My name is Brian and I’m a therapist, workshop leader, and meditation facilitator from Vancouver BC who has been doing innovative work in the mental health and addictions field since 1997. Are you struggling in your relationship with substances? With low mood, anxiety, grief, conflict with a family member, or other problems? I am currently accepting new clients for individual, couples, and family therapy. My practice is informed by Narrative Therapy and Buddhism. Grounded in practices of social justice and compassion, I provide individual, couples, and family therapy based in mindfulness and meditation techniques, talk therapy, and therapeutic letter writing. I believe that we all have stories told about us, that we then live through. My task as a therapist is to work as an ally for people to deconstruct unhelpful stories and to re-author their lives in a preferred way.
I am a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors and a Certified Canadian Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, assuring two levels of third-party accountability and often partial coverage of my fees by extended medical plans. I am also an approved ICBC Injury Recovery Partner, and approved for assisting victims of crime through the Crime Victim Assistance Program.
I am a sought-after presenter for workshops and conferences, on the topic of applying Buddhist practice in counselling, Housing First practice, narrative therapy for community work, and meditation as a therapeutic aid for professionals.
Please scroll down for blog entries and information on upcoming workshops. Check out the links above for more information about my practice.
Click on the About Brian section to learn more about who I am and what I do.
Brian Dean Williams (MA, RCC, CCC)
* A designation of BC Association of Clinical Counsellors
In 1909, French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep coined the term “rites of passage.” He was observing that many traditional cultures have celebrations / ceremonies to mark a life transition from one identity to another.
My sense is that dominant western society is lacking in such rituals, and those that do exist have often been co-opted by practices associated with capitalism.
Because of my background in cultural anthropology (honours BA and good portion of a masters degree), I’ve been intrigued lately by how I might co-create meaningful rites of passage to celebrate with my clients when they overcome problem identities. This has led to some exciting results.
Back in April, a client overcame a significant struggle with depression and alcohol, and felt ready to move on from our work together in therapy. Rather than drifting away from each other and our work, we decided to mark it with a rite of passage. Drawing on Stephen Madigan’s therapeutic letter-writing campaign model, we invited three of his allies to write letters expressing what changes they’ve noticed, how it’s affecting them, and what their hopes are now for their relationship. We hiked to a waterfall in West Vancouver, a place significant to him, and read these letters aloud, twice. My sense was that this event helped to strengthen his new preferred identities as a sober person, a Buddhist, and someone who is actively engaged with his hopes and dreams.
More recently, a few weeks back, another client had overcome significant trauma, and we decided to co-create a rite of passage ceremony to mark this, in a local park, with a beautiful view of the north shore mountains.
We gathered with four of her allies, did some meditation together, and then read some letters of support from each of them (double-reading, with each person reading them and then her repeating them). It got pretty cool after the sun went down, and there were helicopters buzzing in and out of the port, but it stood out to me that this was part of the significance: the problems associated with trauma had kept her isolated for so long, convincing her she was broken and alone. And now this new identity (figuratively as an awake person, but literally she reverted to her original last name as well) could be publicly celebrated. She also had the opportunity to burn an old identity that I invited her to write on a piece of paper. Her daughter offered a song on trumpet to celebrate, and then we all took turns saying aloud and acknowledging her full new name to mark this change. Then we shared some vegan snacks and casual conversation for a few minutes before I headed back home on bike.
There is so much more to say about this, and we plan to, in an article that we will co-author. Our intention is to share our learnings from this so that other therapists and their clients might benefit. Please stay tuned!
Thanks for your support of my practice.
It’s been a busy few months – so busy, that in fact I’ve been neglecting my website! I have a bit of time today so thought I’d provide a bit of an update.
One development is that I’ve started teaching more meditation retreats. I taught at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education‘s pacific northwest retreat in Oregon, back in June. What a profound learning experience that was, working with experienced / skilled teachers, and about 45 youth who blew me away with their willingness and insights.
Since then, I’ve been invited by the ENSO Foundation for Contemplative Engagement in Kelowna, BC, to teach at their monthly program for clinicians and educators, and also for their teen program. The first sessions were yesterday, and both went incredibly well.
As someone who identifies as an introvert, I’m appreciating this practice of continuing to lean into the discomfort of public speaking and new social situations, and my meditation practice helps immensely with this.
Lastly, some big news is that a senior Buddhist teacher in my lineage has agreed to work with me directly as a mentor: Tara Brach. She is a psychologist and experienced teacher. Her book Radical Acceptance in particular has been a huge influence. So needless to say, I’m very excited about this new teacher-student relationship, while also doing my best to practice equanimity!
Thanks for your support of my practice:
My colleague Barbara Baumgartner and I just published an article, reflecting on our time co-facilitating a weekly group with folks in the process of coming out of homelessness.
Article is available for purchase, abstract pasted below.
In the context of starting a Housing First Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, the authors describe Becoming an Insider, a group that formed in response to people’s experiences of isolation after leaving behind homelessness and becoming housed. Based in the practices of Narrative Therapy, Becoming an Insider examined the social context of members’ experiences of mental illness, poverty, and substance use, while supporting new stories of identity and in turn easing the transition into housing. Group format, implementation, therapeutic documents, and learnings are discussed
Pleased to announce that I’ve had an article published on the Buddhist Peace Fellowship website:
This is generating some buzz and a long overdue discussion that broadens our understanding of how to respond compassionately to the suffering of substance use.
Hope you enjoy, and your feedback is welcome.
Yesterday I got the keys for my new office in the beautiful heritage Mercantile Building, at 318 Homer Street.
After four years subletting a space from Alistair Moes of Moose Anger Management, we mutually decided to part ways due to the growth of our practices. I’m just two blocks down the hill from Alistair’s office. I’m so grateful for him helping me to get my private practice of the ground, and we will continue to collaborate in various ways.
Yesterday I entered the new space, with three meditation cushions in hand. I put one down in the middle of the floor, sat down, and reconnected with the breath.
As I turned my attention inward, I could feel my heart racing with excitement and a bit of doubt. The mind was doing a lot of planning – furniture, art, therapeutic conversations. Stabilizing attention in the heart centre, I did some Metta Bhavuna or LovingKindness practice, repeating phrases of goodwill for myself, for past clients, current clients, and those that are to come. Wishing all of us to find liberation from suffering together.
I’m looking forward to sharing this adventure with you. Stay tuned for the office warming party!
Excited to have been invited to guest teach with my friend Michael Stone, for his Mindfulness Meditation for Clinicians and Educators program in Kelowna, BC.
Giving attention may be the most potent skill a clinician or educator can offer. This training provides a dual opportunity to establish a meditation practice for personal well-being and resilience, while also learning specific skills to increase your effectiveness in working with others.
This course is geared toward professionals in the mental health, medical and educational fields. Past participants have included physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, palliative care providers, psychologists, school-teachers and counsellors.
Please go to http://michaelstoneteaching.com/workshops-retreats/detail/346785483/ for more details.
Here’s the Brochure as well