Talks and Workshops for the Public
Changeways Clinic offers a wide variety of presentations designed for the general public. We host some of these ourselves, as part of our PsychologySalon series in Vancouver.
For information on the Vancouver PsychologySalon series, click here.
Dr Paterson, the clinic director, also writes a blog about psychology and psychotherapy called PsychologySalon, which can be accessed here.
Our talks can also be sponsored by private companies, government health authorities, or nonprofit agencies. They can be offered to members of a specific group or opened wide to the public at large.
We welcome inquiries from business and community groups about these presentations. They can be viewed as useful employee care programs, perhaps offered through Human Resources departments. They can also be enjoyable add-ons for retreats and team development work.
Many sponsors of our professional continuing education workshops have also asked for public presentations. By combining a CE workshop with a public talk, the travel expenses can be spread across several programs. Some sponsors charge for the public talks, thus helping to fund their CE efforts. Certain agencies have large-scale public educational presentations as a central part of their mandate. Others view public presentations as opportunities to raise an organization’s profile or attract media attention to their services. Still others simply see it as a way of giving back to the community.
We are also developing a series of online programs for the public. Click here for more information.
If you are interested in finding out more about hosting a program, please contact us at and we can answer any questions you have.
Out of the Blue: The Nature and Treatment of Clinical Depression
Clinical depression is one of the most prominent public health concerns in Canadian society. It is the leading cause of long-term disability claims in the country. Despite this fact, there is often a lack of understanding about the nature, treatment, and self-management of this common problem.
This presentation is designed for the general public (clients, families, friends, managers, rehabilitation consultants, clergy, and all others interested in the topic) but can also be a useful overview for healthcare professionals. Topics covered include the different types of depression, epidemiology, the diagnosis of mood disorders, the most common symptoms and presentations, a model for understanding depression, an overview of pharmacological treatment approaches, and a discussion of psychotherapy and self-management approaches.
The presentation is explicitly designed as an information session, not as treatment. It can be offered in a full-day, half-day, or evening format. Participants receive slide notes, and can also be provided with copies of the Antidepressant Skills Workbook if desired. There is no maximum number of participants.
Asserting Yourself: Strategies for Clear Communication
Almost anyone can benefit from learning about assertive communication and practicing the skills in an enjoyable, supportive setting. This presentation, available as a half-day, one-day, or two-day session, offers members of the general public the opportunity to discover their own reflexive patterns of aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive, and assertive styles of communication, and then provides specific guidelines for practicing more assertive behaviour. The format is heavily interactive and participatory (the more so the longer the session), with attendees practicing each of the skills in turn.
Topics covered include: Barriers that prevent us from being assertive, nonverbal behaviour, offering one’s opinion, giving and receiving positive and negative feedback, saying ‘no,’ making requests, and managing conflict. Participants can, if desired, be supplied with a copy of The Assertiveness Workbook (Paterson, New Harbinger Publications, 2000). The recommended maximum number of participants is 45.
Stress Less: Stress Management in the Real World
Everyone experiences stress on a regular basis, and most of us would like to learn to manage it more effectively. This half-day or full-day program provides clear instruction on the nature of the body’s stress response and the ways in which this response is sparked by the situations around us and by our own interpretations of what is going on. Participants are trained in a diaphragmatic breathing strategy early on, and we return to this several times over the course of the session. We also go through the most widely-researched relaxation technique available: Progressive muscle relaxation.
Ways of integrating these bodily responses into one’s day-to-day life are reviewed. Other topics include coping with stressful situations through goal-setting, lifestyle management strategies that reduce susceptibility to stress, and cognitive challenging strategies to overcome excessive reactions to non-life-threatening situations. Participants can be supplied with a folder of information sheets and handouts, plus an audio CD with relaxation instructions. Recommended maximum: 45 participants.
OverLoad: Strategies for the Overpacked Life
Life in the 21st century is characterized for many by endless demands, constant racing from place to place, and powerful striving to keep up and achieve a sense of satisfaction in one’s life. Based on a planned book from Changeways Clinic, this presentation looks at the ubiquitous experience of feeling overwhelmed by modern life. It explores the origin of this feeling, how we voluntarily bring it about, and its effects on quality of our lives.
