Counselling is one piece of the puzzle

September 11, 2017

By Jordan Pickell

Many people come through my door because they first recognize a need to heal from experiences of trauma or grief. As we work together, they come to understand the connection between their experiences and what is happening in their bodies that is also calling for their attention. Other people first look for healing from their physical symptoms like pain and insomnia. They seek treatment from physicians or body-focused practitioners like massage therapists. It’s not until later that the mental-emotional component becomes clear.

I suffer from migraines. I first sought treatment from my family doctor. I was prescribed medication to alleviate the symptoms when I had an attack, which had mixed results. I wanted to take a different approach. I noticed I had migraine attacks for example, when I had poor sleep, when I missed a meal, when I was stressed out. I wanted to see if I could prevent my migraines. So, I started seeing a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, and a chiropractor. I worked with a naturopath to test for food intolerances and hormone balance. At some point, after noticeable improvement in my migraines, I had an idea. Looking back, it’s now so obvious. Since stress was and is a big trigger for me, there might be a mental-emotional component. Even as a therapist, I had yet to think about counselling as a preventative treatment for my stress-induced migraines! I found a new counsellor to focus on how stress came up for me in my life. Although I still get the occasional migraine, most notably when I’m stressed, through a holistic approach, I have noticed a significant change in the severity, duration, and frequency of attacks. I know when I have migraine symptoms, it is time for me to take a step back, look at what I’m taking on, and get some extra support from these different folks.

What are you suffering from? Chances are, there are about a hundred different approaches to addressing it. In cultures across time and space, people look towards healers, mystics, and teachers. Imagine all the ways people move towards healing. Some approaches focus on movement, thoughts, the breath, the body, emotions, energy. In Vancouver alone, you can see an herbalist, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, art therapist, acupuncturist, trauma-informed yoga teacher, life coach, reiki master, nutritionist, and the list goes on and on and on. Recently, the respected scientist Scott Miller published an article which detailed the rising numbers of people seeking out mediums and psychics for healing from grief and trauma to successful results.

People are looking beyond the medical model for healing and I think this is a good thing. People are centring themselves and taking control of their wellness. I do not think any one approach is the end-all be-all way to heal, including counselling.

A holistic approach

Brain scientists have learned that understanding and feeling are located in different parts of the brain. This means people can understand what happened to them while also remaining stuck in overwhelming feelings about it. Gaining insight is important, but it is only one part of a larger whole. In order to heal from grief and trauma, people must engage multiple parts of themselves: mind, heart, body, and spirit.

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of counselling. At the same time, I am learning to sit up and pay attention to what people are already doing in their lives that bring them towards healing and wholeness. For example, people seek other practitioners like osteopaths and spiritual advisors. Some participate in group practices like drumming, chanting, and 5rhythms dance. Others practice things on their own like hiking, prayer, or tarot reading. Many people are getting support from friends, family, and community. What are you doing already that brings you a sense of groundedness and healing?

Meanwhile, many people have things they used to do that brought them profound healing and connection, but have stopped for one reason or another. For example, depression can get in the way of people doing exactly what will help bring them healing. Colonization forced generations of people to stop many deeply resonant healing practices. How can you (re)connect with what resonates as healing for you?

Your path towards healing

The truth is counselling is one way people choose to get support. People journey towards healing in a million different ways, most often using multiple approaches. Connect with yourself, your community, your culture. Gather a team of people to support you. Explore what works and what is culturally and personally meaningful for you.

As a counsellor, I honour these ways of being and understanding the world. I have conversations about what brings connection between mind and body, soul and spirit. Together, we can look at how to integrate them into the process of counselling, whether it’s homework for between sessions or client-led grounding practice we do together. Additionally, with your permission, I can connect with other practitioners you are working with in order to provide you with wrap-around support. We can talk about who you can potentially bring into your wellness team. The journey towards healing is yours. We are here to support you.


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