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If you haven't been in psychotherapy or professional counselling before, you may feel nervous or worried about what's going to happen during the first session. It's not uncommon for people to worry that the therapist will criticize how they think or feel ... or worse, judge them as "crazy" or as a "bad person." Another common worry is discussing issues may lead to being overwhelmed by emotions.  And last but not least, some worry that information may be leaked - making matters worse. So, with these common worries in mind, here are a few things that you might want to know before we get started....​​

  • If I were paid a dollar for every time that I told someone that "they're normal" in counselling, I'd be a very rich man!  The majority of people present with "normal reactions" to "abnormal situations."  That is, they present with reactions that most people would have if they had been through the same situation.

  • Counselling moves at your pace.  I encourage people to only provide information that they are comfortable sharing - e.g., "Feel free to just tell me what I need to know."  This usually minimizes concerns on both an emotional level and on a confidentiality level.  I respect that trust needs time to develop.  I respect that some topics are really tough to talk about.

  • ​I am registered with and overseen by the College of Alberta Psychologists (a.k.a., CAP).  They stipulate that all Psychologists in Alberta adhere to strict standards of confidentiality with any information that you choose to provide.  In general, all information that clients provide in session remains confidential (or kept secret) with a few rare exceptions that are reviewed in detail during the first session (and as needed thereafter).  According to CAP, I need to be completely straight-up in terms of who may have access to any information that you provide ... before you provide it.  

 Frequently Asked Questions 

  • What is a Psychologist?  In short, Psychologists complete roughly 6-11 years of university-level, scientific study of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours - and we apply this knowledge for the purpose of helping people to understand, explain, and change their behaviour, their sense of wellbeing, and their overall quality of life.  As part of this process, we develop expertise with various types of therapy (see below) that have been scientifically shown to (a) create positive change, (b) reduce mental illness, (c) produce personal growth, and (d) generally help with managing or overcoming personal problems or relationship issues.   For more information, please click here.

  • When do you start to feel better?  Researchers have generally shown that significant change usually happens within 8-12 sessions - but at the same time, it's not uncommon for people to notice improvements or that they are feeling better within 3-7 sessions. Depending on your needs or goals, therapy may be brief, intermittent, or longer-term.

  • How do I choose a Psychologist?  The first step in choosing a psychologist usually involves (a) finding someone who is a match in terms of their areas of interest or specializations (mine are here).  The Psychologists' Association of Alberta states that there are two important things to look for in making the choice: (b)  credentials and competence (see below) ... AND just as importantly, (c) that thing called "the click" (i.e., getting a feeling that you really connect with them).  In terms of the latter, when I've helped folks with finding a psychologist ... we've often scrolled through pictures of candidates who have the credentials and looked for those that give you a good feeling, vibe, or impression.   

  • What's "competence?"  In Alberta, ANYONE who is registered as a Psychologist can only practice in areas for which they are properly trained (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress, etc.) and competent.  To be registered as a psychologist, we have to declare our areas of specialization to the College of Alberta Psychologists (a.k.a., the Psychologist Police)...and they, in turn, make sure that we are competent to provide treatment in these areas (before they let us practice/give us license).  On top of academic coursework, this proof involves 1600 hours of face-to-face counselling that is supervised by an approved Psychologist AND passing extremely difficult licensing exams (e.g., the dreaded EPPP).  After being registered or licensed with CAP, Psychologists have to continue practicing ONLY in the areas for which they are competent and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. If we cross the code or are providing services for which we are not well-trained, we have to answer to CAP (and they are terrifying). So, in short, being registered as a Psychologist ensures that the practitioner has met a high standard of training for each area listed and can provide a high standard of care. The Canadian Psychological Association puts it nicely: "The role of the regulatory body [CAP] is to protect the public by ensuring that its practitioners are properly trained and are competent. You have no assurance that an unregulated person is competent to provide the service offered and no regulatory body to contact if you have any concern about the service provided."

  • What exactly are "good credentials" for a Psychologist?  In terms of credentials, Psychologists in Alberta must hold a master's degree (6 years of university), a PSY.D. (8 years of study), and/or a "doctoral degree" or PH.D. (ringing-in at a sometimes-seemingly-endless 11-13 years of total university, on average) in psychology.  Psychologists who hold doctoral degrees can use the title ‘Dr.’  Ph.D's are considered the most intense and thorough of the 3 degrees (i.e., scary-hard). 

