At Walmsley, we understand how difficult asking for help can be and invite you to take this first step. We do our best to make your experience with us as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Whether it be personal issues or issues related to family, relationships or work, we hope you will feel at home with us.
When you contact a counselling office, you should expect to be treated with respect and courtesy. Confidentiality of personal information should be guaranteed from the outset. You should expect that your problems will be addressed quickly and that a mutually agreeable clear understanding of how and when you will meet with the counsellor will be the outcome of your first personal conversation with the counselling office staff. The person answering the phone will ask a minimum of pertinent questions to ensure that an appropriate referral is made to the helping professional. You can view the counsellor bios under Counsellors on this website.
During your first session with the counsellor, a brief period of time will be spent outlining the terms of the counselling agreement and together with your counsellor you will review an Informed Consent form which you will be asked to sign if you agree with its contents. This form essentially outlines the details of the counselling, paying special attention to the limits of confidentiality, the process of sharing of information with any other helping professionals and the nature of the counselling relationship and process. By signing this form you will be indicating your consent to being involved in the counselling plan. In addition you will be given information outlining other practical aspects of the counselling process, such as what to do about cancelled appointments. You may also be informed about your counsellor’s credentials and their professional registration or licensing.
In person counselling consists of the client and counsellors meeting in person to discuss issues and work on problems. Some people prefer in-person counselling for the personal connection that only in-person counselling sessions can offer. Our counsellors are trained to offer support and respect for clients and the journey the client is on. This allows for the development of an important relationship (called the therapeutic alliance) where counsellor and client work together to work out any challenges.
Telephone counselling is a recognized form of counselling. It is ideal for when long distances or time factors are involved. Although telephone counselling may not provide the personal connection that in person counselling provides it has many advantages. For instance, it provides a sense of anonymity that can make the counselling process more comfortable for some individuals. Also, it is scientifically supported as an effective means of counselling, with many people preferring phone counselling over in-person.
This mode of counselling consists of therapeutic dialogue using individual email accounts. The client can present concerns, issues, or questions to the counsellor. This method allows for examination and refinement of information before it is sent to the counsellor. The counsellor will then read the email and take the time to thoroughly construct a response to any concerns or questions. The client has the opportunity to respond to the counsellor and the therapeutic process moves forward accordingly. This form of counselling takes hours to days to communicate with each email. If you would like to start this form of counselling, please complete the contact form.
Counselling via video conferencing uses a platform such as Skype, so that client and counsellors can communicate via web cam. This is as close as you can get to being in the counsellor’s office without actually being there. Communication in this fashion is face to face and is in real time. This method loses some of the anonymity compared to the other modes of internet counselling but provides the benefit of a more personal connection between therapist and client.
Psychology is interested in why people do the things they do. It is an age-old question, however; psychology – the science concerned with behavior, both humans and animals–is only about 125 years old. Despite its youth, it is a broad discipline, essentially spanning subject matter from biology to sociology.
Biology studies the structures and functions of living organisms. Sociology examines how groups function in society. Psychologists study two critical relationships: one between brain function and behaviour, and one between the environment and behaviour. As scientists, psychologists follow scientific methods, using careful observation, experimentation, and analysis.
Psychologists traditionally study both normal and abnormal functioning, and also treat patients with mental and emotional problems. Today, they are increasingly concentrating on behaviors that affect the mental and emotional health and mental processes of healthy human beings.
Psychologists can focus on many different aspects of human behaviour. Research, education, counselling, forensics, industry, brain behaviour, personality, and advertising to name a few. For a list of sections active in Canada click here.
The field of Clinical Psychology (definition) integrates science, theory, and practice to understand, predict, and alleviate maladjustment, disability, and discomfort as well as to promote human adaptation, adjustment, and personal development. Clinical Psychology focuses on the intellectual, emotional, biological, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of human functioning across the life span, in varying cultures, and at all socioeconomic levels.
The Clinical Psychologist is educated and trained to generate and integrate scientific and professional knowledge and skills so as to further psychological science, the professional practice of psychology, and human welfare.
