1. Skip to Menu
  2. Skip to Content
  3. Skip to Footer>

Psychological Approaches Incorporated


Family Systems Theory

Family Therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy, family systems therapy and family counselling, is a branch of psychotherapy that is used when working with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between members. It emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological health and sees the family as an entity in and of itself. The field has evolved so that the concept of the family is currently more commonly defined in terms of strongly supportive, long-term roles and relationships between people who may or may not be related by blood and marriage. The skills of the family therapist thus include the ability to influence conversations in a way that catalyzes the strengths, wisdom, and support of the wider system. Of late, these same concepts have been applied to organizational dynamics and the study of greatness.

In the mid early 20th century Bertalanffy founded General Systems Theory, capturing what our First Nations citizens have known forever: everything is connected to everything else. Systems Theory recognizes that in families and organizations, what the individual does affects others in the system as well as the outcomes of the larger system. Systems theory demands we look at the whole, knowing the various players are affected by their environment, affect their environment, and affect each other by their behaviours and choices. Implicit is the concept of personal and social responsibility.

Perceptual Control Theory

It is a theory of human nature that provides a scientific explanation of behaviour and motivation. It helps us understand how we act continuously and purposefully at many levels to control our perception, achieving our goals and satisfying our needs in an ever-changing world.IAACT Faculty Retreat 98; in conjunction with Mary and William Powers (Founder of Perceptual Control Theory and author of Behavior: The Control of Perception and many other books.)

Shelley Brierley has developed a means of teaching Perceptual Control Theory which allows you to understand yourself and your motivation, why we behave as we do. It exposes the connections between thoughts, actions and feelings, recognizing we each have some choice over our behaviours and our thoughts. It demonstrates how each persona has their own personal view of the world, personal wishes about how we want to see the world and our relationships, as well as how we wish to be seen in the world and in our relationships. Through PCT communication one comes to understand what are called shared references; agreed upon pictures, feelings, actions we can have with colleagues, friends and loved ones. It provides us with a way of problem solving uitilzing one's behaviours, values and beliefs. This material provides you and your colleagues, friends and loved ones with a common language with which to deal with conflicts and differences.

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy is a phenomenological - existential therapy founded by Frederick (Fritz) and Laura Perls in the 1940'2. It teaches therapists and clients the phenomenological method (standing aside from their usual way of thinking so that they can tell the difference between what is actually being perceived and felt in current situation and what is residue from the past) of awareness, in which perceiving, feeling and acting are distinguished from interpreting and reshuffling pre-existing attitudes. Explanations and interpretations are considered less reliable than what is directly perceived and felt. The goal is for clients to become aware of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and how they can change themselves, and at the same time, learn to accept and value themselves. It involves exploration of awareness, or insight: "Insight is a patterning of the perceptual field in such a way that the significant realities are apparent; it is the formation of a gestalt in which the relevant fall in place relative to the whole." The client learns how to become aware of awareness. The word Gestalt means "form" or the sum is greater than the parts. The dictionary definition of Gestalt is "a theory or doctrine that physiological phenomena do not occur through the summation of individual elements, as reflexes or sensations, but through gestalts functioning separately or individually. It refers to the hidden aspects in each of us. Once these aspects are incorporated and seen, they are helpful, part of the individuals potential and more useful than one could ever imagine. Gestalt is therefor a means of becoming aware of the parts of each of us we may have previously been unaware of ....increasing our potential and changing the way we perceive ourselves.

Cognitive Therapy

Developed by Thomas Beck, this type of psychotherapy seeks to help the client overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behaviour and emotional responses. this involves helping clients develop skills for modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, relating to others in different ways and changing behaviours. Treatment is based on collaboration between the client and the therapist and on testing beliefs. Therapy may consist of testing the assumptions which one makes and identifying how certain of one's usually unquestioned thoughts are distorted, unrealistic and unhelpful. Once those thoughts have been challenged, one's feelings about the subject matter of those thoughts are more easily subject to change. Beck initially focused on depression and developed a list of "errors" in thinking that he proposed could maintain depression, including arbitrary inference, selective abstractions, over-generalization and magnification of negatives and minimization (of positives). Science has shown this to be amongst the most effective of counselling approaches. It provides a way of working to assist individuals in increasing their personal awareness of their cognition or their thought patterns. Once done, individuals are encouraged to evaluate the effectiveness of their thinking and to change those thinking patterns they determine to be unhelpful or incongruent with their values and beliefs, substituting them with what they and the therapist determine to be more helpful thoughts and actions.

Dream Therapy

Dream Therapy is a way of working with clients and their dreams by tapping into the unconscious images , thoughts or emotions passing through the mind during sleep. Ms. Brierley uses a Gestalt technique which teaches clients to work with their own dreams ascertaining the meaning each image has for them, accessing new ways to understand aspects of themselves, their emotions and issues, previously out of awareness for the individual.

