I have worked for 22 years as a registered Nurse in the Canadian health care system after graduating from Saint Francis-Xavier University with a BSc in Nursing in 1988. I have a Master of Education in Lifelong Learning from Mount Saint Vincent University, and a Master of Education in Counselling and Psychotherapy from Acadia University.
I am a certified Hypnotherapist through Daybreak Therapy and Training.
I am a member of both the Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists and the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.
I provide counselling for clients in Nova Scotia using telephone, video, and in person delivery. My clients include people who may have received a life‑altering diagnosis such as cancer, are managing a chronic condition like Crohns or diabetes, or are experiencing a developmental transition like aging or menopause. I offer both individual and group counselling depending on your preference. I also offer hypnotherapy to manage insomnia, chronic pain, and habit alteration like smoking cessation.
Standards of Practice
Often when a person has had a stressful and anxiety provoking experience the autonomic nervous system becomes activated. This is perfectly natural, and it contributes to our survival as a species. When we are alert to potential danger, we are more likely to behave in ways that increase our ability to avoid life threatening situations. The autonomic nervous system is held in balance between the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for rest and rejuvenation and the sympathetic nervous system responsible for action and survival. In short Parasympathetic Nervous system (PNS) is “rest and digest” and the Sympathetic Nervous system (SNS) is “fight or flight”. Both systems are necessary for survival.
Although we may not be facing a large lion, or bear in our lives we can face threats which are just as frightening but may be less obvious. When we get a diagnosis, which alters our relationship with our future we feel extremely vulnerable. Forcing ourselves to undergo treatments we do not really understand, and to return to the environment that we associate with frightening information and loss of control can activate our Sympathetic Nervous system. We feel our heart race, breath quicken, and cannot seem to focus on those around us. This fight, flight, freeze, fawn response is completely automatic and the way in which our body gets ready to defend itself from injury and attack. With a life altering diagnosis we cannot fight it, flee from it, or hide from it, this can increase feelings of fear and helplessness. Sometimes people who have had such an experience suddenly feel that they fret about everything. In this new state of anxiety, they struggle to concentrate on tasks such as decision-making regarding treatment options, diet requirements, medication regimens, and just everyday life decisions.
It is not uncommon for people who have had a life altering diagnosis, or an invasive medical procedure to experience anxiety feelings that seem to have nothing to do with the event that elicited the first response. The statements, “I was never like this before. I never felt so anxious about anything. Now I fret about everything.” are not uncommon. Long after the threat has passed the person may maintain a state of hypervigilance so that small things elicit big anxiety responses.
Using knowledge of the vagus nerve can allow the sympathetic nervous system to be down regulated through the act of breathing in a conscious and purposeful way. Activities that focus on breath control such as a yoga practice, swimming, or singing, with prolonged exhalation can begin to send a subconscious message to your Sympathetic Nervous system to downgrade threat perception, this in turn can decrease sensations of anxiety.
Porges, Stephen. (2017). The pocket guide to the polyvagal theory: The transformative power of feeling safe. New York. W.W. Norton & Company
Science Confirms that the Vagus Nerve is the Key to Wellbeing
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When you get a cancer diagnosis you can find yourself in a lonely place, the health care world is one which is not very familiar to most people. If you can hardly remember which cancer specialist, you are seeing and what it is that they do, you are not alone. Even the language can be confusing. A negative result is a good thing! A positive result is not a good thing! This strange world can make you feel anxious and powerless.
Feeling anxious regarding your cancer diagnosis is completely natural but adding to those feelings of uncertainty can be the very system you rely on to help you get through this experience. The number of specialist physicians and other personnel you may encounter during your cancer journey may seem overwhelming. You may see a surgeon for the physical removal of your cancer. Then you might see an Oncologist for your chemo regimen. It is not unusual to be referred to a Radiation Oncologist as well to irradiate the cancer. The one constant in all this besides you and your family or friends will be your primary care provider. Using your primary care provider to help you negotiate the health care system can make the experience seem less intimidating.
Although you may have family and friends who are doing their best to be supportive and encouraging ultimately you are alone in this fight. No one else can have a chemo treatment for you, no one else, however well meaning or willing to be supportive, can really understand what you are experiencing. For many this can be a very lonely time. It may be helpful to remember that although your friends and family cannot have this painful experience for you, they are suffering as well. They are there when you receive treatment and are frequently having many anxious feelings too. Sometimes it is difficult for you to share what is happening to you because you do not want to frighten your family, or you think they cannot understand what you are going through. Sharing your experience with a counselling therapist or peer volunteer can alleviate your feelings of aloneness at a time when feelings of isolation are common.
Things like journaling can help both you, your friends and loved ones through this challenging time. Using counselling both in group and individual formats can also create the sort of unbiased support that is often helpful. The cancer society can provide resources for counselling services to help both the person with cancer and those who are co-surviving to cope with this life altering challenge. Your emotional and mental well being is an important part of your recovery. Taking advantage of resources to improve your mood and reduce your anxiety can reduce feelings of loneliness during this cancer journey.
Carr, Kris. (2007) Crazy, sexy, cancer tips. Guilford, CT. Globe Pequot Press.
Katz, Anne. (2012). After you ring the bell…10 challenges for the cancer survivor. Pittsburgh, PA. Hygeia Media