Clinical Psychologists are involved in research, teaching and supervision, program development and evaluation, consultation, public policy, professional practice, and other activities that promote psychological health in individuals, families, groups, and organizations. Their work can range from prevention and early intervention of minor problems of adjustment to dealing with the adjustment and maladjustment of individuals whose disturbance requires them to be institutionalized.
Practitioners of Clinical Psychology work directly with individuals at all developmental levels (infants to older adults), as well as groups (families, patients of similar psychopathology, and organizations), using a wide range of assessment and intervention methods to promote mental health and to alleviate discomfort and maladjustment.
Researchers study the theory and practice of Clinical Psychology, and through their publications, document the empirical base of Clinical Psychology. Consultants, Teachers, and Clinical Supervisors share the Clinical Psychology knowledge base with students, other professionals, and non-professionals. Clinical Psychologists also engage in program development, evaluate Clinical Psychology service delivery systems, and analyze, develop, and implement public policy on all areas relevant to the field of Clinical Psychology. Many Clinical Psychologists combine these activities.
Assessment in Clinical Psychology involves determining the nature, causes, and potential effects of personal distress; of personal, social, and work dysfunctions; and the psychological factors associated with physical, behavioral, emotional, nervous, and mental disorders. Examples of assessment procedures are interviews, behavioral assessments, and the administration and interpretation of tests of intellectual abilities (i.e. psycho-educational assessments of children in school), aptitudes, personal characteristics, and other aspects of human experience and behavior relative to disturbance.
Interventions in Clinical Psychology are directed at preventing, treating, and correcting emotional conflicts, personality disturbances, psychopathology, and the skill deficits underlying human distress or dysfunction. Examples of intervention techniques include psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, behavior therapy, marital and family therapy, group therapy, biofeedback, cognitive retraining and rehabilitation, social learning approaches, and environmental consultation and design. The goal of intervention is to promote satisfaction, adaptation, social order, and health.
Psychologists work in a wide variety of settings, reflecting their broad diversity of interests and skills. Clinical Psychologists work individual practice, mental health service units, managed healthcare organizations, hospitals, schools, universities, industries, legal systems, medical systems, counselling centers, governmental agencies, and military services.
Many psychologists work independently. They also team up with other professionals–for example, other scientists, physicians, lawyers, school personnel, computer experts, engineers, policy makers, and managers–to contribute to every area of society. Thus we find them in laboratories, hospitals, courtrooms, schools and universities, community health centers, prisons, and corporate offices.
Psychologists involved in health care teams typically work in hospitals, medical schools, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, pain clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and community health and mental health centers.
Unique to Clinical Psychology training is the requirement of substantial course work in the areas of personality and psychopathology, resulting in comprehensive understanding of normal and abnormal adjustment and maladjustment across the life span.
The Canadian Psychological Association sets the standards for Clinical Psychology graduate programs at Canadian universities and recognizes programs meeting these standards through an accreditation process.
Those psychologists working in applied settings are required to be licensed by their province to practice psychology. University professors and research psychologists do not necessarily require licensing to do research or to teach.
Psychologists must have a minimum of a Master’s degree (See Master’s Degree Regulations) in psychology to practice in most provinces, although some provinces give priority to candidates for licensing who are educated at a doctoral level. Many provinces require additional supervised work and internship experience in addition to formal education, and most require written and oral examinations prior to licensing . A complete list of requirements is provided at: Regulatory Bodies For Psychology In Canada
Play is often referred to as the primary language of children. Play Therapy is an established therapeutic approach aimed at helping children experiencing a variety of emotional, social, and behavioral difficulties. Without having to rely on verbal skills, Play Therapy creates a safe atmosphere for children to express their thoughts and feelings, work on their problems, and learn more effective coping methods. As such, Play therapy is an effective approach for helping children who are dealing with anxiety, separation/ divorce, grief and loss, bullying or self-esteem issues. Some of the materials used by Play Therapists include arts and crafts, sand and water, clay, music, games, puppets and stories.
Play provides an important base for cognitive, language, and social development. Open-ended play encourages children to think and reflect about their environment. As problems naturally arise in the course of play, the child is encouraged to seek individually meaningful solutions. Play therapy is a technique which permits children to express their needs and discover solutions in a safe, therapeutic environment. A trained play therapist seeks to understand the metaphors expressed through each individual child’s play and to help that child cope more effectively with stress. Families under a lot of stress often find themselves using too little or too much structure with their children. A counselor can help parents discover the correct balance of independence and limits required by their own family.
