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

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

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Clinician Self-Care

To thine own self be true

Clinical social workers and psychotherapists are drawn to work in the service of others. Learning to set limits on care-work is an ongoing process, especially in newer clinicians and therapists. During the initial stages of work with people requesting support for a variety of health problems, social workers and psychotherapists tend to over analyze, self-identify, and carry the emotional difficulties of clients. These are common and expected experiences in clinical work, and often become the subjects for discussion in supervision with caring, compassionate and competent supervisors. Clinical work refers to a range of regulated and alternative health services that may include massage, physiotherapy, occupational, speech and language, acupuncture, psychiatry, nursing, family medicine, and more therapies. All clinicians providing direct health care to patients or clients face challenges related to a healthy care-giving and care-taking balance. The process of care-giving is the work you provide to others seeking support. Care-taking is the work you do to take care of yourself. Every clinician, seasoned or otherwise is responsible for personal health and wellbeing. Mastering a self-care regimen takes time and practice. Seasoned practitioners and health care providers who maintain good health over the long run is never accidental. What are the strategies you use to maintain a good sense of humour, body-mass index, level of physical fitness, and spiritual wellness? What in your daily habits needs readjusting to ensure that the care-service you provide to others remains true to the original reasons for work in your field? How will you gain better control over your health moving forward?

#wellness #health #therapy #wellbeing #philosophyofcare

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

Child Therapy, Consulting, Counselling, Family Therapy, Focus Interviewing, health & wellness, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Life Coaching, Professional Development, Project Develpoment, Qualitative Data Analysis

Family Values

An important Italo-Canadian family value is shared meal times

Individuals, couples, or families seeking clinical support from registered social workers, psychotherapists, or child therapists enter the work with deeply held views about family traditions, cultures, rituals, and beliefs that have been passed down to generations over several centuries. In some countries, people are still able to leave work for part of the day in order to eat a meal with one another before returning back to business. Family values are heartfelt and central to the ways people live their life. They also shape the ways we understand and solve problems. Something as simple as mealtime together remains a priority in most families. There are several studies that demonstrate the correlation between regular shared meals and overall social and emotional wellbeing. People are more likely to maintain healthy communication patterns with one another when eating at home on a regular basis and at predictable times. The roles members play around food preparation, planning, and clean-up are dynamic and usually shared with everyone involved. It takes time for a clinical social worker to help families express values they hold most dear, and where perhaps, there is some disagreement. Often, mediating these differences of opinion or disagreements becomes the clinical work over several sessions. It is often in these practical spaces of the everyday that people run into problems with one another. It is also in this space that solutions emerge, later, in session. What are your plans for dinner today? How many meals did you share with people who matter most in your life? What, if anything needs to change? What are examples of other values families hold dear and may wish your intervention to protect and repair through your clinical practice?

#wellness #familytherapy #childandfamilytherapy #philosophyofcare #care #health #values #dinnertime #socialemotionalwellbeing #success #healthy

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

Sense of Self

Your sense of self grows naturally

Developing one’s sense of self is a lifelong journey. It exists deeply within one’s inner most being. A sense of self has been written about over the centuries and in many ways. Taken up spiritually, the self is equated with the soul. Philosophically, a sense of self is a metaphysical idea existing in one’s awareness in the mind. This metaphysical idea of the self allows you to reflect and think about yourself from the outside in. In current times, the physical self is a subject of much thought and at times lively debate. The corporeal embodiment of the self is thought to construct one’s sense of self. The simple recipe of caring for body, mind, and spirit underlies clinical social work. When one’s sense of self is unsettled, disturbed, troubled, or questioned, it is important to slow down and turn inward. Engaging children clinically during periods of emotional agitation likely involves work that supports a nascent sense of self independent from their primary caregivers. Learning to live in a world as responsible persons is developmental. Clinical social work helps when the core sense of self is obscured by difficult situations beyond one’s control. A healthy sense of self balances demands to take care of others with the need to take care of oneself.

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


Cultural integration is like a passage of space in-between.

