Finding Orion

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.

What Happens in My First Counselling Session?

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.

What Happens During a Complimentary Counselling Consultation?

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:

Lost in the Moment


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.

Photo: My first ceramic art piece in undergrad.

What Helps You Feel Safe?

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

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.

What Happens in an Art Therapy Session?

In my last blog post, I wrote about what happens in a first therapy session.  This post looks at what happens in an art therapy session.  An initial art therapy session resembles a first therapy session.  As discussed in my previous post, there is still an intake process where we are going over paperwork and I am finding out more about you and your reasons for coming in to see me.

Depending on the client, art can be introduced immediately as some clients may be eager to jump in to the creative process whereas others may need to ease into art making.  Many art therapy newbies and clients who do not identify as artists usually need to be eased into the process which is OK.

I assure everyone that artistic skill is not required to partake in art therapy.  Art therapy is not about what you create; it is more about what happens while you are creating.

For the clients who want to dive right in, I will offer the appropriate art materials suited to their emotional needs.  Some clients will just start creating something and other clients may need guidance also known as directives in the art therapy realm.  During a first art therapy session, one directive could be to create an intention (aka a goal) you have for therapy.  Another directive could be to fill up an entire page using your favourite colour(s).

Art directives depend on what the client needs in the moment or overall.  They are carefully selected to meet you where you are and then move you forward one step at a time.  The art materials offered are also mindfully selected.  Some art materials can be overwhelming to use therefore I would not use them with someone who was already feeling ungrounded.

While clients are creating, I will move in and out when appropriate.  I will ask questions if I feel it is helpful or I will offer silence.  Silence is practiced a lot in many different forms of therapy because it is powerful.  It gives clients time to be still and reflect and discover.  Silence allows clients to move at their own pace.  It lets certain thoughts and feelings rise to the surface perhaps for the first time.  Silence moves us inward to places that states of busy do not allow us to go.  When embarking on a healing path, we must go inward.

During this creative period, many clients naturally go quiet.  Their focus becomes centered on their creative process which requires all their attention.  After a period of quiet, some clients begin to open up and a stream of consciousness begins to flow.  Thoughts, feelings, reactions are unhindered which can be insightful for the client and myself.

Every client’s creative process is different.  One client may get a lot of information from a few sessions while others may need months.  One client may work on a different piece each session while another may work on one piece every session.

At the end of every art therapy session we do some processing to make sure you are feeling safe and grounded.  We discuss what you would like to do with what you created.  I usually recommend that all art stay with me but that is dependent on each client.  All art is deemed confidential and is kept in a locked filing cabinet.

I offer 50 minute art therapy sessions and 75 minute art therapy sessions.

Art_Therapy

 


*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.

What happens in my first therapy session?

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.

During the first session with my clients, there is an intake process.  You will fill out some paperwork that involves consent to participate in therapy and a confidentiality agreement.  After you read and sign it, I check in with you to see if you have any questions.  If you’re not familiar with my therapeutic approach then I tell you about how I like to work with clients.  Then we move on to some questions about your medical background, current habits, concerning symptoms, and the reason you are seeking therapy.

This process can fill up the entire first session.  It’s one of the most important sessions because we are getting to know each other.  You’re deciding if I’m a good fit for your counselling needs and I am assessing if I can meet those needs.  As a clinical counsellor I will absolutely refer clients to another practitioner if that is what the client requests or if the client’s needs are outside of my scope of practice.  It would be unethical not to do so.

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 feel like you don’t trust or respect your counsellor, then the therapy process will not work.  You also must feel safe with your counsellor and feel like you can open up to them without the fear of being judged.

The first session is just the beginning to building a strong foundation for your healing process and it vital to find a counsellor that you can connect with.  The first counsellor you meet may not be a good fit for you, or even the second or third, so take your time in finding a counsellor who will hold space for you in the way you need them to.

connection-new

So consider the first session as a ‘getting to know each other’ session.  Depending on the client’s needs, goals may be talked about as well as some treatment planning and resources.  But mostly it’s an introduction session.  If a client has been in therapy before or is in crisis, then this linear process may look a lot different.

No matter what, as a counsellor I believe it’s important to meet you where you are and then proceed from there.

See, not too scary, right?

I usually have light refreshments in my office as well so there’s that. 😊

And of course, there’s the art therapy piece of what I do but I’ll save that for my next post.


 

*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.

What is art therapy? Why should I try it?

Art Therapy is a therapeutic modality that involves an art therapist and client working with the creative art making process to support a client’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Working with the creative process allows people to reach deeper levels of healing that talk therapy alone cannot always do.

If you have trouble expressing yourself verbally or find yourself unable to describe your experience with words, then working with art can help you express yourself without the use of words.  Studies have shown how trauma impacts the verbal language area of the brain making it difficult to use or even find the right words to effectively verbalize traumatic events.  The ability to use images and symbols can facilitate healing when words fail.  Creating art can also feel like a safer way to express yourself which also ignites the healing process.  Visual and symbolic expression can empower individuals and help develop self-awareness, explore emotions, address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-esteem.

art enables

You do not have to be an artist to engage in art therapy.  This is a common concern and fear of many people who are not familiar with art therapy.  You do not need to know how to draw or paint or do anything.  You are not responsible for creating a great masterpiece.  Art therapy focuses on the creative process itself.  It is about what is coming up for you while you are creating.  As an art therapist I will not be judging or critiquing your art.  I am with you to support your process and make sure you feel safe.

