Do you suffer from crooked thinking? Do you even know what crooked thinking is? If not, you aren’t alone and Heather Strong, behavioural health clinician with the Cowichan Lake Primary Healthcare team, is someone who can make sense of it for you.
“It’s helping people understand how we tend to have some automatic thoughts in our lives that aren’t always helpful,” said Strong, using the example of a person assuming he’s done something wrong just because he passed someone in the street who didn’t say hello. Or getting internally angry or resentful towards that person for not sharing a greeting.
“If we step back and think, ‘Hey that’s a bit crooked thinking because I don’t actually know what’s going on in their mind,’” said Strong.
Cognitive distortion is the technical term for crooked thinking.
Helping clients to identify and address problematic thought patterns is a big part of Strong’s job with the primary healthcare team.
“Behaviour change has always been a big part of my philosophy,” she said. “Things that we can do to increase quality of life through understanding how [our thinking] can get in the way of living our best.”
Strong has been part of the team for two years and has many more years experience working in the field of child and youth mental health.
One of the reasons she was attracted to the lake’s primary healthcare team, where each team member provides a different perspective on a client’s health and wellbeing, is because of the group’s proactive and preventative approach to health.
“My goal is to work with people to get in and make changes before things get worse, or to help people live as best they can despite whatever it is they’re living with,” she said.
Strong provides counselling services, helps people navigate the healthcare system (linking them to relevant services, helping them with paperwork) and leads workshops on a variety of topics from stress-management to insomnia to smoking cessation.
While the healthcare team’s services are free of charge, they are only available to adults living with at least one chronic condition, whether it’s something physical like arthritis or high blood pressure or something mental, like depression or anxiety.
And according to Strong, such conditions can happen at any age.
“Prevention is everybody’s message,” she said.
“Often the people, when they’re here, are saying, ‘I wish I’d known about this in my 20s and 30s. I wish I had had this information about how to manage my stress better. I wish I had had this information years ago on how to manage my sleep issues better.’ Anything that might get in the way of somebody living as healthy as they can, we can help them take a look at and, potentially, address it.”