Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services Blog -


Loss of Trust and How to Find Your Way Towards Each Other

Have you and your partner ever experienced an event, or a period of time, that causes loss of trust, resentment and aggression? Even something so subtle you didn’t notice the buildup of negative emotions towards each other until one day you realize you have been fighting about everything lately. Perhaps it is just one partner who feels this way, and the other is left constantly wondering why they cannot do anything right, why there is so much tension or conflict seemingly out of nowhere, or perhaps even starting to feel suspicion towards their partner. Relationships are difficult; there is no way around that. Once the new relationship energy wears off, it is hard work maintaining a life with someone who does not share all of the same values, opinions and sometimes schedule as us. When trust is lost, and the cause of that loss of trust is not repaired in the short term, it can start to build and eventually you may feel as though you are staring back at all the moments trust slipped right past you and you’re facing what seems like an impossible, and sometimes unbearable, task of beginning to repair the relationship. Individual and couples/family counselling can assist with immediate concerns or long-standing sources of conflict (sometimes known as hot-button topics) in a safe, neutral environment.

Short-Term Trust Repairing – Holding Space

Holding space is a term used to describe allowing another the time and physical, emotional and cognitive space to allow hurt feelings exist. Shutting down negative emotions or anxiety in the moments can actually, at times, hinder the process as the other is not given their time to sort and heal in their own way. Sometimes things cannot be “fixed” in the moment, and sometimes people are not ready to talk or work through it. This does not inherently mean it will never be resolved. Another way to hold space for someone is when a conflict is getting particularly heated and there is no effective communication happening. Sometimes walking away and taking a break is the best thing people can do during a conflict. Self-soothing, alone, and holding space for when your partner is ready to return can be extremely helpful in moving a conversation along effectively. Give your partner space to feel hurt, feel betrayed, feel resentful, but always make sure that, together, you are coming back to discuss and move forward with it. Holding space is a technique specifically designed for the person receiving it, so holding space without expectation for self is key.

Long-Term Trust Repairing – Intentionally Doing the Work

If trust is a long-standing issue and holding space does not work, there are many other options to go about repairing lost or broken trust. To start at the beginning and determine if both/all parties involved want to repair the relationship is an effective place to start. If one person is always trying to save the relationship and the other person has little interest in helping in that process, it is not going to work. Both/all individuals involved in the relationship conflict need to be open to talking, solving, and eventually moving past the issue or issues that resulted in the loss of trust. This is not usually easy to do, is a process that requires effort and mindful approaches, and will take a lot of time, energy and commitment, but it can be done. Knowing the source of the conflict is also paramount, and it may be a surprise to somewhat might actually be causing the problems to begin with. With counselling, healthy communication and striving towards a healthy relationship can be achieved.

This post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:



t: 250.718.9291


The Benefits of Expressive Arts Therapy: Across the Lifespan


“I can’t talk about it, but I can draw how it feels inside. Once I see the image on the page, the weight seems much less and I usually end up knowing what I can do about it.”

~ Adult client grieving the loss of her mother

“It hurts too much! The puppets help me say what’s going on so I can feel better.”

~ 6-year old expressing how he feels about his parents’ divorce

“Talking only makes me angrier. That’s why I like writing a story and seeing where it takes me…it’s always so surprising to me how the characters figure out how to help themselves! This helps me remember that I have what it takes to stand up for myself…”

~ Teenager experiencing bullying and anxiety

“Getting outside of my comfort zone by doing something spontaneous in session has helped expand my thinking and increased my confidence. I would never have thought it would have worked for me, but it’s what I’ve been missing in my treatment.”

~ Adult client with depression

“I noticed that each week he was getting out more and more of his pent-up frustration. He was able to focus more on tasks and think clearer. His “toolbox” he created gave him the physical reminder to use the lessons from the session at home and school before ever having a meltdown.”

