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From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!

On Saturday, members of our Breathing Space Counselling team attended a child-led March in Vancouver, held in support of a free Palestine.

Hundreds of people stood together: waving flags, holding signs, and cuddling their children who came to march with them. People held hands, listened deeply to the speakers, cried tears of heartbreak mixed with hope, and chanted loud calls for peace into the crisp afternoon air.

As we stood alongside everyone there, we heard a number of powerful speakers…

…a Jewish mother who spoke in solidarity with Palestinians – calling for an end to this genocide by the state of Israel and saying emphatically, “not in my name!”

…a Palestinian mother who spoke about her complicated grief and gratitude as she moves throughout each day. She talked about how each time she places dinner on the table for her children – knowing that thousands of children just like hers are dying from bombings, dehydration and starvation in Gaza right now – she feels a sharp pang of grief. How when she holds her children close, she feels deep gratitude for her children’s safety mixed with sadness for those thousands of parents who have lost their children, and don’t even have the chance to bury them.

…an Indigenous trauma counsellor (wu’Was’ulwat from the Snuneymuxw and Saanich nations) who spoke about the impacts of colonialism here on Turtle Island* and in Palestine, and how to stand in solidarity with all Indigenous people around the world.

… a Palestinian Imam (the leader of a Muslim Mosque) talk about how families in Gaza are writing their names on all of their limbs, so if they are bombed (and only an arm or leg is found) families will be able to identify their loved ones body parts 💔

We listened to beautiful children, some as young as five, lead chants like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” with hope for the future in their voices.

We watched as an endlessly long banner was unfurled and carried down the street, showing the names of the Palestinians (most of them children) who have been killed so far by the state of Israel. The banner was so long we could barely see where it ended. 💔💔💔

It felt incredibly powerful to take our grief and channel it collectively in this call for freedom for Palestine. Throughout the afternoon, we shed many many tears, held hands, moved our bodies and marched together through the streets of Downtown. As a collective, we raised our voices to call for an end to this horrific genocide.

As an organization of counsellors whose work it is to help people heal from trauma, it is vital that we are critical of the systems that create that trauma — including colonialism, racism, and imperialism. Our work is incomplete if we only help people recover from trauma, without doing the work to stop that trauma from occurring in the first place.

This is not about taking sides. This is about upholding and standing for the right to safety, dignity and freedom for all people, everywhere. None of us are free until all of us are free. 🇵🇸🙏🏼❤️

#ceasefirenow #freepalestine

 

*Turtle Island is the name some Indigenous people use to refer to the lands now known as North and Central America.

We Are Hiring Associate Counsellors! Apply by Oct 15, 2023

 

Shahaa Kakar & Nasreen Gulamhusein
Co-Owners of Breathing Space Counselling

Breathing Space Counselling is a thriving private counselling practice in Port Moody, BC. It was founded in 2016 by two Master Therapeutic Counsellors, Nasreen Gulamhusein & Shahaa Kakar. We offer in-person and online counselling for individuals and couples. We also offer support groups and workshops for the community.


We have built a trusted reputation in our community and due to overwhelming demand, we have expanded and brought on three Associate Counsellors over the last 18 months. We are now seeking 2 – 3 more Associate Counsellors to work alongside us in our private practice. This is a wonderful opportunity to be mentored by two established counsellors and join an inclusive and heart-centred work culture.

What We Are Looking For:

We welcome all applicants who have:

  • graduated from a counselling program and have completed your practicum requirements
  • have professional liability insurance
  • are in good standing with a counselling association, such as the ACCT, CPCA or BCACC
  • are willing to work with adult individuals and couples. (If you have not worked with couples before, but are open to being mentored in this area, please feel free to apply.)

This opportunity is primarily for Counsellors who are willing to work in-person in our beautiful office space in Port Moody, BC. We are open to hiring an online Counsellor if the fit is right.

The successful applicant is ideally available for 15 hours per week, including some evenings and/or weekends. The exact schedule will be negotiated with the successful candidate(s).

