Paul McIsaac knows the value of counselling from both sides: as a professional offering the service and a client using it.
Deciding to enter counselling for treatment of behavioural or relationship issues, or to explore thoughts and feelings that lead to challenges in life, can be difficult for some individuals.
However, from the perspective of a trained counsellor, by seeking that assistance clients can discover and develop skills to improve relationships, cope with problems and increase self-confidence, personal awareness and peace of mind.
“Approaching counselling is a courageous endeavour, because it involves saying, ‘I cannot fix this by myself; I need help,’” says McIsaac, who opened McIsaac Counselling in 2008. “Although it sounds like a weak position, it is a stronger position; it is saying, ‘I need to get there, but I can't get there from here.’”
According to McIsaac, counsellors help clients deal with issues such as addiction, aging, depression, stress, loss and grief, mental health and sexuality.
“Counselling is called the talking cure, but in fact it is the listening cure,” says McIsaac. “You have to listen to the client to hear what is going on in their life.”
McIsaac earned degrees in counselling and psychology from Concordia and Yorkville universities and is certified by BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. His particular areas of expertise include couples and men’s issues, aging and retirement, and addiction.
“The current thinking on addiction is that it’s a symptom of other things going wrong in people’s lives, so to try to fix the addiction is just spinning wheels,” says McIsaac. “It is not about fixing the addiction; we look at the addiction, find out what’s behind it and work on that.”
While drawing from his training to help guide clients through crises or difficult times, McIsaac says his own experiences also come into play.
“I had a number of successful careers in the past and then coming up to midlife I hit some hard times,” he said. “I went to see a counsellor and it worked for me. By helping me develop the questions I needed to ask, he led me to the answers I was seeking.”
McIsaac previously worked as an operator at an amusement park, a television show stunt tester, a sailing instructor and a corporate-communications specialist. He also spent time working in outreach and interning as a counsellor for Powell River Mental Health and Addictions Services.
“I have been through a lot of the issues I talk about with clients,” he says, “so it’s not like I am speculating about how they are feeling.”
McIsaac works with men and women, but men's issues are a major focus of the practice, whether the client is a male or the spouse of a male.
“A big issue in our society is what is happening with men, because they don't have the ability to communicate with other men the way women do with each other,” says McIsaac. “A lot of men end up isolated, frustrated and not really knowing what a man is.”
To deal with this, McIsaac plans to start a local men’s group in the fall.
Counselling helps men develop a sense of belonging, not only at home and work, but within society, says McIsaac.
“As men work through their issues, quality of life for their whole family improves,” he adds.
Clients approaching retirement are encouraged to find ways to keep busy, whether by volunteering or through projects at home, to avoid pitfalls that can develop from loneliness or boredom.
“Our society is great at telling you to go, go, go, but when it comes time to stop, what is out there?” says McIsaac. “A lot of people enter retirement and end up drinking, even if they weren't drinkers before.”
McIsaac says keeping the body and mind active is paramount.
“You are better off having a choice of things to do and a plan for how to do them,” says McIsaac. “It will keep you healthy and keep your mind clear.”
In addition to seeing clients at his office at 4699 Marine Avenue, McIsaac offers distance counselling via telephone, email or online.