~ Parent of an 8-year-old with ADHD

These are the types of testimonials I have heard and witnessed throughout my education and experience with the expressive arts as a therapeutic intervention. As the new child, youth and family counsellor on the Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services (OCCS) team, I am going to describe the core benefits of Expressive Arts Therapy, as it is often a misunderstood form of support.

Expressive Arts Therapy involves the use of various creative measures in order to bring about empowerment, healing, and change. It is all about releasing emotions in a safe, supportive, and creative environment. 

What Expressive Arts Therapy is NOT:

  • Only applicable or appropriate for children and youth.
  • Singly for those who have experience with the arts or have skill/talent.
  • Merely about drawing or painting how you feel.
  • Solely concerning the creation an outcome or product (Knill, Levine, & Levine, 2005).
  • A traditional therapeutic approach where the therapist’s main focus is to listen, to validate, offer suggestions, and explore information about the problem.
  • The therapist watching clients make something and then deciphering the meaning behind the created work.

What Expressive Arts Therapy IS:

  • A complementary practice alongside other therapeutic interventions – for example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Mindfulness.
  • Client-centered, collaborative, empowerment-focused, and strengths-based.
  • Multimodal, meaning anything creative can be used in sessions, including music/sound, dance/movement, storytelling, puppets, collages, etc.
  • An approach to empower oneself and heal through something that cannot be discussed in words.
  • A method to release emotions blocked body sensations, and unhelpful thoughts; to face fears of the past or present; and to feel the pure joy of the whole self-coming together in unity and strength.
  • A way to try things out, make discoveries, take risks, do it again if it does not feel right, be silly, be brave.
  • A manner of working with the creative process as a paradigm for addressing suffering, where the focus is on the process itself, and on the insights that emerge, rather than on the outcome or product.
  • Therapist participation can take many forms, such as acting as a witness to the art making, as a facilitator of the process, or as a full participant and co-creator (Levine, 2015). The levels of engagement depend on the therapist’s assessment at any given moment and what the client is expressing they need.

In our creativity lies passion and hope, which motivate and inspire us to change what is not helping us, to move through pain, to gain strides that will help us achieve our greatest potential. As Daria Halprin expressed (2003), the creative process opens and reflects back to us images of who we have been, who we are, and who we might become. Indeed, the passion and creativity of the arts allow us to live with our suffering and find release through creative play.

So next time you are feeling like you could use a bolster of confidence, get out of your comfort zone, or express what is going on in your life in a creative way, I encourage you to consider how the expressive arts may assist you and your loved ones in a personal journey of wellness and fulfillment.

This post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:



Positive Psychology


At our last OCCS counselling team meeting, one of the counsellors was visibly excited to talk about the successes a client of hers had experienced. We were all excited by the news and acknowledged that we needed to do more of this – share more of the positive outcomes we experience in our various counselling sessions.

That got me thinking about the power of the positive, especially related to counselling and what is known as ‘positive psychology’. How did this branch of psychology develop, by whom and how can it benefit our lives?

Although the term ‘positive psychology’ was thought to be first used in 1954 by Abraham Maslow (in his book Motivation and Personality), it was when Martin Seligman used it in 1998 as the theme for his presidential term with the American Psychological Association that the term gained more support. At that time, two other co-founders and Seligman attributed the development of positive psychology to their concern that psychology was focusing more on the negative – mental illness – and not giving enough emphasis on the inner strengths, virtues and positive elements of humanity.

Highlights of the development of positive psychology from the 50’s to the 90’s include support from the fathers of the humanistic movement (Maslow, Rogers, Fromm) and a study of ‘flow’ – the ability to ‘loose oneself’ in the moment when engaged in activities that ignite one’s passion, focus and energy. The benefits of flow include the experience of ‘good stress’ when one’s abilities are well matched to the challenge at hand. Flow increases self-confidence, excitement and well-being.

More recently, Seligman’s book Flourish (2011) explained the five parts of his theory of well-being with the acronym PERMA, that is Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning (purpose) and Accomplishments.