You Are Someone Who Will:

  • Be Transparent – be authentic, honest, and real… even when it’s difficult
  • Be Kind – speak and act with thoughtfulness and consideration
  • Be Human – drop perfection, allow for mistakes, fall down and get back up
  • Honour Your Commitments – say what you mean and do what you promise
  • Bring Your Magic – get creative, share your ideas, inspire and be inspired

You Have the Following:

  • A recognised counselling qualification (diploma or masters degree).
  • Completed all practicum requirements.
  • Are a current BC/Canadian Registered Counsellor in good standing (all designations will be considered, e.g. RTC, MTC, RCC, CCC, RSW, RPC, MPCC, etc.).
  • Hold current Professional Liability Insurance.
  • Have a Registered Supervisor and are receiving regular supervision at the time of applying.
  • Are committed to undertaking continuous professional development.
  • Uphold the highest professional, ethical and professional standards in your practice and consistently adhere to your counselling association’s code of ethics.
  • Are able to commit a minimum of 15 hours per week for clients to consistently book in with you. This could include a mix of daytime, evening and weekend hours (specific days and times are negotiable). Some evening and/or weekend availability is required as these are high demand times for clients.
  • An awareness of (or, a willingness to learn about) privilege and marginalization and how these might impact your lens/bias while you are counselling.
  • A willingness to engage in continual learning and dialogue towards creating a safe, inclusive and diverse culture within our practice (both with clients and with each other).

Bonus If You Also Have Any of These:

Knowledge, experience and/or training in working with:

  • couples (such as Gottman training, EFT, etc.).
  • teens and/or families.
  • somatic therapy modalities (such as EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, AEDP, relational somatic therapy, etc.).
    eating disorders, body image, addiction, trauma, maternal mental health (incl. PPD/PPA, infertility, pregnancy loss, etc), polyamorous/non-monogamous relationships, chronic pain, chronic illness.
  • specific communities, such as LGBTQIA+communities, racialized communities, neurodiverse communities, Indigenous communities, disabled & Deaf communities, etc. Lived experience will be considered an asset.

We Offer the Following:

  • Flexible and negotiable working hours.
  • A competitive Associate Counsellor package/fee split, with incentives to grow.
  • Targeted marketing and client recruitment on your behalf.
  • Ongoing support and mentoring, as needed.
  • Simple and easy to use online scheduling software.
  • Standard forms, filing system, and client receipting is provided.
  • A bright and inviting counselling centre in the heart of Port Moody, which includes three counselling offices, a multi-purpose main space/waiting room and kitchenette facilities (close to SkyTrain and street parking).
  • A work culture that values belly laughs, celebrating the little things, and getting through the tough moments together. 😉

To Apply – Please send the following to [email protected]:

  • An updated resume and cover letter detailing why you believe you would be a good fit for our team and what you have to offer. Please be specific about your experience with individuals and couples.
  • Two professional references (eg – from a Registered Supervisor, Counselling Teacher or Employer). Written references are preferred.

    The successful applicant will also be required to provide:

  • A copy of your active counselling registration from your relevant association.
  • A copy of your active Professional Insurance certificate/policy.


Deadline for applications is Sunday October 15th 2023 at 11:59pm.

To the Women of Iran: A Love Letter

iran-women-protests

By Elmira Fakhr

There are thousands of people grieving their friends and family members who have been tragically killed in the fight for freedom from the oppression of the Islamic Regime in Iran. These brave souls have continued fighting a brutal government, putting their lives on the line. Despite the endless losses, they have not lost hope or the will to fight for a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.

This is a love letter from one of our Associate Counsellors, Elmira Fakhr, who left Iran and has settled in Canada. She has chosen to make a life here and she continues to use her voice to fight for her people at home by keeping their stories alive.

Dearest Women of Iran,

It is difficult to express what I feel in simple words.

The world is watching as you fight to gain your most basic rights from the Islamic Regime in Iran. I have seen videos of your courageous protests within the last seven months. You have been tortured, raped, imprisoned, and killed.

Dear Sisters — please know, the world has heard your voice.

The strength and bravery you have shown to stand up for what you believe is admirable. You are an inspiration to so many women – and all people – around the world.

I feel your pain and sorrow deeply. Mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends have been lost in this battle and we miss them so much. I feel appreciation for our fathers, sons, brothers, and friends who have chosen to stand by our side and fight for us in this revolution.

You have inspired us all to move and make change happen. We will continue to share your stories and be your voice. We will be stronger as we stand together.

This is the revolution started by strong women of Iran – and you will not be forgotten.

Elmira is offering a limited number of reduced cost sessions to Iranian community members who are affected by this struggle.

  • A maximum of 8 online sessions at $65 each are available.
  • They are available to those who could not otherwise afford private counselling (have financial need for reduced cost sessions & do not have insurance benefits).
  • Sessions are available in English or Farsi.
  • Please email Elmira at [email protected] for more information.

