As a child I looked at the stars so often and for so long, I started to notice patterns among them. At some point, I learned about constellations and always yearned to learn more. I forget how and when I learned about the constellations but I do remember learning about the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and some others. For me, they were all hard to spot except for one. Orion. Orion was the easiest one for me to recognize mostly due to Orion’s belt. I could easily find those three little stars and from them I could see the entire constellation.
Find one pattern; step back; and see all the other patterns begin to connect. By finding the patterns in the stars and seeing how they connect, I learned how to see the bigger picture.
From then on Orion followed me throughout the years. During the winter months on clear nights, I could always count on Orion to be there. I remember many times pulling into my driveway not wanting to go inside to the chaos of my house, I would stand in my driveway and look up and find Orion. I could stay with him for as long as I needed. On nights when it felt impossible to sleep, I would look out my window and Orion would be waiting. Whether I needed some peace and quiet or a sense of ease, I could always rely on Orion’s remarkable presence to provide comfort.
Unlike my reflective conversations with the stars, there were not many conversations with Orion. It was more about seeing each other and being seen was important because I had felt unseen for so long. Orion validated my presence. I felt heard by the stars and seen by Orion.
In the recent past, I experienced many life transitions, which included many moves. During this time, I lost my connection with Orion. I had not seen nor looked for him in a couple of years. I was busy with other things and was looking forward rather than looking up. On my last move from the United States to Canada, I had settled into my new place. After a few months, everything was starting to feel stable. I awoke in the middle of the night and felt compelled to look out my window. It was a clear winter night. There had not been many clear nights in Vancouver since I moved. I looked out at the quiet street below and then I looked up. I could feel a warm comforting wave flow through my body and I smiled. There was Orion shining bright as ever. My reliable constellation. He was there with me in my new home. However, this time was different. This place was a home I created on my own. It was a haven filled with peace. My home finally had everything I needed to feel safe. Orion was not there to ease my pain. He was there to celebrate in my joy.
Seeing Orion thousands of miles from my childhood home and in my new home, felt like a full circle moment. And in that moment, everything felt like it would be all right.
If you are ever feeling alone on those dark winter nights, look up, find those recognizable three stars and you will find Orion waiting for you.
Is not knowing exactly what happens in your first counselling session causing some anxiety? Is fear keeping you from making an appointment because of uncertainty?
I’m here to assure you that although the first session can cause some rattled nerves there is nothing to be afraid of. Fear of the unknown is valid and experienced by many people.
Before a client has a first counselling session at Constellations Counselling in Vancouver BC, they have a complimentary consultation with a Registered Clinical Counsellor. This consultation is required and it is your opportunity to ask questions and generally see if the counsellor is a good therapeutic match for you. You can read more about the complimentary consultation in a previous post.
Even though clients have a complimentary consultation first, there is still some nervousness about the first official session which is common. We take your sense of safety seriously so there are a few things we do before we jump into the session. If you visit us in person, we will orient you to the office space and offer you water or tea. If you are still feeling nervous, we offer a grounding exercise to help you settle in if you are open to it. We can do this grounding exercise with online clients as well. Once you feel settled in we begin the session.
The first session with clients is an intake session. During this session, the counsellor will ask you a series of questions in order to start getting to know you. It’s basically an interview where we clarify goals for counselling, we ask about strengths, current coping skills, concerning symptoms, relevant family mental health history, and ask other questions that will help your counsellor build an individualized therapeutic plan for you. This process typically takes the entire first session to complete and can often be a part of the second session if not completed in the first.
If we complete the intake in the first session, then we typically focus on creating safety in the second session. How this will look will vary for each client and sometimes safety will be the primary focus for awhile especially if there is a significant amount of trauma. As a client, it’s important to feel comfortable and safe with your counsellor. A strong therapeutic relationship is essential to successful therapy outcomes. If you do not feel safe with your counsellor, then the therapy process will not work. After safety is established, we move into the main areas of concern the client wants to work on.
One way we practice safety with our clients is by being transparent about the counselling process. You will be informed about next steps in your counselling process and at any point if you ever have any questions we will answer them respectfully and honestly.
Throughout the counselling process, we welcome your feedback, concerns, and questions. We always want to know what is working and what is not. We build on what works and we shift when things are not working. Your counsellor aligns with you so you will be able to meet your therapeutic goals/intentions.
And after reading this, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us.
If you are ready to book with Constellations Counselling, click the button below:
Note: This post has been updated from a previous post from 2018.
Constellations Counselling in Vancouver, BC offers online complimentary consultations for those interested in counselling.
Have you ever wondered what a complimentary counselling session entails? Or are you hesitating making an appointment because you do not know what to expect?
Let’s dive into it.
An online complimentary consultation for counselling is a free shortened session lasting 20 minutes with a counsellor. This is your opportunity to meet the counsellor and ask questions. The counsellor will tell you about their background, their therapeutic approach, expectations for counselling, and availability. All this information is also located on each counsellor’s profile on our website under Our Team.