Many clients choose to create a variety of pieces.  Some clients like to paint pictures while others like to experiment with mixing paint colors.  A few clients may roll balls of clay with their hands while others create pinch pots or clay animals.  There are clients who like to draw cartoons while other clients just like to scribble on a page or two.  As individual needs are different so is the creative process to each client.  Your “art” is whatever you create it to be and that is okay.

As an art therapist I focus on a client’s strengths, interests, and abilities so engaging in the creative process feels safe and comfortable.  Art expression includes drawing, painting, sculpting, clay, writing, collage, poetry, music, and much more.  Research supports the use of art therapy and acknowledges the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self-expression.

It is always the client’s choice to engage in art therapy or not.  It is okay to start at anytime and it is okay to stop at anytime.

Benefits of Art Therapy

• Promotes self-expression and self-awareness
• Supports self-care, balance, and well being
• Decreases stress, depression, and anxiety
• Manages chronic pain and physical ailments causing distress
• Encourages the development of healthy and effective coping skills
• Explores traumatic experiences in a safe manner
• Assists in improving focus and memory
• Develops problem solving skills and interpersonal/social skills

 

okeefe

 

 

*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.

The Empath & The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

A warm welcome to all my fellow empaths and HSPs.  And if you are not an empath or a HSP then perhaps you know one and are curious to find out more information to get to know them better and support them. 

EMPATHS

Dr. Judith Orloff is an expert on empaths and describes empaths as those who feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms due to their high sensitivities.  They are incredibly intuitive and often have a difficult time sorting out their feelings.  Dr. Orloff has a free self-assessment to find out if you are an empath.

Dr. Orloff discuess the differences between empaths and HSPs in her blog.

HSPs

Dr. Elaine Aron is the originator of the ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ concept and describes HSPs as having a sensitive nervous system.  HSPs are aware of subtleties in their environment and can can be easily overwhelmed in a highly stimulating environment.  Take Dr. Aron’s self-assessment for HSPs.

*********************

A person who is an empath or a highly sensitive person, or both, holds unique skills and traits that can be powerful.  Both are deeply genuine and care about others with a great intensity.  They are loyal in their most treasured relationships.  They are excellent workers and thrive in environments that supports their autonomy.  Empaths and HSPs tend to be drawn to the arts, whether they are creating it themselves or merely observing all its beauty.  They enjoy a rich inner life and have numerous ideas swirling around in their heads at any given time.  Deep conversations are welcomed involving the sharing of passions, ideas, meaning of life, and beyond.  And with this deep thinking comes impeccable problem solving abilities.  Some of the more commonly known characteristics of empaths and HSPs are their sensitivities.  Empaths and HSPs are highly tuned in to the energies and emotions which surround them.

The sensitivities include but are not limited to:

  • Sight: Bright lights including sun light
  • Sound: Loud noises (easily startled); Yelling; Non-stop talkers
  • Smells: Perfume; Food; Cleaning products
  • Touch: Scratchy clothing; Pain; Hot/Cold
  • Other people’s moods/reactions/energy
  • Violent TV shows/movies

Research by Dr. Arthur Aron and Dr. Elaine Aron, the originator of HSP, has shown the different ways HSPs process emotion, awareness, and empathy through MRIs.  20 percent of the population is genetically pre-disposed to empathy.  “We found that areas of the brain involved with awareness and emotion, particularly those areas connected with empathetic feelings, in the highly sensitive people showed substantially greater blood flow to relevant brain areas than was seen in individuals with low sensitivity,” said Dr. Aron.

I want to be clear that being an empath or an HSP does not constitute having a mental illness.  However, empaths and HSPs often experience challenges due to their sensitivities.  Some of these challenges include but are not limited to:

  • Becoming easily overwhelmed, confused, panicked
  • Feeling anxious, depressed
  • Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day
  • Experiencing panic attacks, excessive rumination, negative thought patterns
  • A lack of self-confidence, self-awareness, self-worth
  • Somatic symptoms not due to a medical condition

Those who are not aware of being empaths or HSPs are likely to experience unexplained stressed reactions leading to confusion, guilt, and self-blame.  Without proper education and guidance, these challenges may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

My intention is to help you discover who you are as an empath and/or a HSP.  I would like to help you develop your own tools and resources so you feel safe, confident, and capable navigating your chosen path.  And hopefully help you see your sensitive nature as a part of you to embrace.  I view our sensitivities as a strength but you may need some time before you get there and that’s okay.

*********************

hsp

Heather Hassenbein Counsellor Vancouver, BC Art Therapist Empath Highly Sensitive Person HSP Downtown Kitsilano 

 

*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.