Hello and thank you for visiting my therapeutic garden!
I am a psychotherapist and blogger located in Vancouver, BC.
I also call myself a learner, a thinker, an observer, a word lover, an art creator, an art admirer, a music lover, an inspiration seeker, a creativity generator, a dreamer, a blessings counter, a memories collector, a health enthusiast, a justice pursuer, a fan of altruism and compassion, a believer in the power of genuine kindness, and an empathic soul.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counselling psychology.
My clinical practicum took place at a Vancouver Coastal Health community mental health team. I gained experience working with clients who had complex, severe, and chronic mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and selective mutism. I provided counselling sessions, assessments, crisis interventions, treatment planning, and case management services to clients. Clients often had complex comorbidities, including medical disorders, family problems, and socioeconomic adversities. During my training, I also co-facilitated and consulted with different health care professionals, such as psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, and other counsellors.
I currently work as a psychotherapist in private practice. I provide clinical counselling to clients from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, to cope with a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, grief, loss, self-esteem issues, social skills, trust issues, assertiveness, parenting skills, stress management, personal growth, life transitions, and relationship struggles. I specialize in an integrative therapeutic approach, including aspects of Cognitive-Behavioural, Acceptance and Commitment, Existential, Psychodynamic, Gestalt, Adlerian, Rogerian, and Mindfulness theories.
My different life experiences have inspired me to launch this website, hoping to instill a glimpse of hope, in lives, in souls, in spirits... This website, which I call my therapeutic garden, contains my personal insights and opinions about life; sometimes I refer to scientific articles about mental health, well-being, and psychology. Science fascinates me immensely, and writing is my passion. I am here to integrate my knowledge, insights, & artwork to spark a curiosity in you so that perhaps you could experience the world a little bit differently.
I am fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, and I have a deep love for languages and cultures. I enjoy embracing and integrating the positives of both individualistic and collectivistic cultures. So while most of my writing here is in English, I have included some Chinese idioms, proverbs, or phrases in some of my posts as well. I thought that could be quite fun and interesting, maybe even culturally invigorating for some. The content of many articles here also reflect my bicultural identity.
Enrich Life 365 is a set of posts, integrating my personal opinions & insights, knowledge, and cultures. It consists of articles about how to enrich life, covering many topics.
To: Victims of Abuse is dedicated to those who have experienced abuse. The various struggles that you may be experiencing are covered here. May this section give you strength and empowerment, to live on, to cope, and to persevere.
Empowering Women encompasses a series of articles mainly based on my own opinions, hoping to inspire women to embrace themselves, from the inside out.
Art Gallery is a peaceful place, where I encourage a practice of walking, observing, and non-judgmental meditation, while nurturing a spirit of gratitude. I would like to keep creating more exhibits as time passes.
Psychology consists of interesting studies about mental health and general psychology.
This website should not be used as a replacement for professional psychological services or other personal therapeutic treatments. If you are in need, please contact a mental health professional or a general physician for appropriate treatments. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the crisis line in your city. BC Crisis line: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
All analogies and examples are based on my general knowledge and my creative ideas. I do not describe any specific individual client’s case here in my writing.
My Work and Educational Background
I participated in different part-time jobs when I was a student, from high school to graduate school, including being a tutor, note-taker, and child care assistant, to help with some tuition and living expenses. I also worked in retail, such as at Starbucks. One of my favourite jobs was being a portrait photographer, as this helped me develop my creative and artistic side, while also teaching me about how to help people feel good about themselves. In between these jobs, I volunteered at the BC Children’s Hospital and other non-profit organizations. I have also enjoyed helping people as an interpreter. My work experiences have enriched my life in different ways, taught me valuable lessons, inspired my writing, and enhanced my academic achievement. I feel very grateful for finishing my master’s degree and for having the great opportunity and privilege to work as a psychotherapist now.
My Love of Visual Arts & Photography
There is a huge body of research that supports the idea of incorporating art into therapy, hence we have art therapy, music therapy, and narrative therapy. I believe that art itself is important to one’s well-being on a daily basis—both exposure to and creation of art is therapeutic. I have therefore integrated into my blog some artwork that I like—including some of my own creations—in the hopes of making this garden colourful, inviting, and therapeutic. Any form of art intrigues me: photography, painting, crafts, writing, poetry, lyrics, interior design, decorations, music, and fashion. Life itself can be a work of art!
