Shulamit Ber Levtov, MA, RSW
- You’re a working woman (or man) experiencing overwhelming stress.
- You’re a woman or a man who has experienced childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence.
- You’re having a hard time.
- You had it together but now you’ve hit a rough patch.
- Your nerves are fried and you don’t know what to do.
- The things you thought you knew (about yourself, others, life, the universe, etc…) don’t seem to hold any more.
- Relief from the effects of stress, from the insomnia, the constant worrying, the racing mind, feeling tense all the time, having a short fuse, the confusion, the difficulty concentrating or getting things done, the overwhelming emotions.
- To silence the constant criticism in your head.
- To be able to enjoy yourself again.
- To use your own power and skills to change what you can in your life and accept what you can’t.
- To learn constructive ways to cope with stress.
You + Me
We’re likely to create a powerful team if:
- you want to be curious about what’s bothering you;
- you want warm and compassionate support for finding your way;
- you want to be friendly toward yourself when you’re under stress;
- you want to achieve peace of mind and connect with your inner guidance.
- you’re interested in exploring the role of spirituality in your wellbeing
- you consider yourself feminist, progressive, lefty (or even anarchist).
Explore counselling with me
Maybe you might like to check inside yourself now to see how you’re reacting to what you’ve read. If it feels right to explore a bit further, you can book a free, 30-minute phone conversation with me here.
Alternatively, you can email me so we can start a conversation about whether we’re a good fit for working together.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Counselling?
First and foremost it’s a conversation, mostly between you and yourself, with company from me.
You know when you’re talking and you say something really insightful? Sometimes you say to yourself, “Hey! Did I just say that? I didn’t know that was going to come out of my mouth!” But sometimes you can totally miss your own insights and wisdom. My role is to listen for what you say that is important, insightful or wise and say it back to you, so you can be sure not to miss it.
I can also play a consulting role. You’re coming to me because you’ve hit a wall. You’ve got all kinds of skills and resources but somehow they’re not working any more. You’re saying, to yourself “I know all this good stuff, but it’s not getting me anywhere anymore.” In situations like that, I can be a consultant or a sounding board to help you troubleshoot and/or identify missing pieces. That’s where my training comes in because, as a professional, I have information that might be useful and I’ll be happy to share that with you if you ask.
If you’ve been reading my blog or my newsletters, you will have a pretty good sense of who I am, and I’m going to be pretty much like that with you in session.
How is counselling going to help me with stress?
One of the things that makes stress really difficult is having to carry it all by yourself. A lot of the people who come to me are the go-to people for their families, friends and co-workers… and just about everyone else in their lives! They have always been strong, capable, competent people. That means they are carrying not only their own stuff, in a strong, competent, capable way, but also everyone else’s. But then, who’s in your corner? That’s where counselling comes in. I can help you carry the emotional weight of what’s going on in your life.
Holding an emotion in increases the demand on your capacity—it takes energy to “put on a happy face”—and over time that can lead to symptoms like a shorter fuse, irritability, headaches, and trouble sleeping. If you have a place where you can let the emotions out, that is going to decrease your stress.
You might have lots of people you can talk to in your life, and they might be very kind, helpful and understanding, but when you share heavy things with them, you might get a variety of reactions. They might get mad, or frustrated, or give you advice. Or maybe what you’ve shared comes back to you later, in a way you don’t really want it to.
As a counsellor, I’m a neutral person, so when you talk to me, I’m not going to get mad or upset, and I’m not going to get my nose in your business. You can leave your heavy stuff in my office and there’s not going to be any negative impact on the rest of your life because I’m not connected to it. That’s the advantage of counselling: you get to bring, say it, and if you want to leave it, it can stay in my office. It won’t cause ripples in the rest of your life unless you choose to make those changes yourself.
When you’re stressed, you might feel emotionally overwhelmed. Maybe tears come out at the most inappropriate time, or maybe you snap when you shouldn’t. When this happens, it’s hard to think straight and problem-solve. This is a problem with how every human brain functions. When it’s emotionally overwhelmed, it can’t think. This is called cortical inhibition. In these situations, I function as an auxiliary brain so that the thinking parts of your brain can come back online, so to speak. Then you can relate to your emotions, rather than drown in them, and you can begin to use your problem-solving skills to address your problems.