The Gifts of a Non-Linear Path

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

A client recently came in for counseling and during our session, she hit a wall of frustration and exclaimed, “Why am I here again? I thought I had solved this problem already!” It was a beautiful question that many of us can relate to: why do we keep circling back to the same issues?

One common misconception about personal growth is that the journey should be linear. We identify our problem, work on it, solve it, and move on. However, the reality is that growth and expansion are often non-linear, with many steps forward and back.

While this might not sound ideal, it’s actually good news… and here are a few reasons why:

First, lasting change requires rewiring our brains with new habits and ways of thinking. Repetition is crucial for this rewiring process, and taking two steps forward and one step back allows us to go over our learning again and again. Our brains are wired to see things in a linear way, but this desire for clarity can sometimes lead us to overlook the importance of repetition. The messy and frustrating feeling of repetition is necessary for us to learn and grow in a lasting way.

Secondly, each layer of the onion is exactly that – a layer. We might think we have solved a problem, only for it to crop up again in a different context. For example, if we work on setting boundaries in friendships, we might later find ourselves struggling with boundaries as a parent. But each time we revisit an issue, we are in a slightly different place on our life’s path, and this makes the moment of growth unique.

Lastly, expanded perception can make all the difference. When we are trying to solve a problem, we tend to see it from one angle. As we get more entrenched in that single perspective, we can become stuck. When life brings us back to that struggle, it can be an opportunity to see it from a different perspective, which can widen our horizon and give us a clearer view of the issue as a whole. This can help us move through the struggle with greater ease the next time around.

The gifts of a non-linear path are many. Each time we revisit an issue, we have the opportunity to learn and grow in a new way. This, in turn, makes us better at learning and growing in general. So, the next time you find yourself circling back to an old struggle, embrace the messiness and remember it is leading you to good things.

The Paradox of Resilience

An image of two young girls in karate uniforms. One is doing a kick in the air and smiling.By Nasreen Gulamhusein

The other night I was driving and listening to this brilliant podcast by Dr. Becky – a well-known Child Psychologist who has a book & a podcast called Good Inside. The focus of this particular episode was about children & praise. At the end of the podcast she said something which made me pause the podcast, pull my car over, and rewind. I wanted to hear it again with my full attention because it was so important to fully take in.

She named something we all struggle with as parents – helping our children build resilience. We struggle because we all want the very best for our children and when they experience something hard or painful, we feel pain too. They are so precious to us and we work hard to protect them, and protecting them often means we work hard to help them feel better (as quickly as possible) when they feel emotional discomfort.

We all have certain knee-jerk reactions to managing our own pain: blame someone, fix it, ignore it, “look at the bright side” or distract from the hurt, just to name a few. These knee-jerk reactions to our own pain become the same reactions we have to our children’s pain. However, these reactions (which feel helpful in the moment) protect our children from the wrong thing. These reactions prevent our children from being in touch with the discomfort of their struggle and instead rushes them over it, around it or right past it.

If our children never get the chance to move through their pain, how will they build this muscle?

Being with the pain is where the gold is. And I know, this sounds like it makes no sense. It is what Dr. Becky would call the paradox of building resilience. Um, why would I WANT my child to feel their pain? This doesn’t sound like a good idea! And you would be partly right. You don’t want them to get STUCK in the pain. But you do want to encourage them to feel the discomfort of the hard moment, learn that they can survive it, and then move through it. Resilience is built by moving through.

So how do I help my child move through without getting stuck in their pain? And how do I handle the parts of me that start to react in those knee-jerk ways when I am helping my child?

This is where your personal work as a parent comes in. When you can encounter your own pain/discomfort with compassion, patience and a willingness to be with yourself, then you will become more able to offer this to your child. What we grow in ourselves, we find easier to extend to others. This work is most powerful when it is not done alone, and personal counselling sessions are a great way to give yourself the space you need to make this growth.

And while you are doing that valuable and important personal work, Dr. Becky has some great tangible and simple resilience-building steps you can take when your child shares a struggle with you:

1. Thank your child for sharing. They trust you enough to bring the hard things to you so start by honouring that.

Use words like:

“Thank you so much for telling me”

“I really appreciate you sharing this hard thing with me.”