We provide the central metaphor of an overstuffed backpack that weighs us down, and show how this points us to four primary coping techniques: 1. Reducing the amount we attempt to put into the backpack (in terms of ongoing tasks, a surplus of projects, and too many possessions weighing us down). 2. Increasing the amount we move out of the backpack by using simple strategies to improve efficiency. 3. Reducing the time that tasks spend in our “in-basket” by moving them from input to output quickly. 4. Increasing our capacity to manage our lives by emphasizing self-care. Concrete recommendations for each category are offered.
This presentation is available as a two-hour, half-day, and full-day presentation. The number of strategies that can be presented and the amount of time spent in personal and interactive exercises varies based on the length of the presentation. Although designed for the general public, this presentation may be helpful for healthcare employees as a self-care seminar designed to reduce burnout and career exhaustion. Participants receive an information package with a series of instructional documents, plus full slide handouts. There is no maximum number of participants.
Sexual Orientation in Canadian Society
Similar in content to our Sexual Orientation Issues workshops for professional staff, this presentation can be tailored to the needs of the audience. Topics can include: The nature and origin of sexual orientation, terms and their usage, an introduction to gay culture, coming out issues, personal and societal attitudes toward LGBT populations, health and mental health issues, research on gay and lesbian parenting, legal issues related to sexual orientation, the history of legal and social developments in Canada, gay marriage, and special issues related to same-sex relationships. The name can be changed to reflect the audience or topic focus.
These topics can be integrated into programs for diverse audiences, including LGBT populations, educators, religious organizations, professional groups, and the general public. Businesses and other organizations wishing to enhance staff awareness of diversity issues are also welcome. The program can be tailored to the needs of the organization. Programs can be offered in full-day, half-day, two-hour, and series formats. There is no maximum number of participants.
The Pillars of Happiness
Psychologists have often been accused of focusing exclusively on the negative - on disordered behaviour rather than on optimal functioning. Positive psychology is a rapidly-expanding field examining strategies to enhance life satisfaction and mood. In this full-day or half-day workshop we briefly review the “platform requirements” for positive mood: various lifestyle factors that seem to make the creation of happiness possible. We then proceed to a series of exercises and discussions on what appear to be four primary elements of the happy and satisfied life:
Enjoyment. We examine the role of enjoyable activity in our lives, discuss the limitations of simply “doing what feels good”, and consider the negative beliefs that people often hold about making “fun” one of their priorities.
Acknowledgement. Cognitive therapy suggests that we react emotionally mainly to what we pay attention to -- but many of us attend only to what is wrong or deficient in ourselves or our lives. Redirecting our attention to the positive elements of our lives can enable us to experience these at an emotional level. This involves acknowledging our strengths, our good fortune, and the positive contributions that others have made to our existence. Specific exercises are provided.
Immersion. The psychology of “flow” experiences is discussed. Essentially, flow involves a deep involvement in an activity, coupled with a reduction in self-reflective or evaluative thought. It is the experience of “losing oneself” or “dissolving the ego” in an activity. The activities that promote flow differ from person to person but have some core similarities, and this section of the presentation invites participants to survey their experience for flow-inducing options.
Involvement. Taking care of ourselves or pursuing only our own goals can, paradoxically, lead to a sense of personal poverty, neediness, and inadequacy. People with high life satisfaction are typically involved in larger-scale projects that involve the broader world; they are committed to causes bigger than any one person. Participants are led in exercise designed to help identify causes or projects that might have such a role in their own lives.
The conclusion of this workshop involves a review of specific recommendations in all four of the elemental areas. As we go through these areas, participants complete their own “happiness prescription” in which the ideas presented are integrated with their own situation and personality.
The Dance of Goal Setting
It has frequently been observed that if we do not steer our lives we are unlikely to arrive at our intended destinations. At the same time, the unpredictable nature of life makes absolute control impossible and would, in any case, crowd out the role of fortuitous chance. Effective goal setting has been studied intensively by psychologists and involves a waltz between careful planning and responding to the moves of the world.
In this workshop participants learn the principles of effective goal setting and apply them in their own lives. We define the difference between Ultimate and Immediate goals, and provide a series of rules for the latter. We discuss how to turn problems into goals, and how to convert goals to realistic plans. Participants identify at least some of their own life goals and work from these grand visions down to the level of achievable and measurable actions they can take to get started on the path. We discuss the feeling of being overwhelmed, and how this common emotion can be harnessed to guide our goal setting. We also identify the traps involved in both succeeding and failing to carry out our Immediate Goals.
