Author Archives: luz botia

Member of the Month: Iva Erceg


Graduate Program:
UBC Counselling Psychology M.A.
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Year: First

What drew you to studying counselling psychology?

There has always been a passion inside me for understanding how we function personally and in our relationships, and the multitude of ways we cope with what life throws our way. Counselling psychology is a fantastic avenue to acknowledge and address life stressors, help ease emotional burdens, guide people through personal challenges, and empower people to improve their sense of well-being and pursue new ways to live.

I would feel incredibly privileged to provide a listening ear, unconditional positive regard, and helpful tools to help pull clients out of rough patches, as well as to address more enduring and systemic hardships. Everyone is unique, and we’re all doing the best we can. It takes courage to seek out counselling and expose our vulnerabilities to another – and I would feel truly humbled to be part of that journey.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I was fortunate enough to work as a lawyer in Vancouver for five years as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia. During that time, I had the privilege of working with incredibly talented and inspiring individuals, both colleagues and clients alike, and immerse myself fully in a fast-paced, challenging, and very rewarding career.

I am equally proud of the fact that I was brave enough to leave the corporate world behind and embark on a new adventure and a different career path to becoming a therapist. My curiosity about the human condition and my desire to help others in a deeper and more personal way drew me to this profession. Looking back, it was the hardest decision I ever made, and also the best decision for me. Having gone through such a fundamental life and career transition, I have greater perspective on the road to finding balance and a sense of purpose in one’s life roles.

Growing up in an immigrant household, as a first-generation Canadian born in Serbia, I am also proud that I am embarking on a career path that challenges the stigma associated with therapy in my cultural background, and many first-generation cultural backgrounds, where counselling is not a common or valued practice, and those who ask for help risk feeling judged. We all need a safe space to talk about our struggles, but there can be great discomfort in seeking out the much-needed help – I look forward to continuing to break that stigma and encouraging individuals to come to therapy.

What are the most profound things you’ve learned so far in the program?

There are so many different ways to do therapy, all with their own unique perspective and contribution.

It’s important to tailor our approach to each unique client – there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

A therapist is different from a friend – we can offer a safe space for the release of pent up emotions, new insights, personal growth, exploration, and catharsis, all the while providing a trained, guiding hand and impartial, non-judgmental support.

What has been a pivotal moment for you on this journey?

As a distress line volunteer at the Crisis Centre, seeing the real impact I was having on people in their most difficult moments and the great need for mental health support, I was convinced that I had made the right decision to enter into this field.

Looking ahead, what are your career goals?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all of us and there is an increased demand for mental health services as isolation, anxiety, and depression are on the rise. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and it can feel like a constant struggle to figure out how to adapt. I look forward to working as a therapist to provide a safe space for people to address these concerns, as well as other challenges, including navigating relationships, coping in new environments, thriving in busy lifestyles, or dealing with major life and career transitions.

Who inspires you?  

Brené Brown for daring us to be vulnerable, Laurie Santos for promoting scientific research on what actually leads to lasting happiness, Loretta Ross for reminding us not to dehumanize others simply because we disagree with them, Dan Harris for showing us how to be 10% happier, Esther Perel for normalizing common relationship struggles, and, of course, Neil deGrasse Tyson for inspiring our cosmic curiosity!

Member of the Month: Paulina Leon


Graduate Program:
UBC Counselling Psychology M.E.d
Pronouns: She/her/hers

What drew you to studying counselling psychology?

I love psychology and I love counselling! Helping people heal or thrive is a great honour, and a passion of mine.

I am from Mexico, where I did my undergrad in psychology and a masters in counselling. I moved to Vancouver in 2019 and  wanted to make sure I was well prepared to work in the field here in Canada.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

In Mexico, I worked for 5 years in a university community centre. It was a fulfilling experience because I got to supervise undergrad students practicum and be part of their academic journey and personal growth; I also was able to help vulnerable people by providing low-cost counselling and workshops.

More recently, well, I am about to finish my first year of the MEd in Counselling Psychology at UBC. New program, new university, new country, new language; all of this over zoom during a pandemic. What a mix, eh?

What’s a moment from your time at UBC that you think you’ll be talking about for years?