I have loved learning about the art and craft of amateur photography. Taking landscape or nature photographs often excites me and reminds me of how wonderful and healing the natural environment can be. I believe that anything that facilitates gratitude in life is positive. Photography often requires one’s imagination and creativity to get the shot done and to tell a story. It is so therapeutic that I recommend that everyone consider owning a camera! Nowadays, it is quite amazing that even a small phone, a device which is accessible by most people, has a very good camera built in! I encourage you to capture scenery, and capture memories—practice using your vision in a unique way, to open your eyes to the beauty of the world around you! While internet use can sometimes be excessive nowadays, I think that posting pictures online and sharing your passion with the world is so healthy and positive.
The Therapeutic Value of Portrait Photography
In my website, I am including some portrait photography as well. I hope that visitors to my site will enjoy this part of the content, and be motivated to consider trying some portrait photography themselves, as a meditative practice or hobby. Portrait photo shoots are an art form. A shoot requires the collaboration of both the photographer and the subject to create a theme, deliver a message, and tell a story. The props that the subject brings to the photo shoot, the location that the subject chooses, the outfits that the subject chooses to wear, and the technical aspects of the photography and post-processing work, together create the theme of the shoot (such as vintage, dreamy, formal, or romantic) and convey a message or a story. This artistic collaboration could generate a lot of positive feelings and insights. For instance, the photographer snapping photos for a family could be moved by their happiness. The subjects, through the photo shoot, could express themselves and even generate self-awareness. The experience could lead to a feeling of love and gratitude for nature, or to other positive insights and self-acceptance. The final products, which are the photographs, remind the photographer and the subjects that their work together had created these unique sets of photos. This collaboration, creation, and celebration of goodness and beauty, is the foundation of art.
Why I Share Photographs on My Website
Sharing is wonderful! I enjoy browsing the websites of fashion bloggers, photographers, interior designers, and storytellers, especially when their pictures complement their writing! Sometimes, pictures can make writing more vivid and engaging. Imagine a cookbook without pictures!
I think that the idea of including photographs with writing is brilliant, and that’s what I have adopted on this website. I have my own images here to foster my own writing. I took all of the landscape, nature, and still-life photographs myself, and collaborated with photographers in portrait photo shoots (being the subject myself). I hope that the images complement the text beautifully, making it more interesting to read. The majority of my portraits were done in nature scenes, where I feel connected, aware, insightful, peaceful, whole, and at ease. I hope to foster that kind of atmosphere, here in my garden, and to deliver that vibe to my readers.
Sharing photographs, or other artwork, can be a brave act of self-expression, and a therapeutic act. I am aware that in some cases such sharing can be motivated by a desire to attract more attention. In other cases, people can have a habit of sharing too much online, which can be detrimental and problematic in many ways. But I do believe that sharing is beneficial, provided it is done carefully, and with a healthy attitude. In this website, I hope to share some of my own work, and my own photographs, in a careful healthy way.
Paul Arden gives an eloquent explanation of why it is important to use visual media such as photography in presentations or lectures:
When we attend a lecture, we generally go to see the speaker not to hear what they have to say. We know what they have to say. That’s why we go to see them. How many speeches have you heard? How many of them can you remember? Words, words, words. In a song, we remember firstly the melody and then we learn the words. Instead of giving people the benefit of your wit and wisdom (words), try painting them a picture. The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. (Paul Arden)
Many journals contain words or writings only. Journaling is good for psychological health! Journaling helps clarify your thoughts and increase self-awareness, leading to positive changes and a healthier heart. But if people get bored with journaling, I highly recommend that they include some photographs or other artwork, making the journal super colourful and interesting! Ideas such as “Project Life” or “Smash Book” could be something to look into! Oftentimes, people are motivated by the photographs to read and to keep journaling!
Photographs keep me more connected to positive experiences that I have had in the past, such as experiences in nature. By being connected to nature, I find peace. I love the process of finding a nature scene, becoming connected to it—through playing with the leaves, lying on the grass, touching the flowers, walking on the rocks, listening to the waves—and capturing those moments with the camera. Because I can’t always be in nature, the photographs bring me renewed joy and peace when I look at them later on.
Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of living. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything. (Aaron Siskind)
I love the theories of the great psychologist Carl Rogers. I love the idea of being non-judgmental. But my graduate professor asked something along this line, “Is it really possible to be non-judgmental… in daily life?” I am judging. You are judging. We all need to judge in order to live rationally. We can’t let go of judgment, because without it, our society would be a mess. We would be at more risk of people taking advantage of us. We would have no law! We would have no justice!
We need to judge in order to find our social groups. We need to judge so that we won’t follow those behaviours that we don’t like. This type of judgment can strengthen our morality. We need to judge in the legal system. We need judgment to help us live healthily.
