Where are you from?
I was born and raised in beautiful Vancouver. It’s my home.
How did you get into Counselling?
I came to counselling in a round-about way. I had always been interested in psychology as it was my undergraduate major. After university, I tried to get an acting career off the ground. To support myself, I worked a short and unimpressive stint in a restaurant, then ended up working in admin at a private school. The acting thing didn’t work out, and I needed to make a decision about my long-term future, so I went back to university and decided to take counselling. I wanted professional training to work with people and to help them solve their life problems. When I was accepted to grad school in Counselling Psychology, all my friends said, “It’s about time! You should have been doing this all along.” (Note, I didn’t take this as a personal critique on my acting ability.)
What attracted you to counselling?
I think the desire to help others goes right back to my teen years. I always felt a need to help others, to help them through their life issues and to just talk things out. I think it’s in my DNA.
What do you love most about the work?
I love seeing my clients grow and change and feel better about their lives. And to live life more fully. When I see the spark come back, the bounce in their walk, the light in their eyes, well, it helps me walk a little taller. Most of all, I love seeing my clients regain their sense of self, and how relationships flourish when a change happens. I feel deeply honoured to be able to share in this process.
Who is your ideal client?
Someone who is motivated and open to change: whether an adult, a teen, a couple or family. People who are desperately seeking a better way to live their lives, a way that serves them and allows them to grow and accomplish more than their current way of being in the world.
What is your personal brand of counselling?
I believe we all have the answers inside of us. Sometimes life throws up so many obstacles and creates so much noise that it’s hard to hear those answers. Where I come in is to identify the obstacles and help give you tools to clear them away as well, to help you turn down the volume on the noise so you can hear the still, small voice of sense inside.
What is your process? How does it work and what can I expect?
Rather than having a formula that you fit into, I spend the first session getting a sense of you, your style and your goals to see how we can best work together. You might want a strategy and homework, so we come up with those. You may simply want a supportive, non-judgmental space to tell your story—or you may want both. You will have a goal or goals for your counselling sessions and we will address those as we work together. My goal is always to craft sessions to accommodate your needs.
As for ‘modalities’ or ‘theoretical orientations’, I am very client-centred. I believe in the value of Mindfulness, especially in today’s fast-paced world, so I often incorporate Mindfulness into my process. I also do Cognitive Behaviour Therapy whether directly or indirectly. Changing thoughts, beliefs and behaviours is what it’s all about. I tend to be solution-focused in my work with clients, versus problem-focused. The focus is more on what you want to change and how to get there—rather than rehashing old stories. Having said that, I also believe your context and history have made you who you are today and that is valuable information in how to move forward.
Counselling is a collaborative process. I have expertise to help guide you through your struggles but it is your commitment to following through that will create the change you want to see in your life. Counselling is an emotional process. You will be asked to be honest and open about your experiences so you can get the most out of your sessions.
Admitting your life isn’t perfect in the age of Facebook can be pretty scary, when everyone seems to have one excellent thing happening after the other. Dealing with life’s difficulties can make it seem like everyone else is doing better than you. I know no one’s life is perfect and that we all have parts of ourselves we aren’t proud of. My job isn’t to blame or judge. I provide a compassionate ear to listen to very human problems. Throughout the counselling process it pays to be compassionate with yourself as well. It took time to get to the point of seeking counselling and it often takes some time to see improvements. The more energy you invest, the greater the results.
How many sessions does it take to change?
My approach is that even one session can move you toward change. We won’t resolve everything in your life in that time, but we can start the process of thinking differently about your challenges and obstacles. I really work to tailor the session length and frequency of sessions to suit your resources and your progress.
What makes you good at this work?
I definitely have the training to do the work…but what makes me good at it has more to do with my personal experience and personality.
Firstly I really want to hear your story: about your life, your relationships, your troubles. I’m really, truly interested. I know what it’s like to wedge myself into a corner and not be able to see my way out. It is a complete privilege for me to be trusted with your story and helping you to find your way through whatever is troubling you.