2. Help them to remember that struggle is normal and it’s a part of being human.

Use words like:

“Ooof, it’s so hard when X happens isn’t it?” (and X can be anything – not being able to colour in the lines, being picked last during gym-class sports, not making the debate team …etc.)

“It’s okay to feel X. Anyone in your shoes would probably feel that too.”

“I remember feeling X when I was your age” (X can be anything from sad or scared to overwhelmed or angry)

3. Be willing to be with them in their hard place.

When you aren’t scared of their big or hard feelings, they will become less scared of them too. It is here, with you, that your children get to remember that they are worthy of love no matter what is happening to them. And this experience of worthiness is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives – and there is no greater gift than that.

If you are interested in more Dr. Becky, you can find her here.

We Are Hiring Again! Become an Associate Counsellor with Us!

By Shahaa Kakar & Nasreen Gulamhusein

Breathing Space Counselling is a thriving private counselling practice in Port Moody, BC. It was founded in 2016 by two Master Therapeutic Counsellors, Nasreen Gulamhusein & Shahaa Kakar. We offer in-person and online counselling for individuals and couples. We also offer community events and professional development training for fellow counsellors.

We have built a trusted reputation in our community and due to overwhelming demand, we have expanded and brought on two Associate Counsellors. We are now seeking a third Associate Counsellor to work alongside us in our private practice. This is a wonderful opportunity to be mentored by two established counsellors and join an inclusive and heart-centred work culture.

What We Are Looking For:

Whether you are newly graduated or an established counsellor, we welcome all applicants who work with individuals and couples. If you have not worked with couples before, but are open to being mentored in this area, please feel free to apply.

This opportunity is for an Office Associate who will work in our beautiful space in Port Moody. The successful applicant must be available for 15 hours per week. Those hours need to fall within the following days/times and must include some evening or weekend shifts):

Monday, 8am – 9pm
Wednesday, 8am – 9pm
Friday, 3pm – 9pm
Saturday, 8am – 9pm
Sunday, 8am – 9pm

The exact schedule will be negotiated with the successful candidate.


You Are Someone Who Will:

  • Be Transparent – be authentic, honest, and real… even when it’s difficult
  • Be Kind – speak and act with thoughtfulness and consideration
  • Be Human – drop perfection, allow for mistakes, fall down and get back up
  • Honour Your Commitments – say what you mean and do what you promise
  • Bring Your Magic – get creative, share your ideas, inspire and be inspired

You Have the Following:

  • A recognised counselling qualification (diploma or masters degree).
  • Are a current BC/Canadian Registered Counsellor in good standing (all designations will be considered, e.g. RTC, MTC, RCC, CCC, RSW, RPC-C, RPC, MPCC, MPCC-S, etc.).
  • Hold current Professional Liability Insurance.
  • Have a Registered Supervisor and are receiving regular supervision at the time of applying.
  • Are committed to undertaking continuous professional development.
  • Uphold the highest professional, ethical and professional standards in your practice and consistently adhere to your counselling association’s code of ethics.
  • Are able to commit a minimum of 15 hours per week for clients to consistently book in with you. This could include a mix of daytime, evening and weekend hours (specific days and times are negotiable). Some evening and/or weekend availability is required as these are high demand times for clients.
  • An awareness of (or, a willingness to learn about) privilege and marginalization and how these might impact your lens/bias while you are counselling.
  • A willingness to engage in continual learning and dialogue towards creating a safe, inclusive and diverse culture within our practice (both with clients and with each other).

Bonus If You Also Have Any of These:

Knowledge, experience and/or training in working with:

  • couples (such as Gottman training, EFT, etc.)
  • teens and/or families
  • somatic therapy modalities (such as EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, AEDP, relational somatic therapy, etc.)
  • eating disorders, body image, addiction, trauma, PPD/PPA, polyamorous/non-monogamous relationships, chronic pain, and bullying
  • specific communities, such as LGBTQIA+communities, racialized communities, neurodiverse communities, Indigenous communities, disabled & Deaf communities, etc. Lived experience will be considered an asset

We Offer the Following:

  • Flexible and negotiable working hours.
  • A competitive Associate Counsellor package/fee split, with incentives to grow.
  • Targeted marketing and client recruitment on your behalf.
  • Ongoing support and mentoring, as needed.
  • Simple and easy to use online scheduling software.
  • Standard forms, filing system, and client receipting is provided.
  • A bright and inviting counselling centre in the heart of Port Moody, which includes two counselling offices, a multi-purpose main space/waiting room and kitchenette facilities (close to SkyTrain and street parking).
  • A work culture that values belly laughs, celebrating the little things, getting through the tough moments together, and indulging in good food. 😉

To Apply – Please send the following to [email protected]:

  • An updated resume and cover letter detailing why you believe you would be a good fit for our team and what you have to offer. Please be specific about your experience with individuals and couples.
  • Two professional references (eg – from a Registered Supervisor, Counselling Teacher or Employer). Written references are preferred.

