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ADHD in Adults and the Power of Art

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ADHD in Adults and The Power of Art

Art therapy, a specialization in the field of psychotherapy, is both an ancient and emerging specialization in the area of metal health. While there has not been as much research in art therapy quantitatively as in other specializations, it is clear to those working in the field that art therapy is beneficial to a number of diverse populations. In my experience art therapy is an especially effective and beneficial way to help adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Through working with art, adults with ADHD seem to experience a positive shift in the way they relate to themselves and understand themselves. In addition, working with art seems to help adults with ADHD experientially learn self-regulation, connect with their feelings and emotions and practice mindfulness.

Through creating art individuals learn to express their hopes, dreams, fears, and triggers, through a medium that does not rely on verbal language. Although often in sessions we will discuss the art and sometimes even talk to the art, the art making itself is a fundamental part of the process. Most art therapists can relate when I say that art shifts something in the psyche. Modern counselling and psychotherapy often demands detailed explanations as to why we are using particular interventions, what their rates of success are, and what their validity scores are. This sort of data collection seems so distant from the therapy and research that I want to engage in, and yet I understand why it is necessary.
           

To promote the efficacy of art therapy we need more careful and thoughtful research regarding all aspects of the field. This paper is not a research paper; rather, it is a sharing of what I have experienced and of what I hope will be researched more thoroughly in the future. The act of engaging with art changes people. The act of working with and creating art changes people. I can posture a number of reasons why I think this is the case, but I cannot say that I know what happens, just that there is something that happens. In the future it would be beneficial for the art therapy community to explore quantitative how art making changes the brain and how it changes our experience of ourselves and the world we live in.
           

Through my work with adults who have an ADHD diagnosis, I have recognized that art is an excellent way for these individuals to be able to express what they are feeling and to explore their emotions. Individuals with this diagnosis are usually hyper-sensitive, which means they feel things in ways that might not make sense to those who are less sensitive, in fact feelings and emotions can be so visceral that they may even feel physically painful.
          

  For an individual with ADHD sadness can feel so intense that it can feel like a sword in one’s stomach, and while talking about this image might be helpful, I have found that it is often even more beneficial to paint the sensation or the image. Somatic therapy can be useful with this as well, however focusing on the body during an emotional take-over can be challenging. By providing a safe space, and art materials I have found that one can encourage the client to connect with their feelings and emotions and really start to come into relationship with them.
           

Often clients seem to be in a battle with their feelings and emotions, which stagnates growth and healing. In order to start to welcome in their feelings and emotions the client must first come into a conscious relationship with them. The art experience allows the internal to become external, which allows the client to connect more deeply with themselves and come into relationship with their feelings and emotions. This relationship is important for regulation as it is hard to regulate an emotion if you cannot recognize what it is and why it has shown up. Likewise, a feeling which is a conscious experience; whereas, an emotion can be conscious or unconscious, cannot be worked with effectively if the client has not come into relationship with it. An individual who refuses to acknowledge, or tries to repress their feelings or emotions, cannot regulate them.

The art process is important, and I feel must be somewhat planned. Creative accidents are also important, however if they do not have a container, they can be dangerous.  I like to prepare for the intense emotions and feelings that are to be welcomed into the room, knowing that more like than not that they will demand attention and want to take up space.  When working with clients one never knows what will come into the therapy office that day. By being prepared, and have a space set up to contain that which might arise we set ourselves up to be more regulated and more present for our clients.
          

  I prepare by setting up the art table, which is ritualistic and is generally set up in the same way every session. This provides comfort and safety for clients who might be sensitive to change. The table is set up with pencils if the client needs to be able to erase, pencil crayons if they need to feel the intensity of the pencil on paper, watercolors if they feel drawn to something  fluid and less controlled, markers if they feel the need for intensity,  pastels if they need to create something smooth and vibrant, and crayons if they need to be able to grip something hard and bear down upon the paper.
           

 I always give my clients at least 3 different sizes of paper to choose from. The paper is usually watercolor paper, and I try to have different grains available. It is amazing how much one can be drawn to a different type of paper depending on the emotion being experienced. By having these materials set out the client does not have to worry about what to choose and does not risk over thinking and therefore losing the intensity of the moment. The paper allows for a quick and easy choice. Paper is disposable and people seem to feel more comfortable using it. Some clients are so worried about using the materials incorrectly or of “ruining” the materials that their anxiety takes over the initial feeling we were working with. This is a great opportunity to create safety with the client. I like to tell my clients, “I might give you a directive but when you get to this table (the art table) there are no rules-other than please don’t eat the crayons!”
           

When the paper is chosen I always ask the client to put some masking tape on the paper as borders, this is a magical ritual I learned from Janine Ray at Bring to Balance Inc. Boarders contain the art, meaning that whatever is inside the border is safe and secure. Borders also protect the art, meaning that nothing from outside can penetrate the art. This is very important when working with intense emotions. For instance, when a client draws how it feels to be sad, there are usually tears and the piece is usually very emotionally charged. The piece can represent the ultimate vulnerable moment, a glimpse into what that person is truly feeling inside. Sometimes the image can be shocking to both the therapist and the client, which is why I feel that the containment of both the office set up and the borders are vital.
           

The borders protect the image, and they keep us safe from the image. When the client feels that the image is done we might reflect on the image, sit with the image, talk with the image, or go into the image. When the client feels ready, and the piece is dry, I invite them to take off the borders. On a practical note is very important to use painters tape and to first stick that tape onto your pants or shirt (in an appropriate way!) to make it less sticky. I usually hand my clients pieces of tape for this purpose. It can be quite devastating to take off the borders only to have the paper come away with the tape. If the borders are taken off safely the image looks incredibly pristine, almost as if it has just been framed, which in a way it has. I have yet to see a client not react in awe at how their image looks after the borders are taken off. There seems to come a newfound respect for their art and for their relationship to its creation. Even if the client is unsatisfied with the piece, generally their un-satisfaction will lessen to some degree once the borders are removed.
        