The CPTI serves as one of the world’s major resources in play therapy and child psychology. CPTI runs many training programs each year in the field of child psychology and play therapy with a variety of presenters in many regions of the world.
In addition, the Canadian Play Therapy Institute provides training and in-service education in a number of mental health topics including child psychotherapy and play therapy as well as child abuse and other mental health issues for staff and the public at the request of agencies, institutions and facilities throughout the world with programs geared specifically to the requirements of the host institution.
Programs offered by the Canadian Play Therapy Institute are fully accredited by the International Board of Examiners of Certified Child and Play Therapists (IBECPT) internationally for play therapy training credit and continuing education credit in play therapy. The Canadian Play Therapy Institute is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to offer continuing education for psychologists. The Canadian Play Therapy Institute maintains responsibility for all programs. Many provincial / state boards of social work (including NASW-state chapters), marriage and family therapy and mental health counseling have also approved CPTI for Status as a Continuing Education Provider.
First, it is helpful to understand hypnosis. Hypnosis is a natural state of mind which occurs in everyday life. All people experience hypnotic states of mind during each day of their lives. For example, when you concentrate intensely on either work or play your awareness becomes totally focused. With this kind of focused attention other external events are often not noticed. While absorbed in a book, or watching television, you may not hear your name being called by someone else in the room. You were concentrating intensely, so you only perceived what you were focused on. This happens to everyone. During these focused times we are actually in a hypnotic state of mind.
Daydreaming is another common experience of a hypnotic state of mind. During daydreaming you temporarily shut out the outside world and focus on thoughts and images inside your mind. In your normal daily life, you move naturally in and out of hypnotic states of mind often without being aware of it. Each day you experience many altered states of consciousness.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool for gaining a deeper understanding of who you are and why. Hypnosis can be used as a tool to transform your life. The changes which occur during hypnotherapy can help make your life the way you want it to be.
In hypnotherapy, the door to the inner mind is opened and early forgotten or repressed memories are recalled or sometimes relived in vivid detail. These early memories still have a powerful impact on our lives by having a hold on our inner child. There are advantages in recalling and understanding these memories and experiences now. As adults we bring a new perspective to these inner memories. Hypnotherapy allows us to see subconscious memories and experiences from our adult perspective. As one gains this new perspective on the past, the result is often a rapid change in one’s attitudes, beliefs, and abilities. Such changes can transform the way we relate to others and to our life circumstances.
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Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for self-improvement and/or the release of problems. All hypnotherapy employs hypnosis; but not all hypnosis is hypnotherapy. Additionally, mastering the art of hypnosis does not necessarily mean one is qualified as a hypnotherapist. Contrary to what many might believe, there is more to helping someone overcome an unwanted habit than simply giving hypnotic suggestions. If a person’s subconscious resists positive suggestions for goal achievement, the competently trained hypnotherapist is far more likely to be of service than those with minimal training in hypnosis, or who are simply self-taught.
A background in therapy is NOT a substitute for adequate training in hypnotherapy when hypnosis is used to help people. However, the opposite is true, hypnosis is often used as a part of therapy.
Our minds function on at least two levels. One level is called conscious or outer awareness. The second level is called subconscious or inner awareness. The subconscious level of awareness is so called because it means beneath or forgotten. But the memories and experience we store in our subconscious are not really forgotten. Just the opposite! All the memories and experiences in our subconscious can and do have an influence on our day to day conscious lives.
Every experience we have, every thought we think, and every action we make, is permanently recorded in our subconscious mind. During our formative years as children the critical or judgment faculty of the mind is not yet developed. At that time in our lives, our parents and others in our environment make a direct impression on our subconscious minds. This is like writing directly on the open slate of the subconscious. In this process we gather notions and develop beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Often these beliefs can be negative and limiting. These ideas limit who we are and what we can do and be. For example, if parents frequently tell a child he is dumb or bad, that idea becomes like an internal script which our subconscious mind plays over and over to us. Such subconscious scripts may become like an “operational program”. This type of internal program can run the way in which we think and act. A program which says, “I’m dumb”, affects a person’s life by filtering perceptions of people and events to reinforce the idea, “I’m dumb.” This perceptual filter, then, organizes the experiences in our lives to continue the belief, that “I’m dumb.”