You – and I – will have greater well-being (think happiness, contentment, a more meaningful life) if we:

  1. Experience more and various positive emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, satisfaction, awe and pride. These emotions are all connected to healthier social connections and a longer life!
    1. So – what actions will you take to create these emotions?


  1. Engage in activities that evoke and build on your interests. True engagement or flow involves passion, concentration and the complete absorption of oneself (losing self-consciousness). It requires the challenge of difficulty that IS possible to overcome.
    1. What actions will you take that will invite – or allow the time for – these kinds of activities in your life?


  1. Relationships – no surprise here! All relationships, especially those that are overall healthy – whether at work, family, romantic or platonic, are an important factor in increasing positive emotions. Relationships are the way we experience and spread positivity both in the good and bad times.
    1. What actions will you take to give time and energy to empower the important relationships in your life?


  1. Create meaning for and in your life, in something that is greater than yourself. Meaning motivates one to develop and reach goals.
    1. How will you create more meaning in your life?


  1. Accomplishments build self-esteem and confidence.
    1. What accomplishments will you pursue and master? They can be individual or involve others, either for fun or work.


Research indicates that the effects of Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI) – such as developing a gratitude letter, developing more optimistic thinking, replaying positive life experiences and socializing with others – last from 3-5 months after the intervention and in some cases, well beyond.

The writer acknowledges Wikipedia (Positive Psychology) as the major source.

This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:


t: 250.718.9291


Unique Journeys

Grieving is a unique journey for every individual who experiences it. There is not a “normal” amount of time to “get over” any loss, especially one as significant as a parent or child. Normal or typical grieving often has multiple symptoms (please note this is not an exclusive list):

Physiologically/in the body, many (or some) folks experience:

• Heart ache, general aches and pains, extreme fatigue, choked sensations, and sometimes even feeling like they are outside of their own bodies–kind of disconnected;

Psychologically/in the mind, many (or some) folks experience:

• Memory loss, or decreased ability to focus and concentrate, mood swings, or sometimes complete emotional numbness (not feeling anything), racing thoughts, decreased or absent motivation;

Emotionally, many (or some) folks experience:

• Sadness, anger, loneliness, at moments or time periods feeling “fine” (like everything feels normal/typical as they did prior to the loss); confusion (how could this happen?), acceptance, peace, relief, calm;

Spiritually, many (or some) folks experience:

• Questioning their religion/spirituality/God;

Many individuals experience heightened grief as they are reminded on holidays, anniversary, and other significant dates. Folks also are often reminded by the one who has died by scents (their favorite flower or perfume for example), sounds (music), objects (clothes, sentimental items), and so on. You cannot always anticipate when these reminders will happen, or how you will react/respond to them. There are individuals who have felt “fine” for several years, and one day something reminded them of their loved one who had passed and significant grief overcame them. This is completely okay and normal*.

Expressions of grief differ from individual to individual and this is absolutely okay. For some individuals, they find healing in talking about the person who has died, either with loved ones, a support group, a religious leader, and/or a counsellor. They may also be more comfortable with crying, expressing how they feel, etc. These individuals likely will not find increased support and healing if you force them to “deal with it alone” or ask them to “stop expressing your emotions (crying, anger, etc.)”. Other individuals find healing in processing the death alone or quietly. They may not appear to be feeling anything and/or have a lack of emotions, but very rarely is this case. These individuals likely will not find increased support and healing if you force them to “talk about it” with others and groups. Please note, sometimes talking to an important and trusted person can be very supportive for individuals who typically grieve alone and quietly.

It’s also important to consider cultural factors when folks are grieving. Depending on your culture, expressions and practices around grief may differ.

I personally don’t believe you “get over” a loss of a loved one. I do believe that typically over time, the pain becomes less acute when you are able to accept the loss, find personal coping skills, support, and healing that works for you. Eventually, there will be more “good” days.

