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Image by Austin Neill

What To Expect
from Individual Therapy

Many people come to therapy having only an idea of therapy based on movies and / or TV – and that’s ok! Others may have had poor experiences in previous therapy and come to therapy self-protected and also hopeful – and that’s also ok. And others may come to therapy based on a recommendation by a peer, colleague or health professional who found therapy helpful and/ or believes that person may benefit from therapy – all also ok! When coming to a therapy process with me, most people have many questions. Of course! Please let me tell you how therapy typically unfolds with me in an effort to best answer some of those questions. 

Mindful Care

Mindful Care

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
 - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Therapy is first and foremost a real relationship between equals; each with their own areas of expertise and knowing and ways of being. This is a practice tenet for me – I truly hold the belief that we are equals and practice to the best of my awareness from a non-hierarchical and mutually respectful stance.


As equals, I am mindful that we each bring our own unique personalities, culture and preferences into the relationship. My hope and invitation to everyone that I work with, is to allow themselves, over time, to “be” themselves through our process. To speak freely, not censor and relax sufficiently so that we can hold space for all the emotions necessary for your growth to show up and for us to help learn from them to equip you with the skills most needed for you to regain your sense of passion for your life.  


Similarly, I bring “me” to our process as I value authenticity and I believe therapy is a real relationship. For me, that means, I may at times share facets of my life in a boundaried way to reinforce and model my belief in common humanity – we are all human walking out this life together. We are not alone and others may have experienced some of these thoughts, feelings, and experiences as well. And sometimes that means, I may share some of my real emotion in response to your story. Everything from laughter to tears – all with you.


For me, mindful care is the process of walking alongside another person as they learn new skills and grow into a fuller and more intact sense of self; learning how to respond in this world and not just react. 

Evience Based Care
Image by Quentin Lagache

Evidence Based Care

The first few sessions will involve a more detailed assessment (i.e. me asking more questions!) in my efforts to get to know you, your story and what you are wanting from therapy. It will help us to clarify what things are most important to work on and what you know about what works best for you.


I may use general assessment measures to help give our work more specific details about an area of struggle for you and/or information about levels of distress, and I may ask you to observe and describe some areas of struggle for you between sessions and bring that information back to our work.


In these early sessions, I am working to develop a conceptualization of your unique needs and goals as well as what interventions I can offer that can best meet those needs and goals. This process is transparent and I will share my thought process about both best treatment modalities and interventions based on current Evidence Based Practices (EBP).


Evidence Based Practice is defined as “the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preferences” and its purpose is “to promote effective psychological practice and enhance public health by applying empirically supported principles of psychological assessment, case formulation, therapeutic relationship, and intervention” (American Psychological Association, 2006).  


What does that mean? My therapeutic work always strives to be anchored in strong science informed treatment interventions in the context of a real relationship between equals; each of whom come with their own characteristics, culture and preferences. 


“Evidence based psychotherapy is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in collaboration with a client's preferences, actions, values and life circumstances (adapted from Sackett)

Compassionat Care
Image by Sumner Mahaffey

Compassionate Care

Many people come to therapy with a core human need of wanting to be seen, heard and known. And at its heart, effective therapy contains all those ingredients. Compassion for another in practice may include qualities such as sensitivity, empathy, caring, distress tolerance (regulating my own distress so I can be present for another), non-judgement and sympathy. In essence, it is the practice of ‘being with” another in their suffering and story in real time – not looking down from above, not minimizing nor judging, and more so, the skillful practice of walking alongside and being curious whilst being with (present in the now) another.  


I largely work from Dr. Kristin Neff’s conceptualization of self-compassion which includes: Mindfulness, Connectedness (Common Humanity), and Kindness (see image below). 


For me, therapy as a real relationship means that I weave the practice of compassion and teach the skills of self-compassion, into much of my work.  Self-compassion, as a skill, is something I often hear people in my sessions say “yeah… I don’t do that”; with a somewhat sheepish or disgusted posturing.  Research suggests, however, that the practice of self-compassion is one of our most effective emotion regulation tools.  When we can learn how to self-validate and offer ourselves compassion, our emotions become less intense.  So, as I model compassion and “being with” you in our relationship, I also teach the people I work with how to be with themselves and offer themselves compassion. 

“Compassion is a verb"  Thich Nhat Hanh

Collaborative Care
Image by Pietro De Grandi

Collaborative Care

From the belief that we are equals in a real relationship, the work we do together is therefore, collaborative. We generate goals together, we commit to interventions and the work required within those interventions together, and we evaluate outcomes together to help us reformulate over time our understanding of you and your needs. You might often hear me check in with you on our process and how you are finding things, as well as ask you if we are focusing on your most important needs through our current work. These questions are my efforts to help ensure that we are both as close as possible to being on the same “map” for your process.  


At times, individuals I work with may have other treatment providers involved in their care, and with your written consent, I am happy to collaborate with those individuals as well (alongside you) to best work towards your desired outcomes. In that collaboration, my hope is always to equip you with the skills most needed so that you can, in time, communicate most effectively yourself, with your team as I believe that as the client you hold the wisdom and greatest knowing of your own needs and preferences. 

“Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean" 
Ryunosuke Satoro 

Trusted Care
Image by Leo Rivas

Trusted Care

I believe that the trust another gifts me with through the process of therapy is sacred. Someone allowing me to know, see and hear them in their joy through to their pain, is a privilege that I do not take lightly.  Trust is a core value for me and informs the foundational security and safety in relationship that I endeavour to provide in the therapeutic work. As part of my work to ensure that I continue to provide trusted care I frequently engage in the following to enhance my core competencies:

  • Additional trainings to enhance my clinical skills,

  • Participate in two supervision groups where I both consult with other mental health professionals and receive supervision to ensure I am providing best clinical practices

  • Receive individual supervision to enhance adherence to a treatment model and best evidence based practice

  • Engage in my own personal therapy so that I bring my best self to your work and model both self-care and our shared common humanity in this life; the invitation for us all to work through issues that may arise with no stigma. 

  • Participate in a consultation team focused on the review and learning of practice guidelines, practice alerts, current legislation and the strengthening of continuing competency

  • Engage in my own professional reading and academic review of new research 


I invite you to take a look at some of the feedback that I have received through; unsolicited feedback from clients over the years, as well as knowing that many of my referrals now are through word of mouth from current or former clients – the literal highest praise one can offer me about my work!

"It is the power of being with others that shapes our brain." - Louis Cozolino

Get to Know Me

Learn more about Dr. Joanna Bolster!

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