Direct suggestions may be given to help the client bring about an alignment of the outer and inner minds. This alignment creates the cooperation within the self needed in order to bring about the desired change or outcome. In other cases, hypnotherapy is used to uncover causes and inner beliefs that are interfering with the desired change. Hypnotherapy can be used to reduce or eliminate pain in the birthing process as well as various other conditions where intractable pain exists. Major surgery has been performed using only hypnotic anesthesia.
Since hypnosis is a natural state of mind, clients are often surprised that they hear every word. Unless one enters a deeper state, or at least a medium state, he or she may not “feel” any different than when relaxing in the favorite easy chair with a good book. One may feel quite mellow, and may feel light (or weightless), or very heavy as if sinking into the chair. If one enters a really deep state, the feeling may be euphoric for some, or almost like being intoxicated without the side effects. In a light state, it is entirely possible for a client to believe that he or she was not hypnotized; so it is important for a hypnotherapist to know how to competently handle the pre-induction discussion as well as the discussion after hypnosis.
Hypnosis has numerous applications and can be used in all areas of human experience. For example, hypnotherapy can be used:
It is commonly used to change patterns in our life when there is a conflict between the conscious or outer mind and the subconscious or inner mind. For example, we have decided in our outer mind what we want, let’s say to change our job, but our inner mind is still operating under a different set of old assumptions, such as fear of major change.
The following case illustrates a hypnotherapeutic outcome. A man in his fifties had severe stuttering problems for as long as he could remember. The stuttering had affected his social interactions, education, and type of employment. With an age regression exercise, the cause of the problem was revealed to the client. The client remembered repressed memories which took place when he was three years old. He had put some “ducks” in a tub of water to see them swim. They drowned; as they were really baby chickens. His dad came home drunk, beat him severely, and beat him more when he started to cry. While in hypnosis, the client experienced the long repressed tears. With this emotional release, the problem of stuttering cleared itself.
The best way to learn self-hypnosis is by asking a qualified hypnotherapist to teach you, and to give you post-hypnotic suggestions to reinforce what you learn. Additionally, you may find it helpful to read a good book on the subject. See the list of book at the bottom of this article.
The Canadian Professional Hypnotherapy Association (CPHA) was founded in 1977 in Vancouver BC, Canada. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public in the value of hypnosis as well as setting standards for its members in the field of hypnotherapy. It is a totally independent body and does not certify any particular training but takes each application for certification at its own merits.
There are six (6) levels of membership within the CHA. Associate, and Professional membership is for those who do not practice hypnotherapy but choose to be members for other reasons. Student, Resident, Clinical, and Certified Clinical Membership is for those who wish to practice hypnotherapy.
A person who is studying hypnotherapy with the intention of becoming a professional Hypnotherapist. Must have all work supervised by a certified member and is limited to work as identified under Resident Membership.
A person who is/has studied hypnotherapy with an institution recognized by the CHA, and/or can, if requested, pass the Resident examination. This is the first level at which a student can practice professionally.
If upgrading from a Student Member, a Resident applicant must verify he/she has completed the required 225 hours of time consisting of, 100 hours of observation, 125 practical hours of mentor-supervised time.
A resident member has some restrictions:
A person who has studied hypnotherapy with an institution recognized by the CHA, and/or can, if requested, pass the Clinical level examination of the CHA.
A Clinical Member must have documented proof of completion of the required 650 hours of mentor-supervised hours or equivalent. The mentor must be approved by the CHA executive unless he or she is a member of the CHA at the Clinical or Certified level.
A person who has studied hypnotherapy with an institution recognized by the CHA, and/or can, if requested, pass the Certified Clinical level examination of the CHA.
A Certified Member has documented proof of completion of the required 1500 hours of practice and supervision.
Tebbetts, C. (1987). Self-Hypnosis and Other Mind-expanding Techniques. Rosedale, CA: Prima Publications.
Bolduc, H. (1992). Self-hypnosis: Creating Your Own Destiny. Independence, VA: Adventures into Time Publishers.