Exploring feelings and/or emotions with art is a great way for clients to feel understood and to start to make friends with their deep, often very intense feelings and emotions. For people who are hypersensitive, which is most individuals with ADHD, it can feel like you are fighting a battle with your intense feelings. Befriending those feelings and emotions, instead of battling them is important for self-knowledge and emotional regulation. It’s easy to think that anger is an emotion that should be battled with, when really it is a feeling that has a lot to say and often needs to express something that hasn’t been able to be expressed. When clients learn to dialogue with their feelings and emotions through images they learn to slow down and ask why they might be feeling a certain way.       

The act of art is an act of mindfulness so not only are clients learning emotional regulation, but they are also practicing mindfulness skills which have been shown to be incredibly beneficial for individuals with ADHD. Notice how in just one therapeutic art activity, the client is learning emotional regulation, connecting to their emotions and feelings, and practicing mindfulness-and all of this is experiential learning, which is, in my experience, the best type of learning.       

  In conclusion, it is my experience that under the right circumstances and done in a thoughtful, therapeutic space, art allows for the experiential learning of emotional regulation, coping mechanisms, and mindfulness. Additionally, art allows clients to come into relationship with their feelings and emotions in a safe and contained manner. For adults diagnosed with ADHD art can provide an outlet for the expression of emotions and feelings in a way that other mediums simply cannot provide due to the sheer intensity of the emotions and feelings experienced.  
           
Although art therapists know that simply creating art is healing, there is still little understanding of why this is. Hence, it would be beneficial for the art therapy community to investigate with quantitatively means, if possible, how our brains change and respond to art making, and why art seems to be able to profoundly shift our experience of the world.


*Please do not use any of this paper without first asking my permission

Why Does Art Therapy Cost So Much?

Art Therapists are generally not cheap when it comes to our hourly rate. The rate for Art therapy is generally around $100-$180/50 minutes. This can seem quite high if you don’t understand everything that goes into the 50 minutes you see your therapist for.

Are we trying to make a ton of money from mental health problems? Not most of us. In fact, our rates are quite low considering what is needed to prepare for sessions, what is needed after sessions, and what is needed between sessions.  I wrote this article to demonstrate the extra things that go on in order to make your 50-minute session exist. This article is not meant to shame in any sort of way. Most Art Therapists have a sliding scale because we understand that it can be hard to pay for therapy. However, if you were ever wondering if our high prices are justified, I hope this article helps clarify just how much work goes in to creating that 50-minute session.

 Preparing For Sessions

Education:
In order to be certified with the BCACC or the CCPA you must have a masters degree in counselling. Certification is important as it maintains a minimum baseline of knowledge that each certified counselor must have. A masters degree costs a decent amount these days, let alone the amount of time it take to complete.

Supervision:
Most therapists engage in supervision at least once a month. We are not required to do so; however, it is seen as unethical by many practitioners not to do so. A supervisor is someone who has been practicing much longer than you and someone you can discuss your cases confidentially with. Without supervision we would not question our methods. Supervisors help with business, with clients, and with therapist well-being. Supervision costs anywhere from $70/hour to $200/hour.

Mental Acuity:
Our bodies react to your bodies and vice versa; hence, it is important for an Art Therapist to continuously work on lowering their threshold to anxiety and distress. This is different for everyone; however, for me it means daily meditation, dream journaling or creating art, and attending to my physical needs via horse back riding, aikido, or forest walks. This takes up quite a bit of time in my week and yet it is something I consider ethically imperative in order to be fully present for clients and to resist any triggering that might occur during our sessions.  Taking time to work on my own relationship with anxiety and various other mental dis-eases is not optional as a therapist; rather, it is an ethical responsibility.

Space:
Art Therapist generally rent an office space and they buy and maintain their own supplies. This means that before our session I gently place all of the art supplies in their particular spots, I make sure the pencils are sharpened, that the brushes are clean, and that there is an ample amount of paper and painters tape. When I am not writing notes, I am usually cutting paper into various shapes, cleaning the office, restocking tea, or doing something similar.

What is Needed After Sessions

Clean up:
Art therapist are responsible for making sure their art space is clean and tidy, that the brushes are clean, and that supplies are ample and in good repair.

Notes:
Certified counsellors and therapists must write notes regarding their sessions with clients. These notes need to be locked away in a filing cabinet or kept securely in another manner.

Letting go:
Before the next session begins, I always take time to breath and let the previous session go. This can be very difficult after a particularly hard or taxing session. I will revisit any triggers the session had for me after all the clients have gone and I can take the time I need to reflect, process, and release. Taking in stories is a blessing; however, some stories can be very heavy and need extra time to process. This processing often also takes place during supervision. Therapists have a hard time leaving work at the office because part of the process of therapy involves understanding our own response to the client’s session. In other words, your session doesn’t end after 50 minutes, rather it keeps peculating in both your own psyche and in the therapists psyche.

In-between Sessions

Scheduling:
In order to keep everything running smoothly I must schedule clients according to all of our schedules. This means I work late on Sunday nights in order to provide one night a week that is available for clients that is outside of regular work hours. I must also make sure I schedule in enough time to eat, change paint water, and have forms ready for new clients. Scheduling happens every day at almost all hours of the day. I do my best to be there for my clients when they need me and to respond to their emails, texts, and calls, within 24 hours.

Business:
My private practice is run by myself, my accountant, and many other individuals who help me work and grow. However, the brunt of the work falls on my shoulders. In-between sessions I am the one updating my website, keeping up with privacy and confidentiality laws, creating invoices, sending out receipts, as well as answering emails, and questions from prospective, current, and past clients. In addition, I am often working on future workshops, updating policy forms, or networking with other health practitioners.

Continuing Education:
I am registered with the CCPA which means I must take a certain number of courses every 3 years in order to keep my certification. When I am not seeing clients, I am often attending online seminars, or continuing my education via classes or conferences.

Mental Health:
As I mentioned before, listening to the amazing stories my clients share about their lives can take a toll. Compassion fatigue is always a danger when you are a therapist and it is important to tune in to your body and mind in order to avoid over taxing yourself. Many therapists, including myself, see other therapists in addition to supervision. Finding time to schedule in your own therapy appointment can take some work; however, it is vitally important to take care of your own mental health when you are working with mental health almost every day.

