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

Healthy Touch

Resilient children grow into caring & compassionate adults softening hearts of stone.

This past May, I attended the Annual Roots of Empathy Symposium here in Toronto sponsored by Mary Gordon and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers https://rootsofempathy.org/2019symposium/. Mary’s work has a strong hold in most schools in the Greater Toronto Area, surrounding regions, and across Canada. She also has research affiliates in Ireland and the USA. Her work, career, and extraordinary dedication to children and early prevention strategies is inspiring. Having started a clinical social work career in early years services, I was very fortunate to learn theoretical and practical approaches to parenting that really work to grow healthy and resilient children over the long term. Dr. Clinton, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, division of Child Psychiatry reminded everyone about the essential nature of human touch and infant development.

Close to thirty years ago, the Hanen Approach was just beginning to reap the benefits of its piloted projects across this city. A unique blend of psychiatry, speech and language pathology, and social work, the Hanen Approach aimed to support healthy attachments between moms and babies. Research showed that a consistently caring and nurturing response style, eye contact, touching, and communication improved overall health and wellness in all children and adults, but especially in children with identified developmental delays in areas of speech, behaviour, and pretend & cooperative play http://integratedtreatmentservices.co.uk/our-approaches/speech-therapy-approaches/hanen-programme/.

Healthy human touch is essential and natural to human growth and emotional wellness. There are countless studies that reveal the negative impacts of significant caregiving relationships impoverished of human touch. People with histories of early trauma, emotional neglect, sexual, or physical abuse often develop problems with creating healthy boundaries in relation to personal body space. Some people may be overly vigilant and self-protective becoming touch adverse. Some people have loose boundaries standing too close to people waiting in line, rubbing a woman’s breast or a man’s bottom while standing or sitting next to them on public transit, or touching someone’s arm, baby-bump, or face without permission for example. There are social and cultural norms as well as professional training that shape how, when, why, and where people engage in human touch. The key here is speaking up honestly when you feel uncomfortable about someone’s unwanted touch.

More research is being explored about the prescribed use of touch therapy with patients suffering severe PTSD and other debilitating health conditions. It is imperative that clinicians feel comfortable with setting appropriate professional boundaries created with clients seeking counselling therapies from you. Clinical practice with children, adolescents, and adults do not require deliberate practices of human touch. There are other effective strategies such as voice tone, eye contact, and humour that help to reassure and co-regulate human emotion as people talk and/or process feelings about experiences or situations with you. Referring clients to therapeutic massage is suggested for people you assess would benefit from healthy human touching in a clinical milieu.

#wellness #healing #health #hugs #parenting

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

Counselling, Family Therapy, health & wellness, Life Coaching, Professional Development

Visualization & Wellness

Visualization is an evidence-based strategy that works to reduce stress

Clinical Social Workers and Psychotherapists understand the importance of helping people to learn visualization strategies proven to reduce stress. Visualization techniques employ the imagination in the healing process. Breathing techniques are also highly valued strategies used to reduce the harmful impacts of stress, anxiety, and worry on the body. Breathing and visualization also help people sleep deeply and more soundly. Learning to relax is neither easy, nor quick. People often master relaxation techniques over several months and in most cases, over years of concentrated practice. There is ample evidence to support the use of visualization in elite athletic
programs and goal-oriented industries. The overall impacts on one’s sense of wellness is uncontestable when people sleep better, and engage in daily activities with more energy and calmness. There are several resources currently available that will help individuals learn the power of visualization techniques. It often merely takes the use of one practiced image such as clouds on a partially sunny day, or a warm beach for people to feel an immediate sense of relief. Many people practice visualization before presenting at a business meeting or professional interview. Do you feel confident about supporting your clients or patients to learn visualization techniques? What are your own experiences with breathing, visualization, or progressive relaxation techniques? When or how do you use your experiences with these strategies in counselling sessions, if at all? Have you reflected upon any ethical issues with your clinical or peer supervisors?

