Therapuetic Approaches

With so many types of therapy, it can be confusing to understand what they are all about or to know what will help you. Sometimes clients come to me with a very specific idea of the type of therapy they want or think they want, and that is okay. Unfortunately, sometimes, it is not the right fit. It is good to be informed but also to keep an open mind to therapists' suggestions for treatment. 

The following provides information about some of the therapeutic approaches that may be used when engaged in counselling with me. Each of the following approaches to therapy can be used alone, however, most often they are integrated based on the needs of each individual. This is not an exhaustive list of psychotherapy modalities that may be used, it is intended to provide further information to assist you in understanding therapy. 


Integrative psychotherapy combines concepts and counselling interventions from more than one theoretical psychotherapy approach. Most therapists find that there is no one single theory that is adequate for all clients and their varying problems. There is no one therapy that has shown to be remarkably superior in effectiveness in comparison to any other theory.

It is for this reason that I take an integrative approach to therapy. This allows me to tailor my approach to each person’s individual needs, it allows us to alter treatment or add in elements from other therapeutic styles when necessary and does not de-rail treatment. An integrative approach to therapy is a practical and useful approach in individual, couples and family therapy.

Depending on your unique concerns and needs, therapy can have more structured elements with you as an active participant or might be more open, incorporating techniques such as free association. With younger children, using elements of play therapy or art is often helpful in addition to talk therapy.

Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT)

PACT is a fusion of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and arousal regulation. This type of therapy focuses on what is happening in your brain and your emotions when you fight. You will learn to pay close attention to moment-to-moment shifts in your face, body, and voice. PACT  gives couples the tools to create safe, “secure-functioning” relationships.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic therapy is the oldest of the modern therapies, growing out of the theories and practices of psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic psychotherapy offers you a chance to create new ways of thinking and behaving to improve your quality of life. In psychodynamic therapy, the goal is to recognize, explore or interpret, thoughts, sensations, feelings, and ways of relating that contribute to the difficulties you face that may be outside of your awareness, also known as your unconscious.

Another focus of psychodynamic therapy is your interaction with other people. Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on how current, and past relationships and life events affect your feelings and the choices you make. As your therapist, I help you identify the ways you defend yourself against painful thoughts or emotions, sometimes without even knowing it.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy can be brief and lime-limited, although it is often open-ended and long-term. Sessions are typically held once or twice per week. Psychodynamic psychotherapy emphasizes the close working partnership between you and the therapist, the therapeutic alliance. One way you learn about yourself is by exploring your interactions in the therapeutic relationship. This can demonstrate how you may interact with your friends and loved ones.

Transference in therapy can show how early-life relationships affect you today. Transference is the transferring of your feelings (for a parent for example) onto the therapist. This is a common occurrence in therapy. Examining this allows you to also look at interpersonal relationships and helps you to understand relationship patterns.

Psychodynamic therapy can help you recognize your needs and the healthy and unhealthy ways of meeting those needs. It can also help you identify ways to improve your ability to communicate. You may find that as the way you think and feel about yourself shifts, the way you react to other people changes. New perspectives can emerge, leading to the opportunity for long-term change.


The goals of psychodynamic therapy are to increase your self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behaviour. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance-related disorders.

Trauma-Focused Therapy

The way we will work together in treating trauma will be an integrative and collaborative process using somatic, affective, and cognitive approaches. 

Everyone is unique and has different needs and there is no one perfect trauma therapy. There are, however, some core foundational principles of trauma treatment that apply to every client I work with. 


The basic framework for trauma treatment and recovery is a three-phase process. This applies to those with PTSD, complex PTSD, and those without a formal diagnosis. The treatment timeline will vary based on the severity of symptoms, current functioning, prior experience in therapy, other supports available, etc. It is also possible to move in and out of the phases, as healing is not always linear. 