I encourage you to not label the pain of loss as “bad”. Pain is your reminder that who you lost has meaning and significance in your life. Be gentle with yourself and your process.

*If you are finding that you are having difficulty in your daily life due to loss seek professional help from a mental health provider.

This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:


t: 250.718.9291


Know Your Symptoms: How Stress Affects Your Health

At any age, and especially as we grow older, we face many challenges in our lives that can bring stress upon our minds and bodies. Whether you are facing the loss of a spouse for the first time or have just moved to a new home, confronting changes after being comfortable with certain routines can lead to a sense of unsettled angst.

Knowing the signs of stress therefore becomes increasingly important to maintaining our health as senior citizens. In the long term, stress can lead to very serious medical issues like cancer, a weakened immune system, or heart disease. Thus, it is key to recognize the short-term effects of stress that you may be experiencing, such as:

·         High blood pressure

·         High blood sugar

·         Headaches or migraines

·         Hair loss

·         Skin issues, such as acne, dryness, or rashes

·         Amplified asthmatic symptoms

·         Sleeplessness or fatigue

·         Digestive problems

By recognizing the physical effects of stress as early as they begin, you can change your ways and put your best foot forward in promoting a harmonious mind, body, and spirit in your golden years.

Written by: Sally Writes


4 Ways to Bolster Your Self-Esteem

 Sometimes we all have those days where we just don’t feel okay- but an important thing to remember is that when you fall seven times- you can always stand up eight. That’s when you make progress: when you are able to open yourself up to feelings of vulnerability, worthiness, and self-acceptance. However, it doesn’t always come easy, which is why we’ve compiled a short list of tips that you can use as self-esteem boosters when you’re having a day that’s blue.


    1. Quit playing the comparison game

Playing the comparison game takes a serious toll on your self-esteem.  In such a visual world, it can be tricky to drown out the feeling of “keeping up with the Jones’.” But once you stop caring about at what others have, how far ahead they are and what they look like- you’ll start to love your story for what it is… uniquely yours!


    2. Give yourself permission to feel your worth

Often we try not to be conceded and are downgrading our potential and worthiness as a false attempt at humbleness. But knowing your worth does not mean that you think you are better than anyone else, it means you respect for self and what you have to offer the world. By giving yourself permission to feel just how wonderful you are, you might just see a dramatic shift in your self esteem over the next little while.


    3. Create a healthy environment

Toxicity is a huge contributor to low self-esteem and feeling worthless. Rid those poisonous people and circumstances out of your life that do not serve you in a positive way. When you surround yourself with a positive environment, constructive to who you are, you will be able to grow stronger and healthier in both body and mind. Remember, no one is capable of growing a plant when it’s left in the dark.


    4. Know it’s ok to not be ok

We have this preconceived notion that we for some reason always have to be “on”. We are told to be smiling and happy; thinking that life is a bowl of cherries. But truth is- it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes the best thing is to just accept our circumstances for what they are and learn to love the way things can be at our worst, before we can appreciate them at our best.


These tips are not only about bolstering self-esteem, but how to be vulnerable. It takes time, courage and practice to become vulnerable and allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling- but it makes all the difference. In fact, the well-respected Dr. Brené Brown (research and NY Times Bestseller) has dedicated thirteen years of her life studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She has many books just for you that are devoted to helping you over come those hopeless times and turn them into something magnificent. If you’d like a good read when you need encouragement, please check out her New York Times Bestsellers: Rising StrongDaring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.  Stay tuned as our clinic intends to focus on these elements in the coming months. 

If you are interested in learning more about self-esteem, worthiness, and vulnerability, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Okanagan Clinical Counselling Serves has 3 locations in downtown Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Penticton to best serve you.  Our counsellors specialize in numerous mental health, relationship, and life concerns. Online counselling, evening and weekend appointments, and a sliding fee scale is available.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation


Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a relaxation technique in which you intentionally tense and release certain muscles in the body. With practice, you learn to notice the difference between tension and relaxation in the body. Studies have shown that this awareness and control can help those who deal with anxiety and insomnia.