Bolduc, H. (2000). Self-hypnosis: Scripts and suggestions for your subconscious. Mystical Mindscapes.
Alman, B.M. & Lanbrou, P.T. (1991). Self-hypnosis: The complete manual for health and self change. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Woolger, R. (1988). Other Lives, Other Selves: A Jungian Psychotherapist Discovers Past Lives. New York: Bantam.
There is no simple answer to this question. Individual therapy is difficult to define because most forms of counselling have a one-on-one component.
Basically, individual therapy is when an individual and therapist meet together. This is often to work on personal concerns such as assertiveness, personal reactions to life events, self-confidence, growth goals etc. While individual therapy may focus on the individual – changes made often affect others that the person interacts with, thus, individual sessions usually include the reactions of others to your goals for change.
What makes defining individual counselling difficult is that no one field can lay claim to individual therapy as its own, and yet most of them include individual work. However, the most notable and long standing contributors to individual theories come from the field of psychiatry (psychoanalysis), psychology, and theology.
Most of the individual theories have been influenced by psychoanalytic theory, often called psychoanalysis. Some of these therapeutic approaches extended the psychoanalytic model, others modified its concepts and procedures, and others emerged as a reaction against it. Many borrowed and integrated its principals and techniques. Today there are over 1000 varieties of counselling, with probably 30 or so being the most popular.
Some examples of individual models of therapy are: Rogerian and Person-Centred, Gestalt, Adlerian, Psychoanalysis, Reality Therapy, NLP, and Transactional Analysis to name a few.
One of the most dominant methods used in counsellor education, the Person-Centred Approach, is also used in a multitude of other professions to teach people skills. For example, tourist hosts, managers, hotel clerks, veterinarians, bankers, flight attendants, etc. are taught core skills of attending, active-listening, clarifying, and reflecting.
While it is helpful to know some person-centred techniques with “customers”, it is not the same as using them in therapy. Most people involved in the health care field, such as nurses, counsellors, social workers, and group home workers receive intense training in individual counselling techniques.
EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is an innovative clinical treatment that has successfully helped over a million individuals who have survived trauma, including sexual abuse, domestic violence, combat, crime, and those suffering from a number of other complaints including depression, addictions, phobias and a variety of self-esteem issues.
EMDR is a complex method of psychotherapy that integrates many of the successful elements of a range of therapeutic approaches in combination with eye movements or other forms of rhythmical stimulation in ways that stimulate the brain’s information processing system.
With EMDR therapy it is unnecessary to delve into decades-old psychological material, but rather, by activating the information-processing system of the brain, people can achieve their therapeutic goals at a rapid rate, with recognizable changes that don’t disappear over time.
The eye movements are just one way of accessing both sides of the brain. Tapping is often used as well as a light bar or sound system.
Yes. You are awake and fully conscious at all times. EMDR is not about someone doing something to you. With EMDR you are in control of the process at all times.
Most people react to their first EMDR quite positively. They also express surprise that everything seems to be the same. Often people indicate they are fully aware of the issue they were processing but it does not feel as powerful as before.
There a so many different skills a therapist can learn after university it is endless. Some therapists choose to specialize in a particular area. EMDR has become most popular in the treatment of traumatic injuries. Not every therapist works in this area.
Not every technique can be learned by one therapist; there are just too many. As well, to take training in EMDR requires study, travel, supervision, and money.
Yes. Lots of research. The latest list of articles is available at the EMDR and the EMDRIA web sites.
Fourteen controlled studies support the efficacy of EMDR, making it the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of trauma. The most recent 5 studies with individuals suffering from events such as rape, combat, loss of a loved one, accidents, natural disasters, etc. have found that 84-90% no longer had post-traumatic stress disorder after only three treatment sessions.
A recent study financed by Kaiser Permanente revealed that EMDR was twice as effective in half the amount of time compared to the standard traditional care. However, clients and clinicians should note that EMDR is not a race. While many people show dramatic responses in a short amount of time, there are also those who will progress more slowly and that the slower progression is not abnormal. Just as in any therapy, we all progress at the rate appropriate to the individual and the clinical situation.
