My approach draws on and is informed by various frameworks, theories, and modalities, including those found below.
Narrative Therapy is a collaborative, strengths-based approach that allows us to identify and change the stories we tell about ourselves in a way that improves our mental well-being. Our identities are complex, layered, and founded on stories that we tell about our cumulative experiences. The narratives we hold about ourselves influence the way we feel, think, and behave. The narratives we tell about ourselves may become filled with issues and problems. For example, your story may repeatedly describe you as a failure. As you focus on this story, you may start selecting and prioritizing life experiences that support and strengthen the narrative that casts you in a negative, failure light. All the while, you may also ignore other experiences and characteristics that could be used to construct a different story about yourself.
Narrative Therapy allows us to critically examine storylines in our lives that may be filled with problems and hardship; thoughts, feelings, and memories that are saturated with issues and become self-defining. Narrative Therapy is meant to support you in creating awareness of how you may be prioritizing certain narratives over others as well as providing you with the capacity to re-author your own life narrative and find new meaning of life experiences.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the cognitive model: the way that we perceive a situation is more closely connected to our reactions than to the situation itself. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour are all interconnected; our thoughts influence our feelings, which influences our coping mechanisms (behaviour).
CBT is meant to help us change our unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviour, a well as identify when we are thinking factually vs. when we are making assumptions. The hope is that through using CBT techniques, we will learn to transform our negative thoughts into more realistic thoughts or positive thoughts.
Our emotions and automatic responses are played out in the theatre of the body. We can see this in our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, tension, and other physical sensations. We also might notice this by how “gut-wrenching” some emotions can be. Our nervous systems are shaped by experience and develop habitual response patterns. Awareness of our nervous systems can be an important first step in regulating our emotions.
Integrating somatic (bodily) awareness and regulation strategies means taking a “bottom-up” approach to working with strong sensations, whereas talk therapy provides a “top-down” approach. In our work together, we may deepen our understanding of the body’s nervous systems and develop strategies to emotionally regulate through physical awareness and practices.
Psychoeducation refers to the provision of evidence-based education, information, and resources. Some examples of psychoeducation include information on how trauma affects our bodies and brains, different attachment styles, understanding what emotions are, stress management strategies, how anxiety works, and what boundaries are. Oftentimes, this information supports us to better understand our experiences while other times the ideas don’t resonate for us. Either outcome is welcome and normal. Therapy is a collaborative process where the therapist and client together determine what ideas support a client’s journey to meet their goals.
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Mindfulness is an emotional resource that involves engaging in a moment-by-moment, non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and behaviours/impulses to act. Mindfulness allows us to identify our feelings, reduce the negative impact of difficult thoughts, understand ourselves better, enhance mental flexibility, and find moments of stillness. Mindfulness can be integrated formally and informally in therapy.
Self-Compassion is an emotional resource that involves providing ourselves with the same compassion to ourselves that we give to others during hard times. Self-compassion is a kind of acceptance. Acceptance usually refers to what is happening to us – accepting a feeling or thought – self-compassion is acceptance of the person to whom it’s happening – ourselves. It’s acceptance of ourselves while we are going through hard times. When we deny our feelings, minimize our experience, or criticize ourselves, we suffer even more. Self-compassion is one way that we may experience emotional relief. Self-compassion is a tool that can be drawn on in various therapeutic modalities and treatment approaches.
Intersectional Feminist and Anti-Oppressive Framework
A Feminist Framework is an overarching lens from which to understand ourselves and our society. Intersectional Feminism examines how various overlapping parts of our identities impact our experiences of discrimination, privilege, and our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Anti-Oppression recognizes the oppression and privilege that exists in our society, attempts to minimize the effects of discrimination, and works to equalize the power imbalance. An Oppressive approach identifies how larger social issues impact our mental well-being and the therapeutic relationship.