I provide one on one individual counselling. We can meet either in person or over Zoom.

If you are not local to Qualicum Beach or Parksville, but live in British Columbia, we can arrange our visits to be held over Zoom.

Fee: 60 min session- $140 (no tax)

*Health benefits plans: Registered Clinical Counsellors are often covered by extended medical plans. Check with your provider to see if RCC visits are covered by your plan.

For women who want to integrate more health and healing into their lives. Whether they are struggling with:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Trauma
    • A sense of emptiness in life
    • Grief
    • Loss
    • Negative thinking
    • Unhealthy eating habits and emotional eating
    • Lack of self-worth or self-acceptance
    • Lack of meaning, or purpose
    • Lack of direction in life

Together, we will work towards developing ways for you to:

    • Manage difficult emotions in a positive way
    • Create healthier habits and responses
    • Overcome negative thinking
    • Create more meaning in life
    • Create more peace, purpose and joy in life
    • Re-connect with your true self
    • Strengthen your sense of self
    • Live more fully alive

What happens in a counselling session?

The first session is primarily focussed on understanding what brought you into therapy, identifying what changes you would like to experience in yourself or your life, and helping me to get to know you and your circumstances. I often ask about things such as health, medications, lifestyle, hobbies, relationships, and work. This helps me to get to know you and your life context so that I can join in a helpful conversation with you.

I follow a “Three-Phase Model of Care”:

Phase I: Create emotional balance & Identify unhelpful patterns.

  • Identify your unhelpful patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour
  • Learn how to regulate emotions and calm your nervous system
  • Learn how to access your inner sources of wisdom, strength, and peace

Phase II: Create new patterns & Re-Connect with yourself and others

  • Create more self-acceptance
  • Learn how to live life from your internal source of wisdom, strength, and courage
  • Learn how to create new patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour

Phase III: Create meaning and purpose & Develop a greater sense of self.

  • Integrate the new patterns into your life
  • Strengthen your sense of confidence and agency
  • Re-write your story
  • Cultivate meaning and purpose in life

There are many different types of counselling therapies. My approach to counselling is primarily a blend of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Polyvagal Theory, and Visual Journaling.

Emotionally Focused Therapy is a growth-oriented approach that helps people to get unstuck from unhealthy patterns, create more emotional balance, develop a stronger sense of self, tune into one’s inner compass to choose healthier perspectives and responses, and to live more fully alive. EFT helps clients identify and transform negative patterns that create emotional distress within themselves and with their relationships. It focuses on the development of emotional intelligence, awareness, and balance.

Polyvagal Theory provides a pathway to help people develop greater emotional balance, less reactivity, and to re-shape new patterns of their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. It does so by regulating our nervous system so that we can live more from a place a feeling safe, connected, and engaged, rather than stuck in a survival mode, such as fight, flight, or freeze.

Visual Journaling- this is one of my favourite aspects of counselling (for those who wish to try it)! It is a form of expressive arts therapy. Visual journaling uses imagery to express our thoughts and emotions, and as a pathway to connect with the wisdom of our soul. It is a tool for self-exploration to help us understand our true emotions, to release stress, and to access our internal compass system for guidance and healing. The wonderful news is that you do not need to be an artist to use visual journaling! Everyone has the ability to express an emotion using imagery, whether it be a stick figure or squiggly line. Even such simple images can express much more than what words alone often can.

Joseph Campbell once said, “Your sacred spaces are where you find yourself again and again”. Visual journaling is like providing yourself with a sacred space for reflection, expression, and connection with your inner self.

How I Help Women Create Change:

The counselling theories I follow, Polyvagal Theory and Emotionally Focused Therapy, are both designed to regulate our emotions and autonomic nervous system responses, which in turn, also help us to choose new thoughts and behaviours.

Polyvagal Theory empowers you to harness the healing power of your nervous system to achieve a sense of balance, connection, and vitality. While Emotionally Focused Therapy helps to you to create new patterns, develop a more positive sense of self, and strengthen your relationships with yourself, others, and life.

We all develop automatic patterns in our thoughts, emotions, and actions. They often become our “automatic pilot” mode. Some are helpful, but many are not helpful. These patterns are typically shaped from our lived experiences throughout life, but especially from early childhood experiences. These automatic patterns get activated when our nervous system reacts to a trigger.

An aspect of our nervous system, called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), is responsible for many of our vital physiological functions, such as regulating our heart rate, breath, and digestion. But another role of the ANS is to regulate what state we are in; fight/flight, shutdown/collapsed, or safe/engaged.

We are always in at least one of these three states. The ANS state we are in is the foundation to what patterns we get stuck in. When we are pulled into an ANS survival state (fight, flight, shutdown), we experience difficult emotions, like anger, anxiety, depression, or hopelessness. We do not choose our emotions. They choose us, depending on what our ANS is responding to. Each ANS state is associated with a body sensation, emotion, storyline, and behaviour. Our ANS is responsible for the automatic emotions we feel and thoughts we think. Before our brain makes meaning of an incident, the ANS has already assessed the situation and initiated a response.