I hope this gave you a bit more insight into why we charge the amount we charge, and as to why most of us can only see a certain number of clients per week.  Being an Art Therapist can be exhausting, and yet it is also the most amazing career for those that are called to it. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions please feel free to send me an email at cammi@creativeconnectiontherapy.ca

Thank you for existing!

-Cammi

Healthy Relationship Exercises

                          Healthy Relationship Exercises

               Many of these concepts are based off of the work of the Gottmans and James Hollis.

1) Be kind to each other. Say at least 3 nice things to your partner every day until it becomes habit. These should be genuine and the intention behind the words should be to show love and appreciation.

e.g. “I really appreciate the way you make the bed every morning” or, “I like the way you hold the door for strangers.”

2) Encourage your partner.  Praise and encouragement are different. Praise has no back ground (e.g. You are so great! Good job!”), whereas encouragement offers a reason for the compliment (e.g.  “I think you are so great because of the way you manage to work full time and run your side business” or, “wow, I really think you did a lovely job of painting the fence, the paint is even and precise.”). Encouragement is specific and feels good.

3) Kiss your partner for more than 5 seconds once a day! A kiss is a powerful thing. Honor each other and take time for a proper kiss!

4) Try to solve problems together, not against each other. Ask yourself, what is the problem? Is it actually a problem? What will it look like when it is solved? How will I feel when it is solved? How can I help my partner with their problem?  If you can’t imagine what it will look like when the problem is solved there is a chance that your problem is not an external problem, but rather an internal issue. In this case it might be helpful to review the situation and ask yourself what you are really upset about. What would have to happen for you to feel better? Why would it work to help you feel better? Usually the root of the issue can be found from there, but if not it might be helpful to talk to professional.

5) Go out on a date at least once a week
. Leave the phones at home. Connect with your partner!

6) Work on your friendship
. The basis for a great intimate relationship is friendship. Do things together, go out with others together. Respect each other. Ask yourself, “Would I treat a friend this way?”

7) Respond to bids for attention. If your partner asks you a question answer them. If you need some time to yourself let your partner know. It is important to respond to your partner and treat them with respect.

8) You are a team, come up with a team motto together.


9) Go out with other healthy people in healthy relationships.
Who you surround yourself with influences how you work within the world. Surround yourself with happy, healthy, people.

10) Be an individual
. You must still develop your own psyche and work on the things you want to work on.  If you become too enmeshed you loose yourself and could start to resent your partner. Be two individuals who choose to be together.

Making Your Heart Sing

(On Doing and Being)

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Knowing what makes your heart sing and seeking out new things that contribute to that lovely song is incredibly important in this age of doing.  When you feel joy, and your heart is singing you are BEING. You are in the moment, you are here and it is the most lovely feeling.

New Image34When we find joy in our lives we do well to slow down and enjoy it! Joy is such a gift, and we deserve to enjoy it to the fullest extent when we find it. Some people feel joy and move past it, feeling it briefly but needing to move on to do more and more. Instead of sitting and appreciating joy they only let themselves experience a tiny portion of its magic. Many of these individuals experience sadness and feelings of guilt if they stop doing because they have been taught that doing is what leads to happiness and joy. Doing is important, but these individuals are so busy doing that they have a hard time being.

As with everything balance is the key. We must be mindful of how much doing we are engaging in and make sure we balance it with healthy dose of being.

pexels-photo-747964.jpegHow much DOING is happening in your life right now? Are you listening when your heart sings? Are you balancing your DOING with BEING? And if not, can you find ways to balance these two things out, knowing you deserve to feel the full extent of joy when it happens?

 

 

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Much love to you! Thank you for existing.

-Cammi

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Art Therapy?

What makes art therapy such a game changer in the world of counselling?

Firstly…Why Therapy?

Almost all types of therapy are useful if they are conducted with the right person and in an ethical manner (meaning the therapist is qualified, maintains confidentiality and is genuinely interested in helping you).

Therapy allows for a safe space in which we can discuss ourselves, our insights, our private thoughts, and our deepest desires. A good therapist can help us learn how to best help ourselves. Therapy is an amazing experience in itself,or should be, so why bring art into the mixture?

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What is Art Therapy?

Art can be worked with in therapy in at least two different ways: Art Therapy and art used with therapy.

Art therapy is very different from art used with therapy. Art used with therapy is therapy that uses art as a tool. This type of therapy is often practiced by counsellors without additional art therapy training. This can be helpful for clients; however, it should not be thought of as Art Therapy. Art used with therapy usually involves clients using art and artistic tools for specific exercises. For instance, I believe that the art exercise that involves a client drawing a pie-chart of their emotional needs is art being used with therapy. In the same sense, a client drawing a zentangle during session to help feel calm who does not explore the  possible meanings behind the art is, I would argue, using the art as a tool.

An art therapist, a person who is trained in art therapy, is always mindful of the fact thatimg_1129 the client and the therapist work with art to gain insight rather than using art. I personally believe that the process of working with art can facilitate amazing insight, help heal very old emotional wounds, and often leads to profound insight during sessions. During a session an art therapist may have the client work on a specific art exercise, or may have the client simply create whatever comes to mind. Sometimes the session involves talking about different art the client has experienced. One of the most  important elements of Art Therapy comes from exploring the connection created through the art. What does the art tell us about our self? How does the art represent our inner thoughts and emotions? Why do we feel so connected with certain art pieces?

Why is Art Therapy Amazing?

Art is everywhere, and is thus relatable for everyone. Art crosses cultural barriers, language barriers, and gender barriers.   Working with art during a therapy session allows for the client to express the inexpressible.  Have you ever tried to explain how you feel and been unable to do so? Art allows you to express that feeling without words.

For example, the image below was used to express the feeling of hope-or something akin to hope. The feeling itself couldn’t be verbally explained, however this is how I felt at the time.

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Art has an uncanny way of unblocking creative expression and creative problem solving abilities, which is incredibly useful for those working with depression and/or anxiety.  A bit of art everyday keeps us moving creatively. I often ask my clients to try to create one thing every day between sessions. For the clients that adhere to this homework there are usually profound shifts in the way they view the world, how they solve problems at work and at home, and often a shift in how vivid their dreams become. For the clients who work with me long-term, the sketch book becomes a visual diary of our sessions and the work they have done. It is extremely gratifying to return to an image from a difficult time and thank it for its help. It is also amazing to witness the power these images have for both the client and the therapist that has the privilege of working with them.