The major significance of EMDR is that it allows the brain to heal its psychological problems at the same rate as the rest of the body is healing its physical ailments.
EMDR is based on a chance observation that Dr. Francine Shapiro made back in 1987. While walking in the park one day, she noticed that some disturbing thoughts she was having suddenly disappeared. She also noticed that when she brought these thoughts back to mind, they were not as upsetting or as valid as before. Being a Psychologist, she was fascinated and started to pay very close attention to what was going on. She experimented with what she learned and soon after developed a protocol. (Taken from: Shapiro, F. (1995). Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. Guilford Press: New York. p2.
Dr. Shapiro is a licensed psychologist and a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. She is the Executive Director of the EMDR Institute, which trains clinicians in the EMDR method. She is the recipient of the 1993 Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award presented by the California Psychological Association.
A therapist must take specialized training in the use of EMDR. There are two training levels. Level I teaches the basic application of EMDR. Level II is usually taken one or two years after Level I and teaches more in-depth skills. Level I practitioners are not certified and are limited in their practice.
The EMDRIA International Institute accredits training programs and certifies practitioners around the world.
To be certified in EMDR you must:
Couple and Family Therapy focuses on solving problems in relationships – between couples, parents and children, siblings, in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, ex-spouses, friends, co-workers, or business associates. Couple and family therapy usually includes talking with other family members in therapy, and may include performing tasks or homework assigned by the therapist.
No. Individuals often seek couple and family therapy to work on personality or relationship issues and emotional problems. Often individuals may enter therapy to work on issues which may be preventing them from being in a relationship or to work on issues from a marriage or relationship that has ended.
Couples need not be married to seek or benefit from couple and family therapy. In fact, many people go to premarital therapy to further develop and solidify a relationship which is headed toward marriage. With the busy-ness of dual-earner families today, many couples go to couple therapy for a “tune-up” every couple of years, so they don’t find themselves drifting too far apart. As well, post-marital therapy – which focuses on issues around separating, children, extended family, friends, and property – is a common use of couple therapy.
Anyone who wants to improve their relationship can benefit. Persons who are involved in relationships, whether friendships, alternatives to marriage, a parent and child, siblings, or work relationships also seek therapy to solve problems or strengthen the relationship.
The idea that only those with a mental illness can benefit from couple and family therapy is a myth. Changes, stress, and problems can be expected in any relationship and therapy can help prevent small problems from becoming serious. Click here for more information.
The professional therapist is trained to strengthen relationships, and thereby prevent problems from arising as well as increase the quality of a relationship and family life and other relationships.
Not all family members must always take part in the therapy. Uninterested family members often get involved in the therapy later if there is at least one motivated person in the family. Not all couple and family therapists require all family members to be present for sessions.
Couple and family therapy differs from individual or group therapy in that it focuses primarily on solving problems in relationships between people. Couple and family therapists believe that an individual’s problems are often a sign of difficulties between people, e.g. a person may become depressed within a painful marital situation. Generally, couple and family therapy works to improve relationships between people, and increase understanding of family roles, patterns, rules, goals, and stages of development. In contrast, traditional therapists most often focus on an individual’s personal problems, internal feelings, or past development through reflection or insight.
Art Therapy is a human service profession that utilizes art media, images, the creative art process and patient/client responses to the created products as reflections of an individual’s development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns and conflicts. Art Therapy practice is based on knowledge of human developmental and psychological theories which are implemented in the full spectrum of models of assessment and treatment including educational, psychodynamic, cognitive, transpersonal and other therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behaviour, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation and increasing self-esteem.
Art Therapy is an effective intervention for the developmentally, medically, educationally, socially, or psychologically hurt; and is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational, and forensic institutions. Populations of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds are served by art therapists in individual, couples, family, and group therapy formats.
Sex therapy is an approach to very real human problems. It is based on the assumption that sexuality is good, that relationships can be meaningful and that interpersonal intimacy is a desired goal. Sex therapy is by its nature a very sensitive treatment modality and will include respect for client’s values and cultural beliefs. Registered sex therapists should be non-judgmental, gender sensitive, and supportive of the equal rights of men and women to full expression and enjoyment of healthy sexual function. Registered sex therapists should be members of professional organizations or licensing bodies which govern practitioners’ conduct and practice.