As for my story, I grew up in an alcoholic family. My Dad has had, and continues to engage in problem-drinking. This was confusing, frustrating and embarrassing growing up and I had no one to talk to about it. I talked to my Mom sometimes, but she was so embroiled in it all that it was difficult for her to be there for me. It was the secret that everyone knew. It wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I started doing some reading and realized that I was living in a ‘classic’ alcoholic family.
Then—whether as a result of my family situation or a bug dose of life, in my early twenties I ended up with depression. I lost my job and saw a psychiatrist for two years. I was on medication that I didn’t want to be on – but it did make a difference. It was a terrible, terrible time. I was so grateful to my psychiatrist for being a caring role model and immense help to me at that time. I still reflect on things he told me 20 years later.
Later on in life I found struggling in graduate school while starting a family and trying to figure out a work-family situation that was realistic was completely mind-blowing. Talking to other women in similar situations was helpful to a point, but each person’s situation seemed so different, it was hard to know what advice to take or what direction to move. I still find balancing work and family and trying to squeeze time in for taking care of myself a real challenge at times.
About a year and a half after my third child was born, my mother had a stroke. She recovered fairly well physically, but cognitively she had changed. That was really hard. I found myself grieving for someone who was standing next to me. It was strange and bizarre. My mother’s stroke was a huge shock as was her sudden death, in July 2013, over 6 years later. My world felt shaky and it took a long time to trust that the ground I was standing on would hold firm.
I do realize how fortunate I have been in my life: education, a career and a beautiful family. I always walk with gratitude in my heart. But like you, I have had some very challenging life experiences and I truly believe it is these experiences that help me understand and relate to my clients.
I have worked with Roma for eight years and am delighted to be able recommend her. As a guidance counsellor in a busy high school, I often see students in the course of the term who need more in-depth help with their problems than we are able to provide. Roma is always the first professional I turn to. She is a certified counsellor in whom I place great trust and faith and very much like consulting with her on various issues that arise with our students. Through our referrals, she has worked with students here who might otherwise not have been allowed to stay in school, due to on-going and resistant issues with which they and their families have struggled for years. I teach and work with her successes and am always grateful that these students had the great fortune to work with her. She is professional and respectful in her approach to her clients, but above all, warm and reassuring, using her therapeutic knowledge and skills in the most constructive way imaginable. Furthermore, she combines a very strong intuitive skill with a hands-on application that seems to lead to great success.
Head of Counselling
St. George’s School
In the middle of a crisis, few people think of their Parish Priest as a source of practical help. Oh, perhaps the priest would pray for me and my loved ones, but really, how helpful is the priest? In fact, what often happens to me is people are desperate for both practical help (and prayer seems never to hurt). Being a priest for over 20 years, and having served in parishes from the East coast to the West, I know that, while I can offer prayers, the other part of the equation is to have a list of qualified people who can participate in the overall healing of the person in need. Roma’s number is on the top of my list. I know her to be a compassionate and effective professional counsellor. I have suggested her help to people in need, whether that need be “couple counselling” or “crisis counselling”. The follow up to several of these parishioners has been very positive and so, Roma’s number, and her business cards, will continue to be passed around any community where I might serve as “the parish priest”.
Rev. Elizabeth Northcott
All Saints Ladner Anglican Church
“Roma is a compassionate listener and a caring guide to those who are going through difficult times. I would highly recommend Roma to anyone seeking clarity on their situation. Roma also helps by giving her clients the tools they need so they can move forward in their lives.”
Deborrah Dunne, PhD
Registered Clinical Counsellor
Roma exudes the kind of warmth, empathy, wisdom and patience that you’d want in your therapist – she is able to seamlessly combine both a strong knowledge-base with an intuitive approach, and I would (and have!) recommended her without hesitation to anyone seeking an experienced counselling professional.
Siri Brown, MA
Canadian Certified Counsellor
Roma Palmer has been providing counselling services at our centre for the past year. We consistently hear positive feedback from the clients she meets with – ‘supportive’, ‘empathetic’ and ‘practical’ are some of the ways her approach is described. We feel very comfortable referring our clients to her, and are confident knowing she is skilled at working effectively with a diverse clientele with a range of unique needs.
Employment Services Centre Manager – Westside
WorkBC Employment Services Centre