I think an important moment for me was when I finally met my CNPS 578 classmates in person. The nine of us were very excited about finally get to see and talk to each other. We met on a park on Halloween day 2020. Cold weather but heartwarming.

As you look ahead, what are your career goals?

At this moment, I am exploring different options to work in Vancouver and I am open to opportunities. I am particularly interested in social justice and human rights, and I would enjoy working in a community based setting that serves women or immigrants. I also want to continue studying to keep learning and improving my counselling and research skills.

Who are your therapist heroes? Who inspires you?  

To be honest, I am a fan of Freud and I have all his books (lol). This is because in Mexico psychoanalysis is very popular and some of the best instructors I had during my studies in Mexico were either psychoanalysts or psychodynamic oriented therapists. I tried psychoanalysis myself and it was an interesting experience.

I am currently more interested in other counselling theories and interventions, but I think I will always have a sweet spot for Freud and his legacy.

That being said, I think the real heroes and inspiration are the great professors, instructors and classmates I have been so fortunate to share classes and spend time with.

Embodied Living in Disembodied Times

By Margaret Noel

E M B O D I M E N T | Experiencing the world and ourselves through our body leading to a felt sense of being at home in our bodies and enjoyment of our embodied existence (Launeanu & Kwee, 2018). 

Each and every day, we are bombarded with various messages about how we should look: thinner, but not too skinny, more muscular, but not bulky, strive for washboard abs, an hourglass figure, the messages go on and on (Latiff et al., 2018). These messages may come from the media, our friends, even from our parents and role models (Latiff et al., 2018). We have become so accustomed to these messages about how we should look that when we finally dare to look at our bodies, we invariably see them as “not good enough”, as something to be shaped and molded; an object that we critique, try to change, and ultimately dislike (Tantleff-Dunn et al., 2011). In response to this overload of messages, we diet, we do the latest workouts, we buy the best supplements and we look in the mirror, still unsatisfied (Tantleff-Dunn et al., 2011). With all these messages telling us what we should be and should look like, we’re bound to be lacking somewhere: “normative body discontent” (Tantleff-Dunn et al., 2011, p. 392) replaces our spontaneous, joyful embodied experience. And it is in the lacking and discontent that we begin to loathe our bodies that don’t fit these so called “norms” we’ve been told they should (Tantleff et al., 2011). What is even worse is that we start loathing ourselves for not being able to shape our bodies into that desired object promoted by media, peers or role models (Grogan, 2016).

But what if we together said “no” to these oppressive norms and “yes” to ourselves as embodied beings and to our bodies the way they are? What if we stopped seeing our bodies as objects to be changed into an impossible ideal and instead as part of ourselves that we carry through life with us, changing and evolving just as we do as human beings? What if instead of judging our bodies and pointing out their flaws, we started to treat them as we would treat our friends and started to appreciate what our bodies do for us, even admire them! 

Sound crazy or impossible? Research shows that when we engage with activities that emphasize the richness of our embodied experience and make us more attuned to our bodies and body wisdom, versus seeing them as objects, we strengthen the connection between the mind and the body, which promotes positive embodiment and appreciation for our body, for ourselves (Launeanu & Kwee, 2018).

What is Embodiment?

Embodiment has become such a buzz word in our society, yet the term is so foreign to many of us. What does it really mean to live in our bodies? Where do we start? If these are the thoughts running through your mind, you are not alone. In a society that prides itself on objectification, embodiment likely isn’t common in our vocabulary, nor our experience.

Embodiment is a framework within existential analysis that views the mind and body as one interconnected unit, constantly influencing each other and providing feedback to one another (Allan, 2005; Launeanu & Kwee, 2018; Piran & Teall, 2012). Instead of seeing the body from the outside as an object to be scrutinized, embodiment focuses on the internal, lived experience within each person’s body from a physical, psychological and spiritual perspective (Launeanu & Kwee, 2018). Some examples of this perspective include a focus on the sensual body and the enjoyment of food, art, nature, and the pleasures of the senses through our bodies; a focus on the emotional body in that we experience the wisdom of our emotions within our bodies (i.e. gut-wrenching pain, nervousness, warmth and happiness, fear, sadness); a focus on our relational bodies given that we relate to others with our bodies in how we look each other in the eye, greet, hug, or embrace one another; and a focus on our bodies as a source of activity or life through activities such as dance, movement, gardening, sculpturing, or art (Launeanu & Kwee, 2018). These perspectives focus on the joy, wisdom, creativity, and connection experienced through the body and ultimately view the body as something each and every one of us possesses that is “good” (Launeanu & Kwee, 2018). 