    The successful applicant will also be required to provide:

  • A copy of your active counselling registration from your relevant association.
  • A copy of your diploma/masters certificate.
    A copy of your active Professional Insurance certificate/policy.


Deadline for applications is Friday September 30th at 11:59pm.

We Are Hiring Associate Counsellors!

By Shahaa Kakar & Nasreen Gulamhusein

Breathing Space Counselling is a thriving private counselling practice in Port Moody, BC. It was founded in 2016 by two Master Therapeutic Counsellors, Nasreen Gulamhusein & Shahaa Kakar. We offer in-person and online counselling for individuals and couples. We also offer community events and professional development training for fellow counsellors.

We have built a trusted reputation in our community and due to overwhelming demand, our client lists are full. We are seeking two Associate Counsellors to work alongside us in our private practice. This is a wonderful opportunity to be mentored by two established counsellors and join an inclusive and heart-centred work culture.

What We Are Looking For:

Whether you are newly graduated or an established counsellor, we welcome all applicants who work with individuals and/or couples. Opportunities are available for both Office Associates (who will work in our beautiful space in Port Moody) and Remote Associates (who will work exclusively online from the comfort of your own space).

You Are Someone Who Will:

  • Be Transparent – be authentic, honest, and real… even when it’s difficult
  • Be Kind – speak and act with thoughtfulness and consideration
  • Be Human – drop perfection, allow for mistakes, fall down and get back up
  • Honour Your Commitments – say what you mean and do what you promise
  • Bring Your Magic – get creative, share your ideas, inspire and be inspired

You Have the Following:

  • A recognised counselling qualification (diploma or masters degree).
  • Are a current BC/Canadian Registered Counsellor in good standing (all designations will be considered, e.g. RTC, MTC, RCC, CCC, RSW, RPC-C, RPC, MPCC, MPCC-S, etc.).
  • Hold current Professional Liability Insurance.
  • Have a Registered Supervisor and are receiving regular supervision at the time of applying.
  • Are committed to undertaking continuous professional development.
  • Uphold the highest professional, ethical and professional standards in your practice and consistently adhere to your counselling association’s code of ethics.
  • Are able to commit a minimum of 15 hours per week for clients to consistently book in with you. This could include a mix of daytime, evening and weekend hours (specific days and times are negotiable). Some evening and/or weekend availability is required as these are high demand times for clients.
  • An awareness of (or, a willingness to learn about) privilege and marginalization and how these might impact your lens/bias while you are counselling.
  • A willingness to engage in continual learning and dialogue towards creating a safe, inclusive and diverse culture within our practice (both with clients and with each other).

Bonus If You Also Have Any of These:

Knowledge, experience and/or training in working with:

  • couples (such as Gottman training, EFT, etc.)
  • teens and/or families
  • somatic therapy modalities (such as EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, AEDP, etc.)
  • eating disorders, body image, addiction, trauma, polyamorous/non-monogamous relationships, chronic pain, and bullying
  • specific communities, such as LGBTQIA+communities, racialized communities, neurodiverse communities, Indigenous communities, disabled & Deaf communities, etc. Lived experience will be considered an asset.

We Offer the Following:

  • Flexible and negotiable working hours.
  • A competitive Associate Counsellor package/fee split, with incentives to grow.
  • Targeted marketing and client recruitment on your behalf.
  • Ongoing support and mentoring, as needed.
  • Simple and easy to use online scheduling software.
  • Standard forms, filing system, and client receipting is provided.
  • A bright and inviting counselling centre in the heart of Port Moody, which includes two counselling offices, a multi-purpose main space/waiting room and kitchenette facilities (close to SkyTrain and street parking).
  • A work culture that values belly laughs, celebrating the little things, getting through the tough moments together, and indulging in good food. 😉

To Apply – Please send the following to [email protected]:

  • An updated resume and cover letter detailing why you believe you would be a good fit for our team and what you have to offer.
  • In your email subject line, please let us know what position you are applying for as follows: Application: Office Associate or Application: Remote Associate
  • Two professional references (eg – from a Registered Supervisor, Counselling Teacher or Employer).
  • A copy of your active counselling registration from your relevant association.
  • A copy of your diploma/masters certificate.
  • A copy of your active Professional Insurance certificate/policy.