Are you interested in Art Therapy? Do you have questions about Art Therapy?
Feel free to send us an email or come in for a free consult. We are always more than happy to talk about the amazing powers of art!

Thank you for existing!

-Cammi

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(Cammi is an Art Therapist and Canadian Certified Counsellor who has a private practice in Vancouver, BC and also works with clients online.)

How Can I Make Friends in Vancouver?

This is a question I am asked over and over again. It seems that Vancouver, one of the trendiest, most beautiful places in Canada has a big problem with connection. People just can’t seem to find the friends they are looking for.

There are many possible reasons for this phenomenon. Possibly it’s because of the transient nature of the people that inhabit the city, or maybe it’s because of the high living costs (which often lead to overworking). I’m not entirely sure why Vancouver has this problem, but I do have some suggestions for those that are looking to connect with like-minded people.

1) Check out meetups! Meetups are usually free, happen often, and are geared towards helping individuals meet like-minded people. Interested in art? Check out our meetup group: “Art For Connection” (we also have a Dream Exploration meetup group!)

2) Go to some of the many free events Vancouver is host to. These events are advertised on Facebook and Eventbright. You are more likely to find people you will connect with at events you are interested in!

3) Join a community class. Vancouver’s many community centres offer everything from yoga to Italian cooking lessons! These are a great way to learn something new and meet new people!

4) Get a dog-or borrow a dog! Vancouver is a strangely dog oriented city. Off leash parks are some of the best places to meet new folks! This only works if you actually like dogs though.

What are your best “meeting friends in Vancouver” tips?

5 Books Worth Gifting!

largeOn this Journey We Call Our Life: Living the Questions
By: James Hollis

A lovely book exploring the first and second half of life and the questions we must ask ourselves regarding both. James Hollis has a prolific way of speaking, and an ability to challenge the unique individual in us all. In this book Hollis calls us to the task of being our best self.

True Love: A Practice For Awakening the Heart
By: Thich Nhat Hanh

A beautifully written book by internationally known Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.This book explores four aspects of love from a Buddhist perspective and provides many meaningful stories and anecdotes to help understand the teachings. I have given  many copies of this book to individuals over the years. This books is a lovely
reminder of how much choice we have in how we show our love and
affection for others.

The Artists Way
By: Julia B. Cameron

This book takes you on a creativity boosting adventure! Julia Cameron guides the reader through different exercises meant to help with creativity, self-love, and confidence while also explaining the importance of cherishing and supporting the inner artist in us all.
This book has been incredibly helpful to so many different people in
my life, including myself! I often find myself going back to certain
exercises or practices I learned in the Artists Way. In fact, many of
these practices have become a regular routine in my life!

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
By: Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

This book is the ultimate book on trauma. Not only is it readable (some might even say a page turner!), but it also illuminates the world of trauma and the way trauma effects our body, mind, and brain! Psychology fans
will love this book, and most everyone else will find the personal stories,                               the anecdotes, and the research to be so compelling that they will find
themselves searching for the sequel.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections
By: C. G. Jung

A beautiful story, and often the hook that gets individuals interested in Jungian theory. In this book Jung talks about the entirety of his life, from growing up in a religious household to his famous split with Freud. The writing is compelling and thought provoking. This is a book you will
want to read over and over again.)

Enjoy!

Best,

Cammi

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

 

Image Credits:
James Hollis: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/573814.On_This_Journey_We_Call_Our_Life

Thich Nhat Hanh:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/true-love-thich-nhat-hanh/1100649221?ean=9781590309391#/

Julia Cameron: https://juliacameronlive.com/books-by-julia/the-artists-way-a-spiritual-path-to-higher-creativity/

Bessel van der Kolk:https://grief.com/books-on-grief/

C.G. Jung: https://www.bookdepository.com/memories,-dreams,-reflections-carl-gustav-jung/9780679723950

Healthy, Helpful, Holiday Hacks!

Enjoying the Holidays and Healthy, Helpful, Holiday Hacks!

As the holiday season approaches the social expectations, familial expectations, and personal expectations tend to take over and flood the brain. There are often expectations regarding gifts, time away, food, hosting and many, many other things. Even if you do not celebrate the holiday season the stress from others can boil over and affect you!

The holiday season can easily take over our lives and leave us feeling resentful and glad when it’s over. Some individuals have even gotten to the point where they dread the holiday season so much that they simply no longer do it. While I personally still engage with the holiday season, I think this is a wonderful way of affirming self-worth and taking back control from external expectations!

Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the holiday season? How can we go about setting ourselves up for success this holiday season?

I have found a few things are very important when planning to either survive or thrive during the holidays. Here is my list of “Healthy, Helpful, Holiday Hacks!”

Healthy, Helpful, Holiday Hacks!

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Photo by 嘉淇 徐 on Pexels.com

1) Know where you need to be and when. Take the time to really nail down your schedule. Write it in your phone, set reminders, or even alarms! This will take a mountain of stress off your shoulders. It will also prevent you from double booking yourself!

2) Say no. You can’t be everywhere at once. For your schedule to work you must only schedule yourself for what you can handle. There is nothing worse than having to rush a dinner in order to make another dinner. You must also consider the personal time you will need during the holidays. You cannot fill the holiday season full of events for others without taking time for yourself. You will burn out and you will likely start to feel resentful.

3) Think carefully about gifting. Do you need to give gifts? Are there certain people that you feel you need to get gifts for? Are there others that could do without? Financial stress is paramount during the holidays; thus, it is important to figure out if you can afford to give gifts. Handmade cards or even notes are often a much more personal gift than a small trinket, and they cost very little to make.

If you are thinking of making a card or writing a note here is a tip for what you can include in order to make the gift that much more special: when writing a note or card instead of a gift answer the following questions: 

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Photo by Kim Stiver on Pexels.com

  • How do you know this person?
  • What do you really like about this person?
  • What makes this person unique?
  • What do you hope for this person during the Holidays?