Being hard on yourself is a hallmark of stress. We all have a tendency to be self-critical, but when stress is high, then the “itty, bitty shitty committee” in your head can make a lot of noise. I can teach you tools that will help you be kinder to yourself. The inner bullying of that “itty, bitty shitty committee” is as harmful, over time, as being bullied from the outside. You may not be able to change your external conditions, but you sure can be kinder to yourself, and that removes one stressor from your plate. Plus, being nice to yourself, even if it’s only in your thoughts, counters the effects of external stressors. Whatever you have the power to change that reduces your stress is going to help you feel better.
The ultimate result of ongoing, constant stress is that your nervous system gets fried. To recover, it needs rest, soothing and nourishing. Just like a runner, the nervous system needs rest and recovery time between marathons if it’s going to get up and run another. And, let’s face it, life is full of stressors. Learning the signs so you can detect them early and act quickly to regulate your nervous system will help you cope better with stress, and prevent you from crashing and burning. These are the tools I apply to help you regulate your nervous system: Focusing-oriented therapy, Sensorimotor psychotherapy, Yoga therapy and Nonviolent Communication.
What happens in a counselling session?
In your first session, the first step is to complete paperwork so I can set up your file. We talk about policies: cancellation, payment, communication., confidentiality and safety.
The first thing most people say is, “I don’t even know where to start.,” so usually in the first session, the first question I ask is, “What was happening that day that made you pick up the phone? What made you say, “Holy crap, I have to talk to someone!”? After that, you talk and I listen. I listen in a particular way called active listening, where once in a while, I’ll let you know I’m listening by telling you what I heard you say. I can also play a consulting role, helping you trouble-shoot and figure things out, if that’s what helpful for you.
The things that happen to a person as a result of stress can be really confusing and upsetting. So many people come to me asking, in one way or another, “Am I nuts?” or “What’s the matter with me?” A big part of my job is to reassure you you’re not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with you. My education and training has taught me what is “normal,” in other words, what is to be expected when a person is experiencing overwhelming stress. Part of my job is to share that knowledge with you. You might not be feeling great about things, you might be stressed to the max, you might feel like you’re “going crazy,” but you’re OK. In other words, what you’re experiencing is normal, given what you’re going through.
“Every bad feeling is a potential energy towards a more right way of being
if you just give it space to move towards its rightness.”
I will also support you in bringing an open and curious attitude toward what you’re saying and experiencing, and in slowing down to really hear it. You’ll hear me say things like, “Maybe we could pause here. What you just said sounds like it might be important.” Going slowly and being curious are tools that support paying attention, so you can get to know what’s happening now, thus making change possible. In fact, paying attention in an open and curious way can itself be change.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
How will I know I’m ready for counselling?
Some signs you may be ready for counselling:
- You realize that you keep trying the same things and they do not work.
- What you are doing to cope is interfering with some aspect of your life.
- When you want to change your life and move forward.
Paradoxically, you may also be ready when you want to learn to accept and be compassionate toward yourself.
Is this you?
- You feel like you’ve hit a wall somehow.
- The things that you used to do aren’t working any more.
- You’re feeling confused or like things don’t make sense.
- You’re thinking something like, “I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life and I’ve always done fine until now, so what the hell is going on???”
- You want to understand what’s happening to you so you can do something about it.
- Other people have told you you’ve changed, that you’re not yourself, or not the way you used to be.
- You’re snappier, angrier, sadder, more irritable, hard to be around, more down than you used to be.
- You used to be a happy person and now you don’t laugh any more.
- You feel tense all the time.
Maybe this is you:
- Your physical symptoms have gotten to a point where you say, “I have to do something.”
- You can’t sleep and you’ve tried everything.
- You have headaches and can’t seem to do anything about them.
- You have digestive issues, you’ve tried everything but still they’re not resolved.
Or maybe this is you?
You’ve done it on your own so well for so long, but now you’re thinking, “Listen, I can’t do it on my own anymore. I want some help.”
Or maybe you don’t want to do it on your own anymore. You’re thinking, “I’m sick and tired of doing it all on my own and I freaking deserve some help.”
