My Approach to Grief Therapy

Grief is the response to loss, and it encompasses a broad range of feelings, cognitions, physical sensations, and behavioural changes. Grief can come from losses beyond the death of a loved one, such as the loss of an ideal/dream (partner changed after marriage, raising a child alone, not being able to have children), loss of ability (due to accident or medical condition), loss of wellness, loss of connection or belonging, loss of safety/security, or the loss of a pet.

I work with a wide lens of grief. Grief is not something you can fix. It is the process of coming to terms with a loss. There is a dance that involves the non-linear process of grief. There is no particular journey that grief takes, each individual has their own experience. It also can be difficult when your way of processing grief is different from loved ones.

I work with you where you are in your journey with grief. If needed, I may give psychoeducation or techniques to help you in your journey. I work with you and your grief as a listener with compassion. I am a witness to your pain. If you lost a loved one, I am a witness to the love you had for the person you lost and someone who is walking with you as you come to terms with the loss. If you lost something else, I am a witness to how much that thing meant to you and someone you can talk to figure out the next step in your life without that loss.

If you wish, I can help you make your way through the 4 tasks of grieving:

  1. To accept the reality of the loss.
  2. To process the pain of grief.
  3. To adjust to a world without the person/thing you lost.
  4. To find a way to remember while embarking on the rest of one’s journey through life.

I am here for the part of the journey that you wish for me to be a part of. Whether it is the processing of the pain and readjustment after loss or something else. I will be there as a witness and support as you process your grief. I will be there to listen and hear you as you deal with the world you live in after the loss and the struggles to figure it out.

Grief is never easy and there is no one way to do it. Sometimes you need some help along the way and that’s okay. That is why I approach counselling grief the way I do.

The Benefits of Virtual Therapy

When it comes to Virtual Counselling, there are different formats for virtual counselling. Counselling can be done in person, through various video platforms, by telephone, or through text or chat programs. In both in-person and video counselling, the therapist and client can still see each other and observe non-verbal forms of communication. While with telephone counselling, you can still have communication through vocal tones and words. With Text and chat-based counselling, the counselling is based on words and is more prone to misunderstandings. I generally find that it is more difficult to create a therapeutic alliance with my clients the more forms of communication that are removed. I find in-person and video counselling to be similar in effectiveness and which is more effective for a person depends on personal aspects and preferences. I have described some of the benefits, considerations, and challenges of Virtual Counselling below. Please note that most of these are based on video counselling rather than telephone and chat-based counselling.

More Convenient & Accessible

A person can access Virtual counselling from their own home. This helps people who have trouble getting out of the home or have busy lives and have a hard time finding the time to travel to and from appointments. You are generally able to find a comfortable place to sit at home to attend your counselling sessions.

Virtual therapy can often be squeezed into an hour during your day, such as your lunch hour. Occasionally, you can also have shorter appointments, if that is all you have time for.

Often can have comfort items with you

Often you can have a counselling session in a room in your home that is comfortable for you and you can have pets or things with you that can be calming for you and enable you to be more present in the counselling session.

Finding a provider that fits your needs

Effective counselling often means a good fit between client and counsellor. You want a counsellor that has the skills and techniques to work with the issues and challenges that you are bringing to therapy. The counsellors in your area may not have the skills to effectively work with your issues, but when you have virtual counselling, you can have a greater selection of counsellors to choose from.

Establishing a Therapeutic Relationship

A lot of people have found that they have been able to secure a good therapeutic relationship through virtual therapy. Therapists have found different ways to deepen a therapeutic relationship when not in the same room as the client.

Attunement and Body Language

With virtual/video therapy options, a therapist can still read a lot of the information that they would if it were in person. This is not the case for telephone or text-based therapies where the therapist cannot observe the face and shoulders.

More flexible, customizable

If you have trouble finding privacy at home, you might want to talk to your therapist while on your smartphone while walking or in a park. If you have chronic pain, you may be able to sit in positions that are more comfortable than if you attended counselling sessions in person. Often there is a lot of flexibility and adaptations that can come with a therapeutic experience that is virtual.

Reduced stigma & Increased Confidentiality

There is reduced stigma because people do not see you walking into a therapist’s office or see you in a waiting room. There is also increased confidentiality because you are not seen attending therapy. This means that you are in control of who finds out that you are attending therapy.

The rules around privacy and confidential client information for virtual therapy are strong and part of the ethical framework of therapeutic associations. Therapists are expected to use encrypted programs for therapy sessions, so what you say in therapeutic sessions should be as private as you are able to make it on your end (secure network, private space where others cannot overhear, etc.).

Making Virtual Therapy Better

Creating more privacy

There are ways to increase the privacy of your end of therapeutic sessions. If you are afraid of being overheard, you can use a white noise machine between you and the door. You can find a quiet, private space for doing your sessions in, such as a car, a large closet (clothes and fabrics also help to dampen the sound), a large pantry, or a bathroom, if necessary.

Reduce Distractions

Work with those around you to create boundaries around your therapy sessions, so that there are fewer interruptions and distractions.