#wellness #stressmanagement #wellbeing #healthy #heal #breathing #visualization #progressiverelaxation

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

Healing Processes & Options

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

There are several forms of independent health practices in the Greater Toronto Area. Similar to other large cities across North America, people are interested in a variety of treatment options to heal. Over the past twenty-five years, the field of regulated independent health practices has grown. Individuals have direct access to a continuum of health services that are increasingly covered by employee assistance and personal health insurance benefit plans. Most survey data suggests that individuals prefer to direct personal healthcare for non-crisis or emergency-based health problems. People with persistent or episodic physical or mental health challenges report having a choice in a robust range of health modalities increases their sense of control over personal wellness. This empowering aspect of healing is critical to the getter better phenomenon. Having the option to see a physiotherapist, massage therapist, or osteopath for arthritic pain diagnosed by your primary family medical doctor for example, allows the patient, client, or person to self-direct their own options for treatment and healing. Many people are willing to pay out of pocket for regulated and alternative health care services due to this increased sense of wellbeing that derives from directing one’s own treatment plan under the care of credentialed experts. There is a strong network of professional colleges that regulate healthcare practice standards for each of these credentialed services. For those that are currently unregulated, efforts are being made to meet the eligibility criteria under the law in health depending on the area in which the service is provided. This regulatory function and the interface with insurance company coverage plans increases the level of trust and protection that individuals are receiving expert health care. Long gone are the days where people without the appropriate education, credentials, or supervised standards of practice are able to provide fraudulent services to the public without protection. When I entered the social services field in 1984, almost everyone was referring to themselves as a social worker. Today, the title is protected under the law and practices regulated, so that individuals engaged in services are also protected. Recently, the controlled act of psychotherapy was introduced to further protect the public from unregulated practices and the possible risks associated with treatments provided by uncredentialled practitioners. Do you have the education, experience, and membership in a regulatory college to claim your credentials? What are the ways you engage with your local professional associations to ensure that your treatment modalities and interventions are evidence-informed, modern, ethical, and effective? What more can you do to further ensure that members of the public are guaranteed access to a range of best possible health care options for their own healing?

#wellness #health #healthy #wellbeing #healthcare

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

The dance of love ?

A dance of the heart, mind, and soul

Perhaps, one of the greatest reasons for referral to counselling support from social work is love related. Described in so many different ways, love is an idiosyncratic concept that defies any one definition. In my view, love is best understood phenomenologically, that is experientially. In simple terms, love is what love does. Most people speak about loving experiences with partners in terms of the ways they behave and interact with one another. Clinical complaints usually relate to matters of disrespect, neglect, betrayal, or disloyalty. Failed loving relationships are extremely difficult to maneuver for everyone. It is clinically significant when people have little to no emotional reactions to failed relationships. It may in fact signify that love was not truly present despite words, actions, or views to the contrary. The emotional bond between two people in love is truly a sacred experience. It is mysterious, and often misunderstood by other people looking into or at the couple. In our modern world, notions of love have morphed in diverse ways, all the while remaining true to the fundamental essences of the human heart. Traditional moral boundaries appear to have shifted. Divorce, serial monogamous relationships, same-sex unions, and affairs with married people seem more widely accepted. Yet, the pain and devastation created by experiences of rejection, abandonment, and betrayal remain the same. Separation and divorce is usually one of the main reasons for referral to Clinical Social Work in Child and Family settings. The impacts in families and on children are disheartening. In my view, families are worth fighting for and quite resilient. Founded on true love, most people have the capacity to overcome and heal what are common obstacles on a journey of a lifetime together. What is your role as social worker with couples who are at an impasse in their marriage due to an emotional or sexual affair ? What are your views about the healing capacity of love?  Are you triggered by stories shared in session, such that your own relationship is questioned at a later time?