Sex therapy is a method of treatment used with individuals or couples who have sexual problems and concerns. It is based on the belief that sexuality can be a productive part of life, that sexuality can be rewarding and that emotional and physical intimacy is a desirable goal. Sex therapy provides a supportive atmosphere in which individuals or couples can talk about sexual and relationship issues with a professional who is knowledgeable and comfortable with this area of life.
Self-esteem and feeling comfortable about sexuality are often closely related. “When I can’t feel good about my sexuality, how can I feel good about myself?”. The reverse is often also true. Reliable information about sexuality is still difficult to find and many people feel uniformed about sexual response and enjoyment. Knowing about our body and feeling at ease with the range of emotions associated with our sexuality can contribute to a sense of well-being.
Sexual intimacy is important for most couples as it can strengthen closeness and caring between partners. This is particularly important in today’s society where there are many pressures on couples. Dissatisfaction with the sexual aspect of the relationship and the loss of shared intimacy may lead to feelings which threaten the total relationship. Relationships may even end because of unresolved sexual difficulties.
The qualified sex therapist counsels heterosexual, homosexual, and bi-sexual people with a variety of sexual concerns which may be a consequence of many factors of personal or social origin. They may be a result of illness or surgery, physical difficulties, or sexual trauma such as incest or sexual assault. Concerns may be about such things as levels of sexual desire, painful intercourse, absence of orgasm, erection problems or timing of ejaculation. Sex therapists will also facilitate client’s sexual potential enabling them to enhance and enrich a creative form of sexual expression.
In addition, sex therapists work with couples who want to be able to talk more comfortably about sexual and intimacy issues. Sexual problems may be closely associated with other relationship issues which interfere with the desire to be intimate and close with one another.
The sex therapist also helps individuals who have inhibitions they wish to overcome, patterns or compulsions they may wish to change, and questions to explore regarding sexual identity and orientation.
As well, parents can ask questions about their children’s sexual curiosity and learn to foster healthy sexual development.
Your therapist will probably begin to assess your concerns by asking you a number of direct questions about your personal history, sexual feelings and behaviour. This is to help you and your therapist to clearly understand your issues. If you do not feel ready to talk about something, you can say so and your wish will be respected.
A medical examination may or may not be a part of the assessment. This should only be done by a physician. You should be fully informed and comfortable with the reasons for the examination.
Treatment plans vary with different therapists and the approach taken depends on the problem. As well as being supportive, the therapist may challenge or confront you on important issues but this will be done with respect for your feelings and values. You may be offered the opportunity to read books and/or view films designed for use in sex therapy. Between appointments, you, or you and your partner, may be asked to do some exercises at home to help both your communication and comfort with sex. The format of these exercises is usually negotiated with your therapist so that you feel comfortable with the treatment plan. Ask questions about anything that you do not understand and talk with your therapist about anything that you do not want to do.
You have a right to expect your sex therapist to be knowledgeable, at ease talking about sexuality and relationships, sensitive, non-judgmental and respectful of your feelings, values and privacy.
You should not be asked to take your clothes off unless it is for a medical examination by a physician and you are comfortable with and understand the reasons for the examination. You should also not be asked to engage in any form of sexual activity with or in front of your therapist, either alone or with your partner.
People who become sex therapists usually have at least one professional degree in a field such as marital and family therapy, medicine, nursing, psychology, or pastoral counselling, plus further specialized education and training in sex therapy. Most sex therapists will work under a code of ethics prescribes by their professional association. (e.g. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, The College of Nurses, The Canadian Association of Pastoral Counselling).
In Ontario, some sex therapists are accredited by the Board of Examiners in Sex Therapy and Counselling in Ontario (BESTCO). Applicants must have received certification in marital and family therapy or its equivalent. In BC there is no official certification organization. SIECCAN is a good place to inquire about certification.
No single professional degree qualifies a person to do sex therapy. Sex therapists may come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Knowledge of sexual anatomy and function, relationship issues, sex roles and expectations, and problems resulting from sexual abuse are just some of the areas a sex therapist needs to understand.
Before becoming registered, a sex therapist will be supervised by a more experienced sex therapist for up to three years as one part of the certification process.