The FLEX team is excited to welcome back Katelyn Boersma, who trained with us for over half a decade before heading out east to complete her pre-doctoral internship. Katelyn is now wrapping up the final research component of her Doctoral studies.
Katelyn has many years of experience working with our assessment and treatment teams, as well as various work placements in university counselling/treatment centres, community mental health organizations, and mental health inpatient/outpatient programs.
Katelyn had an opportunity to complete a small Q&A with FLEX’s Founder and Clinical Director, Michael Decaire, in order to discuss her treatment interests and what she hopes to bring to the FLEX team.
MD: Can you discuss a bit about how your diverse training placements have prepared you for supporting clients in a private practice setting?
KB: Working in private practice completing in-depth assessments under your supervision has provided me with a solid foundation in test administration and interpretation, diagnostic interviewing, detailed yet accessible report writing, and delivering feedback in an engaging and understandable manner. My assessment experience has grown through my more recent work with personality disorder and early psychosis assessments, as well as providing consultation on a hospital inpatient unit.
Extensive training in emotion-focused, cognitive-behavioural, psychodynamic, and integrative therapeutic approaches has provided me with a broad knowledge base to draw from in order to meet client needs in private practice. I have worked with adolescent and adult clients with a wide range of presenting problems across many settings, ranging from clients with psychosis in a residential care setting, to refugee clients seen through the assistance of a translator, to undergraduate students presenting with anxiety and depression. This generalist training has prepared me to adapt my approach to respond effectively to diverse clients with many different concerns.
My training has also allowed me to pursue specific interests in the assessment and treatment of eating disorders and trauma. Throughout my training I have sought out opportunities to expand my knowledge and skill in these areas through focusing my masters and doctoral research on body image, completing a placement at a community-based organization for clients with eating disorders, receiving additional supervision in emotion-focused therapy for trauma, and consistently ensuring a portion of my caseload includes clients with these concerns. I look forward to continuing to support individuals with these difficulties, among others, in a private practice setting.
MD: You have an interest in emotion focused therapy. We are starting to see this treatment become an increasingly popular branch of psychotherapy. Can you talk a little bit about the focus of this therapy and how it can promote change and wellness?
KB: Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is an evidence-based approach grounded in emotion theory and research. A fundamental assumption of this approach is that emotions are connected to a network of information, including our bodily sensations, our thoughts, and our beliefs. Discrete emotions are associated with information that contributes to adaptive functioning. They can alert us to our needs and guide our actions (e.g. anger at violation promotes self-defense, sadness at loss promotes grieving and moving on). However, emotional processes can also go awry.
EFT focuses on activating emotional experience in-session to gain entrance to associated networks of meaning, which in turn allows for exploration and change of maladaptive cognitive-affective processes. As a therapist I remain attuned and responsive to each client’s moment-to-moment processes, identifying markers for specific therapeutic interventions (e.g. self-criticism, unresolved trauma or feelings towards significant others, internal confusion, experiential avoidance). Interventions allow for the generation of new adaptive emotional experiences in-session. Information linked with adaptive emotion is used to transform maladaptive emotional meaning, and to increase awareness of unmet needs, thereby promoting adaptive behaviour outside of therapy.
MD: I know that psychological assessment is an important part of your practice. Can you discuss how experience as a diagnostician assists you in therapy even in cases where a lengthy formal assessment is not part of the current treatment plan?
KB: Assessment is always the initial starting point for working with any client, even if it’s not in the form of lengthy formal assessment. When I meet with therapy clients for the first time our initial task is to develop a mutual understanding of difficulties. To gather and make sense of this information accurately and efficiently I draw upon diagnostic interviewing skills and knowledge of psychopathology to arrive at a working diagnosis. This provides the basic framework for conceptualizing difficulties, serving as a guidepost for areas that are likely to require further exploration in order to arrive at a clear understanding of processes that are contributing to ongoing difficulties. This in turn informs collaborative decision making about the best therapeutic modality to address concerns, and which tasks and goals will be the focus of our work together. I also draw upon my experience as a diagnostician to identify any gaps in our understanding of difficulties, and to inform my selection of supplementary measures that will help us clarify concerns.
MD: In the other direction, how do you think your experiences as a therapist has influenced your approach to assessment?
KB: Creating a safe and collaborative environment where everyone is on equal footing is central to my therapeutic work. In a formal assessment setting there is some power imbalance inherent in the situation itself because I’m asking the questions and have access to all of the answers. This can be quite anxiety provoking for some clients, resulting in impaired performance.
I draw on my therapy training to establish the same kind of safe and supportive environment in the assessment context. In particular, my training in being attuned to moment-to-moment client processes allows me to identify emotional shifts in clients, and to respond empathically and explore these occurrences when there is a natural break in the testing. This can assist clients in regulating their emotions (e.g., decreasing frustration or worrying) allowing for more accurate assessment of the individual’s true capacity. Exploring these cognitive-affective processes also helps with diagnostic clarification, yielding explanations for inconsistencies in performance across tests, and at times identifying the need to investigate previously unarticulated mental health concerns. Additionally, it opens a dialogue wherein clients feel comfortable immediately disclosing when they’re struggling with anxiety, perfectionism, etc., allowing us to adjust the pace and sequence of tests to best fit their needs.
MD: We are excited to have you back as a permanent member of the FLEX team. Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts about the assessment and therapeutic process with me today.
KB: Thank you for having me! I'm thrilled to be returning to the team.
Katelyn is available for treatment and assessment services Monday - Wednesday (days and evening), Fridays (days), and Sundays (days). Call 647-494-3173 or CLICK HERE to electronically get connected with Katelyn.
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