Camilla Burgess RP, CTP Dip., Clinical Member OSP, Member CAPT
When I was four years old my father was admitted to hospital suffering from stomach ailments resulting from severe emotional stress. His doctor suggested two options - either take a long vacation or begin psychoanalysis. My father made the choice to enter psychoanalysis. This choice had a positive and lasting effect not only on him but on my parents' marriage and our family life. This taught me that the benefits of psychotherapy extend beyond the individual being treated, to his or her family, work and social circle.
Through my father I had early exposure to the discoveries of psychoanalysis. I learned about the existence of unconscious forces and the conflict that can arise between our conscious understanding of who we are and our unconscious repressed desires. This conflict was more interesting to me than the various tensions playing themselves out in the outer world. I would often explore my dreams through drawing and storytelling. I was, and still am, fascinated by dreams and the power of the imagination to create inner landscapes, atmospheres, characters and stories. Intelligently cultivated, I have found, they also create psychological health. I am a Registered Psychotherapist and a member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. As a therapist, I offer a kind, gentle, non-judgmental approach from which my clients can safely begin to reveal and explore their thoughts and feelings. Understanding that grows through deep compassion and insightful guidance is more valuable than the superficial advice that so many offer to people who are suffering psychologically.
For me therapy can be distilled down to two basic objectives: Wisdom and Integrity.
Wisdom is the combination of knowledge and experience applied thoughtfully to life situations. Psychotherapy offers the time, space and guidance for knowledge and experience to be clearly understood and integrated. With the help of an aware, accepting psychotherapist self-reflection comes more easily, wise choices are made and positive changes grow.
Integrity is a state of wholeness or completeness. When we are overtaken by self-doubt, fears, recriminations, misunderstandings and inner conflict our state of integrity is compromised. We easily succumb to anxiety, addictions, depression, or despair. These states in turn can wreak havoc in our relationships. Psychotherapy is an integrative process that helps to re-establish wholeness to the personality.
Meaning, Imagination, Responsibility
I have found the Jungian and Existential approaches to psychotherapy to be very helpful to me, in my own life, and in my work with clients. In particular, I have learned much from their emphasis on meaning, imagination and responsibility.
The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw meaning as central to psychological health. Our society, our family, our social environment offer us many belief systems and guidelines for a happy fulfilling life but only the individual can come to an understanding of what is meaningful to him or her. When a sense of meaning is discovered energy that was blocked or repressed becomes available and even difficult or tragic circumstances can be borne with strength and confidence.
Existential analysis emphasizes a deep exploration of the meaning of our existence. To have an existential crisis is to experience a loss of a meaningful existence. We may experience others and ourselves as automatons moving robotically through our existence. In extreme cases life feels like a prison from which there is no escape. What was once meaningful has ceased to be. I know first hand the terror associated with this experience. A traumatic event in my early twenties had severely shaken my capacity to engage meaningfully in my life. Eventually I entered therapy. Through expanding my understanding of my self, I discovered a deeper meaning to my life. I not only found a way forward, I developed inner strength that has supported me through many challenging circumstances.
In the twenty-five years that I have worked with clients I can give numerous examples of how their discovery of meaning has positively affected their lives. For many, meaning is found through a deeper appreciation and acceptance of the life choices they have made. This enables them to continue in their present circumstances with renewed energy and enthusiasm. For some, it comes in the form of a newfound spiritual perspective. For others, it has come through a change in career or in a significant relationship. A few have overcome debilitating physical symptoms when they made choices that reflected their own skills, values and desires.
Jung emphasized the power of imagination to heal the psyche.
Dreams, though not necessary to the psychotherapy process, are a useful means of discovering how we are experiencing our world. They can reveal the unconscious assumptions and intuitions that shape our understanding of our lives.
Jung believed that the psyche like the body, when provided with the right conditions, naturally gravitates towards health. He observed that the psyche has the capacity to reach a solution to a problem though imaginative rather than rational means. I encourage my clients to follow where their imagination leads through writing, drawing, photography, active imagination, sandplay or by any creative means they choose.
On the other hand, Existential analysis understands imagination as the capacity to free oneself from preconceived ideas of reality. In order to transcend our current situation it is necessary to imagine our future possibilities.
I regard psychotherapy as primarily a creative approach to overcome difficulties. To be human is to be creative and each person has the potential to live their life creatively whether they are engaged in a creative field or not. I work creatively as a psychotherapist and as a visual artist. I have worked successfully with visual artists, dancers, writers, and musicians who suffered from creative blocks and/or inhibitions.
Carl Jung emphasized that action is necessary to the psychotherapeutic process. Insight and understanding are without value if one is not prepared to respond to and act on what one has learned.
Existential analysis emphasizes our responsibility to live our own lives, to be true to ourselves and not lose ourselves to societal pursuits, roles and identities. It takes courage to live your life according to your own values. I provide strong encouragement and support when the time has come for my clients to transform their insight into action.
My formal training in psychotherapy includes a Diploma from The Centre For Training In Psychotherapy [Dip.CTP]. I am a member of both the Ontario Society of Psychotherapists [OSP] and The Canadian Association for Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (CAPT).
I have training in Early Childhood Development and have also trained in Sandplay Therapy with CAST (Canadian Association of Sandplay Therapists). In addition to my formal training my practice of daily meditation enhances healing ability as a psychotherapist.
I have extensive experience helping people with a wide range of issues (depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, divorce, creative blocks, parenting, sexual abuse to name a few).
Feel free to contact me to discuss what you need. I work in Roncesvalles/High Park on the subway line with good street parking.
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