Deadline for applications is Friday March 25th at 11:59pm.

Free Online Counselling for QTBI Folks

By Shahaa Kakar

(July 20, 2020 Update: Please note that all funds have now been used up. Qmunity is fundraising to be able to continue this initiative. Updates will be posted here when funds become available once again.)

Qmunity are offering a much-needed initiative where self-identified QTBI (Queer, Trans, Black or Indigenous) people can have access to a limited number of free counselling sessions.

Qmunity is a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, BC that works to improve queer, trans, and Two-Spirit lives. According to the organization, “In light of ongoing racist oppression, violence and police brutality in QTBI communities, as an organization we are committing to prioritizing and financially supporting QTBI people in accessing mental health services from QTBIPOC counsellors.”

Breathing Space Counselling is honoured to be able to support this initiative. Our co-founder, Shahaa Kakar, is an approved provider and is offering online sessions. Spaces are limited and are available on a first come, first serve basis. Up to four free sessions are available. If you would like to know more or to take up this offer, please email Shahaa at [email protected]. More information about Shahaa is available here.

To find out who else is an approved provider, please contact Qmunity directly.

Update on Sessions During Phase Two

By Nasreen Gulamhusein & Shahaa Kakar

As Phase Two of the pandemic begins and things slowly start to open up again, some of you might be wondering what Breathing Space is up to!

Phase 2 is still brand new, and as doors slowly start to reopen, there are many unknowns. In response to this, we will continue to offer counselling sessions exclusively online for the month of June. At the end of this month, we will post an update here on our blog about when in-person sessions will likely commence. (Online and/or telephone counselling will also continue to be available.)

Please know, we are in active discussions about how to best consider our collective safety, while also taking into consideration government guidelines and regulations. We realize things like plexiglass walls, masks, and gloves have impact on the therapeutic experience and environment. As we make our choices, we are deeply committed to giving you a safe experience – both physically and emotionally.

We so appreciate your patience as we figure out how best to take these next steps. One thing we know for certain — we miss seeing our clients in person so much! We are so looking forward to seeing everyone in-person again, hopefully sooner rather than later.

In the meantime — stay healthy, kind and safe!

Feeling Into Phase Two

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

About 3 months ago our world slowly came to a halt. Statistics filled the news, local shops closed, institutions that we always thought would be accessible shut down. We put on masks and gloves, and stocked up our pantries and grabbed extra toilet paper. As a collective we felt BIG feelings – terror, relief, uncertainty, hope, self-protection, gratitude and more. We rode the waves of this unchartered and unmapped territory together.

In many ways we were tested like we never have been before. We felt the anxiety of uncertainty and got angry, scared, quiet, sad, and took these feelings out on each other. And in those rare moments where we could breathe maybe we remembered to be kind to ourselves, and those around us. Forgiveness and gentleness became our friends.

We also showed up for each other like never before. We redefined what it means to parent, to teach and to love. We surprised ourselves with how much we could get through. We realized we are human, and in the middle of global upheaval, we are doing the best we can. And then we got up and did it all over again the next day.

It took a few weeks and then a new way of life settled it. It looked nothing like our old life but the dust was settling and we found a weird new groove. There was certainty in the uncertainty.

And now, Phase 2 is unfolding. Schools, coffee shops, hairdressers (and more) are slowly reopening their doors and we find ourselves in a state of change, once again. Even when change is “good”, it can be hard to make the adjustment. A shift of any kind takes work. Good doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

Phase Two might bring with it another phase of feelings for you. Another wave to ride. Another set of uncertainties or questions like – should I send my kids to school? Do I still need to wear a mask? Who can I visit with? How long will the distancing last?

You might find yourself energized one day, and exhausted to the bone the next – this is natural to feel.

You might find yourself excited about things being open, and feeling the heartbreak that social distancing is here to stay for a while – this is natural to feel.

You might be in grief from lost experiences, jobs or loved ones that are no longer part of your world and nothing feels okay – this is natural to feel.

You might be happy, grateful and going with the flow – this is natural to feel.

