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Meet the Therapist: John Hill, RP Qualifying

Every month, we interview one of our therapists to learn more about their story, what motivates them in working with clients, and how men can leverage therapy as part of their overall health and wellness journey.

What books are on your therapist desk at the moment?

"The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create Strong Relationships, and Live Their Fullest Lives" by Lewis Howes – I like how Howes examines the societal pressures men face to conform to traditional masculine norms and offers strategies for embracing vulnerability and authenticity.

"In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts" by Gabor Maté. I love how Mate offers a compassionate exploration of addiction, trauma, and human suffering. Maté challenges societal stigmas surrounding addiction and advocates for a holistic approach to healing that addresses the underlying emotional and psychological roots of addictive behaviors.

"No Bad Parts" by Richard C. Schwartz explores the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, presenting a compassionate approach to understanding and healing psychological wounds. I appreciate how Schwartz emphasizes the idea that all parts of the self have value and purpose, challenging the notion of "bad" or "broken" aspects of the psyche.

What inspired you to become a therapist, and how do your personal experiences shape your approach to counseling?

I've always had a strong inclination toward helping others, ever since I was young. It didn't matter what situation, what job I had or how old I was; my focus was always on how I could support others in reaching their goals, which often aligned with my own aspirations. Teamwork was something I deeply valued, and I see the therapeutic environment as a collaborative space where I work alongside my clients to tackle their challenges.

Starting my journey in this profession later in life has its advantages. I bring a wealth of personal and life experience to my approach. This experience allows me to connect with my clients on a deeper level, offering them understanding and empathy rooted in real-life wisdom. I firmly believe in the power of collaboration and teamwork in therapy. It's about working together to empower my clients as they navigate through their struggles and pursue their aspirations. My mature perspective and life experiences enrich the therapeutic relationship, contributing to positive outcomes for those I work with. I'm committed to embracing my unique journey and using it to empower others on their paths to growth and healing.

Can you share a bit about your therapeutic philosophy and the theoretical approaches you integrate into your practice?

My theoretical philosophy centers around the concepts of stress and distress. I believe that stress is a universal experience in life, but when left unmanaged, it can escalate into distress, leading to various conditions such as anxiety, addiction, depression, and anger issues. In my approach, I emphasize not only addressing the symptoms of these conditions but also exploring their underlying sources.

Working with me means delving into the root causes of distress, understanding how stressors manifest, and developing effective strategies for managing them. While the human condition is undoubtedly complex, we start by identifying and tackling the core issues contributing to my clients' struggles.

In terms of therapeutic approaches, I employ a client-focused integrated approach that draws from various modalities, including but not exclusive to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Solutions-Focused Therapy, and Integrated Family Systems approach. However, regardless of the specific approach, I prioritize building a strong connection with my clients. Creating a safe and secure environment where clients feel comfortable sharing their challenges openly is paramount to our work together. This trust and transparency form the foundation for meaningful progress and lasting positive change.

What specific populations or issues do you specialize in, and what unique insights or techniques do you bring to those areas?

My focus in therapy is primarily on working with men who are struggling with addiction issues, anxiety, depression, and anger management. Over the years, I've come to believe that many men have been conditioned to suppress their emotions, whether due to societal pressures, childhood experiences, or other factors. This suppression often leads to difficulties in understanding and expressing their feelings effectively.

In my work with clients, I prioritize helping them become aware of their feelings, learn to name them, understand their messages, and effectively manage or take action based on them. I firmly believe that our feelings play a crucial role in our decision-making capabilities, but they shouldn't be the sole driving factor in many situations.

For example, I often find that individuals struggling with addiction are using substances or other unhealthy behaviors to numb or escape from their pain. In therapy, we work together to identify and address these underlying painful feelings, helping clients develop healthier coping mechanisms and find lasting solutions to their challenges.

By creating a safe and supportive environment, I aim to empower my clients to break free from societal expectations and explore their emotional experiences more openly. Through this process, they can cultivate greater emotional intelligence, improve their relationships, and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives.

In your experience, what are some common misconceptions about therapy, and how do you work to address and overcome them in your practice?

In my experience, some common misconceptions about therapy include the belief that only people with significant mental health issues can benefit from it, that therapy is only about talking about problems without finding solutions, and that therapists have all the answers and will tell clients what to do.

When working with me, I emphasize the versatility and autonomy of therapy. I work to create an open and welcoming environment where clients feel comfortable seeking support for a wide range of concerns. I also emphasize the collaborative nature of therapy, highlighting that it's not just about venting but also about actively working together to explore solutions and develop coping strategies.

Additionally, I make it clear to clients that therapy is not about me giving them all the answers, but rather about empowering them to discover their own insights and solutions. I encourage open dialogue and feedback, ensuring that clients feel heard and respected throughout the therapeutic process. By addressing these misconceptions head-on and fostering a supportive and empowering therapeutic environment, I strive to make therapy more accessible and beneficial for my clients.

What’s your favourite self-care activity?

My approach to self-care is to view it as a toolbox of activities that allows you to tailor your self-care practices to your current needs and feelings. Some days you might need a calming activity like meditation or reading a good book to unwind, while other times I might crave something more active like going to the gym or playing with my kids. By having a variety of self-care tools at my disposal, I can better support my mental, emotional, and physical well-being in any situation. It's all about finding what works best for me in the moment. That said, we are heading into camping season and our family has already been camping once this season with a few more trips already planned throughout the summer. For me, there is nothing more effective than reconnecting with nature as part of my self-care regiment. 

What do you find most rewarding about being a therapist?

As a therapist, one of the most rewarding aspects is witnessing the transformation and growth of my clients. Seeing someone come in with struggles and challenges and then watching them gradually gain insight, develop coping skills, and become emotionally connected with themselves is incredibly fulfilling. It's like being a guide on their journey to self-discovery and empowerment. Building a trusting relationship with clients and being able to support them through their toughest moments is a privilege. Plus, those "aha" moments when a client has a breakthrough or gains a new perspective? It’s an honour to be a part of that process.

What would you say to someone who has never been in therapy before and may be considering taking that first step and reaching out?

Taking that first step toward therapy can feel daunting, but it's a powerful decision toward living the life you deserve. If you're considering it, you're already demonstrating strength and courage. It's an opportunity to gain insights, learn coping strategies, and develop a deeper understanding of yourself. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You deserve support and healing.

Want to learn more about John?

John Hill is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) who offers men across Ontario counselling on a wide range of mental health issues. John has training in  SMART™ Recovery facilitation and Anger Management Certification from Trauma Training Institute. To learn more or book a free 20-minute consultation with John, feel free to reach out via email or phone today!

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