Phase 1: Safety and Stabilization

During the first phase of treatment, we will establish safety. This is central and foundational to trauma treatment and recovery. Self-regulation is the focus, particularly for those with complex trauma, before attempting to process any traumatic content. 


This phase consists of relaxation and self-regulation, grounding, containment, writing or journaling, psychoeducation about trauma, and the use of transitional objects.


Phase 2: Remembrance and Mourning 

Often people want to skip to the processing phase of therapy, however, rushing into this without the foundational self-regulatory work of phase 1 will result in re-traumatization and de-stabilization. 


Phase 3: Integration

The final phase of trauma therapy is integration. This is a natural progression and provides a place to establish and integrate the therapeutic gains that have taken place into daily life. Rather than focusing on the trauma, phase 3 work is often more future-oriented. The focus may be on independence, learning new skills, peer relationships, intimacy, career choices, physical health, etc.


A misconception about trauma counselling is that once the trauma is processed, you're “cured.” A healthier approach is to view trauma as something that can be healed.

The links below will take you to relevant blog posts I have written about trauma:

The Sun Is Shining and I'm Miserable

Psychological Scars: Time Itself Does Not Heal All Wounds

My Past Is Haunting Me

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Grounding Technique

Attachment-Based Therapy

The biological need to bond with others is referred to as Attachment Theory. Experiences in early relationships create a blueprint that informs the sense of safety and security you bring to adult relationships.


Insecurities that have been carried through life can wreak havoc for a couple if these issues are not resolved.

Contemporary research shows that these early childhood experiences repeat themselves in adult relationships in the way we interact and in what we expect from our significant other.

With this understanding and the discoveries of modern brain science on brain plasticity, we have the opportunity to change destructive relationship patterns into constructive behaviours. 


Using attachment theory in both individual and couples therapy we can work to increase your capacity for self-regulation, and you can learn to tolerate emotions that you couldn't before. This can lead to better, more profound, and longer-lasting adult relationships. EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) is an approach based on attachment bonding. 

The links below will take you to relevant blog posts I have written:

What are Boundaries?

5 Signs That You May Have Been Raised By A Parent With Unresolved Trauma


Client-centred therapy is a non-directive form of talk therapy. Therapists allow clients to lead the discussion. Therapists share feelings honestly and refrain from judging the client for any reason, thus providing a source of complete acceptance and support.

The goals of client-centred therapy depend on the client, however, a few general goals are:

  • To facilitate personal growth and development

  • Enhance the client’s insight and understanding of themself

  • Increase self-esteem

  • Decrease or eliminate feelings of distress



Cognitive behavioural therapy brings attention to unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and focuses on modifying them. I use CBT techniques to assist in increasing awareness or alongside other therapeutic modalities. I rarely use this form of therapy on its own as CBT is based on the premise that one's presenting issue is the result of dysfunctional thinking. This is not a premise that I support. It is my clinical opinion that most often negative thought processes are a symptom rather than the problem itself. 


Supportive Psychotherapy

Supportive psychotherapy is often used following a loss or stressful event. People seek therapy not necessarily because of mental illness but because something has happened that they are seeking additional support outside of their family unit or circle of friends. 

Looking for grief support, facing a stressful workplace, uncertainty about life decisions? Supportive psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy that relies on the therapeutic alliance to alleviate symptoms. Supportive therapy uses guidance and encouragement to help individuals develop self-esteem, strengthen coping mechanisms, and improve functioning.

For the health and safety of clients and staff, the office has a fragrance-free policy. Please refrain from wearing scented products when attending your appointments. Service dogs are welcome.

Kennedy McLean Counselling & Psychotherapy Services Online Counselling and Telephone Psychological Therapy and Psychotherapy throughout Ontario, Canada including  Etobicoke Psychotherapy and Toronto, North York, Vaughan, Thornhill, Mississauga, Brampton, Guelph, Hamilton, Burlington, and Oakville. Kennedy McLean © 2020

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