Get to Know Your Counsellor
Hello! My name is Heather and I am grateful you found your way here. Here are some common questions that come up in an initial consultation.
What is your professional background?
I am a Registered Clinical Counsellor with BCACC and a Professional Art Therapist with BCATA. I have my Master in Counselling Psychology: Art Therapy. I serve on British Columbia Art Therapy Association’s Executive Board as Membership Chair. I have fifteen years of experience working with children, adults, and families. I have worked in different roles in private residences, in private and public-school settings, in assisted living residences, and in a women’s center. I currently work at a mental health and addiction in-patient treatment center. In my private practice I see clients online and in-person in my office in downtown Vancouver, BC.
What kind of extra or specialized training do you have?
- San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training
- First Responder Health: Level I: Understanding Emergency Worker Trauma
- First Responder Health: Level II: Specialized Understanding of Emergency Worker Trauma
- Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person (In Progress)
Why did you become a counsellor?
Psychology has always been intriguing to me and I was consistently fascinated by people’s actions and wanted to understand why people responded in certain ways. I was curious to know what they were thinking and why. I especially wanted to know how to help people who felt lost, alone, sad, or overwhelmed. This deep desire to connect with and help others has led me along this path to become a counsellor.
Why did you become an art therapist?
In order to facilitate my own healing I found engaging in creative pursuits to be profoundly supportive. I would paint even though I was not a skilled painter. I would collage even though I had no idea what I was doing. And I would write often even though I did not consider myself a writer. I would engage in expressive writing in the form of poetry or storytelling. I found the healing I experienced through creativity to be so powerful that I kept that memory with me. Many years later as an adult I found art therapy or it found me. The marrying of psychology and the creative process set my heart on fire and led me to become an art therapist.
What have you learned from being a counsellor?
Through my experience, I have witnessed people’s numerous strengths. They are kind, resilient, brave, and hopeful. People have a desire for love and genuine connection. Sometimes, though, people find themselves feeling lost, alone, unsupported and forget how strong they are. It can be challenging to move forward when these emotions come up and seem to want to stay. My role is to work alongside with you and help support you rediscover your inner resources in order to alleviate thoughts and emotions that are inhibiting feelings of connection, fulfillment, and joy. It is a privilege to walk with someone along their path for a moment in time and I feel grateful for the invitation to do so. I could not imagine doing any other kind of work.
What types of clients do you work with?
I work with teens, adults, and older adults on an individual basis who come in with a wide variety of concerns they are dealing with. I also hold small group workshop sessions that promote healing with community. I am passionate about working with fellow empaths and highly sensitive people to help them learn to ground and balance their energy in a world that can seem overwhelming at times. I identify both as an empath and highly sensitive person and I know how challenging it can be to navigate in a world as a person who feels so much. After much of my own personal work, I have learned to overcome the challenges and embrace the advantages that come from being a highly sensitive person.
What is your cultural background?
I come from a very beautifully mixed background. The ethnicities included in my background are: Black, Japanese, Indigenous, German, and Chinese. I believe in supporting the BIPOC community and promoting mental health for communities that are underserved.
What are your beliefs around religion/spirituality?
Although I was baptized in a Catholic church and went to Catholic school, I do not identify with any religion. I do consider myself to be a spiritual person and believe in something greater than myself and I use terms like universe or energy to describe that unknown. I respect others’ beliefs around religion and spirituality and ask for that same respect in return.
What is your approach to counselling?
I work from a person-centered, strengths based, trauma informed approach. Establishing safety and trust is always a priority when working with clients; without safety and trust therapy will not be successful. I also work from an intuitive and holistic perspective and believe in supporting the mind, body, soul connection and understand how one can impact the whole. I have a collaborative approach to counselling. Clients and I set goals/intentions for therapy together. I want clients to feel empowered to speak up because what they have to say does matter. Sessions are led by clients and my role is to help guide and support the client. When clients come into session, I respect where they are and help them get to where they would like to go. I recognize and value each client as a unique individual and all my offered treatment suggestions are dependent on the client.
