Kassandra Heap is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Kassandra received her Bachelor of Arts degree (honours) in Psychology at the University of Victoria and her Masters in Counselling Psychology from Athabasca University. Prior to becoming an affiliate with Cobb & Associates, Kassandra worked as a School Counsellor with adolescents and young adults, and then as a Clinical Counsellor working with individuals, couples and families. Kassandra enjoys helping couples work on gridlocked issues by moving from resentment and frustration to understanding and respect. Her main goal in working with couples is to help them develop a greater sense of empathy and understanding towards their partner. Part of this process involves guiding couples to identify their values, goals and needs as individuals, and learning how to communicate them to their partner.
I primarily use Gottman Method couples therapy, because Dr. John Gottman’s work is based on 38 years of research on couples!
One of the main assumptions that informs my work with couples is that conflict is inevitable in all relationships. Couples often see conflict as bad or unhealthy and they try to avoid it altogether. However, avoidance often creates more relationship issues. Instead, couples need to learn how to establish meaningful dialogue about conflictual issues in order to gain a deeper understanding about their partners--and yes, sometimes that means not actually coming to a "solution" on some issues. It is all about how we fight as a couple, not if we fight as a couple.
The couple that shows up with the honest intent to work on their relationship, both individually and as a partner, without being defensive or critical, is the couple that has better outcomes in my view. I believe change happens when we are open and honest with ourselves and our partner, and when we let our guard down.
My favourite quote, which captures this concept is: “I firmly believe that I am not the healer, I am just the context in which healing is inspired” (adapted from Ron Kurtz 2010).
I provide information, structure, expertise and a safe space- the rest is the individual committing to practicing new ways of being both inside, and particularly, outside the counselling room.
I have received feedback in the past that I am welcoming, kind and casual- I also like to think that I am funny… when appropriate I bring my sense of humour into session.
I hope that both partners feel heard and understood after their first session. I also want couples to feel as though there is a clear direction moving forward and that everyone knows what to expect for the next sessions. Transparency is important to me, so I will always share what the plan is using clear language, without any hidden agendas or secrets. I also welcome collaboration in all aspects of the therapeutic process.
I have learned that in all relationships, not just romantic relationships, we need to get better at communicating our needs in a clear and direct manner. I spent a lot of time thinking my partner should implicitly know what my needs are at any given time (I know- no pressure right?). However, after 12 years of partnership, I have learnt that no one- not even those we have known for a long time- can read our minds 100% of the time and know what we want, or need, in any given situation. So, I have learnt to identify what my needs are and ask for what I need without blaming or shaming. My motto is "‘set a target for your partner to hit, not one that they have already missed".
It is possible to have healthy, lasting relationships! We aren’t given a manual on how to be in a relationship (although I think we should be given one at birth), so experiencing difficulties is expected and normal. This means that there is hope because even though we might not be relationship ‘naturals’ there are well researched relationship strategies that I can help teach you to improve your relationship.
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