During this session, you’re deciding if the counsellor is a good fit for your counselling needs and they are assessing if they can meet those needs. As Registered Clinical Counsellors, we will absolutely refer clients to another practitioner if what the client requests or what the client needs is outside of our scope of practice. It would be unethical not to do so.
This session goes by quickly so it is best to come prepared. After reading the counsellor’s profile, write down any outstanding questions you want to ask or anything you need further information on. Common questions asked by clients are answered in each counsellor’s profile. You can also read about each counsellor’s therapeutic approach and how they work with clients. There are many different types of therapeutic approaches so it is best to research the approach that may be best for you. Sometimes you may not know which therapeutic style is best until you try it or hear the counsellor explain it in further detail.
Although this consultation session is short, many people get a first impression by someone based on their intuition. If that is you, then trust what you feel. Go with what feels good and move forward from what does not feel right.
If this is your first time seeking therapy, we strongly encourage you to meet with a few different counsellors before deciding on one. We understand this process takes more time but it is worth it. All the counsellors you meet may be great but there is usually one that feels more right than the others. Counselling is such a personal journey it’s important to choose the person who resonates with you the most.
As a client, it’s important to feel comfortable and safe with your counsellor. And in order for the counselling process to be effective this safety and trust must be at the foundation of your therapeutic relationship. You deserve to have a counsellor that is empathetic, patient, non-judgmental, and is able to hold space for you in the way you need them to.
You can make an online complimentary consultation below:
Do you know that feeling of being blissfully lost in the moment?
It’s those times where you are so happily immersed in something that time seems to stand still and the whole world just falls away.
In that moment, all that matters is you and whatever has captivated your attention.
I love those moments and I recently realized I miss having them.
I remember the last time I felt like this was when I started working with clay. I was working on my first sculpture in my first hand building ceramics class in my undergrad. In the beginning, it was overwhelming trying something new. However, during the process of creating, I found a deep focus that I never experienced before.
I experienced these blissful moments of being engulfed in the present moment. It was just my art and me.
The experience of being lost in the moment or better stated being present in the moment is something people are missing.
Recently, this is something that is resonating with clients.
They miss that joyful feeling of being lost in something they love doing.
In order to find that again, sometimes it’s a matter of returning to something old or daring to try something new.
For me, I will be returning to something old.
I begin a hand building class next week.
And we shall see if I will get happily lost again.
When I was a child, I would often go outside at night to look up at the stars. I felt drawn to them. The starry night sky became the one calm constant in my life I could count on. They shined so bright amidst the darkness and made things better for a moment. When I was with the stars, there was no yelling, or fighting, or chaos. I was not scared or anxious something bad was happening or about to happen. When I sat under the stars, I experienced the most blissful peace. I could talk to the stars about my fears and troubles and they would always listen. There were days I eagerly waited for the sun to set and the sky to turn a dark indigo so I could sit with those sparkling glints of hope. They may have been millions of light years away but they were always close by when I needed them. On the nights when the moon was full were my favorite. The full moon made the darkness that surrounded me lighter. I would smile at the full moon feeling her light envelope me all the while knowing her stay was temporary. When the nights were warm, it was easy to stay out as long as I needed to chat with my confidantes. When the nights grew colder, I would stay out until my little fingers felt like icicles. It was always hard to leave.
Now as an adult, I still look up on dark nights and smile. The stars are still there for me.
And when the moon is at her fullest she still shines her light on me offering her safe embrace. They are all waiting to hear what I need to say and I am open to any answers that may arise.
The Counsellor’s Journal is a collection of journal entries based on my own experiences, perspectives, and reflections. Many entries will reflect on my past; other entries will explore my present; and some writings will focus on my future.
I always share with clients how healing journal writing can be. Journaling has not always been a regular habit in my life. However, when I do write my thoughts and feelings down it always provides some form of relief or insight. Moving our thoughts and feelings out of our bodies through the action of writing can be cathartic. When we write something on a page, we offer our bodies a way to release things we have been holding onto far too long. And when the words are on paper, we have created space between us and what we’ve written.
In this liminal space is where change can occur. It is a space where we can make choices that best suit our healing in the moment.
One option is to go back and read what we have written. Because we have created this distance, this space, we may be able to see things from a different perspective and gain some insight on our circumstances. For some, this happens while writing so there is no need to go back and re-read.
Another option is to simply write everything down then put it away and have that be enough. There is no need to re-visit the written words because the act of moving the thoughts and feelings out of their bodies was all they needed and that is okay.
There is also the option to burn the completed pages and release the ashes using water. This has been a beautiful ritual for many clients and one they return to regularly. Fire and water are healing elements for those who feel drawn to the process.
I have done all three depending on what I needed in each moment. I do invite you to try some journaling and know however you choose to journal is your choice.
Taking breaks throughout your day is good for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. If you need some ideas, I made a handout filled with common mindfulness activities that are quick and easy. Try them all out or find a favourite and incorporate it into your daily schedule to give your mind, body, and heart a much needed break.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I unfortunately will be cancelling all in-person sessions for April. I am closely following the direction of our provincial health officers, health providers, and the regulatory counselling and psychology colleges and associations. If anything changes and it is deemed safe and acceptable to hold in-person sessions before the month is over, I will send out another email.