How To

Before you begin, ensure that you are in a comfortable and distraction-free space where you will be able to focus on this process for around 15 minutes. Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a two-step process: first the tension and then the release.

Step 1 – Tense

Think about and focus on the particular body part. Inhale and apply tension to the muscles of that particular body part by squeezing it for about 5 seconds while continuing to breathe. Really work to only allow the muscles of that body part to tense and not any surrounding muscles.

Step 2 – Release

Now release the muscles of the particular body part as quickly as you can while exhaling. Allow the muscles to become loose and the body part to go limp. Focus on this feeling and the difference between the previous feeling of tension. Stay released for about 15 seconds before moving on to the next body part’s muscle group.

Order of Muscle Groups

Begin at the bottom of your body and work your way up as follows:
-lower leg
-entire leg
-repeat on the other side of the body
-repeat on the other side
-neck and shoulders

Once you’ve gone through all the muscle groups, allow yourself to enjoy this state of deep relaxation. It is recommended when beginning Progressive Muscle Relaxation to practice this process twice a day for a couple weeks. There are CDs and YouTube videos which can guide you through the process as well if desired.

Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services provides comprehensive counselling services as well as a wide variety of specialty programs, subsidies, and workshops to best help our patients. Our counsellors specialize in concerns such as depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders and more. Please contact us today to learn more about our services, weekend/evening appointments, and sliding fee scale.  Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services has three locations throughout the Okanagan in Penticton, Kelowna, and West Kelowna for your convenience.

This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:

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t: 250.718.9291


10 Ways to Cope with Trauma



Trauma can be caused by extremely frightening, upsetting, or stressful experiences. Everyone responds to experiences in life differently, so something that upsets one person may not be that big of a deal to another. This is why it is unhelpful to compare yourself to anyone else. If you have gone through an upsetting event and are struggling to deal with it, it may have been traumatic. Here are examples, symptoms, and 10 ways to cope with the effects of trauma to help you understand and move forward.

Some examples of traumatic experiences include:

  • Accident
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Alcoholism or other addiction
  • Unsafe living environment
  • Life-threatening illness
  • Natural disaster
  • Surgery
  • Victim of or witness to a crime
  • Death of a loved one
  • Breakup or loss of other close relationship

Symptoms resulting from a traumatic experience may include:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Anger and irritability
  • Guilt and shame
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Avoidance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Body aches

Here are 10 ways to cope with the effects of trauma.

  1. Get some exercise even if it’s as simple as going for a walk. Find a way to move your body that you enjoy.
  2. Continue to engage with friends and family, but don’t feel pressured to talk about the trauma if you are not ready.
  3. Join a support group to connect with others. You are not alone in your experience.
  4. Be patient. The process of healing can be a slow, and you will work through it at your own pace.
  5. Employ mindfulness by acknowledging and experiencing your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
  6. Practice meditation, yoga, or other stress reducing relaxation techniques.
  7. Get out your thoughts and feelings by writing freely in a journal.
  8. Nourish yourself with a healthful, balanced diet. Avoid using “junk” food, alcohol, or drugs to feel better.
  9. Prioritize getting adequate rest during the day and enough sleep at night.
  10. Seek professional help. Cognitive-behavioural therapy and EMDR therapy have been shown to be effective in treating symptoms resulting from trauma.

If you have experienced a traumatic event, the staff at OCCS are here to help. OCCS provides comprehensive counselling services as well as a wide variety of specialty programs, subsidies, and workshops to best help our patients. Our counsellors specialize in concerns such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addictions and more. Please contact us today to learn more about our services, weekend/evening appointments, and sliding fee scale.  Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services has three locations throughout the Okanagan in Penticton, Kelowna, and West Kelowna for your convenience.