Responsible Decision Making and Reality Therapy

This is a method of questioning developed from Reality Therapy (Glasser) that invites individuals to determine their hoped for vision of themselves, consider current behaviours and self evaluating their behaviour and it's effectiveness in moving them forward toward their hoped for goals. It is based on the belief that people are motivated by basic needs; love and belonging, power, fun, freedom and survival and proposes that all behaviours are an attempt to address one or more of these basic needs. The therapist works with the individual to develop a plan of action the client believes will help them move toward their hoped for goals while attending to these needs in responsible ways. The focus is consistently on the positive, clarifying wants, present behaviour, self evaluation, and plans. Implicit are the concepts of personal and social responsibility.


Mindful Meditation is defined by Daniel J. Siegel as the practice of being mindful of the present moment without being swept up by judgements. There are numerous approaches to meditation including such practices as: yoga, tai chi, , It is a biological process that promotes health and the integration of consciousness. Recent research shows that meditation is a powerful means of strengthening one's cognition, emotional balance and personal sense of well being. Ms. Brierley teaches clients a method called " The Relaxation Response" which when practiced on a daily basis provides individuals with the equivalent of up to 2 hours of deep sleep, which has bi-products of: prevention of relapses of chronic depression, increased energy, creativity, sense of well being and relaxation. It is shown to be a potent part of successful treatment of anxiety, drug addiction, and borderline personality disorder (Siegal 2010). As well, it is highly successful with people who have difficulty paying attention.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

An easily learned systemic means of "tapping" developed by George Goodheart and John Diamond and based on the work of Chinese acupuncturists of over 5000 years. Acupoints are key points on the body where teh flow of the body's energy is more "accessible." Scientific studies show the electrical resistance in the skin a the meridian acupoints is much lower than the rest of the body. Brain wave studies show energy tapping affects the deep subconscious. Tapping appears to activate the bodies deep innate self-healing intelligence. This model works on the individuals Chi energy pathways and their unconscious to support the individual in having a greater sense of control over their emotions, stresses and personal challenges.It has been found to be very successful in assisting people in working with anxiety, grief, depression, weight loss, anger, fears, phobias, etc. Case histories abound. This is a powerful self help tool.


Hypnosis is a mind body therapy that involves the use of deep relaxation and mental imagery. Clients go through individualized hypnotic inductions and instruction in practice of self-hypnosis directed toward therapeutic goals determined between the client and counselling therapist. It is an altered state, dreamlike in fashion, through which the individual can access their subconscious. It is an artificially induced state similar to sleep which allows the individual to move into a trance state, allowing them to access their unconscious. The counselling therapist works with the client, making suggestions they agree are in the best interest of the client and congruent with the individuals hoped for goals and outcomes. The majority of clients are conscious throughout the process, aware of thinking, insights and activity. A common misconception is that you will do things against your nature or will. Clients choose the areas they wish to work on and are in control of their work. This is a powerful and underrated tool for emotional and physical healing, health and well-being. There is much scientific research on it's use in the treatment of anxiety, depression, inner child work, hot sweats, weight loss, cessation of smoking, anger, self esteem, to name a few.

Method of Levels Model

This is a method of working with individuals in a manner which allow you to do your own introspection and internal work, resolving your own conflicts. A form of questioning, developed by William Powers, and based upon Perceptual Control Theory and Hierarchical Control Systems, this model invites the the individual to self evaluate their personal thoughts in relation to their values and beliefs with no input other than reflection and questions from the therapist.

Conflict Resolution Strategies

A means of understanding and working through disagreements and differences between individuals and or the systems they are part of, learning effective communication strategies. It invites individuals to consider what is important to them as individuals while considering the impact on others involved.

Inner Child Work and Adult Children of Alcoholic Syndrome

Inner Child is a concept used in popular psychology and Analytical psychology to denote the childlike aspects of the clients psyche, especially when viewed as an independent entity. Frequently the term is used to address subjective childhood experiences and the remaining effects of one's childhood. The inner child also refers to all the emotional memory and experiences stored in the brain from earliest memory. The Twelve-step program recovery movement considers healing the Inner Child to be one of the essential stages in recovery from addiction, abuse, trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In the 1970's The Inner Child concept emerged alongside the clinical concept of codependency (first called Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome). This work is relevant for anyone growing up in a family with problems of alcoholism or other addictions. It involves individuals working with their unresolved issues from childhood, reconnecting with feelings and boundaries, while giving the self, permission to speak up, stand up for the self, acting on behalf of the self to ensure freedom to respect their own feelings and boundaries. John Bradshaw popularized the concept of Inner Child in a number of his books.

The Circle of Strengthâ„¢

assist individuals and couples to increase their awareness of their behaviours ,roles and patterns they revert to or use to cope when in conflict. Based on the Karpman Triangle, it outlines the patterns of behaviour one gets "hooked" into when in dysfunctional relationships and demonstrates a way of finding the peace in spite of the conflict; whether it be in the self, a relationship or within a system. It incorporates Systems Theory, Perceptual Control Theory, Reality Therapy, Visioning and Conflict Resolution.