Following my Three-Phase Model of Care, I first help women learn to recognize their patterns and ANS states, then learn how to tend to difficult emotions, break the unhelpful patterns they get stuck in, and create new patterns that create better physical, emotional, and mental health. To make lasting change to our reactions and behaviours, we need to not only change our thoughts and behaviours, we also need to make changes at the level of our nervous system, which also changes our emotions.

Want to learn more? Here’s a summary about how each therapy works:

Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal Theory will teach you how to connect with your nervous system to change the patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting that are getting in the way of your wellbeing. The autonomic nervous system is at the heart of our daily life experiences. It is the initiator of how we think, feel, and act. It also controls our vital body functions such as our heart rate, breath, and digestion.

Our nervous system is constantly scanning our inner and outer life for signs of threat at an unconscious level. When stress, threat, or potential danger is detected, it sends us into a survival state, such as fight/flight, freeze, or shutdown. When we do not feel like we are in any immediate danger, we typically find ourselves in the regulated state of “rest and digest” state. When anchored in regulation, we live our lives form a place of sense of safety, connection, and engagement.

Although of nervous system works to keep us safe from real danger, it also develops conditioned, or adaptive, responses to perceived threats. Conditioned responses are developed from things like early childhood messaging or experiences, societal messaging (such as your worth is based on how much you accomplish or how thin you are), and from direct personal experiences (such as traumatic events or abuse).

This means that our nervous system could automatically send us into a survival state in situations such as when we have to talk to someone who we have a difficult relationship with, when we face doing something outside of our comfort zone, or when a negative core belief is activated, such as feeling like you are not good enough, are unworthy, or don’t belong.

Our nervous system can also become dysregulated by things such as chronic stress or trauma, making us live most of our lives in fight, flight, or shut-down mode.

Our conditioned nervous system responses comes with an automatic body sensation (such as tightness in the chest), automatic emotion, automatic thought, and automatic action tendency. When we’re in a survival state, we lose connection with the part of our higher levels of thinking, and we are overtaken by unregulated thoughts and emotions, which leads to unregulated, or unhealthy, actions.

Here is a short overview of what each state can look like:

“Ventral”/Connected/Regulated– In this state, we feel safe and socially connected. We feel we can “lean in” to our experience. We are grounded, present, calm. We can be curious, compassionate, creative, lighthearted, mindful, open, and connected (to ourselves, others, divinity, and/or the environment). We may feel happy, active, or interested. The world may seem safe, fun, and peaceful. Health benefits include a healthy heart rate, regulated blood pressure, healthy immune system, good sleep, and an overall sense of wellness. It is not a place without problems, but one feels hopeful and resourceful in this state.

“Sympathetic”/Fight or Flight– Here, we are mobilized; there is a lot of energy running through our system. Adrenaline and cortisol are released. This energy tends to make us want to fight off, or run away from, the real or perceived threat. This state is often associated with anger, anxiety, rage, panic, irritation, fear, frustration, worry, and fear-based thoughts. The world may feel dangerous, chaotic, or unfriendly.

“Dorsal”/Shut-Down– Here, we have no energy in our system; we are drained. In this state, we tend to shut down, collapse, close ourselves off from others, dissociate, and want to hide away from the world. It is often associated with feeling helpless, depressed, numb, shame, hopeless, defeated, foggy, too tired to think, abandoned, despair, empty, or trapped. Someone living with depression is often living in this state.

People who have both anxiety and depression might be frequently fluctuating between the shut down and fight or flight states, and not often finding their way back up to the ventral, connected state.

Take a moment to reflect on which state is most familiar to you. In which state do you spend most of your days?

Change is possible!

Just because you have certain patterns, it doesn’t mean you can’t change them. Your nervous system patterns can be re-shaped. It is our biology that initiates our responses, so we must also learn how to work with our biology to re-shape our responses.

When we learn how to regulate our nervous system, we learn how to re-connect with parts of ourselves that we may feel we’ve lost contact with; our peace, calm, joy, and sense of purpose and meaning. This is where we can create new beliefs about ourselves and choose healthier, more positive actions. We can re-connect with our inner wisdom, strength, and courage. Finally, we can re-connect with our authentic self, and live more fully alive.

Source: Deb Dana. Polyvagal Theory in Therapy (2018).

Emotionally Focused Therapy

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy provides a “map” for helping people to re-shape automatic emotional responses and to create a more positive sense of self and others. Similar to Polyvagal Theory, it regulates the nervous system, creates emotional balance, and to create new meaning so that we can live more fully alive. EFIT follows three stages: stabilization, restructuring, and consolidation.

In the first stage, stabilization, we pinpoint the emotional patterns in which you are getting stuck, and are causing distress, anxiety, or depression. We regulate your nervous system, build up your strengths and supports, and work to restore balance.

In stage two, restructuring, we work to heal core wounds and release difficult emotions, we build up self-acceptance, and help you to develop a more positive sense of yourself and others.

In stage three, consolidation, we work together to integrate these new changes into your life, into the actions you take, and into your life story. This is where you can have a deeper sense of meaning, and purpose in life, and move forward in your life with greater confidence.

Source: Susan M. Johnson & T. Leanne Campbell (2022). A Primer for Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy (EFIT): Cultivating Fitness and Growth in Every Client.