Please see the sections below for information on the types of services we offer:
- Individual Counselling or Psychotherapy
- Couples Therapy
- Trauma Therapy
- Touch and Table Work
- Group Programs and Workshops
Individual Counselling or Psychotherapy
Counselling and psychotherapy are similar yet different services, and you and your practitioner can decide what makes the most sense for your needs. Typically, counselling focuses more on providing information (psychoeducation), advice, encouragement, and instruction on a variety of life issues, whereas psychotherapy focuses on the assessment and treatment of serious disorders of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception and memory that affect one’s ability to function. Both counselling and psychotherapy use techniques and approaches that are similar (both counselling and psychotherapy can involve Somatic Experiencing, mindfulness, and working on emotion regulation, for instance); the difference lies more in the severity and level of dysfunction of what is being worked on.
Personal work can be used to address a number of different life issues. While our main focus is working with trauma and attachment injuries and their various symptoms and associated challenges, we also work with other mental health, addictions, interpersonal, spiritual and personal growth challenges, such as: emotion regulation, anxiety, anger, toxic relationships, chronic stress, grief and loss, caregiver stress, high self-criticism and low self-worth, life transitions, identity crises, sexual issues, boundaries and communication, interpersonal skills, and so on.
Please visit Life Issues to get a feel for some of what we can focus on in our work together, and read up on our Therapeutic Approaches to have a better understanding of what you might experience in your work with us. We work from an integrative model, incorporating approaches that work with the body, emotions, mind, and relationships based on each client’s unique needs and comfort level. If you have a specific issue that is not described on our site, please contact us to find out what some next steps might be.
Occasionally, our individual clients request to bring a spouse or family member to sessions. This is typically done for the purposes of facilitating collaborative dialogue about personal therapy goals and progress and to provide psychoeducation to the client’s ally on a particular topic of interest. Should you decide you would like to pursue both individual and couples therapy, The Refuge can support you to connect with more than one therapist in order to address your needs (pending therapist availability).
The Refuge offers couples therapy services for those who are seeking a more involved therapeutic process for themselves and one or more loved ones. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Providing support when one or both members of the couple has experienced trauma/PTSD, addictions or loss
- Working on emotional regulation and attunement
- Building empathy, trust, active listening, and repair following attachment injuries, abandonment or betrayal
- Improving communication skills and interpersonal effectiveness
- Coping with stress (life, transitions, work, caregiver challenges)
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Exploring emotional and sexual intimacy
- Addressing issues related to abuse, power and control
Some couples come in the hopes of restoring their relationship, while others come with the intention of separating/divorcing in a healthy, amicable way. Some couples come already separated/divorced in order to work on effective co-parenting.
The Refuge therapists specialize in trauma therapy, and each practitioners who operates here has committed themselves to the principles of safety, embodiment, choice, voice and empowerment. Our practitioners are dedicated to pursuing ongoing training in the area of trauma, attachment and safely working with the body to heal all aspects of self – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and relational. Our areas of focus include:
- Complex early developmental trauma, birth/peri-natal trauma (to self or child), colonial trauma, PTSD, and ongoing abuse and neglect/abandonment
- Shock trauma (motor vehicle accident, near death, falls, injury, medical trauma, inescapable attack, physical or sexual assault, natural disaster, war)
- Chronic stress, physical symptoms and body memory
- Toxic, co-dependent or insecure relationship dynamics
- Family of origin issues (such as: dynamics with siblings, neglect or abandonment, or anxious, dysregulated, cold, controlling, angry, chaotic or narcissistic parents or caregivers who often have experienced their own trauma or addictions preventing secure attachment and co-regulation)
- Shame, dissociation, identity issues and sense of self
- Associated concerns (anxiety, panic, hypervigilance, fear, anger, depression, grief, triggers, flashbacks, adjustment, etc.)
- Compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and occupational stress injury
Our practitioners are skilled in a variety of trauma-oriented approaches. Depending on the specialties of the individual practitioner, these might include:
- Touch and table work
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
- Attachment-oriented therapy
- Emotion regulation and arousal modulation
- Inner child and self-parenting work
- Dissociation and parts (ego state) work
- Trauma-sensitive mindfulness and self-compassion
- Boundaries work
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
We adhere to a tri-phasic model of trauma therapy, which emphasizes focusing on 1) safety and stabilization, 2) remembrance and processing, and 3) reconnection
We emphasize gentle, compassionate care that honours your comfort level and growing edge, and helps you build your capacity incrementally (“titration”). Therapy is done with you, not to you, and you always have the right to voice your opinions so that we know how to work most effectively to meet your needs.
Trauma therapy at The Refuge can include other aspects of healing as well, such as:
- Exploring and/or restoring self-protective responses, such as orienting, fight, flight, freeze, surrender and submit
- Understanding power and control dynamics
- Systemic factors related to intergenerational trauma or trauma occurring in a particular group, community or institution
- Restoring a more whole sense of self
- Exploring anger, empowerment and healthy aggression
- Building tolerance for discomfort as well as joy and pleasure
- Looking at relationship, attachment and activation patterns with caregivers, friends, partners and colleagues
- Developing greater present moment awareness, presence and attunement with others and restoring your ability to have flexible boundaries
- Addressing issues related to interoception (awareness of sensation and of yourself from the inside), exteroception and neuroception (awareness of safety or threat in the environment), and proprioception (the body’s awareness of itself in relation to the environment, gravity, pressure, being upright, and balance)
Trauma work at The Refuge focuses on renegotiating responses that are left in the body, to help restore you to a state of emotional and physical balance. Our hope is that you will experience a different sense of yourself as increasingly empowered and capable of taking effective action on your own behalf (agency), so that you are less victimized by your own internal experiences or by dynamics with others.
Touch and Table Work
In certain circumstances, touchwork can be used to support containment and regulation of physical or emotional dysregulation or activation; to process early developmental (pre-verbal) trauma that can’t be dealt with through language; to increase awareness of different areas of the body; to explore how one enters or leaves relationships; to settle anxiety or stress responses; to support the softening or unclenching of areas that are bracing, tense or armoured; or to help the body to unwind out of chronically-held stress or to mobilize a self-protective response to renegotiate a past experience, in order to achieve a sense of triumph or physiological completion. Touch involves bringing support to an area through one’s intention (no physical contact) or through actual contact. Touch work is not massage therapy, manual therapy, or physical rehabilitation. No manipulation of tissues is involved. Touch is through contact and attention alone.
Using touch in the context of psychotherapy, whether seated or on a massage table, requires advanced training in how to use touch ethically and therapeutically, and is only done with your full consent and right to self-determination. Working with apprehension/anxiety/fear/bracing surrounding touch is important to address before any actual physical touch can occur and is an important part of the healing process. For more information about touch and table work in the context of psychotherapy and counselling, please read the following pages: Somatic Experiencing and Touch and Table Work.
Group Programs and Workshops
Group programs run at varying times during the year, based on demand. Groups have a small number of participants to foster personalized attention and comfort. Groups offered through practitioners at The Refuge have varied in focus, including art therapy, mindfulness, eco therapy, and Somatic Experiencing.