There are several terms used in Social Work to explain the importance of culture, tradition, history, folklore and language. As a child of parents who immigrated to Canada from Italy following World War II, I am very familiar with the struggles of new Canadians settling in a foreign country without one or both dominant languages. Of course, we learned English and some conversational French at school. Our parents also learned English to communicate with new neighbours and friends. Our cultural traditions and practices remained central to our new life in Toronto. These early experiences were foundational to my professional life as Social Worker and Academic. This highly personal experience as “others” is viscerally familiar. The expectation to appropriately translate words, read signs, and express ourselves with less passion, exuberance, and joy was an ongoing struggle for me. I worked to help bridge two worlds without ever compromising my parents, or my own, sense of respect, dignity, and intelligence. Sometimes, an accent, especially a heavy one elicits surprising responses. The view that people are rude if they raise their voice or speak in a demanding tone in an effort to be better understood is one such example. In the early 1990’s, popular social work theories included culturally and multiculturally sensitive social work practices. The view that people had implicit knowledge, rituals, traditions, and values related to their own cultural heritage was a starting place for clinical social workers. The view that people invited you to understand their cultural perspectives and practices was highly valued as both protective and progressive at that time. In my view, it is not possible to understand a person’s emotional sense of self without positive regard and affirmation for one’s culture, ethnicity, or race. Ethno-compassion seems to express these concepts best, especially when working with newcomers and second generation Canadians. Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW

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Visualizing your goals helps to ensure success !

Perseverance is a key attribute of success. It is the resolve to get something done. Reflective practitioners develop a set of professional goals and work to achieve these with the support of colleagues and friends. Social Workers have a variety of effective practice-approaches for use with people. Some approaches are effective with certain identified problems, people, and events, and others are not. Developing a sophisticated clinical repertoire occurs over several years and in a variety of settings where social work is offered. It is common to resonate with and develop approaches that more easily fit with your own perspectives, values, cultural beliefs, and folkloric traditions. Clinical discretion is often a theoretical melange of the personal, the political, and the other. Professional and personal values are able to co-exist well in social work without conflict. The other here refers to a client system consenting to intervention, and not to a particular person or population per se. There is no way to expunge the clinician from the clinical work at hand. In fact, a clinical social worker is a mediator or tool through which substantive work happens. It is this very point that makes social work an intense profession that requires clinical supervision and a thoughtful philosophy of care. Social work is a discrete profession that recognizes the importance of people in the work. Building a healthy boundary for this important emotional work to happen is a vital social work role as it provides the strong base upon which people are able to work through their own healing.

#care #wellness #healthy #health #wellbeing #socialwork #therapy #philosophyofcare #clinicalwork #perseverance #professionalstandards #goalsetting #goalsetting #independence

Child Therapy, Consulting, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Professional Development

Achieving your goals

Social work goals are constructed over many years in the field.

Once graduating from a post-secondary institution with a diploma or degree in social work, your career begins. Similar to constructing a building, each year in social work inspires new professional goals, aspirations, and dreams. Social Workers engage in continuous professional learning that enhances work with people.

In Ontario, the OCSWSSW refers to this shared practice standard as our collective engagement in a continuing competence program

As reflective practitioners in private practice and otherwise, it is also been my experience that excellent clinical social workers are most likely to stay abreast of cutting edge techniques, newest theories, and evidence-informed approaches. We are often seeking professional development opportunities that provide a healthy balance of theory and practice. Much like passing a driver’s license exam, social work involves the gradual development of skills, techniques, and practices founded on a confluence of theory borrowed from sociology, cultural anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. Over time, social workers achieve both technical and clinical goals that build unique approaches to care. In my view, clinical approaches are less formulaic, exacting, or precise than purely technical ones. In the early days, we spoke of ourselves in terms of clinicians as artists and not technicians. It was a way to clearly delineate social work from other counselling professions that relied more heavily on surveys, self-report questionnaires, and formal assessment tools. Enigmatic philosopher Gadamer refers to the art of healing in medical care, thereby supporting the view that there is more to technique when providing direct care to people seeking therapy. Have you thought about your new year practice goals this year? What do you plan to do differently from last year if anything? What are some of the ground level professional experiences that have helped you to get to where you are today?

#socialwork #therapy #professionaldevelopment #competency #continuousimprovement #certification #philosophy of care #clinicianas artist #philosophyofcare #gadamerianphilosophy

Child Therapy, Consulting, Counselling, Family Therapy, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Professional Development

Understanding your Anger

Anger is one of the most identifiable emotions people experience. But don’t let it overwhelm you.

