.

As reflective practitioners, have you considered the ways you empower and foster your client’s individuality in session? How does a person’s individuality change or impact your theories, models, or planned treatment programs? Are you interested in clinical supervision on the implementation of CMT in clinical sessions with individuals ? If so, have you conducted research to explore who in your own community has the experience, skill, and compassion to provide case-based supervision that best fits your needs?

For support in Toronto consider connecting with me at

#coaching #counselling #professionaldevelopment #individuality #individualism #psychotherapynetworkerconference