  • There are many universities that offer such counselling degrees in North America.  However, there's some agreement that the best of these degrees (or credentials) come from universities with graduate-level counselling programs that are accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association.  In Canada, there are only 5 doctoral programmes in counselling psychology that are accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association: McGill University, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, AND University of Alberta. These programs are extremely difficult to get into - and they are rigorous ... a.k.a., "The Real Deal" or "Hell-On-Earth" (as my Irish Grandmother might say).  

  • Do I need a referral to book an appointment?   No referral is necessary.  Feel free to just shoot me an email and/or text 780-940-4059 ... and simply say that you'd "like to book an appointment."  Shortly afterwards, I'll give you a brief phone-call to get a little bit of information about the issue at hand as well as to set a time for our first appointment.  

  • What if I'm extremely nervous?   I honestly believe that coming-in for your first counselling session is one of life's more nerve-wracking experiences.  For this reason, I tell people to bring a tea/coffee/water and "feel free to be as nervous as you want." For psychologists, it's not uncommon to see people who fall on a continuum between "nervous" and "shaking."  We're used to it . . . and we're trained to tease-out the information that we need to make sense of what's going on ... even if we get one-word responses and no eye-contact.

  • Do you direct-bill coverage-providers?  I only bill directly for Blue Cross, Arete, Criterion Group, and First Nations and Inuit Health, Canada. With regard to other forms of coverage (e.g., Manulife or Great-West Life), I ask for people to pay out-of-pocket (e.g., cash, cheque, or visa) and then provide them with a receipt that they may submit for reimbursement.​

  • Did you take these photos?  Yep!  I like to tell people that I'm a photographer who's moonlighting as a psychologist . . . and sometimes, this might be true!  The photos posted here are some of my favourites . . . 

  • How do you know if counselling is working?  For this question, I monitor progress from session-to-session using an outcome-measure that is designed by one of the top psychologists on the planet: Dr. Scott Miller (who, I can't resist saying, did a card-trick for me once over dinner ... after telling me that he also likes the band Pixies. Who says, "never meet your heroes"??).  Dr. Miller's program has been proven to be extremely effective for getting-a-read on people's 'overall sense of wellbeing' ... and my goal is to see that sense of wellbeing increase.  I also watch for when Dr. Gabor Mate's "indicators of issue-resolution":  (a) expressing needs, (b) expressing feelings, (c) assertiveness, (d) self-care, (e) self-protection, (f) "talking about it," and last but not least, (g) "liking themselves."  From my experience so far, these indicators mark when people are on the other-side of just about anything (including trauma).  I will have a tattoo of Dr. Mate at some point in my lifetime.  And last but not least, positive outcomes are also set on a person-by-person basis ... e.g., "What changes do you hope to see as a result of counselling?"  This question is on the last page of my intake form.

 Additional Information About What To Expect 

  • Sessions are 50 minutes in length (with the other 10 minutes of the hour being dedicated to paperwork).

  • Because much change seems to happen when we develop a clear picture of the issue at hand, I do ask a lot of questions!  In understanding your current situation and difficulties, I will likely ask for you to describe the problem (as best you can and as much as you feel comfortable doing so).  I will also ask questions about when the problem started, what makes it better or worse, and how the problem affects you, your work, your relationships, and/or your health.  Finally, I also tend to focus greatly on the positives - e.g., what's going right, what has improved (even since booking the appointment), how you've been coping, and what has been helpful.    ​​

  • To the best of my ability, I do not take/reply to emails, texts, or phone calls outside of business hours.  

I incorporate a variety of counselling approaches, depending upon the issue at hand.  Please click on the links below for more information about each (courtesy of Psychology Today):

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)       Solution-Focused Brief Therapy            Motivational Interviewing 

Narrative Therapy                                 Hope-Focused Therapy                       Person-Centered Therapy    

Existential Therapy                                 Humanistic Therapy                           Integrative Therapy

Multicultural Therapy                                                


       For further information, you can also click on the following topics:​​​


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