Anger is a basic human emotion that signals a problem. Depicted here as stormy waters, anger is a range of negative feelings that builds over time and in certain situations. Infants communicate their needs for comfort, reassurance, and basic care through crying and anger. Similar to other emotions, anger may grow into a habitual response. In these situations, people begin to respond to almost every situation with negativity and anger. Everyone experiences anger. In general, it is unpleasant and hard to be around on a regular basis. It is often easier to identify anger in others than it is to identify it in ourselves. The clinical work involved in helping people to regulate their own anger and to co-regulate the anger of family members, children, and teens can be intense. Similar to other emotions, anger is contagious. It is common that one person’s angry feeling sets off similar reactions in people around them. An assertive response that helps to reduce anger in the moment is to gently label the feeling that you are sensing when with the angry person. For example, “it sounds like you are angry” or “it seems that something is making you angry”, or “are you feeling angry with me about something?”. Assertive statements are effective anger reducers that clearly draw a boundary around who the anger belongs to and where it might be coming from in session. Both research and practice experience shows that anger is likely to reduce through the mere act of talking about it. When we externalize angry feelings by labelling them as a stormy emotions or feelings for instance, people are able to immediately feel a sense of relief. Where trust grows in a caring climate over time, clients will freely discuss problems of anger with you without fear of reprisal or judgment. Anger in and of itself is not the problem. The real problem activates angry emotions and requires some work to uncover. Try externalizing your problems with anger today and think about what you learned from this exercise.

#socialwork #mentalhealth #angermangement #anger #coping #healthy #health #familywellbeing #wellness #wellbeing #care #fairness #gentle #counselling #assertive #assertivenessskills #trust #moods #wellbeing

Child Therapy, Consulting, Counselling, Family Therapy, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Professional Development

It’s all about balance

It’s easiest to understand notions of balance, regulation, and choice in relation to food.

Emotion regulation is a newer concept in clinical social work. Although the work builds on years of theory borrowed from Psychology, Psychiatry, and Medicine, the idea fits well within a bio-psycho-social framework of practice. Emotion regulation refers to the processes that people use to cope, manage, express, or deal with personal feelings to situations, events, other people, ideas, thoughts, or experiences. In clinical social work, the tasks of the therapist is to collaborate with people on identifying those aspects in their lives that trigger overwhelming emotions. Everyone regulates their personal feelings throughout the day. Most people are able to cope with the feelings they experience throughout the day and adjust their behaviours accordingly. So, if I am finding a particular way of driving to work stressful, I may opt to take a new road, or leave at a different time of day. It is only when people are restricted to adjust, accommodate, modify, or change behaviour in response to particularly triggering events that people grow increasingly stressed. Most times, we are in control of the changes required to manage and cope with our personal levels of stress. Other times, we are not, which may be the case in work or employment related problems. Similar to the food choices we make each day, emotional balance is also key. The human body is a carbon system that is prone to break down without significant periods of rest, relaxation, healthy nutrition, fresh air, and physical exercise. Chronic stress activates cortisol and other harmful hormones in the body, which may become your habitual response pattern to all life events regardless of the event itself. Where you have neglected your emotional diet and have failed to balance stress with rest, your ability to emotionally regulate in a healthy fashion may also be off kilter. Signs that you are not managing your personal feelings in a healthy manner usually involves mounting physical cues from your body such as heart palpitations, breathlessness, shallow breathing, increase in blood pressure, headaches, body aches, uncontrollable crying, or aggression. The people closest to you and who love you most will communicate honestly with you about the impact your stress level is having on them as well. Negative emotions are contagious and are difficult to live with, work with, or be with on a regular basis. As adults, we are all responsible for our own feelings. As parents, we are also responsible to teach, co-regulate, and support our children as they grow and learn to manage and balance the stresses in their own lives. How is your emotional diet today? Do you feel balanced and well?

#health #emotionregulation #mentalhealth #stress #stressmanagement #employmentstress #honesty #wellbeing #healthychildren #familytherapy #cortisol #toxicity #socialcontagion #emotionalbalance #harmony #wellness #personalfeelings #feelings #gratitude #safeschools #anxiety #aggression #adrenaline #anger #angermanagement #stressreducers #learningpeace #empathy #compassion #charitystartsathome #bewell

Child Therapy, Consulting, Counselling, Family Therapy, Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services, Professional Development

Philosophy of Care

Sadness is part of everyone’s life. What is your care-work with people who express sadness?

