At Path Forward Counselling we believe in what is called processed based counselling. This means that we believe in curiously and empathetically exploring the meaning behind your behaviours. The pace of this exploration is defined by you and what feels safe to you. The goal of this process based exploration is not to find some ultimate life changing answer (wouldn't that be nice), instead it is to foster an awareness of your process. It is about letting go of the outcomes that can feel constricting and moving toward informed choices. If you can begin to understand the "why" to your behaviour then you can make more informed choices to the "how" of change and growth.
This is what we mean when we say process based counselling. It is an exploration of the needs and desires that drive us. Some, with origins linked to Virginia Satir, have used an iceberg to demonstrate this. If you think of an iceberg you see the behaviours at the top, these can include substance use, relational problems, communication issues, anxiety, depression, trauma, self-esteem issues, identity issues, questions of meaning and purpose...the list can go on and on. Below these presenting concerns are the needs that drive us and what lies below the water level of the iceberg. These can been coping methods, feelings, thoughts, feelings about feeling (metaemotions), thoughts about thoughts (metacognition), expectations, needs, yearnings and core self. These layers are part of our make up and can be so hidden.
The exploration of these processes require both curiosity and courage. We have to be prepared to gently and curiously look below and then to courageously face parts that we may not like. Self-compassion throughout this process based counselling becomes very important, remember we are all human and have a process. There will be parts that we are proud of and others that may come with shame and guilt. This is not meant to foster shame, self-criticism or hatred rather it is to promote acceptance and integration of all aspect of our humanity. Exploring this process can be both liberating and terrifying. It comes with both joy and pain.
On the other side of the exploration is the potential to feel more in control through an understanding of why those old patterns continue to rise up and have us stuck in familiar places. In process based therapy we may discuss some skills to soothe, however, the majority of time and emphasis is placed on exploration so you can begin to feel in control of what lies beneath. The hope is through this deeper understanding of process, you can begin to see future steps that you want to take along your own chosen path. This may feel very different from those who experience life as something that just happens to them, frustrated by the never ending loop that leads to very similar endings. There is a different way of being than the "How did I end up here again".
Banmen, J. The Satir Model: Yesterday and Today. Contemporary Family Therapy 24, p. 11 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014365304082
Many individuals can experience symptoms associated with painful and traumatic circumstances. Counselling can help you understand the impacts of trauma. Through application and explanation of neuroscience, you can gain a more profound understanding of your brain and trauma. Through this understanding we shift the focus on what happened, to what is currently happening in the present moment with traumatic memory. This can begin the forming of a new skill set and an ability regulate your nervous system. Regulation of our nervous system gives us the clarity to safely begin to process traumatic events. This regulation is always the first step to counselling when dealing with trauma. If we can calm our minds and realize that the hippocampus (the brain's memory centre) has coded danger due to past dangerous events we begin to take hold of the process. When we are wired to survive our amygdala (the brain's fear centre) can quickly move us into a fight, flight, freeze or feign response. This can manifest in so many ways including bodily sensations, explosiveness, constantly feeling numb, dissociation, always feeling on edge, people pleasing, masking, high sensitivity and pushing people away. These are only some of the plethora of manifestations of trauma. Through grounding and resourcing we can begin to train new neuropathways to change those old automatic responses. The brain is resilient and has the ability to retrain itself through a process called neuroplasticity.
That is a lot of jargon to say traumatic events occur and you can change how you react to them in the present moment. Through the creation of a safe therapeutic relationship in a space that also begins to feel safe you can begin to slowly, at a comfortable pace, dip your toes in the water of training your brain to react in different ways. Humans are wired to survive and that survival brought you to this very moment, this survival as painful as it may have been can be celebrated. There comes a time where we may want, and/or for the first time can, move past that survival mode toward something more. Breaking traumatic patterns entails sitting with pain for the eventual joy of owning your trauma narrative. Post traumatic growth can be liberating, however we have to make space to grieve the loss of the person that once was. All of this we can do together as we forge a new path forward.
Stress, anxiety, fear and depression are some of the most common and uncomfortable states that we can experience at any point in our lives. Anxiety is a very human process that was designed to keep us alive. Unfortunately when we see danger in places where danger may not exist, the fire alarm of survival is malfunctioning and anxiety becomes problematic. If we are constantly in a state of fight or flight this can be draining and eventually contribute to fatigue and a loss of motivation. States of long-term activation and stress can eventually lead to depression along with a variety of other symptoms. We at Path Forward Counselling Vancouver like to look at the meaning behind the behavior or what we like to call process based counselling. Of course, we can provide you with grounding exercises and methods to regulate your system, however, if it was that easy then a simple google search of grounding exercises may have helped. This pattern is one that you may have been experiencing for a long time, so exploring the meaning behind the behaviour becomes an important piece.
Uncertainty is one of the main fuel sources of anxiety, the problem is that life is uncertain. Learning to tolerate uncertainty becomes a very important skill set in regulating anxiety. The mind loves certainty so much that we can create all-or-nothing thoughts and fall into black and white thinking distortions just to find relief. This rigidity long-term does not help and there is another way. Through an artfully blended approach to therapy, we can work to discover the meaning behind the behaviour and build resources to move away from all-or-nothing thinking to a more balanced flexible approach that helps us tackle all the shades of grey of life. The paradox is that the only certainty of life is change and so learning to navigate the uncertainties of life's changes becomes a skillset worth it's weight in gold. Process based counselling can be the start of grasping the skillset of tolerating uncertainty.