The Pandemic of Disembodiment and Loneliness 

I do realize however, the implicit irony in the statements above, given our current context. In fact, all across the globe, we are experiencing a pandemic of disembodiment and loneliness. In not being able to see love, in the explicit barriers placed through physical distancing and the implicit barriers of wearing masks and not being able to see the full expressions of another. This is not to say that the protocols are not necessary and critical for our own physical safety; they are. But instead to recognize the effects they are perpetuating. 

The increase in zoom meetings, the fear of leaving the house. The fear of walking too close to someone on the street. The threat our own bodies potentially may be posing to others in carrying a virus we may not even know that we are carrying. Canceled plans, reduced interactions, and reduced opportunities to share space with another. The many joyful embodied experiences we have grown accustomed to such as gatherings, workplaces, the simplicity of standing in a crowd; places where we previously found community have been cut off. And in cutting off these experiences, we are experiencing the loss internally. The loss that promotes our disconnect from being able to sense, to trust, to tap into the wisdom of the self. The loss in freedom of our own physicality. This loss that essentially confronts us with the totality of our own existence. 

In recognizing that there is a physical threat to our health, we are confronted with the fact that we are not invincible. That our time on this earth is not everlasting. That our bodies are temporary. Transitory. Fragile. And yet this loss and this confrontation present a unique opportunity. The opportunity to tune in to how we are feeling. To make a conscious effort to recognize and honor the discomfort. To make space for it. To increase our connection with ourselves despite how disconnected we may be feeling from others. And to recognize, what is truly important, what is meaningful, and are we living the lives we wish to be living? 

Interested in learning more? Follow “Befriending the Body” podcast on Spotify:

Author Bio

Margaret Noel (she, her, hers) is a first-year student in the MA, Counselling Psychology program at the University of British Columbia and a former varsity athlete who competed in Track and Field and Cross Country at SFU. Her interest in embodiment and body image stems from her own experience healing her relationship to her body through the practice of embodiment. Along with her colleague, Mihaela Launeanu, PhD, RCC, she is a Co-founder of the podcast “Befriending the Body” that raises awareness about body culture, provides education about how body image ideals are adopted and manifested into our lives, and provides offerings for individuals to embrace an embodied way of living. 

2021 Black History Month

Black History Month

February is Black History Month and presents an invitation to a continuous and ongoing engagement to learn about Black History and celebrate the legacy and accomplishments of Black people. Black History Month was created in February 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a historian known as the “father of Black history”.

Dr. Woodson’s work was influential in the establishment of African American Studies. In 1912, Dr. Woodson was the second Black person to complete his PhD at Harvard University where he earned his doctorate in history. In 1916, he founded the oldest historical association, the “Association for the Study of African American Life and History, focused on promoting the study of African American History and the accomplishments of Black people.


In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated what started as a Black History “week” that eventually became February’s Black History Month. As the ASALH website mentions, this initiative happens in February in recognition of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass as symbols of freedom as this month marked both their birthdays. The 2021 theme for Black History Month is “The Future is Now”, in recognition and honour of the transformative contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make.To learn more about Black History month, visit the ASALH website: Below are a number of resources and virtual events focused on Black History Month.

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished loose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Carter G. Woodson

Resources to learn more about Black History Month:

Association for the Study of African American Life and History presents the 2021 Virtual Black History Month

Learn more about Black History Month in Canada

Learn about outstanding Black individuals who have helped shape Canadian society

Learn about Black history organizations and educational resources in Canada

Learn about Historic Black Canadian communities

Learn about Black women who have advanced equality and human rights in Canada

BC Black History Awareness Society

Black History Month 2021 – Vancouver & Lower Mainland Events Blog

Celebrating Black History Month at the University of British Columbia (resources and events):

 Learning about fellow graduate students: Celebrating academic excellence of Black graduate students at UBC

Learn about UBC events and resources in celebration of Black History and achievement.