#wellness #marriage #family #health #cheating #love #care #children

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

Fear of the Unknown

Fear accompanies even the smallest changes or updates, technological or otherwise

The unknown is a physical and conceptual space that is always one step ahead of human experience. Unlike the familiar, the unknown generates anxiety. It occupies a binary theoretical horizon of uncertainty and possibility that results in a multitude of feelings. Some people are comfortable with the unknown always moving forward and seeking new experiences. Others are afraid of change and prefer the comforts of the familiar. Clinical social workers are usually involved with individuals, couples, or families at junctures of transition. People are more likely to seek private counselling support when anxiety and worry associated with moving forward is overwhelming. Even the smallest changes in our lives can lead to bigger unexpected ones. One simple example is the purchase of a cellphone and subsequent social media presences. More than ever, personal electronic devices have infiltrated human relationships and families in real ways. People identify social media as the means to marital and parenting problems; academic, social, and performance issues; or problematical addictive behaviours to videogaming or online gambling. Children and pre-teens are also having difficulty with appropriate social media engagement. Too many young people share personal details or photographs that result in legal or social consequences that require coping skills well beyond an adolescent level of emotional maturity. Too many parents are shocked to learn how deeply engaged their children or pre-teens may be on-line until a serious incident happens. There are many positive aspects to technological advancements in the workplace, schooling, and the home. The rapid pace of technological change is dizzying and daunting. Nonetheless, the unknown is now only a click, post, or enter button away. Developing healthy strategies to manage both familiar and unknown consequences created by modern living in a digital techno-sphere is a shared challenge. Do you feel confident about posting a comment or photo on public platforms? Are your clients reporting situations that require increased familiarity with local child protection or other legislations? How has social media changed your couples counselling approaches, if at all?

#wellness #anxiety #fear #familiar #unknown #socialmedia #legislation #philosophyofcare #ittakesavillage #virtualreality #childprotection #infidelity #modernsocialwork #socialworkers #counselling #psychology

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

Healing Relationships

The healing power of love

One of the most profound experiences of clinical social work is witnessing relationships heal. It is a myth to think that any one person is completely devoid of emotional pain, at some point or other over a lifetime. Clinical social workers need a philosophy of care that mirrors this belief in the healing power of love. Where social workers struggle with the view that relationships are able to recover from significant experiences of betrayal such as infidelity, then it is important to be honest about this standpoint before offering any clinical intervention to others. Reflective practitioners are called to examine their own beliefs about the capacity of people to forgive one another, and the ability to move on in new and healthy ways. Many married couples do recover from the terrible impacts of betrayal and loss. Discovering some otherwise hidden truth about a spouse including infidelity, gambling, financial indiscretion, drug use, or an illegitimate child is deeply painful. Surviving the loss of a child together is likely the most difficult challenge any couple might face. Building on a strong foundation of respect and friendship, individuals are able to heal together, often growing closer than ever before. The discovery of a sexual affair is devastating to most people. Yet, spouses are often able to understand the factors that led to hide the truth or lie in the first place. Many are also willing to work on getting-better together. Of course, some couples are not able to move forward, and decide it is best to separate and divorce. This decision to end a marriage is a very serious one. Most couples engage the support of a clinical social worker or marriage therapist, even for a few sessions, before deciding to part ways. Where children are involved, recovery is further complicated, but not impossible.

A loving relationship built on a strong foundation of respect, care, and friendship has the capacity to rebuild where trust has been compromised. Where individuals decide to share this healing journey with a registered mental health professional, an impartial and non-judgemental approach works best. If you hold cynical views about marriage following sexual infidelity, financial betrayal, or substance abuse, then it important to be honest about this position with your clients from the get go. In our present times, perhaps more than ever before, individuals have options. Supporting relationships to grow and heal is truly a privileged aspect of clinical social work. Do you feel qualified and prepared to support couples seeking clinical support? What are your views about healing relationships? Do you believe that marriages can survive a significant betrayal?

#family #health #childandfamilytherapy #wellness #honesty #marriagetherapy #philosophyofcare #healing #perspective