From the very moment a person decides to explore a career in Social Work, the beginnings of a philosophy of care emerges. Similar to other health related fields, Social Workers aim to help people, communities, and institutions find ways, strategies, approaches, and solutions to problems they identify. At both clinical and policy levels, social work centralizes care for others in all aspects of practice. Developing an overarching perspective about your role as social worker in relation to care-work with other people is an important process. I liken this process to an ever-changing dynamic or philosophy that continues to blossom over time. For those of us who work principally as clinical practitioners, professional careers broaden in relation to personal growth, life experience, and self-reflection. Many social workers find their professional interests change over time and in relation to their own personal life stage. So for example, a person may start their career working with children and later find marital or couple work more fulfilling. This shift in professional interest is very common during the initial ten to fifteen years in the field. What is your philosophy of care?

#socialwork #healthy #health #emotionalhealth #clinicalsocialwork #efficacy #children’smentalhealth #childtherapy #childandfamilytherapy #familytherapy #moods #wellbeing #policy #determinantsofhealth

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Clinical vs Policy

Social Work practices are varied yet discrete, and therein lies our professional uniqueness.

In the early nineties, when I was registered in the graduate program for the Master of Social Work degree, there were three “levels” of social work practice that were referred to as micro, mezzo & macro. Expressed in Latin, these terms referred to the systemic levels at which Social Workers practice. “Micro” social work referred to direct practices with people. This included personal, family, and group work interventions and practice approaches. “Mezzo” social work referred to community-based social work. This level was thought to include a range of social practices that worked to mobilize, empower, advocate, and encourage local communities to organize and plan in accordance with their unique and authentic needs. Mezzo social work viewed community work as a level of intervention distinct from direct practice with people, family, and groups. It recognized that local communities have a distinct character and culture in common that is greater than the sum of people who live there. In community social work, practice might emerge within a particular place that self-identifies as a community such as the Peanut in the old North Toronto, or with a particular group of people who self-identify as belonging to a community even though they might not live together, such as the Deaf community. “Macro” social work referred to a level of practice that recognized the importance of governing policies on individual persons and communities on the ground. Social Workers have a longstanding history in advocacy and social welfare that validates the positive, and at times, not so positive, roles of civic policy in the lives of people in all sectors of society. Social Workers have been a strong voice in the creation of social welfare practices, programs, and policies by consistently holding powerful institutions designed for people to account for services and access to services by those who are most vulnerable. So, although part of our social work character involves a lifelong reflective practice about the various roles we fill, our collective professional desire to ensure that individual people are treated fairly, protected and respected under the law, and in prevailing governing policies and practices remains central to all we do.

#health #community #communities #socialwelfare #publicpolicy #access #fairness #equity #wellbeing #socialwork #notforprofit #civicduty #practices #optionsforhealth #vulnerablepopulations #economichardship #poverty #socialdeterminants #healthdeterminants #foodaccess #cleanwater #communityhealth #healthiswhathealthdoes

Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services

Launching a start-up: Private practice in the making

It is often the case that social workers transition into private practice in later stages of the profession. In the early years of practice, most social workers grapple with the role. The struggle to balance the clinical intensity created by stories people share with the ever-present pressure to account for and build a repertoire of effective clinical interventions founded on models of care and compassion is ongoing. Social work has grappled with its own professional identity over several years and has certainly matured more recently. Nestled within a range of service providers including psychology, psychotherapy, child and youth work, and psychiatry, social work borrows tenets of service that are strength-based. It is often the role of the social worker to mine personal and family stories for health, strength, ability, and potential. The carefully crafted social work skill to interview for strengths emerges only after several years of practice. It is not an easy task to help people locate strengths at first. Problems, troubles, issues, dilemmas, and unexpected events cloud judgment, create conflict, and disrupt otherwise healthy personal, family, or social environments. It is only after years of practice and with the expert support of clinical supervisors, that professional social workers gain the much-needed confidence and skills that truly work to settle stormy waters. Clients demonstrate their own healing in real ways and, when able, freely articulate areas of personal growth, change, and development in the confidential and safe space created with their social work clinician. People require options to access highly qualified expert caregivers that best meet their own personal needs. Social workers offering private practice options are responding to a growing need for easily accessible expert models of healthcare built on years of field practice, excellent supervision, continuous professional development, and compassion. Launching a start-up is anxiety provoking. Finding the right location, managing expenses, and learning to maximize social media in healthy and proactive ways are all very exciting and time-consuming aspects that happen well before meeting your first client. Building a network with clinical social workers in private practice is important as the move to a fee for service model is a professional milestone likely to trigger emotional reactions. A private practice in the making is a common late stage experience for many social workers as they transition to retirement. It is an excellent way to provide high quality specialized care to a small number of individuals, families, or groups requesting support in your area of expertise. My new start-up will be updated on TheModernSocialWorker for use by other clinical practitioners interested in starting a private practice of their own.

