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Vanessa Chen

Registered Provisional Psychologist Calgary

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Individual Counselling, Couples Counselling, and Family Counselling

Academic Credentials:

  • Masters of Education in Developmental Psychology, University of Toronto
  • Bachelors of Science in Psychology - Exceptionality in Human Learning, University of Toronto

Additional Training:

photo of Vanessa Chen, Registered Psychologist Calgary

Types of Support Vanessa Offers

Concerns related to:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Communication Barriers in Couples/Parents
  • Parenting Skills (to a child with challenging behaviours)
  • Regaining trust/safety between parent and child
  • Couples Counselling
  • Coping Skills
  • Stress/burnout
  • Trauma
  • ADHD
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Self-Esteem/ Self-Confidence
  • Exploration of Self-Identity
Psychotherapists and Psychiatrists
What do individuals generally find challenging about the process of therapy?

In some cases, “the only way out is through” (Robert Frost).

Talking about our feelings, exploring our inner thoughts, and analyzing our behaviour isn’t a comfortable process for everyone. My role is to guide you through therapy in a way that feels safe, manageable, and progressive.

If new to you, I will introduce and work within the framework of the “window of tolerance”. Our window of tolerance is the “safe zone” where you can effectively manage and cope with stress and emotions. Stress and trauma can cause our window of tolerance to shrink, and when that happens, a small amount of stress can either cause us to be hyperaroused (angry, overwhelmed) or hypoaroused (numb, shut down). Together we will expand your window of tolerance so you can stay in the safe zone (stay regulated) while experiencing and processing through negative emotions and events.

What training or specializations complement your work with individuals?

I believe that every individual is unique, therefore I use an integrated approach, pulling on a number of therapeutic techniques, when working with individuals.

For example, if experiencing feelings of depression (ie. sad, irritable, helpless) or anxiety (ie. fear, dread, uneasiness), I often take a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach combined with mindfulness and Solution-Focused Therapy. Mindfulness techniques help to decrease the intensity of your thoughts and feelings for us to move into CBT, a more goal-oriented form of therapy. Through CBT we work to identify and change the thinking patterns leading you to experience difficult emotions or have strong undesired behavioural reactions. From a place of compassionate understanding of yourself, we move into Solution-Focused Therapy, setting goals and developing the skills needed for you to feel in greater control of the situations that presently challenge you.

What training or specializations inform your therapy approach with parents?

Parent/Parents
In my work supporting a parent(s) to develop the relational and communication skills needed to better help a child with challenging behaviours, I frequently use solution-focused therapy. This approach is future-focused; we won’t dwell on the problem, but rather proactively come up with solutions that could be applied to alleviate your situation. I will also use parent-directed interactions, which is a behaviour management approach to help decrease unwanted and increased wanted behaviours.

Parent and Child
It’s been scientifically proven that positive parent and child relationships are very beneficial for a child's physical, mental and emotional well-being. I use the framework Synergetic Play Therapy and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy to help facilitate parent and child sessions. We will work on attunement between the parent and child using good communication skills, and their nervous system regulation. In these sessions, I model to the parent appropriate ways to respond to the child, allow the child to lead the play, help regulate the child, and how to increase positive parenting practices.

What training or specializations inform your therapy approach with couples? What’s unique about your style?

I use Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) when working with couples. The main focus of EFT is to improve attachment and bonding. Secure attachment has shown to help regulate difficult emotions, be aware and understanding of other perspectives, ability to be attuned with one’s partner, empathetic and compassionate.
There are three main stages to EFT:

Stabilization
This involves de-escalating the negative cycle that has overtaken the relationship. Once the negative cycle is recognized, we can work on overcoming it together. During this stage, I may encourage partners to engage with softer emotions to lead to a more positive emotion regulation and engagement style.
Restructuring attachment
Stage 2 is about being aware of partners’ attachment fears, and shaping accessible, responsive and engaged interactions. The aim is for partners to ask for their needs to be met in a soft manner.
Consolidation
The goal for stage 3 includes stabilization, reinforcement and to celebrate the changes within and between partners. We will continue to work on and practice effective cooperation/ communication so previous problems can be solved easily and to prevent previous interaction patterns.
How long will it take to see results or changes?

Everyone's journey is different - there is no magic number of sessions.

The goal of a first session is for you to leave with more information and insight than you came. We often explore things like: your emotional experience, your thought process, your behavioural reactions, and where you may have learned these from. We will collaboratively establish your goal(s) for therapy: where we are starting and where you want to get to.

The path to getting there is not linear. It uncover’s itself as we go down it, like peeling an onion where as each layer is removed you come to see the situation and yourself more and more clearly. We then build up the skills needed to navigate your situation successfully.

Feeling a sense of progress is important. To measure your results and changes, we will reflect back to the first session:

  • What were your thoughts, worries, and feelings?
  • Where are you now?
  • What work do we need to focus on next?
  • When do things feel complete for you?

How will I know if you are a good fit for working with me?

Some people are comfortable with sharing their personal experiences immediately in the presence of a therapist, and others might need more time. It’s important that we get to the place where you are able to express freely without a sense of judgement. It’s also important that you feel like I get you and have hope that I can help you.
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As an adolescent, I experienced three back to back losses of people close to me. At the time, I ran from my grief to avoid the sadness and aching feeling in my heart. I stored it away rather than dealing with it.

The third loss, a friend by suicide, led me to research the warning signs. There were so many! The one that hit me was - when you lose someone you love. This tickled my brain a little to begin to wonder, “Was I at risk?” I had an ongoing internal dialogue - a push and pull - trying to figure out if I needed help. I had read locking away grief could manifest into other mental health concerns: depression, bi-polar, anxiety, suicide. I was afraid seeking help might make them real. Thankfully, I was fortunate that someone in my life encouraged me past this fear to see a therapist.

Therapy helped me understand my emotions, regain a sense of control and love myself again. I was able to see we can get unstuck and there is hope for life to be better. I wanted to share this with others close to me also struggling.

I made it my mission to normalize therapy and challenge the Asian cultural norm around me that “mental health concerns are not real” - often they go untreated until manifested into somatic symptoms (ie. headache, stomach pain, digestive concerns, etc.).

As your psychologist, I will work to provide you with a sense of care, safety and openness as we do this work together. To be a part of your journey is a privilege; to be able to see the changes in you is an honour.

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