23 Dec Getting to know Valentina and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
WHO IS VALENTINA:
Valentina is one of our very own therapists at Bliss Counselling + Psychotherapy practicing individual therapy. For as long as Valentina can remember, people have felt comfortable opening up to her. She has frequently had strangers join her while sitting on a park bench or at a coffee shop. Valentina feels a sense of value in being able to give others a safe space to listen and to understand them and their story.
One day, Valentina connected with a person experiencing Schizophrenia, who shared more with her about their life and the challenges they had been facing. This conversation sparked a curiosity within Valentina that led her to pursue Psychology as her major. Her curiosity to truly see, understand, and accept people as they are, continued to grow and ultimately, lended to her pursuit of a career in Psychotherapy.
Valentina obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States, at Marquette University and Cardinal Stritch University, respectively. In addition to being a Psychotherapist in Ontario, Canada, Valentina holds a License of Professional Counselling in the state of Wisconsin.
During her Clinical Psychology Master’s program, Valentina co-facilitated a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wisconsin. This experience further stoked her interest in mindfulness and radical acceptance. She felt motivated to approach those around her with a sense of compassion in order to validate lived experiences and to support them in identifying their own strengths.
After graduate school, Valentina began working with marginalized populations in Milwaukee, WI. As part of an interdisciplinary team piloting the CORE (Coordinated Opportunities for Recovery and Empowerment) Program, she actively supported those living with psychosis with the goal to improve the quality of their lives. Through a coordinated effort, Valentina was able to help foster independence for many young adults facing Schizophrenia. She and her colleagues approached hallucinations and delusions with acceptance, rather than dismissal or disapproval. With compassion, Valentina and her team validated their clients’ realities. She offered psychoeducation for families, created strength-based treatment and crisis plans, which incorporated both formal and informal support systems and strategies. Valentina hosted monthly meetings for each client and their circle of care, utilizing open communication and problem solving across the health care team to ensure that the client was well supported, and that ultimately their needs were prioritized.
After a move to Canada, Valentina began providing psychotherapy online. It was during this time that she first heard of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Not knowing what it was, Valentina chose to dive into courses and literature.
WHAT IS ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based approach to therapy that uses Mindfulness to build awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. With this awareness, we are able to observe patterns in our behaviours and thoughts. This then gives us the information we need in order to reflect on whether how we are operating in the world is meaningful and working for us, as well as how we might be able to add value to our lives.
Rather than reviewing the content of our thoughts and feelings, we analyze their usefulness. For example, we may encounter a situation where we think, “I’m not good enough.” Instead of asking ourselves, is this thought accurate, ACT encourages us to ask ourselves:
- Am I placing my focus on one particular thought and is this helping me in some way?
- By placing my focus on this particular thought, is it bringing me closer to who I want to be?
- Are my patterns of thoughts and behaviours working for me?
Certain therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), ask us to seek out evidence for why we ARE good enough, that is, to consider alternative examples that could counter the negative thought pattern. For some, this is really effective. But, sometimes, there is no amount of evidence that can truly convince us that we are indeed good enough.
This is why Valentina loves ACT; it looks at the function of thoughts and feelings rather than their accuracy. When we think, “I’m not good enough,” and then ask ourselves how that thought pattern is working for us, it’s easy to see that it isn’t. Our minds generally want to protect us from pain. Unfortunately, thoughts and feelings are often out of our control; there is no “Delete” button in the brain to get rid of them for good. So while it is important to acknowledge unwanted thoughts and feelings, expending too much of our energy analysing them will not actually change our lives for the better. Ultimately, we may not feel closer to achieving our goals or the life we want, so what could we do instead?
When we are self-aware, we are able to acknowledge that something is not working. When we realize that something is not working, we can then begin letting go of the unhelpful thoughts and feelings that hook our attention. Mindfulness is incredibly useful for “unhooking” these thoughts. Not only does it bring us into the present moment, but it reminds us that we are not defined by our thinking or our emotions. We are simply observers of our experience. Through Mindfulness, we build flexible attention and foster acceptance of our experience.
This approach is liberating and compassionate, it acknowledges and validates the painful experiences in our lives while at the same time giving us our power back. While it is natural for us to allow emotions to dictate our actions, we do not have to let them dominate our lives.
Whether in the therapy room, or outside of it, we can approach life through this framework. We can practice mindful awareness in any setting and reflect on our values. The therapy room provides a safe, nonjudgmental space to open up about the painful experiences we encounter. As a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with almost a decade of experience and a fellow human, Valentina acknowledges everyone’s emotions as valid and offers understanding and compassionate support. We collaborate as a team to help take steps towards changing life for the better. Change can be intimidating, by having someone along for the journey, to offer encouragement, guidance and reminders of your strengths, can be incredibly helpful.
Does ACT sound like an approach that you might like to explore? Then, join
Valentina Messier (RP, Qualifying) and fellow Bliss expert Sheila McDonough (MSW, RSW) in our upcoming ACT Now For A New You In 2022 group workshop. The workshop will be held virtually from the comfort of your home via Zoom. Heal through the power of connections with up to ten other like minded individuals! Prepare yourself to engage in group discussions for 90 minutes, once a week for five weeks starting Saturday January 15th and ending February 12th.
We’ve got all the information we need, we are interested so just click here to make the next step to booking into our group.
Who is ready to join Bliss Counselling + Psychotherapy’s 5- week virtual ACT workshop? All the information is outlined and the interest has been sparked! Just click here to take the next step in securing a spot within the group.
Written By: Valentina Messier Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) & Candice Mason, Client Services