Child Therapy, Counselling, Family Therapy, Professional Development

CBT Informed Practices for the Modern Clinician

The simplest way to understand CBT- cognitive-behavioural-therapy informed interventions is in relation to eating a healthy diet and food selection.  The diet industry is in part based on strategies that help people decide what to eat and when.  For example, losing weight is often identified as one of the hardest habits to change even where negative health risks are confirmed by your doctor. Of course, the clinical application of CBT treatment is reserved for regulated mental health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, medical doctors, and other certified counselling professionals. It is possible to become CBT certified through a formal course of training and supervision.  Using CBT strategies with children and youth has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to help people to think, behave, and feel differently about or in particular situations they identify as personally troubling. CBT-Informed strategies are used in most clinical activities designed for activity-based counselling interventions with people.  There are a range of activities used to help people to identify feelings and emotions, ways of thinking and behaving that are harmful, or self-destructive, or self-deprecating. Clinical activities may include play, arts, or literary based tasks that help everyone involved in the counselling process to talk about troubling emotions, thoughts, and/or feelings.  These tasks also provide opportunities for people to externalize problem thoughts, feelings, and behaviours decreasing anxiety that is naturally provoked when addressing personal problems.  CBT activities are especially useful in family therapy sessions where talking about any one particular member of the family may cause undue and irreparable harm to one or all members.  The modern social worker is aware, sensitive and to a certain degree accountable for managing and mediating  the oppressive experiences of vulnerable family members in a clinical counselling milieu.  It is in this intense or heavy space of clinical accountability and care that the modern social worker seeks formalized supervision on casework.  It is also in this intimate clinical space that theoretical questions of consent become real. 


#socialwork, #parenting, #wellness, #health, #healthy, #family, #children, #developmental, #nurturing, #attachment, #consent, #CBT, #counselling #privatepractice 

Hypersense Counselling & Consulting Services

Sunday morning reflections

The Modern Social Worker is  a new blog written for social workers by an urban social worker practicing in big cities for close to thirty years. Social Work practices are varied. We all agree that social work is a profession discrete from other counselling and direct healthcare practices. Social workers listen, engage, collaborate, & offer a range of approaches founded on principles of care and compassion.  People share personal and family stories with us, especially at times when the unexpected happens.  They tell and re-tell stories of resilience, love, passion, recovery, and growth.  People share these life stories with us – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We all have them. Often, it is in this telling and re-telling that people come to understand events in their lives, in their own words, and in their own ways.  It is in this process of coming to understanding that healing happens.  Sometimes, finding a social worker to talk with opens the door to deeply held emotional pain. This is often the first step to personal healing. Not everyone is interested in speaking to a registered social worker or therapist when problems occur. It is also true that speaking to a friend or a small group of friends helps. The key to identifying when you need to find a social worker is when your feelings and emotions grow overwhelming and you are not able to carry on with your life or day in a manner that brings you joy & happiness.  This site is created for regulated professionals who continue to provide a range of  clinical social work therapies to children, adolescents, young adults and families.  It is an online space for social work clinicians to learn, share, and promote creative evidence-informed approaches that really work to process feelings and to carry on with life. 


Summer break for Moms too

Summer time breakfasts are fun!

Summer is a wonderful time for families to spend time together. When my own children were younger and still living at home, summer was also an extremely busy time for me. Organizing day trips, healthy snacks and lunches, and fun breakfasts, summer holidays increased my active duty as “mom”! I was fortunate as my husband, a college professor also had summer vacations with the family. I was the resident cook and he, the clean-up crew until the boys could pitch in the kitchen as well.

