Theoretical Orientations

Our counsellors work from different theoretical perspectives to meet our clients’ diverse needs. We offer verbal and nonverbal, expressive therapies. We will take into account your preferences and the issues you want to resolve in deciding with you the best approach or combination of approaches. Therapists may integrate different orientations in which they have been trained. We offer psychodynamic-relational therapy, family therapy, Trauma therapy, narrative therapy, self regulation a therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution-focused brief therapy, and expressive therapies: art, sandplay, and play.



Psychodynamic-relational therapy is based on the idea that emotional well-being depends on having satisfying mutual relationships with others. Emotional difficulties are understood as often being based in past and present experiences that have not nurtured and supported the client’s autonomy, self worth, or emotional/physical safety. A relational therapist works with the client’s unique experience of themselves in particular social/cultural and relational contexts to create a new experience of being in a supportive, strengthening relationship. The therapist’s aim is to create an experience of growth through interpersonal connection. A relational therapist pays attention to the interpersonal impact of power differentials and social issues such as race, class, culture, gender, and sexual difference, and works with these issues as they are present in the client's life and in the therapy relationship.


In Family therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy and family systems therapy, we work with families and couples to nurture change and development. The therapist tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between or among family members and emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological health. Families may directly participate in therapy sessions. In Family Therapy approaches, all individuals in the family are seen as participants in the dynamics of the presenting issues. Even if the family is focused on the problems of only one member, the therapist views all members as contributing in some way to the overall atmosphere and will help the family as a whole to reduce their anxious feelings and change how they communicate and interact.



Trauma Counselling

Trauma counseling acknowledges the biological, neurological and psychological impact of trauma on your life.  Childhood abuse, relationship violence, sexual assault, war, and natural disasters can all overwhelm your ability to cope and create long lasting effects. You may re-live the event over and over in the form of flashbacks or nightmares or feel scared in situations that remind you of the original trauma.  You may feel numb or notice you are avoiding certain situations and people.  You may also experience insomnia, agitation, irritability and outbursts of rage.  These reactions are all normal responses to trauma.


Trauma counseling emphasizes the healing power of the relationship you have with your counsellor.  Your counsellor will help you understand your responses to the trauma and develop the necessary coping skills to move forward. You will learn and practice ways to tolerate distress and pain.


Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. The particular therapeutic techniques vary within the different approaches of CBT according to the particular kind of problem issues, but commonly may include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviors; questioning and testing cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting. Relaxation, mindfulness and distraction techniques are also commonly included.


Narrative therapy is a respectful and collaborative approach to therapy. It focuses on the stories of people’s lives and is based on the idea that problems are the outcome of your experience of your social, cultural and political environment. The narrative therapist collaborates with you in the process of identifying old narratives and discovering richer ones. The purpose of this work is to loosen the hold and limitations on you of old ways of understanding your experiences.


Solution focused brief therapy, often referred to as simply 'solution focused therapy' or 'brief therapy' focuses on what you want to achieve through therapy rather than on the problem(s) that made you seek help. The approach focusses on the present and future. The therapist uses respectful curiosity to invite you to envision your preferred future and will help you identify times in your current life that are helping you move closer to this future. To support this, the therapist asks questions about your story, your strengths and resources, and about exceptions to the problem.


Self Regulation therapy views symptoms of traumatic experiences as the effect of a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). At the same time, self regulation therapists understand the ANS as having the capacity to restore self-regulation through interventions that involve tracking your own felt-sense experience and discharging the tension held in the body by the natural fight, flight, or freeze response to traumatic experience. These can include falls; motor vehicle accidents; attack, rape, abuse; medical/dental trauma; near drowning, poisoning; loss/abandonment; natural disasters; torture /ritual abuse; war; developmental trauma. Self regulation therapy may be used along with other, verbal therapies.


Expressive therapies offered at Family Services include art therapy, sandplay therapy and play therapy. These therapies are often used in conjunction with verbal therapies, depending on the age of the client. Children in therapy are not yet at a stage where they are able to talk about all the complicated thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. They use instead the language of play, and are capable of expressing all they need to in the safe and free environment of the playroom with a therapist they have come to trust. Some adults benefit from expressive therapy. The freedom to express yourself using your hands can take you to deep layers of experience that words take much longer to get to.