16 Feb Getting to know Sheila & Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Sheila McDonough is one of our very own therapists at Bliss Counselling + Psychotherapy!. Sheila earned her undergraduate degree with a Major in Social Development Studies and a Certificate in Social Work from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo. Sheila is a Master of Social Work with a Degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in the individual, couple and family stream. Sheila specializes in individuals and relationships and is a Registered Social Worker and a member in good standing with the Ontario College of Social Worker and Social Service Workers and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.
Where it all started:
In her early 20s Sheila experienced delayed grief, which led her to engage in psychotherapy. Through this experience Sheila realized the value of psychotherapy. Following this experience, Sheila began her journey to become a psychotherapist. Sheila had been working in marketing and sales. Sheila realized her natural skills and talents were useful in developing the therapeutic alliance which is the curative factor in psychotherapy and in all helping professions.
This shift in career focus has led Sheila to a very meaningful and satisfying career. She feels very honoured to walk with people as they reflect and work towards making meaningful changes in their lives.
Sheila has worked as a Registered Social Worker for the past 15 years primarily in the areas of trauma and mental health. In those 15 years, Sheila has spent more than 10 years in a hospital setting providing outpatient mental health services, emergency mental health services and acute trauma treatment in the areas of sexual assault and domestic violence.
In the last 2 years, Sheila has really enjoyed working more with couples. She loves helping couples improve their communication and create more loving and meaningful relationships. Sheila aims to hold each person in esteem, while challenging them to look at how they can change to improve the quality of their relationship.
Sheila’s primary approach to working with individuals and couples focuses heavily on incorporating mindfulness. Sheila has studied and practiced mindfulness for more than 25 years. It is the cornerstone of the therapeutic approaches Sheila uses in her therapy sessions. Sheila is a lifelong learner and has postgraduate training in the areas of mindfulness, DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Sheila believes present moment awareness is essential to making meaningful changes in our lives.
Sheila uses an eclectic approach in therapy. This is why she values the ACT model. ACT embodies the main elements Sheila uses in her sessions (i.e. mindfulness, DBT, and compassion). ACT provides a framework to help people ground themselves and increase psychological flexibility. The approach allows a person to recognize a choice point to work towards meaningful change in their life.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:
ACT helps people open up and respond more effectively to difficult emotions and thoughts. ACT helps a person to recognize their personal values and to move toward more value based behaviours. When using ACT a client will be able to see how small subtle challenges in life can be traced to a conflict in their own value system. This increased awareness then helps the client with unhooking themselves from the negative cycle so that they may move toward who and what is important to them.
Sheila loves the following quote and feels it embodies the essence of the ACT model:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor E. Frankl
We wanted to unpack the positive impacts of using ACT as an effective and evidence-based approach to therapy, so we interviewed Sheila to learn more. Here’s what she shared:
How is ACT used in a therapy session?
People will often want to get rid of unwanted thoughts and emotions. But, that’s not entirely possible. Instead, in an ACT session, clients are encouraged to accept these unwanted thoughts and behaviours, to cultivate present moment awareness, to learn how to recognize cognitive distortions and work towards value based and committed actions.
How many sessions will it take to notice a positive change?
The number of sessions will depend on each individual. Typically clients benefit from 6-8 sessions. Some clients may wish to pursue while others may wish to receive ongoing sessions (16-24), over several months or years. Some clients will attend a few sessions, then return in the future to explore their life in greater depth.
Who would benefit from ACT?
People with a wide range of challenges may benefit from ACT treatment (i.e. depression, anxiety, Borderline Personality, post traumatic stress symptoms stress, substance use and chronic pain)
How might ACT be incorporated into a person’s life outside of the session?
Clients learn how to ground themselves, to become an observer of their thoughts and feelings and how to work on committed action so that they may move toward who and what is important to them. Goals are set at the end of each individual or group session.
Does ACT sound like an approach that you might like to explore? Look no further. Find out how to join our upcoming ACT Group Therapy!
Sheila McDonough (MSW, RSW) and fellow Bliss expert Valentina Messier (RP,) are hosting an upcoming Acceptance and Commitment Therapy workshop series. This workshop series will be held virtually from the comfort of your home via Zoom. Heal through the power of connection in a small group setting! Prepare yourself to engage in group activities and discussions for 120 minutes, once a week for five weeks starting Saturday, March 26th and ending April 30th (excluding Easter weekend Saturday, April 16th).
Are you ready to join Bliss Counselling + Psychotherapy’s 5- week virtual ACT workshop? Click here to take the next step in securing a spot in this upcoming group or to be added to the waitlist for future groups.
Written By: Sheila McDonough (MSW, RSW)
Edited By: Candice Mason (Customer Care Specialist) & Jess Boule (Clinic Manager)