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Effective Counseling?

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 Social Presence Online

by: Dr. Suzanne LaCombe, June 17, 2007.
Updated: November 23, 2009.

kids in counseling
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Who's here to talk to Eliza?

"The MyShrink Gang"

When I was younger I travelled a lot for my business and the best times were when I travelled with my good friends Steve and Peggy. The business required stays between three to six months in different US cities so we'd rent a furnished apartment together.

Every morning Peggy would pop into my bedroom to see if I would like some coffee. And every day I answered 'yes' and every day Peggy would ask, "and Suzanny, what would you like in your coffee".

"Cream only, thanks Peggy." smiley-smile.gif

No matter how many times this little ritual got played out, I never tired of it. This is what I remember most of my times on the road with Steve and Peggy and it still warms my heart each time I think of it today.

It's rituals like this that connect us to each other. Many of these sayings or statements are often said automatically with little consciousness. Bringing awareness to them however helps to draw attention to how much we are alike, how much we are connected to one another.

The Social Presence Indicator (SPI)

Our little gang of kids is here to graphically announce the presence of others who are also visiting MyShrink. This feature is known in the field of online research as "social presence". Through the use of cookies, the 'social presence online indicator' (SPI) calculates the number of viewers currently browsing the site.

Presently, the SPI reports on the site as a whole. The next version will report the number of visitors in different sections of the site.

The captions are currently contained within five groupings. The exact number in each grouping is not being disclosed; however each grouping has a different set of captions.

The purpose of the social presence indicator is to enhance users' online experience and to promote a sense of community. The addition of the captions is unique as far as we know.

The captions are intended to evoke memories of childhood and to reflect common greetings that are characteristically human. The purpose is to draw attention to those moments in time that bond each to each other. They mirror our humanity, our fraility and those interpersonal moments that knit our lives together.

How do the captions relate to counseling?

We hope our visitors pause for reflection, for several reasons.

The captions are intended to direct our attention to moments in time. Research on counseling theory has shown that the connection to one's therapist is the most significant factor accounting for therapeutic change. And, there is good evidence to suggest that it is being present to those pivotal moments between counselor and client where lasting change is fostered.

Being an informed consumer of counseling services is what this site is about. We want our visitors to make optimal use of their counseling. The captions bring awareness to the importance of moments in counseling. And it's moments in counseling which we believe naturally enhance the consolidation of therapeutic gains.

The kid sayings are also being used to trigger memories of childhood. While it is not always necessary to intentionally bring childhood memories into counseling it is often useful to work through feelings associated with being a child that arise in the moment-to-moment interactions with one's therapist.

Taking childhood feelings seriously is an important aspect of good counseling. Most people have aspects of themselves that are not fully grown up. (Consider, for instance, the potential havoc if your personal finances were under the control of your eight-year-old self.) The more aware we become of those underdeveloped aspects of self, the greater our opportunity for further growth and the chance to take charge of one's life.

We also hope the SPI indicator will convey a feeling of community. Today, many communities exist despite having no physical meeting space. We no longer need to depend on our neighbors as we have in the past. But as a consequence, we have lost the sense of pulling together for a common cause. Most of us live far apart from one another, both spiritually and literally.

Most users that are drawn to MyShrink are on a journey of personal growth. We hope that the knowledge that others are also searching and working towards greater peace of mind will in part, support them. For it's my sense that a community--even one in cyberspace--can help us to heal.

Most importantly, the captions convey a sense of playfulness and fun. By reminding our visitors of what feels good we hope to balance the sometimes triggering material on the site with moments of positive resonance.

...because it's all about connection.

I'd love to hear of any captions you think could be included. And feel free to let me know what you think of our social presence indicator.

Drop me a line in the Psych Cafe Forum.

Related Topics

MyShrink on Counseling

We All Have Our Stuff the Top Secret above.

Visitor Comment

A visitor to MyShrink sent me this delightful story and I thought it would complement the content on this page. Thanks, Wendy.


I told you my father died recently. He was 86 and we (myself and 3 siblings) opted to keep him in his own home until he died. This required us to spend many days and nights helping with his care over the last several years. 

At times this was extremely taxing and I wondered if I could continue much longer, but it was also one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. His gentle caring nature, sense of humor, and  concern for us, never left him even till the very end.

The strength and resilience he found after loosing our mother and  his wife of 63 years several years ago was an inspiration to us all. He was often a man of few words and he preferred to go unrecognized for his frequent good deeds and generosity.  He lived his life for god, his country, and his family. He will always be my hero.

The last several years also required me to spend a lot of time in my childhood home. It was a virtual "blast from the past"  there were triggers everywhere. I was often flooded with memories and feelings from my childhood. I grew up in small town USA. I had a loving family, neighborhood friends, and grew up in a time when walking to school and playing out after dark on hot summer nights was still safe and the world had no concept of 9/11 or Columbine.

So walking the dogs in the alley at night, sleeping in my childhood bedroom, or even the smell of my mothers recipes cooking in her kitchen would trigger feelings and memories from those happy safe times.

I rememberd (and felt) myself walking to school with the neighborhood kids, hopscotch and jumproap on the front sidewalk, kick the can and hide and seek under the street light on hot summer nights.  Winter was sled riding on library hill or ice skating on the legion pond until you could no longer feel your hands and feet, then home for a good scolding for staying out too long and hot chocolate and fresh baked pie.

With these warm safe memories many little sayings have popped into my head at one time or another (or is it the other way around?). They leave me with a little chuckle and a  feeling everything is right with the world. 

While on your site the other night, I think I read you were looking for little sayings for the "gang" and your SPI. Well since the darn things are going around in my head  I have made a list of some of the more common ones I remember.  If they are helpful I will try to come up with more. 

Ollie ollie ox in free.
Tag your it.
Red rover Red Rover
Mother may I
Ready or not here I come
Paper rock scissors
Wipe your feet
Miss Mary Black
Teachers Pet
Punch Buggy
Mind your mannors
Can __________ come out and play.
Ill race you
Don't step on the crack
Pretty please
I'm telling......
Don't be a tattle tale

Hope they might be useful, you have done enough for me.


The social presence indicator was inspired by the work of Dr. Dianne Cyr of Simon Fraser University and doctoral student Alex Ivanov who have conducted research on online behaviour.

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kids in counseling

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Real kewl site! How'd I get here anyway?