Or maybe you’ve experienced one of the following:
- high-demand work or workplace
- demanding or difficult family situations
- addiction or alcoholism in a family member
- workplace bullying or harassment
- a difficult childhood
- an abusive relationship
- sexual assault
- childhood sexual abuse
If you said yes to one of more of the items above, counselling might be helpful. Click here to book a free, no-obligation, totally confidential free consultation to see if counselling is the next right step for you.
How long will it take to achieve my goals?
I hate to sound wishy-washy but it depends.
Your goal might be something like, “I want to be happy” and that could take quite a while. But we can also take a look at how you know you’ll be happy and you might start noticing some of those things in a short amount of time.
Maybe you have a very clear and specific goal. We can break it into small, manageable, do-able steps and you can make progress from week to week.
Some people are like a seed, where you plant the seed and it has to decay before it can sprout and grow, so you might experience what we could call a front end load, where you need to put some time in. But then, seemingly all of a sudden, something happens.
Reaching your goal is a very individual thing.
It also depends on how open and ready you are to notice what is happening now and look at paths for change. Habitual patterns once served a good purpose, and they can also keep us from moving forward. Realizing how these patterns once kept you safe, as well as how they are now keeping you way from the life you want to lead is part of the process.
You may also want to spend time with your fear of letting go of habitual patterns, since the part of you that is afraid may feel stronger than your wish to let go. It makes sense that part of you wants to let go and part of you doesn’t. Those habits originally had a good reason for being here. It can take time to see their good reason, or the needs they were intended to meet, and discover fresh ways to meet those needs.
What will happen when I contact Shulamit?
I’ll invite you to set up a free 30-minute call so we can connect. In that call, you’ll have an opportunity to ask me things you want to know that aren’t answered in this FAQ, and you can have an opportunity to interact with me live so you can get a sense of whether or not you feel OK enough about taking the next step, which is to book an in-person appointment. At that point, I’ll take some basic info (phone number, email, etc.) and we’ll book a time to meet.
Will anyone know that I am working with Shulamit?
No. This is especially important in a small town where everybody knows everybody. People know who you are and who I am. It’s part of my ethical and legal responsibilities to protect your privacy, so (you might hear me say this in your first session) what that comes down to is, in public, unless you say hi to me first, I will act as if I don’t know you. This is because our relationship is not a social one, it’s a counselling relationship, a therapeutic one, a sacred one, and that doesn’t necessarily involve talking about the weather out in public.
Another way you’re protected is under Canadian and Ontario privacy laws, and under the law that governs the practice of social work. As a registered social worker, I comply with these legal and ethical privacy requirements. There are only certain very specific and extremely limited conditions under which I can share your information without your permission: immediate danger to you or another adult, risk to someone who is under 16, or if the court subpoenas my files. If any of these occurred, we would talk about them at that time and decide what to do together.
My ability to make the contribution I want to make in the world, to help make the world a better place, and make people’s lives more wonderful, depends entirely upon this sacred trust of confidentiality and privacy. Continuing to do this work really matters to me and your trust really matters to me. Therefore everything is confidential, including everything you say and even the fact that you’re a client.
What if I start working with Shulamit, something comes up and I can’t continue?
It’s no problem. If it’s a money issue, we can discuss a variety of options and the resources available in the area so that you can have ways to keep moving forward if money is a problem. If it has to do with things like time or life circumstances, we can troubleshoot together. Even if you decide counselling is not for you, that’s totally cool. Part of my job is to be a resource-person so I can direct you to all kinds of different resources for personal growth and support that are available in this area.
Sessions last 50 minutes. Fees range from $130 to $200 depending on the services you require and the counsellor you wish to see.
Receipts can be issued for reimbursement from insurance companies and for income tax deductions.
Every form of payment is available except debit. You can pay through PayPal, credit card, cash, check or e-mail money transfer.
Where can I have appointments?
Counselling can be provided by voice and/or video or in person (in Kemptville, Perth, or near Merrickville and Smiths Falls, Ontario).
Kemptville office is located at 215 Van Buren Street, second floor.
Perth office is at 30 North Street, Perth, in the Lotus Wings Building.
Virtual appointments can be held by phone, or by video using a free, secure, telehealth video platform. Details will be provided when you schedule an appointment.