For example, If I was writing a note to myself, I might say:

Dear Cammi,
I am so thankful to have known you my entire life. You are an amazing listener and I love the different colours you are constantly dying your hair. I hope you have a great holiday season and get to spend some quality time with those you love!
Best,
Cammi



4) Take time for yourself. This is a must. Not only taking time for yourself but also making time for yourself in advance. In order to be present, you need to be well rested and mentally fresh. You cannot be present if you have not had time to take care of yourself.

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5) Bring a deck of cards and put the phone away. Cellphones are a great escape, in fact, they are the best escape; however, they take away from the communal experience. There are often situations during the holidays where people are gathered, and while some enjoy this experience and the opportunity for conversation others can feel anxious or bored. Having a deck of cards, and knowing how to play and teach a quick card game can give individuals a fun activity to engage in. The advantage of cards over other games is that they are small, well known to most people, and can easily be pulled out in many different situations.

6) Keep going to therapy or counselling. Make time to continue your sessions if you see a therapist or counsellor. This is one of the most stressful times of the year, this is the time when most people really need that special hour to talk to someone, to vent to someone, to paint their anger, or to strategize about getting through that one particular family dinner.

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7) Do something playful! One of the most therapeutic things for stress is to play! I say it often, adults simply do not play enough! Go make a snowman! Make a gingerbread fortress! Create the most decadent hot chocolate you can think of! Watch your favourite holiday movie! Let your inner child out!

I wish you the best this holiday season and I hope you can share it with those you love and cherish.

Best,

Cammi

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The Art of Listening

Are You Listening?

Have you ever been listened to in a way that makes you feel truly heard?
Did it make you feel validated? Perhaps understood?
Chances are you felt connected to who was listening to you.

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Why can some people makes us feel more understood than others? The answer, I believe, is because they are actively listening and giving their full attention to whatever is being said.

Have you ever been talking to someone who cut you off? How about talking to someone who started texting someone while you were speaking? Perhaps talking to someone only to find they didn’t understand what you were staying in the slightest? How did you feel after these encounters? I imagine you didn’t feel great. When you take the time to talk to someone and they don’t truly listen to you it often feels degrading, insulting, and just plain bad!

No one is perfect, yet there are ways we can work towards being better listeners. As you become a better listener it is likely that your friends and colleagues will pick up on your listening skills and unconsciously improve their listening abilities too! They will also feel more validated and appreciated.

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Improving Your Listening Skills

1) Take time to be fully present to the other person. Look at them, notice them. Are they wearing their hair in a new way? What color of shirt are they wearing? What color are their eyes? Take time to notice and appreciate that you are listening to a unique individual whose life has been incredibly different from yours, although it might be similar in some ways.

2) Block out your own opinions. You will likely feel the need to interject while listening, we all have opinions and views on topics. Try not to let yourself do this. The time for you to speak will come when the person you are listening to is done. This does not mean devaluing your opinions; rather, it means setting them aside so that you remain focused on listening.

3) Paraphrase. This is one of the best tools you can learn in order to test whether or not you have actually listened to someone. This small communication tool has saved many relationships and is an excellent way to demonstrate that you understand what a person has said. In order to paraphrase you must take what the person has said and say it back to them with different words. For instance:

Talker: I had the loveliest morning! I walked to the beach, wrote in my journal, and even made time for a coffee on the way back.

Listener: It sounds like you really enjoyed your morning! You were able to get to the beach, get some writing done, and even grab a coffee! Wow!

Talker: Thanks! It WAS great! I wish I could do this every morning! I am so busy these days, and Sarah works so much I never really get to see her. What can you do though I guess? That’s Vancouver life!

Listener: You and Sarah are so busy you don’t really get to enjoy days like these…it sounds like you wish you had more time.

You don’t want to paraphrase your entire conversation-that would interrupt the natural flow; however, paraphrasing is a lovely way to help someone to feel heard.

4) Don’t assume-ask. Don’t assume you know what someone is saying. Use statements like: “It sounds like…, it appears that…, I’m curious about…, are you feeling like…?”
If you are unsure it is always better to ask for clarification.

6) Use I statements-not “you” statements. I often teach couples this method in order to prevent disagreements from turning into heated, and often unhelpful, fights. When we use “you” statements we are really stating that YOU are the problem, and that YOU should change. When we use I statements we are describing how I am feeling, and how I am being influenced by a behaviour or event.

For instance, say two couples are fighting about cleaning. One couple uses “you” statements and the other uses “I statements”:

Lucy: The house is so dirty! Why are you always throwing your stuff around!? I always clean and you never do! Honestly, I love you, but you are such a slob! How can you live in this!?

Kelly: Seriously? You are going to pull that on my right now? I had a tough day at work and you come in here and scream at me about being a slob? You are being a total jerk right now. You could do more around the house too you know, it’s not all me.

Mike: Ack I can’t stand it anymore! The house is super dirty! I really appreciate a clean house. A dirty house makes me feel like I am living like a slob. Do you think we could figure out a way to keep this place from getting so dirty? I really would like something to change, the messiness is making me feel really gross.

Dan: I get that you don’t like how messy the house is. I just got home from work and had a super tough day. I don’t want you to feel gross, and I know I can be bad about leaving things around. It’s really hard to hear about how I’ve messed up again after coming home from such an awful day. Can we talk about this after supper?

I know these are fictional stories, but you get the point! Now imagine if we added paraphrasing into Mike and Dan’s conversation! How lovely would that be? Using I statements allows for resolution, while using “you” statements usually leads to defensiveness and non-helpful conflict.

I hope you can use some of these ideas to better your listening skills!
Thank you for existing!

-Cammi

Fall: The Season of Transition

Fall, the season of transition! A time to prepare.

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Good bye hot summer days! Farewell beach! Fall is the transition period of the year. The season when plants start to put energy into making it through the winter, animals start to store fat, and humans try not to forget the lovely warm days of summer as they head into the cold dark days of winter.
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Fall is the preparatory period for winter. The time to plan and organize, and make sure we have all we need in order to survive the much harsher season that awaits.
Psychologically this is an important time to start preparing for the sadness, stress and/or chaos that often accompanies the winter season.
Winter is supposed to be a time to hibernate and a time to take our practice (whatever it may be) deeper. However, in this society winter also often means more family engagements, more time spent inside, and the holiday season. How can you prepare for this season? How can you not only survive winter, but thrive in its glory and dark mystery?