 UBC Education Library Collection Spotlight of children’s books and teacher recourses in celebration of Black History Month.

Black History Month at Xwi7xwa Library

 Celebrating Black authors:

The Vanishing Half: A Novel – Brit Bennett

Can you hear me now? How I found my voice and learned to live with passion and purpose – Celina Caesar-Chavannes

Four Hundred Souls: A community history of African America, 1619-2019 – Ibram X. Kendi

Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

A promise Land – Barack Obama

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Gutter Child: A Novel – Jael Richardson

Concrete Rose – Angie Thomas

The Hill we Climb: An inaugural poem for the country – Amanda Gorman

The ProphetsRobert Jones, Jr.

Surviving the White gaze: A Memoir – Rebecca Carroll

The Source of Self-Regard – Toni Morrison

Reproduction – Ian Williams

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You – David Chariandy

Let Me Hear a Rhyme – Tiffany D. Jackson

The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin

With the Fire on High – Elizabeth Acevado

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds

The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X

Celebrating and supporting Black entrepreneurs in BC and Canada:

Discover businesses owned by Black people across Canada by visiting: Black Owned Canada

Discover businesses owned by Black people in BC by visiting:

Discover businesses owned by Black people in Vancouver

We want to hear from you! If you have resources that you’d like to share with us, please email us at 

Do you want to submit a proposal for a Blog article you have in mind? Email us and let us know!

Member of the Month: Leah Baugh


Graduate Program:
UBC Counselling Psychology PhD
Year: Third
Pronouns: She/her/hers

What drew you to studying counselling psychology?

Before beginning graduate school I managed a mobile outreach care unit, where I worked alongside a team of nurses and counsellors to offer crisis counselling support and basic medical care in an impoverished community in Surrey, BC. One of the commonalities among the clients we supported was a history of traumatic stress from the impact of childhood abuse and the dehumanizing experience of sexual assault as adults. This prompted my desire to research resilience and the various protective factors that can be effectively incorporated into treatment plans for clients who have a history of traumatic stress. I decided to undertake a master’s degree, and subsequently a PhD in order to better understand how to support these individuals as both a clinician and researcher.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I feel really grateful for the community initiatives I have been a part of. From providing front line support with the mobile outreach care unit, to more recent opportunities as a student representative for the Counselling Psychology program and the Canadian Psychological Association, and as a board member of the British Columbia Psychological Association. I am surrounded by and constantly learning from experienced professionals who share a similar drive to advocate for the profession of psychology and improve its accessibility to the public.

What’s a moment from your time at UBC that you think you’ll be talking about for years?

One of my fondest experiences that I will never forget was UBC’s supervision clinic and the gracious master’s students who trusted me as I stumbled my way, learning how to supervise and support them. During the first few weeks, we were all a jumble of nerves as they were anxious about seeing clients for the first time, and I was similarly anxious about how to best support them.  It was such a humbling and connective experience and led to the development of organic relationships.  It was a messy and beautiful reminder of how human we are at the core, beyond degrees and experience.

As you look ahead, what are your career goals?

My main goal is to work in community based settings as a Psychologist once I have finished my PhD. However, my spouse often says I have a difficult time saying no to opportunities so I imagine (and hope) that I can also engage in research, teaching, and supervising to some extent during my career.

Who are your therapist heroes? Who inspires you?  

There are so many! But since I draw on an integrative approach from a Person Centered, Narrative, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy framework, a few who continue to inspire me include Carl Rogers: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” As well as the work of Michael White and David Epston in Narrative Therapy, Dr. Kristin Neff’s work on self compassion, and Dr. Tara Brach’s work on radical acceptance.  

Finding Your Power Amidst the Storm

Finding Your Power Amidst the Storm

As we come to the end of a very unusual year, I find myself wanting to try and replenish our hope a bit. So many of us have been met with unexpected hardships this past year. We are living through a global pandemic, and this is so much more than most of us are accustomed to contending with.