Neurodevelopmental "Disorders" such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity "Disorder" and Autism Spectrum "Disorder" can signify a different way of thinking and being in the world. Note that I put the word "disorders" in parentheses because I practice from a neurodiversity affirming framework. Instead of viewing neurodiversity as a disordered way of being, my view is that they are simply different ways of being. Neurodiversity like diversity in general is something that is good for this world, as diversity brings a plethora of different ways of being that can be wonderful teachers toward growth as a species. Being "neurotypical" if that actually exists also comes with many strengths and weaknesses. The struggle normally comes from the world being built for the "neurotypical" mind and pushing conformity on those that sway from the myth of "normal".
The pressure to conform can really harm many individuals and families of those with ADHD and autism. It is important to build a support network that understands neurodiversity and can make accommodations as needed. Again beginning to understand how different minds work can be a powerful tool.
At Path Forward Counselling we do not diagnose. If you are seeking a diagnoses I encourage you to check in with a family doctor, walk in clinic or if private pay is an option book an assessment with a psychologist. Outside of diagnosing, if you have a diagnoses or self-identify then counselling can be helpful.
For those ADHDer's in the world life can feel very overwhelming. The irony is that it is called attention deficit when many experience it as an attention overload. Everything can catch your attention and all of a sudden you may have jumped around 6 different tasks. This at times has been described as a flow state and one which leads to focused attention and creativity. At other times this can lead to an immense desire to not engage with certain material, burnout, exhaustion, hopelessness and overwhelm. In those moments it is important to understand that assistance in grounding and executive function may be necessary, along with some time to recharge. Conformity and productivity culture may not reward the rest, however, not resting can lead to tremendous lows. This high level of stimulation can bypass the frontal lobe and the executive functioning that comes with it. This is why working with a therapist can help to provide one extra safe where you might be able to recharge.
For the autistics out there I want to say that I commend you as I can only imagine how much energy being in this world with so many people and social demands can require. Understanding the needs of others and the expectation placed on you can seem like a giant mountain. Some may try to mask and please those around them, while others may avoid completely. The spectrum is broad and there are so many different manifestations. Working with a clinical counsellor can help with practicing social interactions with a safe person. It can also be an assistance in decoding the social world and all of the thoughts, and thoughts about thoughts, that you may be struggling with. Living in a world that is not designed for the autistic mind, I'd imagine at bare minimum is tiring and at other moments can be completely overwhelming. Finding spaces where you can just be and share becomes important. Clinical counselling can be a step in creating space where you can recharge your battery and begin to create a community of people that might be able to get it just a little better.
For those who have a formal diagnoses, my services may be covered by autism funding under individual counselling or family counselling. You would have to submit a request form to autism funding to determine eligibility.
Path Forward Counselling believes in a harm reduction and trauma informed approach to dealing with various forms of substance, electronic and pornography misuse. All of these things, and others, can serve as a masking of that which is underneath. When the weight of society becomes to heavy we can being to self-medicate, distract and numb out through the use of various substances and activities. This has been a way many have coped for a long time. The question to ask is whether this is the way you would like to continue coping. If you are looking for different ways to cope and are curious around replacement behaviours then Path Forward Counselling can help.
We believe that behind these various forms of misuse lies a story. Normally there is something that you have been holding on to for a long time. Something that may feel deeply suppressed. In working with clients that experience substance misuse there often is a moment where a deeply painful narrative emerges. This can take time as sharing this narrative requires a trusted person. Building trust with a counsellor is the first step.
Once trust is established in the Vancouver counselling space or online counselling space then we can begin to process what is beneath. These can be powerful narratives that have been hidden for so long. We move at your pace and you get to share what feels comfortable. If you do feel safe enough to share, we will feel honored to listen. The dopamine released from substance and other misuse can provide a reward that masks that deep seated pain. This masking can be a way to survive and the body is built to survive. Some become tired of the cycle of pleasure and pain that comes from the dopamine release and want to find a different way. If this is you, we are here to support you with that step.
The only model of recovery which we follow is that which is defined by you. You are the expert in the balance that will work for you and we will walk beside you along that journey. At times it can feel like we are so far from being experts and Path Forward Counselling Vancouver can help in unlocking that inner wisdom that we have been disconnected from.
The Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP) provides benefits to Victims of violent crime in accordance with the Crime Victim Assistance Act and its regulations. The program may also provide benefits to Immediate Family Members of an injured or deceased victim of crime, as well as Witnesses to the crime with a close personal relationship to the victim.
CVAP is funded by the BC Government and covers the cost of counselling. Path Forward counselling is registered with CVAP and offers free counselling to those who qualify.
To see if you qualify for CVAP or if you require more information on whether you are eligible for this benefit please go to the CVAP website:
In addition to in office sessions all services can also be provided through our online video platform. Online counselling is held on an encrypted platform which is compliant with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) in BC. Before beginning you will be required to review an informed consent form outlining the risks and benefits of using technology for video counselling.
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