Along the way, we repeatedly bring in the idea of “giving up” on achieving absolute control over our lives, and the idea of enhancing goal setting by a judicious letting go – of the idea that we will achieve our Ultimate Goals quickly, of the idea that our current vision for our life will remain static, of the need to complete every goal, of the notion that we must delay happiness until we have achieved a certain amount, of the idea of trying our hardest or working to 100% of our capacity, and of unproductive forms of hope.
Participants leave with a clearer vision of their goals and the path toward them, plus tools for self-correcting when problems appear.
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How to be Miserable. We often feel stuck in our lives, unable to feel better. But what if we wanted to feel worse? Suddenly we know what we would do. This tongue-in-cheek presentation suggests that examining our strategies for feeling worse can be helpful in identifying what we could be doing differently to feel better.
Letting Go: The Essential Skill. Our culture emphasizes striving, grasping, and setting and attaining goals. We ignore the converse skills of acceptance, releasing, and letting go. This talk argues that these skills are just as important to a happy life. We consider grief, loss, aging, relationships, possessions, and more.
Exercise and Mood: The Evidence. “Go outside and get some exercise,” we are told. “You’ll feel better.” Will you really? This talk examines the body of research on the use of exercise as an effective treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, and everyday stress. We confront common questions such us: Does it have to be aerobic? How frequently do I have to do it? What if I have bipolar disorder? And how do I get myself to do this when I don’t have any motivation?
Unpacking the Placebo Effect. We hear that the placebo effect is as powerful as many medical treatments, and may actually explain many apparent cures, But what is the placebo effect and how does it work? If it’s so potent, how can we make the most of it? In fact, what is typically called the placebo effect is actually a product of multiple factors including expectancy, measurement errors, timing, and personal motivations.
Emotions in Time. Fear seems to be about the future, and regret about the past. Can we localize most or all emotions in terms of past, present, or future? How might doing so help us to explain their purpose, their potential usefulness, and the disorders which, in extreme forms, they promote?
Toxic Hope. Hope is usually regarded as a GOOD THING, but is it really? Can hope actually lead us astray through excessive optimism or a belief in doomed coping strategies. If we have mood disorders and anxiety disorders, might there be hope disorders?
Are Mental Health Services Good For You? We read about mental health interventions from the past and shudder. But are the treatments of the twenty-first century really that much better? Will people of the twenty-second century roll their eyes at them? Sum the positive and negative impacts of mental health services as presently delivered, and the possibility exists that we arrive at a negative number.
Do Antidepressants Work? Recent re-analyses of placebo-controlled trials of antidepressant medications seem to cast doubt on some of our long-held ideas about the way that these treatments bring about their effects. What do these studies show, and what are the implications for people who have depression?
The Problem of Self Esteem. For thirty years we have heard that high self esteem is an essential element of functioning, and that it should be a primary goal of education, social policy, and mental healthcare. But is this actually true? Are there, perhaps, problems that can arise from unrealistically high self-esteem or from the means by which we try to bring it about?
Slippage: The Gap Between Perception and Reality. None of us live in the “real world.” We only experience a heavily edited version of the world that has been filtered through our senses, our knowledge base, and associations from our histories. How can we detect the gap and notice the shift between what IS and what we THINK IS?
Charting Your Course: Effective Goal Setting in Real Life. What do you want, really? How could you get there? This talk discusses the nature of goal setting and how to enhance its effectiveness.
Making the Most of Therapy. So you want to try psychotherapy. But which type? And delivered by whom? How can you get the most out of the time (and money) you will spend in the effort? This talk pulls back the curtain to discuss the actual process of therapy and what the client can do to achieve a successful outcome.
In Defense of Personal Reality. Much of clinical psychology is about helping us to perceive the world the way it really is. But is there perhaps significant value in the internal world of perception - even inaccurate perception - that can enrich and enhance our lives? This talk argues that there is much more to the human experience than a set of externally verifiable facts.
Failed States? Misery in Wealthy Societies. Given that modern cultures have remarkable wealth and cater to our every whim, why is it that we seem to be experiencing such high rates of depression? Perhaps in our quest to build paradise, we have unintentionally created a culture that creates misery. This talk focuses on a dozen key features of modern life that appear to be depressogenic.
...and, yes, still more
Don’t see what you have in mind? Email us at or call us at 604 871 0490 to ask about other topics. If we can’t speak on your topic, we can often suggest someone who can.