The team at Columbia River Counselling: Cynthia Routhier, Will Pennington-little, Jennifer Wright, and Dave Wright. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

The team at Columbia River Counselling: Cynthia Routhier, Will Pennington-little, Jennifer Wright, and Dave Wright. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

More than just a couch: Local practice changing the way people think about counselling

Columbia River Counselling, operating in Revelstoke since 2017, has expanded to accommodate more

As the days grow shorter and people continue to deal with the impact the pandemic, the importance of maintaining mental health is ever-present on many people’s minds.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is being treated as a traumatic experience,” said Jennifer Wright, owner of Columbia River Counselling. “We’ll be learning for years to come what the cumulative impact on mental health is.”

When Columbia River Counselling first opened in 2017, it was solely operated by Wright, registered clinical counsellor and senior neurofeedback scientist. Wright specializes in trauma, and most of her work at that time was based around trauma specifically.

Since then, she has expanded her practice to include a number of different therapy options. In September, she added Cynthia Routhier, a counsellor with a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology, to her team.

Her husband Dave Wright, who handles office administration, and Will Pennington-little, both work as neurofeedback technicians. They were also added to the team in order to expand the practice.

Wright says that she and the team at Columbia River Counselling are working to change the way people think about counselling, shifting from the traditional “psychiatrist’s couch” to more a more interactive experience that caters to the individual patient.

“It’s like how eating dessert is your last impression of dinner,” said Wright. She says many people still think of therapy in a traditional sense.

Columbia River Counselling offers a variety of options to those who are looking for treatment, for those of any age or requirement.

Sensory Room

According to Wright, there’s been a great need for children therapy in Revelstoke for some time. The sensory room at Columbia River Counselling, which was created this past summer, offers a way for kids to work out their trauma’s and needs in a way that makes sense to them.

“My goal with kids is that they love coming to therapy, not something they have to do,” said Wright. “When you let the child lead, there’s always a way to interface therapeutic interventions on their agenda.”

The sensory room at Columbia River Counselling has a number of objects that children and adults can use to physically work out their trauma. The space also includes a dark tent that children who use dark, enclosed spaces to feel safe and comfortable can use. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

The sensory room at Columbia River Counselling has a number of objects that children and adults can use to physically work out their trauma. The space also includes a dark tent that children who use dark, enclosed spaces to feel safe and comfortable can use. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

According to Wright, 40 per cent of the children she works with are neurodivergent.

“Sitting still and focusing is actually disregulating for them,” said Wright. She says children with ADHD and autism who have experienced trauma have different needs.

Wright says some children, who come into counselling on that day not willing to talk at all, come out of the sensory room feeling relaxed and ready to converse.

READ MORE: How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting Revelstoke students’ mental health?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy

At the time of it’s conception, EMDR therapy was used to treat individuals who were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder that stemmed from traumatic incidents in their lives. Since then, the treatment has evolved to treat many different types of trauma and phobias by offering relief through empowering the mind.

“When you experience symptoms of trauma or extreme stress, its locked in nervous system and the mind,” said Wright.

EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation through use of visuals, sound and tapping in order to help the brain process traumatic memories and achieve clarity.

At Columbia River Counselling, the treatment is presented in an eight-phase process. The process begins with the counsellor gathering information about the patient, and introducing calming ways for the patient to contain their mind’s unhealthy thoughts.

The patient is asked to focus on the event that they wish to process, representing it visually in their mind and then go through a number of steps in order to cognitively and physically process the event.

According to Routhier, who is professionally trained in EMDR therapy, the therapy helps individuals manage their emotions and move memories to the appropriate parts of the brain responsible for logical thought.

“It starts the process of digesting the memory in a healthy way,” said Routhier. “It shifts memories to parts of the brain where you can digest and metabolize them in a healthy way.”

The phases of the treatment are different for every individual, and there isn’t a defined timeline. According to Wright, 90 per cent of individuals with PTSD can resolve their issues within three sessions.

Dave Wright demonstrating how the neurofeedback machine works in practice. The electrodes placed on his scalp deliver information to the technician, who monitors the brains activity and operates the technology. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

Dave Wright demonstrating how the neurofeedback machine works in practice. The electrodes placed on his scalp deliver information to the technician, who monitors the brains activity and operates the technology. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

Neurofeedback Therapy

The technology used in neurofeedback therapy, which was created in the 1960s to treat individuals who were experiencing seizures, has evolved greatly over the years.

The therapy, which is very popular amongst teenagers, can be delivered simply by watching Netflix in the counsellors office.

Electrodes are placed on the scalp in different locations to target different parts of the brain, and the technology processes the given information to visually represent the way the brain electrically functions. Patients sit and watch the screen, which gives visual cues, audio cues and tactile cues through vibrations. The brain subconsciously processes these cues in order to improve performance.

“It’s like a gym for your brain,” said Dave Wright.

The program used can stream Netflix on the screen, and individuals can do therapy while watching their favorite shows.

Neurofeedback therapy is used to treat ADHD, headaches and migraines, seizures, anxiety, depression, insomnia, trauma, and disassociation. According to Wright, professional athletes use the therapy to train their brain and achieve peak performance.

“It’s human and elegant,” said Wright. “You may be working in one area of the brain, but that area of the brain is responsible for multiple symptoms.”

Khaleesi, a pure-bred St. Bernard and the resident therapy dog at Columbia River Counselling. She joined the practice in May when she was only 2 months old. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

Khaleesi, a pure-bred St. Bernard and the resident therapy dog at Columbia River Counselling. She joined the practice in May when she was only 2 months old. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

The practice, which has been expanding since 2019, has come at just the right time for many who are feeling the affects of the pandemic and all the associated experiences. The space in which the practice operates is a soothing environment which, as Wright explained, was designed with the intention of easing the minds of patients.

Routhier also offers counselling in the evenings and on the weekends, which can accommodate those with busy schedules.

To learn more about the practice and it’s team members, visit crcrevelstoke.com.

READ MORE: Revelstoke survey says mental health and well-being biggest priority amidst pandemic


@josh_piercey
josh.piercey@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

and subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Revelstoke