This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:

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t: 250.718.9291



Signs of Internet Addiction


The internet has become an integral part of modern life. Between emailing, posting on social media, streaming TV and movies, playing games online, and general browsing, time can seem to get away from us. It’s not surprising that the amount of time people spend online has doubled between 2005 and 2015.

For some people this preoccupation with the internet can lead into an addiction which will have detrimental effects. Here are 10 warning signs of internet addiction you may need to look out for in yourself or your loved ones.

  1. Having an inability to get things done during the day due to a preoccupation with either being on the internet or thinking about the internet.
  2. Gradually increasing the amount of time which is spent online. Also, spending more time online in one sitting than what was originally intended.
  3. Turning to the internet as a coping mechanism when experiencing uncomfortable situations or difficult emotions such as guilt, sadness, or anger.
  4. Becoming isolated from friends and family by spending less time with them and more time online. Also, choosing online friends over in-person relationships.
  5. Experiencing feelings of irritability or depression while not on the internet or when trying to cut back on time spent online.
  6. Spending time online at the expense of other areas of life, e.g., not engaging in personal relationships, missing deadlines at work, showing up late to school
  7. Having a fear of missing out (FOMO) on what is happening online, especially with social media, resulting in a compulsive desire to check your phone.
  8. Lying to others about the amount of time which is spent on the internet. Also, going into another room to go online in order to hide it.
  9. Experiencing feelings of anxiety or dread when your phone has been left at home or the battery dies.
  10. Having problems falling asleep. Also, spending time online while staying up excessively late into the night.

If you think you may be struggling with an internet addiction or any other life or mental health concern, the counsellors at OCCS can help. OCCS provides comprehensive counselling services as well as a wide variety of specialty programs, subsidies, and workshops to best help our patients. Our counsellors specialize in concerns such as depression, anxiety, addictions, relationships, and more. Please contact us today to learn more about our services, weekend/evening appointments, and sliding fee scale.  Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services has three locations throughout the Okanagan in Penticton, Kelowna, and West Kelowna for your convenience.

This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor:

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t: 250.718.9291


Ways to Cope During Divorce


The decision for you and your partner to separate and divorce is a difficult and life-changing one. There are a lot of hurt feelings, resentment, and uncomfortable emotions involved. Going through a divorce is traumatic, and the upheaval can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. Here are four ways to manage and cope during a divorce.

  1. Own the Decision

You may not have had control over all of the events that led to this divorce, but you do have control over your responses and reactions to it. Remember that ending the marriage is a choice, and own the decision you have made. Acceptance can change your perspective from that of a victim into that of a powerful individual.

  1. Develop a Plan

Brainstorm solutions for how you can handle different aspects of the divorce. Are you going to implement mediation, litigation, or collaborative divorce? If you have children, what will you do to maintain a healthy relationship with them? How are you going to invest in your friendships? Setting your intentions beforehand increases your ability to see them through.

  1. Make Your Needs Known

As you and your partner make decisions throughout the divorce process, ensure that you are honest about your needs and make them known in a respectful manner. No one is a mind reader, so you have to advocate for yourself. Finding compromises to fulfill the needs of you both will prevent future resentment from building.

  1. Have Compassion

While it can be very challenging, having compassion for your partner will help prevent you from getting caught up in feelings of resentment and anger toward them. This will also help you let go and move forward with your life. Self-compassion is important as well to combat any unhelpful feelings of shame. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. This divorce is just one sliver of who you are; it does not define you.

If you are going through a separation, divorce, or other difficult life transition, the staff at OCCS are here to help. OCCS provides comprehensive counselling services as well as a wide variety of specialty programs, subsidies, and workshops to best help our patients. Our counsellors specialize in concerns such as depression, anxiety, relationships and more. Please contact us today to learn more about our services, weekend/evening appointments, and sliding fee scale.  Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services has three locations throughout the Okanagan in Penticton, Kelowna, and West Kelowna for your convenience.

This blog post was written by OCCS’s Clinical Counsellor :

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t: 250.718.9291