As a psychotherapist, I strive to be non-judgmental towards my clients in the therapy office, and I believe that my clients see that, feel that, and know that. But as a writer, I am constantly talking about life experiences, societal norms, problems that I see in human interactions, etc. I am judging, and I have to judge, as I am describing different scenarios and ideas.
When people discuss problems with “judgment” or being “judgmental” they are usually referring to the following issues:
1) Being too quick to judge, without adequate understanding of the facts
2) Allowing an unhealthy or extreme belief system to influence one’s judgments
3) Failing to empathize with the person you are judging
4) Using judgment to over-simplify a complex situation
5) Using judgment as a form of rejection or humiliation
6) Using judgment as a motivation to give harsh or inappropriate punishments
Like everything in life, judgments can be used in a positive and negative way. Judgments can be used to make rational decisions, pick social groups that are healthy, convey thoughts and ideas that foster insights and transformations, and engage in critical thinking, which is needed in graduate school and scientific research. Judgments can be used to criticize other human beings harshly too, leading to scolding, arguments, bitterness, hatred, anger, gossips, bullying, and abuse.
It’s all about you—you can choose. I hope we all judge, but with wisdom, in a healthy, constructive, flexible way.
Is It Ethical for a Psychotherapist to Publish a Blog?
Many psychotherapists have a blog, and have published posts about the issue of health care professionals sharing personal reflections in a public forum. Psychotherapists, like other professionals, follow a set of ethical guidelines. Maintaining a blog or a social media account occurs in the context of these ethical guidelines. It is clearly not a black or white matter.
This type of blog involves some degree of self-disclosure. In therapy, self-disclosure on the part of the therapist needs to be used very carefully. I do not use self-disclosure in therapy very much, unless I see that it could benefit my clients. Even in specific cases, I carefully choose what I disclose to my clients. But when used carefully, self-disclosure can be very therapeutic to clients. Some clients, who have been living a rather solitary and secretive life, who have selective mutism, who are shy, who have not built rapport with the therapist and are resistant to speak about themselves extensively, may learn from the therapist that actually, there is no need to guard themselves too much, and that sharing is a very healthy social skill. In some cases, it could be used as a social skill training, encouraging clients to learn from the therapist, so that they would be more willing to talk a little bit about themselves. A little bit of self-disclosure on the therapist part, sometimes about small matters, can be a way to very naturally build rapport with clients. So self-disclosure on the therapist’s part, if used carefully, can be very therapeutic to some clients and useful in therapy.
A psychotherapist is a human being, with freedom of speech and expression in our society. Many famous psychotherapists have written extensively about themselves. Kay Jamison, for example, is an author of textbooks about treating bipolar disorder, but also has written very personal stories and a memoir about her life. Irvin Yalom, another famous psychiatrist and existential psychotherapist, has written textbooks, interesting fictional stories based on therapeutic cases, and has even written a novel! Many therapists have an online presence, on YouTube, on blogs, and in newspaper columns. Other therapists and physicians publicize their creative work, which includes painting and other visual arts, poetry, musical performance, theatre, and film.
I am sensitive to the impact of publishing a blog online, in the context of my professional career. But this writing is an important part of my own self-care and is an instrument of my own personal freedom. Also, my writing is intended to encourage others to write, and to share their voices themselves.
In order to maintain good therapeutic boundaries, it is best for therapists not to be replying to clients’ comments on the internet. In order to reduce possible complications regarding professionalism and ethics, I have decided to cancel the comment section on my website and disable the “like” button. If there are instances in which clients might feel disappointed by this, I see this as an opportunity for the therapist and client to have a gentle discussion about it.
Creativity is intelligence having fun. (Albert Einstein)
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. (Elder Uchtdorf)
Creativity takes courage. (Henri Matisse)
I am so glad that I have a pen to write, to express, to tell a story, to reflect, to inspire... It is writing that gives me courage, inspiration, energy, and kindness to overcome the challenges in life and to opt for a healthy, positive path. I wouldn’t have been able to come to this point of my life without my pen—it is truly my lifesaver. I am forever grateful for having it and now being able to share it with all of you, here in my therapeutic garden. I hope you see the flowers, pebbles, creeks, trees, vines, grass, and moss, here, in my therapeutic garden. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, listen to the ambient sound of creeks and birds, gently touch and feel the texture of the leaves, flowers, and grass with your fingers, relax and just lay on the grass if you would like, smell the fragrant of the flowers and trees, allow the breeze to touch your face and your hair, take a deep breath of fresh air... let this garden be a paradise to you. Be moved by it, be inspired, and be transformed. May you find this garden enlightening and rejuvenating.