Tips to Help You Prepare for Winter:

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1) Make a list of things that help you when you are sad.
2) Make a list of things that help you when you are stressed out.
3) Make a list of people you can talk to you when things get too dark.
4) Create something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. You can bring it out when winter hits!
5) Find a scent that makes you feel alive and invigorated. Make this scent a special item (whether it be perfume, essential oils, a candle…etc) that you only bring out when you are feeling overwhelmed or sad.
6) Write or draw what you hope to achieve this winter. This could be a financial goal, a relationship goal, a certain event you hope to go to, or even a type of spiritual or psychological exploration you would like to try.

Do you have any special preparations you do in order to prepare for winter? I would love to hear them!

Best,

Cammi

Thoughts on Unconditional Love

Thoughts on Unconditional Love

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  • I love you unconditionally means I love you without conditions.
  • My love is not conditional upon you being successful.
  • My love is not conditional on your physical appearance.
  • My love is not conditional on your grades or your ability to spell.
  • Loving  you unconditionally does not mean I will let you abuse me mentally or physically.
  • My love for you will not diminish if I set a boundary between us.

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Unconditional love is loving you for you and being grateful for your existence.

  • Unconditional love does not mean I will support every decision you make, or your behaviors. It means I will wish the best for you in all that you do and that you will have a special place in my heart.
  • Unconditional love does not mean I will love you forever. I may fall out of love with you, and that is OK. 

    Something Simple to Help you
    With Unconditional Self- love

    New Image3Take a moment to draw or paint a card full of love. “A card full of love” will mean something different to every individual. Write a note to yourself in the card expressing your love to yourself. Try not to state reasons why you love yourself, simply state that you do.  You do not need conditions or reasons to love yourself.

    When you are done, give yourself the card . Keep it in a safe place and cherish it. You deserve unconditional love. You are an amazing, unique individual. Honor yourself and cherish the love you can give to yourself.

May you love yourself unconditionally.

Best,

Cammi

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grateful Future Exercise

The Grateful Future Exercise

*This exercise is not to be used in place of therapy/counselling. Although I believe this exercise to be helpful and positive I must put up the following disclaimer: By engaging in this exercise you do so at your own risk.* 

This is one of my favorite exercises for clarifying intention, understanding where you are at, getting to know yourself, increasing creative flow, and allowing yourself to play.

1) The Exercise
Using the writing tool of your choice (laptop, pen and paper, pencil, perhaps recording rather than writing) write a journal entry or a letter describing your ideal life as if it were happening right now, describe your gratitude for this lovely life!

E.g.
Dear Jane,
Today I was walking rusty, who is so healthy and lovely looking still, when I realized It had been 5 years since we last talked! I am doing so well! I am living in a little cabin in the woods that overlooks a lake (Stan goes fishing almost every day)! I am writing that book I told you I would write, and I am actually enjoying writing it! I am so happy to be at this point in my life!

The important part of this exercise is to keep going! Talk about your friends, your family, go into detail. This is not intended to help create a future but rather to clarify how you would like your future to play out, and to help you understand yourself a bit better.

2) Understanding
When you are done your letter/journal entry. Re-read it and, if it feels right, answer the following questions:

1) Did anything surprise you when you re-read your journal entry/ letter?
2) Is there anything you would change now that you have re-read it (go ahead! You can do this right now!)
3) Did you experience any moments of elation while writing the letter?  Why?
4) Does your future align with your current goals? Why or why not?

The next part of this exercise is to allow your inner creator to go deeper by allowing art into the process. Pick one of your favorite parts of the exercise and depict it using your favorite medium (sculpture, drawing, painting, singing, poetry and or anything else that feels right)! Trust yourself and do what feels right.

3) Bring Art In
When you are done trust yourself to do what feels right with your letter/journal entry and art piece. Maybe they both go on your bedroom door, or maybe they both are put in an envelope to be opened a couple years from now. Whatever you do with your pieces, listen to yourself and do what feels right.

May you have a lovely, creative, and playful day!

Best,

Cammi

It’s OK To….

It’s OK to take a break and go for tea with your best friend!

As young people we are often told we can do whatever we set our minds to, that if we work hard we will succeed, and that we should reach for greatness in all that we do. This mindset, while motivating and inspiring, is also constricting and guilt inducing. If we do not succeed does that mean we are not working hard enough? What is greatness? How do we know if we have reached it? If we fail to achieve a goal does this mean that it is because we are flawed?

Of course not! Other things influence our world. We are not the be all end all of our reality. We may not have reached our financial goal for the month because our child was sick and we had to stay home from work. This does not mean we are flawed-quite the opposite I would think!  If we cannot run a marathon because of a bad knee it does not mean we have not worked hard to do so! We are not flawed because of external circumstance.

In this day and age I think it is important to take time to give ourselves breaks from the pressure of success. It is OK to take time for yourself. It is OK to fail. It is OK to be happy with where you are at in this moment.

An above all…
It is OK to take a break from the pressures of the world and go for tea with your best friend!

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Much love,

Cammi

Distraction- The Ugly

Distraction becomes ugly when it takes us away from connecting to ourselves,  connecting to others,  connection to our environment, and starts to negatively impact our lives.

How Do We Know Distraction is Turning Ugly?
For instance, when is binge watching so bad that it becomes ugly?  I believe there are a couple of signs that can help us see when distraction has really become ugly:

 When you don’t want to see other people
When you don’t want to go outside
When you don’t want to think for yourself
When suddenly you find you don’t want to do anything but distract yourself.

Ugly Distraction = Distraction Without Growth
When we distract in a good way, we are often growing or readying ourselves to face whatever it is that we feel we must distract from. However, when we distract just to avoid, with no intention of eventually facing the object of our distraction, things get ugly. Things do not go away because we ignore them. They will eventually surface; however, if we ignore them we have no control over when or where they will surface. By facing our issues and inviting ourselves to contemplate our emotions we can create space for them surface. This space is created by us and thus we can decide when to confront and look at the elements of ourselves and/or our experience that we needed to distract from earlier. In this way we are in control of the situation. When we push those elements back and pretend they don’t exist, they come out on their own and they are in control.