What are some of the challenges with Virtual Therapy?

Certain Mental Health Conditions

People with intellectual disabilities, schizophrenia and at a high risk of suicide among those who would be more appropriate to be seen in person.

Personal Preference

Some people prefer meeting a therapist in person and have trouble connecting over video, if that is the case for you, you might want to pursue in-person counselling.

Technical Difficulties

With using technology to access counselling, there are chances that the technology could fail (Internet/power outages, device malfunctions, etc.). Usually, the therapist has a plan for technology issues.

The Benefits of Trauma Counselling

Trauma Therapy can help you understand why you are reacting in the way you are.

Through trauma therapy, you often learn that certain thoughts, emotions and behaviours occur because of the trauma you have been through. When you understand the living legacy of your own experiences and that they are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances and environments.

Often through trauma therapy, you may understand that you didn’t learn some of the techniques and skills of emotion regulation, coping, interpersonal relationships, and distress tolerance that people who grew up in emotionally and physically secure environments did.

Trauma Therapy can help you gain more control over your life.

Once you understand why you are reacting in a certain way due to past trauma, you can work with your therapist to use techniques to minimize the effect that your trauma has on your life. This can include reducing the chances of being triggered because you are putting things in place to be able to deal with some of your frustrations in better ways.

Trauma therapy can help you understand your triggers and help you become less reactive to your triggers and know what to do when you become triggered.

Trauma therapy can help you figure out how to create safety (physical and/or emotional) within your own life and how to create healthy boundaries to protect and care for yourself.

Trauma Therapy can help you find yourself.

Often people who experienced developmental trauma spent so much time trying to survive and fulfil their basic and emotional needs, that they don’t know who they are.

For example, a person who longs for acceptance that they didn’t get from their parents may become a people pleaser or someone who is focused on achievements. They don’t have the instilled acceptance within themselves from their parents and feel like they must do things for other people or achieve things to be accepted. Eventually, when they may realize that they don’t know who they are inside because they have always been about acceptance due to external factors.

Through a process of figuring out what are the effects of trauma, what are things you’ve done because that is how you survived, and what is the essence of who you are, you can discover a true sense of who you are.

Trauma Therapy can help you build better relationships.

Often people who did not learn good interpersonal skills growing up have difficulty in their adult relationships. Trauma therapy can help you learn to make good boundaries, learn how to ask for what you want without threatening the relationship, and learn how to assert your views in a way that respects both yourself and the other person.

Trauma therapy can help you gain awareness of how your previous relationships are affecting your current relationships and help you separate the past from the present.

Trauma Therapy can help you build a better life.

Trauma therapy can help you build on what you have. You can use the strengths you have built through your resilience in dealing with your trauma and learn new information and skills to help you grow the life you have into something better than it was before. A trauma therapist can help you reduce the trauma-related symptoms while helping you learn the tools to improve your life and how to cope with your trauma.

How Much Trust Do I Need to Find Success in Therapy?

Please realize you do not need to completely trust your therapist to find healing.

Often people have had a lot of damage in the past due to trauma or past betrayal and you have learned that people cannot be trusted. Do not feel that you cannot do therapy. The amount of trust you need is the amount that it takes to do the work. It is absolutely fine to hold parts of yourself back until the relationship you have with your therapist develops. If at the beginning all you feel comfortable with is the intake, discussion of goals and learning skills, that is fine. The trust can be built as the therapist shows his/her care for you and the relationship develops.

For some people the idea of an expectation of trust in the therapist is insane. If authority figures in your life have proven over and over again that they can’t be trusted, it is normal to not trust the therapist initially. Why on earth would you trust a person you never met, when the people that you should have been able to trust either betrayed you, proved unreliable or neglected you? In those situations, I recommend being honest with your therapist that you have trouble trusting and mentioning the direction that you feel okay going in (for example: focusing on skills, psychoeducation, focusing on a current situation at work, etc.).

At the end of the day, a client needs to be able to work with the therapist. Adjustments can be made for the wounds of the past. That is part of respecting the client and accepting where the client is. It is always okay, in fact, it is important, to tell your therapist that you don’t want to go to a certain place, do something, or deal with a certain part of your past.
Even for trauma processing, you do not need to reveal details about past trauma. With EMDR, these are the things we need to do processing (beyond some of the prep work to make sure you have the resources to deal with trauma flare-ups):

  • Current symptom, frustration, or limitation and the longing/missing need associated with that
  • Recent times when that longing/missing need wasn’t fulfilled
  • What the worst part of it is?
  • Be able to rate it on a scale of 0-10
  • A negative cognition (“I am”) statement
  • Past memories of something similar (only mention event “like a book title” and age)
  • Worst part of the memory
  • A positive cognition of what you would prefer to believe (“I am” statement)
  • What emotion you are feeling?
  • Identification of the location of a body sensation

Trust can be an important part of a relationship but when it comes to a relationship between a client and their therapist. There only needs to be enough trust to do the work. That trust may be in the techniques the person uses or that their experience and expertise may enable them to help you. A therapist can work with trust issues if you still can feel like you can do the work.