I have opened up my calendar more so you can still schedule in-person appointments for May and June. Hopefully, things will be better by then and we can meet in the office again.
I want you, our loved ones, and our community to stay physically safe and healthy. And I also want to make sure you are staying mentally and emotionally healthy which is why I am still here to support you with online sessions during this time. There has already been so much change and I know having an online session is another change for you. But be assured it’s still me sitting with you as I’ve always done – just in a different way. (PJs and pets are welcome!)
Online sessions are done through the doxy.me website and there is no added cost in accessing the website or app. Online sessions are 50 minutes. My private “waiting room” can be accessed here: https://doxy.me/heathercounselling
*If you would like an online counselling session but are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, please contact me via email: email@example.com
**Most insurance companies are reimbursing for tele-health but check with your provider to make sure.
In my downtown Vancouver counselling and art therapy office, I often sit with clients who find it difficult to embrace vulnerability as a strength. And that is understandable since we are conditioned, since childhood, to view it as a weakness. In order to help clients begin to take a new perspective on vulnerability I recommend Brené Brown’s 2010 TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. The talk usually inspires further introspection that lead to many a-ha moments for clients.
On Friday April 19, 2019, Brené Brown’s Netflix special, The Call to Courage, was released. As of Sunday I have already watched it three times. Brown has committed 20 years to researching courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy so I value her knowledge on the subject. On my first round I had to pause the special so I could grab my notepad and pen to record the wisdom that resonated with me. I laughed. I cried. I felt inspired. I leaned into the discomfort I felt around certain topics and understood those were going to be areas for my own personal growth. I watched it again right away and found many more golden nuggets and laughed and cried again.
By the end of my third viewing, I was ready to show up, be brave, and jump in the arena. Looking over my life, I like to think I have been brave and embraced vulnerability. I do view vulnerability as a necessity, a foundation, to live a whole-hearted life. However, upon further reflection, there are still certain areas of my life where I am cautiously reserved. The areas of my life where I have answered the call to courage are where I have experienced copious amounts of failures, heartaches, disappointments, frustrations, as well as numerous moments of joy, accomplishment, expansion, and serendipities. And the areas of my life where I have yet to pick up that call or put that call on hold, are the areas of my life that feel stagnant. I was left wondering what I should do and judgment crept in which felt unhelpful even shameful. Understanding the importance of self-compassion, I offered myself some. I know that it’s okay if I’m not ready. I know it’s ok to take my time. I know that I can take baby steps until I get there. I know it’s ok to stay still until I’m ready to move forward. And with practicing self-compassion the judgment dissipated.
For those also feeling inspired to jump into the arena of courage and vulnerability and are ready, I commend you and I’m rooting for you. For those also feeling inspired to jump in but don’t know how or are not yet ready, I see you and I’m also supporting you. Please know that it’s ok to take your time. Always honor where you are and what you are feeling. Move at your own pace and find what works for you.
Words from the special that resonated with me:
“Vulnerability is having the courage to show up when you don’t know the outcome.”
“You’re going to know failure if you’re brave with your life.”
“You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives.”
“Belonging is belonging to yourself first. Speaking your truth, telling your story, and never betraying yourself for other people. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are and that’s vulnerable.”
“When we were interviewing to understand resilience, the most resilient participants that we’ve met across all these years had this sentence in common: The story I’m telling myself. Because when something hard happens, our brain, which is wired to protect us above all else, wants a story. It understands story and narrative pattern, and it says, ‘Give me a story so I can understand how to protect you.’ It wants, bad guy, good guy, safe, dangerous, against you, for you. And so we make up these stories.”
“Joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions. We are terrified to feel joy. We are so afraid that if we let ourselves feel joy something will come along and rip it away from us and we will get sucker punched by pain and trauma and loss. So that in the midst of great things, we literally dress rehearse tragedy…When we lose our capacity for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding…The people who could really lean into joy, they didn’t dress rehearse tragedy. They didn’t practice the terrible things. They just leaned in…What do you think the one thing they share is? They practiced gratitude.”
Regarding trauma and loss: “No matter what the trauma was that they were recovering from, they said: When you’re grateful for what you have, I understand that you understand the magnitude of what I’ve lost.”
“If you’re not willing to build a vulnerable culture, you can’t create.”
“Today I’ll choose courage over comfort.”
“In the absence of love and connection there is suffering.”
“Vulnerability involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
“Sometimes winning is not coming in first. Sometimes winning is doing the really brave thing.”
“Vulnerability is hard, and it’s scary, and it feels dangerous, but it’s not as hard, scary, or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves: What if I would have shown up? What if I would have said I love you? What if I would have come off the blocks? Show up, be seen, answer the call to courage, and come off the blocks ‘cause you’re worth it. You’re worth being brave.”
As a Californian, I fully support getting your Californian on. ❤️ 🤣
*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.