What Can You Do?

Asses:
Are you distracting yourself from a dangerous situation? For instance, is there abuse going on in your home? Are you ill? Are you being sexually exploited? If the situation you are distracting yourself from is dangerous then please, try and remove yourself from the situation and report it. If there is child abuse occurring in your home, you are obligated to report it to the Ministry of Family Services. (604) 660-1548
If you are in immediate danger please call the police (911)

Connect!
If you are using distraction to avoid feelings or to avoid thinking about something it is important to try and connect with yourself and your community. Having supports are important when you are going through a difficult time, and connecting with others feels good, which can help us with normalizing our situation.

Normalize!
It might be hard to admit, but chances are there is someone else out there that has been through a very similar situation to you or has felt the way that you are feeling. Take a second to write down what is going on, or better yet, tell it to yourself in the mirror. Ask yourself how you would react if a friend or colleague disclosed the situation you are distracting yourself from to you. What would you tell them to let them know they are supported? Now go ahead and tell those things to yourself! This is a great way to practice self-love.

See a Professional!
If you aren’t already seeing a counselor or psychotherapist, it might be a good idea to book an appointment. Having a good psychotherapist can help you connect to yourself in a way that allows for growth, healing, and strengthening of inner power. If you are distracting yourself from something and don’t feel like you can handle it on your own, book an appointment with someone who specializes in helping people handle the ups and downs of life. When you are stuck in school you hire a tutor, or if you can’t seem to get the muscle tone you want you hire a trainer. Counselors and psychotherapists are like the tutors and trainers of the psyche!

Distraction can be good, bad, and ugly. I hope these posts have helped you understand your use of distraction and how it, like any other tool, can be used to help or hinder you on your journey!

Best,

Cammi Manchur

Why Art Therapy?

  1. One of the most important aspects of the therapeutic experience, in my experience, is the unique relationship between therapist and client. When therapy is successful this relationship is gently dissolved and the client moves forward on their own. With art therapy the client not only connects with the therapist but also connects and creates a unique relationship to art. Thus, when the client moves forward on their own they are able to take their connection to art with them. The client moves forward with the tools to be successful and with a connection to their own creative healing force.
  2. Art therapy is successful with a variety of different age groups, ethnicities, cultures, and genders. Art does not discriminate and can form a unique connection with anyone who is willing. In other words art appears to be a universal and innate process and thus can cross boundaries other therapies may have difficulty with.
  3. Art therapy allows for meta-verbal communication between the therapist and client, which gives art therapy a significant advantage over other therapies. For instance, children may not have the neurological capability to put their emotions into words despite being able to feel them. However, art allows children to express their emotions in a language that does not require words. This amazing quality is also useful for individuals that have experienced trauma and cannot verbalize their experience.

Distraction-The Bad

The Bad

As I discussed in my previous post, distraction can be a good thing; however, it can also can also be a bad thing. Of course, the term “bad” is subjective, but in this case, I mean it to refer to something that takes away from our sense of happiness, hinders us, and prevents us from achieving our goals (whether they be tangible or not).

New Image4.jpgHow can distraction be bad?
Distraction turns bad when we distract our selves from our selves. Humans have been doing this for years, we tend to avoid the hard feelings, the hard questions, and the hard realities of our lives. In order to avoid thinking about overwhelming emotions and thoughts we distract ourselves, and in this society, it has become incredibly easy to use distraction in order to facilitate avoidance.

Before the onset of the internet, distraction took more obvious forms such as overeating, overdrinking, and or overcopulating. However, in the age of the internet distraction is much more subtle and is often utilized in ways that are not obvious to others. For instance, you may not know that your friend binge watches Netflix for 5 hours every day in order to distract himself from the awful things he had to see while he was overseas. Likewise, you likely have no idea how much time you yourself spend on Facebook or Instagram every day. While this may not seem like a distraction, I urge you to take a couple days off from social media and monitor your emotional state. I have faith that you will become much more in tune with your thoughts and you may be surprised at the emotions that arise.

Is this sort of distraction a problem?
The answer, as is usually the case, is that it depends. If binge watching allows for someone to escape their overwhelming thoughts and emotions until they are in a safe-space in which to explore them, I believe this is not problematic. The situation becomes problematic when the person doesn’t explore these thoughts and emotions. As we know, anything we suppress or push down into the unconscious will eventually rise up in rebellion. The unconscious always makes itself known in the conscious world, and often in ways that are not ideal.

It’s important to note that distraction through technology is not a sign of a weakness, in fact it is being conditioned into us at a very early age. Essentially, distraction is taught as a coping mechanism. Next time you go to a restaurant look around for families with small children. I can almost guarantee that you will see a family with a small child watching an I-pad while they enjoy dinner. Parents can attest to the mighty power of the I-pad! How nice to finally get out for a meal without having to deal with screaming children! How interesting though, that those children, who previously would have resorted to their biological coping mechanism (crying) to deal with distress, are now able to distract themselves from their distress through a movie or a game. Rather than expressing the distress through crying they are distracted from any distress via the I-pad.

I don’t know what this means for future children, but I do believe it is likely that this act is conditioning the young brain to associate distress with a need to distract from distress. Is this good then? Or bad? Again, it depends. I think it is important to be aware of our distractions and use distraction responsibly, which means eventually acknowledging and exploring whatever it is that we are distracting ourselves from.

Common ways of distracting that may be problematic if not used in a responsible way:

-Social Media
-Television, Netflix, movies.
-Video games
-Over indulgin in sugar
-Overeating
-Overdrinking
-Drugs
-Overcopulating (sex)
-Overreading (I know this sounds odd, but I have met many individuals who have used novels to distract themselves from their current situation. Books can easily facilitate an escape from overwhelming emotions and thoughts).
-Overworking

I want to acknowledge that I have only touched on the very tip of the iceberg regarding what distraction is, how it can be destructive, and how it can be used responsibly. There is so much more to explore regarding distraction, I urge you to take it upon yourself to look at your relationship with distraction and how it might be impacting your life (for the better or for the worse).