Do you take notes during session?
Yes. Some clients don’t care but some clients find it distracting. I always tell clients I’m literally taking notes on what they say and nothing else. It’s part of my process to help my clients. I wouldn’t be an effective counsellor if I did not. I take my notes home; review them; and come up with treatment suggestions based on what a client has said. At the end of the day there is no way I would remember what every single client has said to me. I also take notes because many times a client will say something very profound but I don’t want to interrupt their own process so I’ll write it down so I can revisit it later in session. Clients have so much more wisdom than they realize. And what I have witnessed many times over is that they don’t hear what they are saying until I highlight it for them. So yes, notes are one my therapeutic tools I use to help clients.
What are your expectations from clients?
Definitely mutual respect is always ideal. I also want my clients to feel they can be honest with me. If a treatment suggestion does not work, it’s okay to say so. Often, we find what works by finding out what does not work so open communication is important. I also expect a certain level of commitment. Therapy is work and it’s not easy work. It involves arriving on time, coming to sessions regularly, avoiding no-shows, and communicating when you cannot make it in. We do a lot of work in our sessions together but if a client wants to actually see change they are responsible for doing the work outside of session as well. And I always ask what expectations clients have of me because that is just as important.
What should a client know about counselling?
Therapy can bring up a lot of heavy stuff. And sometimes clients have no idea what has been buried in their subconscious until they see a counsellor. A client can come in for one thing and all of a sudden we find all this other stuff that has been affecting them but has manifested as this one thing. So, really, things can get worse before they get better. This is why a commitment to the process is important. I don’t ever want a client to leave and not come back after we have opened up a wound without offering some kind of closure; that has the potential to be very traumatic. It’s absolutely okay if a client is not ready for therapy at any point in the process but let the counsellor know so they can wrap things up for you in a safe way.
Is there anything else a prospective client should know about you?
I’m a person first before anything else. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I can say the wrong thing. I’ve had my own mental health struggles. I understand what it’s like to be in that darkness filled with dark moments and dark thoughts and not be able to see a way out. And the thing is I’ve managed to come through those moments (with help) so the darkness doesn’t scare me. I can sit with someone who is going through something dark, hard, and seemingly impossible and be at ease with them. You can tell me anything without fear of judgment from me. I’m here to offer compassion and understanding. I’m here to offer a safe space while I sit with you in the dark and maybe help you find a little light.
Detailed information on different counselling techniques I incorporate into my work with clients. The types of therapy used are dependent on what the client needs.
- Person-Centered: Developing safety and trust is essential in our work together. You get to decide how and when our journey unfolds. My role is to support you in achieving your goals. As your therapist I will be genuine, empathetic, and non-judgmental.
- Strength-Based: Focusing on internal strengths and resources can help to empower you and elevate self confidence and positive thoughts and emotions.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is not just about meditating – that is just one part of the greater picture. Practicing mindfulness is about learning to be present. It is about focusing on one experience that is happening in the present moment.
- Somatic: Somatic therapy is a holistic therapy that studies the relationship between the mind and body in regard to psychological past. I believe in looking at the whole person – mind, body, and soul in order to facilitate healing at all levels.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helping people see the relationship between beliefs, thoughts, and feelings and how those impact people’s decisions and actions. The goal then becomes to restructure or reframe those beliefs, thoughts, and feelings in order to create new perspectives and understandings which lead to positive outcomes.
- Art Therapy: Works with the creative process to help people develop self-awareness, explore emotions, address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-esteem.
- Dreamwork: Describes the exploration and incorporation of dreams in psychotherapy. Modern dreamwork models hold true to the tenet that any meaning one can pull from a dream should be personal to the dreamer. Mental health professionals who integrate dreamwork into their practice often use it to help people problem solve, gain self-awareness, or improve overall well-being.
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