Maybe you’re finding that the standard self-care suggestions like warm tea or a nice long walk in the fresh air just aren’t cutting it these days. The current state of things feels bigger than anything a great yoga session could fix. And this isn’t the sort of thing you can just shake off by looking on the proverbial bright side. This is something more profound. Something that runs much deeper, grabs ahold of the very core of your existence, and can leave your foundation feeling pretty unstable.

As people, we are highly adaptable. For the most part, this works in our favour. It’s what allows us to normalize wearing face masks to the grocery store, and working from home, and tuning in to one video call after another. Because we are adaptable, we can go on functioning reasonably well even when it feels like everything is actually falling apart. The drawback is that this can easily start to feel like we’re losing control—like all of these bad things are happening to us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. This sense of powerlessness can be utterly deflating, leaving us feeling hopeless and helpless.

The Covid-19 pandemic has touched us all in very different ways, and it has bought with it a tremendous amount of loss for many people. Some people have lost jobs, lost their sense of safety, even lost loved ones. So many people feel isolated, anxious, depressed, directionless, frustrated. I could go on and on, and never fully capture the array of experiences, but the one overarching theme I keep hearing is a heavy sense of pointlessness.

Life is not what we want it to be—from the milder forms of annoyances and inconveniences to the devastating tragedies. Simply put, we don’t like this, and we feel it’s all completely out of our hands, so what’s the point in anything we’re doing if we actually have no power. It’s not just the pandemic, either. There is always suffering. There are tremendous power imbalances in our world, and there are things that happen in life that are beyond our control. This is true, and it can feel terrible. But here’s the part that gives me hope.

Control and personal agency are not the same things. We can lose a lot of control, but our personal power can never truly be taken from us. We all have a core self that remains untouched by external forces, limitations, oppression, illness, or anything else that leaves us feeling powerless.

Life is an ongoing conversation between what’s going on in our inner world, and what is going on in the world around us. Our core self always gets to take a position on the matter at hand. Even in the face of the greatest forms of suffering, we still have the choice of position, attitude, and the stance we will take.

Life says, “Here are your lemons.” And then our core self gets to decide how we feel about lemons.

Do you like lemons and feel grateful for the gift? Do you hate them and want to throw them all out the window and watch them bust open on the sidewalk below? Do you have a pretty decent recipe for marmalade or lemon muffins you figure you might as well try out?

This might not sound like much on the surface, but it is so much more essential than you may realize. If you can take a position, you become actively engaged in life. Things are no longer happening to you, they are just happening, and you have a say in how you feel about it and how you want to live out your response. There is so much power in this, in fact, that your choices will impact others. It is your responsibility to do your best to keep this in mind as you make your decisions.

No matter how many rules, restrictions, and obstacles you’re confronted with, your core self cannot be broken. When you show up to the situation, ready to turn toward whatever is happening, you are powerful. No, you may not change the world overnight, or even alter your circumstances. But standing with yourself through the pain—intentionally choosing the attitude you want to embrace and the responsible actions you want to take—is what will get you through the storm.

Every storm asks a question of you: If these are the conditions, how do you want to meet them? Your power rests in your response.


Vanessa Bork is a first-year counselling psychology Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia. She runs an entirely online private practice—at—from Langley, BC, and loves creating watercolour paintings.

Member of the Month: Martin Olson

CPSA Member: Martin Olson

Graduate Program: UVIC Counselling Psychology MA

Year: Second

Pronouns: He/him


What drew you to studying counselling psychology?

For a long time, I’ve wanted to have work where it feels like I’m contributing to humanity and helping people. While there are many ways to do this, what drew me to counselling psychology specifically is a belief in mental health being the fundamental factor in wellness.

On top of this, I have a strong interest in flourishing, positive psychology, human potential, mindfulness, existential philosophy and spiritual fulfillment. Compared to other health and psychological disciplines (i.e. psychiatry, clinical psychology, medicine), counselling seemed to offer the most freedom for doing work related to these areas.

Finally, it seems like there is the possibility to be enterprising and creative as a therapist in both our therapeutic approach and the environment we deliver our practice in. I see a lot of freedom to innovate in counselling and I would love to be a leader in the movement to help more and more people live flourishing lives.