Distraction- The Good

The Good:

When I used to think of distraction I would instantly think of running away from one’s problems; however, I was taught recently that distraction can be a good tool if used correctly. Of course, any tool can be used for good or for evil, something as a therapist I try to stay keenly aware of.  In this three-part post I will be discussing distraction. I will start off with “The Good” and move on to, “The Bad”, and will end off with a discussion on “The Ugly” aspects of distraction.
*This post discusses car accidents and may be triggering for some individuals. Please read at your own discretion.

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What is Distraction?
Distraction, to me, is a method in which we turn away from the present by utilizing something that causes us to pay attention to something other than the present. For instance, Facebook is an excellent distraction from the big project that is due on Friday. Some people have even coined the phrase, “Going down the Facebook-rabbit hole” in which one ends up spending hours on Facebook when they only meant to spend a couple of minutes on it. Other types of distraction might include reading, listening to music, and or playing video games (there are many different types of distractions).

The Good
How can distraction be a good thing? Isn’t it always better to stay in the present? In my opinion, staying in the present isn’t always the best thing for a person. Depending on your situation, staying in the present may be dangerous.

Icropped-11700972_854105841354477_6815337564628355679_o.jpg once knew a person that was going through a very hard time in her life, she was seriously questioning death and what it would feel like to die. Would it hurt? What would you see? Would her memories all come back to her in one giant flashback? This person had to drive a lot for work and found herself imagining what would happen if she drove her car off a bridge, or what would happen if she rolled her car into a ditch. Would she pass out before impact? Would she feel the impact of the car hitting the water? Unsurprisingly, this woman ended up in multiple minor car crashes.

Eventually, after a very scary car accident, the woman decided to see a therapist to talk about her strange fascination with death. In this scenario, distraction could have helped the woman stay more focused while driving, as the present curiosity regarding death was so overpowering that it was distracting her from her task: driving.  Instead of following the thought of,” what would happen if I drove off a cliff?” the woman likely would have been better to acknowledge the thought, put the thought on a mental back burner, and explore the thought later, when she was pulled over or in a safe place. In therapy the woman was able to explore her curiosity regarding death in a safe space where her curiosity did not have the immediate potential of becoming a reality.

The main idea I want to get across with this story is that sometimes we are not in a safe enough place to be present. Victims of torture often learn to disassociate to distract themselves from the present, this is, conceivably, the way they psychologically survive.  Of course, this is not to say that our thoughts should stay on the back burner. Anything we push into the unconscious will eventually make itself known in the conscious realm. However, it is important to give ourselves the freedom to say, “I am not in a safe enough space to be present right now”, and then to additionally give ourselves the freedom to distract from that thought. How do you distract yourself in a healthy way when you are not safe enough to be in the present?

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Some of my favorite ways are:

*Listening to music
*Listening to audio books
*Going for a run
*Playing (e.g. building sandcastles!)
* Reading
* Cleaning
*Organizing
*Counting (e.g. counting the number of people who I walk by,  or counting the number of dogs I see).
*Repeating a mantra

 

 

Knowing Your Limits by Studying Yourself: How Dream Exploration Can Help You Live a More Balanced Life

One of the reasons I find dream exploration so helpful in sessions is because it allows an individual to understand themselves in a deeper, more profound way. Dream exploration allows for a greater understanding of how we see the world, what is important to us, what symbols hold meaning for us, and what patterns we play out in our lives. Through understanding these elements of our self, we can be more conscious of honoring those elements in a balanced way.

An individual I knew long ago used to have a very difficult time saying no.  This person would over book themselves, which would inevitably lead to internal stress and fatigue that would leech into their external world. This person didn’t have a saint-complex, it wasn’t that they wanted to help everyone and therefore wouldn’t say no; rather, it was that everything sounded so exciting to them that they didn’t want to say no. In other words, they didn’t understand their limits because they couldn’t see their limits.

One day this individual and I met for coffee, he was ten minutes late because he had forgotten about the coffee date after double booking himself the evening prior. After apologizing to me the individual exclaimed, “Cammi, last night I had the strangest dream!”. Which, of course, got me excited. I offered to listen to the dream and see if we could sort it’s meaning out.

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The dream had been about the individual searching for a teacup in order to pour a cup of Earl Grey tea for himself. He was very upset he couldn’t find the cup in the dream and worried that the tea would go cold.

When I asked the individual about what the different elements of the dream could possible mean to him, the themes, patterns, and desires of his psyche became clear. The Earl Grey tea reminded him of his mother, who would drink tea every Sunday morning on the veranda when he was a child. The memory was a happy one and gave the individual a sense of calm and peace. The tea cup was a special item because it was a very dainty piece of china that had been reserved for special occasions.  The individual realized that his desire to pour himself tea came from his unconscious desire to say yes to himself, rather than saying yes to everyone else. He felt that taking time for himself would be selfish, but deep down he really wanted to take the time to sit out and drink tea with himself, as his mother had done when he was young. The tea cup he was searching for, but couldn’t find was symbolic of his own special-ness, a beautiful vessel that was both rare and delicate and was brought out on special occasions. From this the individual realized that saying yes to himself, rather than everyone else was not only necessary, but could be very exciting! This one-hour coffee session sparked a huge change in how the individual lived his life. For one, he went out and bought himself a beautiful china tea cup! But more importantly, he scheduled in at least an hour every week to have tea with himself.

This story illustrates the power of dream exploration, and how understanding yourself, can help you create a more balanced way of being.  All dreams are subject to the dreamer’s interpretation, so the dream wouldn’t have had the same meaning for another person, but for this individual it was the push he needed to realize he needed to take time for himself.

How did taking an hour every week to be with himself help?

1) It allowed him to reflect on his week without any other interpretations, in essence he had an hour to fully be himself.

2) It gave him practice at saying no to others so that he could say yes to himself (when you say yes to someone you are inevitably saying no to someone else).

3) It connected him to his mother who had been deceased for some time. The drinking of Earl Grey tea became a ritual, which is hugely important in a society that is becoming increasingly devoid of ritual.

4) It allowed him to honor himself and recognize that he is worthy of his time.

I hope this story inspired you to explore you dreams, honor your unique way of being, and to take time to joyfully be with yourself.

Best,
Cammi

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