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Bangkok Faces: Erica Dolsen, Counsellor – Dolsen Counselling Services

Your Name: Erica Dolsen

Job Title: Counsellor – Dolsen Counselling Services

What is your nationality and background?

I’m 4th generation Canadian, my ancestors emigrated from Holland and Ireland to the prairies. I also identify as being from Vancouver and the west coast – the traditional territories of the Musqueam and Tsleil-Watuth First Nations people – as that landscape and region have been important in understanding my place in the world.

What is your profession?

I have worn a lot of hats in my working life – from tour leader to outdoor educator, and now I’m pursuing private practice as a counsellor after receiving certifications as a social worker (University of Calgary) and specific training in working with complex trauma and addictions counselling.

What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?

In my practice the key skills are developing trust and rapport, and using evidence-based interventions to support mental and emotional health and well-being. I believe that given the space and time and support we are all able to implement solutions to our troubles. Being willing to walk alongside someone who is processing difficulties in their life involves compassion, empathy, and healthy boundaries. I also have a responsibility to maintain my professional growth, and to support my client in accessing the best resources for them.

How did you get involved in your profession?

I was riding along the Tibetan plateau on my bicycle on the way back to Kathmandu, when I realized that I was done travelling and wanted a vast change in career and direction. I went back to school for addictions counselling, and followed that quickly with specific training in complex trauma, and finally with social work. In a sense, however, I’d been doing related work for many years – almost all of my jobs have involved creating strong connections, resource-finding, capacity building, and communication skills.

How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children?

Children, like adults, have rich inner and emotional lives. They are also, like adults, sometimes in need of support to gain more functional coping and thriving skills in the face of difficulties. Developing resilience and finding their own strengths and empowered narratives is key to navigating life. I notice this especially in the ‘global citizen’ era, where finding a sense of place and grounded-ness is important for mental and emotional health. The average age of diagnosis for anxiety has steadily dropped, and to me this speaks to our collective challenge in raising children who can cope well despite the increasingly high stakes of being modern parents and caregivers. As a counsellor (and a parent), I strive to support kids to discover their own capacities and a safe space to practice. I also work with parents to support their children at home, and collaborate with other professionals as needed.

What challenges do your face in this role?

As a private practitioner I face the usual challenges of solo entrepreneurship, within a local context there is great variance in understanding and accepting mental health challenges. As an expat and outsider I recognize the challenges that are inherent in those roles, which can in turn create other challenges in terms of navigating the systems of mental health support.

What do you hope to achieve within your industry?

The great paradox of good counselling is that the mark of success is a client who feels well and supported and capable, and is therefore no longer in need of services! Other than that, I hope that I can contribute to the collective well-being of people here in Bangkok (and in my online practice), and those healthy effects ripple out to their communities and families.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by my teachers and elders in their lifelong practice of healing and sharing those teachings. I am inspired by my children and their astonishing commitment to growth and learning. And I’m inspired by the urban jungle, literally the plants that demonstrate incredible resilience and flexibility and will to success despite some very difficult growing conditions.

Only a Bangkok local would know…

There is a thriving bicycle culture here and it is a great source of joy to be the fastest, cleanest, quietest vehicle (a bike) when everyone else is in gridlock! Favorite bike shop: Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Bicycle Co-Cycling Space.

For more information on Erica’s practice, please visit www.dolsencounsellingservices.com.

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