So yeah, quite a few things brought me here 🙂

Who are your therapist heroes? Who inspires you?  

The first book I ever read on psychology was Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. While Kahneman isn’t a therapist, this book really sparked my interest in psychology and I find the dual-process theory to be really useful for conceptualization.

Carl Rogers’ On Becoming a Person was the second book on psychology I read and this was just as influential. I feel that Rogers’ humanistic, person-centered approach beautifully bridges the scientific and rational end of psychology with the more intuitive and spiritual side of it. I find that science and spirituality can often be represented as a binary that can polarize people. As someone who wants to harmonize the two in my practice, Rogers’ work is both foundational and inspiring.

Speaking of Carl’s, Jung is another significant influence on me. In particular, his ideas on individuation and wholeness have been really helpful in building my understanding of growth and wellbeing. I find his mystical and esoteric perspectives to be fascinating and find that becoming more familiar with this approach is helpful for having a well-rounded perspective.

Finally, I really appreciate the work of Dan Siegel. His book Mindsight really helped me ground some intuitive ideas I had about wholeness and integration on a more neurological and grounded level. Siegel relates an integrated and connected neurological state to wellness and connection/attunement in relationships and this has been really helpful in evolving my understanding of counselling and mental health.

What else interests you?

I’m someone who is interested in a lot. I come from a musical family, and while this wasn’t as much of a passion when I was growing up, it’s become one of my favorite things about being alive in recent years. Pre-covid I loved going to concerts and music festivals and I’m eager for those days to come back (hopefully this coming summer). I also like to sing and play guitar and piano, and also have dabbled with some DJing. Getting into electronic music production is the next frontier I want to explore, and I’m planning to do a deep dive once the semester is over.

I also love sports, being active, and being outside. Getting into the woods and hiking with people I connect with is probably my ultimate form of self-care. In the summer, Spikeball, volleyball, and water skiing are hard to beat. In the winter, going skiing is a savior. While I’m missing the easy access Vancouver (where I’m originally from) had to ski hills, I’m excited to go up the island and have a Mt. Washington trip sometime this winter. I also love being a couch potato from time to time and indulging in pro sports. Hockey and American football are my favorites, and obviously, I have a deep love for the Canucks. Will I be their sports psychologist one day and help lead them to Lord Stanley’s chalice? Time will tell 😛

Outside of music and sports, I really love learning, exploring, and having an adventure. I’m a pretty extroverted person and love meeting new people.  I also really like exploring different disciplines and really enjoy taking MOOCs (massive open online courses). Finally, traveling is something I really enjoy and I would love to do some working abroad as a counsellor once I’m graduated. Costa Rica, Australia and the U.K. are a few of the spots I’m thinking about 😀

Member of The Month: Mindy Chiang

CPSA Member: Mindy Chiang

Graduate Program: UBC Counselling Psychology MA

Year: Third

Pronouns: She/her/hers


What drew you to studying counselling psychology?

I have always been fascinated by psychology, particularly what makes people thrive. I chose to study counselling psychology because it is a mental health discipline that is not solely deficit-focused and allows for the exploration of the complexities of life.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I am most proud of having been able to lead a purpose-driven life. My first undergrad was in commerce and I had professional careers in finance and management before making a (rather dramatic) career pivot to study counselling. I am proud to have taken the risk to pursue what I find fulfilling and I have not looked back!

What’s a moment from your time at UBC that you think you’ll be talking about for years?

The clinical experiences I had in the program had been the most meaningful. I really appreciated the opportunities to learn to relate to clients deeply in the counselling room. There have been many therapeutic encounters through my clinic and practicum experiences that I will carry with me for years to come.

As you look ahead, what are your career goals?

As much as I enjoy clinical work I also have a love for research. For now, I  will take a few years to hone my skills as a clinician before considering a potential PhD. This will also give me time to clarify the topics I am most interested in exploring in a PhD.

Who are your therapist heroes? Who inspires you?  

Irvin Yalom is definitely one. I read almost all of his works and love his fictional accounts of therapy especially. I also find his integration of existential themes into therapy really interesting.

Self-care as a Graduate Student

“Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly”-unknown.