Your whole, beautiful, messy human experience is okay and allowed. There are no wrong feelings or experiences when we are all navigating something we have never done before. Give yourselves the permission to allow all that is there, to be there.

Permission looks like this: Name your emotion. Naming it can provide you with a sense of solidity because your brain can wrap itself around something your body and heart are experiencing. It helps your brain and body connect, which helps your nervous system to calm down.

Remind yourself that this is how you are SUPPOSED to be feeling (no matter what it is, your feelings are valid!). There is no right or wrong here. Getting angry at or berating yourself can often trigger shame and a desire to hide. Big feelings need connection to soften and release.

Connect – with yourself by taking deep and steady breaths. Getting out into nature. Journaling. Or connect with a trusted friend. The one you know has got your back when things get hard.

And perhaps you read this and tomorrow, when life takes over, you forget. Come back to this post. And come back again. Because you deserve to know that all that is happening inside you is okay. It won’t last forever because change is the foundation of the human experience.

Phase Two, here we come. Let’s keep holding hands and remembering: we are literally all in this together.

Caring for YOU When Mom Guilt Strikes

By Shahaa Kakar & Nasreen Gulamhusein

We were delighted to have recently had the opportunity to speak on the ParentTalk Podcast about a topic that is familiar to many mothers – Mom Guilt!

Mom guilt is universal — we all run into it as we raise our children. We chatted with ParentTalk hosts, Geneviève Kyle and Heather Fox, about our personal journeys with mom guilt as well as some strategies for how to support yourself when find yourself in the middle of it. 

We covered:

  • Why we experience mom guilt.
  • What exactly is guilt?
  • How do we get rid of mom guilt?
  • Some things that moms can do when the mom guilt strikes.

Have a listen here: https://parenttalk.ca/e124-mom-guilt-with-nasreen-gulamhusein-shahaa-kakar-parent-talk/

I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats That Don’t Exist

By Shahaa Kakar

I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.
I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.
I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.

This is a mantra I have been repeating to myself today.

For people with anxiety, our minds are constantly playing out every possible disaster scenario and planning how to respond to them, should they occur:

“What if this happens? What if that happens? How will I cope then? How will I deal with that? What if something happens that I haven’t even thought of!”

Our minds go spinning off into all sorts of imagined apocalypses. Even though these threats are not real, this thought process is anxiety-inducing in itself and triggers a stress response in our bodies. Our nervous systems don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Our heart rate speeds up, the adrenaline starts pumping and we go into fight-or-flight mode (or maybe live there), ready to respond to the non-existent threat.

Have you ever noticed this when you watch a really scary TV show, for example? Your back might start tensing up, you may notice yourself holding your breath. It’s the same physiological response at work – and over time it has a toxic effect on our beings and our bodies. It’s not a nice way to live!

When you notice your mind running down these paths, pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself, you are safe in this moment and everything is okay. You don’t need to prepare for impending disaster. You are perfectly capable of responding to anything that actually happens.

In the meantime, come back to this moment. Physically turn your head and look around in all directions. This act of turning our heads signals to the brain to take in the current information. Perhaps you notice a beautiful painting in your room or a lovely tree outside your window. Take a moment to really notice it. Breathe it in and notice what it feels like in your body to be present with the beautiful painting or the lovely tree.

Then, if you want to take one step further, put your vivid imagination to good use and imagine the situation you were worried about now working out. See it fall into place in your mind’s eye and imagine how great you will feel when that happens. If you have a mind that needs to plan, plan how you will celebrate when this happens! 🙂

Repeat as needed. Everything is okay. You got this!

Saying Yes to Help – Because Sometimes Self Care is Community Care

By Shahaa Kakar

moving-house

About ten days before my family and I were due to move to a new house, my mother in-law suddenly died.

I loved my mother in-law dearly and her death was so unexpected. She was supposed to have come from Pakistan to Canada to stay with us in a few months’ time. We had been so excited to show her our new country (we had recently moved from England) and do things with her. We’d been dreaming about what her visit would be like and now, just like that, she was gone forever. I was reeling and I could barely move. And I was so devastated for my husband to have lost his beloved mum so suddenly.

With my encouragement, my husband decided to fly home to Pakistan for her funeral and say his goodbyes. It was hard to not be with him during this time, and on top of all that, we were due to move house in ten days. I had already been feeling panicked about how behind we were on packing and getting ready for the move. And now, in a state of profound shock, I had to move house by myself, without my husband to help and with our 7 year-old child in tow.