These months were sacred for our family and a time to slow down, relax, and play. In the early years, we did not have a lot of extra money for expensive trips. Instead, we generally stayed in Toronto enjoying our local beaches and parks. We also had access to a family cottage in Marmora where my sons learned to fish and swim in a muddy river making good memories with family and friends that last a lifetime.

By the end of summer, the local community of mothers agreed that getting back to school and a regular schedule was a good thing ! We enjoyed this time with our families as a community. We validated each other’s feelings that mothering was a full-time job when our kids were home.

My choice was to always negotiate time off during summer vacation in order to stay with my children. Before my career in education, I would take small leaves without pay in order to be with my sons. This was my choice and I am glad I had employers who agreed and supported my wish to stay with my own family when they were on vacation.

Partially, my choice to work in education was shared by this coveted summer holiday time. This was especially important when my boys were in elementary school and still enjoyed time with their mom and dad! In truth, all of my career and professional choices were shaped in tandem with my primary responsibility to be with my own children whenever they were home full-time.

How do you integrate your own family experiences in your use of self-care strategies with parents in your practice? What methods do you use to support new parents with their personal choice around child care, work, vacation, and domestic duties? Have you unpacked your values and biases around these options? #wellness #family #care #healthy #nurture


Beautiful Summer

Easy breezy days of summer

Living in a country with four seasons is wonderful. Every three months the local climate and ecology changes in rather significant ways. It is truly a gift of nature to observe these changes on large and small scales. It seems as though a local urban street transforms from a dark cloudy and grey bland of autumn and spring to the glistening white snow of winter or sparkly colourful meadows of summertime. Breathing in beauty that surrounds us is restorative and healing. We all experience the healing powers of nature when we allow ourselves to sit along a peaceful shoreline or walk quietly along a wooded path.

Daily Wellness practices include small acts of attentiveness to the beauty that surrounds us. Summer blossoms invite us to notice colour, scents, and stunningly pleasing views that truly have therapeutic impact. So, take time to let go of your daily work related stresses and allow nature to lead you on a path of healing. Your heart and breathing rates will calm down as your sense of wonder and awe emerge. Beauty is naturally attractive. Allow yourself to experience the curative experience that nature holds, and notice the changes it has on your mood, relationships, and productivity. Enjoy your mindful walks this summer and soak in all the beauty that nature has in store.

How do you help your clients develop deliberate and mindful practices in nature? Do you infuse reflections about beauty in your clinical work? What are your own biases about beauty that may interfere with the healing potential of seasonal health? #wellness #healing #mindfulness #stillness #awe


Reflections on Freedom

July 4th is American Independence Day and a time to reflect upon what freedom means to you. There are several ways to think about your personal freedom and the impact of your behaviours and choices on the people in your life at home, work and in your community.

Healthy dialogue normally helps to minimize conflict or confusion over the choices you make. Where breakdowns in dialogue or relationships occur in relation to decisions you have made, it is likely that your attempts to communicate your perspectives, values, and needs have failed to align with the people who are most important to you.

Liberty is truly a golden gift that we hold dear to our hearts and protect with care.

What does it signify when your values, beliefs, and choices are restrained by individuals or organizations whose power reduces your personal liberty and the freedom to respectfully voice dissent?

At the risk of running into profound waters on my blog, I do believe is important for all of us to reflect on the American ideal of liberty and where the world might be without this ideal.

Since I am posting this reflection, I also believe that we are all responsible for social media, online presences, and the tone in which it is created, marketed, and shared. Some of what I have read online is shocking and distasteful. Businesses ought to know better and some have paid a price for ill conceived ads and value positions contrary to the average peacekeeping and law abiding citizen.

Certainly, people have a need to express negative opinions and anger, but never at the expense of hurting or harming other people, especially those most vulnerable.

Freedom of speech is foundational to my personal sense of self. Where I am unable to express to speak up about my own points of view or perspectives, I move on to environments that in my view foster healthier dialogues. Speak up as your opinion matters – it’s healthy and it works to clear up any misinformation, myths, or bad actors. My motto is, we all have our say, but not necessarily our way. It is never too late to be the change you wish to see!

Be well and happy independence day to our neighbours and friends.

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 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

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

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