Graduate school is a unique journey. It can provide us with an opportunity to pursue our passions and goals. It can also teach us the value of time in a different way. With so many competing demands constantly emerging, prioritizing becomes a skill that can help us make it through this academic and professional journey. Our profession teaches us that self-care should become an important priority. After all, as we often hear, it is rather difficult to “pour out of an empty cup”. It could be said that self-care is an important competence in our profession. Principle II.12, Responsible Caring, in the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists emphasizes the ethical responsibility of engaging proactively in self-care activities. Yet, truly understanding and developing a practice of self-care seems to be an individual process in graduate school. A process that can be key in preventing burnout, but one that is not always easy to engage in. If you ever feel as though it is difficult to find a balance throughout grad school, you are not alone. This is hard. You are here. You are doing your best. This academic journey can feel like a constant reminder of the next thing that needs to be achieved. I just want to take a second to acknowledge you and all the great work that has gotten you this far. I believe that pausing to acknowledge what we have been doing well can be an important part of self-care.

The first time I heard about self-care, I remember hearing the word “tea” and feeling confused as to what something as simple as tea had to do with self-care. It took me a while to understand that it is not necessarily about the “tea” itself. It is about the mindfulness and intentionality that I can engage in as I enjoy a warm cup of my favorite tea. Now, I take more time to carefully observe the turquoise color of my favorite cup, as well as its shape and texture. I close my eyes and take in the smell of my tea. I feel the warmth in my body as I savor it. Engaging in mindfulness has greatly facilitated a process of self-care in my life. To me, self-care is also about compassionate discipline sometimes. To ensure that I make time for exercise and quality sleep. To fully understand what self-care means, it helps to build our own unique relationship with this seemingly simple, yet complex and vital construct. After all, it is the fuel that keeps us going and the energy that can help us pursue our dreams and passions while at the same time prioritizing ourselves and our wellbeing.

In the process of continuing to build and strengthen our relationship with self-care, I hope that we can also infuse this process with self-compassion, patience, and abundant kindness for ourselves and each other. I know that at least for myself, this is a skill that I am still growing, and practicing self-compassion along the way has become an important part of this work. Below, we share some of the ways that we have been practicing the skill of self-care in our lives. We invite you to reflect on your relationship with self-care as well, and if you feel like sharing some of the ways that you practice this skill, we would love to hear from you!

By: Alejandra Botia – CPSA Team

Self-care strategies from the CPSA Team


  1. Re-watching my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Some of my top hits, always: “The Inner Light” (Season 5, Episode 25); “I, Borg” (Season 5, Episode 23); “All Good Things …” (Season 7; Episode 25 & 26).
  2. Reading poetry. When I want to de-stress any poetry book by Mary Oliver always helps (Oliver’s book Evidence is the one I’ve been going back to lately).
  3. Meditation and the Alexander Technique. Meditation is a practice I started during my MA practicum and I aspire to do it daily. The Alexander Technique (see the movie The King’s Speech for a pop culture intro) is something I learned way back when I was in theatre school, so it is a meaningful self-care practice on multiple levels for me.
  4. Bonus: Laughter is a big part of my self-care, and this video always gets me. For lovers of the actor Jonathan Frakes (Riker on Star Trek; anyone else remembers Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?). Laugh out loud every single time. 


Time is precious for many grad students when there is such an emphasis on productivity and achievement. It’s hard to find the time, so here’s a list of my self-care based on how much time I can spare that help both my mood and my productivity.

  1. If I only have a few moments to spare, quick grounding techniques can keep me from becoming overwhelmed. My go-to is to focus on breathing as slowly as possible and allowing my weight to sink into my chair. I would recommend Seeking Safety by Lisa Nahavits for more grounding ideas. 
  2. If I have more time, I prioritize exercise, especially if it can be outdoors. Between zoom meetings, I have been doing calisthenics in my room or going for a quick walk (even a 5 min stroll around my block). These small breaks of movement keep me from getting too restless and are a great shift from cognitively focused tasks. The added dopamine spike with exercise and completing a “to-do task” doesn’t hurt either.
  3. If I can squeeze 30 minutes or more out of my schedule, then I want to be engaging in creative tasks. Music and D&D are two long-standing passions of mine that allow me to get excited about creating in a way that very few assignments ever have. These activities also allow me to experience setting and accomplishing goals without the added pressure of evaluation and deadlines. 
  4. Bonus: SLEEP. Still having to remind myself (or have my body remind more aggressively) that I need sleep. And more sleep than “enough to function”. I am more productive and grounded if I am well rested and my work is more enjoyable too. This takes the most time on my list but it has the most noticeable effects on my mood and productivity. 


