Therapeutic Approaches

Talking about trauma is not the same thing as processing trauma.

Sarah draws from a wide variety of approaches in her work. Rest assured, however – you don’t need to know up front which approaches you are interested in before coming to work with her. This is something that she will discuss with you that you can make a decision about together. However, some people do feel drawn to certain approaches off the get-go and instinctively seem to know what will work for them.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Sarah has formally trained in the following approaches:

  • Somatic ExperiencingSomatic Experiencing®: A body-oriented approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine that can be done seated, standing/movement, or on a treatment table (with or without touch(1)). This treatment supports gradual body awareness, nervous system regulation and resilience, boundary repair, and the titrated resolution of body memory and sensations associated with residual activation held in your system from incomplete self-protective responses. SE™ can be done in response to specific events but also when there are no conscious memories available to work with.Sarah has also completed two related trainings:
    1. Touch Skills Training for Trauma Therapists (post-advanced SE™ training going into more depth around incorporating touch into trauma therapy)
    2. Somatic Resilience and Regulation Training (focuses on working somatically and through co-regulation for the repair of attachment ruptures and early developmental trauma, with and without touch)
  • EMDR therapyEMDR: An information-processing approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This approach involves preparing for, identifying and working through specific traumatic memory targets so that they no longer carry charge or create distress. The approach is very structured and protocol-based, and can be used in combination with other approaches, such as Somatic Experiencing® or parts work/ego state work.
    • EMDR for Animals: Sarah is one of a handful of individuals in North America who have trained with the developer of EMDR for Animals, Fabienne Lannes-Gillibert, in France. This adaptation of EMDR for humans is specifically conceived for working with phobias and trauma experienced by other mammals, such as dogs, cats, and horses.
  • Brainspotting: Developed by Dr. David Grand, Brainspotting has often been described as a hybrid of Somatic Experiencing and EMDR. More specifically, it uses an adapted version of the bilateral stimulation found in EMDR (a specific series of audio tracks named BioLateral) in combination with locating “brain spots” through different eye positions associated with activation or resourcing (which has similarities with the eye movement work, tracking, and titration found in Somatic Experiencing). The goal is similar to the other two approaches, in terms of supporting the processing of residual charge that is left in the body in relation to various past or upcoming adverse experiences.
  • Parts Work / Ego State Work: Structural Dissociation Theory (van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele) recognizes that one of the adaptations to early trauma is personality fragmentation so that what was overwhelming, painful, or beyond the window of tolerance could be split off as a way of surviving. Working with one’s ego states or parts of self can be an important component of resolving inner conflicts, familiar patterns, and trauma that continue to impact people internally and in their relationships. Through university coursework and self-directed learning, Sarah also weaves in specific elements from other related interventions, like Psychosynthesis,  Transactional Analysis, Ego State Therapy, and Internal Family Systems.
  • Safe and Sound Protocol: Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges in collaboration with Integrated Listening Systems, the SSP is an intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. The intervention uses prosodic vocal music that has been filtered to train the middle ear muscles to focus in on the frequency of human speech. Once human speech is properly perceived, the portal to social engagement has been opened. Possible benefits from this modality are: better ability to interpret the meaning and intent in conversations; greater sense of safety achieved by better understanding the fluctuations in human voice; greater sense of calm and ability to self-regulate. Once the nervous system has been primed and in a calm state, further therapy is enhanced and behavioral regulation are improved. The SSP has benefits for individuals who struggle with dysregulation in emotions, behaviours, and relationships; anxiety in social situations; difficulty with eye contact and expressing emotion or affection; sensory sensitivities; and trauma.
  • Body Memory Recall: BMR is a bodywork modality developed by Jonathan Tripodi involving myofascial release. While Sarah does not use this approach in her work as a Registered Psychotherapist, her training in BMR informs her understanding of the body’s patterns of “unwinding” out of stress responses and holding patterns, which can occur during Somatic Experiencing®.
  • Sarah with her horseIntegrative Equine-Facilitated Wellness: IEFW was developed by Deborah Marshall at Generation Farms. It is an experiential method that brings humans and horses together to support greater body awareness, boundary awareness, and self-regulation. A trauma- and mindfulness-focused approach, it incorporates the work of Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Pat Ogden, Dr. Daniel Siegel, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Babette Rothschild. Prior experience with horses is not necessary to benefit from equine-assisted therapies.

Sarah has also been exposed to other approaches through various university courses, self-directed learning, conference seminars, practicum placements (for instance, her advanced practicum was in a DBT-focused clinic), supervision, and personal therapy.

She brings in aspects of these approaches where useful. These include:

  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: The original trauma therapy, psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious conflicts and defense mechanisms that develop as a result of early adverse childhood experiences. These conflicts inevitably play out in the therapeutic relationship where they can be brought to light and addressed through directed conversation and insight.
  • Mindfulness TherapyMindfulness: Mindfulness is simply the act of paying attention in a particular way in the present moment, intentionally, without judgment, and with compassion. It is taught in a number of spiritual and secular traditions, and has been adopted in the West as a psychological method to help with stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and other challenges.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy looks at the specific combination of mindfulness and CBT techniques. Sarah teaches trauma-informed mindfulness skills that are grounded in Somatic Experiencing®.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Developed by Dr. Aaron Beck, CBT focuses on the impact of negative core beliefs and distorted thinking patterns on one’s emotions, body sensations and behavioural reactions.
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: A skills-based approach that is helpful for individuals who struggle with intense emotions, unstable relationships, addictions or other challenging behaviours, DBT looks at developing skills that support mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Non-Violent Communication: This approach offers a way to structure difficult feedback in relationships in a way that focuses on personal ownership, I language, needs identification, and voicing requests.
  • Art Therapy: Art can be another way to process emotions, sensations or relational dynamics (within self and with others) when words are not possible or when language does not adequately convey what is going on. In session, this typically involves using coloured pencils or markers, though processing through art can also be done at home using paint and collage. Artistic ability is not required to experience the benefits of art in therapy.
  • Gestalt Therapy: Gestalt is an experiential and existential approach that focuses on choice and personal responsibility in the present moment in the context of the therapeutic relationship, other relationships, and life as a whole. Change occurs through accepting what is and the options and choices that come from that acceptance, as opposed to striving for something (self, others) to be different.

Prior to becoming a psychotherapist, Sarah worked as an employment counsellor helping people at various stages of education, work or career transitions. Where necessary, she draws on the following experience:

  • Personality AssessmentCareer Counselling: This involves helping individuals explore different career paths that might be a fit based on their interests, values, personality traits and other life factors, as well as researching labour market information, education and training programs, or evaluating continuing education options.
  • Personality Assessment: Sarah was formally trained in using the MBTI® (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and is familiar with the Keirsey Temperament Sorter and True Colors/Personality Dimensions. While she no longer administers personality assessments, her knowledge of personality theory informs her current therapeutic work and career counselling.
  • Life Skills Coaching: Sarah trained in the YMCA model of life skills coaching and group facilitation.

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  1. Touch in psychotherapy is only done with your ongoing informed consent. Touch work or table work are not the same thing as body work modalities (like physiotherapy, massage therapy, myofascial release, etc), and do not involve any of the restricted acts outlined in the Regulated Health Professions Act.