I was in counselling school at the time and my dear classmates knew what was going on. They all kindly asked if they could help with my move and I as I heard their offers of support, I had no idea what to do! I felt frozen. I had never been that great at asking for (or saying yes to) help. Like many people, I had always felt like I had to prove that I could handle things by myself. When faced with the offer of help, numerous thoughts came alive in my mind – I need help. I don’t know how I can do this by myself. But how will I organize it all? My mind is a jumble and I can’t make a plan. What will I ask them to do? My friends will see my messy house and how little I have done and that is breaking cardinal family rules about having a clean house and being organized! I knew logically that none of my friends would judge me, but my inner critic still came alive telling me that I couldn’t possibly let them see how disorganized and behind I was! I felt shame, grief and fear. I had no plan and I felt totally out of control.

Having been in counselling school for a while, I had gotten much better at being aware of my thoughts and feelings, and deciding for myself what I was going to go with them. So I took a deep breath and made a decision. I thought to myself, “I have no idea what to do or how to organize this, so just say yes. Say that one word and don’t think beyond that. Say yes to every offer of help, because goddammit I need so much help right now.” So in my shocked, embarrassed, out of control state, I just said yes to everyone that asked me if they could help. It went a little something like this…

Friend: “Shall I come over on Wednesday night and help you pack?”
Me feeling embarrassed and not knowing what the heck to ask them to do on Wednesday night: “Yes please.”

Friend: “What can I do?”
Me suddenly feeling lost and confused: “I don’t know.”
Friend: “Do you want me to wrap your dishes in newspaper and put them in these boxes?”
Me feeling clueless: “Yes please.”

Friend: “Shall I vacuum up this mess and take out the garbage?”
Me feeling shame that someone else was cleaning my mess and taking out my garbage: “Yes please.”

I felt sheepish and lost and embarrassed that so many people were helping me. Allowing myself to receive love and support was hard! I was good at giving and this was new territory for me that brought up lots of feelings. I also felt ever so grateful to my dear friends for stepping up for me when I needed them. I didn’t know how to figure it all out, how to organize this help, but I knew that I needed it. So, I simply got out of the way and let them help. The hardest part was simply bearing my feelings without letting them (the feelings) run the show. I didn’t allow my shame make me say no to what I so clearly needed. This was a huge step for me!

I got through the move with the support of my friends and family, and honestly – it made me wonder why I thought I had to do it all alone in the first place. Sometimes caring for ourselves means admitting we can’t do it all alone. And sometimes it means bearing the difficult feelings and allowing the love in anyway. Just saying yes! To my dear friends who stepped up to help me in my time of need – thank you. This is what community care looks like.

How I Got Myself Into Hot Water as a Couples Counsellor

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

I remember the first time I found myself in a big ethical bind with a couple I had been seeing for a few months. 

I was sitting across from one of the partners who had just revealed a big secret to me. The problem? The other half of the couple was not in the room to hear it. So, now I knew a secret the other partner did not know. I could literally feel myself break into a sweat because this had happened 20 minutes into the session. I still had 40 minutes to go. 

I was relatively new to couples counselling at the time, and I knew the revelation of this secret had put me in an ethical bind. It was only after I sat with my supervisor and walked her through the details of the situation, that I realized how complicated the bind actually was. After I explained all of the steps I had taken, my supervisor helped me to understand the mistakes I made which could have helped me avoid this challenging situation. 

After three supervision sessions, I had a clear understanding of the steps I had to take to clean up my mistake and provide the couple with steps to move forward. I met with the couple twice more. I made apologies, they had anger and frustration (at me and each other) and we moved through it and forward. 

This couple took some amazingly brave steps despite this challenge and their relationship progressed and grew because of it. AND, it could have gone very differently for all of us had they decided differently. 

After this experience I realized the delicacy and complexity of working with a couple in crisis. What I wished is that someone had walked me through the 101’s of couples counselling — ethics, dynamics, challenges and more. 

So, that is what we are offering you! 

The Art of Couples Counselling workshop explores the emotional dynamic underlying all primary relationships. It will examine common issues and challenges the counsellor may encounter, and discusses methods of supporting the couple’s movement towards deeper emotional contact and commitment.

Please join us on Sunday, June 23rd from 10am to 3pm in East Vancouver for this workshop. 

There are 3 spots left — register today!

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