  1. I make a point of scheduling in a fun class (e.g., a dance class) at least once a week. Signing up for a class helps ensure I’ll follow-through. I’m too quick to say that I don’t have time for something but when I sign up for it, I make time for it. 
  2. Going outside! I’m a homebody who would be happy as a clam remaining indoors most of the time. Going for a walk and mindfully engaging with the environment is a surefire way for me to feel a little more restored. (Tip: Birding is a fun and free activity to engage in on your walks – the Merlin Bird ID app is a great resource)
  3. Five minutes of mindfulness in the morning, before bed, and as-needed. The DBT skills manual has a long list of mindfulness activities that I continuously draw on. I don’t use any apps but that’s another great resource. 


  1. I like to do something smaller that I can achieve within 30 minutes and then acknowledge my success (i.e., doing the dishes, make a meal, do a crossword or puzzle). Being a graduate student/researcher means that I’m always working towards big goals and I quickly forget how nice it feels to achieve something (frankly- anything!). 
  2. I found a group of clinicians to share the consultation role. I can’t imagine being a clinician without having others to bounce ideas off of or to help me process how I’m feeling. Knowing I can talk to them on a tough day instantly makes me feel safer and more capable. 
  3. My favourite Kristen Neff exercise “Soften, Soothe, Allow” for those days when my sessions feel extra heavy. 


 1. Creating mindful practices that bring me a feeling of calm and joy. Lately, I have been lighting a candle, making my favorite tea, and putting on music that speaks to me in that moment. I let the rest unfold! Sometimes I end up just mindfully noticing the flame of the candle, journaling, or just being.
2. As graduate students, it can be challenging not to have high expectations of ourselves all the time. A self-care strategy that I am trying to implement is reminding myself that “good enough” or “Good. It is done” is okay too. This looks like prioritizing what I can get done with the time that I have and slowly letting go of the idea that every single project/assignment/assigned reading has to get done as perfectly as possible. I am asking myself more questions, such as “does this assignment/project align with my own goals and values?” “How does this project contribute to my life positively?” “Who am I doing this for?”
3. Moving my body in a way that resonates with me that day. Sometimes that looks like going for a run, taking a dance class, or going for a short walk.

Thank you for reading! We would love to hear from you and your self-care strategies as well. Feel free to reply on this page, or email us at


Canadian Psychological Association. (2017a). Canadian code of ethics for psychologists (4th ed.). Retrieved from

Photo Credit: Hello Revival on Unsplash

Orange Shirt Day: September 30th

Orange Shirt Day

Every September 30th in Canada, we mark Orange Shirt Day, an initiative that began in 2013. On this day, we honour Phyllis Webstad and over 150,000 children who experienced the trauma of attending government-sanctioned residential schools. Phyllis was taken to St. Joseph Mission Residential School in British Columbia back in 1973; she was only six-years-old. When Phyllis arrived at the residential school wearing an orange shirt, she was forced to take it off to replace it with the school’s institutional uniform. Orange Shirt Day is a collective commitment to honour these children who were “collected” around September 30th to attend residential schools where they were exposed to abuse, neglect, systemic and overt racism, and separation from their loved ones and culture. 

The main goals of Orange Shirt Day include supporting Indian Residential School reconciliation, to witness and honour the healing journey of survivors and families, to commit to the ongoing process of truth and reconciliation, and to create awareness of the individual, familial, and communal intergenerational impacts of the residential school system in Canada. To honour Orange Shirt Day, the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre has developed a website where we can find more about the origins of Orange Shirt Day, along with relevant resources. 

Some of the resources that can be found on the website mentioned above include:

Additional resources include:

 Do you have resources that you would like to share with us? E-mail us at